In commemoration of International Women’s Day, here are a few excerpts (sourced from Addameer: Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association-in italics) about the women political prisoners currently incarcerated by Israeli Occupation Forces -including Hana Shalabi, now in her 22nd day of hunger strike. I wish them them strength and justice. I wish them hope. I wish I could do more. Most of all I wish that the allegedly civilised governments funding occupation and apartheid would just fucking stop.

During incarceration the vast majority of women prisoners experience sexual harassment and abuse from both male and female Israeli military and police forces.

I once met a woman in Jenin, her brother was killed by Israeli Occupation Forces approximately 8 years ago. All of her family is politically active against the Israeli occupation, as such each one of them has been arrested by Israeli forces and tortured. About 3 years ago she was arrested and incarcerated for 1 year, her “interrogation” (including torture) period lasted for over 3 months without charge or access to legal council and her family was not notified of her location. During this period she was routinely strip and cavity searched without her consent (raped) by both male and female Israeli occupation personnel. She was kept in solitary confinement. After each session of “interrogation” (lasting between 8-72 hours) she was taken back to the cell and shackled to the wall with her arms and legs spread open while Israeli soldiers verbally harassed her. When not being interrogated she was unable to sleep in her cell for fear of being raped. Following the “interrogation” period she remained in an Israeli military prison for a further 9 months without trial. For her own safety I cannot mention her name.

Below are some of the women currently being held by Israeli Occupation Forces. They have names and continue to face this persecution for having the bad luck of being both women and Palestinian. Just 3 days ago Hana Shalabi had access to a lawyer and confirmed that she had been both verbally and sexually abused in Israeli custody, her hunger strike continues.

Over 10,000 Palestinian women have been arrested and detained since 1967 under Israeli military orders, which govern nearly every aspect of life in the occupied Palestinian territory. There were 36 Palestinian female prisoners in Israeli prisons prior to the exchange deal concluded by the Israeli government and Hamas in October 2011. Hamas reported that Israel agreed to include all female political prisoners in the exchange deal. However, two women, Lina Jarbuni and Wurud Qassem, who have been in prison since before the first phase of releases on 18 October 2011, and an additional two women, Salwa Hassan and Alaa Jubeh, who were arrested before the second phase of releases on 18 December 2011, are still in Israeli detention.

 Lina Jarbuni was arrested on 18 April 2002 and sentenced to 17 years in Israeli prison. She is currently held in Hasharon Prison. She is from Arrabet al-Batoof, in the Galilee region. Lina is 36 years old.

Wurud Qassem was 20 years old when she was arrested on 4 October 2006. She was sentenced to 6 years in prison and is currently held in Damon Prison. Wurud is from Al-Tira, in the Triangle region, and is now 25 years old.

 Salwa Hassan was arrested on 19 October 2011, and is currently in Hasharon prison awaiting trial. She is 53 years old and lives in Hebron. Salwa is married and has six children.

 Alaa Jubeh was only 17 years old when she was arrested from her home in Hebron on 7 December 2011. She is currently detained in Hasharon prison and has not yet been sentenced. Under Israeli military orders, a Palestinian child’s sentence is decided on the basis of the child’s age at the time of sentencing, and not at the time when the alleged offense was committed. Therefore, because Alaa turned 18 on 29 January 2012, she will now be sentenced as an adult.

 Hana Shalabi was re-arrested on 16 February 2012, less than four months after being released as part of the prisoner exchange deal on 18 October 2011. Hana had previously spent over two years in administrative detention. She received a six-month administrative detention order on 23 February 2012, which was reduced to four months on 4 March. Hana began an open hunger strike immediately after her arrest, and will enter her 22nd day without food on Women’s Day. She is currently detained in Hasharon Prison. Hana is from Burqin village, near Jenin, and is 30 years old.

 Yusra Qaadan was arrested on 4 March 2012, while visiting a family member in prison. She is currently detained for interrogation in Beersheva. Yusra, 30 years old, is from Qalqilya. She is married and has four children.

 Manal Suwan was arrested on 6 March 2012 and is currently under interrogation in Hasharon Prison. Manal, married and a mother of two, is 31 years old. She is from a village near Qalqilya.”

