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How does the Gates Foundation spend its money to feed the world?

GRAIN | November 4, 2014

Listening to farmers and addressing their specific needs. We talk to farmers about the crops they want to grow and eat, as well as the unique challenges they face. We partner with organizations that understand and are equipped to address these challenges, and we invest in research to identify relevant and affordable solutions that farmers want and will use.” – First guiding principle of the Gates Foundation’s work on agriculture.1

At some point in June this year, the total amount given as grants to food and agriculture projects by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation surpassed the US$3 billion mark. It marked quite a milestone. From nowhere on the agricultural scene less than a decade ago, the Gates Foundation has emerged as one of the world’s major donors to agricultural research and development.

The Gates Foundation is arguably the biggest philanthropic venture ever. It currently holds a $40 billion endowment, made up mostly of contributions from Gates and his billionaire friend Warren Buffet. The foundation has over 1,200 staff, and has given over $30 billion in grants since its inception in 2000, $3.6 billion in 2013 alone.2 Most of the grants go to global health programmes and educational work in the US, traditionally the foundation’s priority areas. But in 2006-2007, the foundation massively expanded its funding for agriculture, with the launch of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and a series of large grants to the international agricultural research system (CGIAR). In 2007, it spent over half a billion dollars on agricultural projects and has maintained funding at around this level. The vast majority of the foundation’s agricultural grants focus on Africa.

Spending so much money gives the foundation significant influence over agricultural research and development agendas. As the weight of the foundation’s overall focus on technology and private sector partnerships has begun to be felt in the global agriculture arena, it has raised opposition and controversy, particularly around its work in Africa. Critics say that the Gates Foundation is promoting an imported model of industrial agriculture based on the high-tech seeds and chemicals sold by US corporations. They say the foundation is fixated on the work of scientists in centralised labs and that it chooses to ignore the knowledge and biodiversity that Africa’s small farmers have developed and maintained over generations. Some also charge that the Gates Foundation is using its money to impose a policy agenda on Africa, accusing the foundation of direct intervention on highly controversial issues like seed laws and GMOs.

GRAIN looked through the foundation’s publicly available financial records to see if the actual flows of money support these critiques. We combed through all the grants for agriculture that the Gates Foundation gave between 2003 and September 2014.3 We then organised the grant recipients into major groupings (see table 2) and constructed a database, which can be downloaded here.4

Here are some of the conclusions we were able to draw from the data.

1. The Gates Foundation fights hunger in the South by giving money to the North.

Click to enlarge – Graph 1: the Gates Foundation’s $3 billion pie (agriculture grants, by region).

Click to enlarge – Graph 1: the Gates Foundation’s $3 billion pie (agriculture grants, by region).

Graph 1 and Table 1 give the overall picture. Roughly half of the foundation’s grants for agriculture went to four big groupings: the CGIAR’s global agriculture research network, international organisations (World Bank, UN agencies, etc.), AGRA (set up by Gates itself) and the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF). The other half ended up with hundreds of different research, development and policy organisations across the world. Of this last group, over 80% of the grants were given to organisations in the US and Europe, 10% went to groups in Africa, and the remainder elsewhere. Table 2 lists the top 10 countries where Gates grantees are located and the amounts they received, highlighting some of the main grantees. By far the main recipient country is Gates’s own home country, the US, followed by the UK, Germany and the Netherlands.

When it comes to agricultural grants by the foundation to universities and national research centres across the world, 79% went to grantees in the US and Europe, and a meagre 12% to recipients in Africa.

The North-South divide is most shocking, however, when we look at the NGOs that the Gates Foundation supports. One would assume that a significant portion of the frontline work that the foundation funds in Africa would be carried out by organisations based there. But of the $669 million that the Gates Foundation has granted to non-governmental organisations for agricultural work, over three quarters has gone to organisations based in the US. Africa-based NGOs get a meagre 4% of the overall agriculture-related grants to NGOs.

