Friday, October 28, 2011

Pakistan: Reversing the Lens

By Conn Hallinan, October 26, 2011
                                                                       Conn Hallinan

Since the United States invaded Afghanistan in October 2001, Pakistan has lost more than 35,000 people, the vast bulk of them civilians. While the U.S. has had slightly over 1800 soldiers killed in the past 10 years, Pakistan has lost over 5,000 soldiers and police. The number of suicide bombings in Pakistan has gone from one before 2001, to more than 335 since.
“Terrorism,” as Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari says, “is not a statistic for us.”
For most Americans, Pakistan is a two-faced “ally” playing a double game in Central Asia even as it siphons off tens of billions of dollars in aid. For Pakistanis, the spillover from the Afghan war has cost Islamabad approximately of $100 billion. And this in a country with a yearly GDP of around $175 billion and whose resources have been deeply strained by two years of catastrophic flooding.
Washington complains that its $20.7 billion in aid over the past nine years has bought it very little in the way of loyalty from Islamabad, while Pakistan points out that U.S. aid makes up less than 0.3 percent of Pakistan’s yearly GDP.
Both countries’ opinions of one another are almost mirror images. According to a U.S. poll, 74 percent of Americans do not consider Pakistan to be an ally, while the Pew Research Center found that six in 10 Pakistanis consider the Americans an “enemy” and only 12 percent have a favorable view of the United States.
This mutual distrust in part results from mistakes and misjudgments by both countries that date back to the 1979-89 Russian occupation of Afghanistan. But at its heart is an American strategy that not only runs counter to Pakistan’s interests, but will make ending the war in Afghanistan a far more painful procedure than need be.
Pakistani Interests
If Pakistan is a victim in the long-running war, it is not entirely an innocent one. Pakistan, along with the United States, was an ally of the anti-Communist, right-wing mujahideen during the 1980s Afghan war.
Pakistan’s interest in Afghanistan has always been multi-faceted. Islamabad is deeply worried that its traditional enemy, India, will gain a foothold in Afghanistan, thereby essentially surrounding Pakistan. This is not exactly paranoid, as Pakistan has fought—and lost—three wars with India, and tensions between the two still remain high.
Over the past six years, India has conducted 10 major military exercises along the Pakistani border. The latest—Viajyee Bhava (Be Victorious)—involved 20,000 troops. India has the world’s fourth largest army, Pakistan the 15th.
By aligning itself with Washington during its Cold War competition with the Soviets in Afghanistan, Islamabad had the inside track to buy high-performance American military hardware to help it offset India’s numerical superiority. Indeed, it did manage to purchase some F-16s fighter-bombers.
But when Pakistan allied itself with the Taliban, India aligned itself with the Northern Alliance, composed of Tajiks, Uzbeks, and Hazaras who opposed the Pashtun-dominated Taliban. Pashtuns are a plurality in Afghanistan’s complex mix of ethnicities, and traditionally they dominated the Kabul government.
Islamabad has always been deeply concerned about the Pashtuns, because a long-time fear of Islamabad is that Pakistani Pashtuns could ally themselves to Afghani Pashtuns and form a breakaway country that would fragment Pakistan.
From Islamabad’s point of view, the American demand that it corral the Taliban and the Haqqani Group that operate from mountainous Northwest Frontier and Federally Administrated Tribal Areas of Pakistan could stir up Pashtun nationalism. In any case, the task would be beyond the capabilities of the Pakistan military. In 2009, the Pakistani Army used two full divisions just to reclaim the Swat Valley from local militants, a battle that cost billions of dollars, generated two million refugees, and inflicted heavy casualties.
Diverging Objectives
Current U.S. strategy has exacerbated Pakistan’s problem by putting the Northern Alliance in power, excluding the Pashtuns from any meaningful participation, and targeting the ethnic group’s heartland in southern and eastern Afghanistan. President Hamid Karzai is a Pashtun, but he is little more than window dressing in a government dominated by other ethnic groups. According to Zahid Hussain, author of a book on Islamic militants, this has turned the war into a “Pashtun war” and has meant that “the Pashtuns in Pakistan would become…strongly allied with both al Qaeda and the Taliban.”
The United States has also remained silent while India moved aggressively into Afghanistan. On October 4, Kabul and New Delhi inked a “strategic partnership” that, according to The New York Times, “paves the way for India to train and equip Afghan security forces.” The idea of India training Afghan troops is the equivalent of waving a red flag to see if the Pakistani bull will charge.
One pretext for the agreement was the recent assassination of Burhanuddin Rabbani, head of the Afghan High Peace Council, killed by the Taliban under the direction of the Pakistani secret service, the ISI, according to Karzai government claims. But evidence linking the Taliban or Pakistan to the hit is not persuasive, and the Taliban and Haqqani Group—never shy about taking the credit for killing people—say they had nothing to do with it.
Pakistan’s ISI certainly maintains a relationship with the Afghan-based Taliban and the Haqqani Group, but former Joint Chiefs of Staff head, Admiral Mike Mullen’s charge that the latter are a “veritable arm” of Pakistan’s ISI is simply false. The Haqqanis come from the powerful Zadran tribe based in Paktia and Khost provinces in Afghanistan and North Waziristan in Pakistan’s Tribal Area.
When their interests coincide, the Haqqanis find common ground with Islamabad, but the idea that Pakistan can get anyone in that region to jump to attention reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the deeply engrained cultural and ethnic currents that have successfully rebuffed outsiders for thousands of years. And in the border region, the Pakistan Army is as much an outsider as is NATO.
Dealing with the Mess
There is a way out of this morass, but it will require a very different strategy than the one the United States is currently following, and one far more attuned to the lens through which most Pakistanis view the war in Afghanistan.
The United States and its allies must first stand down their military offensive—including the drone attacks—against the Taliban and Haqqani Group, and negotiate a ceasefire. Then the United States must open immediate talks with the various insurgency groups and declare a plan for the withdrawal of all foreign troops. The Taliban—the Haqqanis say they will follow the organization’s lead—have indicated that they will no longer insist on a withdrawal of troops before opening talks, but they do want a timetable. Any government in Kabul that emerges from such negotiations must reflect the ethnic make-up of the country.
Pakistan’s concerns over Indian influence must also be addressed, including the dangerous issue of Kashmir. President Obama ran on a platform that called for dealing with Kashmir, but he subsequently dropped it at the insistence of New Delhi.
Pakistan and the United States may have profoundly different views of one another, but on at least one issue they agree: slightly over 90 percent of Pakistanis would like U.S. troops to go home, and 62 percent of Americans want an immediate cut in U.S. forces. Common ground in this case seems to be based on a strong dose of common sense.
Conn Hallinan is a Foreign Policy In Focus columnist. His writings can be read at: and
recommended citation:
Conn Hallinan, "Pakistan: Reversing the Lens" (Washington, DC: Foreign Policy In Focus, October 26, 2011)
Liked this Post? Share it!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Back to basics in Palestine –

