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New Israeli Military Order = Pass Laws and Ethnic Cleansing
By Ziad Abbas, Associate Director
This month, as Palestinians all over the world commemorate the Nakba, a new Israeli military order just went into effect that sets the stage for massive deportation of Palestinians living in the West Bank. the Nakba—Arabic for “catastrophe”—refers to the ethnic cleansing of three-quarters of the Palestinian population in the years before, during and after the establishment of the state of Israel in May 1948. An estimated 750,000 Palestinians were driven from their homes and have lived in refugee camps or in exile around the world ever since. My own parents and my extended family were forced from the village of Zakaria to Dheisheh Refugee Camp in the West Bank, where I was born. Zakaria, a place I am rarely allowed to visit, is now a scenic Jewish-only suburb of Jerusalem. Ethnic cleansing policies have been applied in Palestine since the Nakba and continue to this day. For example, tens of thousands of Palestinians have lost their right to reside in Jerusalem because of policies regarding building permits, residency requirements and land ownership enacted over decades. If a Palestinian living in Israel marries a Palestinian from the West Bank, they cannot live together in Israel. Bedouin Palestinians living in so-called “unrecognized villages” in the Naqab (Negev) desert inside Israel are regularly evicted and their homes are demolished. There are countless other examples of efforts to drive Palestinians out, including the continuous seizure and destruction of land, businesses and homes in the West Bank and the systematic isolation and deprivation of Palestinians in Gaza. Now, Military Order 1650, claiming to “prevent infiltration,” legally categorizes thousands of Palestinians as criminals simply
Beit Furik checkpoint, West Bank, Palestine photo: michaelramallah, www.flickr.com
for living in their homeland. People arrested under the order will face deportation, a prison sentence of up to seven years, and fines of 7,500 NIS ($2,000), unless they have a special permit issued by the Israeli military. But no one knows what these permits are or how to get one. Judgment of deportation orders resides with committees appointed by local military commanders, effectively making appeals impossible. There’s a lot of uncertainty about Military Order 1650, but one thing seems clear: This order will further divide Palestinians from each other, permanently separating those living in the West Bank from those in Gaza. Before the near total closure of the Gaza Strip, many Gazans moved to the West Bank for work or to be with family. They will be impacted the most by this new order. As I’m writing, a man named Ahmad Sayeed Sabah was deported. He was born in Gaza but had lived in the West Bank for the past fifteen years with his wife and child. He was due to be released from an Israeli prison when 1650 went into effect. He was taken by the military directly to Gaza, without any judicial review, and without being given any opportunity to see his family. Palestinian officials in Gaza don’t want to set a precedent by relocating these new deportees, so he is stuck in limbo, unable to return to his life in the West Bank.
My brother-in-law who was born in the Gaza Strip has lived in the West Bank since marrying my sister more than forty years ago. Will their marriage be ended by a military order?
New Israeli Military Order continued on page 3
Letter from Barbara
I had just been elected to the Board of Education in Berkeley when the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon began and the massacre at Sabra and Shatila refugee camps took place. Approximately 2,000 Palestinian refugees—unarmed women, children and old men—were murdered. A group of Palestinian students from San Francisco State University came to see me and asked me why I spoke about so many peace and justice issues but was silent about what was happening to Palestinians. This was my introduction to the issue of Palestine. In 1948, about 100,000 Palestinians from the north of Palestine--Haifa, Acre, Safed, and the Galilee region--were forced to leave their homes, their land, and their businesses and flee to Lebanon to escape the violence of the pre-state Zionist forces. They believed they would be able to return in a few days. Most of them only brought the keys to their homes with them. It is now 62 years later and those families—now nearly half a million people—are still living in horrendous conditions in twelve refugee camps in Lebanon. Since 1978 they have been displaced inside Lebanon again and again by Israeli attacks and armed conflicts among Lebanon’s many political factions. Israel initiated wars in Lebanon in 1978, 1982-85, and 2006, and occupied the southern part of the country for more than twenty years. I was fortunate to be at a conference in Beirut when the Israeli military was finally forced to leave Lebanon in 2000. I got a ride with a young journalist who drove me and a friend to the southern border with Israel where we met many of the young men who had just been released from an Israeli military prison. They told us stories of their years of horrendous torture during their imprisonment. Thousands of people came from all over the country to meet the prisoners and celebrate their release. They came in cars, trucks, busses, and on donkeys and horses. Everyone was crying and hugging. People danced and sang songs of struggle and old Palestinian folk songs. It was an amazing moment for me also to see their pain and the joy all at once. I thought it couldn’t get more emotional. Then suddenly busses and cars started arriving on the Israeli side of the border fence and Palestinians poured out and started calling to the