2. The Gates Foundation gives to scientists, not farmers

As can be seen in Graph 2, the single biggest recipient of grants from the Gates Foundation is the CGIAR, a consortium of 15 international agricultural research centres. In the 1960s and 70s, these centres were responsible for the development and spread of a controversial Green Revolution model of agriculture in parts of Asia and Latin America which focused on the mass distribution of a few varieties of seeds that could produce high yields – with the generous application of chemical fertilisers and pesticides. Efforts to implement the same model in Africa failed and, globally, the CGIAR lost relevance as corporations like Syngenta and Monsanto took control over seed markets. Money from the Gates Foundation is providing CGIAR and its Green Revolution model a new lease on life, this time in direct partnership with seed and pesticide companies.5

Click to enlarge – Graph 2: the Gates Foundation’s $3 billion pie (agriculture grants, by type of organisation).

Click to enlarge – Graph 2: the Gates Foundation’s $3 billion pie (agriculture grants, by type of organisation).

The CGIAR centres have received over $720 million from Gates since 2003. During the same period, another $678 million went to universities and national research centres across the world – over three-quarters of them in the US and Europe – for research and development of specific technologies, such as crop varieties and breeding techniques.

The Gates Foundation’s support for AGRA and the AATF is tightly linked to this research agenda. These organisations seek, in different ways, to facilitate research by the CGIAR and other research programmes supported by the Gates Foundation and to ensure that the technologies that come out of the labs get into farmers’ fields. AGRA trains farmers on how to use the technologies, and even organises them into groups to better access the technologies, but it does not support farmers in building up their own seed systems or in doing their own research.6

We could find no evidence of any support from the Gates Foundation for programmes of research or technology development carried out by farmers or based on farmers’ knowledge, despite the multitude of such initiatives that exist across the continent. (African farmers, after all, do continue to supply an estimated 90% of the seed used on the continent!) The foundation has consistently chosen to put its money into top down structures of knowledge generation and flow, where farmers’ are mere recipients of the technologies developed in labs and sold to them by companies.

3. The Gates Foundation buys political influence

Does the Gates Foundation use its money to tell African governments what to do? Not directly. The Gates Foundation set up the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa in 2006 and has supported it with $414 million since then. It holds two seats on the Alliance’s board and describes it as the “African face and voice for our work”.7

AGRA, like the Gates Foundation, provides grants to research programmes. It also funds initiatives and agribusiness companies operating in Africa to develop private markets for seeds and fertilisers through support to “agro-dealers” (see box on Malawi). An important component of its work, however, is shaping policy.

AGRA intervenes directly in the formulation and revision of agricultural policies and regulations in Africa on such issues as land and seeds. It does so through national “policy action nodes” of experts, selected by AGRA, that work to advance particular policy changes. For example, in Ghana, AGRA’s Seed Policy Action Node drafted revisions to the country’s national seed policy and submitted it to the government. The Ghana Food Sovereignty Network has been fiercely battling such policies since the government put them forward. In Mozambique, AGRA’s Seed Policy Action Node drafted plant variety protection regulations in 2013, and in Tanzania it reviewed national seed policies and presented a study on the demand for certified seeds. Also in Tanzania, its Land Policy Action Node is involved in revising the Village Land Act as well as “reviewing laws governing land titling at the district level and working closely with district officials to develop guidelines for formulation of by-laws.”8

The African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) is another Gates Foundation supported organisation that straddles the technology and policy arenas. Since 2008, it has received $95 million from the Gates Foundation, which it used to to support the development and distribution of hybrid maize and rice varieties. But it also uses funds from the Gates Foundation to “positively change public perceptions” about GMOs and to lobby for regulatory changes that will increase the adoption of GM products in Africa.9

In a similar vein, the Gates Foundation provides Harvard University University with funds to promote discussion of biotechnology in Africa, Michigan University with a grant to set up a centre to help African policymakers decide on how best to use biotechnology, and Cornell University with funds to create a global “agricultural communications platform” so that people better understand science-based agricultural technologies, with AATF as a main partner.

