23 September 2016


Where does one start with the Palestine/Israel saga and why do people like Stan Grant who claims Aboriginal ancestry in Australia not understand the issue of the Palestinians?

Grant has been a news journalist and has been around in the world. He has been known for his misogyny when working at SBS many years ago but it seems he still hasn't learnt how politics around the world works.

Time he and a few others around Australia and elsewhere learnt that racism and nationalism and the truth of the apartheid Israeli regime should be called for what it is and realise that when the Israelis talk about anti-semitism it is they who are spreading it around the world so that they can continue to attack anti-zionists everywhere.


For God's sake, give Palestinians a fair go

During Tuesday night's ABC show Recognition: Yes or No? Stan Grant weighed in on his Aboriginal identity after 200 years of European settlement, citing Israel as an example Australia could follow for its cohesion and equal society. Israel, being itself a European settlement, was absolutely the last example expected for supporting the rights of Aboriginals' recognition in Australia.

He said: "I have been to Israel and I have seen the sense of Jewish belonging whether you are an Ethiopian Jew or a Russian Jew or an American Jew, with a whole range of ethnicities and everything else around it that coalesce around a sense of belonging and kinship."

Palestinian youths in Bethlehem list the names of the children killed in Israel's Operation Protective Edge military assault on the Gaza Strip in July 2014. Photo: AFP
Grant astonishingly fails to mention my people, the Palestinian people, who have resided under Israeli occupation or tutelage since (similar to Australia) mainly Europeans established a state on their lands 68 years ago. The use of Israel as an example for a place where "a whole range of ethnicities and everything else around it that coalesce around a sense of belonging and kinship" is flawed and simply unfactual.

In the words of former Israeli Supreme Court Justice Theodor Or, Palestinians in Israel face a structural and systematic discrimination with the Israeli state not doing "enough to grant equality" for its Arab citizens. We haven't even mentioned the 4 million Palestinians living under military occupation in the West Bank and Gaza for 49 years ongoing, or the other 4 million Palestinian refugees who were displaced in 1948.

Palestinians have lived under constant colonisation, dispossession and suffering from an illegal occupation that erodes their human, economic, and existential rights. Some 225,000 children in Gaza today require psychosocial support due to the indiscriminate bombing of Gaza in 2014; over 48,488 Palestinian structures have been demolished; and over 800,000 trees have been uprooted in the West Bank and Gaza. Is this a model Australia wants to replicate?

In an earlier speech Grant delivered at the IQ2 Racism Debate last year he called for Australians to acknowledge the two centuries of "dispossession, injustice and suffering". I find this statement to be strikingly similar to the Palestinians' plight for recognition, equality, justice, and statehood.

Suffice to say I find the irony in yesterday's comments painfully obvious. My 19-year-old sister, a future architecture engineer, was complaining to me yesterday about a 45-minute wait at an Israeli military checkpoint to her university in Ramallah. The military was chocking morning Palestinian traffic to let Israeli settlers reach Jerusalem without delay, with no regards to the native population of the West Bank and their livelihoods. This system, that increasingly resembles an apartheid, has to be internationally condemned and de-structured, not subtly praised.

Palestinians have been under a constant wave of colonisation, eroding their existence from the land they have proudly resided for thousands of years. Just like Grant is rightly proud of his ancestry that might run tens of thousands of years deep, I, too, am proud of my ancestry in Palestine. We both have suffered colonisation, marginalisation, and discrimination – most Palestinians still do – and we all ought to stand for equality and justice for their cause.

Anas Iqtait is a research Scholar at the Australian National University.

20 September 2016


From Daily Maverick:

Marikana on Edge: Occupiers ready to defend in housing showdown

A showdown looms in Marikana as government today might begin evicting those who have occupied new houses on land donated by Lonmin. Occupiers insist they have a right to the housing, while government wants them to respect a recent court decision finding they don’t have a right to these houses.

