Tag Archives: anti-normalization

#FreeRamiAman

A Palestinian man has been arrested and held in detention in Gaza for the crime of participating in “normalization” activities with Israelis. His name is Rami Aman. For the past six months, as far as anyone knows, he hasn’t been charged or given an opportunity to respond in court.

To be clear, this is nothing new for either Hamas in Gaza, or the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) in the occupied territories, or the civil Israeli government in Israel. All four threaten to punish civilians who collaborate with the “enemy.” Israel forbids its citizens from visiting with Palestinians. The IDF routinely arrests Palestinian children and hauls them off to military detention. Some remain in detention for many months.

Rami Aman certainly knew what the risks were when he joined that Zoom call with Israelis, but he had nothing to hide. Unlike the “collaborators” who sneak around and work with the enemy to undermine the Palestinian military objectives, Rami wants Israelis to know Palestinians; and vice versa. He understands that the future depends on both sides understanding the other.

A former research consultant with Amnesty International in Gaza saw the zoom meeting and tagged Hamas officials to bring to their attention this forbidden “normalization” activity.

“So what’s wrong with talking? What’s normalization?”

Mike Merryman-Lotze with the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) answers both questions in this excellent piece he wrote in 2018. My personal understanding of the subject was greatly improved after reading Mike’s story this Spring and his words of caution; I highly recommend it.

Mike ends with the following points:

“First, we should recognize that Palestinians and Israelis are getting together and cooperating but on their own terms. One of the key problems with many past people-to-people programs is that they were initiated and led by outside actors who imposed their own goals and terms on interactions. The normalization framework pushed forward by Palestinians is a reassertion of ownership of the terms of interaction by those most impacted by the systematic injustice of Israel’s occupation and inequality. Normalization principles transform interactions, moving them from coexistence-focused dialogue sessions to action-based interaction with the goal of transformation through co-resistance against injustice. If you are thinking about supporting dialogue or people-to-people programs, it is important to consider who “owns” the process and how it resists structures of injustice.

Second, we should understand that dialogue is not an end in and of itself and that dialogue can be harmful. Particularly in situations of ongoing injustice, attempts to bring people together can’t simply focus on building understanding if there is no corresponding effort by all involved to end the injustice and inequality that stands between people. While dialogue and exchange can be important parts of transformation, they can also be tools used to block change; reinforce existing imbalances of power; and erase legal, institutional, and structural injustices. Whether we are setting up panel discussions or working to pull people together, we always need to understand issues of power. Dialogue is not a neutral process, and we must carefully consider how dialogue pushes toward action for change.

Third, it is important to understand that the normalization discussion is largely not about us. Normalization concerns do not place blocks on Quakers listening to, interacting with, or dialoguing with any party. Challenging normalization initiatives is not aimed at silencing select viewpoints or limiting who is able to speak. Indeed, listening to and engaging with those with whom we disagree is an important part of building understanding as we push for change. The normalization discussion is about addressing power imbalances and injustice in relationships between Israelis and Palestinians, not shutting off all dialogue or ending conversations that build understanding.

Finally, the normalization conversation points to the fact that dialogue and listening are not enough. To achieve peace and justice there must be political change that ends the system of inequality and oppression that exists between Palestinians and Israelis, as well as U.S. complicity in that injustice. To address this, Quakers must then move beyond positions that express concern for both parties and that encourage dialogue and listening but that don’t lead to direct action. Quakers should support direct action to end injustice, such as Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement (BDS) and AFSC-led No Way to Treat a Child Campaign. We can support discussions, but we must back up our support for talk with support for action.”

I agree with Mike’s observations and words of caution, with the exception of his conclusion. He writes: “It is political change and an end to injustice that will lead to dialogue and understanding, and it is political action that is needed to bring change.” Which comes first — the chicken or the egg? I believe dialogue and understanding are the precursors to a political change and an end to injustice. But the dialogue must occur with Mike’s caveats in mind.

Rami Aman – Gaza Strip

On September 9, 2020, a group of NGOS submitted a 24 page petition at the UN on behalf of Rami Aman. Check it out here.