Gates & AGRA in Malawi: organising the agro-dealers

One of AGRA’s core programmes in Africa is the establishment of “agro-dealer” networks: small, private stockists who sell chemicals and seeds to farmers. In Malawi, AGRA provided a $4.3 million grant for the Malawi Agro-dealer Strengthening Programme (MASP) to supply hybrid maize seeds and chemical pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers.

The main supplier to the agro-dealers in Malawi has been Monsanto, responsible for 67% of all inputs. A Monsanto country manager disclosed that all of Monsanto’s sales of seeds and herbicides in Malawi are made through AGRA’s agro-dealer network.

“Agro-dealers… act as vessels for promoting input suppliers’ products,” says one MASP project document. Another states: “supply companies have expressed their appreciation for field days because MASP trained agro-dealers are helping them promote their products in the very remotest areas of Malawi.” Training the agro-dealers on product knowledge is carried out by the corporate suppliers of the products themselves. In addition, these agro-dealers are increasingly the source of farming advice to small farmers, and an alternative to the government’s agricultural extension service.

A project evaluation report states that 44% of the agro-dealers in the programme were providing extension services. According to the World Bank: “The agro-dealers have… become the most important extension nodes for the rural poor… A new form of private sector driven extension system is emerging in these countries.” The agro-dealer project in Malawi has been implemented by CNFA, a US-based organisation funded by the Gates Foundation, USAID and DFID, and its local affiliate the Rural Market Development Trust (RUMARK), whose trustees include four seed and chemical suppliers: Monsanto, SeedCo, Farmers World and Farmers Association.

Listening to farmers?

“Listening to farmers and addressing their specific needs” is the first guiding principle of the Gates Foundation’s work on agriculture.10 But it is hard to listen to someone when you cannot hear them. Small farmers in Africa do not participate in the spaces where the agendas are set for the agricultural research institutions, NGOs or initiatives, like AGRA, that the Gates Foundation supports. These spaces are dominated by foundation reps, high-level politicians, business executives, and scientists.

Listening to someone, if it has any real significance, should also include the intent to learn. But nowhere in the programmes funded by the Gates Foundation is there any indication that it believes that Africa’s small farmers have anything to teach, that they have anything to contribute to research, development and policy agendas. The continent’s farmers are always cast as the recipients, the consumers of knowledge and technology from others. In practice, the foundation’s first guiding principle appears to be a marketing exercise to sell its technologies to farmers. In that, it looks, not surprisingly, a lot like Microsoft. … Full article with tables and notes

November 3, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Economics, Environmentalism, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , | 1 Comment

The Girl Who Stole My Holocaust

Review by Jessica Purkiss

The Girl Who Stole my Holocaust is essentially about an epiphany. Noam Chayut’s memoir charts his journey from a battle hardened soldier protecting an illegal occupation into a conscientious man who relentlessly confronts the injustice of that occupation. As the novel progresses through its 36 chapters the reader bears witness to the unravelling of Noam the Zionist, the enthusiastic IDF recruit and the military fundraiser.

The catalyst to this unravelling is a young girl who he encounters during a raid on a Palestinian village while he is still a soldier. The pure terror he sees in her face makes Noam realise that he is “playing the role of absolute evil in the play of her life”. The absolute evil that has governed his life, in the shadow of which he has grown up under- the Holocaust, begins to disintegrate.

The association of the Holocaust and the occupation is a daring one. It is also insightful – it demonstrates the role the historical victimhood of the Jewish people plays in the Israeli psyche. While the book is about Noam’s personal journey, it also tells us much about the hegemonic Israeli narrative.

Noam does not shy away from confronting his own racism and his actions as an Israeli soldier in a painfully honest manner. As he exposes the actions of others via testimonies collected as a member of Breaking the Silence, a group of ex-soldiers who seek to make people aware of the conduct of the Israeli military, he uncovers a sustained pattern of behaviour which makes up a whole system of abuse.