 

 

 

Porn Rant Deux

Posted: 30/01/2012 in Feminism

Part 1: Deniability and What’s Wrong with Pr0n

Part 2: The Parable of the Inalienable Rights of “Get off my lawn!” Grandpa

Part 3: Fuck that noise

*Trigger warning for frank discussions of pornography, misogyny, and explicit language

 

Part 1

So, what’s the big deal with porn? Why do these radical feminists keep harping on about it, what are they, prudes…lesbians?? What’s the big deal anyway, as long as the performers are consenting adults? “IT’S FREEDOM OF SPEECH!!!”

If you want to engage thoughtfully in a discussion on porn, there is a wealth of information out there that will disprove the prevalent myths and misconceptions about the porn industry, here are some starter links to the tip of the iceberg. If you can’t be bothered to educate yourself, don’t come whingeing to me.

The fact is, women are abused in porn and mainstream heterosexual porn depicts the abuse of women, mainstream porn is also racist in its depiction of people of colour and fetishizes racist stereotypes into monoliths of sexuality – Asian women = submissive, black women = insatiable, black men = savage etc. – to not see these abusive depictions dominating porn, you either don’t watch porn, or are suffering from a serious case of denial.

What is even more *awesome* about porn, is that regular viewing among men actually does change their views of women, their attitudes towards rape and the ability to empathise, and no, it is not altered for the better. The industry feeds and normalizes sexually aggressive impulses and tells men it’s ok to switch off the human empathy button, because wanking to abuse just feels so good. Porn is now so celebrated in our society and affecting every facet of popular culture that most people are in denial of its effects, or don’t even realise that the dominant imagery in pop culture has been saturated with imagery and styles born in the porn industry.

Why so much denial? Quick answer = if you feel entitled to having access to a product, and if you greatly enjoy the use of this product, it is much easier to continue using said product if you ignore any ethical implications in the production process of that product; also, if someone ever calls you out on it you have deniability: “but I just didn’t know”.

It is a bummer when you find out, for example, that your favourite clothes store uses textiles and designs from factories using slave or underpaid labour. Of course everyone knows about slave labour, fewer people actually take the time to ensure their purchases come from companies employing ethical standards in their production line. Not knowing is just easier, you won’t have to rethink anything or reorganise your life or habits in any way. You can do this because you have privilege; slave labour doesn’t affect your life, nor is it ever likely to. At the heart of it, you don’t really care, caring would make you responsible for your choices, and “I didn’t know!” is just so much easier. As long as you have deniability, you are innocent and your conscience is clear.

As an aside, there are additional problems in making ethical purchasing choices, particularly of necessities such as clothing and food as very often, ethically sourced products are priced significantly higher, making a clear conscience an economic privilege and elite lifestyle choice – this however, does not apply to porn.

Now, I’m going to focus on why consuming or producing porn should not be culturally acceptable or rewarding in self-proclaimed and self-congratulated “free and equal” societies.

I will say it again, the porn industry is rife with ethical issues, particularly in the current fastest growing porn genre of the decade, “gonzo” porn. For more details on the experiences of women porn performers, go here. As for consenting adults, and choosing the business, let’s expand on the idea of what it is to be a successful or celebrated woman in society. No matter what women do, the job of a woman in society at its core is to be fuckable. It doesn’t matter if you’re a politician, a high court judge or a CEO, articles written about you will mention in no uncertain terms of whether or not you are fuckable. If you are deemed unfuckable, expect derision, mockery and the ultimate decision that you should not be listened to or respected because you are fug. If consensus is that you are fuckable, then you’re also probably a whore and shouldn’t be listened to anyway either.

Many women know this. I am sure that most of the women in porn know this; you may not get respect in porn, but there is a lot of celebration in this society of fuckable women, and being fuckable can – at least temporarily – be lucrative; ultimately however, choosing your choice, is still a very limited choice, choosing your choice does not mean that you have equal choices as men in this society. As one ex-performer in pornography states in the documentary The Price of Pleasure “When your best choice is taking off your clothes and sticking toys in your cunt for money, I think there’s a real problem with the labour system.“

In today’s mainstream hetero porn, it is impossible to make an ethical choice. There is very little official monitoring or codes of ethical conduct that actually protect the women in porn. All of it depicts, normalizes and celebrates the degradation and abuse of women. ALL. OF. IT. Many porn production companies and distributers, including online, have begun adding films labelled “female/women friendly”. It doesn’t take a huge leap of logic to see then, that through this alleged extension of their genres, the remaining majority is unfriendly to women.

