Showing posts with label Ethnic Cleansing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ethnic Cleansing. Show all posts

December 02, 2009

Israeli police demolish the only shelter of evicted Palestinian family for the fourth time

International Solidarity Movement - 2 December 2009

At approximately 9am this Wednesday, four police vehicles containing eight Jerusalem police and four border police armed with automatic weapons came to Sheikh Jarrah and demolished the Gawi tent for the fourth time. The demolition took place as there were several people sleeping in the tent. The police failed to alert those sleeping to their destructive actions. The Palestinian family’s possessions were confiscated and removed in police pick-up trucks and golf carts. One hour later, a British national was arrested. The Gawi family has lived in the tent for four months now, since 2 August 2009 when they were forcefully evicted from their home, now occupied by settlers.

This action comes in the wake of yesterday’s settler invasion of the front section of the al-Kurd family home. As the settlers moved some of their possessions from the occupied Gawi home to the newly-confiscated al-Kurd home, the police were destroying and stealing the blankets, chairs, mattresses, lights and shelter from the evicted Gawi family. The settlers have also run electrical wires from the confiscated Gawi house to the confiscated al-Kurd house. As the constant crowd watched the settlers’ actions and those of the police, a British national was arrested, seemingly, for standing in the entrance of the al-Kurd family’s garden.

November 28, 2009

Settlers storm Palestinian village, attempt to set fire to home

Settlers in the West Bank [MaanImages]
28/11/2009 17:38

Nablus – Ma’an – Fifteen Israeli settlers from the Yitzhar colony near Nablus attempted to set fire to a home in the village of Burin, Palestinian sources said Saturday.

Wearing white prayer shirts marking the Jewish Sabbath the group stormed the home of Ayman Attalla Safwan carrying flame excellents but were confronted by several villagers who tried to prevent their entry into the home, eyewitnesses described.

Palestinians told Ma'an that Israeli officials from the Civil Liaison Office arrived in the area shortly after the confrontation.

November 26, 2009

Palestinian village of Lifta threatened with total destruction

November 26, 2009


Lifta, a most picturesque Palestinian village, lies on the slopes of West Jerusalem below the highway linking it to Tel-Aviv. It has been abandoned since the invading Hagana underground forces backed by the Stern Gang drove the last of its Palestinian inhabitants in 1948 during the ethnic cleansing of Palestine.

It was the one single event which changed the nature of the place and the whole region. Although dozens of houses were destroyed, many of them still remain poised on the landscape.

Lifta is considered by many as a rare and fine example of Palestinian rural architecture with narrow streets aligned with the slopes of the mountains around it. Its cubist forms are a wonderful manifestation of the mastery of the Palestinian stone masons who were the indigenous owners and builders of these houses.

Today Lifta is more or less a ghost town suspended in space and remains deserted despite the fact that most of its original Palestinian inhabitants live in the surrounding communities. The Israeli authorities refuse to allow them to return.

Now the Jerusalem Municipality has produced plans to turn Lifta into a luxurious and exclusive Jewish development – reinventing its history in the process.

The Plan, numbered 6036, was designed by two architectural offices: G. Kartas – S. Grueg and S. Ahronson, as part of the “local space planning of Jerusalem”. The plan was submitted on June 28, 2004, and according to its title refers to “The Spring of National”. The plan, submitted to the Jerusalem Municipality Planning Committee in 2004, was approved by a regional committee.

In 2005, objections to the Plan were raised by several groups, including Bimkom (alternative center for Israeli planning) and the representatives of the regional committee of the organization and construction for the Al Quds-Jerusalem area.

Main Issues:

• The original Palestinian inhabitants of Lifta, their memories of the village, their exile and longing to return to Lifta are not mentioned, or even considered by the Municipality Master Plan.

• Lifta captures the moment of destruction of Palestinian life in 1948. Its 3,000 original inhabitants fled – mostly to East Jerusalem and to the Ramallah area. However, unlike many of the 530 Palestinian villages and towns conquered and bulldozed during the war of 1947/48, a few of Lifta’s houses remain almost intact, yet deserted and declared ‘officially’ resettled.

• These set of circumstances have placed Lifta in a unique position: its original inhabitants are still around, living in the OPT and the Chicago area with a desire that the injustices done in 1948 be acknowledged and repaired.

• In Israel, renovation projects are frequently used to build a national narrative, ignoring the deep contradictions between planning and human rights that inevitably arise out of such initiatives.

• With Lifta, we have a place where a new national transformation results in the erasure of another’ people’s memory as evidenced in the new Masterplan.

• Lifta is a tangible embodiment of the larger context of events in the region during 1947/48. Lifta can be a vital place for contemplating and understanding the concept of historical continuity.

• Lifta’s heritage is a story of a multicultural society, embracing a strong sense of an ethnically and religiously diverse community of Muslims, Jews and Christians which encapsulated a healthy civil equality amongst its inhabitants and the neighbouring communities. If Lifta were to be rejuvenated with due care to preserving its memory, it could offer a unique opportunity for the start of a new dialogue towards a conciliatory outcome.

Petition’s Aim:

This petition aims to save Lifta through the World Monuments Fund , amongst others, and to draw attention to this site which has been threatened by neglect, vandalism and forced occupation by extremist settlers.

Sign the petition

Please also visit the sponsor:


Thanksgiving Day Celebrates a Massacre

Research compiled, October 19, 1990
by Johyn Westcott and Paul Apidaca

William B. Newell, a Penobscot Indian and former chairman of the Anthropology department at the University of Connecticut, says that the first official Thanksgiving Day celebrated the massacre of 700 Indian men, women and children during one of their religious ceremonies. "Thanksgiving Day" was first proclaimed by the Governor of the then Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1637 to commemorate the massacre of 700 men, women and children who were celebrating their annual Green Corn Dance...Thanksgiving Day to the, "in their own house", Newell stated.

"Gathered in this place of meeting, they were attacked by mercenaries and English and Dutch. The Indians were ordered from the building and as they came forth were shot down, The rest were burned alive in the building ----- The very next day the governor declared a Thanksgiving Day..... For the next 100 years, every Thanksgiving Day ordained by a Governor was in honor of the bloody victory, thinking God that the battle had been won."

In June 1637 John Underhill slaughtered a pequot village in just the manner described above. Narranganset Indians were used as the mercenaries. Governor John Endicott of the Massachusetts Bay Colony proclaimed the pequot war. A pequot chief of sachem named sassacus warred against the Dutch in 1633 over the death of his father. The pequot made no distinction between the Dutch and the English. The Underhill massacre was witnessed and documented by William Branford and an engraving was made illustration the massacre.

The Jamestown Colony may be the source for the tradition of Indians under the leadership of Powhaton joining with early settlers for a dinner and helping those settlers through the winter. There were no pilgrims or puritans at Jamestown, however. The present Thanksgiving may therefore be a mixture of the tradition of the Jamestown dinner and the commemoration of the Pequot massacre.

The celebration of Thanksgiving as an official holiday possibly roots in the Pequot massacre, while the imagery is of Jamestown with pilgrims, images misused.

Source: André Cramblit, Operations Director, (NCIDC)

Copyright © 1990 Westcott/Apidaca
All Rights Reserved

November 25, 2009

Dispossession in Jaffa

The Shaya family in their Jaffa home

Coteret - November 23, 2009

[T]his post is on something you can read about in Haaretz. I do add some analysis and access to additional materials, but the primary reason for the divergence is emotional. Not only is this a story of extraordinary injustice, it is also about the family of a friend and colleague, Mary Koussa.