 Time for unity, synergy and mobilization

by Susan Abulhawa 

The Palestine Chronicle
October 2011

(The following is a condensed version of Susan Abulhawa’s speech at the Al-Awda Center grand opening. It is reproduced her by courtesy of The Palestine Chroinicle and  Sonja Karka, Editor, Australians for Palestine )

Summary: Susan Abulhawa presents an argument to abandon all negotiations with Israel and to abandon calls for the One State and Two State solutions; and in fact, to abandon academic debates on a political construct in favor of embracing the basic calls of Palestinian civil society for essential human rights. This strategy includes the need for a consensus and unified call originating from Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and agreed upon with the various Palestinian communities that make up the Palestinian
Nation, including: Palestinians of the West Bank, Jerusalem, Gaza, refugee camps outside of Palestine, the worldwide Diaspora and Palestinians of 1948. She argues that the greatest and unstoppable power available to Palestinians lies in their roots, the moral authority of their struggle for freedom. Harnessing that power, to which Israel has no real defenses, is the most practical path forward and it is rests on the need for 1) a unified call for freedom and the full range of human rights and dignities 2) a point of synergy among the multitude of internal and external movements which
include direct action and solidarity activities inside Palestine and around the world and 3) sustained mobilization from the bottom up, hopefully with the assistance of the Palestinian Authority, but at least without interference from them.

To try to comprehend the PA’s UN bid for statehood and to figure out what the ramifications are on many fronts, it behooves us to take a look at history because, this is, after all, not the first time that a Palestinian state was formally declared. I know there are legal differences between the
declaration of state in the 1980s and the current application for recognition, but for all intents and purposes, they are both attempts to achieve statehood by seeking international recognition, which, I feel, is the wrong approach for our struggle at this moment in history and, in my opinion is also probably a cynically calculated move that has little to do
with actually achieving statehood.

The First Intifada & Declaration of Statehood

In 1988, the PLO formally declared the State of Palestine, and the designation “Palestine” for the PLO was adopted by UN in acknowledgement of that declaration, even though we had no formal status at the UN as a state. At that time, as with the present, we had overwhelming popular support in the General Assembly. Also at that time, as in the present, the US did everything it could to prevent any kind of recognition or international legitimacy for Palestine.

The more important and striking similarity between the declaration of statehood in 1988 and in the present UN bid is the presence of a persistent nonviolent movement with growing international solidarity.

In 1987, the first Intifada began as a popular, spontaneous, and grassroots uprising that moved the Palestinian struggle away from guerilla warfare. It changed the way the world saw Palestinians and began to reveal the brutality of the occupation. The first intifada was nonviolent, marked by mass civil disobedience, boycotts, refusal to pay taxes, disruption of power and sewage going to illegal colonies and more of the like. Throwing rocks against tanks and armored Israeli vehicles was symbolic and few in the international
community bought Israel’s claims that these rocks constituted serious violent threats.

As a result, the first intifada began to capture the imaginations and inspire civil societies everywhere, despite Israel’s best PR and hasbara campaigns. Popular international solidarity was growing and there was a burgeoning awareness of who we are and what we had suffered for decades under occupation. And for the first time, there was open public criticism of Israel in places that would not have dared to do so before. Simply, the moral authority of our cause could not be ignored.

Even though Israel was committing unspeakable war crimes to suppress the intifada, the movement only intensified and caused power to shift to the Palestinian street, for the first time. That shift was also changing world opinion, which was a major threat to Israel because it hit at their greatest weak point: their image, and I’ll touch on that more shortly.

But the first intifada didn’t just threaten Israel, it was also a threat to the Palestinian leadership, which was outside of Palestine at the time. The persistence of the first intifada spawned local leaderships that were not directly affiliated with the PLO, and although the PLO had nothing to do
with the first intifada, they quickly positioned themselves at the forefront and began to take control as much as possible from the outside. The PLO’s efforts to control extinguished the intifada’s fire and culminated in the Madrid Conference followed by the Oslo Accords.

In essence, here’s what happened: after decades of suffering at the hands of a brutal military occupation whose only purpose was to displace or subjugate Palestinians under their control, we had the first bottom up movement that was full of solidarity, full of hope. And, more importantly, it was full of
promise. It promised to grow and spread. It promised a path of successful nonviolent resistance with growing international attention at the levels of civil society, mainstream media, and government leaderships. This promise was seized by the Palestinian leadership. They took ownership of the movement when it started to gain momentum on the ground and abroad, they grabbed the reigns of it, and then they steered us into what turned out to
be more slaughter and more wholesale theft of our lands and properties, all under the auspices of a negotiated settlement called the “Peace Process”.

Today we find ourselves in a situation bearing many of the same hallmarks and a reaction by the Palestinian leadership that looks too much like their reaction then.

The Second Intifada & UN Bid for Statehood

Although the second intifada’s early days saw violent Palestinian reactions to Israel’s sustained terrorism, it has morphed into a nonviolent struggle that is taking roots not only in Palestine, but throughout the world. The change in the 2nd Intifada’s character has spurred many to declare it over, but this is not an accurate statement. The second intifada is alive and well and growing.

Perhaps the earliest manifestations of the active nonviolent resistance came from the activites of the International Solidarity Movement. Construction of the Apartheid Wall spawned more local heroes who began leading unrelenting
and regular demonstrations. The call from Palestinian Civil Society for international Boycott Divestment and Sanctions against Israel was launched was launched in 2005, pushing the movement in new directions and far outside of Palestine, whereby solidarity groups all over the world joined and have
been implementing creative nonviolent resistance actions.

The results have been impressive and nonviolent resistance is once again taking hold in the occupied territories and around the world. It’s happening on an even greater scale internationally, thanks to the current communication technology that was not available in the 1980s. Among the
many victories of BDS abroad, several major corporations have had their hands forced by activists. Thanks in large part to BDS affiliate, CodePink, AHAVAs flagship store in London was forced to close. Veolia, the French multinational corporation lost billions of euros worth of municipality
contracts for its involvement in building infrastructure to illegal Israeli settlements and it is now facing financial meltdown. Most recently, Agrexco, a major Israeli exporter of produce, that come primarily from illegal Israeli farms on stolen Palestinian land, has been forced to liquidate its assets after being unable to pay its creditors thanks to the efforts of BDS.

These are just a few examples of the results of cooperation between civil society everywhere who have heeded the calls of BDS. This popular movement is taking a life of its own and is accompanied by similar movements, like the International Solidarity Movement that I mentioned before, the Free Gaza
Movement, the flotillas, and the Russell Tribunals, to name a few. Important international figures across the world have signed on and taken action against Israel’s apartheid. These are prominent individuals in their fields – literary figures, musicians, clergy, military personnel, activists, journalists, and more – who have taken very public stands against Israeli

This is huge! It’s importance and impact should not be underestimated.