Either way, self titled “friendly” videos or otherwise, do not represent the breadth of human sexuality. They depict a very limited world of sexuality where women are always sexually available and desire to be “fucked” by anyone, they desire an action to be taken upon them, not to share an experience; and because these visual depictions of women – in fact just their holes – so desire this, they deserve to be degraded, they are holes that can and should be abused. If a woman does desire sex then she is a dirty whore, bitch, a slut and a cunt and deserves whatever abuse comes her way, she had it coming, and deep down she fucking loves it. Why? Because according to porn hive mind, all women deep down know that they are less than men, helpmeets at best and toys to be fucked and discarded at the whim of men at worst because they’re just too fucking stupid to know they’re being used either way. The only bonus of mainstream “female friendly” depictions is that the perpetuation of this subjugation is conducted with a smear of Vaseline on the lens, a candle, and if you’re lucky, a few less “bitches”; “No sexual transaction that is paid for and that involves submission in a context of having been paid for, is anything other than an exploitative transaction by definition.”

In addition, not only does this narrow depiction of hetero sex normalize abuse as part of human sexuality, it also relegates sex involving all shapes, sizes and colours of people into niche markets. If you are for example a woman performer in porn and you happen to be larger, then it is highly likely that you will be put into a niche genre of pornography, you will no longer just be a bitch getting fucked, you’ll be a fat bitch getting fucked. Look at the plethora of porn available and you can see that people’s very identities are turned into niche genres, be it your size, age, race or ethnicity. This process means that basic, normal, human characteristics are fetishized and treated as somehow abnormal or taboo in a sexualized context; it is extremely othering.

Men who use porn are aware of these very normal and normalized depictions of women and sex in porn, they are in denial that what they are watching is a visual depiction of abuse. I mean hey, you hear these women porn stars being interviewed and they all say that they just love sex! Newsflash, when women performers appear on tv and radio talk shows or are interviewed in Playboy, they are being paid by their employers to appear, so of course they don’t sit and talk about how fucking miserable and dangerous the job is; they are on company time and don’t want to scare away possible future employers because they need the money.

Part 2

But, but, but…freedom of speeeech!

Yes, isn’t it just dandy that privileged rich white dudes like Howard Stern, Max Hardcore and Larry Flint can depict naked women in meat grinders without threat of censorship. Awesome.

Now comes the parable:

Get-off-my-lawn-grandpa is an all round bigot; he is a racist, misogynist, homophobic, trans-phobic, fat-phobic, ableist asshole, and he doesn’t care who knows it. In fact there is nothing he loves more than an audience for his tirade of slurs.

A lot of people in the community secretly agree and enjoy bigot grandpa’s tirade, they find his ever creative slurs entertaining and the more and more they hang out with him, the more they find themselves agreeing with him, shit they even begin paying for the privilege. His voice becomes one of the loudest in the community and he fights many legal battles to uphold his right to continue spewing vitriol against minorities and the subjugated classes in his community. He recruits more people. They preach hate from their porches. Screaming shit that is offensive to the already subjugated people in the community becomes a normal activity among the community’s privileged, and there isn’t a damn thing these targets of abuse can do about it.

Now imagine- and how this relates to porn- that bigot grandpa and his compatriots receive an average annual profit of $97 billion for their bigotry.

This story could go on for hours with a number of nuances, but I’ll leave it there.

So, should grandpa be shot or silenced through other means? According to his right to freedom of speech, NO.

Should his views be able to infect a society’s psyche, making his representations, stereotypes and depictions of the objects of his hate a normalised depiction of these people? NO.

Should he be actively celebrated and rewarded for his bigotry? Abso-fucking-lutely NO.

If get-off-my-lawn-grandpa’s views of the people he hates become the predominant social view of these people, shouldn’t we critique such a society that allows hate, abuse and subjugation to flourish and profit? HELL YES.

Part 3

When I’m ranting about porn, I am not advocating for the banning of it or stricter censorship, I do not hate freedom of speech. Nor however am I willing to take the hit of racist, misogynist pornography as an unfortunate product of freedom of speech silently. I am instead going to pick apart a society that allows and rewards abuse. I am going to call people out when they are talking shit or are wilfully ignorant because being uniformed or misinformed is easier than taking some fucking responsibility for their choices, views and tastes.