The North West Department of Local Government and Human Settlements is still considering whether to evict those who have occupied about 290 new houses in Marikana’s Extension 2 after a High Court order said the community must vacate the properties by Monday.
On Sunday, department spokesman Ben Bole said the government had not made a decision on whether it would evict the occupiers and was considering the implications of an appeal lodged in the Mafikeng High Court. Bole called on residents to move out immediately, regardless of their appeal.
The North West government has insisted those who occupied properties in the housing development have done so illegally and a court order against the occupants agreed. Rallying behind their right to stay, community members have lodged an appeal and say they’re ready to fight any attempts to evict them. Housing is in short supply in Marikana and since the 2012 Marikana massacre tensions between the community, mineworkers, government, Lonmin and police have remained on high alert.
Activist and community organiser Napoleon Webster on Sunday was meeting with occupiers of the housing units. They have lodged a court appeal, he said, to be heard on 21 October, which should halt any attempt to evict residents this week. “But you know these people. These people are thugs,” said Webster. “We’re physically, emotionally and spiritually ready to fight.”
Many of those who have occupied the homes work at Lonmin, where the memory of the Marikana massacre is prevalent, and in part the battle over housing appears to reflect the ongoing struggle for mineworkers to access decent housing.
As an Amnesty International report on Lonmin workers’ access to housing explained, the government’s Breaking New Ground housing development, built on 50ha of land donated by the company, is aimed at people below a certain income threshold, so Lonmin employees do not qualify.

Webster, however, said the issue was not about whether mineworkers or other community residents qualified for the housing, but who was on the list of beneficiaries set to get houses.
“Of course, they were ANC people,” he said.
The ANC government in Rustenburg had rewarded its members, some not even from the community, and wanted to give them houses, he alleged. Allowing occupiers to stay could lead to a pilot project across the country combating systems of ANC patronage, he continued.
The Economic Freedom Fighters Limpopo Chairwoman Betty Diale agreed. She said government did not follow the right procedures in putting its list of beneficiaries together and wants to evict occupiers despite their right to housing. The party has offered support for the occupiers in their court attempts to live in the houses. Diale said she hopes the state will come to its senses and “not evict people like they’re not South Africans”.
Bole, from the province’s Department of Local Government and Human Settlements, said the process of allotting residents to houses was above board. “We don’t just build houses and go and look for beneficiaries,” he said, claiming beneficiaries came from a list prepared by the Rustenburg municipality, which was checked by the provincial government. Bole said there was extensive community engagement on who would benefit from the development and they proceeded after holding public meetings where the names of beneficiaries were read out and approved.
The department is still deliberating on whether it can evict the occupiers and North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo has in the past been adamant that approved beneficiaries must be allowed to occupy the houses.
“It cannot be correct that we allow lawlessness,” said Bole on Sunday.
One of the challenges appears to be the division between Marikana’s migrant mineworker community and long-term residents. Given the intense distrust of police, government and the ANC, any attempt to evict mineworkers or those from their community, especially if they believe legal processes have not been followed, risks leading to violence.
Webster maintained that occupiers cannot be evicted until their appeal is heard, but, suggesting the government and ANC is capable of anything, he remarked that President Jacob Zuma, despite his scandals, and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, despite his links to the Marikana massacre, keep their positions. He said those occupying the houses had all recently contributed R400 to pay for legal fees.
In their past court papers, occupiers said there was not an extensive engagement process on the state’s attempt to evict them, but the court said they were quiet on the government’s listed attempts at engagement.
Considering Lonmin’s past failures to meet housing obligations for workers, one of the key issues in this case is the impression created, or at least perceived from the side of mineworkers, that the 50ha donated to government would be used to improve issues for workers. Some of the workers who were injured or are related to the killed workers in the 2012 Massacre are reported to be occupying the new houses.
The issue of housing is critical both to the broader community and Lonmin workers. The report of the Marikana Commission of Inquiry found Lonmin and government’s failure to address workers’ housing issues “created an environment conducive to the creation of tension and labour unrest”. The recent Amnesty International report on mineworkers’ accommodation at Lonmin, looking at how and why the company fell far short of its Mining Charter obligations, said workers’ living conditions were mostly defined by the squalid informal settlements. Amnesty wrote:
“The housing at Nkaneng, built from tin sheets and scrap materials, abysmally falls short of even the most basic requirements for adequacy of housing. Although Lonmin knows this, it has failed to take any meaningful action to address the situation. Its litany of excuses expose a company that has little genuine interest in tackling a major problem confronting its workforce, a problem that is inextricably linked to the way Lonmin, and South Africa’s mining industry in general, operates.
“The serious failures documented in this report could not happen if the government of South Africa enforced the legal provisions it has put in place to address historical discrimination and disadvantage in the mining industry. However, the government has allowed Lonmin to flout the law, seemingly without consequence.”
Bole on Sunday said the government understands the demand for housing in general and in the area.
“We understand fully that the need is very high,” he said.
He claimed government was doing the best it could with the resources available. DM
Photo: A cross stands on the 'koppie' or hill at where 34 miners where shot by South African Police Forces on 16 August 2012, during a protracted wage negotiation strike in the platinum mining area, near Rustenburg, South Africa, 16 August 2015. EPA/SHIRAAZ MOHAMED

18 September 2016


Palestinians with Disabilities are Not Immune from Israeli Violence

“The test of a civilization is the way that it cares for its helpless members.”
–Pearl S. Buck
On Friday, August 26, Iyad Hamed was shot by Israeli forces in the West Bank city of Silwad. The initial military report, echoed by Israeli journalists, seemed like standard fare.