It hits right at what I said was one of Israel’s weakest points. Israel pours billions of dollars into creating and maintaining the image of civilized and enlightened country, and they panic when the world starts to see the reality of their ongoing campaign of ethnic cleansing; And they panic even more when they’re called out on it.

That’s why they’ve been so freaked out lately passing one fascist law after
another to try to police what people say, what they publicly remember [anti-Naqba law], or what they choose to buy or not buy [anti-boycott law]. They’re freaked out by internationals bearing witness to their war crimes; so they’ve passed a series of laws to prevent non-Palestinians from going into the West Bank and Gaza. Then there’s the racist loyalty oath – the list goes on. They are absurd, fascist laws that only show how scared Israel has become of our growing solidarity movement, BDS, and nonviolent actions inside Palestine.

This ground swell should not be minimized!

Then came Arab Spring!

It caused a seismic shift in power away from the ruling elite toward the people and toward popular action and democracy throughout the Arab World. Arab Spring inspired and galvanized our movement even more. Arab Spring is now going global, as it’s not a stretch to make a connection between the demonstrations in Tahrir Square and the ongoing Occupy Wall Street in New York.

Against this backdrop of people power, the Palestinian Authority, unilaterally [and I don't mean 'unilaterally' in that it excluded Israel; but 'unilaterally' in that it excluded Palestinians] decided to make a bid for statehood at the UN. At no time did Mahmoud Abbass address the people
he supposedly represents. Even at the UN, when he made the bid for statehood, he was still speaking to everyone except us. That, to me, is a bad sign that history could be repeating itself here. It looks too much like the past, particularly when we see images of Palestinians giving Abu Mazen a heroes welcome home; it reminds me of the fanfare of the PA’s arrival in the West Bank after Oslo, which is clear to everyone in retrospect to have been nothing more than a ruse to quiet popular  nonviolent action in order to give Israel the time it needs to continue its colonial endeavors in the occupied territories.

I would also add that the timing of this UN bid is uestionable, as it comes when the PA is severely weakened by the damning revelations of the Palestine Papers leaked on Al Jazeera. Why, after 20 years of negotiations, does the PA make this move? I’m sure it didn’t just dawn on them that Israel was only ever just trying to buy itself time to create facts on the ground. They’re not stupid and they understood Israel’s colonial expansion and goal to take everything they could. The truth is that the PA was scared. Their power was threatened by Arab Spring and by the fadeeha el kobra (the great scandal) of the Palestine Papers. So, this move may well have been just a cynical calculation to restore the power of the PA. I hate to think the worst – that it was actually orchestrated with Israel and the US for the same purpose and what we’re witnessing is theatre.

Caution to the PA/PLO

So, I’m worried about this UN bid. However, I also think, that if certain conditions are met and the same mistakes of the past are not repeated, it can still be salvaged as a good thing. For that to happen, the PA (or PLO, it’s hard to know who is who anymore) must ensure that the following happens:

1. They must go forward full force with what they started, without compromise.

I hear that at least one Security Council member is trying to get the PA to alter the text of the UN bid, in exchange for voting in favor of statehood, so that it excludes the ability to take any retroactive grievances to the International Court of Justice.

If this happens, it would be a disaster for us because it would be a back-handed way for the PA to abdicate the Right of Return (which they have no right to do) under the cover of statehood.

We cannot let them do that and I think, Zahi, it’s time for another petition with 600,000 signatures to deliver to Abbass like the one Al-Awda delivered to Arafat when he was considering the same thing. The second part of going full force forward is to take the bid to the General Assembly once the SC sends it back with the promised US veto. I’m very happy to see that the PA has been pushing for Palestine membership in various UN bodies, including, most recently, UNESCO.

2. Don’t stand in the way of popular movements. Already the PA is sending police to bust up peaceful anti-occupation protests, in essence, working for the occupier. This has to stop. The PA cannot be allowed to seize the power on the ground and tamp out the spread of nonviolent resistance.

3. Become a force that creates synergy among our various efforts to achieve our rights; make the UN bid into something that adds to the ongoing efforts instead of something that stifles them. For example, the UN bid can open up legal avenues for a whole new arena for our struggle, but don’t let that come at the expense of tamping a growing nonviolent resistance movement.

4. They should become a force of unity; not only between Gaza and the West Bank, but also among Palestinians of 1948; Palestinians still in refugee camps in other nations; and Palestinians in the Diaspora, whether in Arab nations, the Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia and other parts of the world.

5. Finally, they should not assume that they will maintain power without popular blessing, which will not remain if this UN bid stifles our efforts or gives away an iota of our Right to Return.

This is a warning to the PA that accepting statehood at the expense of retroactive grievances (i.e. everything we’re fighting for, including the Right of Return) will have terrible consequences for us all.

Time to abandon calls for Two-State Solution AND the One-State Solution

That said, I want to emphasize why I think we are living in the most opportune time we’ve had in the history of this conflict.

The kind of bottom up power we’re witnessing is fertile ground for us. This is the arena in which we are more powerful. This is the field where we win because Israel has no real defenses against us in this arena. Our greatest power lies in the moral command of our cause – we are the indigenous people fighting for freedom, struggling to live dignified lives in our own homeland. We didn’t come from Poland or Russia, or France, or Germany, or any other place. We are the natives of the Holy Land in ever sense of the word “native” – historically, ethnically, culturally, legally, and even genetically, we are the natives. If you take samples of our DNA, the results will show genetic markers specific to that region of the world. Our strength is in our roots.

It is no accident that Israel is so often so busy uprooting our olive trees or unearthing our cemeteries to cover them over with new structures. Because the truth is that there is no forensic evidence linking most Israelis to the land. So, they have been busy either destroying traces of our existence or trying to claim it as theirs. But that is really an impossible task, now matter how much they’ve already destroyed. Palestine is passed down from one generation’s hearts and memories to another. Ben Gurion could not have been more wrong when he predicted that “The old will die and the young will forget”.

But we are where we are now and they are here with us, whether we or they like it or not.

And the bid for statehood has been made, regardless of how we feel about it.

So what is the path forward?

Before we answer that, we have to decide what is the end game. What is the result we want to achieve. Unfortunately, and after 65 years of this struggle, we still do not have a truly unified call.

People often ask me which proposal do I support, the one state or the two state. It seems those are the only two proposals in people’s mind. That it has to be one or the other and we end up struggling for one or the other. We waste precious time and energy debating the merits of one over the
other. Which is better, we ask: The Two State Solution – ostensibly based on the 1967 borders; or the One State Solution – which would presumably include all of Palestine for all her inhabitants.