You can read the entire saga of the Shaya family in this Haaretz article, but the gist is fairly simple. In the 1920’s, Salim Khoury Shaya, head of Jaffa’s once prosperous Greek Orthodox Palestinian community, built a house for his family. He had seven children. In 1948, a census was taken of the remnants of Jaffa’s Palestinian community. Empty houses were taken over by the State of Israel, according to the Absentee Property Law (more about that at the bottom of this post). The Shaya house was a unique case. Three of the siblings were absent (in Lebanon), but four were present. So the State proclaimed itself “partner” and legally took over 40% of the house.

Decades passed and, except for a number of failed attempts in the 50’s and 60’s, to sue for full property rights, the Shaya family didn’t hear much from the government. Their area of Jaffa (near Ajami) was a slum no one was really interested in. That all changed about four years ago. The Jaffa coast went through accelerated gentrification and property prices skyrocketed. Amidar, the government owned housing company that administrates most Absentee Properties, saw an opportunity for a windfall. Contrary to popular perception, most of the Palestinians living in the area are not descendants of the pre-1948 residents, but descendants of refugees displaced during the war from other parts of the country, and are now tenants of Amidar. Therefore, their eviction, on a variety of pretexts, was relatively simple. In 2007-2008 alone, Amidar issued at least 400 eviction notices in the Ajami neighborhood.

The few Palestinian owners were more of a problem. But in 2007, some bureaucrat looking through old case files discovered the Shaya family’s vulnerability and hatched a plan — slap them with an exorbitant demand for years of back rent for the 40% of the house “owned” by the government and then demand that the “partnership” be dissolved through sale of the house to a third party. The Shayas don’t want to leave their ancestral home, but their attempts to buy out the State were rebuffed, and now Amidar and the Israel Lands Administration (ILA) have taken them to court. They want them out.

Even from the perspective of Lieberman’s Jewish-Nationalist school of thought there is much that is wrong with this story. As a devil’s advocate, I would ask his disciples in the government, why persecute “good Arabs?” The Shaya’s are fully integrated in Israeli society. One of the second generation siblings worked at the Tel-Aviv municipality for his entire life. An uncle was the first Palestinian policeman recruited in Jaffa by the Israeli government in 1949. A visitor at the Sunday family gatherings hears a mix of Arabic and Hebrew. Why is Israel taking them back to the Nakba that it wants to force them to forget through legislation?

For Israelis who still believe in a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and for genuinely “pro-Israel” Jews abroad, this kind of reopening of 1948, which is also happening in Jerusalem and Haifa, is no less than suicidal. It severely undermines the premise of 1967 as the starting point for a diplomatic solution, with its implications regarding the 1948 refugees.

For all Jews, or at least those that see Judaism as a culture and a moral code, rather than an ethnic filter, the story of the persecution of the Shaya family presents a grave injustice for which we, as a collective, are responsible. It often seems to me that the apparatus of our government has lost any sense of justice and morality.

Full article

Rights group: 69 cases of Palestinian olive trees destroyed, but no prosecutions

By Chaim Levinson, Haaretz
November 25, 2009

The human rights organization Yesh Din says not one of the 69 complaints filed during the past four years on damage to Palestinians' trees in the West Bank has resulted in an indictment. The organization released a report on the matter Tuesday and makes specific reference to damage caused to olive groves, central to the livelihood of Palestinian villagers.

The olive harvest season is coming to an end in most parts of the West Bank this week, with the exception of those areas at higher elevations. Attacks targeting trees harvested by Palestinians - olive trees in particular, but also almond, fig, lemon and others - has been on the rise in recent years.

During the past four years, Yesh Din filed 69 complaints which are under investigation by police in the West Bank. The toll involves many thousands of trees in numerous areas, from Susya in the southern Hebron Hills to Salem in northern Samaria.

According to the report, 27 cases (40 percent of the cases for which complaints were filed) were documented between January and October of this year. Notwithstanding Israel Defense Forces reports that the olive harvest passed "quietly" during the months of September and October, the human rights group reported dozens of incidents in which hundreds of Palestinian trees were damaged.

Full article

November 24, 2009

Israel Plans To Deport More Than 20,000 Palestinians From Jerusalem

politicaltheatrics - November 24, 2009

Israel Plans To Deport More Than 20,000 Palestinians From Jerusalem

The Jerusalem center for social and economic rights (JCSER) warned of Israeli intentions to deport more than 20,000 Palestinians from the West Bank who married from Jerusalemite women at the pretext that their residence in the holy city is illegal.

The center said that many of those Palestinian citizens have temporary residence permits issued by the Israeli ministry of interior and until now they have not been given a right to stay permanently with their wives in Jerusalem according to the procedures of reunion.

Ziyad Al-Hammouri, the director of the center, explained in this regard that the Israeli interior ministry published last year in a local newspaper a notice ordering what it called “the inhabitants of Judea and Samaria living in Jerusalem illegally”, in reference to the West Bank citizens who live with Jerusalemite wives in the holy city, to apply for temporary residence permits.

Hammouri added that the center at the time had warned of the motives and aims behind this aforementioned Israeli announcement in the newspaper, which enabled the Israeli interior ministry later to collect detailed information on a large number of West Bank citizens who live in the neighborhoods and towns within the Israeli municipal boundaries in Jerusalem.

The director noted that the Israeli interior ministry could not have obtained such information on West Bank citizens living in Jerusalem through its investigation crews and the national insurance company, so it resorted to this trick.

He elaborated that afterwards, many of those Palestinian citizens hastened to give detailed information about themselves in application forms thinking that the interior ministry would give them a temporary or permanent residence permits, but now this personal information can be used as evidence against them to expel them from the city.

The center director affirmed that the Israeli occupation authority had started to implement its plan and expelled all members of the Palestinian family of martyr Mari Radayda from their homes in Al-Ashqarya neighborhood of Beit Hanina, north of Jerusalem, at the pretext of their illegal residence in the city.

1.The Palestinian Information Center

Palestinian Children Face Daily Settler Attacks Getting to School

By Mel Frykberg

AT TUWANI, Nov 23 (IPS) – Being able to travel to school in relative safety is something children all over the world take for granted. But, for Palestinian children living in the shadow of the ubiquitous and illegal Israeli settlements dotting the West Bank, simply walking to school can be a terrifying experience.

“It is really scary walking to school. We never know when the settlers will attack us and beat us,” says Rima Ali, 10, from the village of Tuba in the southern West Bank, about two hours drive south of Jerusalem.

“Every day we have to watch out that the settlers are not in the valley ahead of us and if we see them we run away,” Ali told IPS.

Ali still bears the scar from when a settler pushed her causing her to fall to the ground and cut herself below the eye.

Hundreds of Palestinian children in Tuba and the surrounding Palestinian villages face the same daily predicament as they try to reach school in the Bedouin village of At Tuwani.

Situated on a hilltop overlooking At Tuwani are the Israeli settlement of Ma’on and the extended settlement outpost of Havot Ma’on.

The only road which previously connected Palestinians to neighbouring villages and to the nearby Palestinian town of Yatta – a 10-minute drive away – has been appropriated for the exclusive use of settlers. Palestinians are banned from driving on it.

The villagers are now forced to take off-road dirt tracks, which circumvent the settlers-only bypass road and the settlements. If they walk the route it takes approximately an hour on foot – assuming they don’t have small children with them.

Settler attacks – including arson attacks on agricultural fields, chopping down olive trees, poisoning water wells, killing livestock and assaulting Palestinian villagers living near settlements – have become a way of life for Palestinians all over the West Bank as the Israeli authorities continue to turn a blind eye.