“A terrorist fired a weapon at a pillbox post in Ofra. Nobody was hurt. The force fired back and the terrorist was killed.”

As Gideon Levy of the Israeli daily Ha’aretz noted, no one batted an eye at the presence of both of the phrases “the terrorist was killed” and “nobody was hurt”. These sentences describe the army’s attitude towards the Palestinians perfectly. Nobody was killed because the Palestinian was not a person. Palestinians are not people.

At first it seemed there was nothing unusual about the story. Israeli soldiers shooting Palestinians is certainly not remarkable. Since October of 2015, 222 Palestinians have been killed in a wave of violence that some have called a Third Intifada. Even when Red Crescent Society medics revealed that soldiers had prevented them from reaching the victim as he lay on the ground, it did not cause a stir.

The army later admitted that the victim had not, in fact, been a terrorist. He had not been carrying a weapon. Witnesses reported that he had lost his way, panicked when he saw the soldiers, and tried to run to safety, whereupon he was shot in the back. This was corroborated by medics who examined his wounds on the scene. Again, Israeli soldiers shooting an unarmed Palestinian from behind is not enough to make an impact.
What makes the case of Iyad Hamed noteworthy is that he had a mental disability. He had been on his way home from the store to deliver candy to his children, who themselves had special needs, before, as a witness stated, he was murdered and “the candies [he] bought for his children were mixed with his blood.”

On June 10 Hassan al-Qadi was riding his bicycle near the Awerta checkpoint outside Nablus. Like Iyad Hamed, the twenty-two-year-old al-Qadi had been described as having an intellectual disability, and he panicked when the soldiers manning the checkpoint demanded he stop. But he kept pedaling, until he was shot by the soldiers several times. He was then left to lie on the ground for an hour, bleeding, until he was taken away by an ambulance. One of the bullets was lodged next to his spine. Al-Qadi was lucky, because he did not die, but he is still unable to walk, over three months later. The authorities decided to charge him, claiming he had been attempting to stab the soldiers at the checkpoint with “a sharp tool”. Al-Qadi’s injuries forced him to attend his hearing lying in bed. The sentence was not harsh by Israeli standards – a mere six months in prison.

A family friend recently described to me the extent of his mental difficulties.

“Six years ago he went out in the early morning to pray, and he saw something so frightening it changed him forever. He has not been the same since. He has been to many hospitals and seen many psychologists, but nobody understands what his condition is. His behavior is very erratic. Sometimes he just lies down on the ground for no reason. A few times he has walked [the 36 km] to Ramallah by himself, without his ID or phone.”

Although I never spoke with Hassan al-Qadi, I did meet his older brother Muslim in 2014. It was the height of Operation Brother’s Keeper, when Israeli forces were busy meting out collective punishment on the population of the West Bank for the kidnapping of three settler teens near Hebron. The raids resulted in several Palestinian deaths, hundreds of arrests and the theft and/or destruction of millions of dollars of cash, property and valuables. The al-Qadi family lived in Awerta, and Muslim described to me the Israeli soldiers’ invasion of their home the previous night. They had ransacked it completely, destroying furniture and terrifying the inhabitants, especially the children. When I revealed to him that I was a university professor, he became excited and ran to show me his textbooks. He was studying psychology at Birzeit University near Ramallah. I did not think much of it at the time, but I now realize that he must have been studying the subject in order to get a better understanding of his brother’s mysterious ailments.

Three days before my meeting with Muslim al-Qadi I attended the funeral of Ahmed Khalid, who had been killed by Israeli forces in the El Ein refugee camp near Nablus the previous night. Khalid, like the others in this story, had a mental illness. When I arrived at Rafidia hospital, where a group of mourners had gathered, I saw the poster plastered on the hospital door. It had a picture of the victim. Next to his face was an image of a young Yasser Arafat, and below were pictures of the Golden Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. The Palestinian flag was flying above the entire scene. Below was written the Arabic word shaheed. Martyr. It was a poster typical of the victims of the Occupation, which you see all over the West Bank.

