Una selezione di articoli di Omar Barghouti
Human Rights, International Law and Ethical Principles:
- The Pianist of Palestine: Reflections on Israels Ubiquitous Abuse
- Israel’s Latest Massacre in Qana: Racist Jewish Fundamentalism a Factor
Civil Resistance – BOYCOTT:
1. The morality of a cultural boycott of Israel
2. Why we ask for a Boycott (with Lisa Taraki)
Civil Resistance – DANCE:
- On Dance, Identity & War
2. Palestinian Dance Education under Occupation: Need or Frill?
Omar Barghouti è un analista politico palestinese indipendente.
Come coreografo lavora con la compagnia di danza El-Funoun http://www.el-funoun.org/
E uno dei soci fondatori del Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI).
Ha partecipato al seminario La dimensione della parola condivisa Quale futuro per Palestina/Israele?, Biella 12-13 maggio 2006 con due relazioni, Arte e oppressione e Il boicottaggio.
Ism-Italia, gennaio 2007
Human Rights, International Law and Ethical Principles
"The Pianist" of Palestine: Reflections on Israel’s ubiquitous abuse
Omar Barghouti, The Electronic Intifada, 1 December 2004
Adrian Brody (center) as Wladyslaw Szpilman, together with other cast members in The Pianist, which received five Academy Award nominations in 2003, winning one. (Photo: Guy Ferandis/H&K)
When I watched the Oscar-winning film The Pianist I had three distinct, uneasy reactions. I was not particularly impressed by the film, from a purely artistic angle; I was horrified by the film’s depiction of the dehumanization of Polish Jews and the impunity of the German occupiers; and I could not help but compare the Warsaw ghetto wall with Israel’s much more ominous wall caging 3.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza in fragmented, sprawling prisons.
In the film, when German soldiers forced Jewish musicians to play for them at a checkpoint, I thought to myself: "that’s one thing Israeli soldiers have not yet done to Palestinians." I spoke too soon, it seems. Israel’s leading newspaper Ha’aretz reported last week that an Israeli human rights organization monitoring a daunting military roadblock near Nablus was able to videotape Israeli soldiers forcing a Palestinian violinist to play for them. The same organization confirmed that similar abuse had taken place months ago at another checkpoint near Jerusalem.
In this image from a video shot by Horit Herman-Peled, a volunteer for the Israeli rights group Machsom Watch, an unidentified Palestinian man plays his violin in order to pass through an Israeli army roadblock at Beit Iba, north of the West Bank city of Nablus, Nov. 9, 2004. An officer made the Palestinian man take out his violin and play for about two minutes as hundreds of other Palestinians waited behind him for their turn to pass, said Horit Herman-Peled, a volunteer for Machsom Watch, which monitors soldiers’ conduct at the roadblocks. The army said the soldiers made him open the case and play the instrument to show there were no explosives hidden inside. (Horit Herman-Peled, Machsom Watch)
In typical Israeli whitewashing, the incident was dismissed by an army spokesperson as little more than "insensitivity," with no malicious intent to humiliate the Palestinian involved. And of course the usual mantra about soldiers having to "contend with a complex and dangerous reality" was again served as a ready, one-size-fits-all excuse. I wonder whether the same would be said or accepted in describing the original Nazi practice at the Warsaw ghetto gates in the 1940s.
Regrettably, the analogy between the two illegal occupations does not stop here. Many of the methods of collective and individual "punishment" meted out to Palestinian civilians at the hands of young, racist, often sadistic and ever impervious Israeli soldiers at the hundreds of checkpoints littering the occupied Palestinian territories are reminiscent of common Nazi practices against the Jews. Following a visit to the occupied Palestinian territories in 2003, Oona King, a Jewish member of the British parliament attested to this, writing: "The original founders of the Jewish state could surely not imagine the irony facing Israel today: in escaping the ashes of the Holocaust, they have incarcerated another people in a hell similar in its nature – though not its extent – to the Warsaw ghetto."