But the repeated attacks on schoolchildren forced a group of international Christian peace activists from Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) to establish school escorts for the children in a bid to try and protect them.

Furthermore, the Israeli Knesset, or parliament, was forced to intervene several years ago after several foreign citizens escorting children were attacked by chain and baseball-wielding settlers.

Two CPT members were hospitalised after they suffered injuries including a punctured lung, a broken arm and a fractured skull.

The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) was ordered to provide daily military escorts for children from various towns and villages in the southern West Bank.

However, the children and the peace activists have complained that the military escorts are often unreliable and sometimes a source of hostility towards the children themselves, as many of the soldiers are sympathetic to the settlers.

And while the number and severity of attacks have dropped they have not stopped. Last week a young Palestinian couple, with three children under the age of three, was trying to make its way home to Tuba after visiting Yatta.

They family was warned by two members of the CPT that a group of settlers had been spotted on the ridge above earlier in the day and that it would be safer for them to take the longest route home to avoid a confrontation.

“We decided to accompany the family in case there was any trouble. Despite taking the longer route a group of five settler men rushed towards us from the valley above and attacked the father who had a toddler in his arms,” American CPT member Sarah MacDonald told IPS.

MacDonald and another CPT member, Laura Ciaghi from Italy, were videotaping events in case they needed to go to the police.

“I decided to try and engage the settlers to try and protect the family,” Ciaghi told IPS. Ciaghi was thrown to the ground and repeatedly kicked in the ribs and back as the men stole both video cameras from the women.

“Because the settlers focused their attention on us the Palestinian family was able to get home safely and so we feel we achieved some kind of victory,” added Ciaghi.

Ciaghi was badly bruised, required a stitch to her scalp and had contusions on her head.

The Israeli police and army were called to investigate but, with the exception of a couple of individuals, most of them appeared to be disinterested and no thorough investigation was carried out.

This does not surprise Israeli human rights organisation Yesh Din, which monitors human rights abuses against Palestinians in the West Bank and acts as an intermediary between Palestinian victims and the Israeli security forces.

In order to file complaints Palestinians need to go to police stations which are located in the illegal Israeli settlements. However, the catch-22 is that they are not permitted to enter the settlements and this is where Yesh Din steps in.

“The police often ‘lose the paperwork’ or are ‘unable to identify perpetrators’ of attacks against Palestinians,” Yesh Din director Lior Yavne told IPS.

“And of the few cases opened, less than 10 percent result in any conviction,” Yavne added. “This situation is completely different from when Palestinian attacks on Israeli settlers are investigated.”

Meanwhile, despite the Israeli government calling for the demolition of Havot Ma’on over two years ago, on the grounds it was built illegally according to Israeli law, the outpost continues to expand and the settlers living there continue to attack Palestinians.

In the interim, Israel is carrying out a massive campaign of Palestinian home demolitions as settlements all over the West Bank expand at an unprecedented rate.

Why Israelis pick Tarantino over Spielberg

By Matt Beynon Rees
November 23, 2009

Quentin Tarantino’s "Inglourious Basterds" is the definitive Israeli movie.

The bloodthirsty revenge fantasy of Jewish soldiers crushing German skulls with baseball bats and scalping dying Nazis has been a big hit here since its release in mid-September and, unusually, has been reviewed in every big newspaper or magazine. But that’s not just because Israelis, like audiences elsewhere in the world, seem to enjoy seeing Hitler’s henchmen meet grisly pulp fiction ends.

There’s something deeper at work in Israelis’ responses. It’s tied to the way their country has dealt with the very concept of the Holocaust. More particularly, the way Jews died in the Holocaust.

The response of critics has been almost uniformly positive. One of Israel’s most respected and thoughtful critics, Uri Klein, wrote in the leading newspaper Ha'aretz that "what Tarantino does in 'Inglourious Basterds' seems to me more valid and more decent than what Spielberg did in 'Schindler's List.'"

Instead of trying to recreate the horror that was the Holocaust as Spielberg did, Klein wrote, Tarantino simply made up an alternative reality, dealing with Jews and the Nazis on his own terms. That, in fact, is what Israel did, too.

In that context, the most revealing review was by Avner Shavit in Achbar Ha’Ir, a Tel Aviv weekly. “The truth is that [Tarantino] is on our side. … Like a typical Yankee who has been raised on stories about Ari Ben-Canaan, Moshe Dayan and other Mossad agents, he describes the Jew as the only one capable of kicking the bad guy's ass for humanity's sake.”

In other words, Shavit believes Tarantino’s portrayal of Jewish fighters during World War II is determined by the image created of Israel since then. Ari Ben-Canaan was the hero of Leon Uris’ “Exodus,” which is set during Israel’s founding struggle. Moshe Dayan was Israel’s army chief and the country’s Defense Minister during the victory in the 1967 Six-Day War. Mossad agents crop up in almost every popular thriller with inside information and a magical ability to rub out the bad guy.

But what appeals to Israelis about Tarantino’s portrayal of these fantastical Jewish avengers is that they bear little relation to the great bulk of Jews who died in Hitler’s camps without making any attempt to resist.

That gets at the heart of the issue, because the Israeli establishment is, in many ways, still ashamed that so many Jews went to their deaths without a fight. The implication is that Israel created a new breed of Jews who’d have stood up to the Nazis, rather than being herded onto cattle cars.

Israel commemorates the victims of Hitler’s depredations with Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes Remembrance Day — the relatively few “heroes” of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising get as much prominence in the naming of that memorial day as the millions of “martyrs.”

After World War II, Israel’s founders didn’t want to acknowledge that most Jews had gone powerless to their deaths. They lauded those “heroes” who fought back, no matter how hopelessly, over those who simply survived. The survivors never overcame that taint in the eyes of those who had arrived in Israel before the war. Many survivors have told me they were called “soaps” when they came to what was then Palestine — a callous reference to the rumor that the Nazis used the bodies of their victims to make soap.

Israel’s founders built a myth around the Holocaust. But the myth was like the repression that an individual places upon the unthinkable moments buried within his own subconscious.

Even to be recognized as a survivor in Israel requires a long battle with red tape. Then the government does its best to hold onto money that’s due to the survivors. New allegations emerged this week that lawyers hired to wrest that cash from the bureaucrats continue to take extortionate commissions from survivors, in violation of recent laws forbidding it.

Of 240,000 survivors in Israel, 20,000 receive compensation from Germany, and 40,000 get an Israeli stipend of less than $300 a month. The rest have nothing but their scarred memories. About 80,000 survivors live below the poverty line in Israel. The worst place in the developed world to be a Holocaust survivor is Israel.

So cheering Tarantino’s bloodcurdling re-imagining of history is an easy way out.

It’s also something which casts an unpleasant light on current Israeli politics.

On the Israelity blog, leading Israeli cultural writer David Brinn described how the crowd at the theater where he watched Tarantino’s movie cheered the demise of each German. In a reference to a banned political party that advocates the forced expulsion of Palestinians and has a reputation for violence, Brinn wrote that it felt like I was at a Kach rally.”

“On the one hand, it was liberating to be the avengers of the 6 million Jews killed by the Nazis,” Brinn wrote, “but on the other hand, maybe we shouldn’t have been so happy about it.”


November 23, 2009

Gaza water unfit for human consumption: Palestinians

Nov 21, 2009

GAZA CITY (AFP) – Water in the Gaza Strip is so salty that it is unfit for human consumption, a Palestinian official in charge of water supplies inside the besieged coastal territory said on Saturday.

"The water is no longer fit for human consumption, with analysis and international studies showing that just 10 percent of water in the Gaza Strip is usable... threatening the lives of Palestinians," Munzir Shiblak warned.