by Barbara Lubin MECA’s Executive Director
crowd of Palestinian refugees on the Lebanese side. Everyone was calling out family names and the names of villages they came from. Grandparents, parents, children, cousins, aunts and uncles saw and kissed each other through the wire fence. They shared new and old photographs and exchanged gifts. Some of the older people fainted, everyone was crying. It was a moment I will never forget. MECA began working in Lebanon in 1991 when we delivered $1.2 million in medical aid to Palestinians in refugee camps and sent thousands of medical textbooks and journals to hospitals in Beirut. During the Israeli war in 2006, we sent $1.4 million of medical aid and supported relief organizations working in Palestinian refugee camps and remote villages. In 2007 MECA sent $5,000 to provide basic necessities to hundreds of families who were forced to flee the Nahr El-Bared Refugee Camp when the Lebanese army attacked a militant group hiding out in the camp. Two years ago, MECA began our partnership with Playgrounds for Palestine, founded by the author Susan Abulhawa (see page 5). We helped them build playgrounds in Nahr El-Bared and Ein El-Hilweh refugee camps, Lebanon. A third is under construction in Neirab Refugee Camp, Syria. This month MECA will send a large aid shipment to Palestinian and Iraqi refugee families in Lebanon. (See Page 7) Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan have a shared history with the refugees in Gaza and the West Bank, and the same rights under international law. They can’t be written out of Palestine’s past and they have a central role to play in creating a just and lasting political solution for the future. MECA’s work will continue to focus on making life better for children in Palestinian refugee camps, while educating people about their lives and their rights.
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New Israeli Military Order continued from page1
Human rights groups estimate that as many as 200,000 people in the West Bank now face the possibility of being uprooted, deported, or arrested at any moment. Besides people born in Gaza, this could include: Palestinians who grew up in exile and came to live in the West Bank; international solidarity activists and human rights workers; and foreigners married to West Bank Palestinians. No doubt, the Israeli state is counting on some people to feel so afraid for their future that they will take initiative and leave “voluntarily.” The intention of this military order is not difficult to see. Palestinian population growth is perceived by many Israeli leaders as a “ticking time bomb” or “demographic threat” that will interfere with the goal of maintaining a Jewish majority. Clearly, by enabling the expulsion and detention of large numbers of people from the West Bank, Military Order 1650 serves the ultimate Zionist goal of a pure Jewish state. The reality, of course, is that an ethnically “pure” Jewish state is impossible. The Palestinian population is increasing rapidly, and Jews are no longer emigrating in large numbers. In just a few years, the number of Palestinians in all of historic Palestine will exceed the number of Jews. This has left the Israeli state to desperately attempt more and more strategies of ethnic cleansing that are increasingly hard to justify under international scrutiny. One strategy is extreme violence and, as we saw in Gaza in 2009, the wellspring of violence seems bottomless. Another strategy is “bureaucratic,” like Military Order 1650 that attempts to justify Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Palestinians while upholding Israel’s “democratic” mask. This is an old, vicious game. After taking the land and forcibly expelling thousands in 1948, Israel declares those who return are “infiltrators” in their own land. By criminalizing the indigenous population and those who come to support them, they justify detention and expulsion of entire families, while falsely conveying to the world that all they are doing is enforcing the law on people who do not have the proper papers. Palestinians and people everywhere who care about justice can see that Militrary Order 1650 is not about law enforcement or “security.” It’s about repression and ethnic cleansing. The South African government has compared it to apartheid pass laws, issuing a statement that says, “South Africa, because of its history, is particularly sensitive to the infringement of human rights that the carrying of a permit implies and … the unilateral punishments that can be brought to bear on an individual by the state.” The Palestinian cause is actually strengthened by the escalation of military orders because, as much as the escalation makes life harder, the hope for the Palestinians to achieve our dream of freedom grows. We expect this next period to be very brutal as Israel attempts these expulsions. When students marched against
the pass laws in South Africa in 1960, the Apartheid government opened fire on the protest killing 69 people in cold blood in the famous Sharpeville Massacre before the international community opened its eyes to what these pass laws meant. Some day the people of the world will look at Military Order 1650 with the same sense of shock and shame as the inhuman racist pass laws of the former South African Apartheid regime. Let us not wait for more deaths before we understand and act against this new military order. Let us hope the international community does not wait for another massacre before they speak out. Please act now by joining the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign (www.bdsmovement.net) to stop the ethnic cleansing of Palestine.