Noam ends his memoir with a letter to the young girl he encountered. It reads: “That’s probably why you think that my horror is inferior to yours. But know that my idea of absolute evil stretches beyond anything your wildest imagination could conceive.” The letter reads almost like a lecture to the wronged and an attempt to minimise the “absolute evil” she perceives. This cannot be Noam’s intention, for the rest of the book is deeply self-aware. In this one paragraph he has marred the memoir. This should, however, not deter anyone from reading what is a startling and brutally honest account of one Israeli soldier’s journey of questioning.

November 3, 2014 Posted by | Book Review, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , | 1 Comment

Revealed: Ferguson no-fly zone was meant to keep media away

RT | November 3, 2014

The 37-mile no-fly zone around Ferguson, implemented after the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a police officer in August, was designed to keep the press out, phone recordings obtained by AP via the Freedom of Information Act reveal.

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) imposed a 12-day no-fly zone in compliance with requests from local police after protests erupted in response to the August 9th police shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen. At the time, the official reason given for the restriction was safety precautions. However, in audio recordings, officials are heard admitting that the real reason for the flight restriction was to keep news helicopters from flying over the St. Louis suburb.

The St. Louis Police department maintained that the restricted fly zone was instituted in response to shots fired at a police helicopter, although they were not able to provide an incident report on the shooting, according to AP.

FAA air traffic controllers attempted to reword the flight ban, which had initially banned all air traffic in the 37-mile radius, to let commercial flights operate at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, but prohibit other flights, on August 12th, the day after the restriction was first established.

Effectively putting an end to media presence in the skies, the amended restriction read, “Only relief aircraft operations under direction of St. Louis County Police Department are authorized in the airspace. Aircraft landing and departing St. Louis Lambert Airport are exempt.”

An FAA manger was recorded saying that the police “did not care if you ran commercial traffic through this TFR (temporary flight restriction) all day long. They didn’t want media in there.”

Police wanted to extend the ban following the release of the shooting officer’s identity, which was lifted on August 22nd, reports AP.

Police response to the civic unrest in Ferguson has been widely criticized. Use of tear gas, accusations of excessive force, and journalist arrests were reported.

The recordings raise further concern about police conduct and the compliance of the federal government in suppressing the constitutional rights of journalists.

One FAA official is heard asking a manager about the purpose of the ban, acknowledging the problematic nature of a media specific restriction.

“So are [the police] protecting aircraft from small-arms fire or something?” he asked. “Or do they think they’re just going to keep the press out of there, which they can’t do.”

Michael Huerta, an FAA administrator, denied the national agency was compliant in banning media from Ferguson airspace.

“FAA cannot and will never exclusively ban media from covering an event of national significance, and media was never banned from covering the ongoing events in Ferguson in this case,” he said in statement on Sunday.

READ MORE Top 10 ways Barack Obama has muzzled American media

November 3, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , | Leave a comment

Argentine Government Suspends Procter & Gamble Operations

teleSUR | November 3, 2014

Argentine authorities this Sunday accused Procter & Gamble of tax fraud and suspended its operations in the country.

The government of the South American country suspended domestic operations for the transnational company Procter & Gamble for fiscal fraud and capital flight in import operations from Brazil for US$138 million that were being billed through a Swiss subsidiary.

The Argentina Tax Bureau (AFIP) stated that the alleged operations allowed for currency to leave the country and to reduce its tax payments.

“Our main goal is for P&G to return the dollars taken out of the country to the central bank and to pay customs penalties and the income tax that was evaded by manipulating transfer prices,” Ricardo Echegaray, the chief tax collector said in the statement.

Procter & Gamble has been conducting business in Argentina since 1991 and currently manages three manufacturing plants and two distribution centers.

Meanwhile, Argentine President Cristina Fernandez has been enhancing efforts to fight against tax evasion and capital flight to boost tax collections.

Last week, Argentina was among 51 countries to sign an agreement to automatically share tax information as part of an OECD and G20 initiative to tackle tax evasion.

Argentina made up the group of 48 nations who pledged to launch their first information exchanges by September 2017, with the three remaining countries on the list expected to follow in 2018.

