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1. Palestine Liberation Organization: Palestinians Want Freedom 2. Amb. Chas Freeman: America’s Faltering Search for Peace in the Middle East: Openings for Others? 3. Civil Society as Watch Dog in the Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations by Jeff Halper 4. Diana Buttu: direct talks bound to fail 5. Obama, Abbas, and calling the 'direct talks' bluff by Lara Friedman 6. Noura Erekat on Endless Negotiations: Palestinian Quicksand 7. Settlements and Anti Zionists by Gershon Baskin 8. A peace crime by Gideon Levy 9. Hanan Ashrawi on the negotiations 10. Henry Siegman: US Hamas policy blocks Middle East Peace 11. An excellent meeting by Gideon Levy 12. ICAHD denounces Israeli demolitions 13. Israel planning new West Bank train network, minister says 14. Don't Fall into the Direct Talks Hype by Stephen M. Walt 15. Why is Obama considering funding Israel's iron dome project? by Jimmy Johnson 16. Ramadan Kareem from Obama and Netanyahu by Jeff Halper 17. Separate Roads Increasingly Part of the West Bank map 18. Why I don’t give a damn about the peace talks – Ami Kaufman
Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions
1. BDS A Global Movement for Freedom and Justice by Omar Barghouti 2. Omar Barghouti interview: "Boycotts Work" 3. Buy Palestinian products by Akiva Eldar 4. Boycott by Irish artists marks a new way forward 5. Waging Peace from Afar: Divestment and Israeli Occupation 6. Something Wonderful Happened by Mark Braverman 7. Palestinian Civil Society Slams OECD over Israel's Accession 8. Occupation Industry Research Project by the Coalition of Women for Peace 9. Channel 10 TV Programme on international campaigns (Hebrew, some English) 10. Israeli actors refuse to take the stage in settlement theater
Israel's war against the Bedouin: Al Araqib stands strong
1. Israel is criticized over demolition of 'unrecognised' Bedouin villages 2. The Making of History by Tom Segev 3. An entire village was wiped out in the Negev!—Petition from Human Rights NGOs 4. Reclaiming the desert by Aviva Lori, Haaretz 5. Displacing the Bedouin Haaretz Editorial 6. Land struggle of Israel's Bedouin Jon Leyne, BBC (incl. video link) 7. Nuri Al Okbi letter to PM Benjamin Netanyahu 8. Activists plaster JNF building with photos of razed Bedouin homes
9. The horror show of al Araqib: from removal to approval by Oren Yiftachel 10. "Police destroys a whole village—200 children left homeless" 11. The 'banality of evil' and Israel's destruction of al-Araqib by Joseph Dana 12. Twilight Zone/ The invaders by Gideon Levy 13. Oren Yiftachel’s testimony for Nuri el Okbi: Winston Churchill in Beer Sheba court
1. Why is Israel torturing the residents of Sheikh Sa'ad? By Avi Issacharoff 2. Force Israel's Hand on Home Demolitions by Seth Freedman 3. 'Israeli Arabs have no choice but to build illegally' 4. Save the Children Press Release on Palestinian Families 5. Barkat's Garden—and the Promised Land by Angela GodfreyGoldstein 6. The Absentee from 6 Molcho Street by Akiva Eldar 7. Amnesty: Israel Intensifies West Bank Palestinian Home Demolitions
Bianca Jagger: Jenin cinema reopening offers Palestinians hope EU Considering Aid to Israeli Military by David Cronin The real war on 'terror' must begin by Mark LeVine Press Release from Mairead Maguire: Free Mordechai Vanunu Tony Blair Must be Prosecuted for War Crimes by John Pilger The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment by Peter Beinart Arundhati Roy on globalization Juliane von Mittelstaedt: An Unsettled Issue -- settlement expansion during freeze 9. Letter to Mayor of Jerusalem from 'Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine' 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. Back to top PLO NEGOTIATIONS AFFAIRS DEPARTMENT
Palestinians Want Freedom
Freedom means control of our borders. Consistent with international law, which forbids Israel, or any other state, from acquiring territory by force, the borders of the Palestinian state will be the same as the borders of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza as they stood on the eve of Israel’s 1967 occupation. A territorial link connecting the West Bank and Gaza is crucial to the integrity of the Palestinian state. The Palestinian state must permanently provide for free and unrestricted movement for people, goods and vehicles between the two geographic areas. The Palestinian state must also have unhindered access to the international community. Palestine’s maritime borders must be equitably delimited, not only with Israel, but also with Palestine’s other maritime neighbors.
Freedom means having our government located in our historic capital—the center of our culture and faiths. Jerusalem does not belong to one faith or people. For centuries, Jerusalem has been the political, administrative, cultural and religious center of Palestine. Metropolitan East Jerusalem – an area extending from Ramallah to Bethlehem – has for long been the driving force of the Palestinian economy. Without East Jerusalem, there can be no economically and politically viable Palestinian state. Christian and Muslim Palestinians are committed to respecting the freedom of worship at, and access to, religious sites within Jerusalem for all faiths. All possible measures will be taken to protect such sites and preserve their dignity. Freedom means respecting the Palestinian refugees’ right of return. Freedom means the ability to choose how that right is exercised. Freedom means no longer being a refugee. For 62 years, Palestinian refugees have been trapped in exile, separated from their homes, lands and families. For Palestinian refugees, who represent 70 percent of all Palestinians, freedom means being able to live with dignity and hope for the future. Freedom means having their experiences of displacement and dispossession recognized. Freedom means having their properties returned to them. Most importantly, though, freedom means having the right to return to their homes, and choosing how to exercise that right. Freedom means not having another state building cities and roads in our country, as Israel is currently doing through its settlements on our land. Colonialism, oppression and systemic discrimination are the hallmarks of Israel’s settlement enterprise. Some 170 Israeli settlements are scattered throughout Palestine, connected by segregated road systems crisscrossing the territory. Hundreds of roadblocks keep Palestinians from accessing our fragmented land, and a 25-foot-high wall snakes through the territory, encircling all of Jerusalem, the most fertile land and the best water sources in Palestine. Today, nearly half a million Israeli settlers live on land illegally seized from Christian and Muslim Palestinians. The settlements and their related infrastructure control nearly 40 percent of the occupied Palestinian territory. In addition to being illegal, Israeli settlements pose the single greatest threat to a viable two-state solution, and hence, to a just and lasting peace. Freedom means access to and control of our natural resources, including water. Since its 1967 occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza, Israel has almost completely controlled Palestinian water resources and deprived Palestinians of access to our rightful share of water, in violation of international law. The attainment of water rights and the fair allocation of water are essential for a viable two-state solution and future stability in the region. Palestinians must have control of, and access to, our water resources. Palestinians accept the principle of international water law stipulating that both Israel and Palestine are entitled to an equitable and reasonable allocation of shared freshwater resources, including those in the four main aquifers and the Jordan River.
Additionally, Israel must pay compensation for the past and ongoing illegal use of Palestinian water resources, as called for by international law. Freedom means self-determination: the ability to decide our own fate, to work, open businesses, and go to school without fear of another country’s troops. Simply, freedom means being able to go about our lives in our own free country. Israel’s 43-year occupation has had far-ranging effects on all aspects of Palestinian life. This occupation has been the primary and overwhelming cause of insecurity for the Palestinian people and instability in the region. For decades, the occupation has created a high level of Palestinian dependency on Israel in a number of sectors and has prevented Palestinians from fulfilling our economic potential. A Palestinian state must overcome this forced dependency. Ending Israeli occupation through full withdrawal from all Palestinian territory, airspace and territorial waters with no residual Israeli presence or control is a basic requirement for the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state, for the resolution of the conflict, and for regional stability. Successful negotiations will lead to the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, and the right of return for Palestinian refugees. Back to top
America’s Faltering Search for Peace in the Middle East: Openings for Others?
Remarks to staff of the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and, separately, to members of the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs Ambassador Chas W. Freeman, Jr. (USFS, Ret.) 1 September 2010, Oslo, Norway You have asked me to speak to current American policies in the Middle East, with an emphasis on the prospects for peace in the Holy Land. You have further suggested that I touch on the relationship of the Gulf Arabs, especially Saudi Arabia, to this. It is both an honor and a challenge to address this subject in this capital / at this ministry. The declaration of principles worked out in Oslo seventeen years ago was the last direct negotiation between Israelis and Palestinian Arabs to reach consequential, positive results. The Oslo accords were a real step toward peace, not another deceptive pseudo-event in an endlessly unproductive, so-called “peace process.” And if that one step forward in Oslo in 1993 was followed by several steps backwards, there is a great deal to be learned from how and why that happened. There can be no doubt about the importance of today’s topic. The ongoing conflict in the Holy Land increasingly disturbs the world’s conscience as well as its tranquility. The Israel-Palestine issue began as a struggle in the context of European colonialism. In the post-colonial era,
tension between Israelis and the Palestinians they dispossessed became, by degrees, the principal source of radicalization and instability in the Arab East and then the Arab world as a whole. It stimulated escalating terrorism against Israelis at home and their allies abroad. Since the end of the Cold War, the interaction between Israel and its captive Palestinian population has emerged as the fountainhead of global strife. It is increasingly difficult to distinguish this strife from a war of religions or a conflict of civilizations. For better or ill, my own country, the United States has played and continues to play the key international part in this contest. American policies, more than those of any other external actor, have the capacity to stoke or stifle the hatreds in the Middle East and to spread or reverse their infection of the wider world. American policies and actions in the Middle East thus affect much more than that region. Yet, as I will argue, the United States has been obsessed with process rather than substance. It has failed to involve parties who are essential to peace. It has acted on Israel’s behalf to preempt rather than enlist international and regional support for peace. It has defined the issues in ways that preclude rather than promote progress. Its concept of a “peace process” has therefore become the handmaiden of Israeli expansionism rather than a driver for peace. There are alternatives to tomorrow’s diplomatic peace pageant on the Potomac. And, as Norway has shown, there is a role for powers other than America in crafting peace in the Holy Land. Over thirty years ago, at Camp David, Jimmy Carter pushed Israel through the door to peace that Egypt’s Anwar Sadat had opened. Twenty years ago, the first Bush administration pressed Israel to the negotiating table with Palestinian leaders, setting the stage for their clandestine meetings in Oslo. The capacity of the United States to rally other governments behind a cause that it espouses may have atrophied, but American power remains far greater than that of any other nation. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Middle East. For more than four decades, Israel has been able to rely on aid from the United States to dominate its region militarily and to sustain its economic prosperity. It has counted on its leverage in American politics to block the application of international law and to protect itself from the political repercussions of its policies and actions. Unquestioning American support has enabled Israel to put the seizure of ever more land ahead of the achievement of a modus vivendi with the Palestinians or other Arabs. Neither violent resistance from the dispossessed nor objections from abroad have brought successive Israeli governments to question, let alone alter the priority they assign to land over peace. Ironically, Palestinians too have developed a dependency relationship with America. This has locked them into a political framework over which Israel exercises decisive influence. They have been powerless to end occupation, pogroms, ethnic cleansing, and other humiliations by Jewish soldiers and settlers. Nor have they been able to prevent their progressive confinement in checkpoint-encircled ghettos on the West Bank and the great open-air prison of Gaza.
Despite this appalling record of failure, the American monopoly on the management of the search for peace in Palestine remains unchallenged. Since the end of the Cold War, Russia – once a contender for countervailing influence in the region – has lapsed into impotence. The former colonial powers of the European Union, having earlier laid the basis for conflict in the region, have largely sat on their hands while ringing them, content to let America take the lead. China, India, and other Asian powers have prudently kept their political and military distance. In the region itself, Iran has postured and exploited the Palestinian cause without doing anything to advance it. Until recently, Turkey remained aloof. On rare occasions, as in the case of the 1973 Arab oil embargo, the Arabs have backed their verbal opposition to Israel with action. Egypt and Jordan have settled into an unpopular coexistence with Israel that is now sustained only by U.S. subventions. Saudi Arabia has twice taken the initiative to offer Israel diplomatic concessions if it were to conclude arrangements for peaceful coexistence with the Palestinians. But, overall, Arab governments have earned the contempt of the Palestinians and their own people for their lack of serious engagement. For the most part, Arab leaders have timorously demanded that America solve the Israel-Palestine problem for them, while obsequiously courting American protection against Israel, each other, Iran, and – in some cases – their own increasingly frustrated and angry subjects and citizens. Islam charges rulers with the duty to defend the faithful and to uphold justice. It demands that they embody righteousness. The resentment of mostly Muslim Arabs at their governing elites’ failure to meet these standards generates sympathy for terrorism directed not just at Israel but at both the United States and Arab governments associated with it. The perpetrators of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the United States saw it in part as reprisal for American complicity in Israeli cruelties to Palestinians and other Arabs. They justified it as a strike against Washington’s protection of Arab governments willing to overlook American contributions to Muslim suffering. Washington’s response to the attack included suspending its efforts to make peace in the Holy Land as well as invading and occupying Afghanistan and Iraq. All three actions inadvertently strengthened the terrorist case for further attacks on America and its allies. The armed struggle between Americans and Muslim radicals has already spilled over to Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and other countries. Authoritative voices in Israel now call for adding Iran to the list of countries at war with America. They are echoed by Zionist and neo-conservative spokesmen in the United States. The widening involvement of Americans in combat in Muslim lands has inflamed anti-American passions and catalyzed a metastasis of terrorism. It has caused a growing majority of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims to see the United States as a menace to their faith, their way of life, their homelands, and their personal security. American populists and European xenophobes have meanwhile undercut liberal and centrist Muslim arguments against the intolerance that empowers terrorism by equating terrorism and its extremist advocates with Islam and its followers. The current outburst of bigoted demagoguery over the construction of an Islamic cultural center and mosque in New York is
merely the most recent illustration of this. It suggests that the blatant racism and Islamophobia of contemporary Israeli politics is contagious. It rules out the global alliances against religious extremists that are essential to encompass their political defeat. President Obama’s inability to break this pattern must be an enormous personal disappointment to him. He came into office committed to crafting a new relationship with the Arab and Muslim worlds. His first interview with the international media was with Arab satellite television. He reached out publicly and privately to Iran. He addressed the Turkish parliament with persuasive empathy. He traveled to a great center of Islamic learning in Cairo to deliver a remarkably eloquent message of conciliation to Muslims everywhere. He made it clear that he understood the centrality of injustices in the Holy Land to Muslim estrangement from the West. He promised a responsible withdrawal from Iraq and a judicious recrafting of strategy in Afghanistan. Few doubt Mr. Obama’s sincerity. Yet none of his initiatives has led to policy change anyone can detect, let alone believe in. It is not for me to analyze or explain the wide gaps between rhetoric and achievement in the Obama Administration’s stewardship of so many aspects of my country’s affairs. American voters will render their first formal verdict on this two months from tomorrow, on the 2nd of November. The situation in the Holy Land, Iraq, Afghanistan, and adjacent areas is only part of what they will consider as they do so. But I do think it worthwhile briefly to examine some of the changes in the situation that ensure that many policies that once helped us to get by in the Middle East will no longer do this. Let me begin with the “peace process,” a hardy perennial of America’s diplomatic repertoire that the Obama Administration will put back on public display tomorrow. In the Cold War, the appearance of an earnest and “even-handed” American search for peace in the Holy Land was the price of U.S. access and influence in the Middle East. It provided political cover for conservative Arab governments to set aside their anger at American backing of Israel so as to stand with America and the Western bloc against Soviet Communism. It kept American relations with Israel and the Arabs from becoming a zero-sum game. It mobilized domestic Jewish support for incumbent presidents. Of course, there hasn’t been an American-led “peace process” in the Middle East for at least a decade. Still the conceit of a “peace process” became an essential political convenience for all concerned. No one could bear to admit that the “peace process” had expired. It therefore lived on in phantom form. Even when there was no “peace process,” the possibility of resurrecting one provided hope to the gullible, cover to the guileful, beguilement for the press, an excuse for doing nothing to those gaining from the status quo, and – last but far from least – lifetime employment for career “peace processors.” The perpetual processing of peace without the requirement to produce it has been especially appreciated by Israeli leaders. It has enabled them to behave like magicians, riveting foreign attention on meaningless distractions as they systematically removed Palestinians from their homes, settled half a million or more Jews in newly vacated areas of
the occupied territories, and annexed a widening swath of land to a Jerusalem they insist belongs only to Israel. Palestinian leaders with legitimacy problems have also had reason to collaborate in the search for a “peace process.” It’s not just that there has been no obviously better way to end their people’s suffering. Playing “peace process” charades justifies the international patronage and Israeli backing these leaders need to retain their status in the occupied territories. It ensures that they have media access and high-level visiting rights in Washington. Meanwhile, for American leaders, engagement in some sort of Middle East “peace process” has been essential to credibility in the Arab and Islamic worlds, as well as with the ever-generous American Jewish community. Polls show that most American Jews are impatient for peace. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, they are eager to believe in the willingness of the government of Israel to trade land for it. Previous “peace processes” have exploited all these impulses. In practice, however, these diplomatic distractions have served to obscure Israeli actions and evasions that were more often prejudicial to peace than helpful in achieving it. Behind all the blather, the rumble of bulldozers has never stopped. Given this history, it has taken a year and a half of relentless effort by U.S. Special Envoy George Mitchell to persuade the parties even to meet directly to talk about talks as they first did here in Oslo, seventeen years ago. When the curtain goes up on the diplomatic show in Washington tomorrow, will the players put on a different skit? There are many reasons to doubt that they will. One is that the Obama administration has engaged the same aging impresarios who staged all the previously failed “peace processes” to produce and direct this one with no agreed script. The last time these guys staged such an ill-prepared meeting, at Camp David in 2000, it cost both heads of delegation, Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat, their political authority. It led not to peace but to escalating violence. The parties are showing up this time to minimize President Obama’s political embarrassment in advance of midterm elections in the United States, not to address his agenda – still less to address each other’s agendas. These are indeed difficulties. But the problems with this latest – and possibly final – iteration of the perpetually ineffectual “peace process” are more fundamental. The Likud Party charter flatly rejects the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan River and stipulates that: “The Palestinians can run their lives freely in the framework of self-rule, but not as an independent and sovereign state.” This Israeli government is committed to that charter as well as to the Jewish holy war for land in Palestine. It has no interest in trading land it covets for a peace that might thwart further territorial expansion. It considers itself unbound by the applicable UN resolutions, agreements from past peace talks, the “Roadmap,” or the premise of the “two-state solution.” The Palestinians are desperate for the dignity and security that only the end of the Israeli occupation can provide. But the authority of Palestinian negotiators to negotiate rests on their recognition by Israel and the United States, not on their standing in the occupied territories, Gaza, or the
Palestinian diaspora. Fatah is the ruling faction in part of Palestine. Its authority to govern was repudiated by voters in the last Palestinian elections. The Mahmoud Abbas administration retains power by grace of the Israeli occupation authorities and the United States, which prefer it to the government empowered by the Palestinian people at the polls. Mr. Abbas’s constitutional term of office has long since expired. He presides over a parliament whose most influential members are locked up in Israeli jails. It is not clear for whom he, his faction, or his administration can now speak. So the talks that begin tomorrow promise to be a case of the disinterested going through the motions of negotiating with the mandate-less. The parties to these talks seek to mollify an America that has severely lessened international credibility. The United States government had to borrow the modest reputations for objectivity of others – the EU, Russia, and the UN – to be able to convene this discussion. It will be held under the auspices of an American president who was publicly humiliated by Israel’s prime minister on the issue that is at the center of the IsraelPalestine dispute – Israel’s continuing seizure and colonization of Arab land. Vague promises of a Palestinian state within a year now waft through the air. But the “peace process” has always sneered at deadlines, even much, much firmer ones. A more definitive promise of an independent Palestine within a year was made at Annapolis three years ago. Analogous promises of Palestinian self-determination have preceded or resulted from previous meetings over the decades, beginning with the Camp David accords of 1979. Many in this audience will recall the five-year deadline fixed at Oslo. The talks about talks that begin tomorrow can yield concrete results only if the international community is prepared this time to insist on the one-year deadline put forward for recognizing a Palestinian state. Even then there will be no peace unless long-neglected issues are addressed. Peace is a pattern of stability acceptable to those with the capacity to disturb it by violence. It is almost impossible to impose. It cannot become a reality, still less be sustained, if those who must accept it are excluded from it. This reality directs our attention to who is not at this gathering in Washington and what must be done to remedy the problems these absences create. Obviously, the party that won the democratically expressed mandate of the Palestinian people to represent them – Hamas – is not there. Yet there can be no peace without its buy-in. Egypt and Jordan have been invited as observers. Yet they have nothing to add to the separate peace agreements each long ago made with Israel. (Both these agreements were explicitly premised on grudging Israeli undertakings to accept Palestinian self-determination. The Jewish state quickly finessed both.) Activists from the Jewish diaspora disproportionately staff the American delegation. A failure to reconcile either American Jews or the Palestine diaspora to peace would doom any accord. But the Palestinian diaspora will be represented in Washington only in tenuous theory, not in fact.
Other Arabs, including the Arab League and the author of its peace initiative, Saudi Arabia, will not be at the talks tomorrow. The reasons for this are both simple and complex. At one level they reflect both a conviction that this latest installment of the “peace process” is just another in a long series of public entertainments for the American electorate and also a lack of confidence in the authenticity of the Palestinian delegation. At another level, they result from the way the United States has defined the problems to be solved and the indifference to Arab interests and views this definition evidences. Then too, they reflect disconnects in political culture and negotiating style between Israelis, Arabs, and Americans. To begin with, neither Israel nor the conveners of this proposed new “peace process” have officially acknowledged or responded to the Arab peace initiative of 2002. This offered normalization of relations with the Jewish state, should Israel make peace with the Palestinians. Instead, the United States and the Quartet have seemed to pocket the Arab offer, ignore its precondition that Israelis come to terms with Palestinians, and gone on to levy new demands. In this connection, making Arab recognition of Israel’s “right to exist” the central purpose of the “peace process” offends Arabs on many levels. In framing the issue this way, Israel and the United States appear to be asking for something well beyond pragmatic accommodation of the reality of a Jewish state in the Middle East. To the Arabs, Americans now seem to be insisting on Arab endorsement of the idea of the state of Israel, the means by which that state was established, and the manner in which it has comported itself. Must Arabs really embrace Zionism before Israel can cease expansion and accept peace? Arabs and Muslims familiar with European history can accept that European anti-Semitism justified the establishment of a homeland for traumatized European Jews. But asking them even implicitly to agree that the forcible eviction of Palestinian Arabs was a morally appropriate means to this end is both a nonstarter and seriously off-putting. So is asking them to affirm that resistance to such displacement was and is sinful. Similarly, the Arabs see the demand that they recognize a Jewish state with no fixed borders as a clever attempt to extract their endorsement of Israel’s unilateral expansion at Palestinian expense. The lack of appeal in this approach has been compounded by a longstanding American habit of treating Arab concerns about Israel as a form of anti-Semitism and tuning them out. Instead of hearing out and addressing Arab views, U.S. peace processors have repeatedly focused on soliciting Arab acts of kindness toward Israel. They argue that gestures of acceptance can help Israelis overcome their Holocaust-inspired political neuroses and take risks for peace. Each time this notion of Arab diplomacy as psychotherapy for Israelis has been trotted out, it has been met with incredulity. To most in the region, it encapsulates the contrast between Washington’s sympathy and solicitude for Israelis and its condescendingly exploitative view of Arabs. Some see it as a barely disguised appeal for a policy of appeasement of Israel. Still others suspect an attempt to construct a
“peace process” in which Arabs begin to supply Israel with gifts of carrots so that Americans can continue to avoid applying sticks to it. The effort to encourage Arab generosity as an offset to American political pusillanimity vis-à-vis Israel is ludicrously unpersuasive. It has failed so many times that it should be obvious that it will not work. Yet it was a central element of George Mitchell’s mandate for “peace process” diplomacy. And it appears to have resurfaced as part of the proposed follow-up to tomorrow’s meeting between the parties in Washington. It should be no puzzle why the Saudis and other Arabs could not be persuaded to join this gathering. As a last thought before turning to what must be done, let me make a quick comment on a relevant cultural factor. Arabic has two quite different words that are both translated as “negotiation,” making a distinction that doesn’t exist in either English or Hebrew. One word, “musaawama,” refers to the no-holds-barred bargaining process that takes place in bazaars between strangers who may never see each other again and who therefore feel no obligation not to scam each other. Another, “mufaawadhat,” describes the dignified formal discussions about matters of honor and high principle that take place on a basis of mutual respect and equality between statesmen who seek a continuing relationship. Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s travel to Jerusalem was a grand act of statesmanship to initiate a process of mufaawadhat – relationship-building between leaders and their polities. So was the Arab peace initiative of 2002. It called for a response in kind. The West muttered approvingly but did not act. After a while, Israel responded with intermittent, somewhat oblique suggestions of willingness to haggle over terms. But an offer to bicker over the terms on which a grand gesture has been granted is, not surprisingly, seen as insultingly unresponsive. I cite this not to suggest that non-Arabs should adopt Arabic canons of thought, but to make a point about diplomatic effectiveness. To move a negotiating partner in a desired direction, one must understand how that partner understands things and help him to see a way forward that will bring him to an end he has been persuaded to want. One of the reasons we can't seem to move things as we desire in the Middle East is that we don’t make much effort to understand how others reason and how they rank their interests. In the case of the Israel-Palestine conundrum, we Americans are long on empathy and expertise about Israel and very, very short on these for the various Arab parties. The essential militarism of U.S. policies in the Middle East adds to our difficulties. We have become skilled at killing Arabs. We have forgotten how to listen to them or persuade them. I am not myself an “Arabist,” but I am old enough to remember when there were more than a few such people in the American diplomatic service. These were officers who had devoted themselves to the cultivation of understanding and empathy with Arab leaders so as to be able to convince these leaders that it was in their own interest to do things we saw as in our interest. If we still have such people, we are hiding them
well; we are certainly not applying their skills in our Middle East diplomacy. This brings me to a few thoughts about the Western and Arab interests at stake in the Holy Land and their implications for what must be done. In foreign affairs, interests are the measure of all things. My assumption is that Americans and Norwegians, indeed Europeans in general, share common interests that require peace in the Holy Land. To my mind, these interests include – but are, of course, not limited to – gaining security and acceptance for a democratic state of Israel; eliminating the gross injustices and daily humiliations that foster Arab terrorism against Israel and its foreign allies and supporters, as well as friendly Arab regimes; and reversing the global spread of religious strife and prejudice, including, very likely, a revival of anti-Semitism in the West if current trends are not arrested. None of these aspirations can be fulfilled without an end to the Israeli occupation and freedom for Palestinians. Arab states, like Saudi Arabia, also have compelling reasons to want relief from occupation as well as self-determination for Palestinians. They may not be concerned to preserve Israel’s democracy, as we are, but they share an urgent interest in ending the radicalization of their own populations, curbing the spread of Islamist terrorism, and eliminating the tensions with the West that the conflict in the Holy Land fuels. These are the concerns that have driven them to propose peace, as they very clearly did eight years ago. For related reasons, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah has made inter-faith dialogue and the promotion of religious tolerance a main focus of his domestic and international policy. As the custodian of two of Islam’s three sacred places of pilgrimage – Mecca and Medina – Saudi Arabia has long transcended its own notorious religious narrow-mindedness to hold the holy places in its charge open to Muslims of all sects and persuasions. This experience, joined with Islamic piety, reinforces a Saudi insistence on the exemption of religious pilgrimage to Jerusalem from political interference or manipulation. The Ottoman Turks were careful to ensure freedom of access for worship to adherents of the three Abrahamic faiths when they administered the city. It is an interest that Jews, Christians, and Muslims share. There is, in short, far greater congruity between Western and Arab interests affecting the Israel-Palestine dispute than is generally recognized. This can be the basis for creative diplomacy. The fact that this has not occurred reflects pathologies of political life in the United States that paralyze the American diplomatic imagination. Tomorrow’s meeting may well demonstrate that, the election of Barack Obama notwithstanding, the United States is still unfit to manage the achievement of peace between Israel and the Arabs. If so, it is in the American interest as well as everyone else’s that others become the pathbreakers, enlisting the United States as best they can in support of what they achieve, but not expecting America to overcome its incapacity to lead. Here, I think, there is a lesson to be drawn from the Norwegian experience in the 1990s. The Clinton Administration was happy to organize the public relations for the Oslo accords but did not take ownership of them. It did
little to protect them from subversion and overthrow, and nothing to insist on their implementation. Only a peace process that is protected from Israel’s ability to manipulate American politics can succeed. This brings me to how Europeans and Arabs might work together to realize the objectives both share with most Americans: establishing internationally recognized borders for Israel, securing freedom for the Palestinians, and ending the stimulus to terrorism in the region and beyond it that strife in the Holy Land entails. I have only four suggestions to present today. I expect that more ideas will emerge from the discussion period. A serious effort to cooperate with the Arabs of the sort that Norway is uniquely capable of contriving could lead to the development of still more options for joint or parallel action on behalf of peace. Now to my suggestions, presented in ascending order of difficulty, from the least to the most controversial. First, get behind the Arab peace initiative. Saudi Arab culture frowns on self-promotion and the Kingdom is less gifted than most at public diplomacy. Political factors inhibit official Arab access to the Israeli press. The Israeli media have published some – mostly dismissive – commentary on the Arab peace initiative but left most Israelis ignorant of its contents and unfamiliar with its text. Why not buy space in the Israeli media to give Israelis a chance to read the Arab League declaration and consider the opportunities it presents? I suspect the Saudis, as well as other members of the Arab League, would consider it constructive for an outside party to do this. It might facilitate other sorts of cooperation with them in which European capabilities can also compensate for Arab reticence. The Turks and other non-Arab Muslims should be brought in as full participants in any such efforts. This wouldn’t be bad for Europe’s relations with both. By the way, given the U.S. media’s notorious onesidedness and American ignorance about the Arab peace plan, a welltargeted advertising campaign in the United States might not be a bad idea either. Second, help create a Palestinian partner for peace. There can be no peace with Israel unless there are officials who are empowered by the Palestinian people to negotiate and ratify it. Israel has worked hard to divide the Palestinians so as to consolidate its conquest of their homeland. Saudi Arabia has several times sought to create a Palestinian peace partner for Israel by bringing Fatah, Hamas, and other factions together. On each occasion, Israel, with U.S. support, has acted to preclude this. Active organization of non-American Western support for diplomacy aimed at restoring a unity government to the Palestinian Authority could make a big difference. The Obama Administration would be under strong domestic political pressure to join Israel in blocking a joint European-Arab effort to accomplish this. Under some circumstances, however, it might welcome being put to this test. Third, reaffirm and enforce international law. The UN Security Council is charged with enforcing the rule of law internationally. In the case of the Middle East, however, the Council’s position at the apex of the international system has served to erode and subvert the ideal of a rule-
bound international order. Almost forty American vetoes have prevented the application to the Israeli occupying authorities of the Geneva Conventions, the Nuremberg precedents, human rights conventions, and relevant Security Council directives. American diplomacy on behalf of the Jewish state has silenced the collective voice of the international community as Israel has illegally colonized and annexed broad swaths of occupied territory, administered collective punishment to a captive people, assassinated their political leaders, massacred civilians, barred UN investigators, defied mandatory Security Council resolutions, and otherwise engaged in scofflaw behavior, usually with only the flimsiest of legally irrelevant excuses. If ethnic cleansing, settlement activity, and the like are not just “unhelpful” but illegal, the international community should find a way to say so, even if the UN Security Council cannot. Otherwise, the most valuable legacy of Atlantic civilization – its vision of the rule of law – will be lost. When one side to a dispute is routinely exempted from principles, all exempt themselves, and the law of the jungle prevails. The international community needs collectively to affirm that Israel, both as occupier and as regional military hegemon, is legally accountable internationally for its actions. If the UN General Assembly cannot “unite for peace” to do what an incapacitated Security Council cannot, member states should not shrink from working in conference outside the UN framework. All sides in the murder and mayhem in the Holy Land and beyond need to understand that they are not above the law. If this message is firmly delivered and enforced, there will be a better chance for peace. Fourth, set a deadline linked to an ultimatum. Accept that the United States will frustrate any attempt by the UN Security Council to address the continuing impasse between Israel and the Palestinians. Organize a global conference outside the UN system to coordinate a decision to inform the parties to the dispute that if they cannot reach agreement in a year, one of two solutions will be imposed. Schedule a follow-up conference for a year later. The second conference would consider whether to recommend universal recognition of a Palestinian state in the area beyond Israel’s 1967 borders or recognition of Israel’s achievement of de jure as well as de facto sovereignty throughout Palestine (requiring Israel to grant all governed by it citizenship and equal rights at pain of international sanctions, boycott, and disinvestment). Either formula would force the parties to make a serious effort to strike a deal or to face the consequences of their recalcitrance. Either formula could be implemented directly by the states members of the international community. Admittedly, any serious deadline would provoke a political crisis in Israel and lead to diplomatic confrontation with the United States as well as Israel, despite the Obama Administration itself having proclaimed a one-year deadline in order to entice the Palestinians to tomorrow’s talks. Yet both Israel and the United States would benefit immensely from peace with the Palestinians. Time is running out. The two-state solution may already have been overtaken by Israeli land grabs and settlement activity. Another cycle of violence is likely in the offing. If so, it will not be local or regional, but global in its reach. Israel’s actions are delegitimizing and isolating it even
as they multiply the numbers of those in the region and beyond who are determined to destroy it. Palestinian suffering is a reproach to all humanity that posturing alone cannot begin to alleviate. It has become a cancer on the Islamic body politic. It is infecting every extremity of the globe with the rage against injustice that incites terrorism. It is time to try new approaches. That is why the question of whether there is a basis for expanded diplomatic cooperation between Europeans and Arabs is such a timely one. And it is why I was pleased as well as honored to have been asked to set the stage for a discussion of this issue. Back to top
CIVIL SOCIETY AS WATCHDOG PALESTINIAN NEGOTIATIONS
Civil society is a blunt instrument. As “public opinion” we form a vague background to government decision-making and as voters we have a broad – but only broad – effect on who is in power and what policies are pursued. Occasionally sections of us can be mobilized, less focused in the case of Glenn Beck’s “Restore Honor” rally in Washington, more focused as in the BDS campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions against the Israeli Occupation. But we are excluded from actual decision-making; we will not be part of the American-sponsored negotiations to begin Sept. 2nd between the Israelis and Palestinians, which will be held in secret. Still, we have clout. For good (governments finally gave in to the antiapartheid struggle) and for…less good (as Beck, Fox News and the Tea Party movement are well aware). We are a crucial element in bringing a just peace to Israel/Palestine; indeed, we – or many of us in the international civil society – are the only genuine allies of the Palestinian people. What, then, is our role in ensuring that negotiations lead to a truly just, workable and lasting peace? It is a two-fold one: (1) mobilizing public opinion to a point where, in political terms, the conflict becomes unsustainable and political leaders have to act; and (2) when they do finally take an action, such as convening the up-coming negotiations, to keep them honest, to monitor the process so that it doesn’t succeed in selling apartheid in the guise of a two-state solution, which is the history of all the “peace processes” from Oslo through Annapolis. The first task we are doing pretty well. Better organization, better messaging, a more visible presence and more forceful reactions to events are always welcomed, but nevertheless grassroots campaigning has raised the Israel-Palestine conflict to that of a major international issue. Now is the time to begin monitoring the next phase of the political process, the up-coming negotiations. Although many if not most of us “activists” believe they will fail – not out of some knee-jerk pessimism but from cold, well-founded calculations. The Israeli government will simply not concede its control over the entire Land of Israel. And the American government, constrained by Congress, simply cannot wield the pressure
necessary to force a just peace upon Israel, even if it wanted to. Israel won’t deliver and the US can’t deliver. The struggle will continue, but we must respond to dangers on the way. Given that governments prefer to manage conflicts rather than resolve them, the immediate danger facing us is negotiations that lead not to a genuine two-state solution or, following Israel’s insistence (backed by massive “facts on the ground”) that the Land of Israel is indivisible, to a one-state solution, but to where Israel is leading us all: apartheid. We must insert ourselves in the political process at least as watchdogs, so that, when the Palestinians reject apartheid, they will not be blamed as rejectionists refusing yet another “generous offer” – the most likely outcome of this round of the “peace process” and one the US administration will support. So what should we do? What positions should we take? What solution should we be advocating? In my view, the only solution we should advocate is a just peace, a win-win solution which meets the requirements of all the parties. It may be a two-state solution, a one-state bi-national solution, a one-state democratic solution, an Israeli-Palestinian confederation, a regional economic federation – the Palestinian think-tank PASSIA published a few years ago a collection containing more than a dozen solutions. It may be a solution no one has thought of yet. But that is the politicians’ job; ours is to insist on a just peace defined by fundamental parameters – an approach to peace – and not allow any other “arrangement” to prevails. I would suggest the following seven elements that have to be present in any just solution. If they are all included, there are many particular forms of a solution that could work. But if even one is excluded, then no solution will work, no matter how good it looks on paper. The elements are: 1. A just peace must be inclusive. Whatever the history, two peoples reside in Palestine/Israel. That reality has to be accepted and built into the resolution of the conflict. Only after the conflict has been resolved can the unavoidable process of reconciliation and historic accounting be undertaken. 2. A just peace must provide a national expression for both Palestinians and Israelis. These two peoples are not merely ethnic groups in a larger national society, nor are they merely a collection of individual voters, but national entities in themselves. This sociological fact constitutes a strong argument for the genuine two-state solution, though Israel may have eliminated that option. It also argues for a bi-national state, which may sound just but has not worked well in other countries. Nevertheless, this is the reality and must be incorporated into any workable solution. 3. A just peace must be based on economic viability. This principle, enshrined in the Road Map, would by itself foreclose an apartheid “solution” if it is implemented. 4. A just peace must conform to human rights, international law and UN resolutions. Any process based on the two sides negotiating over specific issues (settlements, borders, water, refugees, Jerusalem, sovereignty, etc.) will fail if they are not based on these three
frameworks. Human rights, international law and UN resolutions level the playing field and create parity between the sides. The Oslo process failed primarily because it eliminated these frameworks, leaving only power as the basis of talks – and if power determines the outcome then Israel “wins”. 5. A just peace must address the refugee issue. This issue may be negotiable, but it requires two pre-conditions: that the right of the refugees to return is accepted by Israel, so that the return of refugees is not presented as merely a “goodwill” or “humanitarian” gesture on the part of Israel; and that Israel acknowledges and takes responsibility for what it did to the Palestinian people in 1947/48, as well as 1967. The actual resolution of the refugee issue is not the problem, it is rather Israel’s steadfast refusal to accept the rights of the refugees and to make that symbolic yet crucial acknowledgement of responsibility. 6. A just peace must address the security concerns of all in the region. Netanyahu wants to begin the negotiations by addressing Israel’s security concerns before the issues of occupation and Palestinian sovereignty. This will not work because no party’s security can be guaranteed before a political settlement; indeed, the very point of a political settlement is to resolve the conflict and thereby bring security to all parties. Security is a critical issue, but it must be applied to all parties (the Palestinians, after all, have had many more civilian casualties and have suffered more from house demolitions and other threats to their security than have the Israelis) and must be embedded in an overall solution. 7. A just peace must be regional in scope. One could argue that Israel/Palestine is too small a unit to cram all the elements of peace into. Refugees, water, security, economic development, environmental sustainability – all these are regional issues that can only be addressed by a process that includes, at a minimum, Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. Such a broadening of the peace process may wait to some degree on meaningful movement between Israelis and Palestinians, but it is part-and-parcel of the overall equation. (I have written about the possibility of a Middle Eastern economic confederation as an alternative to the one-state/two-state conundrum.) Perhaps there are other elements. Adopting these, for the time being, gives us a powerful filter through which to evaluate whether what is being proposed in the up-coming negotiations or in any future “peace plan” or initiative is genuinely constructive or is merely a smokescreen for continued occupation, apartheid and the permanent warehousing of the Palestinians. If we cannot be in the negotiation room, we can at least provide the direction talks must take and be the watchdogs ensuring that the process actually produce a just peace. Back to top
Diana Buttu: direct talks bound to fail
Nora Barrows-Friedman, The Electronic Intifada, 30 August 2010 As US officials arrived in Jerusalem last week to meet with Palestinian Authority and Israeli government officials, Nora Barrows-Friedman interviewed Ramallah-based lawyer and former PLO advisor Diana Buttu about this week's US-brokered direct talks between the two parties for The Electronic Intifada. Nora Barrows-Friedman: What are the realistic expectations for an outcome of the direct talks, as Israel continues to confiscate Palestinian land and expand illegal settlements, and as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announces that it is the Palestinian preconditions that threaten to sabotage the talks? Diana Buttu: The funny thing about Netanyahu's statement on preconditions is that the preconditions are actually Israeli, rather than the other way around. They're making it a precondition that Palestinians have to accept that Israel is going to continue its settlement activity. And if the Palestinian side says no to settlement activity, then somehow that is a precondition, and the world is not into that. The big problem is that while there is this announcement of negotiations, here on the ground [in the occupied West Bank], there is nobody who is greeting this announcement with any happiness, because we have been here before. We know what has happened in the past, and we know what is going to happen. And so, if anything, the direct talks are going to be a direct failure. Unless there is a very strong stance by the international community to stop Israel in its settlement activity, in home demolitions and in setting forth a terms of reference -- that Israel is going to abide by the 1967 borders -- then the talks are doomed to fail. We have been down this path before. NBF: What is your response to how the PLO approved the talks, even though none of the non-Fatah parties approve of them? How did this happen, and what has the response been from the opposing parties? DB: In terms of the PLO's response, this is not new. [Palestinian Authority President] Mahmoud Abbas is the same man who hijacked Palestinian elections a year and a half ago, when he unilaterally declared that his term was extended. This is the same man who has failed to hold the Palestinian Legislative Council elections. This is the same individual who has canceled the municipal elections, all under the guise of, "oh, this is too difficult right now." So it is not at all surprising that Mahmoud Abbas, speaking on behalf of Mahmoud Abbas, comes forward and declares that the PLO has accepted such talks when they haven't. And declares that the Palestinian people are welcoming such talks when they are not. And has the audacity to speak on behalf of Palestine and the Palestinians when he is neither elected nor legitimate any longer, and has not even bothered to ascertain the opinion of other organizations, other factions that are members of the PLO. NBF: Will this further split and antagonize the political factions against each other, or are we seeing more unity taking place? DB: That is the one thing that is becoming interesting out of all of this -this is no longer the isolation of Hamas. It's becoming the isolation of
Fatah, in that you see all the political factions lining up on one side, and Fatah lining up on another side. This is not where the situation was a few years ago, or even a decade ago when the majority of Palestinian factions were, in some way, shape or form, in favor of Oslo or in favor of the negotiations process. Today, it is exactly the opposite. So, if anything, Fatah has marginalized itself, and is becoming increasingly more marginalized. The problem is that there is no way to translate that into any real change, because of Fatah holding the key, because of its inability to hold elections, with its refusal to listen to the factions. What it simply means is that we have this rogue party that is acting on behalf of its own interests and not the interests of the Palestinian people. That is going to continue to dictate the future of Palestine. Unless this dissent transforms itself into a real push for internal change, then I fear [Fatah is] going to continue going down this path of isolating itself and marginalizing itself, and holding Palestinians hostage to its lack of vision and lack of strategy for Palestine. NBF: You attended a press conference on 23 August given by PA spokesperson Saeb Erekat. What was revealed in the press conference, and what are most Palestinians concerned or skeptical about in relation to the talks and what is happening on the ground? DB: There are two things that were revealed during the press conference. The first was that Erekat was unable to explain to journalists or to the Palestinian people what had changed, why they're entering into negotiations now. He kept referring to pithy Quartet statements -- no one really cares what the Quartet says or does, because they don't really do anything -- and he kept referring to the international community and its support for the peace process. But there was nothing that he could point to to explain why now is the time for direct talks. In other words, there was nothing that he could say -- neither in the form of guarantees, nor in assurances, nor in the form of a settlement freeze, or anything that he could take to the Palestinian people and sell. It simply was the result of their utter incompetence. There was no way to explain why they were going to negotiations. The second thing that came out during the press conference, and this was clear to the journalists who were present, is that this is a leadership of lies. If this leadership had come forward and said, "we are under tremendous amounts of international pressure, both financially and politically" (which we know is the case), then at least we would have been able to give them credit for that. Erekat didn't say that. Moreover, if this was the same individual who came forward and said they would halt negotiations, unequivocally, in the event that Israel does not impose a complete settlement freeze -- not a partial freeze, not a moratorium -- and a complete halt to home demolitions, then at least we would have been able to feel that this is a leadership that is responsive, a leadership that is honest. Instead, Erekat came forward and said that there are going to be no negotiations. In fact, he used the phrase that Netanyahu will have chosen
-- no negotiations -- in the event that settlements and home demolitions continue. What we know is the opposite. If they have not pressed for a complete settlement freeze now, if they have not pressed for a halt in home demolitions and land confiscation now, then the PA has to explain to us that somehow, magically, on 26 September -- when the so-called settlement moratorium has expired -- that suddenly the Palestinian Authority and the PLO are going to get a backbone? So rather than him making these slogans and statements, we wanted to hear the truth. And instead we are faced with a leadership that lies. It lied about the pressure that has been put upon the PLO in order to enter into negotiations, and it will be proven on 26 September that the same leadership is going to -- once again -- lie to us about halting negotiations if there is no settlement freeze. NBF: What are your major concerns about the Palestinian political atmosphere right now? DB: The major concern is that we all know that this is going to fail. It doesn't require anyone with any particular knowledge or foresight to realize that these talks are going to fail. The real question is what is going to come afterwards, and here is where I'm most concerned. For the past 17 years, the PLO, and in particular, Fatah, has had one strategy and only one strategy: negotiations, negotiations, negotiations. And they have had only one strategy as regards to themselves, and that is survival. We are now at a stage where we are seeing that this is going to be -- and I really hope that it is -- the final blow to the logic and the ideology of negotiations, that people somehow have to negotiate their freedom. The real question is, what is this leadership going to do? Is this leadership going to continue to hold us hostage to this tired, visionless lack of strategy? Or is something different going to come? I'm not concerned with the talks, we know they are going to fail. My bigger concern is about what is going to happen once the talks fail, and is there going to be anybody who is going to come forward with a different plan, a different strategy, a different vision? And that is my fear. You can't teach an old dog new tricks. Back to top
Obama, Abbas, and calling the 'direct talks' bluff
Lara Friedman, July 30, 2010 Yesterday's decision by the Arab League to endorse direct IsraeliPalestinian talks -- an endorsement that apparently is not, as some have reported, conditioned on additional concrete assurances from the Obama administration -- increases the chances that President Abbas will at last test the resolve of his counterpart regarding direct Israeli-Palestinian talks. No, the counterpart I am referring to is not Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, but President Barack Obama.