Even Tommy Lapid, Israel’s justice minister and a Holocaust survivor himself, stirred a political storm last year when he told Israel radio that a picture of an elderly Palestinian woman searching in the debris for her medication had reminded him of his grandmother who died at Auschwitz. Furthermore, he commented on his army’s wanton and indiscriminate destruction of Palestinian homes, businesses and farms in Gaza at the time, saying: "[I]f we carry on like this, we will be expelled from the United Nations and those responsible will stand trial at The Hague."
Some of the war crimes that concern people like Lapid have been lately revealed in eyewitness accounts given by former soldiers, who could no longer reconcile whatever moral values they held with their complicity in the daily humiliation, abuse and physical harm of innocent civilians. Such crimes have become normalized in their minds as acceptable, even necessary, acts of "disciplining" the untamed natives, as a measure to maintain "security."
According to a recent report in the Israeli media, an army commander was accused of gratuitously beating up Palestinians at the notorious Hawwara checkpoint. Ironically, the most damning evidence presented against him was a videotape filmed by the army’s education branch. In that particular episode, the senior officer at that roadblock, knowing that an army film crew was located nearby, and without any provocation, beat a Palestinian "flanked by his wife and children," punching him in the face, and "even kicked [him] in the lower part of his body," the report said.
A recent exhibit titled Breaking the Silence, organized in Tel Aviv by a number of conscientious Israeli soldiers who served in occupied Hebron, exposed in photographs and objects more serious belligerence towards defenseless Palestinians. Inspired by Jewish settlers’ graffiti that included: "Arabs to the gas chambers"; "Arabs = an inferior race"; "Spill Arab blood"; and, of course, the ever so popular "Death to the Arabs," soldiers used a myriad of methods to make the lives of average Palestinians intolerable. One photograph showed a bumper sticker on a passing car, perhaps explaining the ultimate goal of such abuse: "Religious penitence provides strength to expel the Arabs."
The exhibit’s main curator described a particularly shocking policy of randomly spraying crowded Palestinian residential neighborhoods, like Abu Sneina, from heavy machine guns and grenade launchers for hours on end in response to any minor shooting of a few bullets from any house in the neighborhood on the Jewish colonies inside the city.
The Hebron horrors pale, however, in comparison to what Israeli army units have done in Gaza. In an unnerving interview with Ha’aretz in November last year, for instance, Liran Ron Furer, a staff sergeant (res.) in the Israeli army and graduate of an arts school, described the gradual transformation of every soldier to an "animal" when staffing a roadblock, irrespective of whatever values he may bring with him from home. From his perspective, those soldiers get infected with what he calls "checkpoint syndrome," a glaring symptom of which is acting violently towards Palestinians in "the most primal and impulsive manner, without fear of punishment … ." "At the checkpoint," he explains, "young people have the chance to be masters and using force and violence becomes legitimate … ."
Furer cites how his colleagues degraded and mercilessly beat a Palestinian dwarf just for fun; how they had a "souvenir picture" taken with bloodied, bound civilians whom they’d thrashed; how one soldier pissed on the head of a Palestinian man because the latter had "the nerve to smile" at a soldier; how another Palestinian was forced to stand on four legs and bark like a dog; and how yet another soldier asked Palestinians for cigarettes and when they refused "broke someone’s hand" and "slashed their tires."
The most chilling of all the incidents was his own personal confession. "I ran toward [a group of Palestinians] and punched an Arab right in the face," he admitted. "Blood was trickling from his lip onto his chin. I led him up behind the Jeep and threw him in, his knees banged against the trunk and he landed inside." He then goes on to describe in gruesome details how he and his comrades stepped on the tightly handcuffed captive, dubbed "the Arab;" how they hit him until "he was bleeding and making a kind of puddle of blood and saliva;" how he "grabbed him by the hair and turned his head to the side," until he cried aloud, and how the soldiers then "stepped harder and harder on his back," to make him stop crying.