This poster from the Apartheid Museum in South Africa commemorates the day in 1956 when twenty thousand South African women marched against the pass laws that required ‘non-whites’ to carry identification documents to segregate the population and severely limit the movements of Blacks. Demonstrators sang a song which included the line “You strike women, you strike a rock.” Design: Damon Stapleton, Photograph: Clive Stewart
MECA NEWS 3
en to grab him,” she tells IPS. “Muslem and other children in Silwan are very distracted at school. They worry about whether they’ll be able to return home without getting attacked or taken by the police or whether they’ll even have a home to return to at the end of the day.”
By Nora Barrows-Friedman
SILWAN, EAST JERUSALEM, Mar 16, 2010 (IPS) - Three thousand heavily armed Israeli security service forces locked down large parts of the Old City of Jerusalem on Tuesday, as battalions of police fired rounds of tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets at Palestinian protesters in the occupied eastern part of the city. Nearly 40 Palestinians were wounded and treated at nearby hospitals, as 25 were arrested during intense clashes. Protests were aimed at the Netanyahu administration’s announcement of expanded illegal settlement construction in East Jerusalem and the five-day closure of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound and Palestinian institutions within the Old City. Fundamentalist settler groups held an opening ceremony for a synagogue constructed against the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, which was seen as a provocation to the Palestinian community in the area. Clashes took place in several areas of East Jerusalem, including Shu’afat refugee camp, Wadi Joz and Silwan. This comes on the heels of accelerated attacks by Israeli forces and Jewish settlers inside Silwan in particular, directed towards the community’s youngest and most vulnerable population. Since January, at least 33 children from the area have been arrested, detained and interrogated by Israeli forces as home demolitions and settler takeovers continue apace. Muslem Odeh, 10, tells IPS that he was taken by Israeli forces on Mar. 11 at 3 am, after police broke into the family’s home in Silwan’s Bustan neighbourhood and pepper-sprayed his father who attempted to protect him. “They were banging on the door, and demanded I come with them. They told me that I had thrownstones at a settler. But I never threw stones.” Guards inside the interrogation centre took Muslem around the jail and showed him the cells, threatening to hold him in one of them if he did not confess to throwing stones. At one point during the six-hour interrogation process, Muslem asked a guard if he could go to the bathroom. The guard refused. “I said, ‘would you let me go if I were a Jewish child?’” Muslem tells IPS. “And the guard was ashamed. He finally let me use the toilet.” Muslem’s mother, Hiyam Odeh, says that her son’s behaviour has changed dramatically since his arrest and interrogation. “He can’t sleep at night. When he does, he has intense nightmares. He has had hallucinations of police at the window who threat-
Murad Shafaa of the Committee to Defend Bustan Neighbourhood says that Silwan is on the frontlines of Israeli settlement expansion policy in occupied East Jerusalem. “In Bustan, these Israeli attacks have created an enormous stress on the community,” he tells IPS. “The children have been especially affected by the tension, to the point where they take their favourite toys and clothes with them to school because they fear that at any point their house could be demolished.” “The Israeli forces are threatening the families through the children,” Shafaa continues. “In the cases when the police come in and arrest the children, they will only release them on an expensive bail, and every day, the community continues to fear what will happen to their kids.”
