The Electronic Intifada (ei): “Bay Area residents attempted a citizen’s arrest of former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, while he gave a speech to the World Affairs Council in San Francisco on 22 October 2009. Twenty-two people were arrested for challenging Olmert directly and demanding he be tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon.” (8:59):

Text of the arrest warrant here. From the press release supplied by Northern California Palestine justice groups (via ei):

Olmert ordered Israel’s brutal attacks on Gaza beginning in late December 2008, code-named Operation Cast Lead. Last week, the UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution endorsing the Goldstone report, an independent investigation into the Gaza operation, which found that Israel violated international law and possibly committed crimes against humanity.

“Israel is an apartheid state guilty of war crimes and its leaders should not be welcome in San Francisco,” said Lisa Nessan, a Jewish resident of Oakland, who has traveled several times to Israel and Palestine, most recently in May. “For the past 60 years, under leadership like Olmert’s, Israel has denied Palestinians their basic human rights, built settlements on their lands, and killed civilians—all to force them from their homeland.”

A lively protest also gathered across from the hotel in Union Square, where about 150 persons carried signs bearing the names and pictures of children killed during Operation Cast Lead. Olmert is making several appearances in the U.S. this month, and has been met with strong protests at locations including the University of Chicago and Tulane University in New Orleans. “We join with people around the world who believe that Israel and its leaders must be held accountable for their actions. Israel killed 1,400 people during its attacks on Gaza last winter alone, and many more have died or suffered from the effects of siege, occupation, and apartheid on their daily lives,” said Monadel Herzallah, a Palestinian activist who lives in Fairfield and whose 21-year-old cousin was killed in Gaza in January.

Organizers also expressed outrage that U.S. President Barack Obama has ignored the findings of the Goldstone report. The U.S. has pledged more than $3 billion each year in unrestricted aid to Israel. “Israel’s use of US aid and military equipment violates our own laws,” said Rae Abileah, an organizer with CODEPINK whose father is Israeli. “Why are we giving aid to a country that is destroying people’s homes and attacking civilians, while our own nation is struggling with unemployment and underfunded social services?”

Ali Abunimah, co-founder of ei, wrote at The Chicago Maroon—student newspaper at the University of Chicago—days after protesting the former prime minister’s speech at the university:

The killings of more than 3,000 Palestinians and Lebanese during Olmert’s three years in office are not mere differences of opinion to be challenged with a polite question written on a pre-screened note card. They are crimes for which Olmert is accountable before international law and public opinion….

When I and others verbally confronted Olmert, we stood for academic freedom, human rights, and justice, especially for hundreds of thousands of students deprived of those same rights by Olmert’s actions.

During Israel’s attack on Gaza last winter, schools and universities were among the primary targets. According to the Goldstone report, Israeli military attacks destroyed or damaged at least 280 schools and kindergartens. In total, 164 pupils and 12 teachers were killed, and 454 pupils and five teachers injured.

After the bombing, Olmert and Israel continued their attack on academic freedom, blocking educational supplies from reaching Gaza. Textbooks, notebooks, stationery, and computers are among the forbidden items. In September, Chris Gunness, spokesman for [U.N. Relief and Works Agency], the U.N. agency for Palestine refugees, publicly appealed to Israel to lift its ban on books and other supplies from reaching Gaza’s traumatized students.

Israel destroyed buildings at the Islamic University and other universities. According to the Goldstone report, these “were civilian, educational buildings and the Mission did not find any information about their use as a military facility or their contribution to a military effort that might have made them a legitimate target in the eyes of the Israeli armed forces.”…

Crimes against humanity are defined as “crimes that shock the conscience.” When the institutions with the moral and legal responsibility to punish and prevent the crimes choose complicit silence—-or, worse, harbor a suspected war criminal, already on trial for corruption in Israel, and present him to students as a paragon of “leadership”—then disobedience, if that is what it takes to break the silence, is an ethical duty. Instead of condemning them, the University should be proud that its students were among those who had the courage to stand up.

The editors of Little Alex in Wonderland, Alex and Sayyid, were in Hyde Park to protest at U. Chicago in solidarity against the Israel government’s crimes against humanity and its collaborators, the Obama Administration.

Recording and photography were banned at the prime minister’s request by U. Chicago. ei got footage anyway (7:32):


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