Middle East

Sydney-based journalist and author Antony Loewenstein is an outspoken critic of Israeli policies and author of the best-selling 2006 book My Israel Question. He is the co-founder of advocacy group Independent Australian Jewish Voices and is a board member of Macquarie University’s Centre for Middle East and North African Studies. Articles and commentary by Loewenstein can be found at Antonyloewenstein.com.
The world was shocked by Israel’s latest act of barbarism — an act of high-seas piracy that ended in slaughter. Israel’s excuse of “self-defence” is so ludicrous it is hard to believe anyone is expected to take it seriously. On May 31, Israel raided the six boats of the Freedom Flotilla bringing humanitarian aid to the Palestinian Gaza Strip. The Gaza Strip has been subjected to a siege of growing intensity by Israel since 2006. The flotilla contained people from more than 37 nations.
BRISBANE — "You know that we are rising, our day is surely coming”, were the words of a new song featured in Lebanese-Australian activist and musician Phil Monsour's benefit concert for Palestine on May 29. Monsour, who recently returned from a trip to Palestine and Lebanon, recounted his experiences with songs and video images taken during his participation in the Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA Middle East study tour in March.
On May 31, Israeli defence force commandos boarded an aid ship in international waters. The ship was trying to break the illegal military blockade of the Gaza strip and transport much-needed food and medical supplies. Nine aid activists were killed and several snap actions were held in Australia to condemn Israel’s actions and call for an end to the blockade. On June 1, 250 people rallied in Brisbane to condemn Israel’s attacks on the Gaza aid fleet. ALP vice-president Wendy Turner, and socialist activist and lecturer in creative industries Gary MacLennan, spoke.
Condemn Israel's attack on the Gaza flotilla Socialist Alliance statement June 3, 2010. Socialist Alliance condemns the completely unwarranted and murderous attack by Israeli armed forces on the civilian flotilla carrying aid to Gaza. Not since the French Secret Service blew up the Rainbow Warrior in Auckland Harbour in 1985 has there been such a brazen act of international piracy by a sovereign state.
American Radical: The Trials of Norman Finkelstein Directed by David Ridgen & Nicolas Rossier Baraka Productions Review by Antony Loewenstein Jewish critics of Israel are as old as the ideology itself. Zionism was regarded by most Jews in Europe as an idealistic delusion before the Second World War, but the Holocaust literally changed everything.
Australian activist Bridget Chappell was arrested by Israeli security forces in February along with Spanish activist Ariadna Marti, in the occupied Palestinian territory of the West Bank. Chappell and Marti were working for the International Solidarity Movement supporting peaceful Palestinian resistance to Israeli occupation. Below, Chappell details the increased repression by Israel against all forms of resistance in the occupied territories. * * *
Veteran left-wing academic and author Noam Chomsky was banned from entering Israel on May 17. Chomsky, a strong critic of Israel and US foreign policy, had been planning to give a lecture at Bir Zeit University in the Israeli occupied West Bank. On May 18, English singer Elvis Costello announced he was cancelling two planned gigs in Israel, citing the “grave and complex" sensitivities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”, Christian Science Monitor said on May 19.
One hundred people rallied in Brisbane Square on May 14 to commemorate Al Nakba —— “the catastrophe”. Al Nakba took place on May 15, 1948, when Israeli forces drove hundreds of thousands of Palestinian civilians out of their lands, and consolidated the Jewish state.
Palestinian civil society has called on Elton John to respect their call to boycott Israel and cancel his June 17 concert in Tel Aviv. If he does so, he'll be joining artists Santana and Gil-Scott Heron, who recently cancelled planned concerts in Israel. This video suggests six reasons why Elton should join the BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) movement. For more info, please visit: www.bdsmovement.net Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel
Israeli queer activists organised a protest on April 29 in front of the Israeli foreign affairs ministry in Jerusalem to protest against an “Israeli LGBT Festival” being organised in San Francisco called “Out in Israel”. The US event is funded by the Israeli consulate and Jewish organisations' together with support from the Israeli foreign affairs ministry.
Palestinian Ambassador to Cuba Akram Samhan told an event in Havana on April 17 that Israeli jails have locked up more than 760,000 Palestinians since 1967. The event marked the 35th Palestinian Prisoner Day. The staggering number of Palestinians jailed by Israel is equal to 20% of the population of Gaza, the West Bank and Eastern Jerusalem. Samhan said this demonstrates that the occupying force has been met with Palestinian resistance that will continue until their homeland is free.
Two hundred and seventy people gathered for the Resistance 2010: The World Can't Wait! conference in Thirroul, near Wollongong, over April 24-26. The national conference brought together young activists from all over Australia to discuss a broad range of political issues and to get organised in the face of an uncertain future.
African American artist Gil Scott-Heron, whose political poetry influenced a generation of rap artists, sensationally announced the cancellation of his planned gig in Tel Aviv on April 24. Speaking onstage at London’s Royal Festival Hall, Scott-Heron told the audience he “hated war” and told the packed audience his Israel tour date would not be going ahead. Fans dismayed at the planned gig had earlier disrupted his concert. They repeatedly heckled the performer and asked him to cancel.
As of February 12, it was still unclear who will end up forming the next Israeli government following the February 10 parliamentary elections, with negotiations to form a new ruling coalition possibly continuing for six weeks. However, what is clear is that regardless of who the eventual prime minister is or which parties are in the cabinet, the brutal ethnic cleansing of Palestinians is set to intensify.

Activist Centre, 3/29 Macquarie St, Parramatta
Spiralling poverty, deprivation, price rises and chronic unemployment are behind the latest round of anti-government protests in Iran that began in late December. Speakers: Rupen Savoulian from Socialist Alliance will present some historical context about previous anti-dictatorship struggles; Ronahi Qandil, a Kurdish activist, will speak about the current situation. Ronahi was jailed by the Iranian government when she was 17.

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