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Sarit Michaeli of B’tselem, the Israeli Information Centre for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories in Jerusalem, says that the treatment of youth by Israeli forces has raised serious concerns regarding the overall protection of the rights of minors within the Israeli military court system. “Children should be afforded extra protection under international law,” Michaeli says. “However, Palestinian children who are arrested for allegedly throwing stones are being detained at very young ages. Palestinians are tried as adults at 16 years old, in contrast to the age of 18 for Israeli minors. They’re being held inside prisons with the adult population.” Michaeli remarks that in the context of the increasingly tense situation in Silwan, Israel’s policies of nightly raids and arrests of children especially in the Bustan neighbourhood adds to the pressure on the Palestinian community who already face imminent threats of home demolitions. She says that because the Jerusalem municipality places severe restrictions on the ability of Palestinians to obtain legal building permits in their communities, Israeli police present the policy of home demolitions as simply a matter of law enforcement. “But the Jewish settlement expansion remains constant,” she says. “And Palestinian children, in places such as Silwan, are facing disproportionate measures of punishment inside the Israeli justice system.” Defence for Children International (DCI)’s Palestine office reports that Israel’s policy of arresting children is happening at an aggressive rate throughout the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem. In a recent press release, DCI says that there are six Israeli prisons that currently hold approximately 350 Palestinian children under the age of 17. “All but one of these prisons (Ofer Prison) (are) inside Israel, in contravention of Article 76 of the Geneva Convention.” Moreover, adds Abed Jamal of DCI’s Hebron office, “arresting, detaining and imprisoning Palestinian children is in direct violation of the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child.” The Netanyahu administration, for its part, announced that it will not backpedal on its plans to continue settlement expansion in occupied East Jerusalem. “These policies of arresting and interrogating Palestinian children are meant to break the spirit of the child and their families,” Hiyam Odeh says. “But we are a strong community. We will remain steadfast, and we will not leave our homes.”
Palestinian children from Silwan stand in front of a house which received demolition order. It is home to thirty people. photo: Active Stills Credit:Anne Paq/Activestills.org
“Mornings in Jenin” Read the Book, Meet the Author
Susan Abulhawa, director of Playgrounds for Palestine has written an extraordinary novel, following four generations of a Palestinian family from their ancestral village of Ein Hod to Jenin Refugee Camp to the US and back to Palestine. MECA was delighted to host a reading and reception for Susan at our office last month. Check the calendar at www.morningsinjenin.com and be sure to see her if she comes to your community, and put “Mornings in Jenin” on your must-read list.
Abulhawa is a passionate writer whose limber, poetic style transports a reader deep inside the war-torn world she chronicles. – Maureen Corrigan, Philadelphia Inquirer The everyday life of cramped conditions, poverty, restriction, and the fear of soldiers, guns, checkpoints and beatings, would have been enough to make the novel unforgettable, but Abulhawa’s writing also shines, at best assured and unsentimental. - Anjali Joseph, (London) Independent
MECA NEWS 5
Your MECA Dollars at Work AID & PROJECT UPDATE
We are enormously grateful to all those who have raised or contributed funds for this project that is having a profound impact on the health and lives of thousands of children. If your group would like to raise funds for the Maia Project, please contact Josie Shields-Stromsness at josie@mecaforpeace. org.
The Maia Project:
BRINGING CLEAN WATER To THE CHILDREN oF PALESTINE
Let the Children Play & Heal
From April 2009 to January 2010, MECA and Afaq Jadeeda Association, an extraordinary organization in Gaza that MECA has worked with for many years, carried out an innovative program to help children and families cope with trauma and loss. “Let the Children Play and Heal” gave children in Gaza opportunities to express themselves though art, dance, music, story-telling, theater and puppetry; to get support from the larger community; and to have fun and just be children. Teams of Afaq Jadeeda’s trained staff members, supervised by a psychologist, visited 120 schools and community centers throughout Gaza to work directly with 110,000 children. In addition to the group art activities, the teams identified children who need follow-up for their physical and psychological wounds and referred them for specialized ongoing care and treatment. Afaq Jadeeda and local experts led 20-hour training courses for mothers in different areas of Gaza that gave 480 women new ideas for ways to support their children and children in their communities during this difficult time. Additionally, Afaq Jadeeda created and distributed 10,000 pamphlets for parents that give advice on dealing with children during crisis situations such as last year’s three-week assault on Gaza.