Unsettlingly similar to the way persecuted Jews were marked during the Holocaust, young Palestinian have been tattooed by Israeli soldiers during the current intifada. (unknown)
Furer then reveals that the company commander cheered them on: "Good work, tigers." And after they took their prey to their camp, the abuse continued in different forms. "All the other soldiers were waiting there to see what [my emphasis] we’d caught. When we came in with the Jeep, they whistled and applauded wildly." One of the soldiers, Furer said, "went up to him and kicked him in the stomach. The Arab doubled over and grunted, and we all laughed. It was funny … I kicked him really hard in the ass and he flew forward just as I’d expected. They shouted … and laughed … and I felt happy. Our Arab was just a 16-year-old mentally retarded boy."
As savage as it is, checkpoint abuse is not unique in any sense. It fits perfectly well into the general picture of viewing the Palestinians as relative humans who are not entitled to the dignity and respect that full humans deserve. At the height of Israel’s massive reoccupation of Palestinian cities in 2002, for example, soldiers used their knives to engrave the Star of David on the arms of a number of detained Palestinian men and teenage boys. The haunting pictures of the victims were first shown on Arab satellite TV channels and eventually exposed on the Internet.
In the same year, at al-Amari refugee camp, during a mass roundup of Palestinian males, teenagers and elderly included, Israeli troops inscribed identification numbers "on the foreheads and forearms of Palestinian detainees awaiting interrogation." The late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat compared the act to well known Nazi practices at concentration camps. Tommy Lapid was incensed, saying: "As a refugee from the Holocaust I find such an act insufferable." Nonetheless, Raanan Gissin, a spokesman for Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, was worried only about Israel’s image being tarnished: "clearly it conflicts with the desire to convey a public relations message," he told Israel Army Radio. Parroting that line, the mainstream media in Israel, too, were far too concerned about the "public relations disaster" to express any abhorrence or protestation at the immorality of the act and the irony of it all.
Yoram Peri, a professor of politics and media at Tel Aviv University, sees PR as "a fundamental issue in Israeli life." "We do not think we do anything wrong," he clarifies in an interview with the Guardian, "but we think we explain ourselves badly and that the international media is anti-Semitic." Obsessed with how Israel is seen rather than with what it actually does, Israelis, according to Peri, are mostly worried that "we do not explain ourselves well. When we discuss the horrible things that happen in the West Bank, we don’t talk about the issue but about how it will be seen."
Recognizing this prevailing cynicism, apathy and acquiescence among the majority of Israelis in the criminal oppression of the Palestinians, former Knesset member Shulamit Aloni pronounced in a recent interview with the Irish publication the Handstand that "gross insensitivity" was threatening a moral disintegration of Israeli society. Referring to the Germans during the Nazi rule, she added, "I am beginning to understand why a whole nation was able to say: ‘We did not know.’"
I wonder when the time will come when a glamorous, award-winning director braves predictable intellectual terror and intimidation tactics to expose the enormous Israeli cocktail of racism and impunity by making a Palestinian version of The Pianist.
Israel’s Latest Massacre in Qana: Racist Jewish Fundamentalism a Factor
Omar Barghouti, Electronic Lebanon, 30 July 2006
Israeli soldiers load missiles onto a military vehicle, as Israeli orthodox Jews dance to show their support for the troops, along the Israeli-Lebanese border, 26 July 2006. (MaanImages/Inbal Rose)
Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora condemned Israel’s massacre in Qana today as a "heinous crime" and called Israeli leaders "war criminals." Reacting to an earlier atrocity, he wondered: "Is the value of human life in Lebanon less than that of the citizens of other countries?" The answer, at least as far as Israel is concerned, is an unambiguous "yes!" Israel’s latest bloodbath, which claimed the lives of dozens of children and women hiding from the relentless bombing in what they hoped was a secure basement in Qana, betrays not only Israel’s criminal disregard for the value of Arab human life, a typical colonial attitude towards natives, but also its increasingly fundamentalist perception of Gentiles in general as lesser humans.