The fundamental problem with both of these proposals is that they are concentrating on the political construct and of statehood. And I think that is the wrong approach.

If we drill down to what we really want, what we all want and all can agree on: it is to live dignified lives in our own homeland, with full human and civil rights accorded to everyone there equally regardless of religion.

I know this sounds a lot like the One State proposal; but it differs in that it is simply a call for basic rights. It is not a call for a particular political construct because frankly, it doesn’t matter what the political construct looks like, as long as all our basic human rights are upheld, and that includes our natural right to return and live in our own homeland.

This, in my opinion, is what we should be working toward. Calling for our natural rights as human beings and as an indigenous people is what unifies us all. To be accorded human rights is our rightful inheritance. It is the rightful destiny of human beings not to be subjugated, expelled or
oppressed. The call from Palestinian Civil Society, which originated inside the occupied territories, is the best starting place framework. In any event, we are in great need of a consensus for a unified and uncompromising call founded on the goal of human dignity. This can form the frame of reference for whatever actions we take.

So, I would say, do NOT think in terms of a political construct; but to think in terms of human rights. In terms of human dignity and human worth that is not measured by religion. This is a goal that will unify us and will strengthen our collective efforts that pour into the same movement for

Palestinian Resistance: Failures of the past and why it’s time to abandon negotiations

For the most part, Palestinian resistance has been allowed to develop on two major fronts, and mostly exclusive fronts. 1. Armed resistance.

Although we have the right to resist foreign occupation by any means available to us, including armed resistance, I think this is not an effective strategy for us.

For starters, rocks, moltov cocktails, or even homemade ockets, don’t stand a chance against armoured tanks, warplanes and some of the most sophisticated death machines known to man. This is simply not an arena where we can gain any ground because here we are weak in this regard. We do not have a military or any necessary hardware to change this fact.

More importantly, armed resistance ultimately erodes the singul most important power we have. As I already mentioned, it is the moral superiority of the cause of justice and human rights, against their cause, which is the desire for power and an ethnoreligious pure society.

2. The second main path that the Palestinian leadership has taken us has been negotiations. This too is and always was a fundamentally flawed and moral unsound approach, because it assumes a very denigrating assumption:

That our basic rights as human beings, our rights as the indigenous people of the Holy Land, and our freedom, are things to be negotiated for; as if our rights, enshrined in all tenets of international law, and our freedom are mere bargaining chips to be traded for clean water or bread.

And yet, the PA has continued along in what every one of us knows is a sham. This peace process was never designed to lead to a life of dignity for Palestinians. It was never meant to lead to a viable Palestinian state. Netanyahu’s speech made that clear. Israel’s actions for the past twenty years have made that clear. Why else would they continue, on a daily basis,
to expropriate Palestinian land and turn it over for the exclusive use of Jews being invited from all over the world to come and take what is not theirs? Why else would they continue their policy of home demolitions unabated? The Peace Process was always a ruse to buy Israel more time to
take more and more and more and ultimately wipe us off the map.

You only need to look at how the map has changed over time to see the truth in that statement.

The current map proves that. How could this not be apparent to the PA? In fact, even as he submitted the bid for statehood, Mahmoud Abbas made the mind boggling statement that there was no substitute for negotiations.

He is, in fact, very wrong. In fact, there is no other instance in history where an occupied and oppressed people has been expected to actually negotiate with their oppressors for freedom and for basic human rights.

When Nelson Mandela was in prison and change began to sweep over South Africa, some of his comrades were being released from prison. Nelson Mandela too was offered a deal for his freedom. P. W. Botha offered him freedom if he would renounce violence. Mandela refused the offer, and his now famous letter, he explained that “Only free men can negotiate.”

He was the only one of his comrades to remain in prison by the end of the 1980s. His uncompromising insistence on implementing the full range of human rights and freedoms to Blacks equal to Whites inspired us all and eventually culminated in bringing Apartheid to it’s knees.

Likewise, Rosa Parks did not negotiate with the white driver or white passengers to take her rightful place among the rest of humanity on that bus. She stayed put with all the force she could muster. Her insistence on being recognized as fully human, fully worthy, inspired the Civil Rights Movement.

Martin Luther King and Malcom X didn’t enter into negotiations to beg the government to let Black folk use a few more water fountains, or to be allowed to buy a house in just a few white neighborhoods.

Yet that is precisely the indignity we are accepting upon ourselves by engaging in these negotiations. By continuing to negotiate for basic rights, we are accepting the premise that we cannot be fully worthy human beings unless Israel says so.

This is Our Time

With Arab Spring, with BDS, ISM, Free Gaza, and the massively growing international solidarity, this is our time!

It’s our time to say that only free people can negotiate. It’s our time to take our seat on the bus and refuse to get up for anyone. It’s our time to boycott. To divest. To proudly link arms with every human being willing to stand with us, no matter who they are – be they Jewish, Christian, Muslim,
gay or straight, Black or White or any color in between. And to remember the solidarity shown to us, as our beloved Edward Said once said.

If we continue on the path of nonviolent resistance that we started in the occupied territories and throughout the world, and with the solidarity of justice-seeking people everywhere, I believe with all my being, that we will eventually be in a position to say to the Israelis in no uncertain terms, and with a force they will have no choice but to listen to, that they are
welcome to stay as our equals, but not as our masters.

You may think that that day is unrealistic. You might say that because we’ve been conditioned to see our weakness. To see how outgunned we are. How outmaneuvered we’ve been. Or how little clout we have in the halls of power compared with the intense influence that Israel wields on the most
powerful countries. But focusing on these things obscures how powerful we really are.

I read an article recently by someone I very much admire and whose words I often like to read; but this particular article was one that I disagreed with because it reinforces this sense of powerlessness, which is quite harmful. The article was written when everyone was speculating whether the PA would follow through with the UN bid and the premise of the article was that no matter what happens, Israel will win, whether Abbas follows through or not.

I not only disagree with the premise, but I think that this kind of defeatist outlooks really hurts us. Yes, I know it’s true that Israel can make any US President jump when they say jump; but I don’t think Israel is feeling much like a winner right now.

How triumphant do you think Israel feels with the world turning against them? Peoples of the world are seeing them for the apartheid state that they are and their growing isolation surely doesn’t feel very triumphant to them. It surely doesn’t feel triumphant to them to essentially lose their
two major allies in the region, Egypt and Turkey, within the span of one year.

And by believing that we are powerless, we’ve allowed every Israeli to think they can dictate our destiny to us. Just take for example Benny Morris, who said on Cross Talk a few weeks ago, quote:

“I wish the Palestinians would return to the negotiating table to which they had been invited repeatedly, and do so seriously in good faith and negotiate in good faith. If they don’t want to do that, the Palestinians will continue to suffer.” Translation: “Do as Israel wants or you will continue to be bombed, killed, deprived, oppressed, and systematically robbed.” In fact, that is happening even when we do negotiate as Israel wants; but the point is that you can see from this statement the level of arrogance that pervades
every sector of Israeli society.