A man in his late thirties saw me examining the poster and approached, and I must have hesitated slightly when I shook his hand. He seemed almost embarrassed. “They were broken by soldiers during the First Intifada,” he explained, referring to his hands. He pointed out a group of young men standing in the shade of a nearby tree. “They can explain to you what happened.”

I approached the men, most of whom were in their twenties, and I went up to a man who was standing, dressed in black and leaning against a car. He made room for me against the car, and he shook my hand, introducing himself as Mahmood. And then, in a voice that seemed to get angrier as his story continued, he began to tell me how Ahmed died.

He had been praying Fajr in the mosque in El Ain camp at in the early morning, and when he emerged from the door of the mosque, Israeli soldiers shouted at him to stop. Because of the perpetual presence of Israeli soldiers, most Palestinians know a smattering of Hebrew, especially words connected to the Occupation, such as “stop”, “arrest”, “identification”, etc. But Ahmed did not understand what the soldiers wanted from him, and he continued on his way home. The Israelis then shot him four times – once in the stomach and three times in the chest. He died immediately. Mahmood’s voice was shaking now.

“What did he do? Nothing! How was he a threat to the soldiers? He wasn’t right in the head, and they just shot him!”

An hour later I followed Ahmed’s funeral procession through Nablus and up the narrow, steep streets of the refugee camp that he had called home. His father, an old bent man, lingered near the end of the group of mourners and fingered his prayer beads.

Life is not easy for people with disabilities in Palestine, even without taking into account the Occupation. There is a stigma associated with disability, especially if it is a mental disability, and people with disabilities are often shunned and excluded from society. Many are simply kept at home by the family to avoid embarrassment and shame. According to Medical Aid for Palestinians, over one third of people with disabilities over the age of 15 have never enrolled in school, and roughly five out of six do not work. One third have never married. A taxi driver near Salfit once told me about his adult brother, who had lost both of his arms and legs at the age of ten, when he stepped on a mine while picking olives.

“He cannot work. And he is very depressed because of his situation. All he wants to do now is marry. But what woman will marry a man with no arms and legs?”

The Occupation greatly exacerbates the plight of people living with disabilities in Palestine. The stranglehold that Israel has placed on the Palestinian economy has kept the latter in a perpetual state of poverty, leaving it unable to maintain an infrastructure that is able to support people with disabilities. For example, three out of four Palestinians with disabilities indicate that they do not take public transportation because they simply cannot access it.

But it is not merely an economic issue. As the three above examples and countless others show, Palestinians with disabilities are not immune from the violence that Israel metes out in the Occupied Territories. During Operation Protective Edge, Israel’s latest military assault on the Gaza Strip, the army destroyed a home for the handicapped, resulting in the deaths of two of its residents and severe injuries to two others. Witnesses said they had been given a warning, but they had been unable to make it out of the building in time due to their condition.

On July 28, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited a rehabilitation village for adults and children with disabilities in southern Israel, having pledged 20 million shekels toward the village’s development. As he posed for the cameras with a little girl on his lap, he looked like a kindly grandfather, his expression exuding concern. Four weeks later his soldiers murdered Iyad Hamed.

As the occupying power, Israel has the responsibility to ensure the safety of the local population. Because people with disabilities are less able to take care of themselves, it is incumbent upon Israel to provide them with an extra measure of protection, something it has shown time after time it is unwilling to do. Killings such as these are particularly egregious, and the international community has the obligation to no longer remain silent about them.

A version of this article first appeared in Mondoweiss.
Richard Hardigan is a university professor based in California. He is currently writing a book entitled “The Other Side of the Wall” based on his experience in the Occupied Territories. His website is http://richardhardigan123.wixsite.com/mysite.

16 September 2016


Attached are two flyers dealing with immediate action required to stop the vandals from destroying Preston Market.

Join People For Preston Market

Darebin Council's behaviour in respect to the Market's future has been nothing less than a disaster for Preston.

Because no decisions have been made about the future of the area and because Darebin Council is so secretive about its planning decisions, it is necessary to ensure that the Council elections due to take place in October 2016 ensure that different councillors are elected who do not belong to the major parties which are uncooperative, unhelpful and ensure that no residents get positive help from the Council over problematic planning decisions.