Popular culture tells me that when a guy informs me he likes mainstream porn and uses it, I’m supposed to give him a high five for being so sexually liberated. Funny thing that, because it was never white, heterosexual men (who dominate the industry) that were particularly in need of a sexual revolution.

Maybe, just maybe, the reason why pornographers and pornography apologists are so vocal in their defence to produce or consume it is because it makes a hell of a lot of money and really, they don’t give a fuck about how women performers are treated and don’t give a fuck what these depictions of women do to society’s views of women as a whole. Our society in male centred and male identified, so as long as they’re happy, anything goes.

Modern popular porn is the quintessential depiction of a patriarchal and misogynist society and the very fact that it is a socially acceptable, lucrative and celebrated industry testifies to that.

Are men really so desensitized to human experience that when they watch a woman being roughly anally penetrated, subjected to double triple or quadruple penetration or ATM and grimacing in discomfort or pain, they can’t even fathom that this expression is real? Can they not fathom that really, this would not be comfortable for a human being? That this is actually extremely physically and psychologically draining and/or damaging? That when a woman performer has a dude’s cock shoved down her throat, those gagging sounds and tears are not just “acting”?

Are men really so stupid to think that these grimaces aren’t part of the appeal? Can they not get that inflicting pain or discomfort as part of a sex act is actually an important component to the depiction of male sexual dominance in pornography? That the pain and humiliation of women in the increasingly popular depictions of, anal, DP, TP, ass-to-mouth and bukkake IS THE FUCKING APPEAL?

Do men really feel so entitled to visual stimulants involving abuse to accompany their masturbation that this shit is ok?

To partly answer my own questions, I think that western society as a whole has been desensitized to real and imagined violence. I don’t actually believe that all men really are that stupid either, so the denial of what mainstream porn represents and how its production is predominantly unethical is all the more frustrating, and testifies to how normalized its depictions are and how entitled they feel to accessing them.

In situations where unethical industries are protected by freedom of speech, the answer is not for the law to change whereby they are forced to shut down, but simply for consumers to stop using their products. It really is that fucking simple. All you have to do is take some responsibility for your choices, employ some humanity, empathy and conscience in your life, and apply that to the products you consume. This application of ethical consumerism might also be helped if one asks oneself honestly if human beings should ever be commodities to be consumed.

So, as long as the predominant depictions of women are degrading, I am going to call them degrading. Misogyny is misogyny is misogyny. If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, I’m going to call it a fucking duck. And no pornographers or pornography apologists can wave around freedom of speech to erase the fact that porn is abusive and abuse is not ok. I mean seriously, fuck that noise.

 

“But it’s Fantasy, no one is actually harmed” …..and why you’re an entitled apologist asshat if you even think this.

*Trigger warning for frank discussions of pornography and violence against women and children.

Whenever I start to involve myself in discussions of whether or not “entertainment” has a moral obligation to not glamourize violence and avoid explicit material, and whether or not it incites such behaviour in reality, I instantly think of the film Scream, specifically one of the final scenes where one of the killers screams at the intended victim “Movies don’t create psychos, movies make psychos more creative!”

For all its simplicity and its intention of humour in the film, this statement seems to be at the crux of popular opinion – and legislation – on “freedom of speech”, particularly in the USA. Depictions of violence are “ok” as long as they’re not “real”, i.e. no real human being or animal was harmed in production. Outspoken opponents of this popular view are often portrayed as coming from what is deemed as fringe elements of society: right wing Christians, social conservatives, your grandma, and – horror of all horrors – radical feminists.

Before I sink my teeth in I want to explain my working definitions of pornography v. erotica:

Pornography: Material that combines sex and/or the exposure of genitals with abuse or degradation.

Erotica: Sexually suggestive or arousing material that is free of sexism, racism, and homophobia, and respectful of all human beings and animals portrayed.

Don’t mean to talk down to y’all, but these terms need to be concise.

First, I must start with a brief explanation of Ashcroft v. The Free Speech Coalition (US lobby group for the porn industry). In 2002 the US Supreme Court sided in favour of the Free Speech Coalition (FSC) and abolished two provisions of the Child Pornography Protection Act (CPPA). The FSC had filed a lawsuit against the government under the premise that these provisions obstructed the freedom of speech of pornographers (can you just hear the miniscule violin?)