November 3, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Economics | , | 1 Comment

Palestine state: Israeli nightmare or last push for two-state solution?

Press TV -November 3, 2014

In recent weeks two countries – Sweden and the UK – have recognized Palestine as a state. The UK parliament vote in particular – during which MPs heavily criticized Israel and its settlement policies – was hailed by many Palestinian activists as a great step forward.

On today’s show we’ll be looking at the significance of these latest developments. With direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority going nowhere, will increasing international recognition of Palestine put more pressure on Tel Aviv?

Or is this the international community’s last attempt at salvaging the two-state solution, which many Palestinians themselves now reject?

November 3, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Video | , , , | 4 Comments

Eastern Ukraine Independence Leaders Win the Elections

teleSUR | November 3, 2014

The incumbent prime ministers of the eastern Ukrainian People’s Republic of Donetsk and the Republic of Lugansk, Alexander Zakharchenko, and Igor Plotinitski, respectively, won the elections, according to preliminary results revealed by the Ruptly news agency.

The preliminary results show that Zakharchenko received over 70 percent of the votes, while Plotnitski received 63 percent. Zakharchenko’s closest rival, the vice president of the joint parliament of Donetsk and Lugansk, Alexander Kofman, received about 10 percent of the votes.

The initial results also indicate Zakharchenko’s separatist party has swept up an easy majority in the DPR’s parliament, with over 60 percent of the vote, Russian media outlets have reported.

“The fact that we have a right to carry out our own elections was written,” Zacharchenko said. He stated that the elections don’t contravene the Minsk agreements, which were signed with Kiev in order to reestablish peace in Eastern Ukraine. “We are ready to carry out conversations with whomever is willing to listen to us.”

This Sunday the people of the Donetsk and Lugansk went to the polling stations to elect new leaders and parliaments. Voting began at 8:00 a.m. local time (05:00 GMT) and continued to do so until 22:00 p.m. (19:00 GMT). All residents over 16 years of age were eligible to vote in Donetsk and Lugansk.

“The elections, which were prepared under difficult conditions, very quickly, were nonetheless carried out in an organized way,” Russian electoral observer Leonid Slutsky told Reuters.

Sunday’s vote in the DPR and neighboring Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR) has been condemned by officials in Kiev, but backed by Moscow.

Ahead of the vote, German Chancellor Angela Merkel described the elections as “illegitimate,” though at the time of writing there were no reports from international observers of serious misconduct. Merkel had already warned Russia that the European Union would not accept the results of the elections. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had also warned Russia against recognizing the rebel held elections in the region.

“I believe the elections followed international standards of democratic elections. I was very impressed with the enthusiasm and the vigor with which the people went to the polls to express their opinion,” electoral observer and U.S. Senior Attorney Frank Abernathy told RT in Lugansk.

A DPR official told Russia’s Itar-Tass the most serious incident was a bomb threat, which later turned out to be a false alarm.

On the frontlines, however, clashes continued between DPR fighters and Ukrainian government forces. The fierce combat has left a death toll of over 300 people dead in the last 10 days, in spite of a bilateral cease-fire that was put into effect September 5.

Last Sunday, Ukraine also held parliamentary elections, which were won by the right wing party of Petro Poroshenko. The results were recognized by Russia.

November 3, 2014 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | Leave a comment

A Most Important Book for All Who Study National Liberations

Unfree in Palestine

By Denis Rancourt | Dissident Voice | November 2, 2014

The new book by academics Nadia Abu-Zahra and Adah Kay — Unfree in Palestine: Registration, Documentation and Movement Restrictions (PlutoPress, 2013) — is a brilliant achievement, and a landmark in the study of both the ongoing Israel genocide in Palestine,1 and national liberation struggles in general.

At first look the book is simply a well-researched academic treatise, with 693 endnotes, about administrative controls imposed on Palestinians by Israel. It is written in a sober style with great intellectual clarity.

As one enters its pages, however, Unfree becomes a far reaching analysis of the mechanics of a colonial state’s eradication and domination of an indigenous population, that has parallels in other modern states such as Canada.2 And it becomes an incisive description of the psychological and cultural anatomy of the awe-inspiring Palestinian resistance.