The group that filed the petition — UN Watch — is an apologist for Israel’s crimes and human rights abuses in the occupation, and regularly calls out anyone or any country that stands up in support of Palestine in the United Nations. Sadly, Hamas’ actions in Rami Aman’s detention have given the UN Watch and the State of Israel fodder for their campaign.

Anyone familiar with the human rights abuses perpetrated by Israel against the Palestinians will find the following words from the petition hypocritical in the extreme coming from the UN Watch, but no less true.

The Applicant is a Palestinian peace activist who resides in Gaza. He was arrested by Hamas security forces on 9 April 2020, three days after his peace group, the Gaza Youth Committee, held a two-hour video call with Israeli peace activists via Zoom. He is accused of holding a “normalization” activity with Israelis. Normalization refers to cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians, including peace dialogue. According to both the Palestinian Authority (“PA”) and Hamas, normalization is a crime which is tantamount to treason. The criminalization of peace dialogue is a violation of the rights to freedom of expression and association pursuant to Article 19 of the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights (“ICCPR”). Likewise, detention on that basis is a violation of ICCPR Article 19.

The Applicant has now been in Hamas detention for more than four months. His due process rights are being egregiously violated. He has not yet been charged and has never had an opportunity to challenge his detention in court. Moreover, he is a civilian who will be subjected
to trial in a Hamas Military Court in violation of ICCPR Article 14.

Then the petition begins its propaganda campaign against Hamas by equating “collaboration” with “normalization” which I will not recite here. These are two very different activities but even many Palestinians can’t tell the difference!

Consistent with the above, the PA and Hamas reject any “normalization” with Israel. Normalization includes joint economic activities, joint sports activities and meetings to promote peace. As detailed below, Hamas considers “normalization” to be a form of treason and uses various provisions of the PLO Revolutionary Penal Code of 1979 to prosecute that crime.

Mr. Aman was held incommunicado for at least one week. According to a statement published by Amnesty International on 6 May 2020, Mr. Aman was permitted to speak with his family for the first time by telephone on 26 April 2020—more than two weeks after the arrest. According to information provided to us, he has had one visit with his family since then. Also, Mr. Aman has had three visits with his lawyer, the first on 16 April 2020—one week after the arrest. The Amnesty International statement added that Mr. Aman was likely to be charged under Article 164 of the PLO Revolutionary Penal Code of 1979, which refers to “propaganda aimed at weakening the revolution” and that he was likely to be tried in a military court. In addition, Mr. Aman has not yet been charged or brought before a court.

I’d like to know why Amnesty International, the American Friends Service Committee, the National Lawyers Guild, and other groups that often stand up for Palestinians have not voiced their objections to Rami’s arrest and detention. Clearly, Rami has become a political football in the international arena now. Dialogue and understanding of the “other” will likely be the victim.

Coalition of NGOs that signed the petition.

University College Dublin (Ireland)

Global Human Rights Defence (Netherlands)

African Agency for Integrated Development (Uganda)

Global Vision India Foundation (India)

Help People Foundation (Italy)

Sisters of Charity Federation (United States)

Action Sécurité Ethique Républicaines (France)

Geneva International Model United Nations (Switzerland)

Forum Méditerranéen pour la Promotion des Droits du Citoyen (Morocco)

Women’s Voices Now (United States)

Japanese Association for the Right to Freedom of Speech (Japan)

African Heritage Foundation (Nigeria)

Romanian Independent Society of Human Right (Romania)

ONG Association Internationale Des Droits De L’Homme (France)

Vision GRAM International (Democratic Republic of Congo)

Support for Women in Agriculture and Environment (Uganda)

Structural Analysis of Cultural Systems (Germany)

Public Organization “Public Advocacy” (Ukraine)

Association un Enfant Un Cartable du Burkina Faso (Burkina Faso)

International Multiracial Shared Cultural Organization (United States)

Yayasan Pendidikan Indonesia Wira Tata Buana (Indonesia)

Godwin Osung International Foundation Inc. (Nigeria)

Centre for Youth and Literacy Development (Ghana)

Hape Development and Welfare Association (Pakistan)