Outside of the wonderful triumph of this ‘first amendment: pornographers have rights too’ edition, the reality of the amendment to the CPPA was that pornographers would now have the right to depict – through CGI – sexually explicit material involving the visual depiction of children. The previous CPPA provision stated that “computer-generated images virtually indistinguishable from real children in sexually explicit conduct” were illegal, thus with the abolishment of this proviso, pornographers are now free to use their top technology to make sure that the CGI images of children being abused and raped really do look as real as possible for your viewing pleasure. But it’s just fantasy, right?

Another aspect to the amendments is that the CPPA previously banned pornographic material of “any sexually explicit image that was advertised, promoted, presented, described, or distributed in such a manner that conveys the impression it depicts a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct”: i.e. Role plays using performers of or over the age of consent, with one – usually played by a woman – depicting an underage child, through dress, the dialogue of the role play, and the use of baby voices and “childlike” resistance to the sexual advances of the male character or characters.

The amendment of the CPPA thus allowed for the free distribution of the “work” of renowned pornographer and all round skeezy-ass-if-I-met-this-sick-turd-I’d-punch-him-in- the-face-scumball known as Max Hardcore, who had sadly been oppressed until 2002. He could now freely and without hindrance make, distribute and publicly promote pornographic videos of him cock choking, asphyxiating, slapping, verbally abusing, pissing on, fucking, sodomizing, and spitting in the mouths of the female performers. If that wasn’t the enough, while the female performers are physically and emotionally enduring this torture, they also have to dress and act as minors. But it’s just fantasy, right?

So now I hear of this wonderful development in the online gaming world of Star Wars (original article here), where Sith aligned players all come fully equipped with a female slave that the player can abuse at whim AND victorious players have the ability to “have sex with” the wife of their slain enemy (can we just call this what it is? A virtual depiction of rape) in front of their slave. Now I can already hear cries in the distance of “but sexually explicit depictions of children are totally different from virtual she-slaves!!” You know what I say in return? You are an entitled fuckwit.

Again, the alleged issue is that this tortured virtual woman is not real, no actual woman is being harmed, so let’s say it again: IT’S JUST FANTASY, RIGHT?

No. One of the main weapons used by virtual/fantasy/film violence apologists is that research studies don’t find a significant link between increased depictions of violence and actual violence on the streets. Firstly, what would be significant? And secondly, these studies also don’t significantly show that depictions of violence DON’T impact real violence. Here also, I want to add a bit more context, because it’s needed. Am I saying that I want all violence depicted in popular entertainment mediums banned? No, I’m keeping my rant pretty much exclusively focused on pornographic, subservient, abusive depictions of women. Why? Because these fantasy tropes come loaded with historical background and are being positively reinforced.

Let’s face it, the majority of men are unlikely to ever be involved in intergalactic warfare and come into contact with aliens, I get it. It’s fantasy. They are however very likely to come in contact with women. They also live in a society that is, outside of fantasy and very actually, patriarchal. Women have and will continue under current circumstances to be told – as in the game – to “obey” a male. Women have and continue to be raped as an “act of war” by male victors.

*Sidenote*….Ummm…..where’s the fantasy in all this? If creators of fantasy worlds really have a no-holds-barred ability to create whatever they want, why don’t they imagine a world free of misogyny? Oh, that’s right, because the creators are predominantly male.

So, back to it. Creating a subservient female character that can be tortured reinforces the predominant culture currently oppressing women, and glamorizes acts of misogyny under the guise of fantasy. Of a more pressing concern than this, as in the case of pornography, is not the idea that glamorizing violence incites people to go out and commit “real” violence, it is the pure fact that by having such publicly, openly available depictions of violence against women – and creating those depictions in such a manner that a person can actively participate in virtual expressions of misogyny – misogynist acts become normalized.

The idea that one has the right to watch, participate in or sexualize – whether virtual or real – violence against another human being is one of the worst forms of entitlement. It desensitizes people to the fact that other human beings have the right to full body autonomy, sovereignty and agency. Women in our real world exist as slaves and as survivors of rape, male authority and abuse. Women also participate in BDSM activities, sometimes as dominants and sometime as submissives involved in slave/master role-plays. The problem is that fantasy worlds of this kind bypass what is so crucial to women in the BDSM context, their consent. Without that consent we go right back to the normalization of male authority, abuse and rape.