We would urge as many people as possible to attend the two meetings and demonstrations planned in order to show our displeasure at the way the Market owners and Darebin Council have handled the public over the Market's future.

email: peopleforprestonmarket@gmail.com

The banner below was made for the "Photo Bomb" - photoshoot at Preston Market at midday on Saturday 17 September 2016.

We estimate that about 50 people were present for the above demo outside one entrance to the Market.

The next two photos were taken with the above banner being used to draw people's attention to the problems being confronted by the stallholders and those of us who are regulars at the Market.

Poster by Kendall Lovett, photos by Mannie De Saxe and Marian De Saxe at Preston Market photo shoot on 17 SEPTEMBER 2016.

Preston Market revamp to start in October

The owners of the Preston Market will move ahead with a $4 million revamp of its popular food halls despite opposition from local residents and traders.
Salta Properties and Medich Corporation, who jointly own the 45-year-old fresh food market, will begin work on upgrading the fruit, vegetable, meat, poultry and fish halls in October.

An artist's impression of the upgrades to Preston Market. Photo: Supplied
The upgrade is the first stage of a planned $550 million makeover of the thriving, multicultural market that includes plans for 1500 homes in towers up to 28 storeys high.

The project's controversial second and third stages, which include multi-storey car parks and high-rise buildings, have stalled in the planning process after they were rejected by the local council.

Salta's director Sam Tarascio said the market had remained largely untouched since the 1970s and was due for an upgrade.

"A key focus of the works is the introduction of a range of environmental and sustainability initiatives," he said.

They include solar panels on the roof, onsite waste treatment, recycling improvements, smart building technologies, a children's play area and expansion of the Preston Artist Market, dubbed PAM Lane.

Manny Spiteri, a leasing advocate representing the market's 150 traders, described the work as a " facelift to placate the council".

Mr Spiteri said the market's owners had failed to properly consult with market traders.

"You're the first one to tell us. Wouldn't you think they would consult the traders?" he said. "We don't know when it's going to happen, how it's going to happen."

The market's owners face stiff opposition from local residents, with a push by Darebin Progress Association for a public meeting to voice concerns.

"We don't want it sanitised. We want the amenity of the market, it's multicultural aspects preserved," organisation secretary Marion Harper said. "It's a cultural hub. It's a way of life that's disappearing."

Passionate shoppers, protective of Melbourne's old-style traditional undercover markets, have levelled similar criticism at the City of Melbourne's multi-million dollar makeover of the Queen Victoria Market.
Mr Tarascio said traders knew the changes were coming and would be briefed next week.

The Preston Market will remain open while it undergoes the revamp which has been designed by NH Architecture and Breathe Architecture, he said.

From Leader newspapers:

Manny Spiteri, who is advocating for stallholders, says traders at Preston Market are at ‘breaking point’. Picture: David Smith

Preston Market traders forced to close as $4m million ’facelift’ begins

AT LEAST three Preston Market traders have been given marching orders, while others have been put on month-by-month contracts in the face of a $4 million “facelift” of the site.
Preston Market Developments, a partnership between Salta Properties and Medich Corporation, last week announced it would spend more than $4 million on a market revamp.

The makeover would add 60 retail jobs and include upgrades to the Fruit and Vegetable block and Meat, Poultry and Fish Hall, new children’s play spaces and sustainability improvements.

Works are to begin next month.

But Preston Leader discovered at least three traders had been issued with notices of lease terminations ahead of the planned works, while one had started legal proceedings against the owners.

Leader spoke to stallholders at the market who revealed some had been issued with notices of termination, while others were on month-by-month ‘holding over’ lease arrangements.

Artists impression of how Preston Market will look following its $4 million revamp. Picture: Supplied
Salta Properties managing director Sam Tarascio last week said he was “not in a position to discuss commercial in confidence matters regarding individual traders”.

Enzo Seconnino, who has run Patricia Fabrics at the market for more than 40 years, said he received a notice of termination, and would be forced to close his shop for the final time on September 12.

“It’s not a very nice way to go, you’d think that after so many years I’d be part of the fabric of the market,” he said.

Mr Seconnino said the owners had suggested they would relocate him, but had so far given him nothing in writing.

Preston Market Traders advocate Manny Spiteri said the renewal works were “a facelift” to placate traders who were at “breaking point”, fearing their tenancies could be terminated.

Mr Spiteri claimed four stallholders’ leases had been terminated, with two stallholders launching legal action against the owners and about eight considering legal action.