Israel apologists who will try to spin this new massacre as yet another "mistake" must expect their audience to have an awfully short memory or a very low IQ. Israel has explicitly indicated in the past few days that it may resort to such atrocious measures, especially since its armed forces have failed to achieve any tangible military gains after 19 days of rolling massacres and wanton destruction across Lebanon. Israeli minister of justice, Haim Ramon, issued a stern warning only days ago that a large area in south Lebanon was regarded by his government effectively as a free-fire zone, advocating indiscriminate bombing of villages inside it to ease the so-far unsuccessful advance of the Israeli army. "These places are not villages. They are military bases in which Hizbollah are hiding and from which they are operating," he said, adding that, since Israel had ordered Lebanese civilians to leave the area, "All those now in south Lebanon are terrorists who are related in some way to Hizbollah."
Israel’s biggest-selling paper, Yedioth Ahronoth, advocated raising the threshold of Israel’s response to Katyusha rockets: "In other words: a village from which rockets are fired at Israel will simply be destroyed by fire." It is worth noting that all available evidence points to the fact that no Katyusha was fired by the Lebanese resistance from Qana before the bombing.
Among Israel’s staunch Zionist supporters in the West, the same "talking points" were parroted. Harvard academic Alan Dershowitz recently argued that "Hezbollah and Hamas militants […] are difficult to distinguish from those ‘civilians’ who recruit, finance, harbor and facilitate their terrorism. Nor can women and children always be counted as civilians, as some organizations do. Terrorists increasingly use women and teenagers to play important roles in their attacks." He concluded by saying, "The Israeli army has given well-publicized notice to civilians to leave those areas of southern Lebanon that have been turned into war zones. Those who voluntarily remain behind have become complicit."
Thus the massacre in Qana.
Qana’s name is associated with an earlier Israeli massacre. In 1996, during its military offensive codenamed "Grapes of Wrath," Israel’s air force bombed a UN shelter in the village, slaying more than 100 civilians, mostly children, and inviting almost universal verbal condemnation but no real threats of sanctions or any other form of effective punitive measures from the international community. In the current Israeli war on Lebanon this is only the most recent episode in a series of smaller atrocities deliberately committed by the Israeli army against Lebanese civilians in an attempt to collectively "punish" them for the humiliating defeat its elite military units have so far experienced at the hands of the formidable Lebanese resistance, most noticeably in the legendary town of Bint Jbeil.
This intentional and coldly calculated Israeli policy of targeting innocent Lebanese civilians and civilian infrastructure stems from a time-honoured, but hardly ever successful, Israeli doctrine of applying intense "pressure" against a civilian population in order to compel them, in-turn, to pressure the resistance into submitting to Israeli dictates, thereby doing Israel’s bidding by proxy. It has been consistently used against the Palestinians ever since the Nakba of 1948, and is still applied now in the ongoing barbaric offensive and hermetic siege against Gaza. Israel may have plagiarized this doctrine from the legacies of previous oppressors, but it has refined it to a degree that it no longer raises any moral qualms in most of Israeli society, where it is widely accepted by the public as a right, even a duty in the fight for Israel’s "security."
Such blatant racism, which may have been frowned upon in the past by many Jewish-Israelis as a pathological anomaly, is now quite popular in the Israeli mainstream, including among lawmakers, academics, journalists and, of course, military leaders. While it has become normal to read scathing — occasionally valid — critiques of the hateful and chauvinistic discourse "inherent" in Islamic and even Christian brands of fundamentalism, Jewish fundamentalism, which is among the key factors informing current Israeli apartheid policies and laws, remains a taboo subject that is rarely discussed or debated in the West. It is rooted in a long tradition of fanatic, yet popular, fundamentalist interpretations of Halakhah, or Jewish law, propagated by influential rabbis and internalized by a widely acquiescent Israeli society, secular and religious sectors alike. Even before the creation of Israel, the core concept in this fundamentalist worldview was publicly espoused by Rabbi Abraham Yitzhak Kook, the first Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Palestine, who said, "The difference between a Jewish soul and the souls of non-Jews … is greater and deeper than the difference between a human soul and the souls of cattle."