Now do I really think that guys who play this game and torture their virtual slave for more than, lets say, 10 hours a week will go out and attempt to torture real women? For the majority I’d say no, however I refuse to deny that engrossing ones attention, passions and psyches in such activities over a prolonged period will affect some aspect of ones thoughts and actions.

This is evidenced in what can be termed “the era of anal sex”. The porn industry is, economically, oversaturated, as such porn producers go to great lengths to depict something novel in their product. After the gradual reduction of censorship of pornography over the past 7 decades and its eventual mainstreaming, producers were running out of penis-in-vagina (PIV)“novelties”*. Therefore more and more pornography began including anal sex, as this trend grew within pornography an increasing number of men’s magazines began featuring articles on anal sex, such as “how to get it from your girlfriend”. As intrigue increased so did desire, which then mainstreamed to expectancy and a sense of male entitlement to perform the act. Now anal sex features in women’s magazines, encouraging women to “show their men they really care” by receiving it (sadly, no, they rarely talk about giving it…that would just be….what…gay?)

Now I’m not saying that anal sex didn’t exist before porn, that people never engaged in it, or that engaging in it isn’t normal. What I’m trying to say is that it has become normalized, studies show that many western men now feel that they are entitled to penetrating a women anally as part of regular sexual activity. Sexually active heterosexual men have historically always felt entitled to PIV sex, now they additionally feel entitled to PIA sex, because heck! It just looks so mainstream. Supply really can shape demand.

In porn’s never ending search for novelty it is now mainstreaming Ass-to-Mouth penetration (ATM), the threesome – now vanilla – has advanced to the increased popularity of depicting gang-bangs, double, triple, and quadruple penetration and bukkake. Unfortunately for them, women only have so many holes. So where is porn now finding its novelty? Increased violence and humiliation is mainstreaming. The porn industry has made it its mission to further push the boundaries of women as dehumanized objects of aggressive male sexual gratification, violence and abuse are now depicted not only hand in hand with sexual acts but as a normalized, natural component of it. Almost gone are the days when it was enough to call a woman a bitch, slut or a whore while pounding her doggy style before coming on her face to degrade her, now she needs to be choked, hit, urinated on and…..what’s that? Electrocuted!!!

Yes boys, that innocent Star Wars game is pure pornographic misogyny, it glamorizes and normalizes the abuse of women and I don’t give a shit if you think its okay because she’s made of pixels and not human cells. The Daily Mail (eurgh, sorry to source that) also recounts how message boards are filled with men boasting about how far they “pushed” the slave character (sound familiar?), how many virtual electric zaps they gave “her” despite “her” protestations. Yeah dudes, what a fucking triumph of glory.

So, I’ll ask again: Does participating this game or “virtual” anything mean that more men will commit real violence against women? Honestly, I don’t know. I am pretty sure that movies (—enter any mainstream entertainment mediums here) don’t create psychos, but I am also pretty sure that we don’t need the world’s psychos to be any more creative (I don’t wish to link to the story, but googling John Hauff will lead you a pretty explicit, enraging, upsetting example of this and plenty of rape/torture apologist discourse).

What I also know is that men, in their search for thrills, need to find a better fucking hobby than continually trying to push the physical and emotional endurance of women, real or imaginary, and maybe have some therapy to root out why it is they hate women so much. Just because I don’t think you’re going to turn into a rampaging psycho after logging in and playing, doesn’t mean I don’t think you’re a misogynist asshole. If you think CGI depictions of kiddy porn are wrong, then you should probably stop torturing your CGI slave. Is it the same thing? No. But it’s on the same fucking spectrum.

So, finally. It’s just fantasy, no one really gets hurt. That’s fine, except for it’s wrong. I get hurt, my mum gets hurt, lots of women get hurt seeing that there is no better entertainment for men out there than watching other women like us get hurt.

*Sorry I’m generalizing to cis-gendered, hetero, able bodied sex – mostly because that’s what I have experience with and see openly in the mainstream.