He called in a statement for "the necessary measures to be taken to end the problem of salinity in Gaza water supplies, a problem that is getting worse."

Shiblak called the water situation "critical."

He said the amount taken from underground aquifers last year to supply 1.5 million people with drinking water and for agriculture was 160 million cubic metres, but that natural replenishment was 80-90 million cubic metres.

"The ground water deficit rose to more than 80 million cubic metres last year, and if this situation continues reserves could collapse in the next few years," Shiblak said.

In September the UN Environment Programme also said Gaza's underground water supplies are "in danger of collapse" following years of overuse and the devastating war Israel waged in the territory at the turn of the year.

"Unless the trend is reversed now, damage could take centuries to reverse. Since the aquifer is a continuum with Israel and Egypt, such action must be coordinated with these countries," UNEP said in a report.

Israel and Egypt have sealed off the impoverished enclave to all but basic goods since the Islamist Hamas movement seized control in June 2007, severely hampering the upkeep of basic infrastructure.

The sewage system has been particularly hard-hit, as Israel does not allow the import of virtually any pipes or other metal equipment that it fears could be used by Palestinian militants to make improvised rockets.

UNEP estimated that restoring the aquifer beneath Gaza could require 1.5 billion dollars (a billion euros) over 20 years, including the construction of desalination plants to ease the pressure on underground sources.

The report said over-extraction was causing seawater to seep into the freshwater aquifer, sending salinity levels above the 250 milligrammes per litre considered safe by the World Health Organisation.

November 22, 2009

Book Review: "The God Delusion"

Left i on the News

I recently finished reading Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion, in which Dawkins presents his arguments not only against the existence of God but affirmatively for an affirmation in atheism, tackling such subjects as "is religion the source of morality?" and "is religion actually a bad thing?" Being both a scientist and a Marxist, I didn't need Dawkins to convince me of the non-existence of supernatural forces, and since convincing religious people that there is no God is neither high nor frankly anywhere on my agenda, the discussion along those lines were interesting but little more.

Dawkins also, in my opinion, places too much emphasis on religion in its role in places like Iraq, Palestine, Northern Ireland, and so on. He repeatedly returns to the subject of suicide bombers, but in a completely decontextualized way. You could easily conclude that all suicide bombers are Muslims and that their sole motivation is getting to heaven. Which would hardly explain why Muslims all over the world aren't committing such actions, or why Palestinians weren't acting as suicide bombers before 1948, or why Al Qaeda isn't carrying out actions against Switzerland, or Venezuela, or China, but only the world's imperialist powers who are occupying their countries (indeed, I'm pretty sure the word "occupation" does not occur anywhere in the book). The idea that suicide bombs are a weapon of the hopeless and powerless, and that Palestinians would happily fight against Israeli occupation with tanks and jet fighters if only the world would sell such things to them, seems not to have occurred to Dawkins.

There was one major subject in the book which I found absolutely fascinating. Like, I'm guessing, most people, I read "Bible stories" as a child but never actually read the Bible. Having now read Dawkins (and taking his citations "on faith"; I don't plan to look them up), I think I know why I wasn't encouraged to do so. In his discussion on "is religion necessary for morality," Dawkins takes up at length the "morality" one can find in the Bible.

Take the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, for example. Everyone knows that, as Lot and his wife were leaving those doomed cities, Lot's wife looked back and was turned to salt (by itself a curiously harsh punishment for merely stealing a glance at the ongoing destruction, even if it was in contradiction of God's order). But what preceded that event? Two angels came to Lot, and the people of Sodom demanded that Lot hand them over to them. Lot's "moral" defense of the angels? He hands over his two virgin daughters to the mob for their pleasure to save the angels. Elsewhere in the Bible, a Jewish priest offers his own concubine and the daughter of his host to an angry mob to be gang-raped, in order to save his host.

Then there's Jericho. Everyone knows "Joshua blew his trumpet" and "the walls came tumbling down." But did you know that genocide followed? "They utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword." Joshua, I remind you, is seen as hero to the Jewish people, not a mass murderer.

There are many, many more examples of the "morality" one finds in the Bible. But Dawkins expands on the Jericho story, which bears directly on our world today, because Joshua's destruction of Jericho was part of the conquest of the "Promised Land." When a thousand Israeli schoolchildren were asked if Joshua acted rightly, 66 percent gave total approval and 26 percent total disapproval, with the approvers often citing as their reason the "fact" that "God promised them this land." And some of the disapprovers only disapproved because Joshua destroyed not just the people, but the animals as well! But here's the denouement of the story. When another group of Israel children were given the same story to read, but with the names and locations changed to ancient China, only 7 percent approved and 75 percent disapproved. And lest you think this is just schoolchildren, Dawkins notes that Maimonides, widely considered the greatest Jewish scholar of all time (he lived in the 12th century), agreed with the children (in the Jericho case): "If one does not put to death any of them that falls into one's power, one transgresses a negative commandment, as it is said, Thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth."

Lest you think I'm contradicting myself about the importance of religion, my opinion is that this is not about religion at all, but tribalism. In either case, however, it certainly sheds a bit of light on the attitudes of people like the Israeli settlers today. God not only promised them this land, but told them it was their duty to kill anyone who got in the way. Lovely stuff.

Dawkins doesn't spare the New Testament, lest you think that what most of us would consider immorality (to put it mildly) is only found in the Old Testament. I'll leave that as an exercise for the reader.

November 21, 2009

Lost Livelihoods

By Eva Bartlett - November 21, 2009

East of Gaza city, on some of Gaza’s most fertile land, little to nothing is growing, and what had grown has been repeatedly mowed down over the years by Israeli military bulldozers and tanks.

I am re-visiting the region to record farmers’ words on a vital issue: water. Their wells and cisterns have also been bulldozed, pumps and motors destroyed. In some areas there is a complete lack of water; in another region east of Beit Hanoun there’s just one water source.

We see the remains of pumps, some destroyed in prior Israeli invasions, the majority destroyed (again) in the last Israeli attack, the winter massacre of Gaza.

A cascade of house roofs and beams is nothing new, and taking the photo is more of habit than of awe.

Stopping for tea at one of the farmer’s houses, I expore what’s left of their farm livelihood. They are among the hundreds who have had their citrus, olive, and other fruit trees razed, their wells destroyed, their land polluted by chemical weapons.

I’m interested in bees, and want to know more about their small-scale honey production.

Turns out it used to be much larger: in 2004 they had 250 boxes of bees, each box containing up to 8 slots of bee hives (imagine a picture frame filled with honeycomb). These were destroyed when the Israeli bulldozers cut through their land.

Prior to the winter massacre, they had 80 boxes. But after the rockets and phosphorous, 15 boxes of bees perished. Along with the razed trees, bees and honey production in general got worse and worse, the bees no longer finding the flowers needed to sustain themselves.

The farm also lost 25 sheep during the massacre, I’m told.

Two handsome camels remain: a mother and her 8 month old son.

As we walk past more of the same: artfully destroyed homes, Mahdi, a Beit Hanoun resident, mentions that his family also kept bees. 500 boxes. All were lost in 2003 when the Israeli dozers came. His family has been raising bees for three decades, but with that invasion it came to an abrupt halt.

They did try again, he said. Two months ago they re-started their bee tending, but all the bees died, for want of flowers, trees, sustenance.

We won’t bother anymore, he told me. There are no trees in the area. Everything has been razed.


November 20, 2009

Gaza: Where is the buffer zone?