Coordination des Associations et des Particuliers pour la Liberté de Conscience (France)

Women Educators Association of Nigeria (Nigeria)

Chia Funkuin Foundation (Cameroon)

Save the Climate (DRC)

Association pour le Développement Culturel (Chad)

Business Innovation Research Development (France)

World Organization of Building (Canada)

Amis de l’Afrique Francophone (Benin)

Observatorio Nacional De Seguranca Viaria (Brazil)

Organization Earth (Greece)

GreenPlanet (India)

Foundation of International Servant Leadership Exchange Association (South Korea)

European Union for Jewish Students (Belgium)

Association of Christian Counselors of Nigeria (Nigeria)

Fudnação Antonio Meneghetti (Brazil)

Shola Mese Foundation (Nigeria)

Ideal World Foundation President (Ghana)

Groupe d’économie solidaire du Québec (Canada)

Haiti Cholera Research Funding Foundation Inc. USA (United States)

Future Hope International (Ghana)

Les œuvres sociales pour les actions de développement (DRC)

Festival de Théâtre pour la Santé (Togo)

Ingénieurs du Monde (France)

Association de Solidarite d’Aide et Action Mali (Mali)

International Center for Ethno-Religious Mediation (United States)

Somali Help-Age Association (Somalia)

Kuchlak Welfare society Balochistan (Pakistan)

Kathak Academy (Bangladesh)

Moorish Holy Temple of Science (United States)

Safe Society (India)

Conglomeration of Bengal’s Hotel Owners (India)

World Kabaddi Federation (India)

African Initiative for Mankind Progress Organization (Rwanda)

Amis des Étrangers au Togo (Togo)

Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic, Inc. (United States)

Association pour la Défense des droits, de développement durable et du Bien-Etre Familial (Rwanda)

Project 1948 (Bosnia)

United Nations Watch (Switzerland)

Les Amis du Projet Imagine (France)

Earthquake and Megacities Initiative (EMI) (Philippines)

Coupe de Pouce (DRC)

ONG Credo Action (Togo)

Noahide Institute (United States)

Ekta Welfare Society (India)

Generation Initiative for Women and Youth Network (Nigeria)

Association Build Africa (Cameroon)

Update: ALLMEP joins PCHR, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch in a renewed call for their immediate release from nearly six months in detention. #FreeRamiAman Read more: English – https://pchrgaza.org/en/?p=15059Arabic – https://www.pchrgaza.org/ar/?p=19615

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Filed under Hamas, People, Politics, Uncategorized, United Nations, Video

The Anti-Normalization Shroud Descends

By now we’re all familiar with the new world of physical distancing, stay-at-home orders, and the feeling that everything has come to a standstill.

Palestinians in Gaza have experienced a similar (not the same) life since June 2007 when Israel severely tightened the restrictions on the Gaza Strip after Hamas took control.  Palestinians can’t exit except with approval from both Israel and Hamas, turning the Gaza Strip into the largest open air prison in the world. Palestinians can’t export their produce except under very limited strictures. Palestinians can’t import many essential products, and they remain reliant on Israel to determine what things can and can’t be brought into Gaza. Many times the Palestinian fishermen can’t safely bring home their catch without being fired upon by the Israeli gunboats. And the list of restrictions goes on and on.

Gaza is tiny. At 139 square miles, it’s about the same size as Detroit (138.8 square miles), Philadelphia (134.1), Las Vegas (135.8), or Portland, Oregon (133.4). We’re talking about more than two million people, the largest majority being youth under the age of 30, confined to a Very. Small. Place.

Any Palestinian in Gaza older than 12 years has lived through three devastating Israeli military operations: Operation Cast Lead (in 2008-2009 Israel killed 1391 Palestinians in Gaza in 23 days); Operation Pillar of Defense (in November 2012 Israel killed 167 Palestinians in Gaza in 8 days); and two years later Operation Protective Edge (Israel killed 2,251 Palestinians in Gaza and wounded more than 11,000 between July 8 and August 26, 2014). Since March 2018, Israeli sharpshooters have killed and maimed hundreds of Palestinians participating in the Great Return March every Friday at the fence that separates the Gaza Strip from Israel.

