| London church blocks its facade with replica of Israeli wall around Bethlehem!

London church blocks its facade with replica of Israeli wall around Bethlehem ~ Ali Abunimah,  The Electronic Intifada.

St. James’ Church in central London unveiled an eight-meter-high replica of the Israeli-built concrete wall that entirely surrounds the Palestinian city of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank, the traditional birthplace of Jesus.

It is an effort to bring to London some of the reality of what it is like to live in Bethlehem in 2013.

The wall deliberately obscures the facade of the historic St. James’ Church “because that is what has happened to Bethlehem’s holy sites and historic places.”

“This Christmas we’ve built a huge wall across the front of our church. We’d really like you to come and see it because it’s what the people of Bethlehem are experiencing today,” explains Reverend Lucy Winkett, rector of the church, in the brief video above.

The wall is part of the “Bethlehem Unwrapped” festival, which features a week of events, starting on 29 December, including music by Reem Kelani and Nigel Kennedy, comedy with Jeremy Hardy and Mark Steel, as well as films and panels.

“Unwrapping” traditional images

“We’re unwrapping the traditional, Victorian, sentimental images of Christmas and showing this is what Bethlehem today looks like – an eight-meter high concrete separation wall surrounding it,” explains Justin Butcher, the festival’s director.

Butcher said that the replica took eight months to plan and eight days to build before it was unveiled on 23 December.

During the time it is up, people are invited to write their own messages on it.

In what appears to be a concession to apartheid supporters, however, one of the panelsfeatures Israeli embassy spokesperson Yiftah Curiel and Alan Johnson of the Israel lobby group Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM), in what is likely to be a spirited debate with Jeff Halper, founder of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) and Leila Sansour, Bethlehem resident, filmaker and founder of Open Bethlehem.

“This wall is symbolic of walls all over the world that divide and confine peoples, restricting free movement and dominating the imagination of those who live behind them,” the festival website explains.

“We believe that bridges not walls are the only lasting foundation for peace. On Sunday 5th January at the end of the festival, the eve of the Feast of the Epiphany, the Wall itself will be transformed into a symbol of peace and hope.”

“O Little Town of Bethlehem”

This short film, posted last Christmas, is “the story of the birth of Jesus told by the people of Bethlehem” themselves.

The video, made by St Paul’s Church, Auckland, New Zealand, shows what the real wall looks like as citizens of Bethlehem talk about its devastating impact.

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| BDS: Stephen Hawking’s support for the boycott of Israel is a turning point!

Stephen Hawking’s support for the boycott of Israel is a turning point ~

  • Boycotting Israel as a stance for justice is going mainstream – Israelis can no longer pretend theirs is in an enlightened country.

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‘Professor Hawking’s decision to respect the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement has forced Israelis – and the rest of the world – to understand that the status quo has a price.’ Photograph: John Phillips/UK Press via Getty Images

A standard objection to the Palestinian campaign for the boycott of Israel is that it would cut off “dialogue” and hurt the chances of peace. We’ve heard this again in the wake of Professor Stephen Hawking’s laudable decision to withdraw from Israel’s Presidential Conference in response to requests from Palestinian academics – but it would be hard to think of a more unconvincing position as far as Palestinians are concerned.

One of the most deceptive aspects of the so-called peace process is the pretence that Palestinians and Israelis are two equal sides, equally at fault, equally responsible – thus erasing from view the brutal reality that Palestinians are an occupied, colonised people, dispossessed at the hands of one of the most powerful militaries on earth.

For more than two decades, under the cover of this fiction, Palestinians have engaged in internationally-sponsored “peace talks” and other forms of dialogue, only to watch as Israel has continued to occupy, steal and settle their land, and to kill and maim thousands of people with impunity.

While there are a handful of courageous dissenting Israeli voices, major Israeli institutions, especially the universities, have been complicit in this oppression by, for example, engaging in research and training partnerships with the Israeli army. Israel’s government has actively engaged academics, artists and other cultural figures in international “Brand Israel” campaigns to prettify the country’s image and distract attention from the oppression of Palestinians.

The vast majority of Palestinians, meanwhile, have been disenfranchised by the official peace process as their fate has been placed in the hands of venal and comprised envoys such as Tony Blair, and US and EU governments that only seem to find the courage to implement international law and protect human rights when it comes to the transgressions of African or Arab states.

When it comes to Israel’s abuses, governments around the world have offered nothing but lip service; while dozens of countries face US, EU or UN sanctions for far lesser transgressions, it has taken years for EU governments to even discuss timid steps such as labelling goods from illegal Israeli settlements, let alone actually banning them. Yet the peace process train trundles on – now with a new conductor in the form of John Kerry, the US secretary of state – but with no greater prospects of ever reaching its destination. So, enough talk already.

The Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) aims to change this dynamic. It puts the initiative back in the hands of Palestinians. The goal is to build pressure on Israel to respect the rights of all Palestinians by ending its occupation and blockade of the West Bank and Gaza Strip; respecting the rights of Palestinian refugees who are currently excluded from returning to their homes just because they are not Jews; and abolishing all forms of discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel.

These demands are in line with universal human rights principles and would be unremarkable and uncontroversial in any other context, which is precisely why support for them is growing.

BDS builds on a long tradition of popular resistance around the world: from within Palestine itself to the Montgomery bus boycott in Alabama to the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. Historically, boycotts work.

During the 1980s opponents of sanctions against apartheid South Africa – including, notoriously, the late Margaret Thatcher – argued instead for “constructive engagement”. They were on the wrong side of history. Today, Palestinians are lectured to drop BDS and return to empty talks that are the present-day equivalent of constructive engagement.

But there can be no going back to the days when Palestinians were silenced and only the strong were given a voice. There can be no going back to endless “dialogue” and fuzzy and toothless talk about “peace” that provides a cover for Israel to entrench its colonisation.

When we look back in a few years, Hawking’s decision to respect BDS may be seen as a turning point – the moment when boycotting Israel as a stance for justice went mainstream.

What is clear today is that his action has forced Israelis – and the rest of the world – to understand that the status quo has a price. Israel cannot continue to pretend that it is a country of culture, technology and enlightenment while millions of Palestinians live invisibly under the brutal rule of bullets, bulldozers and armed settlers.

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ISS PAL | Even today’s stunning pic from the International Space Station acknowledges Palestine! http://bit.ly/175mFjF

[The Aurora Australis is seen from an image taken by the crew of Expedition 29 on board the International Space Station, on an ascending pass from south of Australia in the Southern Pacific Ocean to the Northern Pacific Ocean, west of Central America September 18, 2011. REUTERS/NASA/JSC/Handout]

 

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| UK’s Observer adds “kill Jews” to Hamas leader Khaled Meshal’s Gaza speech when he did not say it!

UK’s Observer adds “kill Jews” to Hamas leader Khaled Meshal’s Gaza speech when he did not say it ~ Ali Abunimah, Electronic Intifada.

In its report on Hamas leader Khaled Meshal’s speech in Gaza on Saturday, The Observer, the Sunday sister paper of The Guardian, quoted Meshal saying the following words:

We don’t kill Jews because they are Jews. We kill the Zionists because they are conquerors and we will continue to kill anyone who takes our land and our holy places … We will free Jerusalem inch by inch, stone by stone.

This however is a blatant mistranslation. What Meshal actually said is:

We do not fight the Jews because they are Jews. We fight the Zionist occupiers and aggressors. And we will fight anyone who tries to occupy our lands or attacks us. We fight those who fight us, who attack us, who besiege us, who attack our holy places and our land.

Can you see the massive difference? To an untrained ear the Arabic verbs for “kill” and “fight” could sound the same because قتل – to kill – and قاتل – to fight or combat – come from the same root. But to any fluent Arabic speaker there is no ambiguity at all in what Meshal said as the clip below shows.

Resistance “a means not an end”

The Observer painted Meshal’s speech as “uncompromising” and most other media called it “fiery.” I even heard someone on the BBC World Service say it was little changed from Hamas’ founding charter.

I have not seen any reports pointing out this passage in Meshal’s speech

Resistance for us is a means and not an end. I am speaking to the whole world through the media. If the world finds a means, without resistance or bloodshed, to return Palestine and Jerusalem to us, and the right of return, and to end the Zionist occupation then we welcome it. We tried you [the world] for 64 years and you have done nothing. So if we resort to resistance do not blame us. If we found another way without war we would have seized it, but the history of nations shows that there is no victory or liberation without resistance, without battles, without sacrifice.

This is a theme Meshal has spoken about before, including in a speech in 2009 where he used almost identical words.

Meshal, while covering the bases, praising resistance and rebutting Mahmoud Abbas’ recent assertion that only the West Bank and Gaza are “Palestine” while the rest is “Israel,” was reaffirming Hamas’ longstanding openness to dealing with the world politically, rather than solely through armed resistance.

But if you read The Observer, you would think he said “kill Jews” where he said no such thing.

Update, 9 December

The Observer replaced the word “kill” with fight” and added this note to its article: “This article was amended on Sunday 9 December 2012 to correct a mistranslation in a quote by Meshaal.”

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