The Obama administration is pressuring Abbas to take a huge leap of faith and enter direct talks despite pervasive doubts about Netanyahu's commitment to negotiating peace. And the Obama administration has pressured the Arab League to put its kosher stamp on such talks to make it harder for Abbas to keep saying "no". When Abbas and his Arab allies have asked President Obama for reassurances that the talks won't end badly, President Obama is reportedly telling them, including in a recent letter: trust me, I'll deliver Bibi. Given these conditions, if Abbas agrees to talks -- as I believe he must -he should in the same breath throw down the gauntlet to Obama, making clear that direct talks will be as much a test of US intentions and resolve as they are of Israel's and the Palestinians'. He should make the case, publicly, that he is trusting the US to live up to its assurances. He should make explicit his expectation that the US will not just sit by, impotently, if Israel engages in behavior that is inimical to serious, productive, goodfaith negotiations -- not unless the US wants to be responsible for wasting what may be the last, best opportunity for peace. Abbas has good reasons to be worried about direct talks. There is every reason to believe that Netanyahu is less interested in an agreement and more interested in protracted negotiations that serve his political interests, both domestically and internationally. One need only look at the recently-surfaced video of Netanyahu talking to a group of West Bank settlers in 2001 -- in which Netanyahu brags that he knows how to manipulate the US and that he personally derailed Oslo -- to understand this concern. Moreover, there is the fact that Netanyahu has assembled the most right-wing coalition in Israel's history -- including people like Benny Begin and Eli Yishai, both of whom are dead-set against the kinds of steps Israel would have to take to get a peace agreement. Netanyahu's handling of proximity talks only strengthens concern that direct negotiations won't be serious. By all accounts the Palestinians came to proximity talks with a serious, professional negotiating team, with position papers, and with concrete proposals regarding final status issues. Netanyahu, on the other hand, has yet to name a negotiating team. His representatives to the talks, rather than talking final-status issues, have reportedly wasted everyone's time focusing on what Israel can't do, instead of exploring what it can. Abbas also has good reason to worry that once talks start his limits will be tested with developments that will seriously embarrass him and further erode his credibility. Abbas surely remembers Netanyahu's decision, immediately after signing the Hebron Agreement, to approve construction of the new Jerusalem settlement of Har Homa. And Abbas surely remembers that despite the slap-in-the-face this decision represented to the US-backed peace process, Washington turned out to be powerless to stop it. And finally, and perhaps most importantly, Abbas would be a fool not to fear that if direct talks fall apart, he will be blamed, regardless of the circumstances. He cannot help but recall the experience at Camp David, where the Palestinians did not want to go into direct talks and were quietly
assured by the White House that whatever happened, they would not be blamed. And when Camp David collapsed, of course, they were. And Abbas cannot fail to notice that some of the same players who blamed the Palestinians after Camp David's collapse, in a failed effort to help thenPrime Minister Barak stave off an electoral defeat, are once again involved in formulating White House policy. Many are suggesting today that Abbas should agree to direct talks to call Netanyahu's bluff, but if the day arrives when Netanyahu's game-playing and provocations are turning direct talks into a farce, it will be the actions and statements of the United States, not Abbas, that will determine whether Netanyahu gets away with it. Given past experience, Abbas has good reason to worry that on that day, rather than getting tough with Netanyahu, the Obama administration will pressure him to remain in talks, even at the loss of the last shred of Abbas' personal credibility. Abbas has good reason to fear that, should there be some act so egregious -- like approval of Jerusalem mayor Barkat's plan to "re-develop" Silwan into a settlers' paradise at the expense of the Palestinian residents -- that he is compelled to suspend the talks, it will be Abbas, not Netanyahu, who will end up being blamed for killing the peace process. So let's be clear: Abbas' reluctance to say "yes" to direct talks is understandable. Yet despite all these reservations, the time has come for Abbas to stop saying "no" and say "yes". The Arab League's decision to support direct talks -- despite not getting additional concrete assurances from Washington -- will make this a little easier for him to do. But when he says "yes", it should be a smart "yes" -- one accompanied by an unequivocal and unapologetic message that Washington must bear its fair share of responsibility for the success or failure of the entire endeavor; a message that if the Obama administration wants direct talks it will get them, but their success or failure will depend in large part on the President's readiness to live up to his assurances and not permit Prime Minister Netanyahu to transform the talks into a diplomatic charade and a political exercise in futility. Lara Friedman is director of policy and government relations for Americans for Peace Now Back to top
Endless Negotiations: Palestinian Quicksand
Noura Erakat, August 23rd, 2010 News of resumed peace talks have hit the headlines -- on September 1st, international leaders will break bread and on September 2nd, ostensibly well-rested and full-bellied, they will resume direct peace negotiations. Sadly, the photo opportunity will provide little more than the occasion for spectators to juxtapose this photo alongside similar ones over a span of nearly two decades. While this may make for a lovely Sunday afternoon activity with our children as we instill in them their first lesson in distinction versus difference, it can only signal worsening conditions for
the Palestinians whose livelihoods deteriorate in the cold and ominous shadows of diplomatic overtures. The peace process's inability to shift from a paradigm of conflict management to one of remedial measures is structurally rooted. In content, Oslo failed to deal with final status issues, did not affirm the primacy of international law, and did not establish any type of accountability mechanisms. Structurally, its overdependence on the U.S. as a broker, whose systemic provision of impunity to Israel in the UN Security Council as well as its own domestic chambers, demonstrates its unwillingness to exert pressure on Israel. Moreover, the Palestinians lack negotiating leverage save for their moral authority as a landless people fighting for their freedom and selfdetermination. However, since the initiation of the peace process which created false parity between the Israeli state and the Palestinian people, and especially since the death of former PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, whose charisma and legacy managed to maintain national Palestinian unity and evoke third world solidarity, even this moral high ground has been slowly eviscerated leaving Palestinian negotiators with little more than fading pens, weathered maps, and tattered Security Council resolutions. Under conditions of mounting systematic violence and racism, the Palestinian Authority should step away from the negotiating table and return to their Palestinian base which includes rapprochement with Hamas and its supporters as well as an unwavering commitment to end the blockade of Gaza. Its unwillingness, or inability, to represent the will of its people makes the PA part of the problem rather than the solution among Palestinians in the OPTs and throughout the global diaspora. If there is half a reason why the PA is engaging in this process aside from its desperate hold onto power and its attendant succumbing to U.S. pressure, it has not been articulated in any compelling way. With neither the authority of international law, the strength of enforcement mechanisms, nor popular legitimacy, Oslo is quicksand for the Palestinians: the more they tread, the deeper they sink politically and the quicker Israel confiscates Palestinian lands under the guise of a peace process. What diplomats have failed to account for, is that unlike their Palestinian counterparts, Israelis benefit from the status quo of negotiation deadlock. While Oslo tabled the most difficult issues to final status negotiations, Israel's "facts on the ground" have rendered the negotiations increasingly irrelevant. Consider that between the signing of the Declaration of Principles in 1993 and the resumption of the latest round of peace talks in 2010, Israel has not left a final status issue unhampered. A grotesque case in point is the proliferation of settlements throughout the West Bank. During the first seven years of Oslo (1993-2000), arguably when good faith was at its peak, Israel's settler population increased by 42 percent, more than the seven years immediately preceding or following Oslo. Today, Israel continues these policies in the shadows of buoyant proclamations in Washington. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the OPTs reports that in 2010, Israel has displaced
1100 Palestinians from their homes, including 400 children and 2/3 of said activity has occurred in July alone. This is to say nothing of the ongoing illegal blockade of Gaza, the economic and social paralysis of its inhabitants since the close of Operation Cast Lead in 2009, and the U.S. Administration's wayward decision to exclude Hamas all together from the renewed process. Like President Obama, President Bush also attempted to re-launch peace talks in 2007. Ten months after the venerated resuscitation in Annapolis, Robert Serry, the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and Personal Representative of the UN Secretary-General, reported to the Security Council that Palestinians had been responsive to the peace process and had made "real strides in the implementation of its security plan," while Israelis continued to expand settlements, had failed to reopen Palestinian institutions in East Jerusalem, and had allowed settler violence against Palestinians to intensify without sanction. Even the most casual observer cannot help but note that stagnant negotiations and an enduring status quo has benefited Israelis and harmed Palestinians. A more nuanced commentator may argue that Israel has suffered tremendously because its failure to establish a two-state solution has transformed the one state solution, wherein Jews no longer constitute a majority and where Palestinians will be unequivocally engaged in a struggle against Apartheid, from a dismissive vision among radicals to a realistic political scenario. Evidently, however, such theoretical injury has neither induced Israeli compliance with previous peace agreements nor deterred them from breaking nearly every withdrawal deadline in accordance with Prime Minister Rabin's declaration that "there are no sacred deadlines." Notwithstanding the dire need for the implementation of well-established principles, in a State Department press conference on August 20th, Senator George Mitchell described the impasse as one rooted in societal differences that the U.S., as primary peace broker, plans to treat "with patience, perseverance, and determination." He goes on to dismiss criticisms of Israeli intransigence in the face of US pressure to halt settlement expansion as cursory. explaining that had negotiators quit in the face of obstacles there would never have been no peace in South Africa or Bosnia for example. Yet what Mitchell fails to note is that in South Africa, civil society and states alike applied pressure on the Apartheid regime to conform with international law through boycott, divestment, and sanctions. Also, before a peace agreement was achieved in Bosnia, Serbian aggression was brought to a grounding halt as a result of US-led NATO bombing and a UN Security Council embargo. Yet in the case of the Palestinian-Israel conflict, human rights proponents are asked to channel positive energy so that the conflict miraculously transcends the power imbalance inflicting the negotiations. What the peace process needs is the application of meaningful pressure on the stronger party -- not a room full of warm fuzzy good feelings. This point is not lost on Palestinians or on an international civil society sincerely invested in a viable peace with justice. Accordingly, in 2005, 170
Palestinian organizations issued a call to the global solidarity movement to boycott, divest, and sanction Israel until it complied with international law. The BDS movement works to apply the much-needed pressure upon Israel as well as rehabilitate the Palestinians' high ground as a people struggling for its self-determination. To date, the movement has been much more successful in Europe where unconditional commitment to Israel at the expense of long-term national interests and human rights principles is not embedded in its political establishment. However, even in the U.S. the movement has made significant strides and managed to permeate mainstream discourse. In all likelihood, these renewed talks will either fizzle without fanfare or be declared successful to the detriment of Palestinian rights. Either way, ordinary citizens will continue to spearhead the BDS movement and apply the political pressure upon Israel that government leaders, world superpowers, and international multilateral organizations have failed to exert. Back to top
Settlements and anti-Zionists
GERSHON BASKIN, 19th July 2010 Continued building is suicide for the Zionist movement. November 6, 2012 – that’s the date when Barack Obama will stand for election for a second term. By November 2011 he will already be deeply involved in campaigning and most of his attention will be focused on Middle America and not the Middle East. On November 2, midterm elections will be held in the US in which members of Congress (including all 435 in the House of Representatives and 34 of the 100 in the Senate) stand before the electorate.The US political calendar is a map of the window of opportunity which might exist for advancing Israeli-Palestinian peace. There is no chance of an agreement without direct and decisive US presidential engagement. After November 3, Obama will be able to free up time and political space on his agenda for getting directly involved in negotiating a peace agreement. He will have about one year in which he can devote his time and political collateral to that mission. After that, he will be back on the campaign trail and he will either place his Middle East success at the top of his campaign or he will have to bury his failure and explain why it is a hopeless cause, but that “I did everything humanly possible to help them to resolve their conflict.” But even before we reach November 3, one other date jumps off the calendar with flashing red lights – September 26 – the end of the 10-month moratorium on new settlement building. If the government launches a new settlement building drive, as promised by senior cabinet members, the barely living peace process will die. Obviously the efforts of US mediator George Mitchell are currently focused on providing a life-giving dose of adrenaline in the form of moving to direct negotiations. The idea is that if direct negotiations begin, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will be able to extend the building moratorium for several more months to give the talks a chance of success. Even if he buys into this formula, he will try to reach an understanding with Obama that building
within the settlement blocks can resume because they will be annexed to Israel within the framework of an agreement. The Palestinians will most definitely reject any such understanding, stating that the freezing of all settlement building is a requirement for direct negotiations because without it there is no real demonstrated intention to ever withdraw from the West Bank and allow for the creation of a Palestinian state. The time frame for negotiations is set. There is a window of about one year to reach an agreement. By the end of 2011 the Fayyad plan for creating the institutions of the Palestinian state will have reached its end. The Palestinians will be more anxious than ever to become independent and recognized by the international community as a full-fledged member of the community of nations. They will expect and work toward full membership in the UN and sanctions against Israel if, as a result of continued settlement activity, there is no real peace process in advanced stages of reaching an agreement. AT THE same time, they will also probably turn to their own electorate. Without progress on the diplomatic front, it is unlikely that the current practical and moderate leadership will sustain itself. President Mahmoud Abbas has already stated his intention not to run for reelection. With the exception of Salam Fayyad, who has no political party or movement of significance backing him, the arena of perspective candidates is far less promising for reaching a possible agreement than the current leaders. The time factor for reaching peace has never been clearer and more urgent. The clock is ticking and time is running out. In the 32 years I have been involved in advancing peace, I have never spoken about a deadline. But today, it is there and time is not on our side. If it makes anyone feel better, I can also say that time is not on their side either. Time is running out for us both. There is no solution to the conflict other than “two states for two peoples.” There is a great likelihood that when the window of opportunity closes at the end of 2011, there will no longer be a real possibility to reach a negotiated agreement. There may no longer be a moderate and practical Palestinian leadership with which we can negotiate and there may no longer be a majority of Palestinians who accept this solution. Right now it is all in the hands of Netanyahu. He is the man who can make it happen. The settlement issue has become the number one factor in determining if there can even be a credible negotiation. Netanyahu is the only Israeli leader who can say that the primary goal of Zionism today is to consolidate the State of Israel within recognized and negotiated borders. That means that the Zionist enterprise must focus its attention on strengthening what we have, and on transforming Israel into the exemplary state that Theodor Herzl dreamed about. To achieve this, it will even be necessary to say loud and clear that those who wish to continue to build settlements are anti-Zionist, working against the Zionist vision and leading the Zionist movement toward national suicide. A true Zionist today is the one who works for peace and the anti-Zionist is one who seeks to prevent peace by building more settlements. True Zionism is about the sustainability of the State of Israel, and the greatest threat to its sustainability is the continuation of the conflict with the Palestinian people.
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A peace crime
What more can Assad say that he hasn't already? How long must he knock in vain on Israel's locked door? Gideon Levy, 11th July, 2010 It couldn't have been spelled out more explicitly, clearly and emphatically. Read and judge for yourselves: "Our position is clear: When Israel returns the entire Golan Heights, of course we will sign a peace agreement with it .... What's the point of peace if the embassy is surrounded by security, if there is no trade and tourism between the two countries? That's not peace. That's a permanent cease-fire agreement. This is what I say to whoever comes to us to talk about the Syrian track: We are interested in a comprehensive peace, i.e., normal relations." Who said this to whom? Syrian President Bashar Assad to the Lebanese newspaper As-Safir last week. These astounding things were said to Arab, not Western ears, and they went virtually unnoticed here. Can you believe it? What more can Assad say that he hasn't already? How many more times does he have to declare his peaceful intentions before someone wakes up here? How long must he knock in vain on Israel's locked door? And if that were not enough, he also called on Turkey to work to calm the crisis with Israel so it can mediate between Israel and Syria. Assad's words should have been headline news last week and in the coming weeks. Anwar Sadat said less before he came to Israel. In those days we were excited by his words, today we brazenly disregard such statements. This leads to only one conclusion: Israel does not want peace with Syria. Period. It prefers the Golan over peace with one of its biggest and most dangerous enemies. It prefers real estate, bed and breakfasts, mineral water, trendy wine and a few thousand settlers over a strategic change in its status. Just imagine what would happen if we emerged from the ruins of our international status to sign a peace agreement with Syria - how the international climate regarding us would suddenly change, how the "axis of evil" would crack and Iran's strongholds weaken, how Hezbollah would get a black eye, more than in all the Lebanon wars. And maybe even Gilad Shalit, held by the Damascus-based Hamas, would be freed. Sound too good to be true? Maybe, but Israel is not even trying. A prime minister who ignores this chance is no less than a peace criminal. Instead of the Shalit march that has just ended, a different march should have set out this week, one more massive and determined, calling on the Israeli government, the peace refuser, to do something. Hoarse shouts should have gone up: Peace with Syria now. But this march will not go forward this week. Apparently it will never happen. Singer-songwriter Shlomo Artzi, Zubin Mehta and the respectable demonstrators who marched on behalf of one soldier will not do so to support a move that could save the lives of many soldiers and civilians. Why? Because that takes courage. Why? Because Assad was right when he told La Repubblica
in Italy: "Israeli society has tilted too far to the right, and it is not capable of making peace with Syria." True, they say the Mossad chief thinks that Assad will never make peace because the whole justification for his regime is based on hostility toward Israel. Our experts are never wrong, but similar things were said about Sadat. True, Assad also said other things. Other? Not really. He said that if he does not succeed through peace, he will try to liberate the Golan through resistance. Illogical? Illegitimate? Not a reason to try to challenge him? What do we have to lose but the chance? Even the latest fig leaf a few prime ministers have used here - the assessment that the U.S. opposes peace with Syria - is absurd. Does anyone see U.S. President Barack Obama opposing a peace move with Syria? What a pity that he is not pressing Israel to move ahead with it. And then there is the old refrain: "Assad doesn't mean it." When Arab leaders make threats, they mean it; when they talk peace, they don't. And also: "We'll return the Golan and end up with a piece of paper and missiles." Remember how that was said about Egypt? But we persist: The prime minister is criminally missing a historic chance for peace, and we yawn apathetically. Sounds logical, right? Back to top
Hanan Ashrawi on the Gaza Siege
Dr James Zogby interviews Hanan Ashrawi - Arab American Institute - 9 July 2010 View the interview at: http://australiansforpalestine.com/25973 or http://www.aaiusa.org/blog/entry/hanan-ashrawi-netanyahu-meeting/ Appearing on Viewpoint with James Zogby yesterday, Dr. Hanan Ashrawi offered the perspective of Palestinians on the Israeli blockade of Gaza stating unequivocally, “It’s a cruel, illegal, immoral war crime.” Declaring the Israeli changes to the blockade as a “verbal exercise,” Ashrawi noted that Palestinians living under the brutal siege have yet to see any real changes. “The Palestinians judge things by what happens on the ground and they see no progress whatsoever,” she added. On the issue of U.S. aid to the Palestinians, Ashrawi clarified an important point on the level of support Washington is committing. Noting that the $400 million the Obama Administration announced recently is not additional aid but rather part of the $900 million pledged last year, Ashrawi offered a different perspective than that held here in the U.S. by analysts and policy makers alike. Lastly, Ashrawi acknowledged the difficulty they continue to encounter in national reconciliation talks with Hamas but believes that ultimately the interests of the people of Gaza will prevail over those of Hamas or Fatah. Challenges aside, she affirmed the critical need to make progress for a variety of reasons including, the need to allow for the re-implementation of the access and movement agreement which would open Gaza’s crossings and fully expects the European Union to honor the agreement & work with the Palestinians once progress is indeed made.
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US Hamas policy blocks Middle East peace
Henry Siegman, 26th August, 2010 Introduction Failed bilateral talks over these past 16 years have shown that a Middle East peace accord can never be reached by the parties themselves. Israeli governments believe they can defy international condemnation of their illegal colonial project in the West Bank because they can count on the US to oppose international sanctions. Bilateral talks that are not framed by US-formulated parameters (based on Security Council resolutions, the Oslo accords, the Arab Peace Initiative, the “road map” and other previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements) cannot succeed. Israel’s government believes that the US Congress will not permit an American president to issue such parameters and demand their acceptance. What hope there is for the bilateral talks that resume in Washington DC on September 2 depends entirely on President Obama proving that belief to be wrong, and on whether the “bridging proposals” he has promised, should the talks reach an impasse, are a euphemism for the submission of American parameters. Such a US initiative must offer Israel iron-clad assurances for its security within its pre-1967 borders, but at the same time must make it clear these assurances are not available if Israel insists on denying Palestinians a viable and sovereign state in the West Bank and Gaza. This paper focuses on the other major obstacle to a permanent status agreement: the absence of an effective Palestinian interlocutor. Addressing Hamas’ legitimate grievances – and as noted in a recent CENTCOM report, Hamas has legitimate grievances – could lead to its return to a Palestinian coalition government that would provide Israel with a credible peace partner. If that outreach fails because of Hamas’ rejectionism, the organization’s ability to prevent a reasonable accord negotiated by other Palestinian political parties will have been significantly impeded. If the Obama administration will not lead an international initiative to define the parameters of an Israeli-Palestinian agreement and actively promote Palestinian political reconciliation, Europe must do so, and hope America will follow. Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet that can guarantee the goal of “two states living side by side in peace and security.” But President Obama’s present course absolutely precludes it. Road to nowhere Peace talks at an impasse The Obama administration has reversed the trajectory of previous administrations’ engagement with the Middle East peace process. Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush avoided dealing with the issue in the early stages of their presidency. President Clinton pursued a peace agreement far more seriously than did President Bush, but not until the closing days of his second term. By contrast, President Obama addressed
the issue aggressively virtually the day after he took his oath of office. He appointed Senator Mitchell his personal Middle East peace envoy, delivered a historic speech to the Arab and Muslim world in Cairo, and presented Netanyahu’s government the toughest demand for a freeze on all further Israeli settlement enlargement in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem ever made by any US administration – and all within the first year of the first term of his presidency. But it has been all downhill since. The settlement freeze Prime Minister Netanyahu agreed to turned out to be a sham, the proximity talks a monumental waste of time. President Obama’s most recent encounter with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House on July 6, at which he felt constrained to express admiration for the seriousness of the commitment to a two-state solution of a man who has shown nothing but disdain for the idea, has triggered despair throughout the region deeper than was experienced during the disengaged Bush administration. Bilateral talks cannot succeed The US administration has announced the launching of direct talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) and that the parties have agreed to place a one-year limit on these talks. But nothing much beyond spin to sustain the illusion of continued American “engagement” can be expected from this administration until at least after the November congressional elections, if then. That interregnum provides time for a reconsideration of this administration’s Middle East peace strategies that have been undone with humiliating ease by Netanyahu at every turn. Such a reconsideration must begin with a rejection of the notion that a Middle East peace accord can ever be reached by the parties themselves, with the US role limited to “facilitation.” Failed bilateral talks over these past 16 years have shown that left to their own devices, negotiations between Israeli governments – that believe resorting to overwhelming military power is the solution to every political and security challenge – and a powerless Palestinian adversary can only result in the enlargement and completion of Israel’s colonial project in the West Bank, notwithstanding American “facilitation,” or “bridging proposals,” as this administration prefers to call it. Bilateral talks that are not framed by USformulated parameters (based on Security Council resolutions, the Oslo accords, the Arab Peace Initiative, the “road map” and other previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements) cannot succeed. A two-state solution will remain beyond everyone’s reach because even the most hardline Israeli governments are convinced that the US Congress will not permit an American president to issue such parameters and demand their acceptance by Israel. Israeli governments believe they can defy international condemnations of their colonial project in the West Bank because they can count on the US to oppose international measures that would sanction their illegal behaviour. If it is to succeed, a US effort to rescue the two-state option must be prepared to offer Israel iron-clad assurances for its security within its pre1967 borders, but at the same time make it clear that such assurances are not available if Israel insists on denying Palestinians a viable and sovereign state in the West Bank and Gaza.
Credible Palestinian partner lacking Which brings us to the other major obstacle to a permanent status agreement – the absence of an effective Palestinian interlocutor, due to the bitter internecine divisions between Fatah and Hamas, divisions that have been fostered and deepened by US and European support for Israel’s determination to exclude Hamas from Palestinian political life and to bring about its demise. It should be clear by now that this policy has only strengthened Hamas, and that it has retained the ability to torpedo any Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement it is not party to. This view, shared by virtually every Middle Eastern political and security expert, was expressed concisely as the conclusion of a recent essay on the subject in Foreign Affairs: “Hamas is here to stay. Refusing to deal with it will only make the situation worse: Palestinian moderates will become weaker, and Hamas will grow stronger. If the Obama administration is to move its plans for peace forward, the challenge of Hamas has to be met first.”1 As argued in this paper, a more balanced approach to Hamas, addressing legitimate grievances, could lead to its return to a Palestinian coalition government that would provide Israel with a credible peace partner. If that outreach fails because of Hamas’ rejectionism, its ability to prevent a reasonable accord negotiated by other Palestinian political parties will have been seriously undermined. The misreading of Hamas Hamas’ democratic mandate Mahmoud Abbas’s rule does not extend much beyond Ramallah. Although Fatah was unopposed by Hamas (or by any other organized political party) in the local West Bank elections of July 17, the party is so dysfunctional and unpopular that its candidates were in danger of losing to local unaffiliated candidates, causing Abbas to call off the elections at the last moment. By contrast, Hamas is not only the effective ruler of Gaza, but the only political party that received a democratic mandate for its rule from the Palestinian electorate in the 2006 election that rejected Fatah. The Oslo accords declared Gaza to be an inseparable part of Palestine, and obliged Israel to provide an unobstructed territorial connection linking Gaza to the West Bank. That provision was reinforced by a formal IsraeliPalestinian agreement (the Agreement on Movement and Access) in 2005 for the free movement of people and goods between these two areas, brokered by James Wolfensohn, then secretary of state Condoleezza Rice’s special envoy for Gaza disengagement, an obligation Israel violated even before the ink on the document dried.2 Hamas was denied its electoral mandate and excluded from the West Bank because Fatah conspired with Israel’s government and the Bush
Daniel Byman, “How to Handle Hamas”, Foreign Affairs, vol 85, no. 5, September/October 2010, http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/66541/danielbyman/how-to-handle-hamas, accessed 31 August 2010.
Shahar Smooha, interview with James Wolfensohn, “All the dreams we had are now gone”, Ha’aretz, 19 July 2007, http://www.haaretz.com/magazine/friday-supplement/allthe-dreams-we-had-are-now-gone-1.225828 , acccessed 21 August 2010.
administration to carry out a putsch by Mohammed Dahlan’s militia forces in Gaza to overthrow Hamas. The attempted putsch was pre-empted by Hamas in a bloody manner.3 But the way Dahlan’s forces had previously dealt with Hamas’ members that it had imprisoned (or the way Abbas’ Fatah has dealt with them in the West Bank since) should not leave anyone with false illusions about the treatment that awaited Hamas had Dahlan’s putsch succeeded. Hamas’ obsolete charter But can Hamas be engaged by Israel, or by the US, while it adheres to a charter that is racist and anti-Semitic, and explicitly commits the organization to the violent expulsion of Jews within Israel’s internationally recognized pre-1967 borders? While the government of Israel does not have a charter promising the expulsion of Palestinians from their homes and the confiscation of their land, it has been doing exactly that – regularly and systematically. These confiscations and expulsions began even before Hamas existed, yet no one in the West demanded Israel be quarantined, or even that it be denied continued massive American financial and military assistance. More to the point, Hamas has made it abundantly clear that its charter – like the PLO’s charter which Arafat famously dismissed in 1989 as “caduque” (obsolete, expired) well before it was formally annulled – no longer represents Hamas’ ideology. Its various proposals for a long-term hudna (ceasefire) with Israel, if it were to agree to a Palestinian state within the pre-1967 borders, clearly contradict its charter. A more direct repudiation of the charter’s anti-Jewish and anti-Semitic diatribe came from Khaled Meshal, the head of Hamas’ political bureau, in an interview conducted by the Jordanian Arabic-language newspaper AlSabeel in July (translated into English by the Afro-Middle East Centre in South Africa).4 Meshal was asked whether Hamas’ resistance was directed “against Zionists as Jews or as occupiers.” Meshal replied, “resistance and military confrontation with the Israelis was caused by occupation, aggression, and crimes committed against the Palestinian people, not because of differences in religion or belief.” He said that although “religion is a cornerstone to our lives ... we do not make of religion a force for engendering hatred, nor a cause or a pretext for harming or assaulting others, or grabbing what is not ours, or encroaching on the rights of others” – referring, of course, to the Israeli settlers’ invocation of the Bible to justify the theft of Palestinian land in the West Bank. Contrast this to the declarations of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, a former Chief Rabbi of Israel and the leader of the most important Orthodox political party in Israel, during a recent Sabbath sermon: “Abu Mazen and all these evil people should perish from the world. God should strike them with a plague, them and these Palestinians.” In a previous sermon in 2001, he
David Rose, “The Gaza Bombshell”, Vanity Fair, April 2008, http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2008/04/gaza200804, accessed 21 August 2010. 4 Afro-Middle East Centre, “Hamas’ Meshal lays out new policy direction”, 30 August 2010, http://amec.org.za/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=181:hamas-meshal-lays-outnew-policy-direction&catid=62:palestine-israel&Itemid=75, accessed 30 August 2010.
told his followers: “It is forbidden to be merciful to [the Arabs]. You must send missiles to them and annihilate them. They are evil and damnable.” Not a single member of Israel’s cabinet condemned Rabbi Ovadia Yosef for these pronouncements. Recognising Israel At a press conference in April 2008, Meshal stated that within the context of a Palestinian coalition government of which it was a part, Hamas would authorize Abbas as president of the Palestinian Authority to conduct peace negotiations with Israel. If an accord were reached, he said, Hamas would agree to have it submitted to a Palestinian referendum and, if approved, would abide by the outcome even if Hamas itself were opposed to the accord.5 (This arrangement was also part of the agreement reached in Mecca for a Hamas-Fatah unity government that fell apart.) Shortly after the press conference I told Usama Hamdan, a leading member of Hamas’ political bureau, that a Palestinian government cannot sign a peace agreement with Israel and still maintain that it does not recognize it. Hamdan agreed, and told me that Meshal agreed as well. He noted that since state-to-state recognition is a governmental responsibility, not a function of individual political parties, Hamas’ refusal to recognize Israel does not prevent a government of which Hamas is a part from granting that recognition. He noted that Israeli governments – including the current one, whose prime minister claims to want a two-state solution – have included political parties that oppose Palestinian statehood, and no one has suggested this disqualifies these governments as partners for peace negotiations, or made them candidates for sanctions of the kind imposed on Hamas. Israeli contradictions Israel’s government undoubtedly rejects that distinction between political parties and governments as sophistry, and considers those who advance it as peddling pro-Hamas propaganda. But it is a distinction that Netanyahu himself must invoke to explain the contradiction between his declared acceptance of a two-state solution and the formal opposition to a Palestinian state of his own Likud Party. Indeed, not long after Netanyahu made that two-state declaration, most of his cabinet ministers formed a parliamentary caucus in Israel’s Knesset, called the Land of Israel Caucus, whose goal it is to defeat their own government’s effort to allow a Palestinian state in any part of Palestine in the unlikely event it were to try to do so. (It is not difficult to imagine how Netanyahu would have reacted to a “moderate” Palestinian government made up of parties dedicated to the denial of Israeli statehood.) More recently, in a TV interview with Charlie Rose, Khaled Meshal stated that Hamas will end its resistance activities when Israel ends its occupation and accepts a Palestinian state within the pre-1967 border. This reverses Hamas’ previous commitment to a struggle to recover all of Palestine. Israelis and their supporters in the US ridicule anyone who
Barak Ravid, “Meshal offers 10-year truce for Palestinian state on ‘67 borders”, Ha’aretz, http://www.haaretz.com/news/meshal-offers-10-year-truce-for-palestinian-stateon-67-borders-1.244339 , accessed 21 August 2010.
credits such statements, pointing out that in that same interview Meshal insisted on the Palestinian refugees’ “right of return,” which he knows no Israeli government will accept.6 Apparently they expect Hamas to concede that right – one that Abbas and Fatah also demand – before negotiations have begun. But they do not similarly ridicule Netanyahu’s declared support for a two-state solution even when he attaches conditions everyone knows no Palestinian leader would ever accept. Defenders of Netanyahu insist he must be left with negotiating room for the compromises he will have to make, but apparently believe Palestinians do not deserve that same consideration. It is this feigned Israeli ridicule of any Arab opening towards Israel that sank King Abdullah’s peace initiative of 2002 offering to normalize the relations of all Arab states with Israel; “feigned,” because it is not scepticism of Arab seriousness that is behind Israeli leaders’ dismissal of Palestinian or Arab states’ outreach to them, but the fear that it may be sincere, and would therefore compel serious Israeli responses that would expose Israel’s real positions on final status. That exposure is something Netanyahu has so far refused to risk, for it would prove that the territorial and security constraints he intends to impose on Palestinian sovereignty amount to a continuation of Israel’s occupation under some other name. It was Netanyahu’s refusal to provide that information to Obama when they met at the White House on March 23 that precipitated the crisis in Israeli-US relations that Obama sought to diffuse so humiliatingly at their meeting of July 6. Hamas – pragmatic and opportunistic But it is not only Israel that has ignored significant changes in Hamas. The United States and Europe have done so as well, insisting that Hamas must first accept conditions for engagement designed by Israel expressly to preclude the possibility of their acceptance. There is no reason for the US to continue to support these conditions. Obama has not imposed similar conditions for talks with the Taliban. To the contrary: he is encouraging the return of the Taliban to a coalition government with President Hamid Karzai even as they are killing American forces and Afghan civilians. Is the Taliban’s ideology more congenial to Obama than that of Hamas, many of whose leaders and adherents are university graduates, and who encourage rather than forbid and punish the education of their daughters? Questioned by his interviewer in Al-Sabeel about the “marginalisation of women’s role in political and social life,” Meshal stated that this marginalisation “does not come from the text and spirit of the Sharia,” but is the result of “cultural backwardness.” He declared that Hamas will not allow “the ages of backwardness or the weight of social norms and traditions that stem from the environment rather than the religious text” to distort Islamic concepts, “especially since the environment of Palestine is not a closed one but a historically civilized one, enjoying plurality and openness to all religions, civilizations and cultures.”
Charlie Rose, transcript of interview with Khaled Meshal, 28 May 2010, http://www.charlierose.com/view/interview/11032#frame_top, accessed 21 August 2010.
A recent report7 revealed that the view that US policy towards Hamas is based on a serious misreading of the movement is shared by senior intelligence officials at US Central Command – CENTCOM. In a confidential report to CENTCOM’s commander, General David Petraeus, these intelligence officials questioned the current US policy of isolating and marginalizing Hamas and Hizbullah, and urged that Washington instead encourage them to integrate with their respective political mainstreams. They reject Israel’s view that Hamas is incapable of change and must be confronted with force. They maintain Hamas is pragmatic and opportunistic, and that failing to recognize its grievances will result in our continuing failure to get it to moderate its behaviour. At the heart of Hamas’ grievances is the double standard that Israel, the US and Europe apply to the entire range of issues the peace talks are intended to resolve. Hamas’ leadership maintains that what distinguishes its movement from Fatah is its refusal to swallow this hypocrisy. It insists on absolute reciprocity, especially with respect to the Quartet’s three conditions for removing the political quarantine against it. These conditions require Hamas to recognize the State of Israel, accept all previous agreements with Israel, and renounce violence. Yet these three obligations – every one of them – have been regularly ignored and violated by Netanyahu and preceding Israeli governments. Settlements violate agreements While insisting on Hamas’ recognition of Israel (a requirement to which Netanyahu has added the demand that Palestinians also declare Israel the legitimate national home of the Jewish people), Israeli governments have refused to affirm a Palestinian right to statehood anywhere within Palestine’s borders. That right has been rejected not only rhetorically but by the creation of so-called “facts on the ground,” ie, Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem and in the West Bank, intended to prevent a Palestinian state from ever coming into being. The argument that the settlements are necessary to assure territorial adjustments required for Israel’s security has no credibility. The settlement enterprise long ago exceeded the most expansively defined Israeli security needs. It was not Israel’s Peace Now but former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert who, while still in office, ridiculed such claims. Olmert said that for Israel’s military and security establishments, “it’s all about tanks and land and controlling territories and controlled territories (sic) and this hilltop and that hilltop. All these things are worthless.” He added, “Who thinks seriously that if we sit on another hilltop, on another hundred meters, that this is what will make the difference for the State of Israel’s basic security?”8 Palestinian rights not recognised by Israel Netanyahu’s acceptance of a two-state solution, which has not been taken seriously by anyone in Israel, is not based on his recognition of the
Mark Perry, “Red Team”, Foreign Policy, 30 June 2010, http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/06/29/red_team , accessed 21 August 2010. 8 Ethan Bronner, “Olmert says Israel should pull out of West Bank”, New York Times, 28 September 2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/30/world/middleeast/30olmert.html, accessed 21 August 2010.
Palestinian right to national self-determination. Netanyahu led the successful opposition to Ariel Sharon’s effort in 2002 to prevent the Likud’s executive committee from declaring its rejection of a Palestinian state, thus precipitating Sharon’s departure from the Likud to the newlyformed Kadima party. As long as Israel’s government refuses to delineate its borders and to recognize the right of Palestinians to a state of their own east of the 1967 lines, Hamas will reject demands that a Palestinian state of which it is a part recognise Israel. As noted above, Netanyahu refused to indicate his government’s definition of Israel’s borders even in the privacy of his meeting with President Obama at the White House on March 23. The second Quartet condition is that Hamas abide by all previous IsraeliPalestinian accords. Clearly, neither President Obama nor the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, believe Israel has abided by this obligation, or they would not have demanded that Israel halt all further settlement expansion in East Jerusalem and in the West Bank. Israel’s violations of previous accords have not been limited to borders and settlements, but include the “road map” and the Oslo accords’ provisions that the future status of Jerusalem can be determined only by agreement between the parties, not by unilateral fiat, as Netanyahu’s government seeks to do. Non-violent alternative lacking As to the third condition, renunciation of violence, Israel again is as much in violation of that requirement as is Hamas. On virtually every Israeli measure whose legality has been challenged by the Palestinians – eg, the confiscations of Palestinian territory for Jewish settlements, the expulsion of Palestinians from East Jerusalem, the demolition of Palestinian homes and the construction of a security fence on Palestinian territory – Israel has prevailed because of its unrestrained resort to violence to subdue or eliminate Palestinians who stand in the way. As a sovereign state, Israel enjoys a monopoly on the use of violence, but only within its own borders. It has no greater claim to a right to resort to violence to implement measures – such as the transfer of its own population to territories under occupation – that are clear violations of international law, than does its subject population. It is not reasonable, to say the least, to expect that Palestinians would renounce violence and rely instead on their occupiers – who covet their land and are frantically settling their own population on it – to serve as judge and jury of their grievances. The demand that they renounce violence without being provided a credible non-violent alternative, such as a third-party monitoring authority that is empowered to adjudicate grievances from both sides, is neither defensible nor implementable. Hamas’ religious agenda What surprises about Hamas’ rule in Gaza is not the visible increase in public religiosity – some of it undoubtedly out of fear of Hamas’ authorities – but Hamas’ relative restraint in imposing such religious behaviour on Gaza’s population, especially when compared to certain other Islamic regimes in the region.
That restraint, and Hamas’ formal commitment to democratic governance notwithstanding, there is no greater danger to democracy – or to any kind of civilized existence – than the toxic combination of religious zealotry and xenophobic nationalism. That holds as much for Israel as for Islamic movements and regimes. When the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) prepared their onslaught on Gaza, the chief chaplain distributed to the soldiers religious literature authored by nationalist rabbis from the settler community, instructing them that Palestinians must be considered descendants of the Biblical enemy of the ancient Israelites, the Amalekites, whom God wants utterly destroyed. The pamphlet stated it is a sin to show compassion towards Palestinian civilians, including children. What impact that “religious” literature had on the appalling disproportion of Palestinian civilian casualties in that operation, including large numbers of Gaza’s children, we will probably never know. Hamas not an al-Qaeda proxy Israel would like the world to believe that Hamas is nothing other than a terrorist enterprise, and that Hamas’ “resistance” is in the service of a global Salafist effort to defeat the West and restore an Islamic caliphate. That is a lie intended to place Israel in the vanguard of a Western war on “global terrorism”, in order to justify its demand that the West make allowances for the illegal measures it claims it must resort to if the terrorists are to be defeated. In fact, Hamas does not share al-Qaeda’s goals, or its hostility to the West and the US. It has consistently rejected al-Qaeda’s urgings that it target American and Western interests, limiting itself instead to the Palestinian national struggle, for which it would like American and European support, understanding how critical that support is to the achievement of Palestinian national aspirations. Opposition from more extreme antiWestern jihadist factions and would-be al-Qaeda supporters within Gaza has been brutally put down by Hamas, for ideological reasons no less than the threat these factions pose to Hamas’ hegemony. In his interview in Al-Sabeel, Meshal rejected violence for its own sake, or as dictated by ideology or religion. He argued violence may be necessary for pragmatic reasons, because “negotiations and peace require a balance of power, for peace cannot be made when one party is powerful and the other weak; otherwise this will be surrender.” Those who are forced to negotiate out of weakness and on terms that disadvantage their rights “are the ones that will pay the price of the negotiations,” he said. Hamas is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. Like its parent body, it has little in common with a Salafist purism that calls for a literalistic Islam insulated from modernity and from a modernizing pragmatism that seeks to adapt Islam to the modern world.9 Predictions of its likely behaviour when Palestinian statehood will have been achieved can no more be based on its behaviour during a revolutionary struggle against a powerful
Marc Lynch, “Veiled truths: the rise of political Islam in the West”, Foreign Affairs, July/August 2010, http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/66468/marc-lynch/veiled-truths , accessed 21 August 2010.
occupier than the Yishuv’s10 resort to terror during its pre-state struggle was an indication of its comportment after the founding of the state. Jewish terror The targeting of Arab civilians by Jewish terror groups in the 1930s is documented in painful detail by Benny Morris, Israel’s leading chronicler of the Jewish struggle for a homeland in Palestine. In Righteous Victims, Morris writes that the upsurge of Arab terrorism in 1937 “triggered a wave of Irgun bombings against Arab crowds and buses, introducing a new dimension to the conflict.” While in the past Arabs had “sniped at cars and pedestrians and occasionally lobbed a grenade, often killing or injuring a few bystanders or passengers,” now “for the first time, massive bombs were placed in crowded Arab centers, and dozens of people were indiscriminately murdered and maimed.” Morris notes that “this ‘innovation’ soon found Arab imitators.”11 That there may also have been yet untold Israeli violations of international law well after the establishment of the state too incriminating to be revealed seems evident from Netanyahu’s recent decision to restrict access to government archives on subjects that include, according to a Haaretz editorial entitled “A state afraid of its past,”12 expulsions and massacres of Arabs during and following Israel’s War of Independence. Zionist terrorism does not condone Hamas’ terrorism. But its history serves to make two points: the inevitability of such abuses when nonviolent paths to the achievement of legitimate national goals are denied, and the fallacy of the Israeli claim that a state that comes into existence by terrorist means must inevitably become a terrorist state. The leaders of the two major pre-state Zionist terror organizations, Yitzhak Shamir and Menachem Begin, became prime ministers of what Israelis like to believe is “the only democracy in the Middle East.” (Not that there are many other democracies in the region, but Israeli democracy increasingly stands on the most fragile of foundations.) The Israeli charge that, unlike the Zionists who abandoned past excesses once they achieved statehood, Hamas continued its terror assaults on Israel even after Prime Minister Sharon withdrew every Jewish settlement and settler from Gaza is disingenuous. The dishonesty of that comparison lies in its implication that with the withdrawal from Gaza, Palestinians achieved their goal of statehood and independence in a part of Palestine. Not only the West Bank, but Gaza has remained under Israel’s occupation, for it has been surrounded by the IDF on land, sea and air, and subjected to an Israeli campaign of de-development that has completely devastated what had remained of Gaza’s economy. The stability that Hamas has achieved in Gaza despite Israel’s relentless efforts to bring it down is at least as impressive as what the Palestinian Authority (PA) has achieved in
The pre-state Jewish community.
Benny Morris, Righteous victims: a history of the Zionist-Arab conflict, 1881-2001, Vintage Books, 2001, p 147. 12 “A state afraid of its past”, Haaretz editorial, 29 July 2010, http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/opinion/a-state-afraid-of-its-past-1.304711, accessed 21 August.
the West Bank, given the vast European and American resources endlessly poured into the PA’s treasury.13 Breaking the stalemate Political Islam cannot be ignored Having decided to join the Palestinian political process in 2005 and won a free and fair democratic election (the first in the Arab Middle East) in 2006, Hamas is surely as legitimate a stakeholder in the Israel-Palestine conflict as is Fatah, the party that lost that election. A peace accord that ignores legitimate stakeholders cannot hope to succeed. But there are fundamental reasons for changing Israeli and US policy towards Hamas that go well beyond Hamas’ capacity to prevent a peace accord reached only with Abbas. Political Islam has emerged as the dominant religious, cultural and political movement in the Arab world and in much of the larger Islamic world. Most Muslim governments recognize this reality and have come to realize that competition with political Islam “can neither be suppressed nor ignored.” 14 Israel is a Middle Eastern country, and cannot expect to achieve security by conducting an endless war against political Islam. Its misguided effort to do so is not a sustainable national policy. If the unresolved Israel-Arab conflict is not to bring the region to more radical instability and deeper conflict that will inevitably exact a heavy price from America as well, the Obama administration must lead an international initiative to define the parameters of an Israeli-Palestinian agreement and actively promote Palestinian political reconciliation. If Obama cannot provide that leadership, Europe must do so, and hope America will at least follow. Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet – not even American-sponsored parameters – that can guarantee the goal of “two states living side by side in peace and security.” But President Obama’s present course absolutely precludes it. Back to top
An excellent meeting
Two statesmen met in Washington on Tuesday who are looking smaller and smaller, who are taking smaller and smaller steps. Gideon Levy, 8th July 2010 It really was an excellent meeting: The chance that a binational state will be established has improved as a result; relations between Israel and the
Yezid Sayigh, “Hamas rule in Gaza: three years on”, Middle East Brief 41, March 2010, Crown Center for Middle East Studies, Brandeis University, www.brandeis.edu/crown/publications/meb/meb41.html, accessed 21 August 2010; Nathan Brown, “Are Palestinians building a state?”, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, June 2010, http://carnegieendowment.org/files/palestinian_state1.pdf, accessed 21 August 2010. 14 Ian S. Lustick, “Israel could benefit from Hamas”, Forbes magazine, 17 June 2010, http://www.forbes.com/2010/06/17/israel-hamas-middle-east-politics-opinionscontributors-ian-s-lustick.html , accessed 21 August 2010.
United States are indeed "marvelous." Israel can continue with the whims of its occupation. The president of the United States proved Tuesday that perhaps there has been change, but not as far as we are concerned. If there remained any vestiges of hope in the Middle East from Barack Obama, they have dissipated; if some people still expected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to lead a courageous move, they now know they made a mistake (and misled others ). The masked ball is at its peak: Preening each other, Obama and Netanyahu have proved that even their heavy layer of makeup can no longer hide the wrinkles. The worn-out, wizened old face of the longest "peace process" in history has been awarded another surprising and incomprehensible extension. It's on its way nowhere. The "warm" and "sympathetic" reception, albeit a little forced, including the presidential dog, Bo, the meeting of the wives, with the U.S. president accompanying the Israeli prime minister to the car in an "unprecedented" way, as the press enthused, cannot obscure reality. The reality is that Israel has again managed to fool not only America, but even its most promising president in years. It was enough to listen to the joint press conference to understand, or better yet, not understand, where we are headed. Will the freeze continue? Obama and Netanyahu squirmed, formulated and obfuscated, and no clear answer was forthcoming. If there was a time when people marveled at Henry Kissinger's "constructive ambiguity," now we have destructive ambiguity. Even when it came to the minimum move of a construction freeze, without which there is no proof of serious intent on Israel's part, the two leaders threw up a smoke screen. A cowardly yesand-no by both. More than anything, the meeting proved that the criminal waste of time will go on. A year and a half has passed since the two took office, and almost nothing has changed except lip service to the freeze. A few lifted roadblocks here, a little less blockade of Gaza there - all relatively marginal matters, a bogus substitute for a bold jump over the abyss, without which nothing will move. When direct talks become a goal, without anyone having a clue what Israel's position is - a strange negotiation in which everyone knows what the Palestinians want and no one knows for sure what Israel wants - the wheel not only does not go forward, it goes backward. There are plenty of excuses and explanations: Obama has the congressional elections ahead of him, so he mustn't make Netanyahu angry. After that, the footfalls of the presidential elections can be heard, and then he certainly must not anger the Jews. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is pressuring Netanyahu now; tomorrow it might be Likud MK Danny Danon, and after all, you can't expect Netanyahu to commit political suicide. And there you have it, his term in office is over, with no achievements. Good for you, Obama; bravo Netanyahu. You managed to make a mockery of each other, and together, of us all. Netanyahu will be coming back to Israel over the weekend, adorned with false accomplishments. The settlers will mark a major achievement. Even
if they don't not admit it - they are never satisfied, after all - they can rejoice secretly. Their project will continue to prosper. If they have doubled their numbers since the Oslo Accords, now they can triple them. And then what? Here then is a question for Obama and Netanyahu: Where to? No playing for time can blur the question. Where are they headed? What will improve in another year? What will be more promising in another two years? The Syrian president is knocking at the door begging for peace with Israel, and the two leaders are ignoring him. Will he still be knocking in two years? The Arab League's initiative is still valid; terror has almost ceased. What will the situation be after they have finished compromising over the freeze in construction of balconies and ritual baths? Two statesmen met in Washington on Tuesday who are looking smaller and smaller, who are taking smaller and smaller steps. They have decided not to decide, which in itself is a decision. When the chance of a two-state solution has long since entered injury time, they have decided on more extra time. Get ready for the binational state, or the next round of bloodletting. Back to top
ICAHD DENOUNCES ISRAELI DEMOLITIONS (and American enabling)
July 14, 2010 After an unofficial nine-month “moratorium,” the Israeli government has returned with a vengeance to its policy of demolishing Palestinian homes. Yesterday, July 13, six homes were demolished in East Jerusalem. In Jabal Mukaber, the homes of the Tawil family (15 people) and the Masrawi family (six people) were demolished. In Beit Hanina, the municipality demolished the home of the Rajabi family (six people). And in Issawaiyeh, three homes in advanced stages of construction were demolished: one of the Dari family, another belonging to the Nasser family and a third of the Abu Rameileh family. Today, in the West Bank, a reservoir belonging to the Jaber family was demolished by the Civil Administration, and other buildings are threatened. (This, despite the fact that the Ma’aleh Adumim settlement, which already has four large municipal swimming pools, is constructing a water park complete with an artificial lake.) All this, plus municipal approval for the demolition of 22 homes in the Silwan neighborhood, continued pressure to remove Palestinian families from Sheikh Jarrah – and the approval by the municipality this week of 54 new housing units for the Pisgat Ze’ev settlement. Despite claims that Palestinian houses, reservoirs and other buildings are “illegal,” demolition is merely another face of ethnic cleansing, since the Jerusalem Municipality, the Ministry of Interior and the Civil Administration of the West Bank all deny Palestinians the right to build homes on their own property. Although the pressure to demolish is constant – the Israeli authorities have demolished 24,000 Palestinian homes since 1967 and new orders are issued daily – the current wave of demolitions can only be
explained on the background of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s visit to Washington last week. For the past decade or so demolition orders can be executed only with the approval of the Prime Minister’s Office; these are not municipal-level decisions, even if the municipality presses for demolitions. Only one of two explanations for the wave of demolitions is therefore possible. Either Israel has received a green (OK, blinking orange) light that the US will not object vociferously to demolitions – and, in fact, the State Department issued a mild statement describing the demolitions as “unhelpful,” the same term Hillary Clinton used when homes were demolished during her visit to Ramallah. Or Netanyahu, flush from his victory over Obama in the Biden affair, when Congress overwhelmingly supported the Israeli position of building settlements over that of their own Administration, felt free to return to his aggressive policies of “judaization.” Basking in the warm embrace he just received at the White House, Netanyahu knows he has nothing to fear from an increasingly weakened Obama Administration. It is becoming obvious – if it wasn’t already – that the United States will not, or cannot “deliver” a just peace in Israel-Palestine. Even if an Administration tries to pursue a more critical line towards Israel, its hands will inevitably be tied by Congress. The time has come to pursue a “working around America” strategy, mobilizing the civil societies of Europe, Latin America, Africa and perhaps Asia as well, to create a global consensus that either presses for a just solution to the conflict on its own, or prods the US to become constructively involved by virtue of its international isolation. The present wave of demolitions demonstrates the bankruptcy and ineffectiveness of the American “approach.” 24,000 demolitions later (and counting), it is time to look elsewhere. Back to top
Israel planning new West Bank train network, minister says
Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz says West Bank construction freeze is not a solution as Jews will live there for ever. Haim Levinson, Haaretz, 4th May 2010 Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud) announced Tuesday that the ministry was promoting a plan to establish a train network in the West Bank which will converge with the new train tracks planned throughout Israel. Katz said that the plan had been drawn up with the cooperation of international organizations which have expressed great interest in the issue. He added that a train track is planned to run between Jenin, the Yizrael Valley and to Jerusalem. During a tour of the West Bank, Katz said that in the past the entire area was netted with train tracks and reminded the settlers who escorted him
that the first settlement in the West Bank was at the train station in the Arab town Sebastia. Katz also mentioned the building of the new road, Highway 505, which is due to stretch from Tel Aviv to the Jordan Valley, and said that it was strategically important, yet it could not be built based on national reasons. "I have given the instruction to promote the plan for the road, so that the route will be prepared," Katz said, adding that the road "could be useful both in times of peace and in times of war – during wartimes it would be good for transferring tanks, but I hope that during times of peace Israelis and Palestinians will travel on it." The minister also said that construction in the West Bank would continue immediately after the construction freeze comes to an end, as "the freeze is not a solution, Jews will live here for ever.” Back to top
Don't fall for the direct-talk hype: The 'peace process' is still going nowhere
Stephen M. Walt , August 20, 2010 If you think today's announcement that the Israelis and Palestinians are going to resume "direct talks" is a significant breakthrough, you haven't been paying attention for the past two decades (at least). I wish I could be more optimistic about this latest development, but I see little evidence that a meaningful deal is in the offing. Why do I say this? Three reasons. 1. There is no sign that the Palestinians are willing to accept less than a viable, territorially contiguous state in the West Bank (and eventually, Gaza), including a capital in East Jerusalem and some sort of political formula (i.e., fig-leaf) on the refugee issue. By the way, this outcome supposedly what the Clinton and Bush adminstrations favored, and what Obama supposedly supports as well. 2. There is no sign that Israel's government is willing to accept anything more than a symbolic Palestinian "state" consisting of a set of disconnected Bantustans, with Israel in full control of the borders, air space, water supplies, electromagnetic spectrum. etc. Prime Minister Netanyahu has made it clear that this is what he means by a "two-state solution," and he has repeatedly declared that Israel intends to keep all of Jerusalem and maybe a long-term military presence in the Jordan River valley. There are now roughly 500,000 Israeli Jews living outside the 1967 borders, and it is hard to imagine any Israeli government evacuating a significant fraction of them. Even if Netanyahu wanted to be more forthcoming, his coalition wouldn't let him make any meaningful concessions. And while the talks drag on, the illegal settlements will continue to expand. 3. There is no sign that the U.S. government is willing to put meaningful pressure on Israel. We're clearly willing to twist Mahmoud Abbas' arm to the breaking point (which is why he's agreed to talks, even
as Israel continues to nibble away at the territory of the future Palestinian state), but Obama and his Middle East team have long since abandoned any pretense of bringing even modest pressure to bear on Netanyahu. Absent that, why should anyone expect Bibi to change his position? So don't fall for the hype that this announcement constitutes some sort of meaningful advance in the "peace process." George Mitchell and his team probably believe they are getting somewhere, but they are either deluding themselves, trying to fool us, or trying to hoodwink other Arab states into believing that Obama meant what he said in Cairo. At this point, I rather doubt that anyone is buying, and the only thing that will convince onlookers that U.S. policy has changed will be tangible results. Another round of inconclusive "talks" will just reinforce the growing perception that the United States cannot deliver. The one item in all this that does give me pause is the accompanying statement by the Middle East Quartet (the United States, Russia, the EU and the U.N.), which appears at first glance to have some modest teeth in it. Among other things, it calls explicitly for "a settlement, negotiated between the parties, that ends the occupation which began in 1967 and results in the emergence of an independent, democratic, and viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel and its other neighbors." It also says these talks can be completed within one year. Sounds promising, but the Quartet has issued similar proclamations before (notably the 2003 "Roadmap"), and these efforts led precisely nowhere. So maybe there's a ray of hope in there somewhere, but I wouldn't bet on it. Meanwhile, both Democrats and Republicans here in the United States will continue to make pious statements about their commitment to a two-state solution, even as it fades further and further into the realm of impossibility. Barring a miracle, we will eventually have to recognize that "two-states for two peoples" has become a pipe-dream. At that point, U.S. leaders will face a very awkward choice: they can support a democratic Israel where Jews and Arabs have equal political rights (i.e., a one-state democracy similar to the United States, where discrimination on the basis of religion or ethnicity is taboo), or they can support an apartheid state whose basic institutions are fundamentally at odds with core American values. Equally important, an apartheid Israel will face growing international censure, and as both former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and current Defense Minister Ehud Barak have warned, such an outcome would place Israel's own long-term future in doubt. If that happens, all those staunch "friends of Israel" who have hamstrung U.S. diplomacy for decades can explain to their grandchildren how they let that happen. As for the Obama administration itself, I have only one comment. If you think I'm being too gloomy, then do the world a favor and prove me wrong. If you do, I'll be the first to admit it.