This violence and physical separation has occupied the Palestinian souls in Gaza for a very long time, a deliberate military strategy pursued by the State of Israel. There’s little doubt among human rights lawyers that it amounts to collective punishment, a war crime under the 1949 Geneva Conventions.

So this happened recently.

A Palestinian in Gaza connected on Zoom with an Israeli in Tel Aviv about 40 miles away but they could have very well been light years apart because it’s official government policy on both sides that there will be no communication “with the enemy.” The Zoom meeting included friends on both sides. It went on for over an hour. I watched part of it but the audio quality and heavy accents prevented me from understanding the entire exchange.

A young Palestinian woman later saw the video of the Zoom meeting and tagged Hamas leaders. They arrested the organizer in Gaza on grounds that his conversation with the Israelis was a form of normalization.

I’ve heard different definitions of normalization; it appears to sweep the gamut from the very denunciation of any contact between any Israeli and any Palestinian to a more tailored and nuanced criticism of people-to-people programs.

The definition I find most helpful is:

Within Palestine, normalization is generally defined as any project; initiative; or activity in Palestine, Israel, or internationally that aims to bring together Palestinians and Israelis without addressing structural and power inequalities and/or without having its goal be opposition and resistance to the Israeli occupation.

Read this article published two years ago in the Friends Journal, a Quaker publication, by Mike Merryman-Lotze for a deeper understanding of a very complex subject. He writes:

It should be understood that the push against normalization is not about closing off communication because of issues of identity. Rather it is about identifying the principles and processes through which discussion and communication occur so as to not reify power imbalances or do harm to those who are already vulnerable or abused. It is about ensuring that when people come together, the focus is co‐resistance to the structures that oppress people, and not coexistence within oppressive systems.

The woman who alerted Hamas to the Zoom meeting appears to ascribe to a very blunt definition where any communication between Palestinians and Israelis is verboten. Here’s what she later posted on her Facebook account. She’s received a lot of support from Palestinians inside Gaza and outside.

As a Palestinian born and raised in the Gaza Strip, under endless blockade, survived two aggressive wars, covering the Great March of Return I believe that the worst sin any Palestinian can commit is Normalization; which is any joint activity between Palestine and Israel.

In other words, no form of joint activity, cooperation or dialogue with Israelis is unacceptable, even engaging with Israeli “Peace Activists”.

These actions are collaboration with enemies of us, the Palestinians.

No one ever taught me that Israel is my enemy, but every airstrike I heard told me that.

No one ever told me that talking with Israeli’s is unacceptable but every single body shattered into pieces covered with blood said it all.

It is not my intention to make an argument in support of normalization. Normalization is a matter writ large for the Palestinian community to explore and decide for itself collectively and as individuals.

But if the shroud of anti-normalization can be stretched so far and wide as to smother any communication between Palestinians and Israelis, I fear for the future of everyone in the Holy Land. 

I would never have met Sami, a Palestinian from Gaza who was a high school exchange student in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I wrote about Sami and his meeting with an Israeli security official in that U.S. high school many years ago.

I would never have read the Palestinian doctor’s book from Gaza, I Shall Not Hate by Izzeldin Abuelaish.

I probably would never have traveled to Gaza in 2012 and learned so much about life under occupation, and the beautiful culture of sumud and determination, because my opportunity was sparked by Sami, Izzeldin, Mohammed and many others who connected with me.  I’ve had my difference of opinion with some in Gaza over the years, but if they choose to shroud themselves in darkness by condemning any connections between Palestinians and Israelis as haram, then I must part ways with them. My voice and actions in solidarity with Palestinians will fall on deaf ears.

For the time being, I’m hoping that there are many more Palestinians inside Gaza, the West Bank, and the diaspora who reject this mindset. I suspect they may feel it is safer to remain silent.

I also hope there are Israelis who recognize that “it’s the occupation, stupid!”  Speaking with Palestinians may be an important first step, but it’s certainly not the last. Israelis must have the courage to take action to dismantle the occupation.

 

 

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Filed under Gaza, Hamas, Israel, nonviolent resistance, Occupation, People, Politics, Video