The unstated lessons of this book are transportable to any colonial nation state, and the picture is one that exposes the vicious nature of colonialism in the institutional instruments that are used. Despite the balanced and academic approach of the authors, readers will be horrified to learn the minutia of  what Palestinian citizens continue to endure in “the only democracy in the Middle East”, and to learn the history of Israel’s colonialism through the lens of administrative controls.

How has and does Israel contravene international law? Let us count the ways…

… the Hague Regulations, the Covenant of the League of Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Fourth Geneva Convention, various United Nations Resolutions, the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

These legal documents run parallel to another story – that of the largest denationalisation project in modern history. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees describes Palestine as “by far the most protracted and largest of all refugee problems in the world today”.2 In Palestine, the tools of the census, the population registry, and residence permits effectively denationalised a nation. It is one of the greatest ironies that, as nationalism faded in Europe, it waxed in the Zionist movement to Palestine, and as international law opposed denationalisation, denationalisation in Palestine rose ever higher. [p. 20]

One of the most profound chapters in Unfree is the one entitled “Coercion and Collaboration” (Chap. 4). The authors recognize that colonialists always depend on collaborators, and that any colonialist enterprise must implement a strategy for securing collaboration. Israel’s methods to coerce Palestinians to become collaborators in its genocide are violations of the explicit language of international statutes, and are inhuman, as the facts presented demonstrate. The authors always summarize by understating, such as:

The pressure to collaborate is one of the most difficult demands on Palestinians who either need IDs or need to retrieve them. This pressure permeates and is instrumental to the perpetuation of the system of control. [p. 83]

At times, the explicit descriptions of documented Israeli war and occupation crimes overpowers any human reader, such as:

In the first decade after 1948, “curfews became the most common method of controlling Palestinians”.68 Perhaps the best-known incident in this period took place in 1956, in the village of Kafr Qassem. The Israeli army gave only a half hour’s notice to the village leader that a curfew would take effect at sunset. With no way of telling the villagers returning home at dusk, the villagers were surprised to be confronted by armed forces asking if they were from the village. When they said “yes”, 47 men, women, and children were shot dead, one by one, at close range, in the first hour of the curfew alone.69

Defending the premeditated massacre, Brigadier Shadmi had told his forces, “A dead man is better than the complications of detention”. Shadmi and his men eventually served short prison sentences, were formally pardoned, and then promoted to leading roles in Palestinian municipalities and the Dimona nuclear facilities.70 [p. 106]

There are descriptions of routine Israeli interferences with births, and with Palestinian health services in general:

Médecins du Monde reported in November 2003 that Israeli officials had been holding birth delivery kits at the airport for seven months (sent by the United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA). The Ministry of Health in Nablus had been waiting for these kits since February 2003. In 2002, when Palestinian needs were greatest after Israeli attacks, Israeli officials at the airport kept medicines for eight months – until one third of them had expired – that had been sent from Germany, the US, and Italy to the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees.23 [p. 129]

Some of the introductory summaries to chapters are among the most compelling academic statements on the treatment of Palestinians by Israel, such as:

In the spring of 2002, yellow and purple blossoms covered the fields and trees around Jenin, a Palestinian town named for the fertility of its earth, and known for the largest forested area in the West Bank. But that spring, the forest had a different use. Israeli army forces were sweeping through the West Bank, taking over 8,500 Palestinians from their homes and workplaces and holding them captive in makeshift camps. Around Jenin, the army separated the men aged between about 18 to 50 from the children, women, and older men; then they took the men to the forest: handcuffed, blindfolded, in their underwear; they were forced to kneel or squat in the cold mud, and denied blankets, food, and water.1

Soldiers had written the ID numbers on Palestinians’ wrists with blue ink.2 Then each man was photographed, interrogated with the use of a digital file containing details about his life, and had his ID number written on the back of the photo. Using plastic shackles – described by Amnesty International as a form of torture because they stop blood circulation and cut into the skin – to bind captives’ hands, they blindfolded them, and kept them, “squatting, sitting or kneeling, not allowed to go to the toilet, and deprived of food or blankets during at least the first 24 hours”.3