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Why is Obama moving to fund Israel's Iron Dome project?
Jimmy Johnson, 4 August 2010 On 16 July 2010, US Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Andrew Shapiro laid out the Obama Administration's policy on strategic cooperation between the US and Israel in a speech at the Brookings Institution's Saban Center for Middle East Policy in Washington. Shapiro, referring to the "rocket threats from Hizballah and Hamas" that represent a "daily concern for ordinary Israelis living in border towns such as Sderot," noted that earlier this year, President Obama "asked Congress to authorize $205 million to support the production of an Israeli-developed short range rocket defense system called Iron Dome." If approved, these funds would be "above and beyond the $3 billion in Foreign Military Financing that the Administration requested for Israel" for 2011 ("The Obama Administration's Approach to US-Israel Security Cooperation: Preserving Israel's Qualitative Military Edge"). The result of this request has been H.R. 5327 which on 20 May passed the US House of Representatives by a 410-4 vote, with 16 abstentions. The Senate version, S. 3451, is still awaiting a vote by the Foreign Relations Committee. Despite Shapiro's assertion that the US is "confident that Iron Dome will provide improved defense for the people of Israel," Yossi Melman, a columnist for the Israeli daily Haaretz, recently noted that "the system has difficulty intercepting mortar shells and Qassams [flat route weapons] whose range is 4.5 kilometers or less" ("Iron Dome may not be as effective as the IDF thinks," 22 July 2010). This distinction is important as the most recent tests of Iron Dome, declared to be a success by military personnel, were not conducted at angles and distances from which Qassam and Grad rockets are typically fired. Melman quotes a former military aeronautics engineer as saying, "Five rockets were fired [three grads and two Qassams]. That's not exactly a shower of grads. Of the five, two were expected to hit on target, and they were successfully intercepted. None of them was short-range. I checked the angle of fire a few times, and in no case were they lower than 45 degrees. That means that that only steeply routed rockets were intercepted. The matter of flat routes was not examined in this test." Even The Jerusalem Post, which supports the project, was cautious in its optimism. Last month it noted that Iron Dome "passed its final operational tests with flying colors, but real life is a whole other opera (as Israelis may remember from the disappointing performance, to put it mildly, of the [Patriot Missiles] in the First Gulf War)" ("Putting Iron Dome into Perspective," 21 July 2010). Ohio Representative Dennis Kucinich, one of the four congresspersons to vote against H.R. 5327 agrees. He stated in his 19 May speech in opposition to the legislation that "H.R. 5327 proposes that the means to achieve security for Israel is through investing in a missile defense system. I do not support that, and neither should anyone truly supportive of the security of Israel." He noted how Iron Dome -- even were it actually effective in stopping missiles and mortars -- would do nothing to address reasons why such projectiles are launched: "I am also concerned that 43
years of military occupation in the West Bank, and the crippling siege of Gaza that has entered its fourth year, continue to undermine Israel's security. Investment in a missile defense system will not eliminate the need to address these issues that are a fundamental part of securing Israel's future." Such statements stand in stark contrast to those by supporters of the bill. New Jersey Representative John Adler, for example, on his website claims "The Iron Dome missile defense system helps protect Israeli citizens from short-ranged missile attacks launched by known terrorist organizations, such as Hamas and Hizballah." He asserts that "Congress must continue to do all it can to protect our trusted ally and a fellow democracy." Adler adds that "This federal commitment speaks to the unshakable bond that exists between the United States and Israel" ("Congressman Adler votes to Increase Funding ...," 25 May 2010). US military aid is not based on strictly military threats. Assistant Secretary of State Shapiro claimed that Israel "is under threat from the dynamics of demography, ideology and technology," only the latter relating to missiles and mortars. As I have noted previously, the real purpose of Iron Dome is pacification of Palestinians under occupation and siege, not to protect Israel civilians. Moreover, the system is prohibitively expensive. In his Haaretz column, Melman notes that each Iron Dome missile costs around $100,000 compared to the Qassams' approximate cost of $100. Despite Singapore footing the bill for "a large part of the development," the Israeli military has only produced funds to deploy two Iron Dome batteries to date. Melman writes that "For any reasonable home front defense in the north and south, there is a need for 200 batteries of defense systems at a cost of $500 million." According to Defense News, as reported by YNet, the Indian Ministry of Defense is considering procuring Iron Dome and part of the funding from Singapore was for its eventual procurement by India ("India in talks to buy Iron Dome, David's Sling," 18 July 2010). The Israeli Defense Ministry would, in all likelihood, be unable to raise the $300 million balance between what is needed for full deployment even if Iron Dome is made effective. The far cheaper Phalanx system, which the US has deployed with significant success in Iraq, would be a much more sensible option for use in Israel. If Iron Dome is indeed consistently successful in tests like the one performed mid-July, for distances and arcs longer and higher than achieved by a Qassam en route to Sderot, and with two international customers already lined up, then the more logical explanation is that Iron Dome is primarily for export as it is not -- perhaps not yet -- useful in Israel. Congressman Kucinich noted that no peace agreement, and hence no pacification technology, will be successful so long as "illegal settlements continue to be built in East Jerusalem and the West Bank," and "1.5 million people in Gaza continue to suffer without basic services and Palestinians in the West Bank are denied the freedom of movement and prosperity by the separation barrier and hundreds of checkpoints." In this analysis the Iron Dome, were it even effective against Qassam rockets and mortars, would be at best a means to avoid a peace agreement or redress of the points Kucinich mentions. Such a scenario, and the even more
questionable one of the Iron Dome being primarily for export, begs the question: why is the Obama administration moving toward funding it? Back to top
Ramadan Kareem from Obama and Netanyahu
Jeff Halper, August 17, 2010 At 2:30 a.m. on Tuesday, the day before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan began, workers sent by the Israeli authorities, protected by dozens of police, destroyed the tombstones in the last portion of the Mamilla cemetery, a historic Muslim burial ground with graves going back to the 7th Century, hitherto left untouched. Israel has always been fully cognizant of the sanctity and historic significance of the site. Already in 1948, when control of the cemetery reverted to Israel, the Israeli Religious Affairs Ministry recognized Mamilla "to be one of the most prominent Muslim cemeteries, where 70,000 Muslim warriors of [Saladin’s] armies are interred along with many Muslim scholars. Israel will always know to protect and respect this site." For all that, and despite (proper) Israeli outrage when Jewish cemeteries are desecrated anywhere in the world, the dismantlement of the Mamilla cemetery has been systematic. In the 1960s "Independence Park" was built over a portion of it; subsequently an urban road was built through it, major electrical cables were laid over graves and a parking lot constructed over yet another piece. Now some 1,500 Muslim graves have been cleared in several nighttime operations to make way for a $100 million Museum of Tolerance and Human Dignity, a project of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. (Ironically, Rabbi Marvin Hier, the center’s director, appeared on Fox News to express his opposition to the construction of a mosque near Ground Zero in Manhattan because the site of the 9/11 attack "is a cemetery.") The month-long period between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 6 July visit to Washington and the start of Ramadan has provided Israel with a window to "clear the table" after a frustrating hiatus on home demolitions imposed by the "old," mildly critical administration of US President Barack Obama. There is no guarantee, however, that Israel will not demolish during Ramadan, especially if it wants to exploit the period until the November elections, knowing that until then Obama will not overtly oppose anything it does. In fact, the process of demolishing Palestinian homes never ceased. On 6 June, for example, a year after the demolition of more than 65 structures and the forced displacement of more than 120 people, including 66 children, a new round of "evacuation orders" were issued to nine families, totaling 70 people, in Khirbet Ar-Ras Ahmar in the Jordan Valley. A week later the Israeli High Court ordered the Civil Administration to "step up enforcement against illegal Palestinian structures" in Area C, the 60 percent of the West Bank under full Israeli control.
And so, on 13 July, upon Netanyahu’s return (Palestinian homes are not demolished without an OK from the Prime Minister’s office), three homes were demolished in the Palestinian East Jerusalem neighborhood of AlIsawiya, followed by three more homes in Beit Hanina. The Jerusalem Municipality also announced the planned demolition of 19 more homes in Al-Isawiya this month. In the West Bank, the Civil Administration demolished 55 structures belonging to 22 families in the Hmayer area of Al-Farisiya in the northern Jordan Valley, including 22 residential tents and 30 other structures used to shelter animals and store agricultural equipment. According to the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, "This week [July 14-20, the week of Netanyahu’s return from Washington] there was a significant increase in the number of demolitions in Area C, with at least 86 structures demolished in the Jordan Valley and the southern West Bank, including Bethlehem and Hebron districts. In 2010, at least 230 Palestinian structures have been demolished in Area C, forcibly displacing 1100 people, including 400 children. Approximately 600 others have been otherwise affected." Two-thirds of the demolitions for 2010 have occurred since Netanyahu's meeting with Obama. More than 3,000 demolition orders are outstanding in the West Bank, and up to 15,000 in Palestinian East Jerusalem. The demolition of homes is, of course, only a small, if painful, part of the destruction Israel wreaks daily on the Palestinian population. Over the past few weeks a violent campaign has been waged against Palestinian farmers in one of the most fertile agricultural areas of the West Bank, the Baqa Valley, steadily being encroached upon by large suburbs of the settlement of Kiryat Arba, in Hebron. Israel already takes 85 percent of the West Bank’s water for its own use, either for settlements (settlers use five times more water per capita than Palestinians, and Ma'ale Adummim is currently building a water park in addition to its four municipal swimming pools and the huge fountains constantly flowing in the city center) or to be pumped into Israel proper – all in flagrant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits an occupying power from using the resources of an occupied territory. Accusing the farmers of "stealing water" – their own water – the Israel water company Mekorot, supported by the Civil Administration and the army, has in recent weeks destroyed dozens of wells, some of them ancient, and reservoirs used to collect rain water, which is also "illegal." Hundreds of hectares of agricultural land have dried up as irrigation pipes have been pulled out and confiscated by the Civil Administration. Fields of tomatoes, beans, eggplants and cucumbers are dying just before they can be harvested, and the grape industry in this rich valley is threatened with destruction. "I’m watching my life dry up before my eyes," Ata Jaber said. A Palestinian farmer who has had his home demolished twice, most of Jaber's land lies buried under the Givat Harsina neighborhood of Kiryat Arba and whose plastic drip irrigation pipes are destroyed annually by the Civil Administration just before he can harvest.
"I had hoped to sell my crop for at least $2000 before Ramadan, but all is gone," Jaber added. (You can see a BBC report on the destruction of Palestinian reservoirs on YouTube and a heart-rending scene filmed just a week ago when Ata's cousin was arrested in front of his small child for resisting the destruction of his water system.) Settlements continue to be built, of course. The much-trumpeted "settlement freeze" amounted to no less than a temporary lull in construction. (Indeed, Netanyahu never used the word "freeze"; in Hebrew he refers only to a "pause.") According to the August report of Israeli group Peace Now's Settlement Watch, at least 600 housing units have started to be built during the freeze, in over 60 different settlements – meaning that the rate of construction is about half of that during the same period in an average year when there is no freeze. Given that the approval process has never been halted – the Israeli government announced the planned building of 1600 housing units in the settlements when US Vice President Joe Biden was visiting, if you recall – making up for lost time when the "freeze" ends in late September will be an easy task. According to Haaretz, some 2,700 housing units are waiting to be constructed. The fact that the so-called settlement freeze did not really end settlement construction is obvious. The American government seems ready to accept lip service only from Israel, as against overt and brutal threats towards the Palestinians if they do not acquiesce to the charade. Palestinian negotiators revealed last week that the Obama administration threatened to cut all ties with the Palestinian Authority, political and financial, if it continues to insist on a genuine freeze on settlements or even clear parameters on what the sides will negotiate. (Netanyahu refuses to accept even the elementary principle of the 1967 borders being the basis of talks.) Just as destructive of any real peace process, however, is the fact that the focus on settlement freeze deflects attention from attempts by Israel to create "irreversible facts on the ground" which will defeat the very process of negotiation. Even if Israel did respect a settlement freeze, there is no demand, no expectation, absolutely nothing to prevent it from continuing to build the wall (the enclosing of the Shu'fat refugee camp inside Jerusalem and the town of Anata is being completed in these very days, and the village of AlWalaja, some of which spills into Jerusalem, is losing its lands, ancient olive trees and homes even as we speak). Nothing is preventing Israel from continuing to impoverish and imprison the Palestinian population through its 20-year economic "closure," including the siege on Gaza, having reduced the Palestinian economy to ashes.
Nothing stands in the way of completing a system of parallel (though not equal in size and quality) apartheid highways: big ones, going through Palestinian lands, for Israelis; narrow ones for Palestinians. Nothing keeps Israel from expelling Palestinians from their homes so that Jewish settlers can move in – on 29 July nine families living in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City, returning home at night from a wedding, found themselves locked out of their homes by settlers and prevented from entering by the police. (Palestinians, of course, have no legal recourse to reclaiming their properties, whole villages, towns and urban neighborhoods, farms, factories and commercial buildings, confiscated from them in 1948 and after.) Nothing prevents Israel from terrorizing the Palestinian population, whether by its own army or the surrogate militia founded by the US and run by the Palestinian Authority to pacify its own population; whether by settlers who shoot and beat Palestinians and burn their crops with no fear of arrest, or by undercover agents, aided by thousands of Palestinian forced to become collaborators, many simply so that their children could receive medical care or so they could have a roof over their heads; whether by expulsion or the myriad administrative constraints of an invisible yet Kafkaesque system of total control and intimidation. Nothing opposes Israel’s boycott of the Palestinian people, isolated from the world by Israeli-controlled borders, or policies that effectively boycott Palestinian schools and universities by preventing their proper functioning. And nothing, absolutely nothing, stops Israel from demolishing Palestinian homes – 24,000 in the occupied territories since 1967, and counting. Perhaps this way of welcoming Ramadan comes as no surprise in terms of the occupied territories. It took on an entirely different cast when, on 26 July, more than 1,300 Israeli border police, the shock-troops of the police’s Yassam "special operations" unit and regular police, accompanied by helicopters, descended upon the Bedouin village of Al-Arakib, just north of Beer Sheva, a community within Israel inhabited by Israeli citizens. Forty-five homes were demolished, 300 people forcibly displaced. One of the most grotesque and dismaying parts of this operation was the use of Israeli Jewish high school students, volunteers with the civil guard, to remove the belongings of their fellow citizens from their homes before the demolition. Besides reports of vandalism and contempt for their victims the students were photographed lounging in the residents’ furniture in plain sight of its owners. Finally, when the bulldozers began demolishing the homes, the volunteers cheered and celebrated. Over the next week, as Israeli activists helped the residents pick up the pieces and rebuild their homes, the Jewish National Fund, the Israeli Land Authority, the Ministry of the Interior and the "Green Patrol" of the Ministry of Agriculture (established by Ariel Sharon to prevent Bedouin "takeover" of the Negev) sent in police and bulldozers and had the village demolished twice more.
Although Al-Arakib is one of 44 "unrecognized" Bedouin villages in the Negev – of which only 11 have even rudimentary education and medical services, no electricity, extremely limited access to water and none have paved roads it is nevertheless populated by Israeli citizens, some of whom serve in the Israeli army. While demolitions of Arab homes within Israel is not a new phenomenon – last year the Israeli government demolished three times more houses of Israeli (Arab) citizens inside Israel as it did in the occupied territories (the destruction of up to 8,000 homes in the Gaza invasion aside) – it signifies that the term “occupation” cannot be restricted to the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza (and the Golan Heights) alone. The situation of Arab citizens of Israel is almost as insecure as that of the Palestinians of the occupied territories, and their exclusion from Israeli society almost as complete. While around 1,000 cities, towns and agricultural villages have been established in Israel since 1948 exclusively for Jews, not a single new Arab settlement has been established, with the exception of seven housing projects for Bedouins in the Negev where none of the residents are allowed to farm or own animals. Indeed, regulations and zoning prohibit Palestinian citizens of Israel from living on 96% of the country’s land, which is reserved for Jews only. The message of the bulldozers is clear: Israel has created one bi-national entity between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River in which one population (the Jews) has separated itself from the other (the Arabs) and instituted a regime of permanent domination. That is precisely the definition of apartheid. And the message is delivered clearly in the weeks and days leading up to Ramadan. It is papered over with fine words. Netanyahu issued a statement saying: "We mark this important month amid attempts to achieve direct peace talks with the Palestinians and to advance peace treaties with our Arab neighbors. I know you are partners in this goal and I ask for your support both in prayers and in any other joint effort to really create a peaceful and harmonious coexistence." Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also sent their greetings to the Muslim world, Obama observing that Ramadan "reminds us of the principles that we hold in common, and Islam's role in advancing justice, progress, tolerance, and the dignity of all human beings." Both the White House and the State Department will hold Iftar meals. But the bulldozers and other expressions of apartheid and warehousing tell a much different story. Back to top
Separate roads increasingly part of West Bank map
Venetia Rainey, JMCC, April 28, 2010 Al-Walaja village is a mere four km from Bethlehem, and 8.5 km from Jerusalem. Already cut off from the rest of the West Bank by the Wall Israel is constructing, the village will soon be surrounded
completely by a cement and barbed-wire barrier, becoming a “seam zone enclave” because it lies in between Israel’s pre-1967 border and the route of the Wall. The only connection between the village and the rest of the West Bank is now a single road, which connects to Beit Jala in Bethlehem. Access to Jerusalem is completely severed. A similar situation has already occurred in Bir Nabala, near Ramallah. Once an unremarkable suburb just north of Jerusalem, the village is now famous for being surrounded on three sides by the Wall, and on the fourth by Road 443, currently reserved exclusively for Israeli use. Connected to Ramallah via what Israeli military officials call a “fabric of life” road, which tunnels underneath Road 443, Bir Nabala has become a ghost town. Numerous "fabric of life" roads -- inferior routes that provide alternatives to main roads on which only Israelis can travel – have been in operation for years. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported in 2009 that there were already 40 tunnels and 39 km of repaved agricultural roads serving such a purpose, with another 18 tunnels and 45 km planned, including Bir Nabala. Al-Walaja’s “fabric of life” road, however, is being financed by USAID, an independent federal government agency that receives overall foreign policy guidance from the US secretary of state. As part of its Infrastructure Needs program, it has already completed more than 230 km of road rehabilitation projects since 2000, and has a further 120 km of additional roads projects ongoing, costing a total of $160 million US taxpayer dollars to date. Roughly 79 km of the roads funded by USAID have the majority of their route in Area C (areas of the West Bank under complete Israeli control), providing contiguity of transport between villages and towns disconnected by Israeli-only roads, the Wall, or Israeli settlements. Many of these roads run parallel to or below roads known as Israeli-only roads, which, despite being in the occupied West Bank, are restricted to Palestinians. In a report in July 2007, OCHA summarized the problem with Israeli-only roads as being twofold: “First, Palestinians are restricted from using roads between their key towns and communities. Second, the roads have become barriers for Palestinians wishing to cross them. They have, therefore, further fragmented the West Bank by creating isolated Palestinian enclaves.” In August 2009, the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem estimated that there were 284 km of restricted roads in the West Bank, 104 km of which there is a total ban on Palestinians using. While Israel’s courts have ordered Road 443 near Bir Nabala open to Palestinian traffic, theWashington Post reported this week that Israeli officials plan to open to Palestinians only two access points guarded by checkpoints. President Barack Obama has, several times, explicitly stated as part of US policy the need for "a viable, independent Palestinian state with contiguous territory." At the moment, however, the only contiguous territory in the West Bank is Israeli-controlled area C, which accounts for roughly 60 percent of the West Bank.
DISCONNECTING JERICHO There has long been a fear that Israeli officials plan to partition the north and south West Bank by extending Maale Adumin, Israel’s largest settlement on the outskirts of Jerusalem, and by closing off to Palestinians Road 1, which leads from Jerusalem, through Jericho, to the Jordanian border. USAID is currently proposing an alternative road system linking Jericho and Ramallah via Road 449, which would be rehabilitated for increased use. Roughly 16km of road north of Jericho connecting various small villages and the north of the city to this road are already under construction to this end. The result is what OCHA terms, a “two-tier road network... [where] in practice, Palestinians are compelled to use... secondary and more circuitous roads that run between the Israeli road network.” This segregationist policy provides what Ariel Sharon in his 2004 disengagement plan called “contiguity of transportation” for Palestinians, but fails to make any progress in creating Palestinian territorial contiguity. The problem, says Ingrid Jaradat Gassner, director of the BADIL Resource Centre for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, is that, “Whatever you do in order to facilitate movement for Palestinians runs the risk of becoming a potential substitute for what was there before.” When asked if it felt that its road projects emphasized contiguity of transport over territorial contiguity, USAID replied, “[Our] funded roads are typically located throughout the West Bank, including areas A, B, and C. The Palestinian Authority initiates and leads the selection of the road projects USAID funds, and Israeli officials provide approval for roads located in Areas B and C.” A Palestinian Authority spokesperson says that the Jericho roadworks are being carried out to improve the quality of the infrastructure for Palestinian residents. PALESTINIAN ACQUIESCENCE? In a recent conference on the subject between USAID and the Ministry of Public Works and Housing, Mohammed Shtayyeh, the now-departed minister spoke of Palestinian road infrastructure being “not merely a technical matter... but also political,” and that one of the Palestinian Authority’s aims was “to challenge Israel’s de facto apartheid system by linking all of the West Bank with Jerusalem for Palestinians.” Shtayyeh also made clear, however, that roads must be developed and repaired to serve the Palestinian community, citing the Ramallah-Jericho road in particular, and that he did not believe that alternative roads necessarily meant that Israel would close off the existing ones to Palestinians. In 2004, Palestinians established an inter-ministerial committee to assess the individual merits of road projects, largely in response to Israel’s roads and tunnels plan. According to its criteria, the committee was supposed to reject proposals that serve the existence of the Wall, provide an
alternative to existing roads, or form a basis for two separate road networks in the West Bank. Since the 2006 elections, however, the committee has largely ceased to be active. “There are no grounds whatsoever for any accusation that the Palestinian Authority is trying to work out a policy that adapts to Israeli settlements,” says government spokesperson Ghassan Khatib. “On the contrary, the Palestinian strategy is to make sure that we use roads that Israel builds for its settlements.” Back to top
Why I don’t give a damn about the peace talks
Ami Kaufman, September 3rd, 2010 Where are the days when I used to get all excited and hopeful ahead of peace talks? Where are the days when I used to wait for the press conference, the photo op? Where are those days when I used to watch the TV closely for facial expressions, in search of sincerity or a genuine gesture of friendship? Where are those days when I hung on the words of each analyst? Where are they? Where’d they go? Why don’t I give a f-ck? Why haven’t I watched one single news report about this summit? Is it because of the almost unbearable August going into September heat? Is it because of my long hours at the paper? Is it because I just moved flat and don’t have a second for myself? Maybe it’s because I put my two kids back in kindergarden this week. And because I’m not that impressed with the teachers. Or the Israeli education system at all, for that matter. A system which has done a 180 degree turn from being one of the best to one of the worst in the world. And why should I even care about peace talks, when in 30 years a majority of the education system will be made up of haredi children who don’t study math or english? Why should I even care about peace talks when a much more devastating time bomb like that will explode right in my face in less than a generation a way? What kind of place am I raising my kids in? How do I keep them from turning into Eden Abergil? Why should I care about peace talks, when the chances are that my daughter will be blindfolding Palestinians at checkpoints in 15 years time anyway?
Is that why I don’t give a hoot about summits? Or is it because I moved to a lower rent flat because even though my wife and I work almost 100 hours a week we can’t afford to buy a reasonably sized flat in an area we like? Like almost every young couple in Israel these days? Is it because a 4 bedroom apartment in “luxurious” Netanya, half an hour from Tel Aviv, costs over 400 thousand dollars? And because I make a fraction of what a journalist at my level makes in the States, and all I can really think about is money? Or maybe it’s because I kvetch too much, apparently… Is that why? Is that why I couldn’t care less? Or maybe it’s because I just don’t trust anybody anymore? Maybe it’s because I know there’s actually no leadership. On either side. Including America. Maybe I just don’t give a shit, because I’m an experienced Middle Easterner by now, and I know that when leadership isn’t present, it’s the events on the ground that eventually dictate the outcome. They fill up the leadership vacuum. The new outpost, the slow rise in Palestinian attacks (not necessarily in that order, don’t worry – I’m not taking sides), followed by the slow rise in Israeli responses, and before you can blame who started it this time, BAM! You got yourself some Cast Lead or some Defensive Shield. Yummy. So, with all due respect to your summit, all I can say is: http://www.youtube.com/watch? v=02tCGleIdcw&feature=player_embedded [“Frankly my dear I don’t give a damn”] and just leave me alone. I have to clean the bathrooms. Back to top
BDS: A Global Movement for Freedom and Justice
Omar Barghouti Al-Shabaka policy advisor Omar Barghouti examines the formation and evolution of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement. Barghouti argues that BDS's growing success is due to its rights-based approach, collective leadership, call to Israelis of conscience, and promotion of context-specific strategies. Overview While media attention over the past few months has focused on a brewing third Palestinian intifada in response to the expansion of Israeli settlements in the Occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, Al-Shabaka policy advisor Omar Barghouti argues that a far more widespread,
nonviolent grassroots movement originating in the Occupied Palestinian Territories has been building and spreading around the world. He reviews the formation and evolution of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement, including its rights-based (as opposed to solutionsbased) approach, its collective leadership, its call to Israelis of conscience, and its promotion of context-specific strategies. The Trigger for BDS Not only friends of Palestinian rights recognize the potential of the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign; foes do too. In May 2009, at AIPAC's policy conference, Executive Director Howard Kohr warned that BDS was reaching the American mainstream and "laying the predicate for abandonment [of Israel].” 1 Kohr added, “This is a conscious campaign to shift policy, to transform the way Israel is treated by its friends to a state that deserves not our support, but our contempt; not our protection, but pressure to change its essential nature.” BDS does indeed challenge Israel’s “essential nature.” Rooted in almost a century of civil resistance to Zionist settler colonialism, the Palestinian Civil Society Campaign for BDS against Israel was launched on 9 July 2005, 2 ushering in a qualitatively new phase of resistance to Israel occupation, dispossession and apartheid against the indigenous people of Palestine. 3 The global campaign in response to the Palestinian BDS Call, which is guided by its Palestinian leadership, has made significant inroads into the Western mainstream over the past few years. The global BDS Campaign asserts a new, rights-based discourse in dealing with the question of Palestine. By so doing, it decisively exposes the double standard and exceptionalism with which the United States and most of the West have to varying degrees treated Israel ever since its establishment through the carefully planned and methodically executed campaign of forcible displacement and dispossession of the majority of the Palestinian people in the 1948 Nakba. 4 The official western collusion reached its height when Western states collectively ignored the historic advisory opinion issued by the International Court of Justice on 9 July 2004, which affirmed that Israel's colonial Wall and settlements were contrary to international law – at a time when Palestinians were still reeling from Israel’s violent take over of cities and refugee camps in the occupied West Bank in 2002. This factor was the direct trigger for the BDS Call a year later. Rights-Based Approach The BDS Call identifies the fundamental rights that correspond to the three main segments of the indigenous people of Palestine. Based on international law and universal principles of human rights, the Call urges various forms of boycott against Israel until it fully complies with its obligations under international law by: 1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 and dismantling the Wall; 2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194. The BDS Call, signed by over 170 Palestinian organizations, political parties, trade union federations, and mass movements, expresses the collective aspirations of the Palestinian people by asserting that only the fulfilment of the Call's three basic demands would satisfy the minimal requirements for the people of Palestine to exercise the inalienable right to self determination. The BDS Call has laid “the predicate" for transcending the failed official Palestinian policy of reducing Palestinian rights to the attainment of a Bantustan under Israel's overall control. It presents a popular Palestinian response to the incessant concessions by the so-called leadership over basic rights. Palestinian officials, lacking a democratic mandate and running after the trappings of power, narrow economic interests, and privilege, have through years of a US-Israeli designed and managed "peace process" effectively surrendered the right of return as it is defined by the UN; accepted Israel's occupation and colonization of key parts of the West Bank, including in East Jerusalem; expunged the 1948 Palestinians, citizens of Israel, from the very definition of the Palestinian people, indirectly legitimizing Israeli apartheid; forsaken the moral high ground by accepting a symmetry between the "claims of both sides;" and played along Israel's public relations campaign of portraying its colonial conflict with the Palestinian people as merely one over some disputed land. By avoiding the prescription of any particular political formula, the BDS Call insists, instead, on the necessity of including the three basic, irreducible rights above in any just and legal solution. It presents a platform that not only unifies Palestinians everywhere in the face of accelerating fragmentation but also appeals to international civil society by evoking the same universal principles of freedom, justice and equal rights that were upheld by the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa and the civil rights movement in the United States, among many others. In this way, the BDS movement has dragged Israel and its well-financed lobby groups onto a battlefield where the moral clarity of the Palestinian struggle for self determination, justice, freedom and equality neutralizes -even outweighs -- Israel's military power and financial prowess. BDS is the classic right over might paradigm, with the international public increasingly recognizing that Israel's criminality and impunity place a moral burden on all people of conscience to act fast, and with effectiveness, political suaveness and nuance. Collective Palestinian Leadership and Reference In 2008, the formation of the Palestinian BDS National Committee, the BNC, created a unified Palestinian reference and guiding force for the global BDS movement. The BNC is a broad coalition of leading Palestinian political parties, unions, coalitions and networks representing the three integral parts of the people of Palestine: Palestinian refugees; Palestinians in the occupied West Bank (including Jerusalem) and Gaza Strip; and Palestinian citizens of Israel. 5
An important component of the BDS Call that is often overlooked is the unambiguous invitation to conscientious Israelis to support the Call, recognizing the important role anti-colonialist, anti-racist – i.e., anti-Zionist -- Israelis can and ought to play in ending Israel's criminal impunity and apartheid. A fast growing group of principled Jewish-Israeli supporters of BDS fully recognizes this Palestinian reference. 6 Some Zionist "left" voices, on the other hand, have recently presented their own versions of "BDS," after the movement started having a palpable impact on the western mainstream. In several instances, these voices have ignored or undermined the Palestinian BDS Call and leadership as the reference for the global movement, in an attempt to project themselves as an alternative, Israelcentered reference. Their ultimate objectives are clear: salvaging their lost, unwarranted agency and inflated sense of entitlement to speak on behalf of the Palestinians; forestalling any challenges to Israel's system of apartheid and denial of refugee rights by circumscribing Palestinian rights to the "ending the occupation" in return for dropping "all claims" paradigm; and restraining solidarity initiatives to conform to their selective and ideologically motivated agendas. As in the struggle against South African apartheid, genuine solidarity movements recognize and follow the lead of the oppressed, who are not passive objects but active, rational subjects that are asserting their aspirations and rights as well as their strategy to realize them. 7 Moral Consistency and Context-Specific Strategies The BDS Call builds on many Palestinian and international initiatives for boycotting Israel and/or divesting from it, particularly since the UN Conference Against Racism in Durban in 2001. Whereas moral consistency and commitment to universal human rights are the overriding principles of the global BDS movement, operationally, BDS is based on three basic principles: context sensitivity, gradualness, and sustainability. Conscientious academics, intellectuals, human rights activists and civil society organizations in any given country, the movement recognizes, know best how to apply BDS most effectively in their particular circumstances, taking into consideration their respective political realities, constraints and potential. Several BDS recommendations were adopted at a civil society forum held in Bilbao, the Basque Country (Spain), in November 2008, with the participation of tens of Palestinian, European and Israeli progressive organizations endorsing BDS. 8 Some of these recommendations are included in the following BDS campaign priorities, which reflect the collective experiences in the BDS movement since its inception in 2005: 1. Promoting a general boycott of all Israeli products and services until Israel fully complies with its obligations under international law; 9 2. Promoting a boycott of all Israeli academic, cultural and tourist institutions that are complicit in maintaining the Israeli occupation and apartheid regime. 10 This demands raising awareness among academics, artists and cultural workers about the role these institutions have played in perpetuating injustice and colonial oppression;
3. Implementing ethical investment principles by trade unions, faithbased organizations, local councils and national pension funds, among others, by divesting from Israel Bonds and from all companies, banks and other financial institutions that profit from or are otherwise complicit in Israel’s violations of international law and Palestinian rights. Major Christian Palestinian figures recently issued "A Moment of Truth," a document by the Palestine Kairos group calling on churches around the world “to say a word of truth and to take a position of truth” and explicitly endorsing BDS "as tools of justice, peace and security;" 11 4. Promoting divestment from and/or a realistic boycott of products of companies -- whether Israeli or international -- that are implicated in violations of international law and human rights, such as Elbit Systems, BAE, Veolia, Alstom, Eden Springs, Agrexco-Carmel, Ahava, Lev Leviev Diamonds, Motorola, Caterpillar, among others; 5. Promoting ethical pilgrimage to the Holy Land by directly benefiting Palestinian hotels, restaurants, coach services, guides, etc., denying Israel, its airlines and its apartheid institutions the lucrative revenues that accrue from such pilgrimage; 6. Applying public pressure to ostracize the Jewish National Fund (JNF) and deny it its current legal status in most western countries as a tax exempt, charitable organization; 7. Lobbying local councils and regional governments to strictly apply domestic and international laws which urge them to preclude from public contracts companies that are involved in “grave misconduct,” especially at the human rights level; 8. Applying effective pressure on public officials and political parties to heed Amnesty International’s call for an immediate arms embargo on all parties of the “conflict;” 12 9. Calling for an immediate suspension of all free-trade and other preferential trade agreements with Israel due to its violations of international law and Palestinian rights; 13 10. Applying pressure for the immediate and unconditional implementation of the recommendations included in the Goldstone Report, adopted by the UN Human Rights Council and backed by the UN General Assembly and almost every major international human rights organization, to hold Israel accountable for committing war crimes and crimes against humanity. In challenging Israel's oppression, the global BDS campaign does not call for Israel to be treated according to higher or lower standards than those that apply to any other state committing similar crimes and violations of international law. Although Israel is by no means the most atrocious offender around the world, it is the only ongoing offender that has constantly been treated as an honorary member of the Western club of "democracies," with the Holocaust cynically -- and quite irrelevantly -summoned as a smokescreen to cover up this collusion. The virtually unparalleled state of exceptionalism and impunity that Israel enjoys today allows it to pursue its agenda of apartheid, ethnic cleansing and slow-
genocide against the indigenous people of Palestine without any regard to international law or concern about possible punitive measures for violating it. As some progressive Jewish intellectuals have stated recently, "Never Again!" must always be understood to mean: never again to anyone. 14 Western civil society carries a unique responsibility to hold Israel accountable to international law due to the incomparable level of complicity of Western governments in sustaining Israel's system of colonial and racial oppression through vast diplomatic, economic, academic, cultural and political support – all in the name of Western citizens and using their tax money. Deep complicity engenders profoundmoral responsibility. While several Arab regimes – including parts of the Palestinian Authority – are also colluding in the implementation of the Israeli-US agenda in the region, their impact is considerably less significant that that of Western states in sustaining Israel's three-tiered system of oppression. 15 Collusion and moral duty aside, the responsibility to promote and support the BDS campaign against Israel also derives from common interest. While the US and other Western states fund Israel's endless wars and system of apartheid to the tune of billions of dollars every year, millions of children in the West are still left behind in substandard housing, inadequate or nonexistent health care, poor education and an establishment that effectively disenfranchises them when they grow up from effectively participating in the democratic political process. A progressive transformation in US and European Union (EU) priorities from directing these nations’ great human and material resources into wars and imperial hegemony on the international scene to investing in universal health care, dignified housing, a school system that is conducive to critical and contextual learning and development, decent jobs, and reversing the fatal damage to the environment, is not only good on its own merits for the peoples of the West; it is also great for the world -- for Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Latin America, Africa, and, most certainly, Palestine. The global BDS movement for Palestinian rights presents a progressive, anti racist, sustainable, moral and effective form of civil, non-violent resistance for Palestinian human rights that is also fast becoming one of the key political catalysts and moral anchors for a strengthened, reinvigorated international social movement capable of ending the law of the jungle and upholding in its stead the rule of law, reaffirming the rights of all humans to freedom, equality and dignified living. Indeed, BDS may well prove to be the most powerful form of popular Palestinian resistance ever. 1. http://www.aipac.org/Publications/SpeechesByAIPACLeadership/HowardKohr.p... 2. http://bdsmovement.net/?q=node/52 3. For an in-depth analysis of Israel's apartheid and colonial system see the strategic
position paper published by the BDS National Committee (BNC), titled "United Against Apartheid, Colonialism and Occupation," October 2008:http://bdsmovement.net/files/English-BNC_Position_PaperDurban_Review.pd... 4. For more on the systematic forcible displacement of the Palestinians see: Ilan Pappe, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, Oneworld. (Oxford: 2007). 5. BNC members include: Council of National and Islamic Forces in Palestine, General Union of Palestinian Workers, Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions,
Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO), Palestinian National Council for NGOs, Federation of Independent Trade Unions, Global Palestine Right of Return Coalition, Occupied Palestine and Syrian Golan Heights Initiative, General Union of Palestinian Women, Union of Palestinian Farmers, Grassroots Palestinian AntiApartheid Wall Campaign (STW), National Committee for Popular Resistance, Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), National Committee to Commemorate the Nakba, Civic Coalition for the Defense of Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem (CCDPRJ), Coalition for Jerusalem, Union of Palestinian Charitable Organizations, Palestinian Economic Monitor, Union of Youth Activity Centers-Palestine Refugee Camps. 6. See, for example: http://boycottisrael.info/ and http://www.alternativenews.org/ 7. The Cairo Declaration, produced and endorsed by representatives of solidarity groups from more than 40 countries who protested in Egypt as part of the Gaza Freedom March, provides a distinguished example of such principled solidarity: http://cairodeclaration.org/ 8. http://www.bdsmovement.net/?q=node/213 9. For arguments against strategically restricting the boycott to "settlement products" see: http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article9948.shtml 10. For more on the academic boycott see: www.PACBI.org. Also a recent study published by the Alternative Information Center documents many aspects of the complicity of the Israeli academy in Israel's oppression of the Palestinian people: http://alternativenews.org/publications/econoccupation/2223-theeconomy-... 11. http://www.kairospalestine.ps/sites/default/Documents/English.pdf 12. Regardless of the valid criticism against Amnesty’s morally and legally flawed equation between the occupying power on the one hand and the people under occupation and their resistance movement on the other, this call still includes a ban on arms trade with Israel and on shipping arms to Israel through any country's ports and airspace. 13. The EU-Israel Association Agreement and the MERCOSUR-Israel FTA are high priority targets. 14. See, for instance, Naomi Klein's statements in this regard at a lecture last year in Ramallah covered by Haaretz --Yotam Feldman, Noami Klein: Oppose the State Not the People, Haaretz, 2 July 2009:http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1097058.html 15. The PA as an entity plays an indispensable role in legitimizing Israel's claims and in whitewashing its violations of international law and war crimes. Gradually dissolving the PA and the democratic, bottom-up take over and reconstruction of the PLO to reinstitute it as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people everywhere, inclusive of all major national and Islamist political parties, would deny Israel its most valuable asset and help undermine its regime of oppression against the people of Palestine.