By Eva Bartlet - November 20, 2009

At 8:30 on November 15, a number of young men went as usual to the land near Gaza’s northern border with Israel, intending to catch birds. Amjad Hassanain, 27, was among the bird-catchers hunting near the border fence when Israeli soldiers began shooting.

The shots which missed the other bird-catchers hit Hassanain, grazing his shoulder.

Cameraman Abdul Rahman Hussain, filming in the vicinity, reports having seen the group of bird-catches head north.

“We were near the former Israeli settlement of Doghit,” said Hussain, referring to the area northwest of Beit Lahia in Gaza’s north.

“I had gone to the border area to photograph a young bird-catcher. We were about 400 m from the border fence, but when we heard the shooting, we moved back to around 1 km.”

According to Hussain, the other men had to carry the wounded Hassanain 1 km from the site of injury, then transferred him to a motorcycle and finally to a car.

“He was covered in blood, I couldn’t tell where he was hit,” said Hussain.

Hussain, there to document the work of bird-catchers, was surprised by the shooting.

“They always go there to catch birds. They put their nets close to the fence in order to catch as many as possible.” Like the bird-catchers, Hussain believed the Israeli soldiers along the border were familiar enough with the bird catching activity that they wouldn’t shoot.

Two hours later, Mahmoud Mohammed Shawish Zaneen and seven other farmers took a break from their work plowing land east of Beit Hanoun.

“We had three tractors with us. We’d been working since 8 am, planting wheat. At first we worked about 450 metres from the border fence, but later we were 700 metres away.”

The farmers had paused to drink tea when Israeli soldiers began shooting.

“The tractors were stopped and we were sitting on them. There were about seven Israeli soldiers, on foot. They shot the other tractors and then shot mine. They didn’t give us any warning, just started shooting.”

The bullet which pierced Zaneen’s left calf continued into his right calf.

Since the end of the Israeli massacre of Gaza last winter, at least nine Palestinians have been killed, and another more than thirty-four injured, by Israeli shooting and shelling in the border areas in Gaza’s north and east.

Ahmed Sourani, of the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committee (PARC) has long been aware of the impact the Israeli-imposed “buffer zone”, a north-south width of 150 metres from the border fence at inception a decade ago. Currently, Israeli authorities warn that anyone within 300 metres of the border fence risks being shot.

Not only is the agricultural land within 300 metres of the border rendered off-limits, but also that of adjacent land, also subject to Israeli shooting.

Following the Israeli massacre of Gaza last winter, Sourani said that “PARC is fearful that the Israelis will extend that military zone to reach 2 km or more to the east and 3 km to the north, then turn it into a de facto situation.”

The impact on the agricultural industry of the Israeli-led siege on Gaza, the Israeli massacre of Gaza, and the imposition of the “buffer zone” has been profound:

International bodies cite 60,000-75,000 dunams [1 dunam is 1000 square metres] of farmland they say is now damaged or unusable.

World Food Programme (WFP) and the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) said anywhere from 35 percent to 60 percent of the agriculture industry was destroyed by Israel’s attacks on Gaza.

Mahmoud Zaneen, still recovering from his injuries, says that his family of four has lost its only source of income.

“I usually work every day, if I can. I make 50 shekels per day.”

Until his legs recover, the family will be minus even that meagre salary. But Zaneen, despite his injuries, is determined to return to the fields.

“If there is work, I’ll go again.”


Rabbi's Followers 'Terror Cell in Parliament'

Terrorists plan to commemorate Meir Kahane
Nazareth - November 20, 2009

A plan by right-wing legislators in Israel to commemorate the anniversary this month of the death of Meir Kahane, whose banned anti-Arab movement is classified as a terrorist organization, risks further damaging the prospects for talks between Israel and the Palestinians, US officials have warned.

A move to stage the commemoration in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, is being led by Michael Ben-Ari, who was elected this year and is the first self-declared former member of Kahane’s party, Kach, to become a legislator since the movement was banned 15 years ago.

The US Embassy, in Tel Aviv, has sent a series of e-mails to Reuven Rivlin, the parliamentary speaker, asking that he intervene to block the event.

According to US officials, pressure is being exerted on behalf of George Mitchell, the US president Barack Obama’s envoy to the region, who is concerned that it will add to his troubles as Israeli and Palestinian leaders clash over a possible move by the Palestinians to issue a unilateral declaration of statehood.

Some Israeli legislators have warned that Mr Ben-Ari and his supporters are gaining a stronger foothold in parliament, in an indication of the country’s increasing lurch rightwards.

“Ben-Ari and the advisers he has brought with him are unabashed representatives for Kach and Kahane’s ideas,” said Ahmed Tibi, an Arab legislator and the deputy speaker. “What we have is in effect a terrorist cell in the parliament.”

Kahane, a US rabbi who emigrated to Israel in the early 1970s, advocated the expulsion of all Arabs from “Greater Israel”, an area that the far right believes encompasses not only Israel but also the occupied Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and parts of neighbouring Arab states.

Kahane was elected to parliament in 1984 but was barred from standing again four years later. He was assassinated by an Egyptian-American in New York in November 1990.

In 1994 Kach was declared a terrorist organization by Israel and the United States after Baruch Goldstein, a supporter, went on an armed rampage through the Ibrahimi mosque in the Palestinian city of Hebron, killing 29 worshippers and injuring 150.

Despite the ban, Kach is still active in many West Bank settlements, especially in and around Hebron, where shrines to Kahane and Goldstein regularly attract large numbers of devotees.

Mr Ben-Ari, one of four members of the National Union elected to the 120-seat parliament, has included as his parliamentary advisers two former Kach activists, Baruch Marzel and Itimar Ben Gvir, who are leaders of the far-right Jewish National Front. Mr Ben-Ari has never disavowed his support for Kahane, telling the Jerusalem Post newspaper this month that Kahane “dedicated his whole life to Israel … He was a great man and a great leader.”

This month Mr Ben-Ari was the voice on an advertisement on the Israeli radio station Reshet Bet to promote a public memorial service for Kahane held by his family. It was also reported that for the first time posters had been placed in many central areas of Jerusalem publicising the event and declaring “We all know now – Meir Kahane was right”.

The United States has expressed more concern, however, at a commemoration being planned in parliament.

Michael Perlstein, the second secretary at the US Embassy, is reported to have e-mailed Mr Rivlin several times, asking whether the commemoration was likely to be approved. According to e-mails leaked to the Israeli media, he added: “This is something Senator Mitchell and his team are following with some concern.”

An embassy spokesman reiterated those concerns last week: “To stir up controversy at the same time that we are trying to get people back to the [negotiating] table, is not productive of that effort. It is only natural that Senator Mitchell would be paying attention to that – and the US government as well.”

Mr Rivlin has reassured the United States that he has refused Mr Ben-Ari permission to stage a commemoration but has also admitted that it would be difficult for him to stop a “stunt” by Kahane supporters in the chamber.

“We are talking about a provocation,” Mr Rivlin told the Haaretz newspaper. “The man [Kahane] and his outlawed movement cannot be separated. This is an attempt to bring the Kach movement into the Knesset through the back door.”

Last week, Mr Ben-Ari appealed against the speaker’s decision to the House Committee, which rules on issues of parliamentary procedure. Mr Rivlin has said he will abide by the committee’s decision.

Its chairman, Yariv Levine of the ruling Likud Party, said he was not happy with Mr Rivlin’s refusal and is reported to be working with the speaker and Mr Ben-Ari to find a solution.

Mr Ben-Ari responded angrily to the US concern: “I was elected to the Knesset by citizens of the independent state of Israel. The flagrant involvement of Mitchell has crossed a red line and it testifies to the bowed head of the Knesset speaker that is turning the Knesset into a dish rag.”