The late Israeli academic and human rights advocate, Israel Shahak, traced the roots of Israeli public justification for killing Palestinians, for instance, to similar readings of the tenets of Halakhah. While the murder of a Jew is considered a capital offence in Jewish law, the murder of a Gentile is treated quite differently. "A Jew who murders a Gentile," Shahak reveals, "is guilty only of a sin against the laws of heaven, not punishable by court." Indirectly, but intentionally, causing the death of a Gentile is "no sin at all." A booklet published in 1973 by the Central Region Command of the Israeli army subscribes to this same doctrine. In it, the Command’s Chief Chaplain writes:
"When our forces come across civilians during a war or in hot pursuit or in a raid, so long as there is no certainty that those civilians are incapable of harming our forces, then according to the Halakhah they may and even should be killed … Under no circumstances should an Arab be trusted, even if he makes an impression of being civilized … In war, when our forces storm the enemy, they are allowed and even enjoined by the Halakhah to kill even good civilians, that is, civilians who are ostensibly good.
In 1996, the same year the first Qana massacre was committed, Rabbi Yitzhak Ginsburgh, a leader of the powerful Lubavitch Hassidic sect, echoed the same principle, rhetorically asking, "If a Jew needs a liver, can he take the liver of an innocent non-Jew to save [the Jew]?," answering, "The Torah would probably permit that. Jewish life has an infinite value. There is something more holy and unique about Jewish life than about non-Jewish life." Moreover, Ginsburgh coauthored a book defending the 1994 massacre of Muslim worshippers in Al-Ibrahimi mosque (Patriarchs’ Cave) in Hebron, in which he argued that when a Jew kills a non-Jew the act does not constitute murder according to the Halakhah, adding that the killing of innocent Palestinians as an act of revenge is a Jewish virtue.
During the first months of the current Palestinian initfada, it was common for Israeli army spokespeople to justify killing Palestinian children throwing stones by saying that they "threatened human life." (B’Tselem Report) Not soldiers’ lives, not Israeli lives, but human life. One cannot escape the implication that the alleged sources of the threat are not exactly eligible to be called human in the army’s common diction.
In this context, it is entirely justified to see Israel’s second massacre in Qana as the rule, not the exception.
This often ignored menace of Jewish fundamentalism needs to be addressed as seriously as other forms of fanatic religious thought which sows racial hatred, animosity and war mongering. While adhering to moral principles alone will certainly not bring any of Qana’s murdered children back to life or compensate any bereaved parent or loved one anywhere, perhaps insisting on the equal worth of all human lives, regardless of ethnicity or religion, and rejecting racism from any source, including from sanctimonious former victims, can help diminish the chances of such ruthless crimes recurring in the future. Irrespective of the Holocaust, or precisely because of it, Israel should not be allowed to get away with its racist, at-will flaunting of international law and its state terrorism against defenseless civilians. It is time to go beyond mere condemnation to properly channel irrepressible grief and simmering anger into morally sound acts of intervention. Just as it worked against apartheid South Africa, a comprehensive regime of boycott against Israel is urgently called for. People of conscience everywhere share the responsibility of stopping this unrestrained behemoth before it scorches everything in its blind quest for hegemony and colonial control.
 Jonathan Steele and Rory McCarthy. "Strike on bunker failed, says Hizbullah. The Guardian, July 20, 2006.
 Patrick Bishop. "Diplomats argue as all of south Lebanon is targeted." Telegraph, July 28, 2006.
 Harry de Quetteville. "You’re all targets, Israel tells Lebanese in South." Telegraph, July 28, 2006.
 Alan Dershowitz. "’Civilian Casualty’? It Depends." Los Angeles Times, July 22, 2006.
 Israel Shahak and Norton Mezvinsky. Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel. Pluto Press, London, 1999. p. ix.
 Israel Shahak. Jewish History, Jewish Religion – The Weight of Three Thousand Years. Pluto Press. London, 2002. P. 75-76.
 Ibid. P. 76.
 Ibid. P. 43.
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