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"Boycotts work": An interview with Omar Barghouti
Ali Mustafa, The Electronic Intifada, 1 June 2009 Omar Barghouti is an independent Palestinian researcher, commentator and human rights activist and a leader of the Palestinian campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions to force Israel to uphold international law and universal human rights. Barghouti discussed the growing worldwide campaign with The Electronic Intifada contributor Ali Mustafa. Ali Mustafa: Why do you characterize Israel as an apartheid state and how is it similar or different than apartheid South Africa? Omar Barghouti: We don't have to prove that Israel is identical to apartheid South Africa in order to [justify] the label "apartheid." Apartheid
is a generalized crime according to United Nations conventions and there are certain criteria that may or may not apply to any specific situation -- so we judge a situation on its own merits and whether or not it fulfills those conditions of being called an apartheid state. According to the basic conventions of the UN defining the crime of apartheid, Israel satisfies almost all the conditions to be granted the label of apartheid. Other than the clear racial separation in the occupied West Bank between Jews and non-Jews (indigenous Palestinians) -- separate roads, separate housing, separate everything -- apartheid is also alive and well inside Israel despite appearances [to the contrary]. Unlike South Africa, Israel is more sophisticated; it's an evolved form of apartheid. South African apartheid was rudimentary, primitive, so to speak -- black, white, clear separation, no rights ... The Palestinian citizens of Israel (the indigenous population) have the right to vote, which is a huge difference from South Africa. However, in every other vital domain, they are discriminated against by law, not only by policy. Therefore, it is legalized and institutionalized racism and that's what makes it apartheid -- there is racism in Canada and other western democracies as well, but the difference is that it's not legalized and institutionalized, at least not any longer ... In Israel there are basic laws, meaning the equivalent of the constitution, as Israel does not have a constitution, where there is clear-cut discrimination between Jews and non-Jews. The most important rights that are given to Jewish citizens and not given to non-Jewish citizens are the right to automatic citizenship and nationality for any Jewish immigrant who comes from abroad to Israel. There is no "Israeli" nationality, but there is "Jewish" nationality -- Palestinians as citizens can never get nationality in Israel ... because there is no such thing as an Israeli nationality, whereas Palestinian refugees who were ethnically cleansed by Israel in 1948 and since then are not entitled to go back to their homes of origin as stipulated by international law simply because they are not Jewish -- so this is the kind of apartheid we have. Another very important point is that 93 percent land ownership in Israel by law is off limits to its so-called non-Jewish citizens -- 93 percent is only for the benefit of Jewish citizens of the State of Israel -- if this is not apartheid, I don't know what is. Even in South Africa, the percentage of land that was off-limits to blacks was 86 percent, even lower than in Israel. But of course, many analysts would say that the Israeli occupation and denial of refugee rights is even much worse than anything South Africa had, which is true; South Africa never bombed bantustans with F-16s, they never had this level of outright violence and massacres. Of course, there was Sharpeville, so many massacres in Soweto, and so on, but it all pales in comparison to what Israel has been doing to the Palestinians and this is according to testimonies from Desmond Tutu, Ronnie Kasrils, and many South African leaders who should know. AM: One of the most contentious aspects of the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign is the academic boycott. Can you clarify exactly what this means and why Israeli academic institutions are, as you argue, such a fundamental extension of the Israeli state and state policy? OB: The academic boycott, which was called for by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel in 2004, is an
institutional boycott -- so it's a call to every conscientious academic and academic institution to boycott every Israeli academic institution because of their complicity in perpetuating Israel's occupation and other forms of oppression ... Complicity in the case of Israel is different than academic complicity elsewhere. In Canada, for example, your biggest universities are certainly complicit in Canadian policy, especially since they're all state-funded universities exactly like in Israel ... But what's different is that in Israel, they are in full organic partnership with the security/military establishment -- so that most of the weapons developed by the Israeli army are done through the universities, most of the research justifying the repression of the Palestinians and denial of Palestinian rights is done by academics in the universities in academic programs; many of the colonization projects that are considered by international law to be war crimes have been produced by universities. The wall [in the West Bank] for example was produced in an academic environment; an academic at Haifa University claims that this is his brainchild and there is no reason not to believe him because he has produced other projects that were terribly involved in the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians even inside Israel. At every level there is a very deep, entrenched complicity between the Israeli academia and the security/military establishment. Also, all Israeli academics, like all Israelis within a certain age group, with some exceptions, serve in the occupation reserve army. They serve as occupying soldiers part-time every year, three months every year ... You go and leave academia, your research, you leave everything, and you serve at a checkpoint or worse -- so you're either participating in committing human rights violations or war crimes, or at least you watch them with total apathy -- in both cases you're very complicit even at an individual level; the universities not only tolerate that, they promote that -this is part of the system. Despite this, we are not calling for boycotting individual academics but institutions. The only reason why our boycott is not individual is because otherwise it would be McCarthyist -- it would involve some form of McCarthyism or political test: who is a good academic, who is bad, and who decides? And we don't want to get into that because it's a very troubling prospect to have political tests and in principle, we are against political tests, so that's why we have an institutional boycott. AM: One common argument against the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign is that dialogue is more constructive than boycotts. How would you respond? OB: That's wrong factually and wrong logically. Factually, there have been so many attempts at dialogue since 1993 when the so-called peace process was announced at Oslo. There were many dialogue organizations and initiatives established; it became an industry -- we call it the peace industry. You could get rich very fast by getting involved in one of those dialogue groups and you get to travel to Europe and stay in fancy hotels and get a lot of money in return, but otherwise it produces absolutely nothing on the ground. The main reason is because it's morally flawed and based on the false premise that this so-called conflict is mainly due to mutual hatred and, therefore, you need some kind of therapy or dialogue between those two equivalent, symmetric, warring parties. Put them in a
room, force them to talk to one another, then they will fall in love, the hatred will go away and you will have your Romeo and Juliet story. Of course, this is deceitful and morally very corrupt because the conflict is a colonial conflict -- it's not a domestic dispute between a husband and wife -- it's a colonial conflict based on ethnic cleansing, racism, colonialism and apartheid. Without taking away the roots of the conflict you cannot have any coexistence, at least not ethical coexistence. There are many other issues related to this dialogue industry in that you don't have dialogue between asymmetric parties, you have negotiations. To have a dialogue you have to have a certain minimal level of a common denominator based on a common vision for the ultimate solution based on equality and ending injustice. If you don't have that common denominator than it's negotiation between the stronger and weaker party and, as I've written elsewhere, you can't have a bridge between them but only a ladder where you go up or down not across ... I call this the master/slave type of coexistence ... A master and a slave can also reach an agreement where this is reality and you cannot challenge it and you make the best out of it. There is no war, no conflict, nobody is killing anybody, but a master remains a master and the slave remains a slave -- so this is not the kind of peace that we the oppressed are seeking -- the minimum is to have a just peace. Only with justice can we have a sustainable peace. So dialogue does not work -- it has not worked in reality and cannot work in principle. Boycotts have worked in reality and in principle so there is absolutely no reason why they cannot work, because Israel has total impunity given the official support it gets from the west in all fields (economic, cultural, academic and so on). Without raising the price of its oppression, it will never give up; it will never concede on any of our rights. AM: There is the historical example of South African apartheid, but are there any other types of historical forms of nonviolent resistance -- not necessarily boycotts -- that the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) draws its inspiration from? OB: Yes, from Palestinian nonviolence. For a hundred years, well before the South African inspiration, we have been mainly inspired by our own history and roots of civil resistance. In a hundred years of conflict with the settler-colonial conquest of Zionism, we have resisted Zionism mostly by civil resistance and not violent or armed resistance, unlike the common myth that Palestinian resistance is only armed. This is not true. For more than a hundred years Palestinians have resisted with cultural and artistic resistance, strikes, demonstrations, women's and trade union organizing, and so on. The majority of people were involved in nonviolent resistance before the inspiration of Gandhi and that of South Africa. AM: Many academics, even those generally sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, argue that any proposed academic boycott jeopardizes the principle of academic freedom. Is there any truth to that claim? OB: The claim is very biased in that it privileges Israeli academic freedom over any other, so they completely ignore that by denying Palestinians their basic rights -- all of our freedoms, including academic freedom -Israel is also infringing deeply on our academic freedom. That doesn't count, it seems. We never heard those liberal voices when Israel shut
down Palestinian universities during the first intifada [uprising] -- Birzeit University was shut down for four [consecutive] years, for example. We haven't heard much of an outcry among those liberals who are now shouting academic freedom. Is academic freedom a privilege to whites only? Do we global southerners deserve academic freedom? Are we equally human or not? So those people who are shouting academic freedom are either hypocrites or racists, I'm sorry to say it. They are either hypocritical in that they only care about academic freedom for Israelis and they consider them white, European, Jewish, civilized and not for us Palestinians who are southerners and brown -- this is at a theoretical level. In principle the academic boycott that PACBI is calling for and all our partners are adopting is institutional; therefore, it does not infringe on the rights and privileges of Israeli academics to go out and participate in conferences and so on so long as this is not the product of an institutional link -- we are calling for cutting all institutional links, not to cut off visits by individual academics, or artists, or cultural figures to participate in events and so on -- they can and they do and that will not stop -- so it's really very hypocritical and deceptive to call the academic boycott a form of infringement on academic freedom. AM: Some have even claimed that such an academic boycott would actually enhance academic freedom of Israeli academics. Could you elaborate on that a little bit? OB: Professor Oren Ben-Dor, who is an Israeli-British philosopher who supports the boycott, argued this in an article early on a few years ago. He said that in Israel, there's actually no academic freedom when it comes to the taboo issues such as the history of the conflict: the ethnic cleansing, the Nakba [catastrophe], the different sets of laws for Arabs and Jews inside the State of Israel. There are certain taboos that are untouchable in Israeli academia. Oren Ben-Dor's argument was that the academic boycott would force Israeli academics and institutions to discuss those taboo issues -- and finally they are discussing them. So in a way the boycott actually promoted a certain level of academic freedom in Israel that was missing. AM: Another common argument made by critics of the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign is that only once Hamas ceases launching rockets into Israel will peace be possible. How would you respond to this claim? OB: In the West Bank you have a largely quisling government that is completely supporting Israel in anything it wants to do. They get immediate support from the Palestinian Authority (PA) in Ramallah, which is an unelected authority imposed by an American general -- despite that it has not stopped the construction of the wall (which is illegal according to the International Court of Justice at the Hague), or the construction of settlements (which are also illegal; they are considered war crimes under international law), or the checkpoints (there are close to 700 roadblocks and checkpoints preventing the freedom of movement of Palestinians), or the confiscation of land, or the indiscriminate killings (including of children), or the imprisonment of political prisoners, or all the other repressive measures of the occupation that are designed to ethnically cleanse the indigenous Palestinians in a very slow and gradual, but
persistent, manner. So we have not seen any difference in the repression between the West Bank and Gaza, prior to the war of course, that can be related to Hamas or not to Hamas. In the West Bank, the PA is ruling, not Hamas, so clearly this is a policy of the State of Israel. It's irrelevant if Hamas accepts Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state or accepts the 1967 borders ... Israel will never accept our rights unless it is forced to. Our 60 years of experience with Zionist colonial oppression and apartheid has shown us that unless we resist by all means -- particularly through civil resistance -- to force Israel into a pariah status in the world, like South Africa was turned in the 1980s, there is no chance of advancing the prospects for a just peace. AM: Finally, you have argued numerous times in your published works that ultimately you would like to see in historic Palestine a binational, secular, democratic state. OB: Not a binational state -- I am completely against binationalism. A secular, democratic state, yes, but not binational. There is a big difference. AM: What exactly is the sentiment on the ground in Palestine on this question? OB: I must clarify that the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement takes no position on the shape of the political solution. It adopts a rightsbased, not solutions-based, approach. I am completely and categorically against binationalism because it assumes that there are two nations with equal moral claims to the land and therefore, we have to accommodate both national rights. I am completely opposed to that, but it would take me too long to explain why, so I will stick to the model I support, which is a secular, democratic state: one person, one vote -- regardless of ethnicity, religion, nationality, gender, and so on and so forth ... Full equality under the law with the inclusion of the refugees -- this must be based on the right of return for Palestinian refugees. In other words, a secular, democratic state that accommodates our inalienable rights as Palestinians with the acquired rights of Israeli Jews as settlers. Why do I see this as the main solution? Morally, it's obviously the most moral solution because it treats people as equals, the two-state solution is not only impossible now -- Israel has made it an absolute pipe dream that cannot happen -- it is an immoral solution. At best, it would address some of the rights of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, while ignoring the majority of Palestinians -- those in exile, the refugees, as well as the Palestinian citizens of Israel. There are three segments of the Palestinian people -- unless you address the basic requirements of justice for all three segments than we will not have exercised our right to self-determination. The only way that we can exercise our right to self-determination, without imposing unnecessary injustice on our oppressors, is to have a secular, democratic state where nobody is thrown into the sea, nobody is sent back to Poland, and nobody is left in refugee camps. We can coexist ethically with our rights given back to us. Now on the ground, back to your question, there is no political party in Palestine now or among Palestinians outside either calling for a secular, democratic one-state solution. Despite this, polls in the West Bank and
Gaza have consistently in the last few years shown 25-30 percent support for a secular, democratic state. Two polls in 2007 showed two-thirds majority support for a single state solution in all flavors -- some of them think of a purely Palestinian state without Israelis and so on -- in exile it's even much higher because the main issue is that refugees in particular, and people fighting for refugee rights like I am, know that you cannot reconcile the right of return for refugees with a two state solution. That is the big white elephant in the room and people are ignoring it -- a return for refugees would end Israel's existence as a Jewish state. The right of return is a basic right that cannot be given away; it's inalienable. Â A twostate solution was never moral and it's no longer working -- it's impossible with all the Israeli settlements and so on. We need to move on to the more moral solution that treats everyone as equal under the law, whether they are Jewish-Israeli or Palestinian. AM: You hear a lot of academics and public intellectuals like Noam Chomsky and Norman Finkelstein saying that the two-state solution represents the international consensus, and that the one-state solution of the kind that you speak of is unrealistic. OB: The siege against Gaza is also an expression of international consensus -- that doesn't make it right. It's an international conspiracy that is a war crime -- it's a crime against humanity, despite support from the UN and all the powers that be around the world ... It's amazing for activists, and public intellectuals who are counted as activists, to support the international consensus when they like to, and they oppose it on every other account. When Professor Chomsky opposed the Indonesian occupation of East Timor there was an international consensus supporting Indonesia. No one raised, before Chomsky, the issue of freedom for East Timor -- it was Chomsky first and foremost, and he single-handedly pushed this on the agenda until now we have the autonomy of East Timor and semi-independence. So international consensus often means that the main powers agree on an injustice because it fits their interests -- that doesn't mean that we have to accept that; we have to struggle to change that and the way we do that is on the ground. By proposing the more moral solution we are saying that this can mobilize universal support from around the world -- except from those who are keen to maintain Israel as a racist, ethnocentric state.
Ali Mustafa is a freelance journalist, writer and media activist. He is a member of the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid (CAIA) and currently resides in Toronto, Canada.
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Buy Palestinian products
Akiva Eldar, 23rd July, 2010 Suppose some Palestinian group managed to set up a new settlement on land abandoned by refugees of the 1967 war in the Jordan Valley. What would your average Israeli patriot have to say about an Israeli contractor who agreed to build it, or about Jewish workers clambering on Palestinian scaffolds? What an outcry we'd hear from the Israeli right about such traitors! Never fear, our forces would never allow the uncircumcised to fix even a peg in the occupied territory under absolute Israeli control (some 60 percent of the West Bank ). The imagined scenario of Jews building
homes for Palestinians was created only for the sake of discussion specifically of the protests in Israel against the ban recently imposed by the Palestinian Authority against Arabs working in the settlements. It takes no small amount of audacity to threaten the Palestinians with harm to their economy if they refuse to continue building Israeli settlements on their own land. Only we are allowed to threaten boycotts every Monday and Thursday against countries that dare to criticize us. After all, we, as is well known, have the monopoly on patriotism. Remember the treatment the Etzel and Lehi underground militias meted out to Jewish girls who went to bed with British soldiers? "Buy Israeli goods" is an important ethos - with emphasis on the word "Israeli." Many Israelis, including this writer, and peace-seekers all over the world boycott products made in the settlements. But if Palestinian factory workers dare leave their jobs in the Barkan industrial zone in the West Bank, the president of the Manufacturers Association, Shraga Brosh, says he'll make sure that the government closes off the Haifa Port to Palestinian goods. The entire world, with our American friends at the forefront, insists that the beefing up of settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem cannot be reconciled with the "two states for two peoples" solution. How can the Palestinian leadership be expected to stand by idly while 25,000 Palestinian workers put a stamp of approval on the occupation through their own labor and the sweat of their own brows? Just as the Paris Protocol - the economic agreement between Israel and the PA - does not obligate Israel to employ Palestinian workers in Kfar Sava, neither does it prohibit the Palestinians from imposing restrictions on Arabs working in Ariel. The commotion over the PA's economic campaign against the settlements indicates, more than anything else, how the colonialist mindset has been branded into Israeli consciousness. The protests over the threatened loss of the hewers of wood and drawers of water shows how hard it is to shake off the master-servant attitudes that have taken root over the last 43 years. The gap between the economies of Israel and the occupied territories, the security restrictions on entering Israel and movement within the territories, and the discrimination in favor of Israeli goods, have all forced the West Bank's labor force into the settlements. The settlers have also become dependent upon this asymmetrical relationship between themselves and the natives: Why should they accommodate Chinese workers on their holy land if they can get cheap Palestinian laborers who go home at the end of the day. If the government of Israel were genuinely interested in the partition of the land, it would follow in the PA's footsteps and cut itself off from the settlers. In addition to freezing construction in the settlements, it would cancel the special benefits enjoyed by the industrial zones in the territories, which attract greedy entrepreneurs. Instead of encouraging settlement beyond the Green Line, the Israeli government would promote legislation for compensating those settlers willing to come home. Instead of hiding behind the self-righteous claim that it is providing livelihoods for
thousands of indigent laborers, let the government open the Israeli markets to more goods and workers from the territories. Meanwhile, what will happen to the workers who the Palestinian Authority will compel to leave the building sites, fields and factories that the settlers have established on the Palestinians' land? Who is going to feed the tens of thousands of families whose breadwinners will lose their jobs? The Palestinian economics minister, Hassan Abu Libdeh, has promised that before the boycott regulations go into effect, the government of Salam Fayyad will help those who work in the settlements to find jobs within the PA. The boycott of settlement produce, he says, has already increased the consumption of goods manufactured by Palestinian plants as well as the demand for local labor. The economic divorce of Palestinians from the Jewish settlements is an important step toward divorce from Israel's occupation policies. Buy Palestinian. Back to top
Boycott by Irish artists marks a new way forward
David Landy, August 13, 2010 These days, victories in the cultural boycott of Israel have been piling up and it’s easy to become blasé at what we’re achieving. But a new and important milestone has been reached in Ireland – yesterday was the day that cultural boycott moved from being a reactive to a pro-active campaign. Yesterday, the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) in association with PACBI launched their cultural boycott pledge. Over 150 Irish artists signed the pledge which stated: "In response to the call from Palestinian civil society for a cultural boycott of Israel, we pledge not to avail of any invitation to perform or exhibit in Israel, nor to accept any funding from any institution linked to the government of Israel, until such time as Israel complies with international law and universal principles of human rights." Reports on the launch are here and (with photos) here. There’s the IPSC statement, with the list of artists who signed updated regularly, here. I’ve also blogged before on this, at the Jews Sans Frontieres site. In that blog I couldn’t contain my delight about the event. It was a celebration. A coming together of musicians and writers and artists and political activists. Many of the actions we do are grim and serious, focusing on massacres and injustice – it was lovely being at something so joy-filled and positive. The event was less about what we were against than what we were for – plain solidarity with Palestine. There’s other reason for satisfaction. Partly it is the status of many of the artists. People like Donal Lunny, Damien Dempsey, Robert Ballagh, Seamus Deane, Sinead Cusack and so on – these are household names in Ireland. Getting respected well-established artists to sign this pledge is a real achievement. At the same time, as Raymond Deane, the man who organised the pledge, said, it was the less well-established artists who showed real courage in signing – these are people trying to make their careers and yet they still went out on a limb and signed the pledge.
Political activists like myself often despair at artists not displaying in the real world the talents and yes, bravery that they show in their works. These artists did display this bravery – they gave me hope. But there’s another even deeper reason for satisfaction – this pledge has moved the cultural boycott campaign onto a new level. PACBI were right when they labelled this a ‘ground-breaking initiative’. To date, most of our cultural boycott work has been reactive – desperately chasing after artists who have already agreed to play Israel and pleading with them to reconsider. This is often demeaning and depressing work – it feels like pleading with power. More importantly, it’s not that effective – performers that have already agreed to play in Israel are, let’s face it, the hardest group of artists to affect. It’s far far easier to reach artists before they’ve made that decision. This way the approach won’t be seen as threatening or disruptive to their lives. It’s a way of getting to artists before Israel does. This is what we mean by moving the boycott campaign from a reactive to a pro-active stance. More, a pledge like this will affect all artists, including those that don’t sign. It makes the political nature of performing to Israel much more overt and creates a community of ethical artists, a concrete thing that artists who are considering breaking the boycott have to consciously reject – something they’d find difficult to do. Easier not to get involved in politics, not to go to Israel. The pledge then is a tool to ensure that boycotting Israel becomes the default position among performers and artists. It was easier than we expected to get people to sign up (though it did still take a fair amount of work and planning), since we were asking them to do something positive and join a growing global movement. We want to get more Irish artists to sign this pledge, but more important than this, we’re trying to encourage other countries to adopt this tactic. Ireland is a small country and a pledge like this would have so much greater effect if signed by US artists. The same pledge could happen in the US. While Americans mightn’t be able to get as many signatures proportionally as we did – 140 Irish signatures translates into some 10,000 US ones – even getting a tenth that number or even less - getting five hundred artists to sign this pledge would be a huge step. And once the pledge is there, others can sign up. It’s a process of building up solidarity. There’s historical precedent for this. Omar Barghouti reminded us of it when we were working on the campaign. In 1964, 28 Irish playwrights pledged not to allow their work to be performed before segregated audiences in apartheid South Africa; a year later this action was followed by the first declaration of boycott from US artists. Hopefully we can ensure the same sequence of events again in this, the new anti-apartheid campaign.
David Landy is the national organiser of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campagin. He is a lecturer in the Department of Sociology in Trinity College Dublin, and currently writing a book on diaspora Jewish opposition to Israel.
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Waging Peace from Afar: Divestment and Israeli Occupation
A growing grassroots movement is using the techniques of the anti-apartheid movement to challenge U.S. support for Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories. Phyllis Bennis, August 20, 2010 When Israeli commandos launched their assault on the unarmed flotilla of ships carrying hundreds of humanitarian aid workers and 10,000 tons of supplies for the besieged Gaza Strip, killing at least nine activists and injuring scores more, part of the operation was “Made in the USA.” Decades of uncritical U.S. financial, military, and diplomatic support has ensured that Israel’s military power—nuclear and conventional—remains unchallengeable. A U.S. pattern of using UN Security Council vetoes to protect Israel from accountability has ensured that Israel can essentially do whatever it likes with those U.S.-provided weapons, regardless of what U.S. or international laws may be broken. Israel has long relied on the numerous U.S.-made and U.S.-financed Apache and Blackhawk war helicopters in its arsenal—it’s a good bet those were in use in the May 31st assault in international waters. Use of U.S.provided weapons is severely limited by our own laws: The Arms Export Control Act (AECA) prohibits any recipient from using U.S. weapons except for security within its own borders, or for direct self-defense. And no amount of Israeli spin can make us believe that an attack by heavilyarmed commandos jumping onto the decks of an unarmed civilian ship in international waters has anything to do with self-defense. So yes—our tax dollars and our politicians’ decisions play a huge part in enabling not only the flotilla attack but Israel’s violations of human rights overall. But increasingly, across the country, people and organizations are standing up to say no to U.S. support for those policies of occupation and apartheid. BDS is a strategic effort to change U.S. policy to support human rights, equality, and an end to the occupation rather than continued military build-up. The main strategy is known as “BDS”—boycott, divestment, and sanctions. Based on the lessons of theSouth African anti-apartheid movement of the 1980s, BDS brings non-violent economic pressure to bear in order to end Israeli violations of international law. In 2005, a coalition of Palestinian civil society organizations issued a call for a global campaign of BDS. The call was based on the understanding that the Palestinian struggle for human rights, equality, and the enforcement of international law needed international support—and civil society organizations would have to step in, given that the traditional Palestinian leadership hadn’t created a strategy for mobilizing such support. The strength of the BDS call was its recognition that while a unified global campaign was needed, conditions are different in every country. So in Europe, the focus began on individual boycotts of consumer goods produced in Israeli settlements. In countries like Brazil and India, the
emphasis was on military sanctions, pressuring governments to stop buying Israeli armaments. And in the U.S., the initial focus was on divestment. In fact, the U.S. Campaign to End Israeli Occupation, the largest coalition of organizations working on the issue, had been working on divestment even before the 2005 Palestinian call. The movement began in earnest following the 2003 death of Rachel Corrie, a young U.S. peace activist killed as she tried to block the demolition of a Palestinian home in the Gaza Strip by Israeli troops. Corrie was run over by an armored bulldozer manufactured by Caterpillar, which became the first target of the divestment efforts. Since that time, BDS work in the U.S. has increased dramatically. In addition to Caterpillar, the campaign is now targeting Motorola (the company’s Israeli affiliate provides special communications systems for Israel’s illegal settlements in the West Bank) and Ahava (a cosmetics company that uses mud from the Dead Sea, harming the fragile environment as well as expropriating Palestinian land). Across the U.S., churches, university campuses, municipal governments, and many more institutions are debating divestment and boycott resolutions. The Presbyterian Church is debating how to include an antioccupation approach within its socially responsible investment policies. On June 15, the Northern Illinois Conference of the United Methodist Church voted to divest from three corporations that profit from the occupation of Palestine. And in spring 2010, Hampshire College became the first university to divest from companies supporting occupation—a moment of special resonance because Hampshire was also the first U.S. college to divest from South Africa in the 1980s. When the issue was debated in Berkeley’s student senate, more than 4,000 people mobilized to support divestment. The U.S. Campaign is also working to end U.S. military aid to Israel, calling for the enforcement of U.S. laws already prohibiting Israel’s illegal use of U.S. weapons. Really, it’s a call for sanctions from below. Who really thinks that giving $30 billion of our tax money in military aid to Israel—already militarily powerful and nuclear-armed—as promised by George Bush and now being implemented by President Obama over the next ten years, is a good use of those funds in this time of economic crisis? BDS is a strategic effort to change U.S. policy to support human rights, equality, and an end to the occupation rather than continued military build-up. In the first 24 hours after the attack on the Gaza aid flotilla, the Obama administration limited itself to expressions of concern and regret for the loss of life, along with a polite request to Israel for “clarifications.” But maybe the international outcry that followed the attack, joined by the rising BDS movement in the U.S., will mark the beginning of a shift in U.S. policy. In the first days and weeks after the flotilla attack, BDS actions across the United States took on new energy and achieved new results. In California, hundreds of activists formed a picket line at dawn at the Port of Oakland where an Israeli cargo ship waited, urging dock workers not to unload the ship in protest of the flotilla assault. Workers of the International
Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) refused to cross the picket line, a labor arbitrator immediately upheld their right to refuse to unload the ship, and the shipping company abandoned the effort. The ILWU workers joined counterparts in a number of other countries, including Sweden, South Africa, Norway, and Malaysia, who have all announced their refusal to unload Israeli ships. The powerful example of the BDS movement that helped end apartheid in South Africa is a constant source of inspiration. Current BDS campaigns have learned key lessons and grounded much of their work in the accomplishments—and, indeed, the challenges and even failures—of that earlier, seminal version. A generation ago, South African apartheid appeared to be an equally impossible-to-change political reality. Considering that history, is it so unlikely that Washington could tell Israel that we would rather keep those $30 billion here at home to create 600,000 new green union jobs, rather than support a foreign military force’s ability to kill humanitarian workers trying to break an illegal blockade in order to bring desperately needed supplies to a besieged population?
Phyllis Bennis is a Fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies and author of Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: A Primer. She serves on the steering committee of the U.S. Campaign to End Israeli Occupation.
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Something Wonderful Happened
Mark Braverman, July 12, 2010 I’ve just returned from Minneapolis, having attended the 219th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA at the invitation of the denomination’s Israel Palestine Mission Network. The PC(USA) is at the epicenter of the struggle of the Christian community in the U.S. to come to terms with the challenge of the Israel-Palestine conflict. A victory had already been achieved before the start of the Assembly. Overtures from presbyteries from around the country urging action on justice for Palestinians would amount to over 40% of the actions considered by the Assembly. These included revisiting the 2004 decision to undertake phased divestment from companies implicated in the illegal occupation of Palestinian land and an overture affirming that Israel’s actions meet the United Nations definition for the crime of Apartheid. A centerpiece of Presbyterian actions was the call to approve the report of the Middle East Study Committee. The MESC, commissioned by the 2008 General Assembly, had produced a 170 page report entitled “Breaking Down the Walls.” The report documents the committee’s first-hand observation of the Israeli occupation’s impact on Palestinian society and includes specific recommendations, including urging the U.S. government to make military aid to Israel contingent on ending the occupation. Predictably, the forces of opposition had gathered. As early as February of this year, the Simon Wiesenthal Center attacked the report, calling it a
“poisonous document by the Presbyterian Church [that] will be nothing short of a declaration of war on Israel.” This broadside by the Los Angelesbased Jewish advocacy group went on to declare that the report “shakes the foundations of interfaith relations.” This is the tack that has been taken for years by the mainstream Jewish community – both secular organizations like Wiesenthal as well as the religious denominations — claiming that any questions about Israel’s policies or the Zionist project itself partakes of anti-Semitism. The charge of anti-Semitism and the prospect of a disruption in the “interfaith partnership” has been effective in stifling the discourse and in thwarting actions directed at Israel’s policies. Implicit and sometime explicit in these statements is the threat that such “unfriendly” behavior by Christians will result in the removal of Jewish friendship. This strategy has intensified in recent years in response to efforts by church denominations to take a principled stand on the IsraelPalestine issue. Most recently, the biweekly Christian Century published an article by Ted Smith and Amy-Jill Levine, professors at Vanderbilt Seminary. Appearing the week preceding the PC(USA) General Assembly, the article, entitled “Habits of Anti-Judaism,” strongly critiqued the MESC report. In the opening to a letter to the Christian Century I wrote the following: “The intent of the Presbyterian Middle East Study Committee Report “Breaking Down the Walls” is clear: “to break down these walls that stand in the way of the realization of God’s peaceful and just kingdom.” But in their critique of the report published in your June 29 issue, Ted Smith and Amy-Jill Levine of Vanderbilt Seminary strike at the heart of this message. They ask us to believe that the report advocates “a historical narrative that points indirectly to a single state—a new social body—in which a Palestinian majority displaces Jews.” In a shocking distortion of the Study Group’s evocation of Ephesians 2:14, they claim that “’Breaking down the walls’ in order to form ‘one new humanity in the place of two’ evokes old echoes of theological supersessionism and transposes them into a political key.” “Old habits die hard,” lament Smith and Levine. But it is the habit of crying anti-Semitism whenever Jewish sensibilities are disturbed or the actions of the State of Israel are questioned that we must urgently confront.” (Full text of the letter.) The aim of the article was clear – to strengthen the hand of those who wanted to prevent passage of the report. And why not? This is a timehonored approach — it has always worked. I feared that it would prove just as effective in this case. I arrived in Minneapolis convinced that, except for the efforts of a courageous but small and embattled minority within the denomination, the natural commitment to social justice and support for the oppressed on the part of most Presbyterians would again be trumped by concern for preserving the relationship with the Jewish community. I was betting that the tactics of the Wiesenthal Center and the arguments of Smith and Levine would serve, as they always have, to muzzle the conversation and block actions that might offend Jewish sensibilities or be perceived as hostile to the Jewish state. A thing of beauty
I was wrong. Yes, the concerns about the feelings of Jews when Israel is “attacked” are still there, and they exert a powerful pull on Presbyterians’ decisions. But something wonderful happened last week in Minneapolis. I watched as the committee charged with studying “Breaking Down the Walls,” and recommending action to the GA debated the matter. I listened to the arguments for and against approval of the report. Those in favor passionately talked about the suffering of the Palestinians under occupation. Those against spoke just as passionately about the report’s seeming “anti-Israel” bias, claiming that to approve the report would be to cut off dialogue with the Jewish community. I noted what seemed like a universe of disagreement between the two positions. I despaired that anyone who, unlike the study group itself, had not seen the occupation with his or her own eyes would understand that the report was not biased – that it was simply telling the truth and recommending that the church respond accordingly. But something happened. The committee clearly wanted to find a way to have the report adopted. A group from the committee stayed up all night to craft a number of changes. Problems with perceived bias against Israel were fixed. The obligatory language about Israel’s right to exist was inserted. None of these changes touched the faithful witness and prophetic heart of the report. While strongly asserting the church’s commitment to Israel’s security and wellbeing, the Study Committee’s report as presented to the General Assembly clearly presents the narrative of Palestinian dispossession and suffering. It asserts that Israel’s actions, illegal and in violation of international law, are an “enduring threat to peace in the region.” It receives the Palestinian Kairos document, a courageous and heartfelt call of Palestinian Christians “from the heart of Palestinian suffering” to the churches of the world, and recommends it for study by Presbyterians. It calls on the U.S. government to end aid to Israel unless the country stops settlement expansion in Palestinian territories. The report came before the 730+ commissioners on Friday July 9 and was approved by a vote of 82%. When the results were displayed on the screen, the assembled broke into applause – which is against the rules but in this case the moderator, smiling, allowed the spontaneous outburst to go on! The applause, breaking through these restraints, meant one thing: this is where the denomination wants to go. Then something else unusual happened – the Moderator, Cindy Bolbach, offered a prayer, thanking God for guiding the assembled to this act, for breaking down the walls dividing people and standing in the way of peace. The thousands of people in the hall bowed their heads in reverence. They knew that something important had happened. It is not always clear from down on the floor, in the thick of things. But looking back, I see that the PC(USA) General Assembly is a thing of beauty. This church is committed to tearing down walls. Watching the plenary, one witnessed a courageous and heartfelt struggle with things that matter: gay and lesbian ordination and honoring of marriages; benefits for civil union partners; how to respond to state laws that violate the rights of immigrants. With respect to the Israel-Palestine question, the struggle will continue. Other overtures did not fare as well as the MESC report. Even though overtures to divest denomination pension funds —
close to 10 million dollars — from Caterpillar (the company manufactures the bulldozers that destroy Palestinian homes and build the separation wall) have been proposed at every General Assembly since 2004 (actually it passed in 2004 and then withdrawn in the face of a juggernaut of institutional Jewish pressure, but that’s another story), the overture failed. In addition, Presbyterians could not bring themselves to approve the overture naming Israel’s policies as Apartheid. But here is the thing: it is clear to me that all but a small minority of the 36 who voted against that overture in committee (the vote was 16-36) agree that Israel’s actions meet the UN definition of the crime of Apartheid. What drove the vote was not the substance of the overture but rather the belief, as stated in a comment on the vote inserted by the committee, “that dialogue is hampered by words like ‘apartheid.’” It was also clear to me in listening to the debate that, despite the stubborn unwillingness to move to divestment, all but a fringe within the denomination agree that Caterpillar is building machines that illegally and criminally destroy Palestinian life and that the denomination must pressure the company to stop (the Assembly did pass an overture that “denounces” the corporation). The issues are not in question. What is in question for a steadily decreasing percentage — again, this is clear if you are paying attention — is the proper method for action. To the Presbyterians: learning to love us Sixty five years ago, Christians, confronted with the horror of the Nazi genocide, began a painful, faithful process of reconciling with the Jewish people. Presbyterians today didn’t choose to be in the difficult position of having to choose between their commitment to justice and preserving their hard-won friendship with the Jews. But the hard fact is that there has been no getting around this conflict. It has come about because of the policies of the State of Israel and the choice, so far, of the American Jewish establishment to adopt a bullying, defensive stance in response to Christian efforts to address the injustice. Under these challenging conditions, you have had to struggle to learn how to love us well and rightly. And that you are doing. The more you call us to account for our sins and challenge us to be true to the values of our tradition, the more you show your commitment to our friendship. The spirit and the specifics of the MESC report are fully in line with Jewish aspirations and beliefs. More than that – in its powerful plea to break down the walls, it takes my people where we urgently need to go today – to tear down the walls – both psychological and physical – that we have erected between ourselves and the people with whom we share a land and a common history. For thousands of years, our survival as Jews depended on building walls. Now it depends on tearing them down. In commissioning and producing this precious and faithful document of “Breaking Down the Walls” you have demonstrated your love for us. It is love in the deepest, truest sense – love as Jesus and Paul teach us to love – love the way Amos and Hosea, Isaiah and Jeremiah taught us when they spoke truth to power and reminded us of our responsibility to our fellow creatures and to the earth itself. In going back into the fray, year after year, to consider divestment from the companies that are participating in our sin, and to call us to account for building an apartheid state in full view
of the world, you are loving us well. This year, the arguments marshaled against these faithful actions of the denomination, calling them biased and unbalanced, claiming that they will disrupt your “partnership” with us, simply sounded tired. Minneapolis is the beginning of the end of all that. Back to top Press Release from BNC May 11, 2010
Palestinian civil society slams OECD over Israel’s accession
Occupied Palestine – Palestinian civil society represented by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC), a wide coalition of the largest Palestinian mass organizations and trade unions, issued a strong condemnation of OECD’s decision today to welcome Israel as a member of the organization at its ministerial meeting to take place on May 27--‐28. A BNC spokesperson commented, “By accepting Israel, OECD member countries show a blatant complicity with Israeli war crimes, destroying the very foundations of international law. Rewarding Israel entrenches its impunity and dashes any realistic hope for achieving a just peace in the region.” The OECD’s decision is the culmination of a process that began in 2007 whereby Israel had to pass a number of technical tests and implement reforms to be eligible for accession. According to the “Road Map for the accession of Israel to the OECD Convention”, it was required to demonstrate commitment to the “fundamental values” of the OECD. The BNC had released a paper showing how Israel has consistently breached these requirements, making it ineligible for accession (see: holdisraelaccountable.net/2010/05/05/memo/). A BNC spokesperson commented: “Officials of OECD member states are perfectly aware that Israel does not comply with any of the objective criteria put forth. Yet, they have decided to single out Israel, elevate it above all these objective criteria, reward it for its defiance of the OECD, not to mention of international law, and make the entire accession process a farce.” In the run--‐up to the OECD decision, the BNC coordinated with the PLO, unions and other civil society actors in all thirty OECD member states as part of an intensive campaign to oppose Israel’s membership for its persistent and systematic violations of the rights of the Palestinians, especially after its atrocities in Gaza in 2008--‐2009, described as “war crimes” in the UN report authored by Justice Richard Goldstone and his colleagues. Most important for OECD member states should be the fact that they themselves are violating their own legal obligations, in the moment they accept Israel into the OECD as currently agreed upon. The PLO, supported by renowned international law experts, presented to the OECD and its member states a legal opinion that highlights this serious legal matter and requested that it be clarified prior to Israel’s accession. Governments are
yet to respond. Having accepted economic data from Israel that include its illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank, the OECD is, in legal terms, considering Israel's accession into the OECD as a state and an Occupying Power. The Fourth Geneva Convention (GCIV) requires that Israel as an Occupying Power ensures the economic wellbeing of the occupied Palestinian population. Under the Convention, Israel's settlements in the occupied West Bank constitute population transfer, which is defined as a war crime. OECD member states are under legal obligation to ensure compliance with the Fourth Geneva Convention (GCIV) under international humanitarian law and the law on state responsibility. Accepting economic data of the illegal settlements makes it absolutely required to ensure that the protected Palestinian population is also included in this data. Under the Convention, Israel's settlements in the occupied West Bank constitute population transfer which is defined as a war crime. Moreover, accepting Israel into the OECD based on economic data which include the illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank but arbitrarily exclude the four million Palestinians living there constitutes a direct and blatant breach by the OECD and member states of their legal obligations under both bodies of international law. OECD member states as High Contracting Parties to the GCIV would thereby endorse and become complicit in Israel's war crime of population transfer. “The only legally sound course of action for OECD governments would have been to put Israel’s accession process on hold and give due consideration to the serious legal ramifications put forth by prominent legal experts,” said a BNC spokesperson, “not doing so means that these states are actively abetting Israeli war crimes against the Palestinian people and cementing Israeli impunity in maintaining its occupation and apartheid system.” Back to top
The Occupation Industry Research Project
This database reflects an on-going grassroots investigation effort by activists in The Coalition of Women for Peace, a leading Israeli feminist peace organization, dedicated to ending the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan Heights and reaching a just peace in Israel/ Palestine. In exposing companies and corporations involved in the occupation, we hope to promote a change in public opinion and corporate policies, leading to an end to the occupation. Along with various political, religious and national interests, the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan Heights is fueled by corporate interests. Israeli companies and multinational corporations lead real estate deals, develop the Israeli infrastructure and settlements in the Palestinian occupied territories and the Golan Heights, contribute to the
construction and operation of an ethnic separation system, including checkpoints, walls and roads, design and supply equipment and tools used in the control and repression of the civilian population under occupation. April Issue, 2010 What's New on Who Profits? A subsidiary of Volvo, the Swedish company, provides buses used as mobile interrogation rooms by Israel's General Security Services The Swedish Volvo Trucks company owns 26.5% of Merkavim, an Israeli company which manufactures buses. Merkavim proudly declares on its website that the Israel Prison Authority is in the process of replacing all of its prisoner transportation fleet with buses manufactured by Merkavim. The buses of the Israeli Prison Authority are not only used to transport Palestinian political prisoners from the occupied territory to prisons inside Israel, these buses are also used as mobile interrogation rooms for political prisoners. At the end of this process, interrogation of Palestinian political prisoners by the Israeli General Security Services (the Shabak) will have been conducted in Volvo buses manufactured by a Volvo subsidiary. This marks an increase in the involvement in the occupation of Volvo Trucks, which had already authorized auto-repair shops in West Bank settlements and whose heavy machinery vehicles have regularly been used in the demolition of Palestinian homes, as well as, in the construction of Israeli military checkpoints in the West Bank. Danish companies provide services in West Bank settlements Earlier this year two major Danish financial institutions announced in the press that they would divest from companies with occupation-related businesses. Danske Bank excluded Elbit Systems and Africa Israel from its investment portfolio for their respective involvement in providing equipment for the Separation Wall and in constructing illegal settlements. The Danish PKA pension fund decided to excludeElbit Systems, Magal Security Systems and Detection Systems because of their involvement in the construction of the Separation Wall, two weeks after it excludedAfrica Israel. New findings by Who Profits show that some Danish firms are directly involved in the occupation. The Danish-British security company, Group4securicor (G4S), has an Israeli branch, which provides security services in Israeli settlements. The same company has previously provided Israeli military checkpoints in the West Bank with luggagescanning machines and full-body scanners. On the same note, theDanish ISS company, which provides facility services for businesses, provides these same services in West Bank settlements. A Canadian firm is building a new settlement between Jerusalem and Bethlehem A new settlement expansion in Jerusalem, called Yael Hill, is in the planning. This Jewish-only settlement will engulf the Palestinian town of Walaja on three sides. This settlement seems to be specifically designed to create an Israeli continuum between Jerusalem and the settlement block of Gush Etzion. Yael Hill is a private initiative by several Israeli entrepreneurs, in collaboration with CIM Lustigman, a subsidiary of the Canadian Metrontario Group. This is not the first time that CIM Lustigman has taken part in the construction of settlements: CIM Lustigman built the
Israeli police station in the contested E-1 area, near the Ma'ale Adumim settlement. Like Yael Hill, it seems that the E-1 construction project was aimed at ensuring Israeli continuity between Jerusalem and Ma'ale Adumim, cutting off the southern part of the West Bank (Bethlehem and Hebron) from the central and northern parts (Ramallah, Nablus and Jenin) for Palestinians. Currently, this company is in the process of building new apartments in French Hill, another settlement neighborhood of Jerusalem. Dexia Israel announces it will continue providing loans and financial services to local municipalities of settlements in the occupied territory, while its controlling Dexia Group announces it will stop all such settlement-related activity Dexia Israel, a subsidiary of the Belgian-French Dexia Group, provides long-term loans and other financial services to Israeli local authorities in the occupied territory. After Who Profits exposed proof of that fact, and following months of protest and a public campaign led by the Belgian Intal group, Dexia announced, in June 2009 that financing Israeli settlements is contrary to the bank’s code of ethics, and that the bank would stop providing new loans to West Bank settlements. However, when approached directly on Dec 30, 2009, the Dexia Israel bank gave the following statement: "Dexia Israel Bank gives services to local municipalities in Israel and there is no decision to discriminate [among them] by geographic location; additionally, the option of stopping the provision of services to any of them is not being considered". The bank's spokesperson made sure we understood that this reference to "local authorities in Israel" included Israeli settlements in Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Golan Heights. By providing these financial services, the bank helps sustain these settlements, which are illegal, according to international law. Moreover, the bank has failed to supply us with answers about financial services provided to Palestinian local authorities in the West Bank. If the bank provides services to Israeli settlements and not to their neighboring Palestinian local authorities, it in fact implements the structural discrimination created by the occupation. Back to top
Channel 10 Piece on International Campaigns, including the BDS Movement
This news piece is the first major exposure of the Israeli public to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign. Leading activists give interviews in English, but the programme is narrated in Hebrew, with some Hebrew interviews. : http://news.nana10.co.il/Article/?ArticleID=741729 Back to top
Israeli actors refuse to take the stage in settlement theatre
Donald Macintyre, August 30, 2010 Five leading Israeli theatres were facing a mounting political row yesterday after a pledge by 60 of the country's most prominent actors, writers and directors to boycott the companies' planned performances in a Jewish West Bank settlement. The companies triggered the protest by planning a programme of performances to mark the opening of a new £6.4m cultural centre in the West Bank settlement of Ariel later this year. The protest - which was condemned by the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu - includes Yousef Sweid and Rami Heuberger, two of Israel's best known actors, as well as its most venerated living playwright, Joshua Sobol, whose Holocaust work Ghetto won the Evening Standard Play of the Year award when Nicolas Hytner directed it at London's National Theatre in 1989. Their petition, sent to Israel's Likud Culture Minister, Limor Livnat, expressed "dismay" at the theatres' decision to perform in the settlement's new auditorium and served notice that the artists will refuse to perform in any settlements. Calling on Israeli theatres to "pursue their prolific activity" within the "green line" that marked its border until the 1967 Six Day War, it says that to do otherwise would "strengthen the settlement enterprise." . Mr Sobol told the liberal daily Haaretz, which first revealed the theatres' plans, that he hoped the petititon would shake up the Israeli public and promot a change of heart by the theatre managements. "There was a lethargy in recent years," the playwright said. "People somehow became indifferent to the many existential issues in Israel, and this may revive public debate." Ariel, a settlement of around 20,000 people, is deep inside the West Bank and its new cultural centre is close to completion after being built in fits and starts over the past 20 years. The theatre's manager, Ariel Turgeman, has insisted that the company's contracts do not allow them to cancel performances in such circumstances. The settlements will be at the heart of new direct negotiations brokered by US President Barack Obama due to open at the White House this week. They are regarded by most of the international community, including Britain, as illegal under international law. Mr Netanyahu, who flies to Washington for the talks tomorrow, raised the artists' protest at the weekly meeting of his cabinet and declared that Israel was facing a campaign from "elements" abroad to "delegitimise" Israel. "The last thing we need at this time, while under such an attack, is an attempt for boycotts from within," he said. "I don't want to revoke every artist's right to a political opinion, but we as a government should not fund boycotts against Israel's citizens." The theatres, which include the Habima and Cameri of Tel Aviv, both of which have international reputations, announced over the weekend that
the productions woud go ahead, saying that while they respected the views of their actors they will perform in any place where there are theatre-loving Israelis." Mr Netanyahu's remarks followed a chorus of outrage from the political right and more overt threats to revoke state funding for the theatres in respect of any artists' boycott. Insisting that the performances should go ahead, Ms Livnat said "Culture is a bridge in society, and political disputes should be left outside cultural life and art." The Finance Minister, Yuval Steinitz, said the government should withdraw funding from theatres which refuse to perform in Ariel, adding: "The State of Israel invests a lot of money in theatres. The taxes helping those theatres exist are paid by Ariel's residents as well, and those who are sabotaging this should not be employed in Israel." But Yossi Sarid, a leftist columnist and former leader of the Meretz party, wrote in Haaretz that the theatre managements had made a "big mistake" and added: "Artists and actors are not soldiers marching in formation. No one can force them to perform, unless his name is [Andrei] Zhdanov. [the Soviet politician who sought to purge Russia's leading composers in Stalin's era]. It's not the artists who are divisive, but those who decided to build the settlements, including the Culture Minister." Back to top
Israel criticised over demolition of 'unrecognised' Bedouin villages
Human rights groups say latest round of bulldozing of illegal homes will lead to forced removals of nomadic Arabs Harriet Sherwood in al-Araqib, The Guardian, 3rd August 2010 The demolition of a Bedouin village in Israel's Negev desert has led human rights groups to warn that a new wave of forced removals of nomadic Arabs could be under way. Forty-five homes in the village of al-Araqib were bulldozed at dawn a week ago, after a court ruling that they were constructed illegally. Around 300 residents, all Israeli citizens and half of them children, were made homeless in temperatures of up to 40C. Many more "unrecognised" Bedouin villages in the Negev could face demolition after the approval last month of a plan to transfer large numbers of Bedouin Arabs to government-designated townships in the north of the area. The planning committee of Beersheba, the largest city in the area, allocated Bedouin villages to three categories: no recognition and full population transfer (12 villages); partial recognition and partial or full transfer (17 villages); and full recognition (13 villages). Families in the first two categories would be forcibly moved to seven special Bedouin-only townships created by the government. About half the Bedouin population of southern Israel already lives in the townships, which
have basic services such as water, electricity and sewage. But the remainder want to remain in their villages, where they can continue with small-scale agriculture and grazing their herds. "This could well be the opening to more demolitions of Bedouin villages," said Nili Baruch of Bimkom, an Israeli planning rights group. "There is a clear plan and a clear goal." The Bedouin families in al-Araqib and other villages in the Negev claim ownership of the land on the basis of residency stretching back more than 140 years and the payment of taxes during the Ottoman period and the British mandate. But Israel took over the land shortly after declaring its state in 1948, saying the inhabitants failed to produce deeds proving their ownership. It was then designated a military zone. "For the past 60 years, the government has been trying to minimise the amount of land for Bedouins," said Yeela Raanan, of the Regional Council for the Unrecognised Villages. Successive plans had sought to concentrate Bedouins into small authorised villages and erase unauthorised communities. "Redeeming the land is part of the Zionist project. Any land held or claimed by Arabs is a problem." The demolition of al-Araqib came within days of the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, warning about the threat of losing a Jewish majority in the Negev. Speaking to government colleagues about the Jewish nature of the state of Israel, he said: "We are under real attack on this issue. The meaning could be that different elements will demand national rights within Israel, for example, in the Negev, if we allow for a region without a Jewish majority. It has happened in the Balkans, and it is a palpable threat." Human Rights Watch condemned Israeli policies in the region. "Israel employs systematically discriminatory policies in the Negev," said Joe Stork, HRW's deputy Middle East director. "It is tearing down historic Bedouin villages before the courts have even ruled on pending legal claims, and is handing out Bedouin land to allow Jewish farmers to set up ranches." Israel says the Bedouins cultivate land that belongs to the state and build unauthorised homes. The vast area, mostly uninhabited desert, was earmarked several years ago for an ambitious development programme, Blueprint Negev, to attract new Jewish immigrants and Israelis away from the overcrowded coastal cities. Only around 7% of Israel's population lives in the Negev. The project also aimed to attract Jewish immigrants from abroad, deliberately marketing the challenges of desert living. "Blueprint Negev answers the need for Jews in the diaspora looking to make aliyah [immigration] the pioneering way," according to the former JNF president Ronald Lauder. Villagers from al-Araqib and their supporters held Friday prayers last week under a makeshift awning close to the twisted metal and rubble that had been their homes. Following a heavily-policed protest, villagers planned to begin rebuilding their community.
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The Making of History / Who owns this country?
A fascinating historical debate is taking place in the Be’er Sheva District Court. By Tom Segev A fascinating historical debate is taking place in the Be’er Sheva District Court. Judge Sarah Dovrat has to decide between conflicting opinions she received from two professors, Ruth Kark of Hebrew University and Oren Yiftachel of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. The immediate question under consideration is fairly limited: A Bedouin citizen named Nuri el-Okbi is demanding 820 dunams of land in the northern Negev, which he claims his family held for generations until the state stole it in 1951. The judge’s willingness to peruse quotations from ancient travel books, yellowing maps and other historical documents bring up a fundamental question: Who does this country belong to? Okbi was about 9 years old when his family was forced to leave its home for Lod, where he eventually opened an auto repair shop. For years now, he has been leading a public campaign for Bedouin rights. In response to his claims, lawyers for the state rummaged through archives and found that in February 1921, the British Mandate government issued the Dead (Mewat) Lands Ordinance, which granted the Bedouin a two-month extension to register any lands to which they laid claim. Almost none did so, and the deadline passed. Therefore, they do not own these lands, the state argues. Kark, an expert on geographic history, has published dozens of books and articles on the history of Jewish settlement in Israel, and has also studied the history of the Bedouin. Her work is anchored in the Zionist narrative, which contends among other things that a people without a land returned to a land without a people. In the opinion she wrote for Jeries Rawashdeh, deputy state prosecutor for the southern district, Kark maintained there had been no permanent settlements in the northern Negev, and that there was no evidence that any lands in the area were owned by anyone. The Bedouin did not make a living from land cultivation, but rather from raising camels, sheep and goats, which necessitates seasonal migration. The first permanent settlement in the area was Be’er Sheva, in 1900, she wrote. Okbi’s lawyer, Michael Sfard, gave the court a 1921 document from Britain’s National Archives. The document is a summary of a meeting between the secretary of state for the colonies and the Bedouin leaders in the Be’er Sheva area. The secretary, Winston Churchill, was staying in Jerusalem at the time; the meeting was held in Armon Hanatziv, the headquarters of the British high commissioner, and a statement was issued afterward: The Bedouin representatives “conveyed to him an expression of loyalty to his Majesty’s government,” and the secretary of
state for the colonies “reaffirmed the assurances that the special rights of the Bedouins of Beersheba will not be interfered with.” The document was brought from London by Yiftachel, a geographer and historian. His work is anchored in the post-Zionist narrative. In the wake of the meeting with Churchill, Yiftachel claims, the Bedouin in the district were granted an exemption from the duty to register their land, and r received permission to set up a tribal court for addressing land matters. According to Sfard, the Ottoman authorities bought the land on which Be’er Sheva was built from the Bedouin, and the Jewish National Fund also bought land from them during the British Mandate era. Hence the B Bedouin’s ownership of the lands was acknowledged. The dispute between Yiftachel and Kark has taken on a rather personal tone. She frequently relies on travelers who visited the Holy Land in the 19th century, while he calls this dubious sourcing. He demands consideration be given to the “native” Bedouin tradition; she retorts that the Bedouin should not be considered “natives.” This raises the question of what a native is and who a Bedouin is, and where his loyalty lies: with his tribe or his place of abode. Kark calls Yiftachel’s opinion political, and he counters: “I could argue that Prof. Kark’s support for the expropriation of Bedouin rights to the lands of their forefathers is very political.” They are not arguing over Okbi’s plot of land; they are arguing over the justness of Zionism. The man who taught me to read history Michael Confino was an internationally renowned expert on Russian history, an Israel Prize laureate and a wonderful teacher who exuded charm and inspiration. I remember a seminar he gave at Hebrew University on a topic that I had trouble finding interesting: “Russia’s expansion in Asia in the 19th century.” But the main thing Confino taught u us has helped me to this day: How to read a historical document. Confino handed out copies of a letter that a Russian minister whose name meant nothing to us had written to some Russian bureaucrat, also an unknown. First you check the date, Confino explained. You need to know which calendar the writer used and how the date is formatted: The Russians use a different calendar, and the Americans write the month before the day, while Israelis put the day before the month, for instance. What do we know about the period when the document was written, where was it composed, why there of all places, and who is writing to whom? Sometimes the writer or the recipient is identified only by surname; you must confirm their first names, identify their roles. Note, Confino said, this is Peter Petrovich, who was in charge of the surveying department, not his brother who was the ambassador to London, but the fact that his brother was an ambassador also says something about our P Peter. Confino unearthed and published numerous documents that were previously unknown. Alongside his work at Tel Aviv University, where he began working in 1970, he also taught at Harvard and a number of other international universities. He died about a month ago, at age 84. Back to top
An Entire Village was Wiped Out in the Negev Is it not Possible for Trees and People to Coexist? Have you Heard? Did you Know? How can you Act? Tuesday morning. As the sun rose over the Negev Desert, the residents of the Bedouin village of Alarakib, located just south of the Bedouin city of Rahat, awoke to mayhem. Surrounded by hundreds of armed police, on foot and on horseback with a helicopter hovering overhead, the village men, women and children witnessed in horror as bulldozers destroyed their homes and trucks hauled off their earthly belongings. A short time later, with the exception of scattered olive and fruit trees, no trace of the 32 village houses remained. The 200 children of Alarkib and their families, left without a roof over their heads and with no possessions, gathered in a makeshift tent in the village's small cemetery. Israel 2010. 15 kilometers north of Beer Sheva, hundreds of people, all Israeli citizens, were expelled from their historic lands – without due process of law. Why? The Jewish National Fund (JNF) planted the "Diplomat's Forest" on the village lands. Since 2005, foreign diplomats have been invited to plant trees in this grove to help the State of Israel "make the desert bloom". Regardless of your position concerning an acceptable solution to the land dispute between the state and its Arab Bedouin citizens, it is not possible to sit back and passively witness such a horrendous act. Even the government-created Goldberg Committee recommended that the ongoing dispossession of the Arab Bedouin citizens should come to an end. The committee advocated a solution based on a more just negotiation process, involving offers of alternative lands. Why has the government ignored these recommendations and instead chosen brute force, a path that has continually failed year after year? We ask: Where will these villagers - dispossessed citizens of Israel - go? What does the State of Israel propose for these dispossessed citizens? What is the State's long term gain from embittered citizens and homeless children? The State of Israel has a real opportunity to relieve the distress of the residents of the unrecognized villages of the Negev through a process of fair negotiation. One would think that justice, reason and fairness all call for even-handed negotiations. Is this not in Israel’s best interest?