Since the Middle East Children’s Alliance launched the Maia Project in September 2009 we have funded the installation of water purification and desalination units in eleven schools, in addition to the two that were installed 2007 and 2008. These units are providing clean, safe drinking water for more than 17,000 children from pre-school to middle school. Several individuals and small foundations have donated the entire cost of one unit ($11,300 for a large unit, $3,750 for a small unit). Thirty-two people joined the Maia Project Leadership Circle with gifts of $1,000-$2,000, and hundreds more gave whatever they could. At the same time, groups around the country are raising funds for the Maia Project. Groups in Granville, Ohio and Whitefish, Montana have already funded kindergarten units. The Philadelphia Chapter of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) held an event that raised more that $2,000. MECA staff traveled to do presentation for groups who are raising funds for the Maia Project in Santa Fe and Albuquerque, New Mexico; Sacramento, Boston, Maine and Minneapolis. The Madison-Rafah Sister City Project (Wisconsin) and the US Palestinian Community Network (USPCN) have made commitments to raise funds for one unit. A Norther California brother and sister ages 10 and 12 are well on their way to raising $3,750 for a kindergarten unit.
A kindergartener in Maghazi Refugee Camp, Gaza drinks clean water from a Maia Project unit installed in Dec 2009 thanks to supporters in Granville, ohio. photo: Mohammed Majdalawi
Sign MECA’s Online Petition
The Israeli occupation is the source of Gaza’s water crisis. By denying the Gaza population access to clean water, Israel is in violation of international law, which says that that the occupying power is responsible for the well being of the population. Please go to www.mecaforpeace.org and sign MECA’s online petition to President obama calling on him to demand that Israel: Lift the blockade on Gaza and allow immediate entry to Gaza of spare parts and construction and other material and equipment needed for the repair, reconstruction and maintenance of the water and sanitation infrastructure in Gaza. Stop destroying the water and sanitation infrastructure in Gaza. Stop stealing Palestinian water resources.
• • •
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MECA and Afaq Jadeeda are now evaluating the eight-month pilot program and preparing to start another year of activities with children and their parents. As recently as February 2010, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs found that 73% of Gaza children are still suffering from psychological and behavioral disorders, including psychological trauma, nightmares, involuntary urination, high blood pressure and diabetes. We would like to thank Norman Finkelstein and Lowkey who are donating 50% of the proceeds of their Rendezvous with Victory Tour to this important project.
Medical Aid & More to Palestinian and Iraqi Refugees
Next month MECA will send a forty-foot shipping container of aid to Lebanon for Palestinian and Iraqi refugees. It will include medicine and medical supplies that Medical Teams International has procured for us, along with new clothes, toys and children’s books generously donated by MECA supporters and Bay Area businesses. A coalition of community-based organizations in all twelve Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon requested this shipment. They will distribute to the items to hospitals and clinics and to groups working with the estimated 50,000 Iraqi refugees who fled the violence of the US-led war and occupation.
Children in Badawi Refugee Camp, Lebanon photo: M. Asser
Performing and visual arts are an important way for children to express their feelings and get support from the community photo: Mohammed Majdalawi
A Life-Saving Gift for the Children
YES! I want to help MECA meet the basic needs of Palestinian children and give them opportunities to learn, play and envision a better future.
Here is my tax-deductible gift of:
[ ] $250 [ ] $100 [ ] $50 [ ] $25 [ ] $ ____________
[ ] My check payable to MECA is enclosed. [ ] Please charge my credit card in the amount indicated above. Card #: _______________________________________ Exp: _____________________ Signature: _____________________________________________________________ Name: ________________________________________________________________ Address: ______________________________________________________________ City, ST, Zip: ____________________________________________________________ Email: _________________________________________________________________
MECA is a 501(c)3 exempt organization. Your gift is tax-deductible as a charitable contribution.
1101 8th. St. Berkeley, Ca 94710
MECA NEWS 7
1101 8th. St. Berkeley, Ca 94710
West Bank Ethnic Cleansing page 1 Your MECA Dollars at Work page 6 Israeli Raids Target Children page 3
Join MECA in Detroit this June!
June 19-22 MECA Director Barbara Lubin and Associate Director Ziad Abbas will speak at the 2010 U.S. Assembly of Jews: Confronting Racism and Israeli Apartheid Visit www.jewsconfrontapartheid.org June 22-26 MECA Associate Director Ziad Abbas will co-lead workshops at the 2010 US Social Forum on the Palestinian right of return, water justice, and the international movement for boycott, divestment, sanctions against Israel (BDS). Visit www.ussf2010.org
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