Darebin Progress Association spokeswoman Marion Harper said local community groups are working to form a Save Preston Market group, and were planning a community meeting.

The $4 million revamp is the first stage of a planned $550 million redevelopment of the market.

Darebin Council has twice rejected planning scheme amendments, including one which would have paved the way for a 28-storey apartment tower on the site.

Mr Tarascio last week could not guarantee stallholders would not lose their jobs as part of the $550 million redevelopment.

“Like any retail project, we continue to work closely with the traders regarding any new leases and this is ongoing at Preston Market,” Mr Tarascio said.


“As with all markets, stall holders do change from time to time.”

He said the upgrades would be done to the include the installation of solar panels, on-site waste treatment.

The $4 million Preston Market revamp will include:

Sustainability improvements, including solar panels, on-site waste treatment, recycling improvements and new technologies that will reduce the carbon footprint of the market.

Upgrades to existing buildings and public spaces, including kids play areas and landscaping
Works to provide space for more artists and designers at PAM Lane.

General enhancements, including parent rooms, public walkways, a new customer service centre and improved public amenities.

13 September 2016


Steve Biko died on 12 September 1977 - 39 years ago.

He died because he was murdered by the South African apartheid government and its police who used vicious and brutal assaults on prisoners to get what they wanted from them, and if they didn't, they battered them to death as they did with Steve Biko.

One had hoped that with a change of regime at the end of apartheid in 1994 that things would change and improve, but of course they haven't and the black South African government of Jacob Zuma is guilty of the murder of 38 miners at Marikana who were striking for more pay from a mining company which mine platinum and which responded to a miners' strike by getting the police to shoot at them and thus murder them.

In South Africa it seems as if there is no limit to the poison that issues forth there on a daily basis.

31 August 2016


Sorrow and Grace in Palestine

Ben Ehrenreich, an American journalist with an eye for the ironic an ear for the perfect succinct phrase, has created pictures of both village and town life of Palestine under the occupation, behind the Apartheid Wall, and inner walls. “The Way to the Spring” begins in 2011, when the author first visited Nabi Saleh to report on the village protests for the New York Times Magazine, and ends in the fall of 2014, following Israel’s Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip that summer. Ehrenreich lived in the West Bank intermittently between 2011 and 2014, absorbing the world of Palestine, so different from Los Angeles, his home base. He starts small: a village, a surrounded house, a Friday protest.

Since the occupation is about containing people, taking their land, draining their wells, destroying their cultural sites, The Israeli government speaks through different kinds of walls, permanent checkpoints, and flying checks. Ehrenreich shows his reader the physical walls, but further, the subtleties of verbal walls and the walls of armed IDF soldiers and Border police who keep Palestinians out of reach of hospitals, businesses, cultural centers, and even the holy places in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

First, and most obvious, the Separation Wall, called by Palestinian activists the Apartheid Wall. The average height of the Berlin Wall was 11.8 feet, whereas the current height of Israel’s Wall is more than twice as high: 25 feet. One of the joys of this book is that the author does not spend his time reviewing readily available material. Copious endnotes will lead the interested reader to the thickness of scholarship they crave. Clearly anyone attracted to a 400-page book about the occupation in Palestine has heard plenty about the Apartheid Wall and has read in our mainstream media about the struggles, mostly from a Zionist “it’s our right” insistence for years. So the author moves in for tight shots, intimate conversations, small villages that are getting smaller as the illegal settlements swell in size. He is so successful that since finishing this memorable account, I have been wishing I could be in contact with the families from Nabi Saleh and Umm al-Kheir. Are they safe? Who is in Jail and who got out? Is everyone too exhausted to protest every Friday at the Spring?
In his Introduction to The Way to the Spring: Life And Death of Palestine, Ben Ehrenreich makes his intention quite clear. ”I do not aspire in these pages to objectivity. I don’t believe it to be a virtue, or even a possibility.” He considers his work “a collection of stories about resistance, and about people who resist.” I would caution that his use of the word story does not mean the conventional beginning, middle and end.

These are stories stuffed with middles, down to the most microscopic detail. By the final chapter we cringe at the tragedy of Palestine: there is no resolution, not one offered even by this astute observer. The burdens of life continue as they did in the beginning of the book, only the hardships proceed at a faster pace. More Palestinians are arrested, more are shot, more are killed.