We urge you to join us in signing this petition which will be submitted to the Israeli government August 10, 2010. To sign the petition click on this link: http://www.atzuma.co.il/bedouinjustice/ A version of this letter will also appear in Haaretz on Friday August 6 th. Organizations that would like to sign this letter can write to: email@example.com Amnesty International – Israel, Agenda, Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Association for the Assistance and Protection of Bedouin Rights in Israel, The Local Committee of Alakrib, Citizens Accord Forum, The Regional Council for the Unrecognized Villages, Abraham Fund Initiatives, NISPED-AJEEC – Arab-Jewish Center for Equality, Empowerment and Cooperation, Merchavim - Institute for the Advancement of Shared Citizenship, Amirat Al Sachra, Ma’an – Negev Arab Women’s Forum, Al Nahud – Association Promoting Higher Education for Negev Arab Women, Lakiya Women’s Association, Mosawa, Singur K’hilati, Sikkuy, Tsofen – High Technology Centers, Shatil Back to top
Reclaiming the desert
As bulldozers come again and again to destroy the Bedouin settlement of Arakib, a trial over land rights in the Negev is underway in Be'er Sheva District Court. Do the Bedouin really own their lands? Two expert witnesses have come to different conclusions Aviva Lori, Haaretz, August 26th, 2010 The face of Mohammed Abu Mudigham, 66, is brown and furrowed. At high noon the sun and the wind assault his tent. He sits on a plastic chair in front of the tent in the demolished village of Arakib, waiting patiently for the Police Special Patrol Unit, Yasam, to come destroy the flimsy tent, for the third time in two weeks. The troops duly arrive with bulldozers and overturn the tents of Abu Mudigham and his neighbors. Even before they came, the village lay in ruins. Skeletons of buildings, the remains of wooden shacks, twisted metal and tin siding are scattered all around like corpses. Abu Mudigham and the Bedouin of Arakib are considered trespassers, accused of settling on state-owned land. However, according to Abu Mudigham, his forefathers arrived here about 650 years ago. "They came from Yemen and Saudi Arabia," he says. "Thus it is related in our family." Later, they bought the land. "We bought these lands from the Al-Huzeil tribe," he says. "They were a strong tribe, thieves and criminals, and they controlled the area. Another part of my family bought the lands from the Al-Okbi tribe approximately 200 years ago. My father's grandfather bought the land."
In 2006, claims were filed in court for 1,350 dunams (338 acres ) of land in the name of the late Suleiman al-Okbi and his heirs. These cases are being heard simultaneously by three judges. The biggest claim, involving about 800 dunams - three plots in the village of Arakib and two more in the Zuheilika area - is being heard before Judge Sarah Dovrat in the Be'er Sheva District Court. The claimants, headed by Nuri el-Okbi, are represented by attorney Michael Sfard. "I took this case," Sfard explains, "because it is a classic case of the state using its overwhelming force, based on 150-year-old Ottoman laws which it interprets creatively, in order to justify dispossession and infringe the few rights of a weakened, trampled, discriminated community." Creative means The driving force behind the suit to reclaim the Bedouin lands is Nuri elOkbi. He is a 68-year-old garage mechanic who was educated in Kibbutz Evron, studied auto mechanics and worked in two kibbutzim in the Negev, Shoval and Lahav, before opening a garage of his own in Lod. At the end of the 1970s, when he, like many of his Bedouin friends, realized that submissive cooperation with the state would not be productive and that there was no chance his claims to land would be honored, he established the Association for the Support and Protection of Bedouin Rights. He has since worked by various means, some of them quite creative, to stir attention and compel the state to address the protracted dispute over Bedouin lands in the Negev. "There are 13 million dunams of land in the Negev," El-Okbi says. "Of that, the Bedouin claimed 800,000 dunams. As of now, the state has reached agreements with the Bedouin for 200,000 dunams, so that less than 600,000 dunams remain in dispute. But the state is creating a false impression and frightening the Israelis [i.e., Israeli Jews] into believing that the Bedouin are trying to seize control of the whole Negev. If the state will one day have to expropriate land for true public purposes, it can always do so, and justifiably. For example, a section of my land was taken for a road that connects Lehavim to Eshel Hanasi, and I did not ask the state for anything and did not interfere with the building of the road. But I will not agree to dispossession for its own sake and for nationalist reasons." The bureaucratic history of the Bedouin lands begins with the Turks in the middle of the 19th century. As part of the reforms forced on them by the European powers, the Ottomans started to register land as an asset. ElOkbi: "In 1858, a land law was enacted that later was given the name of the Ottoman Land Code. The Turks divided the land into various categories: private, Waqf [dedicated to a religious purpose], state-owned, public and mawat, which was uncultivated wasteland located 1.5 miles, or the distance of a muezzin's call, from a settled place. The Ottoman rulers of Palestine called on the Bedouin to register ownership of their land under the law, particularly after 1900, when Be'er Sheva was established as a district capital with governmental offices and officials. "The majority of the Bedouin did not heed this call and did not register their land. The British examined the rights of the Bedouin, and in 1921 and again in 1928 allowed mawat lands to be revived. They told the Bedouin to document their land for three years, to show the land regulation official
that it was cultivated, and then they would be able to register it in their name." But because this entailed payment of taxes, and because registering property in someone's name is an alien concept to the Bedouin - they consider Allah the true owner of all property - they showed little inclination to register land, and continued to pay taxes in a centralized way, through the sheikhs. Among themselves, the Bedouin registered their plots and carried out land transactions by means of the sanad, a traditional document that determines the exact place and size of a land allotment. Every Bedouin recognizes and respects the sanad and knows exactly where his land lies from which stone to which bush - and where his brother's land begins and ends. This arrangement, which has worked for hundreds of years, recalls in its essence the Jewish land registry records that were unrecognized in the Ottoman period but which the British accepted as legal documents in every respect. El-Okbi maintains that his family paid taxes on its land both to the British and to the State of Israel. "For example," he says, "we have documents from September 22, 1937, stating that my grandfather paid taxes on that land. Also in the early period of the State of Israel, in October 1950, my father paid 113 pounds and 139 mils in taxes to the military governor for planting summer crops. That was worth 20 camels at the time." According to El-Okbi, a tribal court that was recognized by the state operated in his father's house, a stone structure whose ruins still exist. But the state was unimpressed by El-Okbi's documents, and in the fall of 1951 informed the tribe that its land was being requisitioned by the army for six months. They were evacuated eastward, to the Hora area, near Be'er Sheva. The same story is told by many Bedouin in the Negev. Since then, nothing has happened. Everyone who tried to return to his land was removed from it and accused of trespassing. In the 1970s, the state encouraged the Bedouin to submit claims for their lands to the land regulation unit in the Justice Ministry. Members of the Al-Okbi tribe, like others, submitted claims - which have since been gathering dust in interdepartmental filing cabinets. "We were expelled by deceit from our land, under the auspices of the military government," El-Okbi says. "That is theft. We are citizens of the State of Israel, inhabitants of this country for generations." Since then, the members of the Al-Okbi tribe and other Bedouin have been living in a state of suspended animation. The state has amended most of the Turkish and British laws and adapted them to its needs, but in the case of the Bedouin and their lands, one Israeli government after another has effectively decided to do nothing, or at most to set up a committee, which is the same as doing nothing, but looks better. In 2005, Nuri el-Okbi asked the land regulator to register his land in his name. In response, the state sued him for invading mawat land and expropriated areas. The land regulator referred the resulting legal entanglement to the Be'er Sheva District Court. Four years ago, El-Okbi established a one-person settlement on his land. With the aid of human rights activists in the Negev he erected a tent, moved in and made it his
headquarters for managing his affairs and the wider Bedouin issues. Every few weeks, a large number of police arrive at his hill with heavy machinery, destroy the tent, remove him from the site by force and take him into detention. When he is released, he returns to the hill and erects a new tent. In February of this year he was arrested for an entire week. "The incarceration was intolerable," he says. "People are treated like animals. I was brought to court, charged with 40 criminal counts of invasion, uprooting trees and violations of an order. I was released on bail, conditionally, and ordered to stay away from Arakib. I must now stay with my brothers, near Shoket Junction [north of Be'er Sheva], the place to which we were taken in 1951. Now they are riding high; they got what they wanted. I cannot protest and I cannot go to Arakib in order to help the suffering people there." Expert witnesses The witness stage in El-Okbi's trial ended two months ago. The Bedouin brought as an expert witness Prof. Oren Yiftachel, a political geographer and town planner from Ben-Gurion University in Be'er Sheva. The state is putting forward two contradictory arguments: on the one hand that the land was mawat land, and on the other that it has been expropriated. Logic says that if it was mawat it did not have to be expropriated, and if it was expropriated, perhaps it was not mawat. The main witness for the defense is Prof. Ruth Kark, an expert in historical geography and the Middle East from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The summations are scheduled for September 30. In the meantime, the Bedouin claimants have submitted a special request to call another witness on their behalf, Dr. Yitzhak (Clinton ) Bailey, an expert in Bedouin law and ways of life and the author of "Bedouin Law from Sinai and the Negev" (Yale University Press, 2009 ). In the meantime, Kark and Yiftachel, two learned scholars, have looked at the same maps, read the same 19th-century books by scholars and travelers to Palestine, but each offers a completely different interpretation of the material. Kark maintains that the Bedouin have no attachment to the land and that it is impossible to prove they ever did; Yiftachel says it is as clear as day that the Bedouin have owned the land for untold generations. Ruth Kark took up the study of geography in order to travel the world. After undergraduate work in geography and Middle Eastern studies, she got a master's degree in historical geography and wrote a doctoral thesis on Jerusalem and Jaffa at the end of the Ottoman period. Since then she has dealt primarily with concepts of land and land ownership in traditional cultures, such as the indigenous peoples of North America, the Aborigines of Australia and the Maori of New Zealand. "I created a comparative model for conceptions of land in different traditional societies around the world," she says. "I have been studying land conceptions and land settlement in the Land of Israel during the Ottoman, Mandate and early Israeli period for more than 40 years." Oren Yiftachel did his undergraduate and master's degrees in Perth, Australia, majoring in urban studies with reference to geography, political science and economics. He began his Ph.D. thesis - an analysis of the
judaization of the Galilee - in Australia and completed it at the Technion in Haifa. In the early 1990s, Prof. Avishay Braverman, who was then president of Ben-Gurion University, issued a tender for a young academic to join the university's faculty and Yiftachel applied and won. Since then he has been involved in social issues in the Negev, such as public housing in what are known as "development towns," built in the 1950s to house new immigrants; social services in Be'er Sheva and Mizrahi identity (referring to Jews of Middle Eastern and North African origin ). "I am an involved researcher," he says. "The human perspective always interests me. Gradually I got into the Bedouin issue. I believe that knowledge has to be used not only for academic publications, but also translated into something that can improve the society. The eros that moves me is the passion for change, as Herbert Marcuse said." Yiftachel is co-chair of B'Tselem, which monitors human rights in the occupied territories, and an adviser to the regional council of unrecognized (by the state ) Bedouin villages. He is testifying pro bono in the El-Okbi trial. Prof. Kark does not support a change in the situation. In other countries, too, she says, the Bedouin get no special treatment. "For the past five-six years I have been researching the subject of Bedouin land in the Middle East, examining how other countries address the question of their lands." What did you discover? "According to this research there are two groups of countries. Those whose leaders are of Bedouin origin, such as Saudi Arabia, which treat the Bedouin slightly more tolerantly; and countries like Syria, which show no great tolerance for them. There is much talk today in the international community about indigenous peoples and their rights. Australia, New Zealand and Canada are mentioned in this regard. But in none of those countries do the natives have private land rights of the kind that some people want to see here. They have collective rights of fishing, hunting, use of reservations for all kinds of needs. "But the Bedouin cannot be viewed as indigenous," Kark continues, "because they have not been in the Negev since ancient times. The majority of the Bedouin have been in this country for less than 200 years. They do not originate in the Negev. The Bedouin are not defined as indigenous peoples in the other Middle Eastern countries, either, so why should it be different only in Israel? Why is it that only in Israel all the human rights fighters and activists claim that they are indigenous? There is something terribly anti-Israeli about this." Agendas and narratives In Australia, Yiftachel says, the rights of the aboriginal peoples were recognized in 1992. "The federal High Court recognized that there was ownership of land by the indigenous peoples, even though the registration was not in the modern style," he notes. "Instead, it was based on a traditional oral culture and on traditional mechanisms of land division. Reconciliation committees were established which affirmed traditional claims to land."
Yiftachel has written or edited 10 books and published about 120 scholarly articles. At the same time, he makes no secret of his agenda or of his politics. Kark has written two books and edited one, published many scholarly articles, has taken part in international scientific conferences and is often invited to provide an expert opinion in court hearings about land disputes. She has no agenda, she says, and reveals, surprisingly, that she is actually from the left, politically. "I am from Hashomer Hatza'ir [a left-wing youth movement] and come from a background of Mapam [a now defunct leftist party] and Meretz," Kark says. "There is no connection between the opinions I give in court and my political views. There are some researchers who, along with their doctoral students, begin by placing the goal under a spotlight and then of course they find it easily and adjust their court testimonies to their agenda. Some of them have forged a local and international career on the basis of that agenda and by badmouthing Israel." To whom are you referring? "That is not important. The fashion today is to talk about different narratives and about political approaches. It started with researchers and social activists in the 1990s. In many cases, though, there is no true historical basis for it. In my case, I look at historical materials, examine them one by one and do not say in advance that 'I have an opinion and I will prove its validity no matter what.' There are some people who think that if they say a hundred times that there were Bedouin settlements in the Negev in the 19th century, it will all come true and turn into reality. "Yiftachel and his lawyer [Michael Sfard]," she continues, "brought documents from Britain proving Bedouin ownership of the land. That's just talk. They say that Churchill, when he visited the country, said, 'The rights of the Bedouin will be preserved.' Does that mean that all the land in the Negev is theirs? How did he reach that conclusion on the basis of what Churchill said? They said in court that even Yosef Braslavsky [1896-1972, a pioneering geographer of the Land of Israel who wrote a book about the Negev] wrote about the Zuheilika ruins in the 1930s, which, they claim, proves that there was a settlement there. In that way the end becomes the means, and they are ready to arrive not only at inaccuracies but at genuine lies." Such talk rankles Sfard. "There is an irony that cannot be ignored in the state's argument," he says. "In the 21st century, Zionism is being compelled to defend itself against a charge of colonialism - such as the redemption of the Negev lands - by relying on travel logs of European missionaries of the 19th century. They were colonialists who viewed the Arabs as 'savages' and came to the Holy Land in search of biblical sites." Yiftachel: "I never said 'all the land in the Negev.' That is demagogy. We are talking about barely 3 percent of the Negev. In many places, where the word hirbeh [ruin] appears, there was formerly a settlement. Today we know from aerial photographs that dozens of such hirbehs in the Negev were settlements. People settled on a hill where a hirbeh and an old well existed and turned it into a settlement." As for the British documents, Yiftachel says, "There are many British documents that recognize the traditional ownership of the land by the
Bedouin - every serious researcher will say that. In 1935, for example, [Moshe] Sharett and [David] Ben-Gurion, acting in the name of the Jewish Agency, applied to the Mandate government to receive the Bedouin lands in the Negev, arguing that they were mawat. The Mandate authorities replied that the cultivated land in the Be'er Sheva area is considered to belong to the Bedouin tribes from generations past." According to Kark, many Bedouin exploited the weakness of the declining Ottoman Empire and arrived in the Negev at the end of the 18th century and mostly in the 19th, and not as they claim, hundreds of years ago. "The thousands of documents and maps that I examined closely show that the Ottoman regime in this period was weakened and that a vacuum was created with an available reserve of territories which could be encroached upon without the authorities intervening overly much," she says. "They came to the Negev and took control of land by force of arms. "In the 1930s, Arif al-Arif, the governor of the Be'er Sheva district in the Mandate period and a Palestinian historian, wrote two books about the Negev and about the Bedouin tribes in the Be'er Sheva district. He wrote that they fought endlessly among themselves and against the government, and also describes a situation of land incursions: 'A Bedouin arrives at the site, sticks his sword in the ground and says: "It's mine."' The Bedouin made a living mainly from theft and from collecting protection money from Palestinian villagers. Until the end of the 19th century they were all nomads and fighters. They did not become seminomadic until the 20th century. And until the end of the Mandate period there was hardly any permanent settlement [by Bedouin]. This holds equally for the Arakib area. Accordingly, they are considered interlopers. If an ordinary citizen builds a pergola or a balcony, the police come and he is compelled to demolish it and pay a fine. Yet look what's happening here." What about Jewish settlers who took over land that is not theirs? "If it's not legal, it's not legal." Selective quotations Yiftachel brought a quotation of his own from Arif al-Arif to the court: "At the end of 'The History of Be'er Sheva and its Tribes,' on page 100, he writes that 'the Al-Okbi tribe is now settled at Zuheilika.' That contradicts Kark's argument that Zuheilika was an ancient hirbeh." As for Bedouin nomadism, Yiftachel says, drawing on many researchers, that modernization processes that began about 500 years ago, brought about partial permanent settlement by Bedouin on the land and the allocation of clear territories, thus transforming the Bedouin into semi-nomads. "In the census of 1596, for example, the Turks reported about mizraat, a concentration of farms and crops without defined villages, which were the living zones of the Bedouin tribes," Yiftachel says. "A British survey of 1945 found some 3,600 built homes in the Negev and another 8,700 tents. That attests to the strength of the fixed-settlement process. The majority of the tribes had dira, a living zone, homes, pastureland and agricultural crops. Even before Zionism the Bedouin had a well- developed land system that was geared to confer rights. So many people cannot be lying. They lived in those places for generations untold, and if for some technical reason they did not register their lands, I as a geographer or a planner am
not persuaded by that. What persuades me is social justice. Just as there is place for Moshav Nevatim or for Giv'ot Bar [two Jewish developments in the Negev], there is also place for the lands of El-Okbi." The war of the experts grew very heated and passionate in court, inducing Judge Dovrat, who displayed a striking command of the details and nuances, to question the two sides herself. For example, in Prof. Kark's testimony on May 13, inconsistencies were revealed between what she told the court and what she wrote in a book published in 1974 on the history of Jewish pioneering settlement in the Negev up to 1948. In her book, Kark stated that there was no registration of land in the Negev during the period of Turkish rule in Palestine: "Land ownership relied on a tradition that was recorded in deftars, notebooks which were held by the sheikhs and mukhtars [headmen]. Every juridical act relating to land was recorded in the notebooks, which the Bedouin treated with respect and trust." In court, she retracted this and said she had changed her view after examining new archival material. At one point, Judge Dovrat seemed clearly dissatisfied with Kark and the contradictions. "None of the researchers Kark cited ever visited the plots of land relevant to the case," Yiftachel says. "The only one was Musil [Alois Musil, 1868-1944, a Czech explorer who visited Palestine several times], and as a researcher I was saddened, because this is very problematic. She [Kark] relates that Musil camped in the Zuheilika area and found nothing, but I open Musil and read that at Zuheilika he met the Al-Okbi tribe. She says she is well acquainted with Seetzen [Ulrich Jasper Seetzen, 1767-1811, a German explorer of Arabia and Palestine]. We started to read Seetzen - my mother is a German speaker - and there we found that he reached Al-Okbi and found a very large settlement, 70 tents, exactly where Zuheilika and Arakib are located today - but she chose to say nothing about that. So we started to examine all these travel diaries and discovered inconsistencies and inaccuracies and distortions in their reports." Yiftachel is referring to two travel books in particular. One is by William McClure Thomson, an American clergyman and missionary who visited Syria and Palestine twice in the mid-19th century. In 1859, he summed up his impressions in a book entitled "The Land and the Book," a personal travel log in the spirit of the Old Testament, with naive drawings of the country by his son. He began his journey in Beirut, after 20 years of religious yearning for the promised Holy Land. He had dreamt of Nazareth, Capernaum and Ginossaur, and at the start of the book promises himself that he will tour the land from Dan to Be'er Sheva and make it his. Thomson's book was aimed at Christian believers who wished to connect to places where Joshua and Samson fought, Saul and David ruled and the voice of the prophet Samuel rang out. A few years after Thomson, in 1883, a similar journey was undertaken by an Irish geologist, Edward Hull. He chose to enter Palestine from Egypt, through Sinai. Hull was especially intrigued by the Dead Sea and the Jordan Rift Valley. He was sent on the journey by the Palestine Exploration Society, of which he was a member, and brought along a number of people, including his son, who was a physician and a photographer.
"Everything the travelers wrote, they certainly saw," says attorney Sfard. "On the other hand, it's not certain that they wrote everything they saw." Yiftachel thinks Kark gave Thomson a different reading from his. "She [Kark] cites a lengthy passage form Thomson, forgetting the last three lines, which are the most important, and speak of the continued working of the land. 'Neither is the country anything like what we mean by virgin soil in America. It has been ploughed for thousands of years and probably very much as it is at present,' Thomson wrote. When the judge heard that, she snapped to life and started to ask questions." Kark also quotes Edward Hull, describing his journey along the Spice Route until he reaches an arid, unsettled area east of Be'er Sheva. "And I turn to the next page," Yiftachel says, "and discover that he went from Be'er Sheva to Gaza, passing very close to Zuheilika, where, he writes, the land is fertile and very cultivated and the people there produce much more than they need. 'In fact,' he writes, 'large quantities of agricultural produce raised in this part of Palestine are annually exported from Jaffa and other towns; and as we approach the western seaboard the cultivation improves, till about Gaza, El Mejdel [present-day Ashkelon] and Jaffa it attains a degree of excellence scarcely surpassed by that of Italy, France, or England.'" Prof. Kark, maybe you are relying on travelers who came to this country with European conceptions about villages and settlements, and this is why they did not mention seeing settlements in the Negev? "They were not just ordinary travelers or pilgrims but very serious scholars, whose studies we continue to draw on. I examined dozens of sources in the course of time, but they [the claimants] are trying to make a mishmash out of all kinds of sources from all kinds of periods. Al-Okbi was not in the places they claim, but they forgot to check that. You see that if you look at all the maps." Did you contradict yourself in your testimony? "I don't remember exactly what I wrote, but they took selective passages and did not mention the sections that were inconvenient for them. Besides, I told them I was a young student at the time and a person has the right to develop a little since then." Back to top
Displacing the Bedouin
It's hard to understand why Israel is pushing a significant sector of its citizens toward extremism and crime. Haaretz Editorial, 8th August 2010 Twice last week employees of the Israel Lands Administration, with the help of a large police contingent, demolished the homes of around 300 residents in the unrecognized Bedouin village of Al-Arakib in the Negev. Most of them, citizens of the State of Israel, including many children, were left not only without homes, but humiliated, frustrated and shocked. Both times the police were brutal, and neither time did the state offer an
alternative, compensation or assistance, either material or psychological, for the people whose village was demolished and world was destroyed. That's how a country treats its citizens. Even if there is substance to the state's claims that the village's lands belong to the state and not to the inhabitants, it should have offered other solutions besides sending in bulldozers again and again. There is a large cemetery at Al-Arakib and water wells that the residents say denote their possession of the land, along with old ownership documents. They claim they were forced to abandon the area after the War of Independence and that they returned in the 1990s because the land remained empty. In the eyes of the state they are squatters. After a protracted legal battle, the state destroyed the village. When the residents tried, with the help of volunteers, to rebuild, the bulldozers arrived again on Wednesday. While the state has given sweeping approval to Jewish "individual farms" in the Negev, awarding huge areas to individual citizens, it treats tens of thousands of Bedouin harshly, presenting their settlement in the Negev as a "problem" and a "danger." This attitude is infuriating. The Bedouin are the children of the Negev. Most of them were born there and some have lived there for generations. At least some of the inhabitants of Al-Arakib are well integrated into the economy and see Israel as their country. Destroying their homes and pushing them into the crowded and poor Bedouin cities creates a much more severe political and social problem than the danger of the Bedouin living on state lands. The bulldozer cannot be the state's only answer, especially not when it is used only against the Bedouin. It's hard to understand why Israel is pushing a significant sector of its citizens toward extremism and crime. On the ruins of Al-Arakib a new generation of Bedouin will sprout that is alienated from the state, enraged and desperate. Neither they nor the state deserve this. Back to top
Land struggle of Israel's Bedouin
Jon Leyne, BBC, 27th February, 2007 On the drive out of the modern Israeli city of Beer Sheva, the tin shacks scar the landscape. It is a shanty town as poor and depressing as anywhere in the world. These are the homes of the proud Bedouin Arabs. Once the citizens of the desert, the Bedouin of southern Israel are now the poorest and unhealthiest citizens of the state of Israel. Take the "village" of Wadi Nam. Technically it does not exist; it is unrecognised by the government and appears on no maps. The thousands of Bedouin clustered here have no proper water supply and no sewage system. The homes have no electricity despite the fact that there is a massive power plant in the middle of the village, and high tension cables hum
overhead. There is a chemical waste plant on the edge of the village. A foul smell hangs in the air. Generations There are around 150,000 Bedouin in the Negev, close to the city of Beer Sheva. Some of the villages claim to have been here for generations. Others sprung up when Israel moved the Bedouin in the 1950s from their ancestral lands they used to cultivate and use to graze their animals. Khalil al-Amur says his family has lived in the village of As-Sira since before the foundation of the state of Israel. Last year the whole village received notices of demolition. The authorities say all the homes are illegal, built without permission. Khalil says they are caught in a Catch 22 - with nowhere to go for permits. "I could come home and not find my house, " he explained. "My children are very, very terrified and uncertain, asking - are they really coming, when are they coming." The Israeli housing minister, Meir Shitreet, is unapologetic. "The fact is that this land does not belong to them, so they have no license to build on it," he argued. "We are suggesting a very fair solution to each and every one of them. Every one of them can get land, legally, with all the infrastructure legally to build their home. If they want their children to be educated, to grow up in the right environment, with all the culture and services, they cannot live in the desert. " Townships Many of the Bedouin have moved, with government encouragement, to several of these new "townships". They are notorious, crime-ridden slums, partly because of bad planning, partly because these formerly nomadic people have not taken easily to urban life. Many Bedouin prefer to stay in their villages, however poorly provided for. And even in the new townships it is extremely difficult to get permission to build. “The policy of Israel in the Negev and in other areas of the country is to 'Judaise' the land.” Prof Yanni Nevo, Ben Gurion University The Israeli policy seems confused. Nevertheless, Prof Yanni Nevo of Ben Gurion University in Beer Sheva detects a theme: "The policy of Israel in the Negev and in other areas of the country is to 'Judaise' the land, " he said. "It does not mean that others will not exist here at all. It means Jewish settlements are favoured. In the Negev they have established seven townships, not to the liking of the population, against the cultural heritage of the population, and they have tried to concentrate as many Bedouin in those townships in order to vacate as much land as possible for mostly Jewish uses." In its most extreme form, the Israeli policy denies there were any Bedouin here before the State of Israel was established. More usually, Israel resorts to a narrow legalism, the government arguing that the Bedouin have no
rights to the land because they cannot produce the necessary documentation. Inevitably there is conflict. Sitting in the middle of the bedouin villages and townships is the wealthy Israeli town of Omer. A private security firm patrols, protecting against what the citizens of the town say is a minicrime wave, emanating from the bedouin village next door. Stalemate The mayor of Omer, Pini Badash, says the Bedouin are out of control, building illegally, and raising families of up to forty children: "They drive without registration, driving stolen cars; they don't stop at red lights. This chaos must stop. The bedouin economy - it's a black economy. The system considers them poor, but really they are driving Mercedes, Jeeps, luxury cars." The problem, for those who share the same outlook as Pini Badash, is that the Israeli government is not prepared to be ruthless enough. Officially, there are thousands of illegal Bedouin homes. But the government does not have the stomach for the sort of mass demolitions, and movement of people, that would dramatically change the situation. So there is a stalemate. The Bedouin, poor, living on the edge. The Israeli authorities unwilling to give them the sort of official recognition they crave. "They have to find a new way to treat the Bedouin if they want to live in peace with these people," argued Khalil al-Amur. "These people are existing here and living here before the existence and establishment of the state. The people here are indigenous people." It is, perhaps the fundamental issue facing Israel. How can this modern society make its peace with the people who have lived here since before there was a Jewish state. Story from BBC NEWS: http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/programmes/newsnight/6400501.stm Watch 10 minute video (“Israel’s Forgotten Bedouin”) at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/player/nol/newsid_6390000/newsid_6399400/63994 09.stm?bw=nb&mp=wm&news=1&bbcws=1 Back to top
Association for the Support and Protection of Bedouin Rights, PO Box 789, Beer Sheva.
27 July 2010 To: Benjamin Netanyahu Israeli Prime Minister
The Government Compound, Jerusalem 6546717
Re: demolition of all homes in the village elArakib.
This morning at 5 a.m., heavy machinery was at work supported by huge forces of the Israeli state: police, the Israel Lands Administration and the Jewish National Fund, all of whom undertook a barbaric, criminal and racist act: the destruction of an entire village of peaceful Arab citizens. Mr. Prime Minister, criminal and racist behaviour by a regime that discriminates against citizens simply because they are Arab is intolerable. We shall not accept dispossession of our lands, or policies that concentrate us in townships in order to finally completely control our lands. We request: 1. Cessation of all acts of demolition and recognition of villages which have existed for generations, plus provision of equal services as is customary for the Jewish population. 2. Payment of compensation to all citizens injured as a result of discriminatory official policies. 3. Planning of rural, agricultural communities in the Negev for citizens who want it. 4. Recognition of Arab Bedouin citizens’ rights on their land in the Negev exactly as the State has recognised Jewish lands and their institutions on lands acquired from the Bedouin during the days of Turkish and British rule. Please respond as a matter of urgency. Sincerely, signed Nuri al Okbi Back to top
Activists plaster JNF building with photos of razed Bedouin homes
The photos were posted "to protest the JNF's complicity in the crime of pushing the Arab and Bedouin residents of the Negev from their lands," according to a statement. By Jack Khoury Activists protesting demolitions in the Bedouin village of Al-Arakib covered the walls of the Jewish National Fund building in Tel Aviv with photographs documenting the destruction. The photos were posted "to protest the JNF's complicity in the crime of pushing the Arab and Bedouin residents of the Negev from their lands," according to a statement.
As part of the effort to "Judaize" the Negev, the government leased much of the unrecognized village's lands to the JNF, for forestation purposes, said the activists. In 2005, the JNF inaugurated the "Ambassadors' Forest" on the village's lands. "We demand the JNF stop taking part in land grabs and pushing the Bedouins from their land," the statement read. Dr. Awad Abu Farih, the spokesman for the local committee, told Haaretz he welcomed the protest. "The JNF entered the picture as the operational wing of Israel Land Administration. This is a dangerous move for us - as long as there was a dispute with the ILA some agreement could be reached, but the JNF is a single-nation organization and leasing the land to it means it's not meant for Arabs." The JNF was not available for comment by press time. Back to top
The horror show at al-Araqib village: from removal to approval Oren Yiftachel, 4 August 2010
[Middle East News Service comments: The uprooting of the Bedouin village has been covered around the globe. However, an appalling coverage by the Israeli media has meant very little background has been provided. This has been particularly missed in countries like Australia where public consciousness of native title is high. Professor Oren Yiftachel submitted a background article to Haaretz which was published on the web only. As agreed with Prof Yiftachel, I forward the translation of the Hebrew article to him. He has tweaked the article by providing additional information as well several new paragraphs. Prof Oren Yiftachel is a researcher and human rights activist. He teaches political geography and urban planning at Ben-Gurion University, Beersheba. He also represents Bedouin communities in courts and planning forums, and has recently been elected as co-chair of B’Tselem, the Israeli information Centre for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories.] Even veterans of human rights struggles cannot recall such a horror show as took place in the Negev Desert, 10km north of Beersheba, last Tuesday, when 1500 border guards, riot squad members and armed police, accompanied by bulldozers and helicopters, streamed in from all directions to uproot the small village of the al-Turi tribe in Araqib. It was a violent showcase operation designed to display force and sow fear. All that remained of the village was twisted rubble, some chickens, geese and sheep wandering around, and pervasive feeling of shock and
disbelief. A week after Tisha'a B'Av which mourns the destruction of the Jewish Temples, the village appeared like the Destruction itself. Let us recall that the members of the al-Turi tribe, like the majority of people in the Bedouin unrecognised villages and towns, are the traditional landowners, who have resided there, tilled its hills and tended their flocks, for generations before the State of Israel was formed. At the beginning of the 1950s, they were forcibly relocated “temporarily” by the then military government. Their lands remained fallow for 50 odd years. About a decade ago they returned and built their village on their historical land, whose fate is a still pending in a current court case. The al-Turi case is one of several historical land rights cases now underway in Israeli courts, in which indigenous Bedouins claim ownership over their traditional land which was nationalised decades ago. The most notable is the case of the al-Uqbi tribe, immediately adjacent to the destroyed village – a case with important implications for all indigenous land claims in the area. In that trial, the state position, which has rules the courts for decades, is finally seriously challenged. At the centre is the state's claim that before Israeli rule in the area in 1948 all Bedouin lands were “dead”, that is, unsettled, unassigned and uncultivated. Such land, according to the prevailing law, have no owners, and is by default state land. Under this distorted logic, the Bedouins have been declared “invaders” on their own ancestors land, all around Beersheba. Yet, the recent trials bring to the fore compelling evidence about continuous Bedouin occupation and cultivation of the lands around Beersheba. The new material shows that Bedouin lands were managed for generations by a well functioning traditional land ownership system, which allocated residential, agricultural and grazing lands, and adjudicated on land disputes, under the approval of the Ottoman and British rulers. While the Bedouin did not register their land in the British land title books (a fact used against them by Israel), no-one can seriously say that the lands around Beersheba were “dead”. In some ways, the recent trials resemble the struggle of aborigines against Australia's “terra nullius” (empty land) doctrine, which was finally defeated in 1992 during the well known Mabo case. Following Mabo, a new category of “native title”' entered the Australian rule book and other countries, like Canada, South Africa, India and Brazil followed suit. The Bedouins are demanding that Israel too recognises traditional land ownership not the least in the Araqib area. It may be that the state of Israel feels threatened by the erosion of its legal hegemony in the historical land cases over Araqib, and has therefore decided to act violently, while it has the legal power to classify the land as 'public' and all buildings as “illegal”. Accordingly, since moving back to their land in Araqib, the al-Turis and their neighbours, the al-Uqbis, have been undergoing an ordeal that includes regular home demolitions and the annual destruction of their crops, which have been sprayed with defoliants and ploughed back into the ground. Now their entire village has been destroyed. Other tribes which used to live in al-Araqib but were forcibly removed, have also attempted to return to the area, but were driven away by the state. Recently the JNF has begun planting trees there to create a forest, and
thereby deny any future attempts to recultivate and settled the once Bedouin lands. So as history would have it, even if the dry letter of the law does not concur, it is the State of Israel which is invading the Bedouin land, and not the other way around. But let us put history and legal arguments aside for the moment, and ask -- is there no other way? The answer is right before our eyes -- there is another way, and how! Actually in the last fortnight we have seen two events that illustrate just how criminal and unnecessary was the entire act of village destruction. They also demonstrate the extent to which the solutions are at hand. The first event was the approval of the new Beersheba metropolitan plan. That plan recognises the existence of four villages -- Atir, al-Gharah, Rachame and Sa’awa -- which until a fortnight ago had exactly the same status as Araqib. Those villages were also deemed illegal and were marked down for evacuation and destruction. The villages joined the list of a dozen villages recognised or "established" in recent years -- one of them is the village of Tarabin, which is quite close to the village which was destroyed. Now that the fear of destruction and evacuation is behind them, the residents of these villages can start to rebuild their future like other ordinary citizens. Undoubtedly, they will face extensive difficulties as Arabs in the Jewish state, but the profound threat of eviction will be lifted from over their heads. The second event was the passing of the Family Farms Law, which legalises the status of 60 Jewish (and one Arab) family ranches and farms set up without planning approval in the Negev. Yes, the aim of the law is the Judaisation of the Negev, and it is true that the law makers tried their utmost to make it inaccessible to the Bedouin. But the fact that these farms were granted approval years after they were built, raises the possibility that small Bedouin communities, which have settled their land for many generations, can also be recognised in retrospect -- just like Jewish family farms. What is needed then in the Negev is the implementation of a simple, but almost revolutionary idea in present day Israel -- civil equality. We must remember that the implementation of this notion has been demanded by Jews for generations. The Negev’s future is predicated on such an equality, for otherwise the continuing conflict will deteriorate the situation of Arabs and Jews alike. There's no reason not to recognise Bedouin villages on the basis of equality with the Jewish population, and this will also enable equality in law enforcement. As we have seen, the mechanisms and precedents for taking a different path already exist. The Regional Council of Unrecognised Villages (RCUV) and other NGO's such as “Bimkom”, the Centre for Alternative Planning and the Co-existence Forum, have been working on a range of master and detailed plans for the unrecognised Bedouin villages and towns. These plans should be implemented without delay. Simultaneously the plans for the removal of the villages need to be removed themselves and replaced by plans for legal recognition.
Yet, this may not happen under Israel's continuing shift to the right, and the re-enforcement of its “ethnocratic” principles of greater Jewish control, often violent, on both sides of the Green Line. If ethnocracy prevails over democracy, dangerous ethnic discrimination will continue to mould life in the Negev. The dangers embedded in such discrimination were summed up well by Supreme Court Justice Cheshin in a recent ruling: "Discrimination... is the worst of all evils... Discrimination gnaws endlessly at relations between human beings... continuing discrimination results in the collapse of nations and loss of sovereignty... What you do not wish for yourself, do not do to others." The Israeli government should take note, both in general and in the case of the Bedouins of Araqib. In the face of this senseless destruction it's high time to replace removal with approval – and the earlier the better! Back to top
Al Arakib Popular Committee --- Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality Recognition Forum – Tarabut – Gush Shalom
Press Release: July 27, 2010
Police destroys a whole Negev village - 200 children left homeless Destruction implemented although land ownership still pending in court
Netanyahu calls the Bedouin citizens of Israel “real threat”, and next an entire village in the Negev is demolished. Early this morning, police raided the unrecognised Bedouin village of alArakib in the Negev, destroyed all 40 of its houses and evicted more than 300 residents. The residents, mostly children, were left homeless. The unprecedented raid began at about 4.30 in the morning, residents were surprised to wake up surrounded by a huge force of 1,500 police with guns, stun grenades, helmets and shields, including hundreds of Special Riot Police (Yassam), as well as mounted police, helicopters and bulldozers. At the residents’ call, dozens of left-wing activists and volunteers arrived from all over the country, helping them to offer non-violent resistance. Several residents were bruised and beaten by police, though not needing medical attention. One woman demonstrator was detained by police. The police removed the residents’ property into prepared containers, and bulldozers demolished the residential buildings and sheepfolds and destroyed the residents’ fruit orchards and olive tree groves. The villagers, mostly children and old people, were left stunned near the destroyed village, shelterless and waterless under the blazing sun. The destruction of the village was carried out despite dispute over ownership of the land still pending in the courts. Residents of al-Arakib
are neither squatters nor invaders: their village has existed many years before the creation of Israel in 1948. Residents had been evicted by the state in 1951, but returned to the land on which they live and which they cultivate. Ownership of the land is now the subject of proceedings in the Be’er Sheva District Court, where academic researchers have already testified in confirmation of the residents’ ownership right in the land. The destruction’s declared aim is to facilitate plans by the Jewish National Fund to plant a wood on the site. We regard this demolition as a criminal act. Bedouin citizens of Israel are not enemies, and forestation of the Negev is not a reasonable pretext for destroying a community which is more than 60 years old, dispossessing its residents, and violating the basic rights of hundreds of Israeli civilians, men, women and children. This act by the state authorities is no “law enforcement” – it is an act of war, such as is undertaken against an enemy. This act cannot be dissociated from yesterday’s statement by Prime Minister Netanyahu, who at the cabinet meeting sounded a warning about a “situation in which a demand for national rights will be made from some quarters inside Israel, for example in the Negev, should the area be left without a Jewish majority. Such things happened in the Balkans, and it is a real threat.” Presenting the Bedouin citizens of Israel as “a real threat” gives legitimacy to the expulsion of Israel’s Bedouin citizens from the Negev in order to “judaize” it. We call on all who care for democracy to give their support to this threatened community. Contact: 833 3116 Anwar: 052-271 4020 / Sayach: 052-725 7951 / Orry: 050-
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The "banality of evil" and Israel's destruction of alAraqib
Joseph Dana, Live from Palestine, 10 August 2010
In the early hours of 10 August, Israeli forces destroyed -- for the third time -- the Bedouin village of al-Araqib in the northern Negev desert. Israel had first destroyed the village on 27 July as EI reported, and each time the villagers have attempted to rebuild. Joseph Dana witnessed the latest destruction.
We arrived in the darkness. The horizon was blurred from the desert night sky and all that could be seen was ruin. Piles of concrete, steel reinforcing bars and wood in places where the village once sat. In this maze of construction material there were small makeshift living spaces, barely suitable for the harsh desert climate. Simple tent structures consisting of four wood shafts and a black tarp was the only remains of this village. We, Israeli and international activists, were invited to sit in these tents through the night and sip coffee in the cool desert night with the villagers. They told us about their livelihood now that the village is constantly facing demolition. Some talked about their military service in the Israeli army and their disbelief that the country they served could behave in such a way as to destroy their entire village. Others expressed hope that at least some
Israelis understood the grave nature of their government and were standing arm in arm with them. As the night closed and the light began to change, the first sounds of the demolition crew could be heard far off in the distance. Before we had time to blink, 200 fully clad police officers were on microphones telling us to leave and that any violence would be met with harsher violence. As soon as the voices on the microphones stopped, the bulldozers began to work. The place we had been sitting and having coffee through the night was leveled before our groggy, disbelieving eyes. We barely had time to register the fact that the village was being leveled, as the police began pushing us away from the living structures with extreme force. The demolition crew worked efficiently and without pause. Every structure that served some form of life in the village was leveled and all the building materials from it were trucked away. As we were pushed further from the village, a couple of activists tried to sit inside or in front of the tents. This was met with violence by the police as people were thrown to the ground like rag dolls. At one point in the chaos, a professor of medieval history at Tel Aviv University was grabbed by a police officer, who quickly wrenched his hand behind his back. The professor was held like this for a number of minutes and then arrested. It is still unclear under what terms. Finally, the police confined us to a hilltop and had us look over the village as it was destroyed. The water canisters, which are needed because Israel refuses to give the villagers water pipes, were broken and then placed on flat bed trucks to be carted away. The image of massive bulldozers flanked by heavily armed riot police destroying makeshift Bedouin living structures is something that no one would be able to forget. As soon as the forces left, the villagers began rebuilding what little they have left. Every week, their resources shrink and yet they rebuild. They have no choice. All of the police officers and members of the demolition crew this morning were simply following orders. It was another day for them and due to the Israeli cultural understanding of the Bedouins and Palestinians as "nearly people," they will probably not lose a wink of sleep this evening. However, the complete destruction of the village of al-Araqib is yet another powerful example of the Israeli banality of evil. Joseph Dana, a writer and filmmaker living in Jerusalem, is active in direct action groups such as Taayush and the Anarchists Against the Wall. His website is josephdana.com. Back to top
Twilight Zone / The invaders
Last week, an entire 'unrecognized' Bedouin village was demolished, far from the public eye. But residents won't give up: They have already started to rebuild. Gideon Levy August 6th, 2010 Amid the ruins, amid the smashed household utensils, crushed children's
bicycles and scattered medications, amid the walls that have collapsed on the contents of homes, the uprooted trees and broken toys, I found a brown cardboard carton on which was written in Hebrew: "holy books." I opened the carton: a volume of the Hebrew Encyclopedia, and beneath it "All That Remains," the monumental work by historian Walid Khalidi on the Palestinian villages lost in 1948, and a book about the Oslo Accords. Those who destroyed the village apparently had mercy on these books, packing them up and sparing them from the bulldozers. At dawn on Tuesday of last week, these bulldozers, accompanied by about 1,500 policeman, raided and demolished a village in Israel. Unrecognized, but still a village. A non-story in Israel, but the British newspaper The Guardian called it "ethnic cleansing in the Negev." The video film on The Guardian website shows the images not seen here: The bulldozers plowing into dozens of houses and other buildings, the crudeness of the hundreds of armed police and the sad expressions on the faces of the inhabitants, who watch in silence and amazing submissiveness while their state demolishes their homes. The sheep seek to escape the burning sun among the village graves. Their pen has also been demolished. The bulldozers also had mercy on the graveyard, where the first grave was dug decades ago and the last this week. Israel has always had mercy on holy structures. Mosques and graveyards were the only remnants that survived back in 1948. "Invaders" is what the state is calling the inhabitants of the village. And what is a graveyard doing here? Is it, too, "illegal?" "Unrecognized?" An "invader?" And also the wells? One can, of course, be impressed by the wealth of legal decisions regarding the fate of the village, Arakib, north of Be'er Sheva. The proceedings went on until late at night at the court in Kiryat Gat, as the forces were already preparing to raid. Israel calls them invaders and land robbers; the inhabitants argue that there are documents and deeds, and that the existence of the graveyard and the wells are proof of their ownership of this land. One resident displays a deed from the time of the Turks. Another shows a court decision to postpone deliberations on the fate of his home until the start of next year, but state representatives urge the court to get it over with already - the demolition operation is waiting. This land was their land. They were evicted from it in the 1950s and they returned to it in the 1990s. Invaders. Squatters. But the legal battle was lost before it began.Israel seeks to 'purify' the Negev of Bedouin and concentrate them in wretched towns - and it has the law on its side. Individual ranches are only for Jews. Evacuation of illegal settlements is only for Arabs. Demolition of homes without compensation and without therapeutic care for homeless, shocked children - only for Bedouin. The State of Israel versus Arakib: The "Ambassadors' Forest" on behalf of the state of Israel, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Jewish National Fund has already been planted around the village. It is doubtful that the dozens of ambassadors who gave a hand to this misappropriation - the expulsion of Bedouin from their lands, the covering of the ruins with vegetation, the covering of the shame with trees, exactly as happened after 1948 - knew that Israel was turning them into bad-will ambassadors.
Here, then, for the information of the diplomatic corps: Do you remember the impressive ceremony held in 2005 in your presence? Be informed that this forest of yours was intended solely as a basis for the state's hold on the land, at the expense of Bedouin locales. Projects of destruction in the territories, like the one underway now in the Jordan Valley, usually leave behind them ruins of meager shacks and wretched sheep pens. Here it's different. In Arakib they smoke Marlboros and Kents, drink mineral water in disposable cups and speak excellent Hebrew. Bookcases and elegant leather sofas can be seen among the ruins. Two Mercedes vehicles belonging to the rich man of the village, Muhammad Jum'a Abu Madian, are parked beside the ruins. His children are now scattered among his friends: Shaul Shai from Ashdod, Danny Hananel from Mabu'im and Yaakov Ron from Kibbutz Shoval. Jum'a is a businessman who employs hundreds of workers - at the chicken slaughterhouse in which he is a partner, on Kedma Street in the northern industrial zone in Ashdod, in his large foodstuffs agencies throughout the Negev and in his other businesses. An Israeli in every respect, he too was born here, and he too wants to continue living here. Now he is showering in the shade of one of his trucks. His suit and his scent are in the trunk of the Mercedes 550, a personal import. "I had a 300-square-meter house. Now I have a one-square-meter house," he says. Workers are already rebuilding his home. Last Saturday, hundreds of Israeli peace activists came here to demonstrate and help with the building. Doves and geese wander around their former village, which now looks like a disaster zone. "Even the doves don't want to leave," says Sheikh Sayyah Abu Drim. With a big mustache and wearing a white galabiya and kaffiyeh, the sheikh recounts the history of the village with nearly biblical pathos. How he was born here, how his ancestors paid taxes on this land to the Turks, how the area flourished in his childhood with olive trees, prickly pears, grapes and figs, how they were expelled from here in the 1950s, how the state began to plant forests in the area all around at the end of the 1990s and how at the start of the 2000s Israel sprayed their fields from the air with a mysterious substance. "We don't have any faith in the court and we don't have any faith in the units of criminals called the police and we don't even have any faith in our lawyers," says the sheikh. "The police applauded when they finished demolishing and said: Long live the State of Israel. But what kind of state is this? It is a stinking state." And immediately he corrects himself: "It isn't the state. It is just the Israel Lands Administration and the police." Jum'a tells us someone in the ILA once said to him: "Go to Nasrallah." "A number of people at the ILA in Be'er Sheva are in conflict with us, but we aren't going to hate all of Be'er Sheva. We are partners for better or worse. If one of us were to speak in Nasrallah's name, he would go to jail. But the man whose job it is to solve problems is pushing us toward Nasrallah. Look at that tent over there. Who built it? The Islamic Movement. The movement that is opposed to the state is building for us,
and the state is demolishing for us. But we will prove to the haters of the state, to the ones who are expelling us, that we will continue to work together." Thirty-five buildings, hundreds of olive trees, an estimated NIS 5 million in damages. The sheikh: "I don't know when the Jewish people will look at the deeds of this government. Why are people silent? Previous governments did not take decisions to destroy a village. They demolished a house here and a house there, but an entire village under the open sky? To come in the middle of the night with a declaration of war, declarations of destruction? And after this I have to tell my children that the Jews are all right, that they are our cousins? We will not do any ill to the state or to ourselves. We will not spill blood, but will build 100 more times. We are prepared for another 100 demolitions, until they recognize our right. We are not invaders, not squatters. The State has invaded us." Back to top
Winston Churchill at the Be'er Sheva District Court
Report from the Be'er Sheba District Court, March 6, 2010 by Adam Keller Last week, Nuri el-Okbi was held in the detention cell in the basement of Be'er Sheba's Hall of Justice, and the police demanded that he be remanded in custody until the end of judicial proceedings which might last for months or years – on charges of "trespassing". This week he sat, free, in the hall of Justice Sarah Dovrat, on the sixth floor of the same building – in the civil proceedings where he demands of the state to recognize that in the lands of Al-Arakib he is not "a trespasser" but the owner. Adv. Rawash, for the state, started cross-examining the witness: "Professor Yiftachel, you came here as an expert witness to bolster the argument that the land subject to these proceedings should actually go into Bedouin ownership. The opinion which you submitted to the court describes the alleged centuries-long habitation and agricultural cultivation of this land by the al-Okbi Tribe. But Professor Ruth Kark of Jerusalem, an experienced researcher with professional qualifications no lesser than yours, has at the request of the state presented a counter-opinion to the court. She asserts that in the Nineteenth Century the area was not inhabited at all, there were only ruins and perhaps a tent or two. In general, throughout the Negev there were no fixed places of habitation, and the nomadic Bedouins subsisted mainly on pasture as well as robbery. The Okbi Tribe claims they had a village which was destroyed by Israel but in fact, such a village had never existed, so it could not have been destroyed. What do you say to this?" "Ruth Kark also accused me of a political bias to which I will not reciprocate. I can only express surprise that as a researcher, especially one who claims to be involved in studying the indigenous society, she chose to ignore the written documents and the extensive oral traditions of the Bedouin society," said the expert witness, Professor Oren Yiftachel of
the Department of Geography and Environmental Planning at the nearby Ben Gurion University. "Her arguments about the Nineteenth Century Negev situation are based mainly on reports of European travelers, almost all of whom were momentary visitors who did not speak the local language, nor did they know or understand the Bedouin society. Moreover, most of them did not at all pass the Arakib Area which is the subject of the proceedings here. In writing her opinion Professor Kark did not bother to indicate any knowledge, even a superficial one, of the details of the land in question or of the communal history of the Okbis. It does not seem that she ever made any visit to the ground, nor did she speak with any member of the tribe "We should also remember that these travelers were not exactly objective people who came with an open mind, to observe the situation and society in the Negev and record what they saw. They were mostly devout Christians who came to this country in order to see the places where Jesus walked, where the events of the Old and the New Testaments had taken place. They adjusted what they saw to the preconceived notions which they had brought with them from Europe. For example, the French Victor Guérin in 1863 writes of the Negev as a place where great cities of Biblical times once stood but which had now fallen into the hands of "The descendants of Ishmael and Esau", who now pasture there their flocks. That is what he called the Bedouins, and it was not a compliment – in his terms these were the bad guys of the Bible. "The travelers had a Western concept what a "village" or "place of habitation" was, and they filtered what they saw through European cognitive frames. In the places where they came from, a "village" usually was a cluster of stone houses or huts, built relatively densely, and having a clear external border. Such places they did not see in the Negev, and they concluded that the Negev was not inhabited. But geographical research shows that in this period, communities on the verge of the desert were differently organized. Usually, there were clusters of tents, relatively distant from one another, at a number of locations according to the season, with an occasional mud-built house (baika) or a stone one, especially for the Sheikh, around a well, dam or other focus of communal activity center. These communities functioned as geographical, administrative and economic centers for the families living all around. Western travelers could pass right by such a place and not realize that they were seeing a village, an inhabited place which sometimes had a long history. "The same goes for farming methods. Travelers usually perceived 'agriculture' as a verdant landscape of a climate with plentiful precipitation, such as that of their own countries. Even so, the reports of these Western travelers include a lot of references to the agriculture which the Bedouins maintained under difficult conditions, the cultivation of wheat, barley, corn and melons ... " Rawash: Where do you get the reference to melons? I see in your opinion a reference to sources mentioning wheat and barley, but not melons. Yiftachel: Wait a minute, I'll find the reference. The sources are burned here on my disk, but it is hard to search them. (Searching for several
minutes). Here, Abu Sita is talking specifically about the cultivation of melons by the Bedouins. Not that this detail is so important. Even if there were no melons but only wheat and barley, it definitely proves that the Bedouins were engaged in agriculture. Judge: Professor Yiftachel, once you've written something in the opinion which you presented to the court as evidence, the accuracy of every word and detail is important. There are no unimportant details. Yiftachel: what is really significant is that the Bedouins subsisted mainly on agriculture, at least from the Nineteenth Century on, and that land ownership was determined by their tribal law, recognized by the central government until the establishment of the State of Israel. Specifically, the clear evidence - geographical, written, and oral tradition – indicates that the Arakib area was inhabited and cultivated by the al-Okbis and other tribes, at least since the 18th and 19th centuries onwards. Without any doubt the tribe was dispossessed of land which had been held legally and whose possession was previously recognized by the authorities. Rawash: In your opinion you're talking about "Assigned Land". But you do not bring any document showing that the Ottoman or British authorities assigned ownership of land to the Al-Okbis or other Bedouins. When you talk about "assigning land" you mean a father who bequeathed land to his sons. Yiftachel: It's also a form of land assignment. Judge: "Land Assignment" is a clear legal term, which refers to cases where the government allocates land to citizens or residents. Yiftachel: This is an appropriate perception for the State of Israel in 2010, but it does not fit the society and law which prevailed in the Negev before 1948, and certainly not in the Ottoman period. It was not a situation which begins with a government holding land and deciding whether or not to allocate it to somebody. We must remember that from the Seventeenth Century until the Nineteenth there were long periods when the Ottoman Empire was not in effective control of the Negev. Bedouin tribes conducted their own affairs and took up many attributes of sovereign states, and they arranged the legal issues of land ownership by their own extensive legal system. For example there is an important land agreement from 1883, which involved the three tribal confederations of Tarabin, 'Azazmeh and Tiyaha, with all their Sheiks, and which is reminiscent of an international agreement between states. Rawash: Professor Ruth Kark wrote in her opinion that the Bedouins had no regular land system capable of regulating ownership, and that the documents you brought are private agreements between persons which have no binding force indicating ownership. Yiftachel: This is definitely not true, Bedouin society had a very clear concept of land ownership, it was one of the most important things in their lives, and they regulated it among themselves. Also now, it still is among the most important things in their lives. They are very careful about land ownership as defined under their own legal system. They regard land as their property even when it was taken away from them decades ago, and they refuse to accept land belonging to other Bedouins even when the
State of Israel offers them such land. The internal legal system of the Bedouins exists even today, in parallel with the laws of the State of Israel. All the more it existed during the Ottoman and British rule, when the government gave official recognition to the legal system of the Bedouin society. Rawash: But according to the Ottoman Land Law of 1858, these lands were considered as "Mawat ", "Dead Lands" which had no ownership. Yiftachel: This is the Israeli interpretation to the Ottoman Law, an interpretation formulated decades after the Ottoman Empire ceased to exist. This was not the interpretation of the Ottoman Government itself gave to its own laws. As I mentioned, in 1858 the Ottoman Government did not exercise real power in the Negev and was in no position to enforce laws there. Decades later, around 1900, the Ottoman government began to maintain a real presence and control in the Negev. Notably in establishing the city of Be'er Sheva, where we are right now, as an administrative center of government in the Negev. But they were careful to respect the legal status of the Bedouin society and their land ownership rights. The Ottomans took care to purchase the land on which Be'er Sheva was established. When you buy land you thereby acknowledge the ownership rights of the seller from whom you bought it, and of the community to which the seller belongs. Rawash: Sultan Abdul Hamid II held extensive lands in the Negev under his personal ownership. Yiftachel: This exactly proves my point. Abdul Hamid II was a big land speculator. He bought a lot of lands – in fact, more in the north of the country than in the Negev. The point is that he bought the land. He respected the fact that the Bedouins were the owners and he had to pay them for it. It was an empire, he was the Sultan and he was not exactly a principled democrat. Still, it never occurred to him to just take the land from his Bedouin subjects and claim that they are not the real owners. Had he considered the land to be "Dead", "Mawat", under the law of 1858, that would have given him the right to take it without paying. But that is definitely not what he did. Rawash: In 1921, at the beginning of the Mandate, the British Government enacted the "Dead Lands Ordinance" and gave the Bedouins two months to come up and register at the Land Registration Office their ownership of lands which they claimed. Hardly any Bedouin did that. They can’t come up with ownership claims now. Yiftahel: This is the common judicial argument under which the Bedouin claims of land ownership are rejected. But it ignores salient facts. On March 29, 1921 – before the expiration of that two-month period – a delegation of Bedouin Sheiks went to Jerusalem, to confer with Winston Churchill, at the time the British Secretary of State for the Colonies. In the official concluding statement, which I located at the Public Records Office in London, the Sheiks declared their loyalty to His Majesty's Government, while Churchill confirmed an earlier promise by High Commissioner Herbert Samuel, that "The special rights and customs of the Bedouin Tribes of Be'er Sheba will not be interfered with".
Subsequently, the British Mandatory Government excluded the Be'er Sheba District from the application of the new land law, absolving Bedouin inhabitants from the duty of registering their land. Instead, a Tribal Court was set up in Be'er Sheba, which remained active throughout the Mandate period. Cases of land dispute were usually settled by a bench of three Sheiks, in accordance with Bedouin Tribal Law. The British recognized the Bedouins' ownership over the land. Whoever did want to register their land at the Land Registration Office was free to do so throughout the time of British rule, and 64,000 dunams of Bedouin lands were indeed registered. However, those who registered their land were usually those who wanted to sell it to non- Bedouins (including Jews). In order to continue holding the land, or to let sons inherit it, or to sell to other Bedouin, there was no need to have recourse to the governmental Land Registry Office. For such purposes, the traditional Bedouin tribal law was quite adequate. The assertion that Bedouin families or tribes which had not registered their land ownership in 1921 have "missed the train" and lost title to the land was never heard before 1948. This is not a British law, but an original Israeli judicial argument giving the British law a new interpretation which the British themselves never advanced. What I want to emphasize is that the Israeli legal system made a distorted use of laws, applying them 'backwards' in time in order to ethnocratically promote dispossession. The State of Israel made of Ottoman and British laws an opposite use to that made by the Ottoman and British authorities which enacted the same laws. The most important of these is the "Dead Lands Ordinance" which was completely changed by the State of Israel changed for the purpose of dispossession. Neither the Ottomans nor the British are known to have dispossessed any landowner on the basis of the "Mawat" laws or because it was not registered in 1921. On the contrary, the cultivation of empty lands was encouraged. Only the state of Israel made an opposite use of the ordinance, to effect dispossession - and only against Arabs (both within Israel and in the Occupied Territories). It is a particularly reprehensible practice when directed against Bedouins, because both the Ottomans and the British recognized Bedouin customary law, as a legitimate way for the acquisition and division of land. Rawash: The text which you presented about the meeting of the Sheiks with Churchill is not the same as that given in your written opinion. As far as I am concerned, this document does not exist. We will object to its being introduced to the court as evidence. Yiftachel: It is a difference of a few individual words which does not influence the meaning. This is a key document which throws light on the whole substantive issue. Judge: In legal matters every word is important. (In the end, the document is formally presented to the court.) https://mail.google.com/mail/? ui=2&ik=1badf00904&view=att&th=1273e2d20efa3fba&attid=0.2&disp= inline&zw
Rawash: In your statement of opinion you asserted that the Bedouins should be considered "An Indigenous People" like the Australian Aborigins. Professor Kark, however, opposes such a comparison, because indigenous peoples have lived where there was previously no state of any kind, while the Bedouins lived in the Ottoman Empire. Yiftachel: First of all, there are many who consider that the Bedouins - at least some of the tribes - lived in the Negev long before the Ottoman Empire. In any case, the status of an indigenous people, recognized by the UN, is not determined in reference to the state which used to rule the territory in past times but in connection to the state which rules it at present and to how that present state treats its indigenous residents. The situation of the Bedouins in Israel puts them into this framework. In Australia nowadays it is no longer asserted that Australia was "an empty land" ("terra nullis") when the Europeans arrived at its shores, and that therefore they did not have to take into consideration the property rights of the Aborigins. Now the Australians, through an important ruling of their Supreme Court, do give consideration to the Aborigins' legal system. So do Canada and other countries. It's time for Israel to join them. The "Transitional Justice" approach holds that in the transition between land ownership regimes, the human and property rights under the previous regime should be protected as far as possible, and that meticulous attention must be given to the rights of people who belong to indigenous communities. Among other things, this means that groups and individuals who suffered from arbitrary acts of the new authorities must be compensated and their property rights restored in as close a way as possible to the original form - but without significant damage to new populations which arrived in good faith at minority areas, in this case, the Jewish population which had come to the Negev after 1948. The case of the al-Okbis can be adequately dealt with in such a framework. I.e., restoration of the family's rights, without damage to communities as "Givot Bar" established by new residents who arrived in the area after the family was expelled from its land. Prof. Oren Yiftachel's home //www.geog.bgu.ac.il/members/yiftachel/yiftachel.html page:
Yiftachel's original expert opinion, Kark's counter-opinion and Yiftachel's response (so far available only in Hebrew, English translation currently being worked on)
http://docs.google.com/Doc?id=dgmkttft_27fqh8crdm&btr=EmailImport https://docs.google.com/viewer? a=v&pid=gmail&attid=0.1&thid=1273e2e535c5c9cc&mt=application%2Fpdf&url=https %3A%2F%2Fmail.google.com%2Fmail%2F%3Fui%3D2%26ik%3D1badf00904%26view %3Datt%26th%3D1273e2e535c5c9cc%26attid%3D0.1%26disp%3Dattd%26zfe %3Dwindows-1255%26zw&sig=AHIEtbR9TkBGO-SHE6G-a4NWuGXcc4gmDQ https://docs.google.com/viewer? a=v&pid=gmail&attid=0.1&thid=1273e2d20efa3fba&mt=application%2Fpdf&url=https %3A%2F%2Fmail.google.com%2Fmail%2F%3Fui%3D2%26ik%3D1badf00904%26view %3Datt%26th%3D1273e2d20efa3fba%26attid%3D0.1%26disp%3Dattd%26zfe %3Dwindows-1255%26zw&sig=AHIEtbRz6sDjvTR-Jm_gxURjuBItZ2ckSg
Sunday, March 7, 2010
The obsessive trespasser
Nuri el-Okbi again in the focus (By Adam Keller of Gush Shalom) Nuri el-Okbi was nine years old in 1951, when he was expelled from the home were he was born at el-Arakib, north-east of Be'er Sheva. The state representatives promised Nora’s father, Sheikh Salman el-Okbi, that the tribespeople have to leave their homes only for half a year, because "the land is needed for military manoeuvres" and that afterwards they could come back. The promise was not kept. Sheikh Salman el-Okbi tried in 1956 to go back to his land and was immediately arrested and expelled again. While the el-Okbi tribespeople were living in poverty at Al-Hora, to which they were brought on trucks, the authorities initiated the judicial procedures to confiscate their land and register it as State Lands. According to the "real-estate-purchase law" passed by the Knesset in 1953, the State of Israel purchased all the lands of the el-Okbi tribe at a bargain prize of zero Israeli Pounds and zero Agurot. Nobody bothered to inform the tribespeople of this nice deal. They found out about it only by accident, and only many years later. Nuri el-Okbi spent his life in the struggle for his tribes people and for the Bedouins in general. Already in the 1960s he founded the "Association for the Defence of Bedouin Rights in Israel" at a time that hardly anybody knew of such a problem, and Bedouins were usually thought of as exotic and friendly ornaments of the desert. Ten years ago, there came up the possibility that the government of Israel will allow the el-Okbis to get back to at least part of their land. It came up and immediately went down again. In 2004, then Minister of Housing Effi Eitam took care to create on the land - in a semi-military fact-creation operation in the middle of the night - a community for Jews only, known as "Giv'ot Bar" (Wild Hills). In April 2006, Nuri el-Okbi arrived at the lands of el-Arakib - facing the perimeter fences of Giv'ot Bar, not far from the ruins of the house where he grew up - and erected there a tent. From then until last week he lived alone in this tent - day and night, winter and summer, ceaselessly demanding that he and his tribe be allowed to go back to the land. Sometimes friends came from all over the country and also visitors from abroad, to encourage and support him. At other times there came less friendly visitors on behalf of the authorities - police and the Jewish National Fund and the so-called Green Patrol. Many times they destroyed the tent and Nuri lived under the open sky until he acquired a new tent. Many times he was detained - but when released he went back to the land. Several times he was beaten and needed medical treatment - and also that did not intimidate him. Last week Nuri el-Okbi was detained again - but this time he was left behind bars and there was presented against him a charge sheet. A very, very long and extremely detailed charge sheet, 22 pages with no less than 40 charges, divided into dozens of sub-charges. Again and again the charge sheet notes that "the accused did trespass by entering real estate
which is state land, and stayed in it and held on to it without the slightest shred of a right. This crime was committed by Nuri el-Okbi in the year 2006, and also in the year 2007, and again in 2008, and in 2009, and in 2010, in every month of every one of these years, on dozens of dates which are carefully and meticulously noted down in the charge sheet. The prosecution has the names of eye-witnesses, no less than fifty of them, who are able to truly testify that indeed Nuri el-Okbi persisted day by day in his trespassing and also confronted the bulldozers which the Jewish National Fund sent to flatten the land of his father, preventing them from continuing to work and thus disturbing public workers in fulfilling their job, and he also annoyed the public workers and threatened them and in one case even attacked them (one man with not more than his bare hands, aged nearly 70, in face of five young and strong public employees...). In every article of the charge sheet the state takes care to note and remark again that Nuri el-Okbi has "not a shred of a right over the land". Literally, the term used in rather poetical Hebrew reads "not a mote of dust of a right". Indeed, it was all crushed to dust and blown by the wind. A public danger Last Monday the hall of the Magistrate Court in Be'er Sheva was full of peace and human right activists who came from all over the country - but they did not get to see Nuri. The court's agenda was overcrowded, and other detention hearings were given precedence. Nuri remained incarcerated at the courthouse basement from morning to evening, unseen and unheard, and was finally taken back to spend another night in a crowded detention cell. On the following day, Nora’s case did come for a judge's attention. "In his many police interrogations he insists, repeatedly asserting that the land is his" was the bitter complaint of the police prosecutor. "Nothing helps. Even when the police interrogators present to him official documents proving beyond doubt that the land is a state property, he denies it and persists in maintaining his version, that the land had belonged to his ancestors. This is an obsessive trespasser. He is a danger to public safety and to the public's property. He should be remanded in custody until the end of judicial proceedings!" "The state's claim for ownership of this land are far from being established beyond doubt. Nuri el-Okbi is in possession of weighty judicial arguments substantiating his claim of ownership over the land, which might invalidate the state's arguments. This is the subject of civil proceedings in the Be'er Sheba District Court, here in this building, where a ruling was not yet rendered" stated Adv. Saul Davis, Nuri el-Okbi's lawyer. "The real estate where he erected a tent is a place over which he has a serious claim to ownership. In my view, it is natural for a person to be a bit obsessive about a property being taken away. How can a person be a trespasser in his own property, in his own home? I think the court should help him preserve his property rights, as set down in the Basic Law on Human Dignity and Liberty. Finally, Justice Ido Rozin resolved to reject the police demand for a remand, and stated that there was "no danger in releasing him on bail".
The judge also recognized that there is an ongoing dispute between Nuri el-Okbi and the State with regard to ownership of the land, a dispute not yet settled. He therefore ruled that pending a final verdict the state (or the JNF acting on its behalf) should not create "facts on the ground". On the other hand, the judge also ruled that Nuri el-Okbi must stay, until further notice, under house arrest in the home of his brother at al-Chora, that he may leave only during daytime and only when accompanied by his brother – and that he be forbidden to approach closer than ten kilometres to the land of al-Arakib. "Thou shalt see the land before thee, but thou shalt not go thither unto the land". And so do things stand at the moment. Tomorrow, Monday March 8, 2010, at 10.00 am, there will resume before Justice Sarah Dovrat of the District Court, on the fifth floor of the Be'er Sheba Hall of Justice, the deliberations in the civil suit where Nuri demands recognition of his rights over the al-Arakib lands. Prof. Oren Yiftahel of Ben Gurion University will present to the court an expert testimony on a subject in which he is a recognized authority: Bedouins' ownership over their lands in the Negev, which had been recognized by Ottoman and British authorities for decades and centuries before the State of Israel arose to spread its rule throughout the Negev. It is important and worthwhile to be there. Nuri el-Okbi and the Expert Professor (part two), 15th May, 2010 The state's expert witness in the Bedouin Land Case turns out to have written in a book the opposite of the opinion presented to the court. In the latest session of the Bedouin Land Case, conducted before Justice Sarah Dovrat of the Beersheba District Court, there were exposed inconsistencies and inaccuracies in the expert opinion presented to the court, on behalf of the state, by Professor Ruth Kark of the Hebrew University. In her written opinion Prof. Kark had asserted that the Czech orientalist Louis Musil, an important Negev explorer, had stayed at the end of the 19th century in the al-Arakib land subject to the present proceedings "and did not see anything there." Att. Michael Sfard - who represents Bedouin rights activist Nuri al Okbi in his claim to ownership of this land, from which he and his tribe were expelled in 1951 - presented the witness with a section from Musil's book mentioning his having met members of the al Okbi Tribe on that same land. Prof. Kark responded: "Musil only refers to their being camped there. They were nomads. It does not indicate that this was their fixed abode." Sfard said: "Even so, this is relevant information which you should have presented to the court." Much of the hearing cantered on the issue whether the 19th century Negev Bedouins in general, and the al Okbis of that time in particular, had been "nomads" who have no fixed abode - or had they been "seminomads" engaged in a regular cyclical migration between summer and winter locations, returning to the same places and engaging in agricultural cultivation. This is a critical issue in determining land ownership rights. In her expert opinion submitted to the court Professor Kark had asserted that in the 19th century there was no agricultural cultivation whatsoever in the Negev, and she repeated this assertion at the start of the cross-
examination. Sfard, however, presented the witness with excerpts from her own published books and articles, in which she referred to land cultivation in the Negev, and even mentioned tribes going to war with each other over possession of agricultural land. Subsequently Prof. Kark amended her original submission and admitted that there did exist some agricultural cultivation in the Negev during the 19th Century but it had been no more than "incidental agriculture." Att. Sfard then presented data from the British Mandate period, also published by Prof. Kark herself, according to which in 1920's and 1930's there were in the Negev some three and a half million dunams under agricultural production [four dunams = one acre], and that 81% of the Negev Bedouins subsisted on agriculture as opposed to only 10% who lived from grazing. "How did such a tremendous revolution in Bedouin society come about in such a traditional and conservative society – during only a few years? From marginal, incidental agriculture which according to you was all that existed in Ottoman times, to a society principally concerned with agriculture in the British Mandate?" Professor Kirk answered "I guess there really happened a revolution there." Another significant issue was the Ottoman Land Law of 1858, on which the Israeli authorities often rely when denying claims of Bedouin land ownership. "Did the Ottomans rule the Negev in practice during the 19th century, or was their rule just a formality? Were the Bedouins required in practice to register their land? Did there exist at all in the Negev Land Registration Offices?" Professor Kark responded in the positive to all questions. Sfard then presented in the court a section of the book "History of the pioneering Jewish settlement in the Negev, 1880-1948" which Prof. Kark wrote in 1974, stating: "In the Turkish period there was no official record kept of the Negev lands. Determination of land ownership relied on traditions recorded in Deftars (Books of Record), notebooks which were kept by the Mukhtars and the Sheikhs. Any juridical action in the land was recorded in the Deftars which the Bedouins treated with respect and trust." This was quoted by Kark from Joseph Weitz, who had been Director of the Jewish National Fund's Land Acquisition Department during the Mandate period and who was a leading figure in the Zionist settlement enterprise. "Do you still uphold what you wrote in this book?" asked Sfard, to which Professor Kark replied: "No, it's a book published decades ago. Later, some fifteen years ago, I found Ottoman documents showing that the situation was otherwise." Sfard then asked: "If you located the conflicting evidence fifteen years ago, how come that your book was republished in 2002, with this reference to Negev Bedouin land ownership still appearing in it unchanged?" The witness replied "This was a photographic edition of the old text, which was not updated." Back to top
Why is Israel torturing the Palestinian residents of Sheikh Sa'ad?
Residents of the isolated village of Sheikh Sa'ad are unable to leave the town in their cars, and are continually subjected to poor treatment by IDF border guards. Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz, 25th May, 2010 The Palestinian village of Sheikh Sa'ad has been essentially disconnected from the outside world by the Israeli defense establishment. This is one of those stories that make me, as an Israeli, feel truly shameful. As Haaretz reported Monday, the village is located near Jerusalem but is isolated from all surrounding villages due to the location of the West Bank barrier. The barrier has cut Sheikh Sa'ad off from Jabal Mukkaber, which falls under the municipal jurisdiction of Jerusalem. The residents of the village are unable to leave the town in their cars because of the Kidron Valley, which surrounds the village from the east, north, and south. The bridge that in the past enabled the residents of Sheikh Sa'ad to cross the Kidron Valley was blown up in 2001 by the Israel Defense Forces. Since the erection of the West Bank barrier in 2004, the manner in which the defense establishment has been treating the residents of the village has been outrageous. The High Court ruled in 2005 that the West Bank barrier must be moved in a way that allows the village to fall under the jurisdiction of Jerusalem. Otherwise, the residents would be cut off from all the services they are entitled to such as education and health care. However the state appealed the court ruling and the barrier stayed in its place, while residents were unable to exit the village in their cars except through a dirt road only suitable for vehicles with 4x4 wheels. One checkpoint was left open for pedestrians, with a traffic light next to it that is supposed to allow cars to pass through when the light changes to green. But almost like a bad joke, the light has remained red. In March of 2010, the High Court of Justice accepted the state's appeal and ruled that the village would remain on the other side of the barrier, as long as the pedestrian passage remained open 24 hours a day for all the residents of the village. This stipulation was to apply to residents with both blue identification cards (Israeli residents) as well as those holding orange cards (Palestinians). Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch also issued the condition that the passage be open to vehicles at the Swahara checkpoint. However the bridge that was blown up was never repaired, so regular cars have no way of getting to the checkpoint, and those that were able to cross the valley discovered that the Swahara checkpoint is only open to pedestrians. When the Swahara checkpoint was finally opened to vehicles two weeks ago, those who arrived at the checkpoint discovered that cars can indeed pass through - just not those belonging to villagers. So at the moment, there is no way for residents to leave the village in their cars. So let them walk! Right?
Representatives from the organization MachsomWatch (Checkpoint Watch), a group of women working to protect Palestinians' rights at checkpoints, described to Haaretz several incidents involving pedestrians at checkpoints. "An infant needed to go to the Makassed Hospital in East Jerusalem, after he swallowed something. The mother had X-rays and proof of their hospital appointment – but she and her son were not allowed to pass through, and border police went as far as completely ignoring the two.
Photo by: Daniel Bar-On The checkpoint at the
entrance of the village of Sheikh Sa'ad, which is permanently closed to car traffic.
"Commander Y, who was at the station checking documents, shut the window in the faces of the mother and son. The mother was forced to drive through a dirt road to the coordination and liaison administration at the olive crossing, which was at least 40 minutes away, in order to stand in line and file for an entrance permit. Following the events, we filed a complaint." (21.2.2010) "An eight-month pregnant resident of Sheikh Sa'ad who held a Palestinian identification card was suffering from severe pains and thought to go to the hospital where she was supposed to give birth. "The soldiers at the checkpoint did not allow her to pass. Officials in the Civil Administration gave a bureaucratic response: It turned out that the woman was previously issued a permit to pass through as an escort for her sister when she went to the ophthalmologist. Since the woman was issued the permit, she wasn't able to pass through without it, even if she was going into early labor. "They told her she has to drive to the Palestinian coordination and liason administration in Azaria (at least 40 minutes away through a dirt road) so she could bring the permit and only then she would be allowed to pass through to the hospital. All our attempts at showing them the absurdity of the situation as well as the very real danger to her health that they were ignoring proved fruitless. Eventually, the woman paid for a cab to go and bring her the permit, and she returned home in order to wait for it." (17.06.09) There are several more examples of the wonders at the checkpoint leading to Sheikh Sa'ad. The reason the Israeli government tortures the residents of the village is unclear to me. What is their goal? Where is the security threat? The response of the defense establishment to every checkpoint story is embarrassing. Everyone on the Israeli side hides behind the High Court ruling to leave the crossing on the way to Jabal Mukkaber open to pedestrians. But somehow, they forget to mention that Israel had also
committed to open the Sawahra checkpoint and the road leading to it to car traffic, as well. Did I already say shameful? Back to top
Force Israel's hand on Palestinian home demolitions
Israel's resumption of demolition in East Jerusalem requires firm intervention to prevent a total breakdown in talks Seth Freedman, The Guardian (Comment is Free) 15th July, 2010
A bulldozer demolishes a Palestinian house in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Bet Hanina. Photograph: Olivier Fitoussi/AP
In theory, a municipality demolishing illegal structures on its land should not raise any eyebrows. In practice, however, such a measure should be viewed in the context of the wider politics of the locality – and when it comes to the tinderbox of Israeli-Palestinian affairs, the Israeli authorities' actions should be seen for the provocative and spiteful behaviour that they are. Ending a nine-month freeze on demolitions of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem, municipal workers this week razed three houses in the area, provoking a storm of controversy both at home and abroad. The freeze came about as a result of diplomatic outrage last time Israel carried out demolitions in East Jerusalem during Hilary Clinton's visit to the region in March 2009 – actions described by Clinton as "unhelpful" and a violation of Israel's Road Map commitments. Since then, Israel has continued to flout agreements for a moratorium on illegal construction in Israeli settlements, while continuing to pursue a hardline, heavy-handed approach towards Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem. Evictions of Palestinian families to make way for incoming settlers continue apace in Sheikh Jarrah; in Silwan, 22 homes are slated for demolition so that a landscaped public garden can be developed; and throughout the eastern half of the city nonstop pressure is applied as part of what activists term the policy of "quiet transfer". According to Angela Godfrey-Goldstein of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, the "quiet transfer" denotes the gradual wearing down
of the Palestinians to the point that they throw their hands up in despair, quit the area and head east. Housing permits are also part of the quiet transfer, she says. Much of East Jerusalem has been declared an "open green zone", preventing houses being constructed, which in turn leads to a severe housing shortage in the region. Fewer houses than people means that the cost of property soars, pricing the locals out of the market and forcing them to seek cheaper accommodation on the other side of the security wall. Once they leave, they rescind their rights to Jerusalem ID papers, destroying any hopes of employment in Israel proper – effectively keeping them caged in the poverty of the West Bank for ever. Meanwhile, green lights are given to settler construction left, right and centre – a blatant case of double standards, Godfrey-Goldstein points out. In the rare event that Israeli courts condemn settlement buildings as illegal – such as Bet Yehonatan in Silwan – eviction orders are ignored by the settlers and unenforced by the authorities, proving the duplicity of the municipality when it comes to building violations by those on either side of the political divide. On top of the awful implications for the families made homeless by the bulldozers this week, the demolitions are another blow to IsraeliPalestinian relations. The destruction of the homes in Issawiya and Bet Hanina are as clear a sign as any that Israeli leaders care little for concessions and compromise, preferring to make quick political capital on the domestic front by kowtowing to the ultra-nationalists in their midst. Israeli politicians have been treading such a path for months, their resolve strengthened by the toothless international response to their flouting of both international law and basic moral codes. Nir Barkat, Jerusalem's incumbent mayor, famously dismissed Hilary Clinton's criticism of home demolitions last year as "air", summing up the sneering and self-confident attitude of the majority of those at the helm of Israeli politics. Unfortunately, it is not hard to see where their arrogance stems from: for years, no American or European leader has dared match their angry words with concrete actions, such as sanctions against Israel. Despite all the hype surrounding Barack Obama's accession to the throne of American politics, it is still business as usual in the relationship between the US and its client state in the Middle East. Moves to deal sensibly and seriously with the issue of dividing Jerusalem have stalled in line with every other major bone of contention – such as the issues of illegal settlements, water rights in the West Bank and Palestinian refugees. Against such a backdrop, Israel's resumption of demolition in East Jerusalem can be seen for what it is: a brash statement of intent on both the micro and macro political levels. "Judaising" East Jerusalem is a stated policy of numerous settler groups and their financial and political backers, and every home demolition and family eviction expedites the process of ethnic cleansing already embarked upon.
If nothing is done to stop the rot, the inevitable outcome will be a total breakdown in talks between the two sides, likely sparking a wave of violent clashes in its wake. The only way to prevent such a disastrous turn of events is for the US, EU and others to force Israel's hand – for it is Israel who holds all the cards when it comes to negotiations. Anything less will not do: time has all but run out to bring the two sides to the table, and the only winners from the current status quo are the extremists. Israelis and Palestinians alike don't deserve, nor can they afford, the consequences of another intifada, hence firm intervention is a necessity. Home demolitions are only the tip of the iceberg, but they are as combustible an issue as any in terms of the political implications they engender. Israeli leaders have shown they couldn't care less about the damage they are doing in both physical and emotional terms; it is high time that they were made to care, for the sake of all parties concerned. Back to top
'Israeli Arabs have no choice but to build illegally'
Study released by the Dirasat - Arab Center for Law and Policy highlights obstacles faced by Israeli Arabs wishing to build homes; about a quarter of Arab communities have neither a local nor privatized master plan. By Fadi Eyadat Israel's Arabs are forced to build illegal housing due to the government's refusal to recognize many of their communities as official towns or to grant them permits for legal construction, according to a study released by the Dirasat - Arab Center for Law and Policy. The dozens of structures Israel razed earlier this week in the Bedouin town of Arkaib are among the 45,000 illegal constructions in unrecognized villages in the Negev. According to Knesset Figures, some 1,500 structures like these are built annually in unrecognized villages. The Dirasat study concludes that this phenomenon will continue for years as a result of the obstacles imposed by Israel's planning committees. Approximately one-quarter of Arab communities have neither a local nor privatized master plan and thus are not eligible to receive building permits. As such, says the study, the national master plan short-changes the development authorities and stunts their progress. Communities that do have a master plan are often given last priority for construction permits due to their flailing infrastructure, says the study. The Dirasat report, which was conducted by attorney Kais Nasser of Hebrew University's law faculty, is one of the most comprehensive studies in Israel examining the reasons for the high rate of illegal Arab construction. Partial data from the study indicates that the number of Arabs in Israel has multiplied by seven since the state was established in 1948, but their municipal communities take up only 2.5 percent of state land.
Some 1,000 Jewish settlements have been established since 1948, says the study, but not a single Arab town aside from the seven Bedouin communities consolidated for residents that has previously been scattered across the Negev. "The Arab citizen in Israel does not suffer from a 'syndrome' or find pleasure in illegal construction," said Nasser. "Like any citizen of the state, the Arab citizen would build legally if he were guaranteed within a planning framework that enabled him to receive a permit." The study points to three types of institutional, planning and legal obstacles facing Arabs. According to the law, a condition for issuing a building permit is the existence of a private master plan that shows how land will be used. The study found that in a quarter of Arab communities in Israel, no private or local master plans exist that would allow a resident to be issued a building permit. This is true for the 36 unrecognized villages in the Negev, in which there are no basic services like water or electricity. In the other communities, there are old master plans that have not been updated. Another obstacle in regards to the approval of master plans is that only 6 percent of local Arab authorities have local planning and building committees, compared to 55 percent of Jewish communities. But even when local authorities submit master plans for development, the study finds obstacles posed by national and regional master plans. These obstacles include the demarcation of areas that could be used for residential development as nature reserves or agricultural land instead. For example, national master plan 35 is intended for the development of the "urban fabric", a designation not given to many Arab communities. When there are no institutional or planning obstacles preventing the submission of updated master plans, there are bureaucratic and legal obstacles in the way. For example, the study highlights the village of Reineh in the north, which a decade ago approved a master plan that designated certain lands for residential use. According to the study, no village resident has yet received a building permit on that land because the area lacks the access routes and infrastructure required by the planning committee. "Young Arabs today feel despair about their future housing options. Lands for use by the public do not exist and therefore natural development has been halted," said Dr. Yosef Jabareen, the head of Dir Assat center. "This reality should be a red warning light for policymakers and cause them to act to ensure the existential rights of Arab citizens before it is too late." Back to top
SAVE THE CHILDREN PRESS RELEASE ON PALESTINIAN FAMILIES
Dear Friends, Tens of thousands of Palestinian families are at risk of being driven from their homes as a result of forced displacement in the occupied territory. More than half of those affected are children. Whilst most attention has focused on house demolitions and forced evictions, new research by Save the Children UK, with support from the Humanitarian Aid Department of the European Commission, revealed intolerable living conditions are driving families to abandon their land and homes, even though most will be worse off once they do so. The survey carried out in high risk areas including most of the rural West Bank (Area C) and the Gaza border area or 'buffer zone', showed residents enduring extreme hardships - daily shortages of food and water, high unemployment, insecurity, family separation and children unable to go to school. In addition to house demolitions and forced evictions, this extreme neglect, isolation, and exposure to violence drives families to move out of their communities – at least 36% of respondents in the West Bank said they wanted to move because of lack of access to services, and 42% in Gaza due to personal security reasons. Most, however, want to return to their homes if the conditions were right. The survey demonstrated that assistance and support is still not reaching those most in need. Humanitarian and development support to communities in high risk areas must be considered of highest priority, as the consequences in terms of long-term dependence on humanitarian aid and weakened communities losing their base populations, are severe. And because families want and need to go back to their homes. Download and read Save the Children’s new Life on the Edge report here: http://www.savethechildren.org.uk/en/54_9515.htm. The humanitarian community, development agencies and the Palestinian Authority must make these vulnerable communities an urgent priority through a comprehensive and coordinated humanitarian and development response. Save the Children UK urges the State of Israel to halt actions that result in displacement, including the demolition of Palestinian homes, and clearly define a policy for the Gaza buffer zone that is in line with its international legal obligations to protect civilians under occupation. Please circulate the report widely among your contacts. We welcome any and all feedback. For further information, please do not hesitate to contact Jennifer Moorehead at Save the Children UK at firstname.lastname@example.org 0545628029. More Information: To view related materials, including Save the Children UK’s Fact Sheet on the Jordan Valley, Fact Sheet on the Gaza ‘Buffer Zone’, Briefing Paper on Forced Displacement, summary of research findings, and citations, please visit www.savethechildren.org.uk/en/54_9515.htm.
To view Save the Children’s recent Broken Homes publication on house demolitions and their impacts on children in the OPT, please visit: http://www.savethechildren.org.uk/en/54_8431.htm. Key Findings At least 49% of respondents living near Gaza’s “buffer zone” or in West Bank areas under complete Israeli control (Area C) say they have changed their residence at least once since 2000, compared with 15% among the general population in the OPT. Families that have been displaced fare significantly worse in terms of living conditions, socio-economic impacts and psychosocial well-being than they did before their displacement, regardless of the reason why they were displaced. In high risk areas, house demolitions, and the loss of income and sources of livelihoods are common triggers for the displacement of families. In the West Bank, families in high risk areas also faced forced evictions, land confiscation threats and lack of access to essential services, making them vulnerable to displacement. In the Gaza border areas, concerns for personal security and safety have caused families to move away from their communities. 78% of displaced families said they wanted to return to their homes. 49% of households surveyed in high risk areas in the West Bank said that humanitarian assistance from international organizations is ‘not available,’ in contrast with the 12% in Gaza high risk areas who said that humanitarian assistance was ‘not available.’ Among respondents who wish to move (36% in West Bank high risk areas), lack of access to services was identified as the primary reason. Families who most need legal support are not getting it. The majority of families both in high risk areas and in the general population did not access legal services or support after receiving a house demolition or land confiscation order. Back to top
BARKAT’S GARDEN -- AND THE PROMISED LAND
Angela Godfrey-Goldstein Jerusalem municipality’s local town planning committee recently approved Mayor Nir Barkat’s plan for development of Silwan’s Bustan: “The King’s Garden” that will turn this residential Palestinian neighbourhood into a park and displace 500 residents. The plan was passed despite objections and claims that it was in fact illegal. Meir Margalit, a City Council coalition partner until being fired recently by the mayor, objected on grounds that the plan for Silwan is illegal according to Jerusalem municipal laws, since many standard planning procedures have not yet been carried out. The site remains unmeasured, current and future infrastructure for electricity or water is undecided, firefighting requirements remain open, no provision exists for public buildings,
street cleaning, preservation, required improvements or future planning policy and the residents’ own town plan has been ignored. All bureaucratic procedures that prove this plan is being fast-tracked; could it be that yet again political corruption rules City Hall? Margalit stated at the meeting that the planning department has 250 unanswered points before the committee can judge the plan’s merits. The City Engineer had even demanded the plan be taken off the committee agenda until those issues are dealt with, and the city’s Legal Adviser refuses to take responsibility for this plan because it was never shared with him. Take the electricity. Planners obtained a professional opinion from the Israeli Electricity Company, which is absent in Silwan – and failed to obtain an opinion from the Palestinian Electricity Company, the current supplier. Indeed, the town planner presenting the mayor’s plan used Jewish terminology for the site, creating an impression that it’s already Jewish: The King’s Garden and City of David. No coincidence, either, that the same town planner is developing other Silwan town plans for the radical settler organization Elad, which is busily judaising, landgrabbing, evicting and buying out East Jerusalem. Sami Erscheid, the Palestinians’ lawyer, said the plan is also illegal because it was presented to residents four days prior to the hearing, instead of being published months in advance to provide opportunities for objections. City Hall would not give building permits as promised, he added, because it was setting up an organisation to represent the residents, and would only negotiate with it; the Municipality may promise to licence buildings, but is not committing to anything at all, he said. Moreover, new homes will only be built after their evictions, so Palestinians will not know at the time of their eviction whether they wish to live in the “promised land,” if those buildings will ever be built for them, or if market forces will by then be gentrifying and buying out properties in Bustan’s un-demolished “promised land.” Mayor Nir Barkat has deliberately fast-tracked the plan for Silwan just a few days prior to Netanyahu’s visit to Obama. Netanyahu doubtless wants to show Obama he cannot tell Israel what to do in Jerusalem – because if Obama criticises this as an illegal plan most American Jews will accuse him of “dividing Jerusalem” – so Netanyahu is fast-forwarding this plan during the run up to US mid-term elections, and, having slightly eased Gaza’s blockade, from a newly-enhanced position of strength. This plan immediately south of the Old City, in tandem with ongoing judaisation of Sheikh Jarrah, north of it, will make the Old City a marooned island inside totally Israeli residential territory. With Obama politically outflanked, the Old City itself will be literally physically outflanked. Mayor Barkat, again supported by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, has committed himself to a second term as mayor. The ultra-orthodox do not vote for him (he ran on a secular ticket) so he is already courting the vote of religious Zionists who support settlers and have no mayoral candidate. Another strategic move is involved: responsibility for municipal management comes under the Ministry of Interior, especially as to issuing of building permits or demolition orders. The Mayor having sacked Meretz,
its deputy mayor portfolio has passed to Shas: Minister of the Interior Eli Yishai leads Shas.
no coincidence that
The District Planning Committee will soon review Barkat’s Silwan plan. Outstanding technical problems remain unanswered – further proof the plan is no planning and zoning issue, but a political matter. Current Israeli government policies cannot approve the building of Palestinian homes on open land in the Bustan as that implies recognition of Palestinian property rights in an area of Occupied East Jerusalem which Israel most covets and has always said it will keep in a negotiated peace settlement. Israeli policy is to judaise Jerusalem, especially that area known as the Holy Basin: Silwan, Mt. of Olives and Sheikh Jarrah. Should Palestinian residents of Silwan (many of whom were born on the land in question before Israel’s 1967 occupation and who have suffered long and hard under occupation policies which always work to displace them forcibly) trust or believe the words of such people? Would you? In the meantime, residents are under increasing daily pressure from settler security guards, backed up by the Israeli Border Police, who are currently violently trying to force four families out of other homes in Silwan. Stones are flying in this most volatile part of Jerusalem, in a replay of other riots. A hot summer is predicted. Bibi, Barkat, and Lieberman all show no sensitivity to these predictable tensions. On the contrary, their provocative pyromania is exactly what has always deliberately worsened the situation. Yet again, they reveal Israeli policy to rule by force even at the expense of violence. Angela Godfrey-Goldstein, an Israeli peace activist, is Action Advocacy Officer with the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (“ICAHD”) and has served on the Free Gaza Movement’s media team since 2007. Back to top
The absentee from 6 Molcho St.
Now that Israel is evicting Palestinian families from homes in Sheikh Jarrah owned by Jews before 1948, the Palestinians are examining ways of making claims on buildings they once owned in West Jerusalem. One of them speaks out Akiva Eldar, July 23rd, 2010 The entire conversation with Claudette Habesch, which takes place at the Notre Dame compound, on Jerusalem's "seamline," is conducted in English. The only word Habesch says in Hebrew is "shesh" - the number six - which is the address of a house on Shlomo Molcho Street, in the Talbieh neighborhood of Jerusalem, near Rehavia. "Shlomo Molcho shesh," she says in Hebrew. Thus is engraved in her memory the address of the house where she was born 70 years ago. Palestinian workers from Beit Jallah are now renovating the old stone house. Habesch agreed to be photographed against the backdrop of the three-story building, but she turned down an invitation to tea from Fanny
Roselaar, 90, the current owner, who came out to greet her. Roselaar, a retired tour guide, remembers when Habesch visited the house shortly after the Six-Day War in 1967, together with her father, who came from Jordan. The father heartily invited Roselaar to visit him at his home in Amman. It is important to Roselaar to make it clear that her family bought the Ayoub family's apartment (Ayoub is Habesch's maiden name ) for its full price, from the Jewish tenants who settled in it after the War of Independence in 1948. Habesch, a devout Palestinian Christian, is the director of the Jerusalem branch of the Catholic charitable organization Caritas. The walls of her office are decorated with pictures of popes and bishops who visited the Holy Land. She is a member of the Palestinian Presidential Committee for Christian Affairs. Her son-in-law, Bassem Khoury, was formerly minister of the national economy in Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's government. She participates in the inter-religious activities of Rabbis for Human Rights and is an enthusiastic supporter of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, one based on the pre-1967 borders, with both states having Jerusalem as their capitals (and no wall ). Habesch knows that Israel's Absentee Property Law does not leave her the shred of a chance of getting the house back or receiving monetary compensation. Her family did not flee, nor was it expelled from the house. The War of Independence (the Nakba, in her language ) caught the family in their winter home in Jericho. Her parents settled in Amman and she and her sister were sent to the Church's school for girls in the Old City of Jerusalem. In 1961 she married a Talbieh-born Palestinian and they made their home in the neighborhood of Shuafat, north of Jerusalem in the West Bank, where she still lives. The Six-Day War found Habesch in Europe. When she returned, via Jordan, a kind Israeli soldier allowed her to cross the Jordan River on foot, to rejoin her children, who had remained at home in Shuafat. At the end of that June, Israel annexed Shuafat to Jerusalem, making her family Jerusalemites again. Compensation, not eviction The memories of her childhood in Talbieh still choke her up. Were it not for the Sheikh Jarrah affair, it is doubtful she would be doing anything about getting her home back. After the war in 1948, Palestinian refugees who had to leave their homes in what was now Israel were housed in Sheikh Jarrah, in East Jerusalem (which was under Jordanian control between 1949 and 1967 ). About a year ago, an Israeli court ordered the eviction of a number of these families from houses that had been purchased by Jews during the period of Ottoman rule. Additional families are candidates for eviction in the near future. In light of this precedent, Habesch is prepared to reopen the wounds of 1948 and take a serious look at the possibility of applying to the courts. Even if the judges order the return of the keys to 6 Molcho St., to her family, Habesch promises it would not occur to her to evict the aged Fanny Roselaar from her home. That is something that cannot be done, she says - just as she asks that the Israelis stop evicting her brethren from their homes in East Jerusalem and recognize the rights of Palestinian families who left their property behind
in the western part of the city. And yes, she does support monetary compensation for, for example, the Jews of Iraq who fled their country in the 1940s and 1950s. They too are refugees and they too have property rights, she notes. Habesch was introduced to me by a member of the advisory team acting alongside the Palestine Liberation Organization's negotiating department, headed by Saeb Erekat. Several weeks ago the team published a position paper on the property rights of Palestinians in West Jerusalem, under a title that ends with a rhetorical question: "a united city, with equal rights for all?" The document was written in the wake of the Sheikh Jarrah expulsions. Until then, the leadership in Ramallah (in contrast to that in Gaza ) clung to the principle United States president Bill Clinton presented Israel and the Palestinians in the wake of the 2000 Camp David summit: The Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem will go to Israel while the Arab neighborhoods will go to the Palestinians. The discussion about Palestinians' properties in West Jerusalem was to have taken place as part of the general negotiations on compensation to the refugees in the context of the permanent status agreement between Israelis and Palestinians. The document on Palestinian property in West Jerusalem is based to a large extent on the research of Dr. Adnan Abdelrazek. He relates that during the course of his work at United Nations headquarters in Jerusalem at the end of the 1990s, he supervised the transfer to software of the archival materials of the Reconciliation Commission (a body appointed by the UN in 1948, which led to General Assembly Resolution 194, which touches upon the refugees' property ). Thus Abdelrazek, an Israeli-Arab, was exposed to thousands of documents and maps connected to Palestinian refugees' property. Later he conducted research, which went on for three years, on identifying and describing Palestinian houses in a dozen neighborhoods in West Jerusalem - among them Talbieh, Baka, Katamon, Musrara and the German Colony. His findings are detailed in his book "The Flourishing Arab Architecture in the Western Part of Occupied Jerusalem" (which was published recently in Arabic ). Abdelrazek's data are based on the British Land Registry and in part on Reconciliation Commission reports. According to them, Palestinian property in the western part of the city within the boundaries of the 1949 armistice between Israel and Jordan amounted to approximately 5,500 dunams (almost 1,400 acres ), 33 percent of the total area. The Jewish property amounted to approximately 4,900 dunams, a bit more than 30 percent. The churches between them owned 15.2 percent of the lands. The remainder (about 21 percent ), was owned by the municipality and also accounted for roads, railroad tracks and public buildings. The Palestinian property at that time included about 2,700 houses and buildings with a total area of more than 900,000 square meters. Dr. Roby Nathanson, director general of the Macro Center for Political Economics, has developed a model for calculating compensation for the properties of the 1948 refugees, which takes into account Israel's
tremendous investment in the development of the mixed cities. According to his model, the value of the Palestinian property in West Jerusalem is estimated at $500 million. A considerable portion of the large Palestinian homes in West Jerusalem were given to prominent individuals the Israeli authorities wanted to honor, among them politicians, judges and professors. Reopening the file Two weeks ago the East Jerusalem daily Al Quds published a comprehensive review of the book. Abdelrazek attributes the great interest in Arab property in the western part of the city to the creeping Jewish settlement in the eastern part. He testifies to increasing public and private pressure to apply to the Israeli courts in order to examine the possibility of Palestinian property being released in the western part of the city. According to him, Palestinian owners are keeping track of the large sums of money landing in the pockets of their Jewish "successors," and wondering why they are disinherited of their rights to this property. In this way, the extreme right, which aims to eradicate from Jewish consciousness the Green Line (1948-1967 border ) between the Jewish and Arab neighborhoods, has succeeded in reopening the "1948 file" and putting the issue of Palestinian property in the west on the agenda. And that is not all. Currently on the Supreme Court docket there is an appeal by West Bank inhabitants whose properties have been "annexed" to Jerusalem by the route of the separation barrier and the Absentee Property Law. Beginning in 1950, and until not long ago, the law applied to properties in the State of Israel whose owners were in an enemy country on the day it came into effect. Claudette Habesch, for example, who was in Jericho, is not entitled to compensation for her home. Furthermore, there were property owners resident in other countries. The Salameh family, who lived in the stunning building that now houses the Belgian Consulate and were neighbors of Habesch's family, were in the United States on the crucial day and were therefore able to come to a financial arrangement with the state. Shamgar and Mazuz The attorney for the owners of the Cliff Hotel, Shlomo Lecker, argues, based on the opinion of two former attorney generals, Meir Shamgar and Menachem Mazuz, that the annexation of East Jerusalem does not grant Israel the right to apply to it the Absentee Property Law, which related to the borders of the city prior to 1967. In January of 2005, Mazuz warned Benjamin Netanyahu, at the time finance minister, that applying the Absentee Property Law to inhabitants of the territories who own properties in East Jerusalem was liable to have serious international repercussions. "The interest of the State of Israel," wrote Mazuz, "is to refrain from opening new fronts in the international arena in general and in the area of international law in particular." He also noted that security elements also believe the building of the fence should not deny Palestinians who owned properties in East Jerusalem the right to use them.
In an interim ruling handed down in February, by a special bench of seven justices headed by Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch, the High Court of Justice ruled that the state's conduct in the matter of property in East Jerusalem belonging to inhabitants of the territories was contrary to the attorney general's opinion, and requested that the court be presented with a revised position. Recently the state prosecutor informed the High Court, on behalf of the new attorney general, Yehuda Weinstein, that the special committee on the Absentee Property Law will discuss the petitioners' request to release the Cliff Hotel and similar properties from the constraints of the law. Here comes the clincher: "on the basis of the position of the state and the Custodian of Absentee Property, whereby these properties are indeed properties of absentees." For his part, Lecker, who represents the owners of the hotel, which has been "annexed" to Jerusalem, wrote in his response to the court that Weinstein has retreated from the position of the previous attorney general regarding properties in East Jerusalem owned by residents of the West Bank. "Where is the distinction," wonders Lecker, "between absentees resident in an enemy country, regarding whom the law was passed in 1950, for the purpose of taking possession of their properties, and the '1967 absentees,' who have been living for decades now in territories occupied by the State of Israel?" A spokesperson for the Justice Ministry said there has been no change in the attorney general's policy in this regard. "I am prepared to forgive them, but I will never forget the years of suffering by a little girl of 7, in whose bed another child was sleeping and whose bicycle another child was riding," says Claudette Habesch at the end of our conversation. She adds: "I recognize the right of the State of Israel to exist in 78 percent of the territories of Mandatory Palestine, but I do not recognize its right to expel Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem and put in Jews." Back to top
ISRAEL INTENSIFIES WEST BANK PALESTINIAN HOME DEMOLITIONS, 21 July 2010
Amnesty International has today called on the Israeli authorities to stop the demolition of Palestinian homes and other buildings in the West Bank, after a further 74 were destroyed in the Jordan Valley earlier this week. The demolitions were carried out by the Israeli military in the villages of Hmayyir and 'Ein Ghazal in the area of al-Farisiya on Monday, displacing 107 people, including 52 children.
The UN says at least 198 Palestinian structures in the West Bank have been demolished this year © Amnesty International
According to UN figures, at least 198 Palestinian structures in the West Bank have been demolished this year, resulting in the forced displacement of almost 300 Palestinians, half of them children, while 600 others have also been affected. "These recent demolitions intensify concerns that this is part of a government strategy to remove the Palestinian population from the parts of the West Bank known as Area C, over which Israel has complete control in terms of planning and construction," said Philip Luther, Amnesty International's Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa. Among the property destroyed by the Israeli military on Monday were residential tents, separate kitchens and washrooms, agricultural buildings, and animal pens. The army also damaged water tanks, wheat for human consumption and animal fodder. The demolition came three weeks after the military handed out eviction orders in the village. Residents were told they had 24 hours to leave the area. Unlike many other areas of the Jordan Valley, the communities of Hmayyir and 'Ein Ghazal had not experienced demolitions in the past. According to Palestinian and Israeli media reports the Israeli military authority said the evictions were ordered because the homes are in a "closed military zone". Most of the Jordan Valley area of the occupied West Bank has been declared a "closed military zone" by the Israeli army or has been taken over by some 36 Israeli settlements. In a "closed military zone" Palestinians are forbidden from carrying out building construction and development. On 24 June, the Israeli military also served eviction notices on two families - 15 people including five children - in the village of 'Ein al-Hilwe in the northern Jordan Valley and on a building for housing livestock in the nearby village of 'Ein al-Beida. Both villages are in Area C. The buildings have not yet been demolished. On 15 July, two buildings situated in a part of Area C southwest of Hebron in the West Bank were destroyed. According to a report in the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz on 19 July, the Israeli military authorities in the West Bank are acting on government orders to intensify its enforcement against what they deem to be "illegal" building in Area C. Under the Oslo Accords, the Israeli authorities retain both civil and military control over areas designated as Area C, which make up more than 60 per cent of the West Bank. The estimated 150,000 Palestinians living there face severe restrictions on building and also on their freedom of movement.
There are no Palestinian representatives on the planning institutions for Area C and, moreover, Palestinian residents in these areas have only very limited ability to submit objections to eviction and demolition. "The current system whereby the Israeli military has sole responsibility for what Palestinians can or cannot build in the majority of the occupied West Bank is unacceptable," said Philip Luther. “Planning and building decisions should lie with the local Palestinian communities.” Back to top
Bianca Jagger: Jenin cinema reopening offers Palestinians hope
The Associated Press, August 6th, 2010: Human rights activist Jagger visited Jenin in 2002, at the height of Israeli-Palestinian violence and was "shocked" by the destruction at the time. Social and human rights advocate Bianca Jagger arrived in the region on Thursday to participate in the reopening ceremony of Cinema Jenin – a cinema chain that had been open in Jenin since the 1960s and closed down with the outbreak of the first intifada in 1987. The cinema was built by dozens of Palestinian and foreign volunteers and funded by about $650,000, most from the German and Palestinian governments and Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters. The complex includes a 350-seat movie house, an outdoor cinema in the adjacent garden, a cafe, a guest house, a film library and a dubbing studio. Waters sent a video greeting for the opening while Jagger was in town to attend. Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad cut the ribbon to open the cinema. Jagger, the ex-wife of Rolling Stones singer Mick Jagger and founder and chair of the Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation, said she visited Jenin in 2002, at the height of Israeli-Palestinian violence and was "shocked" by the destruction at the time. "It is for me a pleasure to see that there's now reason for hope, for a future for Palestinians here," Jagger said at a press conference ahead of the opening. The project of reopening the cinema was initially conceived by German filmmaker Marcus Vetter who made a documentary "Heart of Jenin" about a Palestinian man who decided to donate his 12-year-old son's organs to Jewish children after he was shot by Israel Defense Forces soldiers. Ismail Khatib' son Ahmed was shot dead in 2005 in Jenin after soldiers mistook his toy gun for a real weapon. Jagger said she was touched by Khatib's story and she thought the opening of the cinema in Jenin was extremely important for the people of Jenin as it would open them up to culture, justice and education.
The film "Heart of Jenin," which won the 2010 German Film Prize for best documentary and has been nominated for an Emmy, was the first film shown in the cinema on Thursday. Ismail Khatib, 46, said the local showing of the movie commemorating his son is an emotional occasion. "It shows that Ahmed is still living among the children, and that our sacrifice has not gone in vain," said Khatib, who has five surviving children. Movie houses are rare in the West Bank, and the cinema marks another milestone in the transformation of Jenin from a hub for Palestinian gunmen to a bustling town of 40,000 with a growing economy. A ticket at the Jenin cinema will cost 10 shekels ($2.60), the price of half a pack of cigarettes, and organizers say separate seating for men and women is available, if requested, to reflect local traditions. Fakhri Hamad, who will operate the cinema, said he will try to show quality films as well as audience requests for popular entertainment. He also said some Israeli films would be shown, with an emphasis on those focusing on Palestinians. Vetter hopes to expand the project. Next year, he plans to open a film school in Jenin and launch the West Bank's first international film festival. Vetter's latest documentary, about rebuilding the Jenin cinema, would likely open the festival, he said. Back to top
EU Considering Aid to Israeli Military
David Cronin, Monday, June 28, 2010 BRUSSELS, Jun 18 (IPS) - A leading Israeli supplier of warplanes used to kill and maim civilians in Gaza is in the running for two new scientific research grants from the European Union. Israel's attacks on Gaza in late 2008 and 2009 provided its air force with an opportunity to experiment with state-of-the-art pilotless drones such as the Heron. Although human rights groups have calculated that the Heron and other drones killed at least 87 civilians during that three-week war, EU officials have tentatively approved the release of fresh finance to the Heron's manufacturer, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). Two projects involving IAI have recently passed the evaluation stages of a call for proposals under the EU's multi-annual programme for research, which has been allocated 53 billion euros (65.4 billion dollars) for the 2007-13 period. The Union's executive arm, the European Commission, has confirmed that IAI is one of 34 Israeli "partners" involved in 26 EU-funded projects for information technology which are under preparation. Among the a supplier Palestinian and Gaza. other Israeli firms being considered for such funding are Afcon, of metal detectors to military checkpoints in the occupied territories, including the Erez crossing between southern Israel Afcon was also awarded a contract in 2008 for installing a
security system in a light rail project designed to connect illegal Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem with the city centre. Mark English, a Commission spokesman, said that the procedures relating to the projects have not yet been completed. But the Israeli business publication Globes reported last month that Israeli firms stand to gain 17 million euros from the latest batch of EU grants for information technology. According to Globes, this will bring the amount that Israel has drawn from the EU's research programme since 2007 to 290 million euros. Israel is the main foreign participant in the EU's science programme. Officials in Tel Aviv say they expect Israeli firms and research institutes will have received around 500 million euros from the programme by the time of its conclusion. Chris Davies, a British Liberal Democrat member of the European Parliament (MEP), expressed anger at how the Commission's research department appears willing to rubber-stamp new grants for Israeli companies. Such a "business-as-usual" approach is at odds with tacit assurances from officials handling the EU's more general relations with Israel, he said. In late 2008, the EU's 27 governments agreed to an Israeli request that the relationship should be "upgraded" so that Israel could have a deeper involvement in a wide range of the Union's activities. But work on giving formal effect to that agreement has stalled because of the subsequent invasion of Gaza. Approving EU finance for Israel Aerospace Industries "should be regarded as utterly unacceptable, incoherent and outrageously naive," Davies told IPS. He argued that there appears to be "no communication" between different sets of EU representatives on how Israel should be handled. "Where's the joined-up thinking?" he asked. While the European Commission claims that all of its scientific research cooperation with Israel is civilian in nature, the Israeli government has been eager to publicise the almost umbilical links between the country's thriving technology sector and its military. A brochure titled 'Communications in Israel' published by its industry ministry earlier this year refers to a "symbiosis" between the security and technology sectors in Israel. Several technology breakthroughs - such as the invention of voice recognition devices for computers by the Israeli army in the 1980s have resulted from this "convergence", the brochure claims. Other likely Israeli beneficiaries of the new round of EU funding do not conceal how they have benefited from this convergence either. The Israeli subsidiary of SAP, the software manufacturer, has issued publications about how it has provided specialist equipment for the Israeli army. And both Emza and LiveU, two "start-up" companies, are examples of the numerous makers of surveillance equipment in Israel that have seen their order books fill up since the country tried to position itself as an indispensable part of the "war on terror" declared by former U.S. president George W. Bush. Marcel Shaton, head of the Israel-Europe Research and Development Directorate (ISERD) in Tel Aviv, said that EU citizens should not have any
qualms about financing Israeli arms companies. "All research supports the arms industry," he said. "Non-military technology is used for military purposes all over the world." But Yasmin Khan, a specialist on the arms trade with the anti-poverty group War on Want, said that the EU has been complicit in the occupation of Palestine through its support for Israel's military industry. She noted that drones made by IAI and other Israeli companies have been bought by several European countries taking part in the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan. "The military industry is a central point of the Israeli economy," she said. "The equipment it makes is sold as 'battle-tested', which is a dark way of describing its use in the occupied (Palestinian) territories." Back to top
The real war on 'terror' must begin
Mark LeVine, August 18, 2010 At least 20 million people have been affected by the floods [AFP] How can we process the idea of 20 million people left homeless and six million facing immanent starvation, with little or no locally produced food available for at least the next two years? How do you quantify feeding and housing 20,000,000 people - the seven zeros make the sheer scope of the disaster far more tangible than the word "million"? More broadly, how do you help the sixth most populous country in the world - with 170 million people - recover from a flood that literally submerged one-third of the nation under water, while, in a cruel twist of fate, leaving many without fresh drinking water? For most of the last decade, the US and its allies have been fighting a socalled 'war on terror' in the badlands of Afghanistan and Pakistan. But today a new 'war on terror' must begin - one that demands a commitment of attention, resources, and expertise far exceeding that devoted to the now outdated war. Failing to do this will result in a rise in extremism on a potentially unparalleled scale. Unimaginable terror Imagine the terror felt by 20 million people living without homes, water, medicine or food. Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, has seen plenty of major disasters, but after flying across the flood-hit country he declared, visibly shaken, that he has "never seen a disaster as bad". Even as he spoke, survivors were so desperately grabbing at any relief supplies, ripping at each others' clothes and causing such a level of chaos that in some places aid distribution has had to be stopped. This terror is not going to numb the Pakistani people into apathy or a stupor. If an unprecedented relief effort on a scale that at least equals the amount of resources devoted to the other 'war on terror' is not mounted soon, an unfathomable level of anger and desperation will develop, with consequences that are impossible to predict.
'Militant' organisations are already on the ground handing out food and supplies, while the Pakistani government, as usual, stumbles - its hugely expensive army ill-equipped or trained to take on such a massive rescue operation. All the wrong numbers More than six million people are facing immanent starvation [AFP] And yet, let us consider the numbers that are being discussed by the UN secretary-general, the US government and the international community more broadly. The UN has asked for an initial $460mn to provide relief. So far, only 20 per cent has been pledged. The money is less and the commitment slower than that pledged to Haiti after its horrific earthquake in January. At the time of writing, the US has committed about $76mn but that number will surely rise significantly. But consider this number: The US is currently spending at least $12bn each month prosecuting the war in Afghanistan and the broader 'war on terror'. That is 25-times the amount the UN has asked for to aid the 20 million displaced Pakistanis. Looking more closely, the Congressional Research Service estimates that the US spends $1mn per soldier per year in the AfPak theatre. That is upwards of $300mn per day. Every day, then, the US is spending three-and-a-half times more in AfPak than its present aid commitment to the flood-affected. The Obama administration is allocating slightly over one half of one per cent of the US' monthly war bill - or about $3.80 per affected person - to alleviate the sheer terror being experienced by tens of millions of people, who live in precisely the home base of the US' avowed enemy. Counting pennies Imagine what will happen when the cholera, which is already being detected, and other diseases, really kick in among the millions of displaced people. Imagine the terror if children start dying by the thousands. And then the winter arrives. Please excuse the indelicateness of the following question, but who the hell is advising Barack Obama? Not that he or any other person with an average IQ should need advice on what to do in this situation. The US is spending $12bn a month to get rid of a few thousand people who hate it in a region that has been deemed of such strategic importance that it will continue to spend that money despite the disastrous shape of the US economy and the limited evidence to suggest its strategy is actually working. A disaster of biblical proportions has just afflicted the primary target population in this war and the UN has requested the equivalent of pocket change to help get the relief rolling in and save untold lives. And what does the Obama administration pledge? A bit over 17 per cent of the needed funds.
Why is the US president not just writing a cheque to cover the whole amount if others are dragging the bill? After all, who has anywhere close to the vested interest the US has in how Pakistan turns out? Is this really the time to be counting pennies? Not a single assessment of the war in Afghanistan can demonstrate that the more than $100bn spent on it has made the situation better. So why should Obama suddenly be fiscally prudent when six million children are at risk of deadly water-borne diseases and tens of thousands of women are due to give birth in the coming weeks (up to 25,000 of the newborns are not expected to survive if the current situation continues)? War against poverty The US has 19 helicopters helping the relief effort [AFP] Think of the good will it would generate if Obama stood up and declared: "If we can spend $12bn per month to fight a few thousand of your fellow country - and tribes - men, surely we can spend $1bn to keep tens of millions of Pakistanis alive, housed and healthy." If the US has pledged itself, according to top counterterrorism official John Brennan, to a "multigenerational" campaign against al-Qaeda, would it not be wise to also pledge a multigenerational campaign against poverty, inequality, authoritarianism and corruption? Does the Obama administration not understand which war is likelier to produce the desired results? Besides the paltry sums being pledged (and if Haiti is any guide, only a small percentage of that money will actually ever be handed over), both American and Pakistani officials have pledged that the war on the Taliban in Pakistan, including in areas hard-hit by the floods, will continue. Over the weekend US missiles killed 12 people. Meanwhile, 19 American helicopters are currently involved in the rescue efforts. Precisely what kind of message does that send? "We are not going to give much to help you stay alive, but we will make sure to continue killing you during this time of greatest need." A 'new Pakistan' Meanwhile, Asif Ali Zardawi, the feckless president of Pakistan, has told his compatriots: "Despondency is forbidden in our religion. We consider it as a test from Allah for us. This is a test for us and for you. We will try to meet all your wishes. We will build a new house for you. We will build a new Pakistan." Of course, no one believes this, even in normal times. Pakistan's landed elite has long been at the heart of the country's immense social, economic and political problems. It has never cared about "meeting all the wishes" of the mass of extremely poor Pakistanis on whose backs their wealth has long been secured. The majority of the country's wealthy build houses only for themselves and the "new Pakistan" that has been talked about since the country's
founding 60 years ago has always been little more than a chimera for the vast majority of the population. Some members of the country's elite have worked assiduously to try to change the country's political culture and to address the rampant inequality that is the source of so much of Pakistan's problems. But the system is so dependent on this dynamic, and the country's main patrons, the US and its allies, who need the elite to acquiesce to their wars, that it has proved impossible to rebuild the system in a more sustainable way. Time for a truce Many areas are still completely cut off and have received no aid [AFP] If the fears of the UN secretary-general and other aid officials about the scope of this disaster are born out, the Obama administration has only one option if it wants to ensure that this natural disaster does not doom its strategic goal of pacifying Pakistan and Afghanistan. He must immediately declare a ceasefire in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, offer a truce to the Taliban, and pledge to put the full weight of the tens of thousands of soldiers currently in theatre, and the huge supply of military aircraft and equipment at their disposal, to the relief efforts in Pakistan. There can be no better strategy for winning the other, now far smaller, 'war on terror'. Imagine how Pakistanis would respond if, instead of competing with the Taliban or al-Qaeda via drones, missiles and IEDs, the US was clearly at the forefront of a massive relief and rebuilding effort. Imagine if US and other coalition officials, relief specialists and personnel were able to work with the grassroots organisations - many of which are tied to conservative and potentially extremist movements - and in the process begin to build bonds of trust and solidarity with the very groups who are currently so suspicious of American intentions and goals. How would poor Pakistanis respond when the Taliban or al-Qaeda fighters come by again looking to recruit people for jihad against the US if it was clear that the US was actually spending more money on reconstruction than on destruction? How would they respond if, instead of handing over "crops, fertilisers, and seed" (in the secretary-general's words) to the country's corrupt landed elite, the US led the drive to work with grassroots forces to break the cycle of dependency and corruption by empowering small farmers to take control of the country's agricultural system? Such a strategy has a chance of working where the current one of bombs and aid to the government has met with failure. Reshaping the battlefield The UN secretary-general called the disaster the worst he had ever seen [AFP]
The question remains whether the Obama administration, and concerned world leaders more broadly, have the honesty, sophistication, and dedication to take on this task despite the myriad forces on all sides that would be arrayed against it. One thing is sure though, the Taliban and al-Qaeda are not waiting around to find out. They are already reshaping the battlefield, in ways that no amount of bombs or aid might be able to counter. In the meantime, it is up to private citizens to take the lead. Perhaps all those multi-billionaires who just pledged half their fortunes to charity might consider now a good time to start spending their money. And the artists and aid organisations that so quickly put together the concert for Haiti would be well advised to organise something similar for Pakistan. As much as anything today, Pakistanis need to know that the world cares and will help them get through this unprecedented situation. If we do not step up to fill the void, it is pretty clear who will, and what that will mean for Pakistan's future and for ours. Back to top PRESS RELEASE CALL TO PRESIDENT OBAMA AND WORLD LEADERS TO HELP MORDECHAI VANUNU GET HIS FREEDOM
Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate, and Gerry Grehan, Chair, Peace People Northern Ireland, have written to President Obama, other world leaders and prominent personalities, to ask for their help in the lifting of all restrictions and for Vanunu to be allowed to leave Israel.
Mordechai Vanunu is the Israeli Nuclear whistle blower. In October l986 Vanunu told the world that Israel had a nuclear weapons programme. He was kidnapped and given 18 years imprisonment for espionage and treason. Twenty four years later he continues to be punished. He served the full 18 years of his sentence (twelve years in solitary confinement, described by Amnesty International as ‘cruel, inhuman and degrading’). When he was released, the Israeli Government put severe restrictions upon him including forbidding him to leave Israel and speak to foreign media. It was the breaking of these restrictions, in summer 2004, by speaking to the foreign media (mainly a long interview to the BBC) which resulted in his being returned to solitary confinement for three months to an Israeli prison on 23 May, 2010. In their letter to President Obama they reveal details re Vanunu’s further punishment in an Israeli Prison. ‘On Sunday llth July, 2010, his brother Meir was granted a 30 minute visit. There was a glass between them and they spoke via the phone. He is in a cell by himself for 24 hours a day, no window except for a small wire covered crack at the top of one wall. He has about an hour’s walk a day in a very tiny yard. He was simply thrown in a cell by the security agents, the door locked, and left to suffer there all alone.’
Even when he is released from prison Vanunu will still have to remain in Israel and the restrictions will be reviewed and probably renewed yet again, as they have been renewed each year for the past 6 years. Vanunu is seen as a traitor by some, a hero by others. One thing is clear he has been punished and served his full sentence and it is time after 24 years to do the human thing and let him live as a free man. The Israeli Supreme Court continues to accept the Secret Services’ claims that Vanunu still has secrets, but a report by Reuters on 20th December, 2009, quotes Uzi Eilam, a retired Army Brigadier-General who ran the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission between l976 and l986 said anything Vanunu might still disclose about Dimona is of little relevance. ‘I’ve always believed he should be let go’ said Eilam. ‘I don’t think he has significant things to reveal (about Dimona) now.’ Maguire and Grehan in their letter express their hope ‘that you will in some way facilitate his early release which would be welcomed by a world waiting and watching for a peaceful and secure future for Israel and its people.’ Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate, Peace People Gerry Grehan, Chair, Peace People, N.Ireland www.peacepeople.com Back to top
Tony Blair Must Be Prosecuted
John Pilger, August 7th, 2010 Tony Blair must be prosecuted, not indulged like his mentor Peter Mandelson. Both have produced self-serving memoirs for which they have been paid fortunes. Blair’s will appear next month and earn him £4.6 million. Now consider Britain’s Proceeds of Crime Act. Blair conspired in and executed an unprovoked war of aggression against a defenceless country, which the Nuremberg judges in 1946 described as the “paramount war crime”. This has caused, according to scholarly studies, the deaths of more than a million people, a figure that exceeds the Fordham University estimate of deaths in the Rwandan genocide. In addition, four million Iraqis have been forced to flee their homes and a majority of children have descended into malnutrition and trauma. Cancer rates near the cities of Fallujah, Najaf and Basra (the latter “liberated” by the British) are now revealed as higher than those at Hiroshima. “UK forces used about 1.9 metric tons of depleted uranium ammunition in the Iraq war in 2003,” the Defence Secretary Liam Fox told parliament on 22 July. A range of toxic “anti-personnel” weapons, such as cluster bombs, was employed by British and American forces. Such carnage was justified with lies that have been repeatedly exposed. On 29 January 2003, Blair told parliament, “We do know of links between al-Qaida and Iraq …”. Last month, the former head of the intelligence service, MI5, Eliza Manningham-Buller, told the Chilcot inquiry, “There is no credible intelligence to suggest that connection … [it was the invasion]
that gave Osama bin Laden his Iraqi jihad”. Asked to what extent the invasion exacerbated the threat to Britain from terrorism, she replied, “Substantially”. The bombings in London on 7 July 2005 were a direct consequence of Blair’s actions. Documents released by the High Court show that Blair allowed British citizens to be abducted and tortured. The then foreign secretary, Jack Straw, decided in January 2002 that Guantanamo was the “best way” to ensure UK nationals were “securely held”. Instead of remorse, Blair has demonstrated a voracious and secretive greed. Since stepping down as prime minister in 2007, he has accumulated an estimated £20 million, much of it as a result of his ties with the Bush administration. The House of Commons Advisory Committee on Business Appointments, which vets jobs taken by former ministers, was pressured not to make public Blair’s “consultancy” deals with the Kuwaiti royal family and the South Korean oil giant UI Energy Corporation. He gets £2 million a year “advising” the American investment bank J P Morgan and undisclosed sums from financial services companies. He makes millions from speeches, including reportedly £200,000 for one speech in China. In his unpaid but expenses-rich role as the West’s “peace envoy” in the Middle East, Blair is, in effect, a voice of Israel, which awarded him a $1 million “peace prize”. In other words, his wealth has grown rapidly since he launched, with George W. Bush, the bloodbath in Iraq. His collaborators are numerous. The Cabinet in March 2003 knew a great deal about the conspiracy to attack Iraq. Jack Straw, later appointed “justice secretary”, suppressed the relevant Cabinet minutes in defiance of an order by the Information Commissioner to release them. Most of those now running for the Labour Party leadership supported Blair’s epic crime, rising as one to salute his final appearance in the Commons. As foreign secretary, David Miliband, sought to cover Britain’s complicity in torture, and promoted Iran as the next “threat”. Journalists who once fawned on Blair as “mystical” and amplified his vainglorious bids now pretend they were his critics all along. As for the media’s gulling of the public, only the Observer’s David Rose, to his great credit, has apologised. The Wikileaks’ exposes, released with a moral objective of truth with justice, have been bracing for a public force-fed on complicit, lobby journalism. Verbose celebrity historians like Niall Ferguson, who rejoiced in Blair’s rejuvenation of “enlightened” imperialism, remain silent on the “moral truancy”, as Pankaj Mishra wrote, “of [those] paid to intelligently interpret the contemporary world”. Is it wishful thinking that Blair will be collared? Just as the Cameron government understands the “threat” of a law that makes Britain a risky stopover for Israeli war criminals, a similar risk awaits Blair in a number of countries and jurisdictions, at least of being apprehended and questioned. He is now Britain’s Kissinger, who has long planned his travel outside the United States with the care of a fugitive. Two recent events add weight to this. On 15 June, the International Criminal Court made the landmark decision of adding aggression to its list of war crimes to be prosecuted. This is defined as a “crime committed by a political or military leader which by its character, gravity and scale
constituted a manifest violation of the [United Nations] Charter”. International lawyers described this as a “giant leap”. Britain is a signatory to the Rome statute that created the court and is bound by its decisions. On 21 July, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, standing at the Commons despatch box, declared the invasion of Iraq illegal. For all the later “clarification” that he was speaking personally, he had made “a statement that the international court would be interested in”, said Philippe Sands, professor of international law at University College London. Tony Blair came from Britain’s upper middle classes who, having rejoiced in his unctuous ascendancy, might now reflect on the principles of right and wrong they require of their own children. The suffering of the children of Iraq will remain a spectre haunting Britain while Blair remains free to profit. Back to top
The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment
Peter Beinart, June 10, 2010
Benjamin Netanyahu; drawing by John Springs
In 2003, several prominent Jewish philanthropists hired Republican pollster Frank Luntz to explain why American Jewish college students were not more vigorously rebutting campus criticism of Israel. In response, he unwittingly produced the most damning indictment of the organized American Jewish community that I have ever seen. The philanthropists wanted to know what Jewish students thought about Israel. Luntz found that they mostly didn’t. “Six times we have brought Jewish youth together as a group to talk about their Jewishness and connection to Israel,” he reported. “Six times the topic of Israel did not come up until it was prompted. Six times these Jewish youth used the word ‘they‘ rather than ‘us‘ to describe the situation.” That Luntz encountered indifference was not surprising. In recent years, several studies have revealed, in the words of Steven Cohen of Hebrew Union College and Ari Kelman of the University of California at Davis, that “non-Orthodox younger Jews, on the whole, feel much less attached to Israel than their elders,” with many professing “a near-total absence of positive feelings.” In 2008, the student senate at Brandeis, the only nonsectarian Jewish-sponsored university in America, rejected a resolution commemorating the sixtieth anniversary of the Jewish state.
Luntz’s task was to figure out what had gone wrong. When he probed the students’ views of Israel, he hit up against some firm beliefs. First, “they reserve the right to question the Israeli position.” These young Jews, Luntz explained, “resist anything they see as ‘group think.’” They want an “open and frank” discussion of Israel and its flaws. Second, “young Jews desperately want peace.” When Luntz showed them a series of ads, one of the most popular was entitled “Proof that Israel Wants Peace,” and listed offers by various Israeli governments to withdraw from conquered land. Third, “some empathize with the plight of the Palestinians.” When Luntz displayed ads depicting Palestinians as violent and hateful, several focus group participants criticized them as stereotypical and unfair, citing their own Muslim friends. Most of the students, in other words, were liberals, broadly defined. They had imbibed some of the defining values of American Jewish political culture: a belief in open debate, a skepticism about military force, a commitment to human rights. And in their innocence, they did not realize that they were supposed to shed those values when it came to Israel. The only kind of Zionism they found attractive was a Zionism that recognized Palestinians as deserving of dignity and capable of peace, and they were quite willing to condemn an Israeli government that did not share those beliefs. Luntz did not grasp the irony. The only kind of Zionism they found attractive was the kind that the American Jewish establishment has been working against for most of their lives. Among American Jews today, there are a great many Zionists, especially in the Orthodox world, people deeply devoted to the State of Israel. And there are a great many liberals, especially in the secular Jewish world, people deeply devoted to human rights for all people, Palestinians included. But the two groups are increasingly distinct. Particularly in the younger generations, fewer and fewer American Jewish liberals are Zionists; fewer and fewer American Jewish Zionists are liberal. One reason is that the leading institutions of American Jewry have refused to foster— indeed, have actively opposed—a Zionism that challenges Israel’s behavior in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and toward its own Arab citizens. For several decades, the Jewish establishment has asked American Jews to check their liberalism at Zionism’s door, and now, to their horror, they are finding that many young Jews have checked their Zionism instead. Morally, American Zionism is in a downward spiral. If the leaders of groups like AIPAC and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations do not change course, they will wake up one day to find a younger, Orthodox-dominated, Zionist leadership whose naked hostility to Arabs and Palestinians scares even them, and a mass of secular American Jews who range from apathetic to appalled. Saving liberal Zionism in the United States—so that American Jews can help save liberal Zionism in Israel—is the great American Jewish challenge of our age. And it starts where Luntz’s students wanted it to start: by talking frankly about Israel’s current government, by no longer averting our eyes. Since the 1990s, journalists and scholars have been describing a bifurcation in Israeli society. In the words of Hebrew University political scientist Yaron Ezrahi, “After decades of what came to be called a national
consensus, the Zionist narrative of liberation [has] dissolved into openly contesting versions.” One version, “founded on a long memory of persecution, genocide, and a bitter struggle for survival, is pessimistic, distrustful of non-Jews, and believing only in Jewish power and solidarity.” Another, “nourished by secularized versions of messianism as well as the Enlightenment idea of progress,” articulates “a deep sense of the limits of military force, and a commitment to liberal-democratic values.” Every country manifests some kind of ideological divide. But in contemporary Israel, the gulf is among the widest on earth. As Ezrahi and others have noted, this latter, liberal-democratic Zionism has grown alongside a new individualism, particularly among secular Israelis, a greater demand for free expression, and a greater skepticism of coercive authority. You can see this spirit in “new historians” like Tom Segev who have fearlessly excavated the darker corners of the Zionist past and in jurists like former Supreme Court President Aharon Barak who have overturned Knesset laws that violate the human rights guarantees in Israel’s “Basic Laws.” You can also see it in former Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s apparent willingness to relinquish much of the West Bank in 2000 and early 2001. But in Israel today, this humane, universalistic Zionism does not wield power. To the contrary, it is gasping for air. To understand how deeply antithetical its values are to those of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, it’s worth considering the case of Effi Eitam. Eitam, a charismatic ex–cabinet minister and war hero, has proposed ethnically cleansing Palestinians from the West Bank. “We’ll have to expel the overwhelming majority of West Bank Arabs from here and remove Israeli Arabs from [the] political system,” he declared in 2006. In 2008, Eitam merged his small Ahi Party into Netanyahu’s Likud. And for the 2009–2010 academic year, he is Netanyahu’s special emissary for overseas “campus engagement.” In that capacity, he visited a dozen American high schools and colleges last fall on the Israeli government’s behalf. The group that organized his tour was called “Caravan for Democracy.” Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman once shared Eitam’s views. In his youth, he briefly joined Meir Kahane’s now banned Kach Party, which also advocated the expulsion of Arabs from Israeli soil. Now Lieberman’s position might be called “pre-expulsion.” He wants to revoke the citizenship of Israeli Arabs who won’t swear a loyalty oath to the Jewish state. He tried to prevent two Arab parties that opposed Israel’s 2008– 2009 Gaza war from running candidates for the Knesset. He said Arab Knesset members who met with representatives of Hamas should be executed. He wants to jail Arabs who publicly mourn on Israeli Independence Day, and he hopes to permanently deny citizenship to Arabs from other countries who marry Arab citizens of Israel. You don’t have to be paranoid to see the connection between Lieberman’s current views and his former ones. The more you strip Israeli Arabs of legal protection, and the more you accuse them of treason, the more thinkable a policy of expulsion becomes. Lieberman’s American defenders often note that in theory he supports a Palestinian state. What they usually fail to mention is that for him, a two-state solution means
redrawing Israel’s border so that a large chunk of Israeli Arabs find themselves exiled to another country, without their consent. Lieberman served as chief of staff during Netanyahu’s first term as prime minister. And when it comes to the West Bank, Netanyahu’s own record is in its way even more extreme than his protégé’s. In his 1993 book, A Place among the Nations, Netanyahu not only rejects the idea of a Palestinian state, he denies that there is such a thing as a Palestinian. In fact, he repeatedly equates the Palestinian bid for statehood with Nazism. An Israel that withdraws from the West Bank, he has declared, would be a “ghetto-state” with “Auschwitz borders.” And the effort “to gouge Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] out of Israel” resembles Hitler’s bid to wrench the German-speaking “Sudeten district” from Czechoslovakia in 1938. It is unfair, Netanyahu insists, to ask Israel to concede more territory since it has already made vast, gut-wrenching concessions. What kind of concessions? It has abandoned its claim to Jordan, which by rights should be part of the Jewish state. On the left of Netanyahu’s coalition sits Ehud Barak’s emasculated Labor Party, but whatever moderating potential it may have is counterbalanced by what is, in some ways, the most illiberal coalition partner of all, Shas, the ultra-Orthodox party representing Jews of North African and Middle Eastern descent. At one point, Shas—like some of its Ashkenazi ultraOrthodox counterparts—was open to dismantling settlements. In recent years, however, ultra-Orthodox Israelis, anxious to find housing for their large families, have increasingly moved to the West Bank, where thanks to government subsidies it is far cheaper to live. Not coincidentally, their political parties have swung hard against territorial compromise. And they have done so with a virulence that reflects ultra-Orthodox Judaism’s profound hostility to liberal values. Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, Shas’s immensely powerful spiritual leader, has called Arabs “vipers,” “snakes,” and “ants.” In 2005, after Prime Minister Ariel Sharon proposed dismantling settlements in the Gaza Strip, Yosef urged that “God strike him down.” The official Shas newspaper recently called President Obama “an Islamic extremist.” Hebrew University Professor Ze’ev Sternhell is an expert on fascism and a winner of the prestigious Israel Prize. Commenting on Lieberman and the leaders of Shas in a recent Op-Ed in Haaretz, he wrote, “The last time politicians holding views similar to theirs were in power in post–World War II Western Europe was in Franco’s Spain.” With their blessing, “a crude and multifaceted campaign is being waged against the foundations of the democratic and liberal order.” Sternhell should know. In September 2008, he was injured when a settler set off a pipe bomb at his house. Israeli governments come and go, but the Netanyahu coalition is the product of frightening, long-term trends in Israeli society: an ultraOrthodox population that is increasing dramatically, a settler movement that is growing more radical and more entrenched in the Israeli bureaucracy and army, and a Russian immigrant community that is particularly prone to anti-Arab racism. In 2009, a poll by the Israel Democracy Institute found that 53 percent of Jewish Israelis (and 77 percent of recent immigrants from the former USSR) support encouraging Arabs to leave the country. Attitudes are worst among Israel’s young.
When Israeli high schools held mock elections last year, Lieberman won. This March, a poll found that 56 percent of Jewish Israeli high school students—and more than 80 percent of religious Jewish high school students—would deny Israeli Arabs the right to be elected to the Knesset. An education ministry official called the survey “a huge warning signal in light of the strengthening trends of extremist views among the youth.” The writer David Grossman, right, protesting with Palestinians and Israelis against the eviction of Palestinian families from the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, April 9, 2010 (Jim Hollander/epa/Corbis) You might think that such trends, and the sympathy for them expressed by some in Israel’s government, would occasion substantial public concern—even outrage—among the leaders of organized American Jewry. You would be wrong. In Israel itself, voices from the left, and even center, warn in increasingly urgent tones about threats to Israeli democracy. (Former Prime Ministers Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak have both said that Israel risks becoming an “apartheid state” if it continues to hold the West Bank. This April, when settlers forced a large Israeli bookstore to stop selling a book critical of the occupation, Shulamit Aloni, former head of the dovish Meretz Party, declared that “Israel has not been democratic for some time now.”) But in the United States, groups like AIPAC and the Presidents’ Conference patrol public discourse, scolding people who contradict their vision of Israel as a state in which all leaders cherish democracy and yearn for peace. The result is a terrible irony. In theory, mainstream American Jewish organizations still hew to a liberal vision of Zionism. On its website, AIPAC celebrates Israel’s commitment to “free speech and minority rights.” The Conference of Presidents declares that “Israel and the United States share political, moral and intellectual values including democracy, freedom, security and peace.” These groups would never say, as do some in Netanyahu’s coalition, that Israeli Arabs don’t deserve full citizenship and West Bank Palestinians don’t deserve human rights. But in practice, by defending virtually anything any Israeli government does, they make themselves intellectual bodyguards for Israeli leaders who threaten the very liberal values they profess to admire. After Israel’s elections last February, for instance, Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice-chairman of the Presidents’ Conference, explained that Avigdor Lieberman’s agenda was “far more moderate than the media has presented it.” Insisting that Lieberman bears no general animus toward Israeli Arabs, Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that “He’s not saying expel them. He’s not saying punish them.” (Permanently denying citizenship to their Arab spouses or jailing them if they publicly mourn on Israeli Independence Day evidently does not qualify as punishment.) The ADL has criticized anti-Arab bigotry in the past, and the American Jewish Committee, to its credit, warned that Lieberman’s proposed loyalty oath would “chill Israel’s democratic political debate.” But the Forward summed
up the overall response of America’s communal Jewish leadership in its headline “Jewish Leaders Largely Silent on Lieberman’s Role in Government.” Not only does the organized American Jewish community mostly avoid public criticism of the Israeli government, it tries to prevent others from leveling such criticism as well. In recent years, American Jewish organizations have waged a campaign to discredit the world’s most respected international human rights groups. In 2006, Foxman called an Amnesty International report on Israeli killing of Lebanese civilians “bigoted, biased, and borderline anti-Semitic.” The Conference of Presidents has announced that “biased NGOs include Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Christian Aid, [and] Save the Children.” Last summer, an AIPAC spokesman declared that Human Rights Watch “has repeatedly demonstrated its anti-Israel bias.” When the Obama administration awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Mary Robinson, former UN high commissioner for human rights, the ADL and AIPAC both protested, citing the fact that she had presided over the 2001 World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa. (Early drafts of the conference report implicitly accused Israel of racism. Robinson helped expunge that defamatory charge, angering Syria and Iran.) Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International are not infallible. But when groups like AIPAC and the Presidents’ Conference avoid virtually all public criticism of Israeli actions—directing their outrage solely at Israel’s neighbors—they leave themselves in a poor position to charge bias. Moreover, while American Jewish groups claim that they are simply defending Israel from its foes, they are actually taking sides in a struggle within Israel between radically different Zionist visions. At the very moment the Anti-Defamation League claimed that Robinson harbored an “animus toward Israel,” an alliance of seven Israeli human rights groups publicly congratulated her on her award. Many of those groups, like B’Tselem, which monitors Israeli actions in the Occupied Territories, and the Israeli branch of Physicians for Human Rights, have been at least as critical of Israel’s actions in Lebanon, Gaza, and the West Bank as have Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. All of which raises an uncomfortable question. If American Jewish groups claim that Israel’s overseas human rights critics are motivated by antiIsraeli, if not anti-Semitic, bias, what does that say about Israel’s domestic human rights critics? The implication is clear: they must be guilty of selfhatred, if not treason. American Jewish leaders don’t generally say that, of course, but their allies in the Netanyahu government do. Last summer, Israel’s vice prime minister, Moshe Ya’alon, called the anti-occupation group Peace Now a “virus.” This January, a right-wing group called Im Tirtzu accused Israeli human rights organizations of having fed information to the Goldstone Commission that investigated Israel’s Gaza war. A Knesset member from Netanyahu’s Likud promptly charged Naomi Chazan, head of the New Israel Fund, which supports some of those human rights groups, with treason, and a member of Lieberman’s party launched an investigation aimed at curbing foreign funding of Israeli NGOs.
To their credit, Foxman and other American Jewish leaders opposed the move, which might have impaired their own work. But they are reaping what they sowed. If you suggest that mainstream human rights criticism of Israel’s government is motivated by animus toward the state, or toward Jews in general, you give aid and comfort to those in Israel who make the same charges against the human rights critics in their midst. In the American Jewish establishment today, the language of liberal Zionism—with its idioms of human rights, equal citizenship, and territorial compromise—has been drained of meaning. It remains the lingua franca in part for generational reasons, because many older American Zionists still see themselves as liberals of a sort. They vote Democratic; they are unmoved by biblical claims to the West Bank; they see average Palestinians as decent people betrayed by bad leaders; and they are secular. They don’t want Jewish organizations to criticize Israel from the left, but neither do they want them to be agents of the Israeli right. These American Zionists are largely the product of a particular era. Many were shaped by the terrifying days leading up to the Six-Day War, when it appeared that Israel might be overrun, and by the bitter aftermath of the Yom Kippur War, when much of the world seemed to turn against the Jewish state. In that crucible, Israel became their Jewish identity, often in conjunction with the Holocaust, which the 1967 and 1973 wars helped make central to American Jewish life. These Jews embraced Zionism before the settler movement became a major force in Israeli politics, before the 1982 Lebanon war, before the first intifada. They fell in love with an Israel that was more secular, less divided, and less shaped by the culture, politics, and theology of occupation. And by downplaying the significance of Avigdor Lieberman, the settlers, and Shas, American Jewish groups allow these older Zionists to continue to identify with that more internally cohesive, more innocent Israel of their youth, an Israel that now only exists in their memories. But these secular Zionists aren’t reproducing themselves. Their children have no memory of Arab armies massed on Israel’s border and of Israel surviving in part thanks to urgent military assistance from the United States. Instead, they have grown up viewing Israel as a regional hegemon and an occupying power. As a result, they are more conscious than their parents of the degree to which Israeli behavior violates liberal ideals, and less willing to grant Israel an exemption because its survival seems in peril. Because they have inherited their parents’ liberalism, they cannot embrace their uncritical Zionism. Because their liberalism is real, they can see that the liberalism of the American Jewish establishment is fake. To sustain their uncritical brand of Zionism, therefore, America’s Jewish organizations will need to look elsewhere to replenish their ranks. They will need to find young American Jews who have come of age during the West Bank occupation but are not troubled by it. And those young American Jews will come disproportionately from the Orthodox world. Because they marry earlier, intermarry less, and have more children, Orthodox Jews are growing rapidly as a share of the American Jewish population. According to a 2006 American Jewish Committee (AJC) survey, while Orthodox Jews make up only 12 percent of American Jewry over the
age of sixty, they constitute 34 percent between the ages of eighteen and twenty-four. For America’s Zionist organizations, these Orthodox youngsters are a potential bonanza. In their yeshivas they learn devotion to Israel from an early age; they generally spend a year of religious study there after high school, and often know friends or relatives who have immigrated to Israel. The same AJC study found that while only 16 percent of non-Orthodox adult Jews under the age of forty feel “very close to Israel,” among the Orthodox the figure is 79 percent. As secular Jews drift away from America’s Zionist institutions, their Orthodox counterparts will likely step into the breach. The Orthodox “are still interested in parochial Jewish concerns,” explains Samuel Heilman, a sociologist at the City University of New York. “They are among the last ones who stayed in the Jewish house, so they now control the lights.” But it is this very parochialism—a deep commitment to Jewish concerns, which often outweighs more universal ones—that gives Orthodox Jewish Zionism a distinctly illiberal cast. The 2006 AJC poll found that while 60 percent of non-Orthodox American Jews under the age of forty support a Palestinian state, that figure drops to 25 percent among the Orthodox. In 2009, when Brandeis University’s Theodore Sasson asked American Jewish focus groups about Israel, he found Orthodox participants much less supportive of dismantling settlements as part of a peace deal. Even more tellingly, Reform, Conservative, and unaffiliated Jews tended to believe that average Palestinians wanted peace, but had been ill-served by their leaders. Orthodox Jews, by contrast, were more likely to see the Palestinian people as the enemy, and to deny that ordinary Palestinians shared any common interests or values with ordinary Israelis or Jews. Orthodox Judaism has great virtues, including a communal warmth and a commitment to Jewish learning unmatched in the American Jewish world. (I’m biased, since my family attends an Orthodox synagogue.) But if current trends continue, the growing influence of Orthodox Jews in America’s Jewish communal institutions will erode even the liberaldemocratic veneer that today covers American Zionism. In 2002, America’s major Jewish organizations sponsored a large Israel solidarity rally on the Washington Mall. Up and down the east coast, yeshivas shut down for the day, swelling the estimated Orthodox share of the crowd to close to 70 percent. When the then Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz told the rally that “innocent Palestinians are suffering and dying as well,” he was booed.
Palestinian boys standing on the rubble of buildings demolished by the Israeli army near the Israeli settlement of Netzarim, Gaza Strip, July 2004. The settlement was the last to be emptied as part of Ariel Sharon’s disengagement plan in August 2005. Mohammed Saber/epa/Corbis
America’s Jewish leaders should think hard about that rally. Unless they change course, it portends the future: an American Zionist movement that does not even feign concern for Palestinian dignity and a broader
American Jewish population that does not even feign concern for Israel. My own children, given their upbringing, could as easily end up among the booers as among Luntz’s focus group. Either prospect fills me with dread. In 2004, in an effort to prevent weapons smuggling from Egypt, Israeli tanks and bulldozers demolished hundreds of houses in the Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip. Watching television, a veteran Israeli commentator and politician named Tommy Lapid saw an elderly Palestinian woman crouched on all fours looking for her medicines amid the ruins of her home. He said she reminded him of his grandmother. In that moment, Lapid captured the spirit that is suffocating within organized American Jewish life. To begin with, he watched. In my experience, there is an epidemic of not watching among American Zionists today. A Red Cross study on malnutrition in the Gaza Strip, a bill in the Knesset to allow Jewish neighborhoods to bar entry to Israeli Arabs, an Israeli human rights report on settlers burning Palestinian olive groves, three more Palestinian teenagers shot—it’s unpleasant. Rationalizing and minimizing Palestinian suffering has become a kind of game. In a more recent report on how to foster Zionism among America’s young, Luntz urges American Jewish groups to use the word “Arabs, not Palestinians,” since “the term ‘Palestinians’ evokes images of refugee camps, victims and oppression,” while “‘Arab’ says wealth, oil and Islam.” Of course, Israel—like the United States—must sometimes take morally difficult actions in its own defense. But they are morally difficult only if you allow yourself some human connection to the other side. Otherwise, security justifies everything. The heads of AIPAC and the Presidents’ Conference should ask themselves what Israel’s leaders would have to do or say to make them scream “no.” After all, Lieberman is foreign minister; Effi Eitam is touring American universities; settlements are growing at triple the rate of the Israeli population; half of Israeli Jewish high school students want Arabs barred from the Knesset. If the line has not yet been crossed, where is the line? What infuriated critics about Lapid’s comment was that his grandmother died at Auschwitz. How dare he defile the memory of the Holocaust? Of course, the Holocaust is immeasurably worse than anything Israel has done or ever will do. But at least Lapid used Jewish suffering to connect to the suffering of others. In the world of AIPAC, the Holocaust analogies never stop, and their message is always the same: Jews are licensed by their victimhood to worry only about themselves. Many of Israel’s founders believed that with statehood, Jews would rightly be judged on the way they treated the non-Jews living under their dominion. “For the first time we shall be the majority living with a minority,” Knesset member Pinchas Lavon declared in 1948, “and we shall be called upon to provide an example and prove how Jews live with a minority.” But the message of the American Jewish establishment and its allies in the Netanyahu government is exactly the opposite: since Jews are history’s permanent victims, always on the knife-edge of extinction, moral responsibility is a luxury Israel does not have. Its only responsibility is to survive. As former Knesset speaker Avraham Burg writes in his remarkable
2008 book, The Holocaust Is Over; We Must Rise From Its Ashes, “Victimhood sets you free.” This obsession with victimhood lies at the heart of why Zionism is dying among America’s secular Jewish young. It simply bears no relationship to their lived experience, or what they have seen of Israel’s. Yes, Israel faces threats from Hezbollah and Hamas. Yes, Israelis understandably worry about a nuclear Iran. But the dilemmas you face when you possess dozens or hundreds of nuclear weapons, and your adversary, however despicable, may acquire one, are not the dilemmas of the Warsaw Ghetto. The year 2010 is not, as Benjamin Netanyahu has claimed, 1938. The drama of Jewish victimhood—a drama that feels natural to many Jews who lived through 1938, 1948, or even 1967—strikes most of today’s young American Jews as farce. But there is a different Zionist calling, which has never been more desperately relevant. It has its roots in Israel’s Independence Proclamation, which promised that the Jewish state “will be based on the precepts of liberty, justice and peace taught by the Hebrew prophets,” and in the December 1948 letter from Albert Einstein, Hannah Arendt, and others to The New York Times, protesting right-wing Zionist leader Menachem Begin’s visit to the United States after his party’s militias massacred Arab civilians in the village of Deir Yassin. It is a call to recognize that in a world in which Jewish fortunes have radically changed, the best way to memorialize the history of Jewish suffering is through the ethical use of Jewish power. For several months now, a group of Israeli students has been traveling every Friday to the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, where a Palestinian family named the Ghawis lives on the street outside their home of fifty-three years, from which they were evicted to make room for Jewish settlers. Although repeatedly arrested for protesting without a permit, and called traitors and self-haters by the Israeli right, the students keep coming, their numbers now swelling into the thousands. What if American Jewish organizations brought these young people to speak at Hillel? What if this was the face of Zionism shown to America’s Jewish young? What if the students in Luntz’s focus group had been told that their generation faces a challenge as momentous as any in Jewish history: to save liberal democracy in the only Jewish state on earth? “Too many years I lived in the warm embrace of institutionalized elusiveness and was a part of it,” writes Avraham Burg. “I was very comfortable there.” I know; I was comfortable there too. But comfortable Zionism has become a moral abdication. Let’s hope that Luntz’s students, in solidarity with their counterparts at Sheikh Jarrah, can foster an uncomfortable Zionism, a Zionism angry at what Israel risks becoming, and in love with what it still could be. Let’s hope they care enough to try.
Peter Beinart is Associate Professor of Journalism and Political Science at the City University of New York, a Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation, and Senior Political Writer for The Daily Beast. His new book, The Icarus Syndrome: A History of American Hubris, will be published in June.
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Arundhati Roy discusses globalization and democracy
Watch: http://anotherworldispossiblenow.blogspot.com/2010/06/arundhati-roy-onconversations-at-kcts9.html Back to top
An Unsettled Issue
Israeli Settlement Construction Booms Despite Ban By Juliane von Mittelstaedt in Jerusalem, 3rd September 2010 In Washington, the Israelis and Palestinians are discussing peace, but in the Jewish settlements in the West Bank, construction is proceeding at full speed. A legal ban is being ignored and the government is looking away. The thousands of new homes could hinder reconciliation. Officially, at least, this is the hour of diplomacy. For the first time in two years, Israelis and Palestinians are meeting for direct peace talks. United States President Barack Obama has invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to Washington. Settlement construction is one of the most sensitive issues at the talks. It's also an issue where the fronts are growing increasingly tense. "As far as we are concerned, we will continue building after we have buried our dead," Naftali Bennett, the general director of the settlers' association Yesha said hours before the start of peace talks. Just a short time after his announcement, the settlers began erecting several symbolic settlements in the West Bank. In an interview with SPIEGEL ONLINE, Bennett had threatening words. "It is not good enough that the moratorium will end on Sept. 26," he said. "Ehud Barak needs to act to approve 3,000 new housing units -- 1,500 of them right now." The message is clear: After Hamas terrorists shot four Israelis near Hebron, the settlers no longer want to adhere to the 10-month construction stop that expires at the end of September. An army commander told the newspaper Maariv that the settlers threatened to "flood" the West Bank "with thousands of homes." He said he was concerned that dozens of cement mixers would drive in at night to pour the walls and that there was nothing the military could do to stop it. And why should they if they have the impression that the government doesn't even support the moratorium? Construction work could soon begin again in 57 settlements. The peace talks that began on Thursday with an official reception thrown by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton won't change that. After all, construction of settlements also continued during previous rounds of peace talks. From the start of the Oslo peace process in the 1990s until today, the number of Israeli settlers living in the West Bank has tripled -- growing from 110,000 to more than 300,000 people living in 121 settlements and 100 outposts. In addition to that there are 200,000 more settlers in East Jerusalem. The Land Is Practically Free
Construction may even proceed at a faster pace than before. In the West Bank, there are few signs that the moratorium has even been put in place. In dozens of settlements, excavators and cement mixers are a regular sight, and Palestinians work in temperatures of 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit). Around 2,000 homes are currently under construction -- and in most cases, work had begun shortly before or after the start of the moratorium. One such place is Anatot, a settlement near Jerusalem, that is dotted with flower beds, trees, cute street signs at every entranceway and a street lamp every few meters. Anatot is the perfect suburban idyll. And it's just one of many settlements where inhabitants can quickly forget that they are settlers. Now there are plans to expand Anatot. A new neighborhood is being erected with 70 apartments, as the construction manager proudly states. The settlement is being expanded by one-third from its current population of around 200 families. A few of the new homes have already been completed. They're attractive cubes build of creamy white Jerusalem sandstone. A colorful sign at the entrance to Anatot advertises "cottages with quality of life." It's a dream that costs 1.02 to 1.4 million shekel (around €280,000) -- less expensive than a small apartment in West Jerusalem. The construction in the West Bank is massively subsidized by Israel. The land is practically free. After all, it is "state" land. The development costs are paid by the state, and the residents get affordable loans. Nevertheless, construction is not actually permitted here. The building project is not included in the list of 490 "legal exceptions" which the government managed to make to the settlement moratorium. The Moratorium 'Was a Fiction Right from the Outset' "The construction boom here began shortly before the building freeze," says Dror Etkes, who is perhaps the Israeli who knows the most about the settlements. For years he has been documenting settlement construction and submitting complaints against illegal projects. Etkes is sure that active construction is taking place in at least 46 out of 120 settlements. Building projects have only actually been frozen in five settlements, he says. Even government inspectors have found violations of the moratorium in 29 settlements. So far, however, no construction firm has been called to account over those violations. That is despite the fact that the building freeze, for the first time in Israeli history, is not just a "political" requirement, but is actually enshrined in law -- meaning that any violation should be legally punished. Additionally, infrastructure projects are not included in the building moratorium. As a result, a number of sewage treatment plants and water reservoirs are being built in settlements -- including on Palestinian land. In Beitar Illit, a new road is being built. Neither were the associated financial incentives -- the only reason that many Israelis choose to live in the West Bank -- affected by the moratorium. Those benefits include cheap loans, subsidized rents, tax breaks and countless other perks, all of which could easily be cancelled.
"The difference between the level of construction before and during the moratorium is much, much less than the settlers claim," says Etkes. "It's not just that the building freeze has been undermined -- it was a fiction right from the outset." One of the consequences, he says, has been that construction activities have become even more focused on the eastern settlements -- in other words, those small, isolated and often radical settlements that would need to be evacuated if a peace agreement were reached. It is expected that the inhabitants of those settlements would defend themselves with force against such a move. 'Building Freeze Is More Harmful than Useful' Construction work is also going on in Kfar Adumim. The settlement is significantly larger than the norm -- 2,700 people live here in the hills between Jerusalem and Jericho. Among them are two members of the Knesset, the two hardliners Aryeh Eldad and Uri Ariel. 30 houses are to be built here and 50 Palestinian workers are employed on the site. One man, who is busy laying bathroom tiles, says they started work a month before the building freeze came into force. In the beginning, they had 300 men working at full speed to lay as many foundations as possible in the short time. Etkes sees the circumventing of the building freeze here as a "classic example of the cooperation between the settlers and the government": Some of the foundations were hastily laid before the building freeze came into force, some afterwards -- but nobody bothers to police it. "The building freeze was discussed for half a year, that was enough time for all parties to prepare." This is no different from other settlements. Once the moratorium comes to an end, the settlers immediately begin to build. Or, if they do not need housing right away, they can save the foundations as a "reserve" in case of future building freezes. In addition, dozens of settlers' organizations have submitted building applications to local authorities that could be approved in the coming months. The tiler will not give his name because he is afraid of losing his job, which pays him a minimum of about €30 a day. But he did say that many of his colleagues began work on the site two days before the construction moratorium in the settlements came into force. He also said that building work is still going on in Har Homa in Bethlehem, even though the building freeze is in force there. Carpenters work at night so as not to draw so much attention. With Each Project, the Future Clearing of Settlements Becomes More Difficult Whether that bothers the man as a Palestinian? "What should we do? As long as they are allowed to carry on building here, we'll be here too," he says with a shrug. It is the pragmatism of those who do not believe the Israelis will be leaving the West Bank anytime soon. It is the same almost everywhere near Jerusalem. But what about the isolated settlements, with those near Nablus, near the Jordan Valley, near Hebron. "It's a similar situation," says Etkes.
Ten apartments here, 40 there. In no other place are the projects as massive as at Ramat Shlomo, the Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem where, earlier this year, 1,600 new apartments were approved -- just as US Vice President Joe Biden was travelling to Israel. The Americans were irritated and insisted that the Israelis obide by the construction moratorium. But even small projects bring with them thousands of new settlers -- and with each, the later clearing of settlements becomes even more difficult. And without clearing the settlements there can be no viable Palestinian state. All it takes is a few figures from Israel's statistical office to determine that no reduction of construction activity worth of mention has taken place. Israel's Channel 10 TV, for example, has reported that 8,000 Israelis either moved to the West Bank or have been born there in the past six months. Projected over the remaining months of 2010, that would be 16,000 people. In recent years -- without the construction moratorium -- the average growth rate was 5.5 percent, which with 300,000 settlers in the West Bank, would mean an annual increase of around 16,500 people. "In other words, the much-discussed construction moratorium has brought us 500 fewer settlers," Etkes says. 'At the End of the Day, There Will Be Another 1,000 Homes' For the Palestinians, the time elapsed since the start of the construction moratorium hasn't been a good one. According to Human Rights Watch, the Israeli civil administration in West Jordan has torn down a total of 267 Palestinian homes in recent months, more than ever before. The homes had been built without permits, but that's the case with most new Palestinian homes because they are hardly ever approved. By contrast, says Etkes, he has no doubt that the homes in the settlement that have been built illegally during the moratorium will, at least some of them, be legalized later. "At the end of the day, there will still be another 1,000 homes more in the West Bank." Photo Gallery: A Ban Won't Stop Them : http://www.spiegel.de/fotostrecke/fotostrecke-58985.html US Cash for Israeli Settlements: Making a Mockery of the Moratorium (07/23/2010) : http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,707691,00.html Creeping Construction Boom: Jewish Settlements Threaten Viability of Palestinian State (08/17/2009) : http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,643253,00.html Back to top
From: ARCHITECTS & PLANNERS FOR JUSTICE IN PALESTINE
30 April 2010 Chair: Abe Hayeem, RIBA
Nir Barkat, Mayor of Jerusalem, Safra Square 1, Jerusalem, Israel
Dear Mayor Barkat RE: Stop the Silwan Demolitions! Our group APJP wrote to you last year regarding the Silwan demolitions. Now we hear that you have demanded (Ynet News 4 April 2010) that the city’s police renew the razing of “illegal structures” in East Jerusalem on which demolition orders have been issued. You have no basis to declare Palestinian structures illegal, since Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem, like all settlements built in the West Bank after 1967 are illegal, according to the Fourth Geneva Convention, and numerous UN resolutions. East Jerusalem has been stipulated as the Palestinian capital in all peace agreements, yet your persistent disregard of international law and defiance of even a temporary freeze of construction in East Jerusalem does not bode well for peace, and denies the Palestinians their right to self determination. Demolitions and Evictions: Occupying Powers are prohibited from destroying property or employing collective punishment. Article 53 of the Geneva Convention reads: “Any destruction by the Occupying Power of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons…is prohibited." Under this provision the practice of demolishing Palestinian houses is banned, as is the wholesale destruction of the Palestinian infrastructure. Yet Since 2000 to Jan 2010 there were 1,010 housing units demolished in East Jerusalem Despite international anger and objection, house demolitions continue, and the most extreme settler organisations like Elad in Silwan and Ateret Hacohanim in Sheikh Jarrah are allowed full reign, support and protection, while the most brutal reign of terror and intimidation is being imposed on East Jerusalem Palestinians, who are being evicted from their homes by settlers. On 25th April, hundreds of police officers were deployed in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Silwan as extreme Israeli rightists set out to march in an attempt to demonstrate Israeli sovereignty over all of Jerusalem. Soldiers and police shot and injured Palestinians in Al Bustan and Wadi Hilweh, and blocked all roads. In Sheikh Jarrah, where some homes claimed to be on land originally owned by Jews in the last century, settlers are advancing the construction of at least 540 housing units in the neighbourhood, helped by Israel's legal system, wealthy backers and cooperation from the Jerusalem municipality and Israeli government. As Ze’ev Sternhell said in Haaretz on 16 April, “The question is, how much longer will it be possible to maintain a situation in which the Jews will have the right to demand ownership of Jewish property that has been left on the eastern side of the Green Line, while the Arabs are forbidden to demand rights of ownership to their property that has been left on the western side of that same line?” From 1948 to 1967, Israel expropriated properties of Arabs in West Jerusalem equivalent to about 40 per cent of the area of that part of the city. These lands were confiscated under the Absentees' Property Law. Will
Israel now return all this land and the stolen properties back to their original Palestinian owners? International Law & the Geneva Conventions: You and Prime Minister Netantyahu keep insisting that Jerusalem will be an “undivided Jewish city”, but in fact East Jerusalem’s status under international law, as understood by every country besides Israel, is universally considered ‘occupied territory’. Similarly, Israeli settlements in the parts of the city that lie across the Green Line are in clear contravention of the Fourth Geneva Convention and are completely illegal, especially with the frenzied proliferation of settlement building, and the infiltration of Israeli settlers into the heart of Palestinian areas. There is no movement of Palestinians into Jewish areas in the Old City or in West Jerusalem contrary to your claim – this is prohibited by Israel. Settlements constructed beyond the international border established in 1967 violate Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention that states: The Occupying power shall not deport or transfer part of its own civilian citizens into the territory it occupies” Settling Israeli citizens in the Occupied Territories thus contravenes international law. In May 2001, the head of the International Red Cross delegation to Israel and the Occupied Territories said that settlements are "equal in principle to war crimes". "The transfer, the installation of population of the occupying power into the occupied territories is considered as an illegal move and qualified as a 'grave breach.' It's a grave breach, formally speaking, but grave breaches are equal in principle to war crimes". (Rene Kosirnik, head of the ICRC delegation to Israel and the OPT, press conference 17 May 2001.) " As recently as 22 March 2010, the UN General Assembly has reaffirmed “the illegality of the Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, including in East Jerusalem, which is applicable de jure to Palestinian and all Arab territories occupied by Israel since 1967, including East Jerusalem”. World Vision and the King’s Garden In your recent visit to Chatham House in London on 22 March 2010, you presented your Modern Vision for Jerusalem, including the plan for a ‘King’s Garden’ in Silwan. You said "The whole world is watching us. This obligates us, Jews and Arabs, to work together, without discrimination, to advance the city's interests”. The world is indeed watching with incredulity the breaches of human rights and international law that constitute your ‘modern vision’ which has been exhaustively documented and condemned by reputable Israeli sources, particularly Ir-Amim, and Peace Now, and by the Wadi Hilweh Community Centre. Silwan community organisations are never consulted or listened to, and are subject to enforced closure and restrictions by your police forces. Your vision of ‘restoring’ the gardens of King David and Solomon to what it was 3000 years ago is a dangerous nationalist fantasy. There are no such archaeological findings in the area and there is no real archaeological
reason to build a tourist park on the land of the al-Bustan neighborhood, or in Wadi Hilweh. The plan is politically motivated and is one that actually excludes the Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem and has the goal of expanding tourism settlement in Silwan for the benefit of the Elad settlers. The municipality appointed architect Arieh Rahamimov to draw up this plan is the same architect who is working on a number of other plans in Silwan for the settlers of the Elad organization - in order to establish Jewish hegemony over Jerusalem - and ignore and erase any other evidence of other peoples’ existence before and after the short period of Judea at the time of Herod. Rahamimov’s grandiose plans for the huge new visitor’s centre on the Givati Parking lot at the entrance to the Wadi-Hilwe neighbourhood is intended to rival and dominate the Al Aqsa mosque, and is contrary to international law and the religious sensitivies of the local population, likely to inflame religious passions. This must not go ahead. Similarly the office of the architect Moshe Safdie, who has produced plan 11555 has been paid directly by the Elad organisation, to produce the town plan for Wadi Hilwe and the adjoining Silwan areas, against the wishes of the existing Palestinian community, and which consolidates Elad’s control over the whole area. Architects and Planners We, as architects and planners are particularly concerned with the travesty of architecture and planning and professional ethics used in carrying out all these building projects. These are being driven forward regardless of the consequences on the beleaguered Palestinian population by the actions of the Mayor, backed by the Israeli state. The well documented inequalities of municipal services provided to these residents entrenches the warehousing, fragmentation and apartheid condition of the city, which was meant to be a ‘corpus seperatum’ city for all, administered by the UN in the 1947 partition. Regarding the above Israeli architects, and others building in East Jerusalem, their designs are used as a weapon with violates human rights, and are deliberately aimed at subjugation, aggression and racism directed towards the Palestinian residents. As these are clearly and brutally, in breach of basic human rights, crimes have been committed. The question of responsibility and liability must be addressed. The International Union of Architects at recent meetings, when the subject of Israeli architects was raised, declared that: “The UIA Council condemns development projects and the construction of buildings on land that has been ethnically purified or illegally appropriated, and projects based on regulations that are ethnically or culturally discriminatory, and similarly it condemns all action contravening the fourth Geneva Convention.” This statement, as the Israeli architect Eyal Weizman has written, “opens up architecture to a different kind of critique. Beyond the re-introduction of morality and ethics into the architecture debate, does this not call for legal proceedings that should be prosecuted by international law?” Silwan community and King’s Garden Plans
The demolition orders to 89 houses in Al-Bustan and the recent demolitions of houses in Silwan, and the on-going demolitions and expropriation of Palestinian homes in Sheik Jarrah and Jabel Mukhabar have all been condemned by the international community, by President Obama, the US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, and the EU in its latest report (December 2008) on Israel’s annexations in East Jerusalem. Most of the 1,500 inhabitants in Al-Bustan in the houses scheduled for demolition have been living there for decades. Some of them put down stakes already pre-1967, way before the authorities handed control of the compound to Elad and changed its name to "City of David." Your latest proposal to retroactively legalize some houses, and even to issue several permits for construction of second floors, while demolishing 20 homes and suggesting that those inhabitants move into two upper storeys built in adjoining houses, is absurd and unworkable You promise ‘green parks, economical growth and eternal sunshine’. But the residents are no fools, having experienced discrimination and neglect under Israeli occupation and know the bitter truth: They say “Wadi Hilweh and alBustan will be plasticized, commercialized and ethnically cleansed”. The architect Yosef Jabareen has presented a sustainable plan for the AlBustan community to the Jerusalem Planning committee, which retains all the houses, and existing green space, and should receive the permission that it deserves for the long standing residents. The residents of Al-Bustan absolutely oppose the ‘Kings Garden’ plans, which leads to the confiscation of their lands and demolishing of their homes. Despite their paying full taxes, the Palestinian area of Silwan have received no improvement to their area and infrastructure and poor services. The residents demand the municipality to first care for the infrastructure and their social needs before providing more recreational sites for tourists. Since 1967, not a single building plan has been approved for Palestinians in Wadi Hilweh. The systematic denial of building permits to Silwan’s Palestinian population since its annexation by Israel in 1967 has served as a fundamental tool in the Israeli government’s prevention of the natural growth and expansion of its residents. When Palestinian residents have no choice but build on their own land, their houses are demolished, while a blind eye is turned to the illegal activities of the Elad settlers, and the occupiers of ‘Jonathan House”. The Absentee Properties Law, and ‘open space’ laws are used fraudulently to take over Palestinian houses. This law means that the residents cannot build or expand their homes. As families grow, the residents are compelled to build without permits. Hundreds of families found themselves in an impossible situation. In addition to poverty, a deficient education system and poor physical infrastructure, the state has effectively made criminals of the residents who have to pay hundreds of thousands of shekels in fines, and issued demolition orders to many homes. Ir Amim, the Israeli organisation which promotes peaceful relations, has pointed out that since 1967 fewer than 20 construction permits have been issued to Palestinians in this area, forcing them to build illegally. All these practices are illegal and
discriminatory, and have been well documented by human rights groups, Ir Amim, B’tselem, ICAHD and the EU in two major reports. Regarding your proposal for 50,000 new dwellings for East Jerusalem, two thirds for Jewish Israelis and one-third for Palestinian residents, to relate to the demographic proportions of these communities in Jerusalem, Meron Benvenisti, who is a leading expert on Jerusalem remarked "As if there could be a correct percentage! It's pure racism. We live in the only city in the world where an ethnic population ratio serves as a philosophy." The costs and legal bureaucracy involved in bringing ‘illegally built’ homes into compliance as you have also proposed, is prohibitive to the Palestinian residents of Silwan and the only structure that is likely to benefit from this plan is Beit Yonatan. While Palestinians are under constant pressure, discriminated against, with constant threat of demotion of their homes, the Israeli settlers like Elad are given a free reign to take over and dominate any area they please, with their avowed intention to remove the Palestinians from Silwan. Instead you refuse to follow the Supreme Court’s repeated instructions to demolish the above mentioned seven storey Beit Yonatan built by the extreme Ateret Hacohanim movement. Archaeology and Excavations With huge funds by the extreme settler organization Elad and fully backed by the Israeli government and the Jerusalem municipality, the Israel Antiquity Authority, is conducting the “City of David” excavations in tunnels under the neighborhood's houses and lands. The IAA did not initially inform the residents, nor did it seek their consent. Apart from being ethically wrong according to international archaeological standards and academically challenged worldwide, these excavations pose an immediate threat to the residents' present safety and future existence where many Palestinian homes have become unstable. An UNWRA school which partially collapsed last year, wounding the school children, is in danger of falling down again. Elad promoting the idea of the ‘City of David’ would preclude the presence in this area of any other people who have been there through the centuries. This is a dangerous illusion that will destroy the chance of peace. These parks and walks are used as the justification for demolishing hundreds of Palestinian properties and to form a binding ring around the city that will foreclose the possibility of a viable shared capital, and, with potential completion of E1 adjacent to Maaleh Adumim, any viable contiguous Palestinian state. Among the dozens of archaeological strata excavated in the City of David, there has been no single evidence found that confirm to the presence of King David, or in fact any other king in Judea. Archaeologists in Israel and around the world have come to the conclusion that archaeology cannot be used “to corroborate the occurrence of events or the existence of characters in the bible or to declare that the Al-Bustan neighborhood has a great archaeological significance. Al-Bustan does not reside in any national park. Evidence to the existence of the King's Garden in AlBustan are not archaeological, and the state must not claim that the demolishing of houses is done in the name of archaeology.”
Poor signposting in the ‘national park’ tells the Jewish narrative of Jerusalem while neglecting the stories of many other cultures whose part in the city’s history is no less significant than the Jewish one. Important finds not considered relevant to ancient Jewish settlement are being destroyed. There is no precedent in Israel for handing over responsibility for serious archaeological work to a militant political organization with its own clear extremist agenda. A balanced history would tell a story that relates to most of the world’s population: Muslims, Christians and Jews. A multi-cultural narrative of the chronicles of Jerusalem might encourage tolerance and reconciliation in what is effectively an occupied city. Instead, today the site is used by Elad as an educative tool to promote an agenda of exclusively Jewish settlement. The separation between the residents and the tourists fosters feelings of alienation and bitterness in the locals, making them feel alienated in their own village.. Public and private spaces used by residents for hundreds of years have been blocked off and incorporated into the national park, and the municipality wishes to expropriate those remaining for “public needs”, that is, parking lots for the tourist site’s visitors, in a neighborhood where there are no playgrounds, no public gardens, no sport facilities, few classrooms and no clinics. Dozens of security cameras and armed guards have been installed in the streets and alleys. Palestinian residents have no protection from the settlers’ activity in the neighborhood, and episodes of increasing violence occur between residents and guards who see themselves as law enforcers. The EU has condemned this development in their report (see items from their report below) in 2005 and now again in 2009. The threatened Silwan action also contravenes the spirit and letter of the Road Map which specifies that "the Government of Israel ends its actions undermining trust, including attacks in civilian areas and confiscation/demolition of Palestinian homes and property…as a punitive measure or to facilitate Israeli construction." In summary, our recommendations: 1. The proposals for demolitions of these 89 houses, and any further demolitions are totally unacceptable, illegal under international law, and cannot be justified under any circumstances. They must be stopped and the demolition orders rescinded. 2. All Palestinian house demolitions in East Jerusalem must end. 3. The activities and the control of Silwan that has been handed over to the Elad fundamentalists, who are given extra judicial control over the Silwan residents, backed by the police and IDF, and persecution and intimidation of the Silwan residents must be ended. 4. The illegal and very damaging tunnelling without proper permission or legal procedures, under their houses, also causing the collapse of an UNWRA school, must end, and the damage to the houses and schools repaired by the municipality.
5. The alternative plan for the Palestinian residents of Silwan must be considered and their needs taken into account, without removing them or demolishing their houses. Permission to make them legal must be granted. It is the illegal Elad settlers who should be removed, as they are the cause of conflict in an already divided city. 6. The Elad plans for the archaeological park must be stopped. Archaeology is, or should be, a discipline untainted by narrow political or sectarian interests. In Silwan, sadly, archaeology —and the Israel Antiquities Authority— is being openly exploited for purely political purposes that include the removal of innocent civilians from their homes. We call upon the government of Israel, the Jerusalem Municipality, the INPA, the IAA, and all responsible members of Israel's academic community to put an end at once to this blatant perversion and dangerous politicization of an academic field of endeavour. Knowledge of these activities to create the ‘archaeological park’ will deter rather than attract tourists from around the world. 7. This whole “park walk” project must not be allowed to continue, and it is your responsibility as the Mayor to put an end to all this illegal activity which will inflame hatred and ignite the city, and will be dangerous to the city's stability. It will be damaging to the human and civil rights of Jerusalem’s Palestinian citizens, create more refugees, and will deny the promise of a two-state solution and a viable Palestinian state under UN Resolution 242, and every peace agreement since Oslo, the Road Map, and Annapolis. We call for an end to all house demolitions, settlement construction, and house and land expropriation in East Jerusalem and in the occupied West Bank that is creating apartheid for Palestinians. 8. The head of Elad, Mr Be’eri, must return the house that he has fraudulently occupied, to its rightful owners. Palestinians must be returned to their expropriated homes, in Silwan, Sheikh Jarrah and all parts of East Jerusalem, and the settler occupants removed 9. The actions of the Jerusalem Municipality and Israel’s Housing Ministry on Silwan, E1 and Lifta prompted an advertisement in the London Times in 2007 signed by over 350 architects, planners and academics and NGOs from all over the world, many of them prominent international figures, including many Jewish and Israeli signatories, calling a halt to all these projects that involve illegal activities, breaches of international law and human rights, and professional ethics. See the signatories below. 10. End all illegal Israeli settlement and house construction in East Jerusalem, in Ramat Shlomo, Har Homa, Har Gilo, Atarot and throughout the illegally annexed areas, on expropriated Palestinian land, and end all Separation Wall construction, that has been declared illegal by the ICJ in 2004.
11. This call is co-ordinated with local Israeli and Palestinian architects and NGOs like BIMKOM, ICAHD, IR-AMIM, ACRI, BATSHALOM, ARIJ, the residents’ committees of Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah, Rabbis for Human Rights and others. To quote Sternhell again “Instead of turning Sheikh Jarrah into a paragon of coexistence, Israel is about to enable the settlers to reinstate its residents with refugee status and to turn the entire area into a new symbol of Israeli arbitrariness, aggressiveness and distortion of justice. Indeed, Jerusalem is not a settlement, but those who are turning it into a settlement now are the settlers themselves. It is not difficult to forecast how this additional fuel will fan the growing flames of delegitimization of Israel in the world.” We hope that you will listen to this call, in the interests of peace and justice in Israel/Palestine, and the future of a peaceful Middle East. Yours sincerely Abe Hayeem, Architect RIBA Chair: Architects & Planners for Justice in Palestine and all the following signatories: Charles Jencks: Architectural Historian, Writer and Critic, UK/USA. Ted Cullinan, CBE, RA: Edward Cullinan Architects, UK. Will Alsop RA, OBE: Principal SMC William Alsop, Winner Stirling Prize 2000, UK. Zvi Hecker: Architect, Germany/Netherlands/Israel. Sir Terry Farrell: Principal Terry Farrell Partners, UK. Sir Richard McCormack: Partner MJP Architects, Former RIBA President, UK. George Ferguson: Acanthus Ferguson Mann Architects, Former President RIBA Jack Pringle :RIBA President, 2005-2007 UK.0 Sunand Prasad: RIBA President, 2007-2009, Principal Penoyre Prasad Architects, , UK. Eva Jiricna: Principal Jiricna Architects, UK. Rick Mather: Principal Rick Mather Architects, UK. Eyal Weizman: Author ‘A Civilan Occupation’, “Hollow Land”, Director Centre for Research Architecture, Goldsmith’s College, UK/Israel. Paul Hyett: RIBA President 2001-2003, UK. Hans Haenlein: Principal Hans Haenlein Architects, UK. Neave Brown: Artist and Architect of Alexandra Road, UK. Robin Nicholson: ECA architects, UK. David Levitt: Architect Levitt, Bernstein, UK. Tom Kay: Architect, UK. Jeff Halper : ICAHD Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, Israel. Malkit Shoshan: Director of Foundation for Achieving Seamless Territory (FAST), Netherlands/Israel. Shmulik Groag: BIMKOM, Israel. (E1, Silwan) Cezary Bednarski: Principal Studio Bednarski, UK/Poland. Professor Nasser Rabat: Aga Khan Professor, MIT, USA. Professor Mike Davis: Author ‘City of Quartz’, Professor University of California Davis, USA.
Professor Saskia Sassen: Author ‘Cities in a World Economy’, University of Chicago, London School of Economics, USA/UK. Suad Amiry: Author, Founder and Director of RIWAQ, Centre for Architectural Conservation, Palestine. Beatriz Maturana: Archimage, President and Founder of Architects for Peace, Australia. Eitan Bronstein: Director of Zochrot, Israel. Professor Uri Davis: Al Quds University, PA, IAIS, Founder of Al-Beit, Israel. Professor Samer Akkach: Director Centre for Asian and Middle Eastern Architecture, Adelaide, University, Australia. Professor Zvi Efrat: Department Head, Architecture Department, Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, Jerusalem, Israel. Professor Derek Gregory: Distinguished Scholar, Professor of Geography, University of British Columbia, Canada. Professor Neil Smith: PhD Johns Hopkins, Distinguished Prof. CUNY Graduate Center, USA. Osama Hamdan: Conservation Architect and Lecturer, Al Quds University, Palestine. Professor Haim Bresheeth: Filmmaker, Photographer, Chair of Media and Cultural Studies, University East London, UK/Israel. Professor Bob Tavernor: Director of Cities Program, Architecture and Urban Studies, London School of Economics, UK. Dr. Gaetano Palumbo: Institute of Archaeology, University College London, UK. Professor Oren Yiftahel: Professor of Geography, Ben Gurion University, Israel. David Tartakover: Graphic Designer, Israel Prize Laureate for Design 2002, Israel. Professor Mario Coyula: Architect and Urban Planner, Cuba. Professor Peter Marcuse: Columbia University,NY,USA Dick Urban Vestro: Professor Emeritus,School of Architecture, Stockholm Lynda Thorne: EU Environmental Consultant, Romania. Ian Martin: Architects Journal Magazine, UK. Louis Hellman: Architect and Cartoonist, UK. Robert Bevan: Author ‘The Destruction of Memory’, UK. Dr. Jim Berrow: Architectural Historian, UK. Arad Sharon: AA dipl, Director Arieh Sharon, Eldar Sharon Architects & Town Planners L.T.D, Israel. Angela Godfrey-Goldstein:ICAHD Georgeann B. Burns Assoc. AIA: Principal, RTKL Associates, Inc., USA. Gail Waldman: Waldman-Jim Architects, UK. Ceridwen Owen: Architect, Lecturer in Architecture, University of Tasmania, Australia. Karen McWilliam: Architect, Lab Architecture, Australia. Raphael Sperry AIA: Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility, USA. Claudia Bloom: Director, Avanti Architects, UK. Michael Safier: Planner, Bartlett College, University College London, UK. Junko Iwaya: Architect, Japan. Professor Bas Molenaar: Healthcare Architect, Netherlands. Aurore Julien: Renewable Energy Consultant, UK.
Charles Dunnett: Dunnett Craven Ltd., UK. Ross Ramus: RAIA Ramus Architects,USA. Mikolaj Kadubowski: Partner GRUPA 5 ARCHITECTS, Warsaw. Mungo Smith: Director of MAAP Architects, London. Susan Francis: Special Advisor on Healthcare, CABE, London. Mark Kubaczka: Dyrektor, artchitecture sp zo o, Warsaw. Liane Friedrich: Architect, Brazil. Prof. Hennu Kjisik: Architect, Finland. Derek Stow OBE: Architect, London. Professor Irene Bruegel: Planner, London South Bank University, UK. Dace Kalvane: Aplus architects, Latvia. Douglas Carson: Eric Parry Architects. Hubert Murray AIA, RIBA: President of Boston Society of Architects, USA . Nick Jeffrey: Retired Head of School of Planning the Architectural Association, Guest Curator in Arch. Tate Modern, UK .
Nadia Habash: Architect, UK. Zahira Nazer: Urbanist, UK. Karin Pally: Planner, LA. Ed Hall: Architect, UK. Shaqir Sufian: Architect, UK. John Waller: Architect, UK. Paul Barham: Architect, UK. Geoff Haslam: Architect, UK. Prof.Terry Meade: Architect, Brighton University, UK. Martin Crookston: Architect, UK. Alan Arnstein: Architect, UK. Tarek Ragheb: Architect, UK. Gil Doron: Artist, UK/Israel. Nicholas Wood: Architect UK/South Africa. Sarah Wood, UK Keith Cowling: Architect, UK. Jake Brown: Architect, UK. Steve Fox: Architect, UK. Keith Hallett: Architect, UK. Adrian King: Architect, UK. John Hodge: Architect, UK. Issa Sarie: Architect, UK. Wade Sowman: Planner, New Zealand. Jose Vilar: Architect, USA. D. Shah: Architect, UK. Samir Srouji: Architect, USA. M. Azhar: Architect, UK. Stefano Ferrari: Architect, UK/Italy. Fahmi Salameh: Architect, Palestine. Ray Bowden, Architect, UK. Vassilis Ierides: Architect, Greece. Khaldun Bishara:RIWAQ Architect, Palestine. Steve Kessel: Architect, UK. Javiera Maturana: Planner, Australia. Yaron Turel: Architect, Israel. Orna Shatil: Architect, Israel. Frederico Zaidan: Architect, Brazil. Shelly Roberts: Architect, Australia. Tim Bruce Dick: Architect, UK. M. Azhar: Architect, UK.
Phil Gusack: Architect, UK Keith Bennett, RIBA: Architect, UK . Laura Natkins: Architect, Harvard University , USA . Shelley Indyk: Architect, Principal Indyk Ltd., Australia . Salem Thawaba: PhD Bir Zeit University , Palestine . Tchaik Chassay: Chassay+Last Architects. Kate Mackintosh: Architect, UK. Haifa Hammami: Architect, APJP Secretary, UK Walter Hain: Architect, UK. Alon Cohen Lifshitz: BIMKOM, Israel. John Murray: Architect, UK. Mayyad Bader, Architect, Australia,Palestine David Berridge,Architect,UK Sidney Bernstein: Architect, Prof David E.Pegg, York University Omar Qattan: Qattan Foundation, UK. Erland Seilskkjaer: Architect, Norway. Frank de Marco: Architect UK. Yara Sharif, PhD, Architect,UK,Palestine Prof. Nasser Golzary, Golzary Architects Francesca Viceconti: Architect, Italy. Martin O’Shea: Architect, UK. Salim Jaleel: Architect, UK. Michael Gwilliam: Planner, UK. Clive Jones: Architect, UK. Mike Macrae: Architect, UK. Michael Goulden: Architect, Wales. Joanna Heilig: Architect, Sweden. Ahmad Barclay, PhD, Cardiff Uni. David Yeaman, Architect,UK Reuven Rosenfelder , Israel Sharon Rosenfelder, Israel Anne Markey, Architect, London Metropolitan Univ. Joanna Chambers: Planner, UK. Jeremy Dain: Architect, UK. Malcolm Hecks: Architect, France. Kelvin Bland, Architect, UK Joe Lynes:Engineer & CPT, Palestine.
Shaden Qasem Samira Shehadeh Giselle Benitez: Planner, NSW, Australia. Ruba Awwad Marc Loran Sandina Robbins Rory Toomey: Architect, Australia. Sarah Bridges: Australia. Afaf Shehadeh Sophia Hammoudeh Liana Obeidi Mohammad Abdlah Said Abdallah Adwa Kamal Osman M. Elkheir Sulaiman M. Aqel Fatimah Mohammed (Lifta) Farhat Y. Muhawi (E1) Brazilian Palestine Interest Committee (Lifta) Nour Salman (Lifta) M.J.Bissan Heidi Splay Anil Korotane, F.A.S.T Alisar Aoun Paul Ballora: Paul Balora Architects. Claudia Cleaver Abder Ghouleh: USA. Damian Eckersley Mohammad Odeh Mariane Mathia Hana Abdallah Sulaiman M. Aqel Mira Roses Damian Eckersley Mathew Bond, Australia. Goren Vodicka Mohammed Hilala Shirin Alqadi Mohamed Hdaib Sami B Suriyisami Stephen Hyland: Planner PGDiptp MRTPI. Suhayla Odeh James Charles Jameson: Australia. Anthony McCInneny Tony Horan (E1) Christopher Myles
Hasan A. Hammami, USA. Eleanor Chapman: Australia. Nadia Piette: Netherlands. Ivar Leivestad: Australia. Merinda Hall: Australia. Racheli Bar Or: Israel. Walid Issa: USA. Julian Rutt: Australia. Nadine Samaha: Australia. Imm Chew Ranad Shqeirat Kabir Hussain Abdulmajid Karanouh Neil Lambert, Architect,UK David Reidy Leena Ismail Miranda Pennell Jennifer Dudgeon Susan Mellersh Lucas Noor Salman Rand el haj Hasan Eleanor Mayfield Jose Vilar Tariq Z. Khayyat Emily Jack Samer Rabie Jalal El Ali Noor Tibi Yusuf Tibeh Dave Reidy Sherwin Nadjm Amal Moh Dan Rigamonti Judy Andler Sharon Rosenfelder, Israel (Silwan) Reuven Rosenfelder, Israel(Silwan) Rosaleen Crushell MJ Bissan: Sculptor Hugo David Moline Mima Kearns Alex Whitton Gareth Mantle Nathan Fothergill Randy Eveleigh Roger Rajaratnam: Australia. Kim Roberts (Lifta) Alif Nadya Inniar Rosa Noor Tibi (Lifta) Yasid Abed Rego Nihal Alayyah Daoud Abdallah Hala Atik
Andrew Holohan (E1) Paul Mclwrath,Belfast (E1) Roseleen Walsh, Ireland (E1) Liam Barr, Ireland(E1) Tierna Cunningham,Ireland (E1) Jack O'Neill, Ireland (E1) Rolf Clayton, (E1) D.Alwan,(E1) Noor Maraqa Yazan Salameh, (Lifta) Nabeha Bages-Zegar (Lifta) Fabio Bagnara, Architect, Spain,Italy(E1) Michel Iffrig (Lifta) Nidal Jaber Saadeh,Dublin (E1) Chrissie mhic giolla mhin, Belfast Fra Stone, Ireland (E1) Roger Higginson (E1) Deletto Micsardi (E1) Ghislaine Soulet (E1) Dr.Issam Salameh (Lifta) Mick Scott,Ireland (E1) Ben Alofs (E1) Wail Obeidi (Lifta) Isabel Camacho Garcia, Architect,Spain (Lifta) Ismail Atiyeh Ahmed El-Liftawi Jr.(Lifta) Salma Salim (Silwan) Philipp M. Rassman, Dep't of Anth.,U.of Washington (Silwan) Walid M. Awad (Silwan) Hadas Snir (Silwan)
Susan Bromley Richard Buckley Thomas Ableman Caroline Weir Robert Cunningham Mary Emmerson Nahida Yasin Michael Iffrig Christian Drinkwater,DLA Architects Michael Praamsma Uschi Jesson Michael Thomas Bambrick Paula McIlwrath Barbara Crow Kathleen Desmond Yara Abdullah Phil Henneman Judith Jeffrey: Architect (retired), UK. Michael Bambrick Thomas Adelman Clare Holohan Hussam Siam Ken Taylor Irmila Benner Webb Wilber Mada Al Carmel: Arab Centre for Applied Social Research Anita Vitello Khaled Azmi Emad Salameh (Lifta) Dean La Tourelle,(Silwan) Maya Pasternak Ahmad Abassi (Silwan) Micha Andreieff, Urbanist, Strasbourg, France Gunter Schenk, IAPP, Denmark (E1) Jean-Paul Francois Galibert, Rec. Honoraire P.T.T., Ancien Casque Bleu (E1) Lois Swartz,(Lifta) Nick Bourns,(E1), Melbourne, Australia Adnan Harambasic, Architect, Norway Rania Halawani(Lifta) Hammam Farah, (Lifta) Tamara Tootasali Hani Nasser Rowiena J. (Lifta) Keith Bennet, ARIBA Corinne Bennett (E1) Barbara Crow (E1)
Wail Obeidi (Lifta) Basma Hanouda (Lifta) Rebecca L.Stein (Lifta) Nassab Ali (Lifta) Samira Alostath (Lifta) Princess Heba (Lifta) Doa'a El-Batta (Lifta) Heba R. Abed (Lifta) Manar T'al Saleh (Lifta) Lina Shaath (Lifta) Salma Shaath (Lifta) Shaimaa El Hissi (Lifta) A.M.A Shimaa (Lifta) Alaa Kishawi (Lifta) Alaa Nizar Al-Kishawi (Lifta) ( ياء موسىLifta) Jass Men (Lifta) Naala N.Ibrahim (Lifta,E1) Reem J. Abu ell Khair (Lifta) Faten Joma'a (Lifta) Heba A. Alalawi (Lifta) Nesreen Qdeh (Lifta) Edwin Jay Rutledge,Architect,UK Abeer Abu Haleep (Lifta) Eman el Shegh Ghalel (Lifta) Roaa Abu el Komboz (Lifta) Hanaa Eldahshan (Lifta) Monda Taleb Heriz (Lifta) Rawan Jouda (Lifta) Dr. Abdurahman Mohamed (Lifta) Jan Jordaan (Lifta) Kevin Ramzi Nasir James Bowen: Str Engineer , Ireland . Sarah Khalid Joanna Matos, France John Dorman, RIAI, Ireland PSC Alaa Mandoor (E1) Shorouq Al Jabari (Lifta) Lilian Morgan (Silwan) Olive Isidro-Cruze (Silwan) Christina Isorina Margaret Morgan (Silwan) Edwin Jay Rutledge (Silwan) Neil Lambert, Architect (Silwan) Naomi Wimborne-Idrisi (Silwan)
Copies to: Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu. President Barack Obama, White House David Miliband , Foreign Secretary, UK Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary General Israeli Association of United Architects President, International Union of Architect
FROM the EU Report (Dec 2008) on East Jerusalem The EU policy on Jerusalem is based on the principles set out in UN Security Council Resolution 242, notably the inadmissibility of acquisition of territory by force. In consequence, the EU has never recognised the Israeli annexation of East Jerusalem in 1967 nor the subsequent 1980 Basic Law (Basic Law Jerusalem Capital of Israel) which made Jerusalem the “complete and united” capital of Israel. EU Member States have therefore placed their accredited missions in Tel Aviv.15 The EU opposes measures that would prejudice the outcome of Permanent Status Negotiations, consigned to the third phase of the Road Map, such as actions aimed at changing the status of East Jerusalem. In conferences held in 1999 and 2001, the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention reaffirmed the applicability of the Convention to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and reiterated the need for full respect for the provisions of the Convention in that territory. Israel is continuing increased settlement activity in and around East Jerusalem, linked by new roads and a tramway, which accentuate the separation of Jewish and Palestinian citizens, and an implementation of an apartheid policy that is inconsistent with a proclaimed democracy. • Expansion of settlements in the old city and the historic basin adjacent to it proceed, with most of the efforts focussing on an encirclement of the Old city in Silwan and the historic basin. Activities of settler organisations, including occupation of Palestinian homes, purchase of property through straw men and excavations in sensitive areas, are often conducted in collusion with state authorities. Construction and planned expansion in the existing major settlement blocs inside East Jerusalem. Since Annapolis, almost 5500 new housing units were submitted for public review, almost 3,000 of which have been approved bringing them significantly close to implementation16; Construction and planned expansion in “Greater Jerusalem” – linking the city of Jerusalem to the settlement blocs of Ma’ale Adumim to the east (including the E1 plan), Atarot and Neve Yaacov East in the North, and Beitar Illit to the South.
In combination, these measures unmistakably indicate an intention to sever all of East Jerusalem and the surrounding settlement blocks from the West Bank.
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