We Are Powerful & History is on Our Side

While it is true that we don’t have the military capabilities nor do we have anywhere near Israel’s clout among the ruling elite of powerful nations, we are not powerless.

In fact, we are unrivaled in our power on the ground level internationally. Our struggle for freedom is the longest running and best known around the world. Harnessing that advantage is the path we must continue to take.

Taking our case, not to the UN or the US State Department or to the UK or France; but to the populations of the world is where our energy should be focused.

- It’s to the universities that have been signing onto the academic boycotts; - To consumers who do not want to buy blood products;

- To the churches and synagogues and other religious institutions that understand the ungodliness of ethnic cleansing and who are making sure that their trusts are not invested in Israel’s war crimes

- To the municipalities and the labor unions who are divesting their pensions from Israel in order to affirm their belief in universal human dignity regardless of ones religion

- To the artists and musicians and writers and filmmakers who do not want their names or creations associated with Israel’s Apartheid

- To our fellow US citizens who do not want their tax dollars spent in support of ethno-religious entitlement and exclusivity, especially when our school districts are teetering on bankruptcy and the unemployment is knocking on the door of 10%.

We cannot lose on this path. You don’t need to take my word for it. History is replete with examples that prove what I’m saying. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel.

And we don’t need to continue down a path of denigrating and racist negotiations. We are a native people who deserve to live in their native homeland with full human rights. It’s that simple.

And so to the new sound bite that Israel issued (which is being parroted by the Obama administration, Congress, and nearly all mainstream media commentators): “there are no shortcuts to peace”, I would like to offer these truths:

“Palestinian freedom is non-negotiable” and “Human Rights are non-negotiable”.

Our message will resonate – maybe not with the ruling elite, but certainly with civil society and ordinary people who adhere to principles of justice and fair play. Because:

Our demands are self-evident truths that we should pursue without apology, without negotiations, without compromise, and without fear.

That’s how every freedom movement achieved its goal before us, and that is how we will achieve ours. THAT is our most effective path forward, not negotiations.

Susan Abulhawa is the author of Mornings in Jenin and founder of Playgrounds for Palestine. She contributed this article to



Monday, October 10, 2011

Israel and those "real democratic" rights

by Lawrence Davidson
(courtesy of Sonja Karkar, Editor, Australians for Palestine)
9 October 2011

Part I – What “Real Democratic Rights”?

In his speech to Congress on 24 May 2011 Prime Minister Netanyahu boasted
that “Of the 300 million Arabs in the Middle East and North Africa, only
Israel’s Arab citizens enjoy real democratic rights.” This is, of course, a
variation on the oft cited claim that Israel is “the only democracy in the
Middle East.” Leaving aside places like Lebanon and now potentially Tunisia
and Egypt, one can ask just how “real” are these democratic rights the Prime
Minister claims for Israel’s Arabs? Here is some recent evidence that speaks
to this question.

1. At the end of September 2011 the Israeli government announced “a plan to
displace 30,000 native Bedouin Arabs [all of whom are Israeli citizens]…from
their homes [in the Negev].” This would constitute “the biggest
dispossession plan of Palestinians issued by Israel since 1948. It would
forcibly relocate about half of the Bedouin population from their existing
villages, which are older than the State of Israel itself….”

Why should Israel do this to the Bedouin? Is it to facilitate their
enjoyment of their “real democratic rights”? Well not quite. According to
head of the Regional Council of Ramat Ha-Negev, a Zionist settlement in the
region, the reason goes like this, “I want the Negev to be Jewish….Jewish
settlement must grow, must continue…..What do you mean by ‘they [the
Bedouin] also have rights’! You know what–after all this it is no longer
possible to conceal the core problem, which is the struggle over the land.
Who does this land belong to–us or them?”

2. At the Beginning of October 2011 leaders of the Jewish settler movement
announced their intention “to turn Palestinian population centers into
another Srebrenica.” This was their reaction to the prospect of
international recognition of a Palestinian state. Initiating Balkan style
killing fields would represent a marked escalation of ongoing lower level
terror tactics which have seen the destruction of Palestinian crops, the
harassment of Palestinian adults and children, the practice of arson against
mosques, and the occasional outright murder. While this threat was directed
mainly at the Palestinians of the West Bank, the Israelis are bound by
international law to see to their civil rights as well. And since
Netanyahu’s vaunted claim implies Israel’s civilized, law-abiding status
relative to the Arab states, that Palestinian population must be taken
account of.

To show the extent of their respect for the rights of the Palestinians,
settler rabbis have evoked the memory of their American-Israeli “saint and
hero,” Barach Goldstein, whose claim to lasting fame is the massacre of
Muslims at prayer in Hebron back in 1994. And, there has been much
recapitulating of the message delivered in October 2010 by “the spiritual
leader of Shas, the powerful religious political party….that the status of
non-Jews is similar to that of beasts of burden….” And just how many “real
democratic rights” do the animals of Israel have?

3. Just in case you think that these threats are hyperbole, take a look at
reports and video on the recent pogrom-like violence near the settlement of
Anatot. On 30 September 2011 Palestinians along with Israeli allies came to
help a Palestinian farmer plant trees on land he owns near the settlement.
They were attacked and beaten by settlers some of whom were armed policemen.
The attackers have been accurately described as “nearly a lynch-mob.” Then
on 3 October 2011 a mosque in the upper Galilee village of Tuba -Zangariyye
was set on fire by arsonists who left behind the message “Price Tag.” This
is a terrorist tactic used by Israeli right wing extremists. Every time the
Israeli government gets in the way of their racist and expansionist
ambitions (which really is not often enough) they retaliate with acts of
terror against Palestinians.

Part II – Woeful Ignorance

The truth is that Arab-Israelis have always been second-class citizens,
suffering systematic and state sanctioned discrimination. Most of them are
effectively segregated out from the majority Israeli Jewish citizenry. In
this way their “real democratic rights” are rendered largely symbolic. The
only reason they are allowed to vote is because their votes cannot change
the system that discriminates against them. The Palestinians in the Occupied
Territories are even more vulnerable. They are not citizens at all and, even
if Israel annexes the West Bank they never will be. This is because making
them citizens would greatly enhance the likelihood that Arab-Israeli votes
might, in fact, become sufficient to alter the system. The Zionists will
never let that happen. If the choice is between democracy and keeping Israel
a Jewish state, the Israeli establishment will jettison democracy without
thinking twice. In fact, there is a portion of Israeli Jews who have already
jettisoned any regard for “real democratic rights,” even for themselves.