Ehrenreich takes the reader to view smaller “personal” walls that enclose one or two houses. These “surrounded houses” are being more frequent in the towns of the West Bank. The first one I saw was in Bethlehem in 2006. The owner had painted his dwelling bright red. I can still visualize that small red house standing out from the dun-colored stones and cement wall that surrounded his life. Ehrenreich finds a similar house and recounts his visits with Hani Amer and his family rather than dwelling upon the usual journalistic

reportage about resistance. Amer’s story is recounted so vividly that those readers who have never been to the West Bank will understand the hour-by-hour hardship of daily life after their visit with Amer. The farmer has lost two-thirds of the land surrounding his house as well as five acres on the other side of the barbed wire fence. He can see his land, but he cannot farm it. To protect the incoming horde of illegal settlers, the Israelis built a wall around Amer’s house, well within the Green Line, the internationally recognized border between Israel and the Occupied Territories (oPt). Rarely discussed openly is the underlying intention of the Occupying power that the maze of walls and checkpoints are the prelude to Israel’s pursuit of all the land from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. The only negotiation Amer was able to make with his captors was that that he could have a key to the locked gate, which he triumphantly painted bright yellow. By the time Ehrenreich arrives at the surrounded house, Amer has planted vegetables, all kinds of fruit trees, even herbs such as the essential Palestinian za’atar. This tough middle-aged Palestinian farmer tells the American journalist, “Instead of seeing the wall, I try to see the garden.”

Ehrenreich weaves the story of the Tamimi family into many of the accounts in the book. He has the novelist’s ear for dialogue so that the reader hears the hopeful voice of the peace activist Bassem Tamimi that the protests have meaning, “Our spring is the face of the occupation,” he tells his friend Ben as they walk through the village of Nabi Saleh. Every Friday the villagers, joined by international and Jewish solidarity activists, march toward the spring in an act of protest. “And every Friday Israeli soldiers beat them back with tear gas, stun grenades, and rubber-coated bullets,” Ben observes. Afterward, groups of male teenagers standing some distance away from the adults, hurl stones at the soldiers, who are beyond the reach of their weapons.

 It seems unnecessary to point out that stones hurled by children are no match for tear-gas canisters and bullets. After months of watching stone throwers rarely hitting their mark, Ehrenreich wonders if they have ever been successful. He contacted the IDF about the results of Palestinian stone-throwing activities, and the IDF confirmed that they have no records of any Israeli solder ever being killed from a stone-throwing incident.

As the months go by, Ehrenreich sketches the weariness that has encompassed Bassem. His children and their friends flock to protests knowing that their homes are no safer than a confrontation line, particularly after Israeli shellfire kill one child in his bedroom months. The protests become darker. Protesters endure prison and torture. They come home. They are beaten. Some survive. Bassem has been in prison for almost a year, for being a leader of the protests. The Israeli military courts seem not to know that according to international law peaceful protests of an occupied people are legal.

As fewer Palestinians attend the Friday protests, our American journalist acquires the gritty feeling most of us experience when spending more than a month or two in the West Bank. He has watched Palestinian friends carted off to jail. He has inhaled tear gas at the Friday protests. He is tired of the checkpoints and the IDF soldiers half his age. Trying to strike up a conversation with an IDF soldier in Hebron turns into “grunts and commands,” neither of which being out the best in me,” he writes. Another year passes. Ehrenreich is having coffee with a young Israeli soldier in Jerusalem, an area not so tension-filled as the West Bank. The young soldier does not question what his superiors have taught him. “If you see a Palestinian with a knife, you shoot him,” he says as though quoting from the manual. “And if you see a settler with a knife?” Ehrenreich asks. “You do not touch a settler,” the young soldier replies slowly.

The book ends as it began. The Israelis continue to swallow more Palestinian land. More people are in prison. The world seems indifferent. Hope comes from those who counter the propaganda that the Zionists diligently manufacture on Twitter, Facebook, and online journals. The deepest consolation is to be found in the books like “The Way to the Spring.” Without melodrama and pathos, Ehrenreich has provided a literary map to the struggle for Palestine. It is almost impossible to wonder on a Friday is the marchers will get to the spring this week.