Another message to Mubarak

Posted: 06/02/2011 in Headlines

“Leave already, my arm is getting tired”

To Mubarak:

Posted: 29/01/2011 in Headlines

Mubarak: “without the right to freedom of expression these demonstrations would not have been possible, I allowed this right in Egypt”

– you don’t ‘allow’ people’s rights, people HAVE rights: you either respect them or infringe upon them.

It has been a few days since Al-Jazeera began releasing the official documents and minutes of meetings pertaining to the Israeli/Palestinian ‘peace’ process, during which time I have received various requests from friends and family as to the reaction of Palestinians in the West Bank. While media agencies have been focusing on the potential explosiveness of this unfettered access to negotiations held behind closed doors, the reaction on the streets of the West Bank do not appear to reflect the magnitude of the geo-political controversy created by the papers’ release.

The general attitude here has so far tended towards ‘disappointed, but far from surprised’. For people unfamiliar with the ‘diplomatic’ processes Palestinians have been subjected to for decades, some may find this lack of reaction unclimactic, particularly at a time when the middle east appears to be sparked with revolutionary spirit. However upon further viewing of the realities created by processes such as the Oslo agreement, these revelations come as just yet another example of the ongoing marginalisation of an indigenous people who have been denied any processes of self determination for more than a century. From the time of the Balfour treaty and promises of a sovereign state, to the establishment of the state of Israel, Jordanian occupation, war, the drawing of the ‘Green Line’ and Israeli occupation and siege, the fate and viability of the creation of an autonomous, internationally recognized Palestinian entity have always been at the feet of colonialist agendas. As such, Palestinians are understandably underwhelmed by these revelations, they were sold down the river by all sides a long time ago.

Although there has been no unified public response the papers, there have been 3 incidences which suggest that the papers’ release may further the existing internal divisions and threaten media freedoms in the region. First there was the attempted storming of the Al-Jazeera offices in Ramallah, followed by a raid on the PalMedia Agency offices in Nablus who had hosted an Al-Jazeera crew for an interview, this culminated when the house of the PalMedia Director was fired upon later that day.

Although I fully endorse the release of any documents that increase the transparency of political mechanisms, I am concerned with how this information will be interpreted and used. The best case scenario I can currently imagine does not in fact include any hoped reactions from Palestinians themselves, but rather the reactions of the international community. With the information contained in these papers I hope that the International community will be able to fully comprehend the duplicity and hypocrisy of in particular the US and British governments in their roles as diplomatic mediators and facilitators. I hope also that people can begin to realize that a ‘just solution’ to the situation is not in the interests of a Zionist Israel. This concept is particularly evident in conversations between Livni and Erekat, and raises the question of why, with an offer giving away all but the entirety of Jerusalem, the number of returning refugees reduced to a symbolic number, and generous land swaps allowing Israel to keep the majority of its illegal settlements, would a peace seeking Israel refuse an agreement?

They wouldn’t.

The other question that arises is then, with the PA ultimately bowing to Israel’s demands on all of the most contentious issues, what is it that Israel wants? The answer to this question is embedded in the minutes of every meeting with Israeli representatives, so far however the international community has not been ready to hear it. The longest standing myth in this issue  is western concepts of the nature of the Israeli state. One thing needs to be made clear, the state is an elitist, colonial enterprise, it is Zionist in nature, not Jewish – I will blog further on the nature of the Israeli state at a later date, but for now I will try to stay on topic.

My wildest dreams for the outcome of these papers is that the international community rejects their governments’ policies on the state of Israel: chastising with one hand whilst donating huge sums with the other. Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions can work, Israel would not be able to maintain its reign of terror and subjugation of the Palestinian people without outside funds, on its own it is not sustainable.

Realistically however, I see these papers being used to ridicule the PA as well as providing the names of people upon whom injured parties can exact reprisals. I can also see this leading to increased attacks on non-Fateh media agencies, and increasing civil divisions and unrest.

Final Musing: The PA is corrupt and weak in the face of Israel and often at its – and the US and UK’s – bidding, however highlighting this does not provide any benefit to Palestinian people. If a state of Palestine should ever come into existence there would have to be vast reforms on every level of government, however no such state exists; the first and foremost issue has to be Israeli policies and occupation. If people are shocked at the concessions the PA was willing to make, effectively betraying the Palestinians, why are they not equally shocked that Israel would ask it of them in the first place?  There is little point in damning a puppet government without damning the puppeteers.