It is interesting to note that 95% of the U.S. Congress seems oblivious to
all this. Indeed, a good number of them recently went off on an all expenses
paid (illegal) junket to Israel which objective observers might consider the
equivalent of giving material aid to a terrorist organization. There is good
reason to believe that this oblivious state of mind is not shared by many of
their constituents, who are slowly but surely being educated about the
criminal nature of Israeli behavior. Unfortunately these constituents have
not, as of yet, made their representatives’ slavish attachment to Zionist
lobby money and influence a voting issue. When will they do so? Perhaps soon
after it is brought home to them that Israel, the “democracy,” has an
unsavory resemblance to Alabama or Georgia in the 1930s and 1940s. If the
settler rabbis have their way this likeness will grow rapidly and thus
become harder to hide. Through their sacrilegious misreading of the Talmud,
these holy men appear anxious to bless lynching on all days of the week
except the Sabbath.

It is not only American Congressmen who are ignorant of Israel’s
deteriorating national character. One might ask just how many Israeli Jews
know how close they are to the precipice of pogrom violence or worse. Some
of course do. In a 14 June 2011 piece by Ilan Peleg and Dov Waxman they tell
us “We believe that unless immediate, serious and dramatic action is taken
to improve the situation of the Arab minority and majority-minority
relations, great dangers are in store for Israel. It is no exaggeration to
say that domestic stability, Israeli democracy and future
Israeli-Palestinian peace could all be undermined by a continued
deterioration in Arab-Jewish relations in Israel.” But polls of Israelis
show that the majority, caught up as they are in the dominant culture of
victimhood and fear of the Arabs, are either ignorant of or unconcerned
about the dangers of which Peleg and Waxman warn. Indeed, most of them want
the Arabs segregated or just kicked out and therefore have no problem with
their society’s deteriorating majority-minority relations.

Part III – The National Skinner Box

All of this raises some serious issues:

1. For most citizens the national environment is like a great big Skinner
Box. In other words it is a hothouse of indoctrination. Americans were
taught to hate and fear communists, Russians were taught to hate and fear
capitalists, and Israeli Jews are taught to hate and fear Palestinians.
Nation states do a good job at such indoctrination–making it part and parcel
of the acculturation process. And, under the right circumstances, whole
populations can easily move from hatred and fear to actual mayhem.

2. This sort of deep seated indoctrination results in nationwide habits of
thought that are remarkably hard to change. Think of the inertia of a large
body, say a planet, moving through space. It is going to take a lot of force
to overcome that inertia, usually force of catastrophic intensity. To put it
another way, whole populations trained to seeing the world one way, usually
do not shift perceptions unless something really bad happens to them. That
something can be military defeat, deep and unbridgeable societal divides
leading to civil war, or the severe costs of isolation and economic boycott
visited on them by the outside world. The severity of these forces are
testimony to just how stubborn indoctrinated populations can be.

Any way you look at it, the situation for those Palestinians under Israeli
domination is likely to get worse before it gets better. And it is going to
take a force of catastrophic intensity to really change Israeli behavior. My
money is on BDS – Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions.

Dr. Lawrence Davidson is the co-author of “A Concise History of the Middle
East and author of “America’s Palestine: Popular and Official from Balfour
to Israeli Statehood”. He is a member of West Chester University’s history
faculty since 1986. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University
and completed his master’s and Ph.D. degrees from Georgetown University and
the University of Alberta in Canada, respectively.,

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Abbas's High-Stakes Gamble in the UN

Graham Usher
September 28, 2011
United Nations

It’s easy to see who won the great debate that captivated the United Nations last week. Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas made an eloquent case that after twenty years of a futile “peace process,” the time had come to end Israel’s occupation and for the UN to admit his country as a full member state.

Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu called for peace talks “without preconditions”—only to inject such preconditions (like the PA recognizing Israel’s “Jewish character”) that would make talks a nonstarter. Abbas was received rapturously; Netanyahu, coolly.

But the villain was Barack Obama, at least for those peoples in a region where Israel’s occupation is becoming the permafrost on the Arab Spring. The United States had long made it clear it would veto any Palestinian bid for full membership. But President Obama didn’t just rehearse Israeli arguments against the move; he adopted Israel’s narrative on the conflict. “Let’s be honest: Israel is surrounded by neighbors that have waged repeated wars against it,” he said.

Obama made no mention of the occupation, Jewish settlements or even that, since 2002, those neighbors have offered Israel a full peace in return for a full withdrawal from occupied Arab land. It was the most pro-Israeli speech ever made by a US president at the UN, said a veteran Jewish American commentator. It’s “the reason we are going to the UN,” seethed Palestinian delegate Hanan Ashrawi.

The task there is herculean. The PA faces obstruction not only from Washington but from supposed allies like the European Union, the UN and even Russia, the three other members of the so-called Quartet. No sooner had Abbas submitted his bid to the Security Council than all four united to contain it, alarmed that a US veto would inflame anti-Western passions across the Middle East. The Quartet called for the two sides to resume negotiations in a month and reach a peace agreement in a year.

That proposal has been tried in the past. It will tank this time too. Abbas says there can be no return to talks unless they are accompanied by a freeze on settlement-building and are based on the 1967 armistice lines as the border between Israel and a future Palestinian state. The Quartet statement specifies neither.
As of now, six of the Security Council’s fifteen members are backing the PA’s bid. It needs nine to force a vote. If it fails to get a vote, that would suit the United States and, it seems, the Quartet.

Abbas’s dilemma is acute. If he accepts the Quartet’s terms, he would undo all the kudos he has gained for his refusal to bend under US pressure. But if he rejects them, he risks alienating the EU, the UN and Russia, the powers he thinks are needed as a counterweight to Washington’s pro-Israel bias. This dilemma exposes the weakness at the heart of the UN gambit.

There have been two camps behind the UN bid in the PA leadership. Both agreed that for domestic reasons, the Obama administration will not be able to broker even partially fair negotiations this side of the 2012 presidential elections. But one camp, led by Abbas, believes the US abdication could be offset by upgrading Palestine’s status at the UN and internationalizing the negotiations to include the EU, the UN and Russia. The aim was never to end Oslo’s model of bilateralism per se but to freight it with more favorable conditions.

The other camp says Oslo is dead, and argues that an upgrade in UN status—either as a full member or the lesser non-member observer state—would strengthen the PA legally and politically as a “state under occupation.” It may even allow for prosecution of Israel at the International Criminal Court.

The problem is that both camps are reliant on others to further their diplomacy. And currently they are up against a US-EU bloc with two aims. The main one is to spare the United States the shame of a veto at the Security Council. But another is to slow Palestine’s becoming a non-member observer state at the General Assembly, a move the Quartet believes could end all hope of negotiations and trigger Israeli-US sanctions against the PA.