In closing, I must recognize reactions to this book by some reviewers and within social media. In a number of reviews Ehrenreich has been accused of not analyzing Palestinian terrorism, a word that seems overstated in relation to the daily horrors that Palestinians face. A few suicide bombers, whose activities always make the US mainstream news, are not part of his project. He could not interview them.   Reviewers and angry readers have tried to reshape the discourse, reminding us that Jews are the victimized, the ones we must embrace. Assuming the author is Jewish, one gentleman writes on Facebook, “You are a disgrace to the Jewish people. We have enough haters from outside, we do not need one from within.“ Ehrenreich is not Jewish, and he is not writing the book the Facebook guy wants to read, the one that justifies Israeli military actions since the Nakba in 1948. This is not the book that connects the German Holocaust with the fate of Arabs in their homeland. Trying to explain his viewpoint to an interviewer, Ehrenreich says with not so subtle irony, “across the street from the Israeli settlement Beit Hadassah – I saw the words Gas the Arabs spray-painted in English on a wall. I do not think I need to explain why that was so upsetting.”

Fiery reactions to this book have puzzled me. Some reviewers and the angry pro-Zionist social media refuse to acknowledge what Ehrenreich has made explicit: this book is written from the perspective of Palestinians in the towns of Ramallah and Hebron, the village of Nabi Saleh, and the Bedouin village Umm al-Kheir in the south Hebron hills. The author has written the book he wanted to write, not the one that would be easier to read.

In the weeks since publication, Ehrenreich has spoken of the verbal stones that have been thrown at him, mostly through social media. “I was called a Jew-hater more times than I can count, as well as a terrorist and a murderer. It was suggested to me that I should, and may, suffer a terrorist attack. I was told that ‘sick, twisted people’ like me ‘should not be allowed to write’ and informed that I will someday answer for the acts of  terror I allegedly support. I was wished a painful death and promised that I will ‘get what is coming to me.’” Most of us who are openly pro-Palestinian and fight for the end of the occupation have been threatened, but rarely so vividly. As an academic, I have been accused of frightening Jewish students in my classes and been given the cold shoulder by colleagues. But I have never been wished a painful death –as far as I know.

Reflecting on his extended time in the West Bank, Ehrenreich knows that it wasn’t all sadness. People laughed a lot. Or perhaps sadness has many faces and laughter is one of them. Palestinians have been carrying the burden of the Zionist illegal occupation for more than half a century. Grief is not special. Year after year Palestinians experience waves of greater and lesser sorrows, but sorrow is always with them. Ben Ehrenreich carries the sorrow too. But he also is amazed “by the grace with which people deal with and struggle against these hardships in their daily lives.”
Alice Bach is a writer and retired professor of religious studies.


 The following letter appeared in The Age newspaper on 31 AUGUST 2016, two days after a front page article in The Age (29 AUGUST 2016) under the heading  
$5m whistleblower bounty.

This is the letter I would have liked to have sent to The Age, but because it has not published any of my letters for so long, I would have done it on my blog anyway.

The letter-writer gives the names of 4 whistleblowers and what the US government has done to them, but there are so many others to add to the list, a few being Edward Snowden and Julian Assange as examples.

The US government under Barack Obama has done more to harm US citizens than any other president since the earliest days of the formation of the United States after its genocide on native Americans after European invasion.

And other so-called western democracies have all been just as vicious and cruel to whistleblowers.

Under no circumstances are whistleblowers protected by their governments and we shouldn't anticipate any favourable changes any day soon. (Mannie De Saxe)


One-way protection

The BHP Billiton case does indeed expose "the weakness of Australia's whistleblower regime" (The Age, 29/8). However, the US is hardly a beacon for appropriate protection of whistleblowers. In the US, one may only blow the whistle one way – to help government bodies. After the spectacular global financial crisis, the US were oh so magnanimous to whistleblowers, treating them to legislation bestowing up to 30 per cent of fines resulting from their disclosure.

But blow that whistle the other way, and look out.
Four names will illustrate my point:

1. William Binney disclosed that NSA collected mass data on its own citizens. The result was a raid on his home, loss of employment and a financial deficit to the tune of $300,000.

2. Thomas Drake disclosed NSA warrantless mass surveillance of US citizens. He was indicted and sentenced to one year probation and community service.

3. John Kyriakou disclosed CIA waterboarding detainees. He was indicted and sentenced to 30 months' jail.

 4. Chelsea Manning disclosed the infamous "collateral murder" footage of an Apache helicopter slaughter of at least eight people in Baghdad, including two journalists and a young father. He was indicted and sentenced to 35 years' jail.

Aliki Pavlou, Albert Park


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Preston, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
89 years old, political gay activist, hosting two web sites, one personal: http://www.red-jos.net one shared with my partner, 93-year-old Ken Lovett: http://www.josken.net and also this blog. The blog now has an alphabetical index: http://www.red-jos.net/alpha3.htm