Majdi Shehadeh was one of over 600 Palestinians taken from Tulkarem refugee camp:

“We weren’t given any food, and when we asked for water they poured it over us. The handcuffs were tight and when the blindfolds were taken off on our arrival I saw some people with hands black and swollen.4″

By 3.30 a.m. they began to shake with cold. Elsewhere, in the Ramallah area, so many Palestinians were taken that the army forced them into a dried-up septic tank for lack of space in the prisons.5 After a day and a half, they were given their first food:

[F]or 10 people we got a tomato and an apple and we shared this. Every six people had a loaf of bread, but a very small one and 200 grams of yoghurt.6

From 1967 to 2006, Israel incarcerated almost 700,000 Palestinians, that is, nearly one-fifth of the Palestinian population of the West Bank and Gaza.7


Harvard professor Sara Roy, whose father carried an identification number imprinted on his arm in the Second World War, was one of those who noticed the connections between these so-called bureaucratic elements during the 2002 mass arrests:

“[W]hat does it mean when Israeli soldiers paint identification numbers on Palestinian arms; when young Palestinian men and boys of a certain age are told through Israeli loudspeakers to gather in the town square; when Israeli soldiers openly admit to shooting Palestinian children for sport; when some of the Palestinian dead must be buried in mass graves while the bodies of others are left in city streets and camp alleyways because the army will not allow proper burial; when certain Israeli officials and Jewish intellectuals publicly call for the destruction of Palestinian villages in retaliation for suicide bombings or for the transfer of the Palestinian population out of the West Bank and Gaza; when 46 per cent of the Israeli public favors such transfers and when transfer or expulsion becomes a legitimate part of popular discourse; when government officials speak of the “cleansing of the refugee camps”; and when a leading Israeli intellectual calls for hermetic separation between Israelis and Palestinians in the form of a Berlin Wall, caring not whether the Palestinians on the other side of the wall may starve to death as a result.10″ [p. 160, 161]

Finally, a most fascinating section of Unfree explains the Palestinian spirit and culture of resistance that is termed “sumud“. The following sequence of quotes from Unfree constitutes a description of sumud:

“We Palestinians have learned to lose without being defeated.30″ [p. 172]

Sumud is […] described by Edward Said as “a way of turning presence into small-scale obduracy”,33 in which sheer presence constitutes resistance; it contradicts “the natural behavior expected … exodus and leaving”.34 [p. 172]

The internationalisation of the term sumud is attributed to Shehadeh, who explains that, faced with the two options of “mute submission” or “blind hate”, he would choose the third: sumud.35 [p. 173]

People in difficult conditions like Hani Amer often refer to their children, their families, and all people suffering collectively, as reasons for staying in place. [p. 173]

[Quoting Anthropologist Rema Hammami:]

“In terms of the society’s self-image, this is a society that for more than fifty years has lived in a constant state of dispossession. [It is] an incremental dispossession: it goes on, and on, and on. And the society is extremely strong in terms of survival, in terms of survival strategies. It’s very proud of that as well.

I mean, I think the self-image that most Palestinians have – we all have of ourselves – is that, “We are constant losers. We’re just people, and we just lose all the time. And we lose, but you know what? At the end of the day, they are not going to win. Because we’re stubborn. We’re stubborn bastards, right. I got nowhere else to go. This is my home. They can do what the hell they want. But I’m staying”.41″ [p. 174]

Thus, sumud is a powerful and foundational explanation of the phenomenal Palestinian resistance. Sumud is a psychological alternative to suicidal physical resistance against a vastly more powerful invader, and to fleeing or accepting death. This alternative is made possible by being culturally embedded, and the feasibility of sumud is consistent with the “self-image-incongruence model of individual health” that I have recently described, based on known socio-medical research.3

There is one aspect of Unfree with which I do not agree. In their final chapter, the authors cast sumud as a technique of non-violent resistance. I do not see why the cultural and psychological basis for sumud would have to be inconsistent with a resistance that includes armed self-defence.

In other words, there is no reason, in my view, that sumud is at odds with an armed intifada. Indeed, it seems to me that sumud and armed rebellion are natural partners and supporters of each other, and that neither can survive without the other.

This is important because it is becoming more-than-apparent that nothing short of physical force on the ground will stop Israel in its “cleansing” and “grass mowing” projects. Certainly sumud alone, no matter how noble and admirable, is no match for years and decades more of business as usual in Palestine. Applying the myth of pacifism as a realistic counter to a genocidal maniac nation such as Israel would only ensure the murder of Palestinian society.

Nonetheless, that is a minor interpretational aspect, and Unfree, will be of great benefit to anyone interested in the truth about the so-called “Israel-Palestine conflict”, or interested in resistance struggles in history and in colonized regions (everywhere).

  1. Note: The authors of Unfree do not qualify Israel colonialism as a “genocide”. It is not their goal to establish any legal judgements, but rather solely to factually describe the historic realities on the ground.
  2. See: Rancourt, Denis G., Israel’s Attempted Genocide Must Fail — Lessons from genocide in “Canada”, Dissident Voice, August 2, 2014.
  3. See: Rancourt, Denis G., Self-Image-Incongruence Theory of Individual Health, Dissident Voice, October 26, 2014.

Denis G. Rancourt is a former tenured and Full Professor of physics at the University of Ottawa, Canada. He is known for his applications of physics education research (TVO Interview). He has published over 100 articles in leading scientific journals, and has written several social commentary essays. He is the author of the book Hierarchy and Free Expression in the Fight Against Racism. While he was at the University of Ottawa, he supported student activism and opposed the influence of the Israel lobby on that institution, which fired him for a false pretext in 2009: LINK.

November 3, 2014 Posted by | Book Review, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

Palestinian stone-throwers face up to 20 years in Israel prison

Al-Akhbar | November 3, 2014

Israeli cabinet on Sunday approved an amendment to the Israeli penal code to enable more severe punishment against Palestinians convicted of involvement in “stone-throwing” attacks against Israeli targets.

stones2The new sections, which will be added to the Israeli penal code, would allow the imposition of a prison sentence up to 20 years for those convicted of throwing stones or other objects at Israeli vehicles.

“Israel is strongly acting against terrorists, against who throw stones, Molotov cocktails and fireworks,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the weekly cabinet meeting.

Netanyahu went on to say that the new legislation aims to restore what he called “peace to all parts of Jerusalem.”

“We will dedicate massive force and an aggressive legislation to restore quiet and security to every part of our capital,” he added.

The new code would slap an imprisonment sentence of ten years against whoever throws stones or other objects at vehicles and 20 years for doing so with the view of exposing passengers to danger. Whoever throws rocks at police cars in order to obstruct the work of Israeli police will be jailed for up to five years.

Moreover, the law would also allow Israeli forces to imprison Palestinian minors under the pretext of allegedly endangering the lives of Israelis by throwing stones.

On Friday, Israeli Occupation Forces in occupied East Jerusalem attempted to detain two Palestinian children, a two-year-old and a nine-year old, on suspicion of throwing stones.

Last week, Israeli forces detained four Palestinian children, aged 13 to 16, for allegedly throwing stones at Israeli cars.

In 2013, a group of seven Israeli soldiers and an officer detained 5-year old Wadi’a Maswadeh after the boy allegedly threw a stone at a Zionist settler’s car at a checkpoint near Hebron.

According to a 2013 UN children’s fund’s report, over the past decade, Israeli forces have arrested, interrogated and prosecuted around 7,000 children between 12 and 17, mostly boys, noting the rate was equivalent to “an average of two children each day.”

A report by Defense for Children International (DCI) published in May 2014 said Israeli jails 20 percent of Palestinian children prisoners in solitary confinement. … Full article

November 3, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , | 1 Comment