There are other flaws in the PA’s strategy. Abbas received a rousing welcome when he returned to Ramallah. But the largely stage-managed rallies there contrasted poorly with the minuscule gatherings in support of the UN bid in occupied East Jerusalem, among Palestinian citizens of Israel and in the diaspora, let alone the zero demonstrations in Hamas-ruled Gaza. This is testimony of the PA’s failure to ground its UN strategy in a genuine national consensus.

Abbas also said the UN bid was “the Palestinian spring.” Yet in New York he paid only lip service to those democratic movements and states most associated with the Arab uprisings. When Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan addressed the UN, not a single Palestinian delegate was present.

Erdogan has been the regional leader who has made Palestinian independence a cornerstone of a new Middle East. Used correctly—by inscribing the Palestinian narrative of self-determination in the Arab narrative of freedom—the Arab uprisings could be marshaled by the PA as a powerful counterweight to the forces facing them at the UN, especially since the only reason the Quartet has become engaged, admitted one EU diplomat, is out of fear that “the Israel-Palestine conflict could become an issue on the Arab street.”

Time will tell whether Abbas turns to the region to bolster the UN bid or remains ensnared by it. By temperament he prefers diplomacy to revolutionary change. Last week’s defiance of US power may have been his finest hour in the eyes of his people, but it also marked the failure of an Oslo model he owned for more than eighteen years. “I don’t know what to do when I return,” he confided to a friend in New York.
Another Palestinian official was even blunter about the absence of a Palestinian strategy. What comes after September, he was asked. “October,” he said.

About the Author: Graham Usher is a writer and journalist who has written extensively about the Arab world and South Asia.

The dead begin to speak un in India

Kashmir is one of two war zones in India from which no news must come. But those in unmarked graves will not be silenced

By:Arundhati Roy

Editor’s note: For too long I have ignored other issues, including Kashmir. I plead guilty. The only reason is lack of time. However, I will try and cover what I have neglected so far. As a starter, I am reproducing here an important article by the indefatigable and fearless crusading journalist and writer Arundhati Roy.

This article was published on at 19.01 EDT on Thursday 29 September 2011. A version appeared on p52 of the Main section section of the Guardian on Friday 30 September 2011. It was last modified at 05.28 EDT on Monday 3 October 2011.

A Kashmiri farmer walks past unmarked graves in Bimyar, west of Srinagar, in 2009. Photograph: Mukhtar Khan/AP

At about 3am, on 23 September, within hours of his arrival at the Delhi airport, the US radio-journalist David Barsamian was deported. This dangerous man, who produces independent, free-to-air programmes for public radio, has been visiting India for 40 years, doing such dangerous things as learning Urdu and playing the sitar.

Barsamian has published book-length interviews with public intellectuals such as Edward Said, Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Ejaz Ahmed and Tariq Ali (he even makes an appearance as a young, bell-bottom-wearing interviewer in Peter Wintonick's documentary film on Chomsky and Edward Herman's book Manufacturing Consent).

On his more recent trips to India he has done a series of radio interviews with activists, academics, film-makers, journalists and writers (including me). Barsamian's work has taken him to Turkey, Iran, Syria, Lebanon and Pakistan. He has never been deported from any of these countries. So why does the world's largest democracy feel so threatened by this lone, sitar-playing, Urdu-speaking, left-leaning, radio producer?
Here is how Barsamian himself explains it:"It's all about Kashmir. I've done work on Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Narmada dams, farmer suicides, the Gujarat pogrom, and the Binayak Sen case. But it's Kashmir that is at the heart of the Indian state's concerns. The official narrative must not be contested."

News reports about his deportation quoted official "sources" as saying that Barsamian had "violated his visa norms during his visit in 2009-10 by indulging in professional work while holding a tourist visa". Visa norms in India are an interesting peep-hole into the government's concerns and predilections. Using the tattered old banner of the "war on terror", the home ministry has decreed that scholars and academics invited for conferences and seminars require security clearance before they will be given visas. Corporate executives and businessmen do not.

So somebody who wants to invest in a dam, or build a steel plant or a buy a bauxite mine is not considered a security hazard, whereas a scholar who might wish to participate in a seminar about, say, displacement or communalism or rising malnutrition in a globalised economy, is. Terrorists with bad intentions have probably guessed that they are better off wearing Prada suits and pretending they want to buy a mine than admitting that they want to attend a seminar.

David Barsamian did not travel to India to buy a mine or to attend a conference. He just came to talk to people. The complaint against him, according to "official sources" is that he had reported on events in Jammu and Kashmir during his last visit to India and that these reports were "not based on facts". Remember Barsamian is not a reporter, he's a man who has conversations with people, mostly dissidents, about the societies in which they live.

Is it illegal for tourists to talk to people in the countries they visit? Would it be illegal for me to travel to the US or Europe and write about the people I met, even if my writing was "not based on facts"? Who decides which "facts" are correct and which are not? Would Barsamian have been deported if the conversations he recorded had been in praise of the impressive turnouts in Kashmir's elections, instead of about daily life in the densest military occupation in the world (an estimated 600,000 actively deployed armed personnel for a population of 10 million people)?

David Barsamian is not the first person to be deported over the Indian government's sensitivities over Kashmir. Professor Richard Shapiro, an anthropologist from San Francisco, was deported from Delhi airport in November 2010 without being given any reason. It was probably a way of punishing his partner, Angana Chatterji, who is a co-convenor of the international peoples' tribunal on human rights and justice which first chronicled the existence of unmarked mass graves in Kashmir.

In September 2011, May Aquino, from the Asian Federation against Involuntary Disappearances (Afad), Manila, was deported from Delhi airport. Earlier this year, on 28 May, the outspoken Indian democratic rights activist, Gautam Navlakha, was deported to Delhi from Srinagar airport. Farook Abdullah, the former chief minister of Kashmir, justified the deportation, saying that writers like Navlakha and myself had no business entering Kashmir because "Kashmir is not for burning".

Kashmir is in the process of being isolated, cut off from the outside world by two concentric rings of border patrols – in Delhi as well as Srinagar – as though it's already a free country with its own visa regime. Within its borders of course, it's open season for the government and the army. The art of controlling Kashmiri journalists and ordinary people with a deadly combination of bribes, threats, blackmail and a whole spectrum of unutterable cruelty has evolved into a twisted art form.

While the government goes about trying to silence the living, the dead have begun to speak up. Perhaps it was insensitive of Barsamian to plan a trip to Kashmir just when the state human rights commission was finally shamed into officially acknowledging the existence of 2,700 unmarked graves from three districts in Kashmir. Reports of thousands of other graves are pouring in from other districts. Perhaps it is insensitive of the unmarked graves to embarrass the government of India just when India's record is due for review before the UN human rights council.