Mr Ben-Ari is probably not the only former member of Kach in parliament. Avigdor Lieberman, the foreign minister and leader of the far-right Yisrael Beitenu party, the third largest in parliament, is believed to have joined Kach when he first arrived in Israel in the 1970s. His membership was revealed in February by Yossi Dayan, the movement’s former secretary general.

Last week Mr Ben-Ari had to cancel a trip to the United States, his first overseas visit, after he was refused a US visa. He had intended to speak to American Jewish groups to encourage emigration to Israel.

To date, the only authorized parliamentary commemorations are for Yitzhak Rabin, the prime minister assassinated by a right-wing Jew in 1995, and for Rehavam Zeevi, a former general and leader of a far-right anti-Arab party, who was assassinated by Palestinian gunmen in 2001.

Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel's Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is

A version of this article originally appeared in The National (

The New York Mets and the business of terrorism

Aaron Levitt, The Electronic Intifada, 20 November 2009

By hosting an event in support of Hebron settlers at Citi Field, the New York Mets are supporting terrorism. (Mamoun Wazwaz/MaanImages)

When I first learned that the New York Mets were hosting a fundraiser for the nonprofit Hebron Fund at Citi Field in support of the Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron, I honestly assumed it was a joke, albeit a poor one. When I realized this was an actual, planned event, I still found it almost impossible to believe. This is because, even aside from the devastating impact of settlement expansion on the prospects for peace in the region, I have had the misfortune to see, repeatedly and at first hand, the fruits of the Hebron Fund's labors.

During the summers of 2005 and 2006, and very briefly in 2008, I spent several weeks working as a human rights observer in the Tel Rumeida section of Hebron, home of the Beit Hadassah and Tel Rumeida settlements that are supported by The Hebron Fund. During that time, I encountered racist graffiti with such statements as "Gas the Arabs" and "Fatimah, we will rape all Arab women." I repeatedly observed settlers throwing stones and clods of earth at young Palestinian girls on their way to elementary school; yelling racial epithets at Palestinians walking in the streets; pushing, kicking, and spitting on Palestinian children and (occasionally) adults who were quietly minding their own business; and hurling large stones down on Palestinian homes and residents from settlement balconies.

I have witnessed this behavior by men and women, boys and girls, from pre-school-aged children to middle-aged adults. I was myself assaulted, on Shabbat, by a group of six teenage settlers, when I came between them and their intended victim, an elderly Palestinian woman who also happened to be the proud mother of a US Navy fighter pilot (the picture of her son standing by his plane was prominently displayed on her living room wall). The settler youths then turned to attack my companion, a young Scandinavian woman who was videotaping the original assault. I have heard and read numerous, credible reports of far worse violence than I personally experienced from other human rights observers, who were in the area for different and/or longer periods.

The Hebron settlers engage in this violence for the express purpose of driving out Palestinian families from Tel Rumeida, site of the Cave of Machpelah, or Cave of the Patriarchs, which is holy to both Jews and Muslims. Settler leaders have said as much in at least one published interview, and a young man from the Beit Hadassah settlement confirmed it to my face in September 2006. The settlers' efforts have been remarkably successful: of more than 600 Palestinian families originally living in the neighborhood, probably less than 100 remained when I was last there in 2008. If the settlers continue to receive free reign, and full funding, we may soon add a new chapter of completed ethnic cleansing to the troubled history of this ancient city.

According to the US Code, Title 22, Chapter 38, S 2656f, our country defines terrorism as "premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents." The Hebron settlers' violence is certainly premeditated. It is, by their own admission, politically motivated. It is perpetrated solely against noncombatant targets (overwhelmingly children), and it is obviously the work of a subnational group -- the settlers themselves.

The business of the Hebron settlers is terrorism, pure and simple; not quasi-terrorism, crypto-terrorism, neo-terrorism, potential terrorism, or something akin to terrorism, but the very thing itself. And the business of the Hebron Fund is funding terrorism. This does not mean that all, or even most, donors knowingly support these actions; many may be innocent victims misled by the fund's innocuous marketing materials. Although the fund's staff and Board member attempt to maintain a cloak of respectability, they are another matter entirely.

This year's Hebron Fund dinner will "honor" Hebron settler and spokesman Noam Arnon (whose picture is featured with other "Hebron Fund and Hebron Community Leaders" on the Hebron Fund website). In 1990, Arnon told Israel Radio that three Jewish militants, convicted of car-bombings that killed three Palestinians and maimed two Palestinian mayors, were "heroes" who sacrificed themselves "for the security of Jews." In 1995, Arnon was further quoted by the Associated Press when he called Baruch Goldstein, another settler who slaughtered 29 Palestinians at prayer in Hebron and injured more than 100 others, an "extraordinary person" denied "historical justice."

The 2008 Hebron Fund dinner honored Board member Myrna Zisman, who accepted her award on behalf of Yifat Alkoby, an "extraordinary woman" who received international attention in 2006 when she was videotaped repeatedly calling a Palestinian woman and her daughters whores and telling them to stay in their "cage," as the family sought refuge in their own home, with bars on the windows to protect them from recurring settler attacks.

I could say something about how the Mets, as a treasured New York City institution, shouldn't be lending their facilities, or their name, to such practices, and that would certainly be true. I could say something about the extraordinary irony of such an event being held on top of the Jackie Robinson Rotunda, and that would be true as well. Yet the larger truth is that no American team, no American business, and no American individual should be providing material support for terrorism, or assisting those who provide such support. Unless and until the Mets reverse their terribly ill-considered decision to host this event, that is precisely what they have chosen to do.

Aaron Levitt is a member and past board member of West End Synagogue in Manhattan, a member of Jews Against the Occupation (JATO), and is presently Director of Research at a large New York City social services agency. Levitt has been working in support of a just peace in Israel/Palestine for the past seven years. He can be contacted at aaronjlevitt A T gmail D O T com.

November 19, 2009

Jahalin Bedouin suffer without representation

Kieron Monks, The Electronic Intifada, 19 November 2009

The Jabal Bedouin camp near Abu Dis is situated near a large garbage dump. (Lazar Simeonov)

Beyond the demolitions in its suburbs and the frequent, violent clashes around the al-Aqsa mosque, Jerusalem is the scene of a quieter shame. Southeast of the holy city live the Jahalin Bedouin, a community that has been repeatedly displaced and transferred, now enduring unimaginable poverty beside Jerusalem's largest garbage dump. An embarrassment to Palestinians and Israelis alike, the Bedouin and their unique way of life are under grave threat.

Eid Raeb is a coordinator between the Jabal camp and the European nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that are its lifeblood. "Bedouin life is finished," he declared without hesitation. "Sometimes when I look outside I imagine how it was before, but I know that life is over." Eid is one of the founding members of the camp after they were displaced from their land that became Ma'ale Adumim, one of the fastest growing Israeli settlements. "After they built [Ma'ale Adumim] in 1979, they began to move us. At first very slowly, one family at a time. After 1993 and the Oslo agreements they built many houses and said they needed all the land." The Oslo agreements placed them in Area C, under Israeli control. "At first when they told us to move here we refused, but the Israelis said they would use force. They promised us building permission, electricity, water and streets. When we came here there was nothing, just open land."

The Jabal camp was established in 1997, with each Bedouin family receiving around $10,000 compensation from the Israeli government. But the promises of infrastructural support were reneged on; most crucially the Bedouin were denied permission to build, forcing them to live for six years in shipping containers. In 1998, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights expressed "deep concern at the situation of the Jahalin Bedouin families who were forcibly evicted from their ancestral lands to make way for the expansion of the Ma'ale Adumim settlement." The report also condemned the "manner in which the Government of Israel has housed these families -- in steel container vans in a garbage dump in Abu Dis in subhuman living conditions." After concerted pressure from aid organizations and foreign NGOs the residents of Jabal were finally granted permission to build on their land.

Eid claims that the site was uninhabited when the Bedouin were moved in, that it was Israeli land to give away and that "Palestinians have no problem with us being here." This is not the case according to Dr. Abdullah Abu Helal, a long-time resident of Abu Dis, the neighboring Palestinian village. "Their village is built on land confiscated from Palestinians in Abu Dis. We think very badly of them, that they work with Israelis and sometimes they behave like Israeli soldiers. We had a demonstration against the stealing of our land and they came to shoot at us. That they have their own problems and difficulties does not mean they should accept to live on Palestinian land." Abu Helal referred to a neighboring Bedouin camp where he claims the residents refused to displace Palestinians and now live in temporary tents away from Abu Dis town, explaining that "they trade milk and cheese with us, we provide them with teachers. They are with us in our struggle against the Israelis."

A home in the Jabal Bedouin camp. (Lazar Simeonov)

Eid freely admits to his split loyalties. "The Bedouin here are Palestinians. But before when Jordan had this land we were Jordanians and most Bedouin feel closer to Jordan. We work with Israelis and if there is a problem, Israeli police come here." It is easy to see how their dealings with the occupation forces would be enough to poison a Palestinian's view of the Jabal Bedouin, while Eid has nothing but contempt for the Palestinian Authority (PA). He explained that "They are not a government, they are like thieves. We are starting from zero here, we need schools, water, roads but the PA is helping us only with teachers. We know that more than $1 million has come from international aid but we do not see it. Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] and the PA take it."

The camp's greatest concern is the massive garbage dump located just 300 meters away where the majority of Jerusalem's waste is disposed, including tons of chemicals and dangerous gases each day. The site predates Jabal but as Eid explained, "For the last ten years [the Israelis] have been promising to take the garbage. They say they will relocate it to a place near Jericho but even if they do the problem will not go away, it is in the earth now. We have now many cases of skin disease in our people and animals and we do not know how to treat it. One animal will catch it and then spread the sickness to many others. Sometimes we cannot see it for weeks." Jabal's 3,500-strong population does not include a single doctor, so anyone who falls sick must take a long drive to Bethany. "If we need a doctor quickly it is a big problem", said Eid.

Two months ago, Eid was visited by a representative from the Israeli Land Administration, guaranteeing the garbage would be moved in the next two years. "I would like to trust her but I believe only in actions," he explained. There was less optimistic news from the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions. He added that the camp was informed by a spokesperson that "The most recent meeting between the interior minister and the mayor of Ma'ale Adumim resulted in a decision to postpone any kind of plan for at least six months."

There are many precedents for Bedouin being forced to endure such conditions. Between 2002-04 the Israeli government destroyed 7,500 acres of Bedouin crops in the Negev desert by spraying the area with illegal toxic chemicals. The effects were hugely damaging to residents and animals in the area and the policy was widely condemned. At the time Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert defended the policy, stating "we will displace unrecognized Bedouin communities to make room for thousands of Jews." Recognition has been a huge problem for the Bedouin and around 20 percent of their population are not even registered as refugees, giving them no protection from displacement and brutal treatment. There is currently a court case on behalf of Ezariya camp (Bethany), to determine whether their residents have any right to reverse the 257 eviction orders that have been issued against them.

Their rights infringed upon by the Israeli authorities and resented by their Palestinian neighbors, and struggling to maintain their way of life, the residents of Jabal face an uncertain future. Although they now own the rights to the land, the continued expansion of Ma'ale Adumim poses a constant menace. Without the resources to support themselves they are reliant on a handful of foreign NGOs which have been unable to find solutions for the garbage problem or the resultant diseases. Without urgent attention Jabal could become a humanitarian crisis, but there is no authority willing to represent them.

Kieron Monks is a freelance reporter from London, writing for Ma'an News, Palestine News Network and publications in Europe.

November 13, 2009

Jewish settlers destroy over 80 olive trees south of Nablus

13/11/2009 - 12:26 PM
file photo: olive trees set on fire by Jewish settlers

NABLUS, (PIC)-- A number of Jewish settlers on Thursday attacked and destroyed olive trees belonging to Palestinian farmers in the village of Burin to the south of the northern West Bank city of Nablus.

Local sources in the village said that settlers from the nearby Yitshar Jewish settlement cut down 81 olive trees in a stretch of land owned by Palestinian citizen Akram Imran.

Many Palestinian villagers cultivate their fields as they have done for thousands of years, and depend on land as their main and sometimes sole source of income and the frequent settler's attacks on farms and farmers are part of the overall Israeli occupation policy of "spirit(ing) the penniless population across the border," as the founder of Zionism envisaged.

November 12, 2009

Refugees and Zionist propaganda

By Ben White | Pulse Media | November 11, 2009

Agence France Press (AFP) reported the following today:

A draft law stipulating that any Middle East peace treaty must mention compensation for Jews forced to leave Arab states has passed a preliminary reading in the Israeli parliament, a spokesman said on Wednesday.The draft bill, presented by a member of the ultra-orthodox Shas party, a member of the government coalition, passed the preliminary vote 49 to 5 last week, said spokesman Giora Pordes.

The draft, which the Maariv daily called “a curious and provocative bill,” still has to pass three more votes before it becomes law.

It calls for the issue of Jewish refugees from Arab states to be raised whenever the question of Palestinian refugees comes up in Middle East negotiations.

“The government should raise the issue about payment of compensation to Jewish refugees for the loss of their property and about granting to Jewish refugees who fled persecution in Arab countries a status similar to that of Arab refugees who lost their property when the state (of Israel) was created,” the proposed law states.

Shas had initially wanted a tougher bill stating compensations for Jewish refugees must be agreed before any further peace negotiations are held. The paragraph, which would have made it virtually impossible to reach a peace accord, was eventually removed so the government could support the text…

‘Israel mulls draft law tying peace, Jewish refugee issue’, AFP, 11 November 2009

The following is an extract from the ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ section of my book, ‘Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide‘:

People talk about the Palestinian refugees, but weren’t a similar number of Jewish refugees kicked out of Arab countries and welcomed by Israel? Couldn’t this be seen as a ‘fair swap’?

The creation of the state of Israel led to two substantial population movements in the Middle East. Between 700,000 to 800,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled from their homes, and forbidden from returning by the new Jewish state, while from 1948 through to the 1970s, around 850,000 Jews left Arab countries, with the majority moving to Israel. But the rough equality in scale is just about the only similarity.

Israeli professor Yehouda Shenhav once wrote that “any reasonable person” must acknowledge the analogy to be “unfounded”:

Palestinian refugees did not want to leave Palestine. Many Palestinian communities were destroyed in 1948, and some 700,000 Palestinians were expelled, or fled, from the borders of historic Palestine. Those who left did not do so of their own volition. In contrast, Jews from Arab lands came to this country under the initiative of the State of Israel and Jewish organizations. Some came of their own free will; others arrived against their will. Some lived comfortably and securely in Arab lands; others suffered from fear and oppression.

Some prominent Israeli politicians who themselves come from Arab countries, reject the ‘refugee’ label. Former Knesset speaker Yisrael Yeshayahu once said “‘We are not refugees. [Some of us] came to this country before the state was born. We had messianic aspirations’.” MK Ran Cohen, who emigrated from Iraq, made it clear: “‘I came at the behest of Zionism, due to the pull that this land exerts, and due to the idea of redemption. Nobody is going to define me as a refugee’.”

As well as the fact that Jews in Arab countries were actively encouraged by the Zionist movement to move to Israel, there is another big problem with the ‘swap’ theory – timescale. Dr. Philip Mendes points out how “the Jewish exodus from Iraq and other Arab countries took place over many decades, before and after the Palestinian exodus” and “there is no evidence that the Israeli leadership anticipated a so-called population exchange when they made their arguably harsh decision to prevent the return of Palestinian refugees”. Mendes also concludes his analysis by affirming that “the two exoduses…should be considered separately”.

But the ‘swap’ idea is anyway illogical. One refugee’s right – in the case of the Palestinians, a right affirmed by UN resolutions – can not be ‘cancelled out’ by another’s misfortune. Furthermore, “the Palestinians were not at all responsible for the expulsion of the Jews from Arab countries” – while “the Palestinian refugee problem was caused by the Zionist refusal to allow the Palestinians to return to their homes”.

Given the historical and logical flaws, the only way this analogy can be so tempting for some is its propaganda value. The World Organization of Jews from Arab Countries (WOJAC), for example, claim on their website that their mission is simply “to document the assets Jewish refugees lost as they fled Arab countries”. Professor Shenhav, however, describes how WOJAC “was invented as a deterrent to block claims harbored by the Palestinian national movement, particularly claims related to compensation and the right of return”.

Dismayingly, but perhaps unsurprisingly, the US House of Representatives was persuaded to pass a bill in April 2008 that not only equated Jewish and Palestinian refugees, but also urged “the administration to raise the issue every time the issue of Palestinian refugees is brought up”. The Economist magazine described the non-binding resolution as having “doubtful value”, as well as showing “once more the power of the pro-Israel lobby in Washington”.

November 11, 2009

Settlers 'stone' school children

By Phoebe Greenwood in Hebron, West Bank

Twaneh School in Hebron has seen some improvements since former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair paid it a visit as UN Middle East envoy last year.

The track leading from the school to the new main road joining Jerusalem to Israeli settlements on the south eastern slopes of Palestine is now paved. There are two new school rooms being built where pupils will be taught up to Grade 9, rather than having to leave after Grade 4. They now have a playground.

But for the 32 children who live in Tuba and Magher Al Abeed, Palestinian villages encircled by three Israeli settlements, getting to school remains problematic.

Frequent attacks by Israeli settlers on children from these villages as they make their way to and from school have pushed Israel to take the exceptional step of providing them a daily military escort.

Ali, 12, has been coming to Twaneh School for six years, and is among those who wait for the military attachment: "The soldiers are okay, they don't give us a hard time. It's just the settlers - whenever we walk by the settlements or past their land, they try to attack us.

"Sometimes they chase us with their horses, ride them at us and try to use them to hurt us. The horses are so fast we can't get away. It's very frightening. But they don't harass us nearly so much when the military are there."

Patrol not reliable

Unfortunately, the patrol is not always reliable. Last Monday, Ali and the other children waited as they do every morning at 7am for their Israeli escorts but they didn't come. Eventually, they decided to walk the long way, a 12km detour around the settlements, which took them two hours.

In the afternoon, the children waited again for the patrol they expected to collect them at 12:30pm. At 3pm they gave up waiting and set off on the 12km hike for the second time that day, arriving home after dark. On Tuesday, the children waited and when the escort failed to arrive, they simply went home, too exhausted to face the two-hour walk once again.

After the military's two-day absence, Twaneh School's Headmaster Mahmoud Makhamreh contacted the Ministry of Education who in turn called the Palestinian Authority who spoke to the Israeli authorities. On Wednesday, the patrol turned up to take the kids to school.

Makhamreh sees a clear difference in the pupils who travel with the military: "The kids who are escorted are weaker in their ability to study- their communication skills are poor and they don't mix well with other children.

"They are full of fear, they feel insecure. I can see it in their behaviour: Whenever the patrol is late, they become nervous, afraid that it won't turn up and they will have to walk home unprotected.

"Quite a few have dropped out because of the difficulties they face getting here, particularly the girls. Last year three dropped out, this year one: four in total since 2008."

Ali, 12, a pupil at Twaneh school in the occupied West Bank. [SAVE THE CHILDREN]
According to new research published by Save the Children UK this week, Palestinian families living in areas like Hebron that the UN identifies as ‘high risk' in the West Bank and Gaza are poorer, less protected and more vulnerable than anywhere else in the occupied Palestinian territory.

At least half of those living in these areas who spoke to the charity said they have been forced from their homes at least once since 2000, the last major period of conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

Salam Kanaan, Save the Children UK's country director in the occupied Palestinian territory, states: "Without a secure future, the lives of Palestinian children living in high risk areas like the Hebron district are blighted. The daily struggle for basics like food, water and their physical safety has left children depressed and traumatised.

"Conditions in these areas make life so intolerable that many families are driven from their homes, leaving them even poorer and more vulnerable.

"These children need help and protection from the Israeli and Palestinian authorities as well as the international humanitarian community. Families need relief from the unrelenting pressures they face so they can raise their children."

Hurt by stones

Now he is 12, Ali says he worries less for himself than he does his little brother Mahmoud, 10, who walks to school with him: "We older kids always look out for the younger ones, try to protect them. When I was younger, in first and second grade, I was so scared of being beaten that I didn't want to come to school.

"Most of the kids I walk home with have been hurt by stones. We all have bruises on our legs from where rocks have hit us. Last year, one girl was sent to hospital because a stone hit her face and she was badly injured; she was 12 then.

"Of course, if I get hurt I'll tell my parents. I also tell them I'm afraid. They tell me that we need to stick together and never walk away from the military patrol truck."

While the military patrol has stemmed the attacks, it has done little to lessen the impact of the occupation on Hebron's children. Like the playground, the extra classroom and the paved road, this precaution is a cosmetic treatment for the deep wounds of conflict.

Twaneh School has had a demolition order on it since 1999. Headmaster Makhmareh says Israeli peace activists have championed their case in the courts and the demolition has been delayed, but it could still be carried out at any time.

The children, however, continue to walk to school, carrying on life almost as normal. Ali explains that he has little choice: ‘They throw stones at us because they want us to leave this area. But I will never leave here, I was born here. I belong to this land."

Phoebe Greenwood works for Save the Children UK, a global children's charity.

Al Jazeera is not responsible for the content of external websites. The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.


November 10, 2009

Israel to bulldoze Jerusalem women's organization

09/11/2009 21:53

Jerusalem – Ma’an – Israeli municipality staff delivered a notice to demolish the Women's Society office in the Old City of Jerusalem, accusing the organization of 100 square meters of unlicensed construction.

Wafa'a At-Taweel, executive officer of the Women's Society, stated that the organization provides a range of services to women and children in the field of rehabilitation and culture, further explaining that it remains the sole society offering such services in the area. Founded in 2009, At-Taweel emphasized that the demolition of the organization's office will harm its ongoing programs and activities.

The women’s organization is located in the Al-Magharbeh neighborhood south of the Al-Aqsa Mosque,

The Israeli municipality delivered 17 demolition notices in the Al-Bustan, Ein Al-Luzeh and Al-Yaman neighborhoods in Silwan, also in East Jerusalem on Sunday. Around 100 Palestinian houses are already slated for demolition in the same area.

Israeli authorities most often issue demolition orders citing a lack of construction permits. Palestinians in Jerusalem say that such permits are nearly impossible to obtain from the Israeli-controlled Municipality of Jerusalem, which administers both West Jerusalem and occupied East Jerusalem.