Apart from Dangerous David, who else is the world's largest democracy afraid of? There's young Lingaram Kodopi an adivasi from Dantewada in the state of Chhattisgarh, who was arrested on 9 September. The police say they caught him red-handed in a market place, while he was handing over protection money from Essar, an iron-ore mining company, to the banned Communist party of India (Maoist). His aunt Soni Sori says that he was picked up by plainclothes policemen in a white Bolero car from his grandfather's house in Palnar village.

Interestingly, even by their own account, the police arrested Lingaram but allowed the Maoists to escape. This is only the latest in a series of bizarre, almost hallucinatory accusations they have made against Lingaram and then withdrawn. His real crime is that he is the only journalist who speaks Gondi, the local language, and who knows how to negotiate the remote forest paths in Dantewada the other war zone in India from which no news must come.

Having signed over vast tracts of indigenous tribal homelands in central India to multinational mining and infrastructure corporations in a series of secret memorandums of understanding, the government has begun to flood the forests with hundreds of thousands of security forces. All resistance, armed as well as unarmed has been branded "Maoist" (In Kashmir they are all "jihadi elements").

As the civil war grows deadlier, hundreds of villages have been burnt to the ground. Thousands of adivasis have fled as refugees into neighbouring states. Hundreds of thousands are living terrified lives hiding in the forests. Paramilitary forces have laid siege to the forest, making trips to the markets for essential provisions and medicines a nightmare for villagers. Untold numbers of nameless people are in jail, charged with sedition and waging war on the state, with no lawyers to defend them. Very little news comes out of those forests, and there are no body counts.

So it's not hard to see why young Lingaram Kodopi poses such a threat. Before he trained to become a journalist, he was a driver in Dantewada. In 2009 the police arrested him and confiscated his Jeep. He was locked up in a small toilet for 40 days where he was pressurised to become a special police officer (SPO) in the Salwa Judum, the government-sponsored vigilante army that was at the time tasked with forcing people to flee from their villages (the Salwa Judum has since been declared unconstitutional by the supreme court).

The police released Lingaram after the Gandhian activist Himanshu Kumar filed a habeas corpus petition in court. But then the police arrested Lingaram's old father and five other members of his family. They attacked his village and threatened the villagers if they sheltered him. Eventually Lingaram escaped to Delhi where friends and well-wishers got him admission into a journalism school. In April 2010 he travelled to Dantewada and escorted villagers to Delhi to give testimony at the independent peoples' tribunal about the barbarity of the Salwa Judum and the police and paramilitary forces. In his own testimony, Lingaram was sharply critical of the Maoists as well.

That did not deter the Chhattisgarh police. On 2 July 2010, the senior Maoist leader, Comrade Azad, the official spokesperson for the Maoist party, was captured and executed by the Andhra Pradesh police. Deputy Inspector General Kalluri of the Chhattisgarh police announced at a press conference that Lingaram Kodopi had been elected by the Maoist party to take over Comrade Azad's role (it was like accusing a young school child in 1936 Yan'an of being Zhou Enlai). The charge was met with such derision that the police had to withdraw it. Soon after they accused Lingaram of being the mastermind of a Maoist attack on a congress legislator in Dantewada. But oddly enough, they made no move to arrest him.

Lingaram remained in Delhi, completed his course and received his diploma in journalism. In March 2011, paramilitary forces burned down three villages in Dantewada – Tadmetla, Timmapuram and Morapalli. The Chhattisgarh government blamed the Maoists. The supreme court assigned the investigation to the Central Bureau of Investigation. Lingaram returned to Dantewada with a video camera and trekked from village to village documenting first-hand testimonies of the villagers who indicted the police. By doing this he made himself one of the most wanted men in Dantewada. On 9 September the police finally got to him.

Lingaram has joined an impressive line-up of troublesome news gatherers and disseminators in Chhattisgarh. Among the earliest to be silenced was the celebrated doctor Binayak Sen, who first raised the alarm about the crimes of the Salwa Judum as far back as 2005. He was arrested in 2007, accused of being a Maoist and sentenced to life imprisonment. After years in prison, he is out on bail now.

Kopa Kunjam was my first guide into the forest villages of Dantewada. At the time he worked with Himanshu Kumar's Vanvasi Chetna ashram, doing exactly what Lingaram tried to do much later – travelling to remote villages, bringing out the news, and carefully documenting the horror that was unfolding. In May 2009 the ashram, the last neutral shelter for journalists, writers and academics who were travelling to Dantewada, was demolished by the Chhattisgarh government.
Kopa was arrested on human rights day in September 2009. He was accused of colluding with the Maoists in the murder of one man and the kidnapping of another.
The case against Kopa has begun to fall apart as the police witnesses, including the man who was kidnapped, have disowned the statements they purportedly made to the police. It doesn't really matter, because in India the process is the punishment.

It could take years for Kopa to establish his innocence. Many of those who were emboldened by Kopa to file complaints against the police have been arrested too. That includes women who committed the crime of being raped. Soon after Kopa's arrest Himanshu Kumar was hounded out of Dantewada.

Eventually, here too the dead will begin to speak. And it will not just be dead human beings, it will be the dead land, dead rivers, dead mountains and dead creatures in dead forests that will insist on a hearing.

In this age of surveillance, internet policing and phone-tapping, as the clampdown on those who speak up becomes grimmer with every passing day, it's odd how India is becoming the dream destination of literary festivals. Many of these festivals are funded by the very corporations on whose behalf the police have unleashed their regime of terror.

The Harud literary festival in Srinagar (postponed for the moment) was slated to be the newest, most exciting literary festival in India – "As the autumn leaves change colour the valley of Kashmir will resonate with the sound of poetry, literary dialogue, debate and discussions …"
Its organisers advertised it as an "apolitical" event, but did not say how either the rulers or the subjects of a brutal military occupation that has claimed tens of thousands of lives could be "apolitical". I wonder – will the guests come on tourist visas? Will there be separate ones for Srinagar and Delhi? Will they need security clearance?

The festive din of all this spurious freedom helps to muffle the sound of footsteps in airport corridors as the deported are frog-marched on to departing planes, to mute the click of handcuffs locking around strong, warm wrists and the cold metallic clang of prison doors.
Our lungs are gradually being depleted of oxygen. Perhaps it's time use whatever breath remains in our bodies to say: "Open the bloody gates."

About this author: Arundhati Roy was born 0n November 24, 1961 in Shillong,Meghalaya, India.She is a writer and an activist who focuses on issues related to social justice and economic inequality. She won the Booker Prize in 1997 for her novel, The God of Small Things, and has also written two screenplays and several collections of essays.For her work as an activist she received the Cultural Freedom Prize awarded by the Lannan Foundation in 2002.

For an interesting video interview, click on: