Apart from demolition of Palestinian houses and building of illegal colonies, Israel’s attempt at tampering with school curricula points at an even more sinister game plan — polluting impressionable minds
This is part of an insidious plot, long-term plan and thin end of the wedge to “Judaise” Arab education and the final blow to the Palestinian educational system in occupied East Jerusalem. It is the start of the imposition of total Israeli cultural hegemony over the 207 schools in the city which have around 110,000 pupils.
The latest move to introduce Israeli curricula in the Sur Baher Boys School, Sur Baher Girls School, Ibn Khaldoun School, Ibn Rushd School and Abdullah Bin Al Hussain School can only be seen as a renewed step-by-step policy by Tel Aviv to introduce Israeli curriculum so it eventually will spread among all Palestinian schools in the eastern part of occupied Jerusalem. It is part of a trend that began in the 2011-2012 academic year when the Ministry of Education made a bold move to introduce the Jewish syllabus and strengthen its grip in occupied East Jerusalem, which is seen by many to be the future capital of a Palestinian state as part of an eventual negotiated peace settlement.
The latest move is a concerted attack on Palestinian identity because the pupils targeted are between 4th and 8th grades and who educationists argue are in the prime of the socialisation stages when the mind is fertile and can be moulded to accept any idea. Many Palestinians see the move as troubling, leading to “de-Palestinisation” and “de-Arabisation” of education. Palestinian parents, educationists, teachers and politicians are particularly worried about “Israeli” textbook cases introduced to these youngsters. Of particular concern is the issue of maps, making the Occupied Territories look like they are part of the state of Israel with biblical and Hebraic names replacing Arab names and geographical areas. Over the years, for instance, Al Quds, the Arabic name for Jerusalem, has been signed around the city as “Yerushalayim”, regardless of the Arab population of the city.
Then in the textbooks, there is the identification of occupied Jerusalem as the capital of the state of Israel, with the state being a bastion of democracy and human rights protected by a “security fence” rather than the concrete 142km Iron Wall around occupied east Jerusalem, splitting the Arab population of the city, who now require entry permits, and cutting it off from the West Bank, which is itself referred to in Israeli parlance as “Judea and Samaria”.
The Israeli term “Jewish Temple” is increasingly used instead of Al Aqsa Mosque, which is not only holy to Palestinians but to Arabs and Muslims all over the world. And of course there is no mention of occupation or the fact that Israel is slowly confiscating more Palestinian land, including the ones in occupied East Jerusalem.
It is no wonder that many see it as outright “brainwashing”, control of and onslaught on Palestinian culture, history and existence. And an imposed Israeli narrative on a population in contravention of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which states an occupying power has the responsibility for the welfare and education of the people it is occupying.
Up until the recent moves, there had been an implicit understanding: Schools in occupied East Jerusalem would continue to follow an “Arab curriculum”. Despite Israel’s occupation of Jerusalem and its annexation after 1967, and declaring the city its capital against the wishes of the international community, it could not introduce its own curricula — not for the want of trying, but because of resistance from the Palestinian population. Hence the Ministry of Education unwillingly relented. After 1967, it allowed locals to follow the “Jordanian educational system” till 1993, when it was transferred to the Palestinian National Authority after the Oslo Accords.
However, the going has been tough for Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem. They have continually faced Israeli obstacles like house demolitions, which have increased because they require housing permits that are rarely given. Indeed it has been reported that from April 15 till the end of June, 12 buildings were demolished. In addition to that, permission to build more schools was denied.
Since 1967, Israel has been populating occupied east Jerusalem with Jews through colonies, amidst the predominantly Palestinian population that numbers slightly more than 370,000 people. There are eight major colonies, with 250,000 to 500,000 colonists.
Reflecting the socio-economic situation of Palestinians in occupied east Jerusalem, where 79 per cent live below the poverty line, the educational sector is in deep neglect as seen in poor facilities, lack of classrooms, over-crowding and need for maintenance. This is recognised by the Association of Civil Rights in Israel and even the Israeli High Court, which in 2011 ordered the Jerusalem Municipality to complete 2,200 classrooms by 2016. But the municipality continues to stall such moves due to the political situation regarding the city and its future.
The Israeli Ministry of Education itself runs around 54 schools in Arab east Jerusalem with a student population of around 40,000. Schools that are willing to teach the Israeli curriculum are offered incentives and benefits like more funds and there is an increase in salary for teachers willing to teach Israeli subjects. In addition, Israeli officials are playing on a number of psychological factors. When they meet parents, they stress that the Israeli curriculum is stronger, provides for better education, opens more doors to Israeli universities and the job market.
Palestinians educators and officials are sticking to their guns, but there is a much more sinister push from the other side.
*Marwan Asmar is a commentator based in Amman.
Financed by Iberian Jewry
the Admiral, Christian or Jew, Spaniard or Italian
leads 120 men in the
Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria
sailing south and west
Milton Freedman and his Chicago University goons
in charge of propaganda, interrogation, discipline,
race and class consciousness
Prescott Bush and George Armstrong Custer
compose the voyage manifesto and mission
below deck are the sun-dried souls of
Rasputin, the Popes, Sylvester the Second and Benedict the Ninth
in charge of rape, incest, and family values
Pinkerton and J Edgar Hoover
spying, pimping, and procuring stool pigeons
finance, mergers, and loans
Robert E Lee’s horse Traveler
will show the way home
where Ferdinand and Isabella’s bishops
find Jews to murder and maim, books to burn, Moors to exterminate
Columbus will trade
measles, diphtheria, small pox, and malaria
for gold and land
as he works out the science of genocide on Hispaniola
never forgetting the University’s tools of slavery colonization
religious fanaticism and free market capitalism
Muslims follow a lunar calendar; the full moon signals that the second half of Ramadan has arrived, a time for introspection and extra motivation to make the most of the blessings of what is left of the holy month. Pictured is the Dome of the Rock and Dome of the Chain.
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar during which Muslims all over the world abstain from eating and drinking from dawn to dusk. It is a month of prayer, introspection, charity and renewing of interpersonal ties.
Jerusalem is the home of one of Islam’s most holiest sites, the al-Aqsa mosque, and is thus a center of pilgrimage for Muslims. The majority of Palestinians however are prevented from visiting their capital due to Israel’s racist pass system, which restricts Palestinians’ freedom of movement and confines them into ghettos. Palestinian Jerusalemites have become increasingly isolated as a result and their numbers have dwindled. Israeli policies of Judaization and ethnic cleansing have placed pressure on Palestinians to leave the city, accompanied by attempts to criminalize Palestinian national and cultural expressions.
Ramadan therefore comes as a breath of fresh air. As the month begins, the Old City of Jerusalem transforms and becomes almost unrecognizable. Street lights beautify the city, with neighborhoods competing with each other on who has the best lights. Children walk around holding the fanous, the traditional Ramadan lantern, and launch fireworks in celebration of the month. New commerce spurs up; street vendors sell all kinds of delicious food and drinks, which have become tradition during Ramadan.
Damascus Gate is the center of the festivities, especially during the evening until the early hours of the morning. During the weekends street performers animate the crowds. The Israeli occupation allows for a restricted number of permits for Palestinians from the West Bank to visit Jerusalem during Ramadan, a much needed economic relief for Palestinian businesses. (Jerusalem remains inaccessible to Palestinians in Gaza.) Palestinians from ‘48 [present-day Israel] also flood the city in great numbers. Ramadan allows us to imagine the Jerusalem that once was, before Israel came to colonize it, and to dream of a Jerusalem that one day will be.
A panoramic view of the Muslim quarter of the Old City, as seen from the Austrian Hospice. The golden Dome of the Rock is one of the several buildings inside the Aqsa mosque compound, the center of prayer during Ramadan.
Israeli soldiers are sure to make their presence felt in the streets of the Old City of Jerusalem. A group of soldiers standing next to a sign that says “al-Aqsa mosque.”
Thousands of worshippers concentrate at the al-Aqsa mosque for Friday prayers, a large proportion of them from the West Bank, having received rarely-issued permits to enter Jerusalem. Volunteers throw water over thirsty worshippers to refresh them under the scorching summer heat. Acts of kindness are considered particularly virtuous during Ramadan and are encouraged.
The Old City is dotted with residents distributing water to passersby so they can cool themselves under the scorching heat during Fridays when scores of pilgrims head to al-Aqsa mosque. Pictured is a woman wetting her towel with water.
Thousands at al-Aqsa for Friday prayers.
Friday prayers at al-Aqsa. Thousands fill the compound, and not everyone can find a shade so they come up with creative ways to take shelter. Here a father and son cover their heads with a prayer mat.
The iftar meal is a happy occasion that brings families together around the table filled with traditional dishes. Communal iftar meals are also served at the al-Aqsa mosque (pictured), some of which are sponsored by the Gulf states (UAE and Qatar).
Al-Aqsa mosque remains open at night during Ramadan, and worshipers are encouraged to peform qiyam al-layl, standing in prayer during the night. Pictured is a group of children reciting the Quran (Islam’s holy book) while in prayer inside Aqsa before the dawn meal, the suhour.
The last ten nights of Ramadan are special because within one of them there is “the night of power” which is superior in worth and blessings than 1,000 months. However Muslims do not know which one of the last ten nights will be the “night of power. They are therefore instructed by God to “look” for the night by worshiping during intensely during the last ten nights in practice called i’tikaf. It is said that those who stay awake in worship will be able to identify the “night of power” for its distinctive characteristics. This photo shows the first night of i’tikaf at Aqsa.
Hundreds sleep during the night inside al-Aqsa mosque during the last ten nights of Ramadan before they stand in prayer for qiyam al-layl.
The Aqsa mosque was open this year during the night, unlike the rest of the year when the Israeli authorities force it to close at strict schedules. Muslims are encouraged to stand in prayer during the night and many faithful stay overnight at Aqsa for that. Pictured is the suhour meal at al-Aqsa mosque, eaten before dawn when the fast is supposed to start.
A suhour meal of yogurt, bread, tomato, cucumber and a bar of halawa at al-Aqsa mosque before dawn when the fast begins. Al-Aqsa remains open during the night during Ramadan for qiyam al-layl(night worship).
Ramadan is a lifeline for Jerusalem businesses which are badly suffering as Israel seeks to isolate Palestinians in the city from the rest of Palestinian society.
A stand of ka’ek, a crusty bread with sesame seeds. The ka’ek from Jerusalem is particularly famous. Visitors from elsewhere in Palestine carry large quantities home with them when visiting.
Almond, tamarind, lemon and carob drinks for sale. While these are available throughout the year (sold in a cup), they are particularly popular during Ramadan (when they are sold in bottles) and they are drunk extra cold, sure to quench one’s thirst after a long day of fasting.
Restaurants are normally closed during the day in Ramadan but some open a few hours before the breaking of fast (the iftar). Pictured is one such restaurant outside Damascus Gate selling traditional Palestinian dishes.
Khubez mjaddal (crossed bread) has become a must during Ramadan for Palestinians in Jerusalem. The tradition is said to have started by a Jerusalem baker two decades ago.
Baraze’ is a snack made of sesame seeds available throughout the year but is more popular during Ramadan. Pictured is a street vendor of baraze’.
Ramadan is a particularly happy occasion for children; here one of their favorite sweets is on sale. Children queue up in the evening after the iftar — the breaking of the fast meal — to spend their pocket money on sweets.
Qatayef is a sweet traditionally eaten in Palestinian homes during Ramadan after the main meal. It consists of a small rounded pancake filled with walnuts or cheese and then soaked in a sweet syrup. Most families make their own qatayef at home.
Jelly gums are a favorite during Ramadan.
A festive mood in Damascus Gate, where street vendors set camp, families shop and youth socialize until the early hours of the morning. Israeli police are often seen harassing Palestinian street vendors, imposing on them heavy fines because they don’t have permits — which the municipality refuses to give. Palestinians remain unfazed by these impositions as the festive mood takes over.
Usually empty and depressing at night, the streets of the Old City of Jerusalem come to life during Ramadan, with beautiful street lights on display and children playing outside until late at night.
Street lights at the Bab Hutta neighboorhood in the Old City. Bab Hutta is also the name of one of the doors of al-Aqsa mosque, which gives the name to the neighborhood.
The sunrise in Jerusalem on the morning of the 21st day of Ramadan.
Historically, Passover is a holiday that Hebron settlers regularly exploit for expansionist purposes. In 1969, a small group of settlers led by a hard-line rabbi established the first illegal settlement in the city without the Israeli government’s permission. The settlement in a hotel in Hebron was evacuated, but the settlers moved to a former military base nearby and established what became the Kiryat Arba settlement. The move was carried out with the agreement of the Israeli government, which at the time was led by the Labor Party.
Hundreds of Israelis traveled over the Green Line to observe Passover in Hebron this week at a carnival-like event as Israeli officials closed the Ibrahimi Mosque to Palestinians in the West Bank’s largest city.
Since at least the mid-1990s, settlers and religious Jews have flocked to the Herodian-era site around the Cave of the Patriarchs for the holy week, which ordinarily is partitioned by religion between Jews and Muslims—or Israelis and Palestinians. But on Wednesday and Thursday, with an increased border police presence, the tombs of the monotheistic forefathers and mothers were only opened to the busloads of Jewish tourists.
The contrasts between the Palestinian and Israeli Jewish areas were stark. While most Palestinians closed up shop in Hebron’s Old City due to the threat of settler harassment, Israeli Jews marked Passover by dancing in the streets, surrounded by high-flying Israeli flags and armed soldiers.
The annual occasion was also marked by clashes between soldiers and Palestinians.Ma’an News reported that a twelve-year old was in “critical condition” after Israeli soldiers fired a rubber bullet in his head during the clashes. Hebron residents told us that the clashes began after the settlers made their way through a Palestinian area.
“If the mosque is closed nobody will come,” said Nawal Slemiah, the founder of Women in Hebron, an embroidery collective. “Last year when they came, more that 8,000 people”–Israelis–walked through the Palestinian neighborhoods of Hebron. Most shops closed this year to avoid the possibility of tensions with the Israelis, but each year Slemiah keeps the women’s collective open. “They took things from outside,” she said, explaining the scene last year. “Some of them they steal things.”
Slemiah’s shop in the historic district of Hebron is full of hand-made Palestinian embroidery garments. Outside the door frame of her one-room shop are two racks of brightly colored taubes, or traditional Palestinian dresses. There is a particular pattern of stitching for each Palestinian city. Slemiah showed us a black and a whitetaube with big flowers over the breast of the dress, indicating the design of Hebron. She said that last year, when Israelis marched through the old city, they dumped her dresses on the ground and stomped on them.
A short walk from Slemiah’s store is Hebron’s Bab al-Zawiya neighborhood. This year it was the site where Israelis marched through Palestinian streets adjacent to Shuhada Street, a downtown road that is closed off to most Palestinians by a checkpoint at its entrance and exit. The march set off the clashes that injured the 12-year-old Palestinian boy. The injury, along with the economic impact that settler harassment has on Palestinian shops, is only the latest example of the hardships Palestinians face in Hebron.
Shuhada Street used to be the central market for Hebron’s Palestinians. But that all changed as a result of the 1994 massacre in the Ibrahimi Mosque, when Baruch Goldstein, a militant Israeli-American, killed 29 Palestinian worshipers. In response to that act, the Israeli military imposed restrictions on Palestinian movement, and forbade Palestinian traffic on parts of the main street. The restrictions on Palestinian movement were made worse by the Israeli military after the Second Intifada, and led to severe economic deterioration in the city. B’Tselem reports that “304 shops and warehouses along Shuhada Street closed down” since these restrictions were imposed. “Most of the properties on or adjacent to Shuhada Street, including homes and businesses, had been abandoned or had been closed by military order,” the Israeli human rights group stated in 2011.
Unlike the desolate Palestinian area of Hebron, during Passover the plaza in front of the Cave of the Patriarchs couldn’t have been a happier scene. Inside of H2, we walked past scores of border police and Israeli security, as a Hebraicized version of Akon’s “Right Now”bumped from two speakers mounted to roof racks on a van. Once we reached the festivities, mostly religious Israelis enjoyed popcorn and pastel cotton candy swirled up by an Orthodox youth. Others who belong to the Na Nach movement, a Hasidic sect known for dancing like in the time of King David to bring on the era of the messiah, bounced to boom boxes. Brief discussions with some of the festival-goers revealed that some of them had come from outside Hebron. Tour buses lined up outside the festival to take people home, with most of the destination signs reading “Yerushalayim” in Hebrew.
Historically, Passover is a holiday that Hebron settlers regularly exploit for expansionist purposes. In 1969, a small group of settlers led by a hard-line rabbi established the first illegal settlement in the city without the Israeli government’s permission. The settlement in a hotel in Hebron was evacuated, but the settlers moved to a former military base nearby and established what became the Kiryat Arba settlement. The move was carried out with the agreement of the Israeli government, which at the time was led by the Labor Party.
Last year, in an action also timed to Passover, settlers again tried to establish a new colony without the permission of the Israeli government. This time, they were evacuated and no new settlement was established in Hebron. Shortly after the Hebron evacuation, though, new construction in Jerusalem-area settlements was announced.
Settler activity in Hebron around the Jewish holiday of Passover is so routine that many Palestinians in the area expect harassment—and are also familiar with the traditional Passover greeting.
“In English I don’t know how to say…” contemplated Mohammed, a teenage unofficial tour guide who regularly stops by the Women in Hebron store. With a smile on his face he continued, “‘happy holidays,’ ‘chag sameach.’”
All photographs were taken by Allison Deger.
In 1869 British MP John Stuart Mill was the first person in Parliament to call for women’s right to vote. On 19 September 1893 New Zealand became the first country in the world to give women the right to vote. Women in other countries did not enjoy this equality and campaigned for justice for many years.
In 1910 a second International Conference of Working Women was held in Copenhagen. A woman named Clara Zetkin (Leader of the ‘Women’s Office’ for the Social Democratic Party in Germany) tabled the idea of an International Women’s Day. She proposed that every year in every country there should be a celebration on the same day – a Women’s Day - to press for their demands. The conference of over 100 women from 17 countries, representing unions, socialist parties, working women’s clubs, and including the first three women elected to the Finnish parliament, greeted Zetkin’s suggestion with unanimous approval and thus International Women’s Day was the result.
The very first International Women’s Day was launched the following year by Clara Zetkin on 19 March (not 8 March). The date was chosen because on 19 March in the year of the 1848 revolution, the Prussian king recognized for the first time the strength of the armed people and gave way before the threat of a proletarian uprising. Among the many promise he made, which he later failed to keep, was the introduction of votes for women.
Plans for the first International Women’s Day demonstration were spread by word of mouth and in the press. During the week before International Women’s Day two journals appeared: The Vote for Women in Germany and Women’s Day in Austria. Various articles were devoted to International Women’s Day: ‘Women and Parliament’, ‘The Working Women and Municipal Affairs’, ‘What Has the Housewife got to do with Politics?’, etc. The articles thoroughly analyzed the question of the equality of women in the government and in society. All articles emphasized the same point that it was absolutely necessary to make parliament more democratic by extending the franchise to women.
Success of the first International Women’s Day in 1911 exceeded all expectation.
Meetings were organized everywhere in small towns and even the villages halls were packed so full that male workers were asked to give up their places for women.
Men stayed at home with their children for a change, and their wives, the captive housewives, went to meetings.
During the largest street demonstration of 30,000 women, the police decided to remove the demonstrators’ banners so the women workers made a stand. In the scuffle that followed, bloodshed was averted only with the help of the socialist deputies in Parliament.
In 1913 International Women’s Day was transferred to 8 March and this day has remained the global date for International Women’s Day ever since.
During International Women’s Year in 1975, IWD was given official recognition by the United Nations and was taken up by many governments. International Women’s Day is marked by a national holiday in China, Armenia, Russia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Macedonia, Moldova, Mongolia, Tajikistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.
In a screenshot, anti-Arab activist Itamar Ben-Gvir (right) impersonates a Palestinian prisoner, as the man next to him wears a “Kach” T-shirt.
Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron celebrated the Jewish festival of Purim by mocking Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike for their rights in Israel’s jails.
Meanwhile, an Israeli soldier has posted images online of himself and his comrades dressed up as Palestinian resistance fighters and as Gilad Shalit, the occupation soldier captured by Hamas fighters in 2006 and held as a prisoner of war in Gaza for five years.
A video of the Purim parade in Hebron was posted on YouTube, as Palestinians across the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip have intesified protests in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners after the death of Arafat Jaradat in Israeli custody and amid the ongoing struggles of hunger strikers.
In the video, Israeli far-right anti-Arab activist Itamar Ben-Gvir is dressed up as a “Palestinian prisoner” and has this brief exchange of words:
Ben-Gvir: If we don’t get more kibbeh, there will be an Intifada. More kibbeh. We want more kibbeh.
Off-screen voice: But how many tires do you have to burn? How many tires?
Ben-Gvir: Don’t worry about it. Only kibbeh!
As Ben-Gvir speaks, a man standing next to him is wearing a T-shirt bearing the name and logo of Kach, the violent anti-Arab organization founded by Meir Kahane that is even banned in Israel. Kach and its offshoot Kahane Chai have been designated as “foreign terrorist organizations” by the US State Department since 1997.
Ben-Gvir has been arrested dozens of times by Israeli authorities on charges of rioting, destruction of property, possessing propaganda for a terrorist organization, and with incitement to racism and support of a terrorist organization.
But while Ben-Gvir roams free, many of the Palestinian prisoners he mocks have been held for extended periods without charge or trial.
In the rest of the 10-minute long video, Israeli settlers, some drinking heavily from bottles of wines and spirits, can be seen dancing and reveling through the streets of occupied Hebron, which are devoid of Palestinians, as Israeli occupation soldiers provide an escort.
Israeli occupation soldiers dressed as Palestinian fighters surround a man with a paper on his chest that says “Gilad Shalit captured again” (Source).
Meanwhile Israeli soldier Idan Levi posted these images to Instagram which show him and members of his unit dressed up as Palestinian resistance fighters. The man in the middle of the photo above has a sign on his chest that says “Gilad Shalit – captured again.”
Israeli occupation soldiers dressed as Palestinian resistance fighters (Source).
Levi is a member of the 51st Battalion of the Golani brigade. As part of the occupation army, the Golani brigade has invaded Palestinian cities and terrorized Palestinian communities for years, although the unit suffered heavy losses at the hands of the Lebanese resistance during Israel’s disastrous 2006 invasion of Lebanon.
Golani brigade member Idan Levi (right) with a comrade dressed up as Palestinian resistance fighters (Source).
In one image, Levi appears in a T-shirt of the football team Beitar Jerusalem whose ultra-racist fans are notorious for violent rampages and chanting “Death to the Arabs.”
Israeli occupation soldier Idan Levi in a T-shirt of the notoriously racist Beitar Jerusalem football team (Source).
Idan Levi holding a banner with the symbol of the 51st Battalion of the Golani brigade (Source).
With thanks to Dena Shunra.
Today, Christian communities throughout the Middle East are shrinking, and many of them are endangered. This is, of course, not true in Israel. Here there is a strong and growing Christian community that participates fully in the life of our country. Israel is proud of its record of religious tolerance and pluralism, and Israel will continue to protect freedom of religion for all. And we will continue to safeguard places of Christian worship throughout our country. We will not tolerate any acts of violence or discrimination against any place of worship. This is not our way, and this is something we cannot accept.
So as you celebrate Christmas and your holy holidays, we hope that you will recall the places where Judaism and Christianity emerged, and then come see our ancient land with your own eyes: visit Nazareth and Bethlehem, wade into the Jordan River, stand on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.
And next year, come visit our eternal capital, Jerusalem.
Happy holidays to all of you. May you all be blessed with a year of security, prosperity and peace.
“Today Christian communities around the Middle East are shrinking and in danger. This is of course not true in Israel. Here there’s a strong, growing Christian community that participates fully in the life of our country,” Netanyahu said.
Vowing to “continue to protect freedom of religion and thought,” Netanyahu also promised “to safeguard Christian places of worship throughout our country” and not to “tolerate any acts of violence or discrimination against any place of worship.”
Making a pitch for Christian Zionist tourism he urged listeners to “Come see our ancient land with your own eyes. Visit Nazareth and Bethlehem, wade in the Jordan River, stand on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and next year come visit our eternal capital, Jerusalem.”
His inclusion of Bethlehem, in the occupied West Bank, as well as the banks of the Jordan River, can be taken as another affirmation that Israel, despite its rhetoric, has no interest in a “two-state solution” and intends to absorb all of historic Palestine as an exclusively “Jewish state.”
Netanyahu’s professions of tolerance would have come as news to Palestinian Christian students at Safad Academic College in the Galilee. There, students who could not get home for the holidays bought a Christmas tree and set it up outside their dorm.
But in the evening when they got back from class, they found the tree was gone, Israel’sWalla! News reported.
“This is the saddest Christmas,” said Gabriel Mansour, 24, a third-year political science student, identified by Walla! as a representative of Arab students. “All we wanted to do was provide some good cheer for all the students who remained alone in the dorms, and who were unable to go home to their families.”
When Mansour investigated, he was told by college officials that the tree had been hidden lest it spark riots among the Jewish students.
“I was angry to hear this,” said Mansour of the claim that the tree might spark riots among Jewish students and residents of Safad. “Unfortunately they don’t respect our holidays. We fully respect all Israeli holidays. Why can no one respect our traditions? Why can’t we put up a Christmas tree?”
“I do not think Christmas should be marked with such ostentation,” Walla! quoted an unnamed Jewish student saying. “The college has a distinctly Jewish character. It’s not healthy for anyone to be able to do whatever he wants.”
And there was a mini-scandal when the girlfriend of Yair Netanyahu, the son of the Israeli prime minister, posted a photo of the youth wearing a Santa hat and posing next to a Christmas tree, on Facebook. Under the photo was the caption “My Christian boy.”
The prime minister’s office was forced to issue a statement that the image was a joke and that Yair had been attending a party hosted by “Christian Zionists who love Israel, and whose children served in the IDF,” Israel’s Channel 2 reported. Nevertheless the photo was removed from Facebook.
The ban on Christmas at Safad college is no isolated incident. For several years, Shimon Gapso, the notoriously racist mayor of the Israeli settlement of “Upper Nazareth” in the Galilee, has banned Christmas trees, calling them a provocation. “Nazareth Illit [Upper Nazareth] is a Jewish city and it will not happen – not this year and not next year, so long as I am a mayor,” Gapso said.
According to journalist Jonathan Cook in Nazareth, such bans continue and are widespread this year with Israel’s state-financed rabbis warning hotels and restaurants that they will lose their kosher certifications if they put up trees or other Christmas decorations or hold Christmas events.
“In other words,” Cook says, “the rabbinate has been quietly terrorising Israeli hotel owners into ignoring Christmas by threatening to use its powers to put them out of business. Denying a hotel its kashrut (kosher) certificate would lose it most of its Israeli and foreign Jewish clientele.”
When the Israeli occupation municipality in Jerusalem this year put up a small Christmas tree near the Jaffa Gate, there were strong protests from rabbis. Occupation municipality city council member Rabbi Shmuel Yitzhaki told settler news website Arutz 7 that the display was a “desecration” and a “grave offense against the Jewish people” and that it was “inconceivable” that a Christmas tree should be allowed in a “public place” where it might be seen by Jews on their way to pray at the Western Wall in eastern occupied Jerusalem.
Mina Fenton, a former city council member, said, “There’s a Christian Quarter. They can put it [the tree] up there,” where it couldn’t “injure the souls of Jews.”
While Israel’s official rabbis, colleges and municipalities discourage or ban displays of Christmas trees, the Jewish National Fund (JNF), the racist state-backed agency actively engaged in ethnically cleansing Palestinians and stealing their land for exclusive use by Jews, has found a way to use Christmas trees to paint a false image of itself as a promoter of multicultural harmony.
The JNF, which misrepresents itself as an environmental charity, now gives away some trees and felled branches particularly to foreign embassies, for use as Christmas trees in private homes, and markets the initiative as outreach to maintain “good relations between religions.” Against the background of the JNF’s true activities, such cynical propaganda should convince no one. But it might be useful in raising donations from Christian Zionists.
The efforts by Netanyahu and the JNF to present Israel as tolerant and friendly to Christians are important to maintain external, especially Christian Zionist support, and to hide a much uglier reality.
Israel claims to be a “Jewish state.” Its blatantly discriminatory “Law of Return” grants the automatic right to those it recognizes as Jews from anywhere in the world to emigrate and receive citizenship even if they have no connection to the country. At the same time, Israel prevents indigenous Palestinian refugees, including those born there, from returning home just because they are not Jews.
But according to the US State Department in its 2011 report on religious freedom around the world, Israel specifically applies a blatantly anti-Christian test in applying this bigoted law:
The question of whether one believes Jesus is the Jewish Messiah has been used to determine whether a Jew was qualified to immigrate. The [Israeli] Supreme Court repeatedly has upheld the right, however, of Israeli Jews who believe Jesus is the Messiah to retain their citizenship. The immigration exclusion was routinely applied only against Messianic Jews, whereas Jews who were atheists were accepted, and Jews who chose to believe in other religions, including Hindus and Buddhists, were not screened out.
In other words a “Jew” can be an atheist, Hindu, or Buddhist – anything at all – and be granted citizenship by Israeli authorities. It is only a belief in Jesus that disqualifies them.
As for Netanyahu’s promise that Christian holy sites would be protected, he failed to mention that in recent months, Israeli settlers, acting with the collusion of Israeli authorities, have stepped up so-called “price tag” attacks on Christian holy sites.
Meanwhile, Christmas celebrations proceeded this year in Gaza and in Iran, where municipal authorities in Tehran have in recent years put up banners celebrating the birth of Jesus on many main streets. Both Iran and Gaza re Muslim-majority places that Israeli propaganda loves to paint as particularly intolerant of religious minorities.
Few countries live up to their own claims about religious freedom and tolerance and many must do better. But selling Israel in particular, whose whole raison d’être is to privilege Jews qua Jews over the indigenous Palestinian population of any religion, as a paragon of tolerance and pluralism is patently absurd.
In Early November a colleague requested that I compose a few thoughts for our church’s Advent 2012 booklet. I selected the Luke 2: 1-7 text for reasons personal, professional, and textual. What follows (with additional poignant comments) was printed for the December 20, 2012, Advent reading.
My family resided in a West Jerusalem suburb (just off the centuries-old Jerusalem- Bethlehem Road) and some 11 miles from the historic city of Bethlehem, the place natal of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace. This road is believed to be the path that Joseph and Mary negotiated on their way to Bethlehem. And, of all the Bible nativity narratives, Luke’s narrative is my favorite. This was the same road on which I traversed, on foot, to attend school, church, visit friends, and go to the YMCA, an internationally renowned West Jerusalem landmark.
Born in Antakia (Antioch), not too far from Aleppo (Halab, the city from where my ancestors migrated in the 15th century and a city decimated by civil war), Lukas, whose Anglicized name is Luke, is believed to have been of Greek origin. Imbued with the Hellenistic spirit, he was a well-travelled and erudite man. While he was sometimes referred to as a physician, scholars have observed that, because of his ability to write in a lucid and informative manner, he was a historian who proclaimed the Good News in an objective, straight forward, and intellectual manner. Some scholars have even declared him a historian in the manner of the Thucydides.
In late December of 1957 a group of American pilgrims/tourists with broadcasting connections visited Jerusalem to transmit to the United States a live Christmas radio program from Jerusalem. When they heard that a few Christian Palestinian families resided in West Jerusalem (yes, prior to their being ethnically cleansed by the Israelis in 1948, tens of thousands of Palestinian Christians lived in Jerusalem and Palestine), they decided to interview a Palestinian family so as to give the program a measure of National Geographic local flavor. My twin brother and I were selected to read Bible passages, and to this day I remember that textual materials from Chapters 1 & 2 of the Gospel of Lukas were selected; today’s advent passage is that same passage that I read 55 years ago this December. And it is the same passage that my paternal grandmother (the daughter of Greek immigrants to Palestine) read to her grandchildren from her Greek Bible.
As an Art Historian, I have become very fond of Luke because he inspired Byzantine, Eastern and Russian Orthodox, Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque artists both stylistically and thematically. Since the fourth century artists have depicted Luke not only as one of the four evangelists whose canonical gospels are foundational textual materials for the New Testament, but also as an artist positioned in front of and in the act of painting Mary and the infant Jesus. This portrait within a portrait of Mary became an iconic theme in Eastern and Western Europe, including the Near East. Some scholars have opined that the depiction of Mary as Theotokos (God Bearer) was a theme first articulated by Luke. I’ve been fortunate to have had the opportunity to view such portraits at St. Katherine’s Monastery on Mt. Sinai, several churches in occupied Jerusalem, The Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, and St. Marco in Venice, Italy. Dating back to the 5th and 6th centuries, this depiction of Mary became the prototype for a large body of mosaics and paintings culminating in the Russian Vladmir Virgin icon. Replicas of this portrait grace churches across Asia Minor and the Near East and are displayed in homes. Christian Taxi drivers in the Arab World, Greece and Eastern Europe have been known to hang an icon of this art work from their rear view mirrors. And in 1982 Lebanese Phalange Christian forces glued similar images on the butts of the machine guns they used to murder defenseless Palestinians, including scores of innocent children.
While the Eastern Rites made Mary and Jesus the focal point of their paintings, Italian, Spanish, and Dutch artists included Luke as an active participant in their depictions of Mary and Jesus. Guercino, El Greco, Vasari, and Bouts, to name but a few of the Western European artists, portrayed Luke in the act of painting Mary and using a variety of mediums, including encaustic (wax and pigments), egg tempera, silverpoint, and oil compositions either on wood panels or canvases. Because of its iconic symbolism and visually powerful associations, the artists’ guilds designated Luke as their patron saint.
After reading the Gospel of Luke, one is struck by Luke’s lucid prose and by his ability to utilize historical events in a most skillful narrative style, and it becomes obvious that he loved the poor, that he was very inclusive and strongly believed that the Kingdom of God was for everyone, regardless of creed, class, or background, that he respected women, that he saw hope in God’s Mercy, and that he preached forgiveness — themes that should resonate even to this day in what I fear to be a world plagued with wars, violence, corporate greed, corrupt politicians, and a lack of respect for and stewardship of the environment. Cha- Ching, Cha-Ching clamors the NRA and its dealers throughout this nation, and please don’t mess with my 2ndAmendment. And, since that infamous Friday, December 14, 2012 massacre of the innocents, the sale of assault rifles has never been any better. Cha- Ching goes the arms industry; Cha Ching go the politicians who sell the weapons to dictators and thugs around the world.
The three Wise Men from the East saw a star and followed it. Instead of a guiding star, today’s skies in the East (from Gaza to Afghanistan and Pakistan) are crowded with a constellation of drones, the modern day aerial assault rifles that rain hell-fires to incinerate innocent civilians and children. Do you suppose that the holiday shoppers in America and the Western world have ever thought of the slaughter of innocents (with American made weapons) in Gaza, Libya, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan? Yes, today’s skies in the aforementioned light up with effervescent phosphorous bombs.
Refugees in their own land with no accommodations and about to have a child, Joseph and Mary are not unlike the poor, down and out disenfranchised people in our own midst, including the refugees of Palestine, Iraq, Sudan, and Syria. In verse 7 Luke sums it up thusly: “She brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.” While the Prince of Peace encountered a NO VACANCY sign at the moment of his birth, his life, ministry, and his message of Peace on Earth is a much needed clarion in our own times, whether at home or around the world. Are there any leaders willing to step up? Or, are they too busy peddling and gift wrapping tanks, guided missiles, jet fighters, and drones as Cha-Ching gifts from a country that clamors American exceptionalism yet does not practice it?
*Raouf J. Halaby is a Professor of English and Art at a private Liberal Arts university in Arkansas.
Text on Card:
Towering walls and militarized fences now encircle Bethlehem, turning the 4,000-year-old city into a virtual prison for its Palestinian Christian and Muslim citizens. Bethlehem has only three gates to the outside world, all tightly controlled by Israeli occupation forces.
Israel has confiscated almost all the agricultural land in the area for illegal settlements, making it impossible for many Palestinian farmers to continue tending their land. Outside the town, the fields where shepherds once watched their flocks are being filled by Israeli housing blocs and roads barred to the descendants of those shepherds.
“It is unconscionable that Bethlehem should be allowed to die slowly from strangulation,” says South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Bethlehem’s residents increasingly are fleeing Israel’s confining walls, and soon the city, home to the oldest Christian community in the world, will have little left of its Christian history but the cold stones of empty churches.
Though most Americans don’t know it, we are directly involved in Israel’s strangulation of Bethlehem. Fortune Magazine and other analysts consistently rank the Israel lobby as one of the most effective special interests in Washington; Americans give Israel over $8 million per day. In its just over 60 years of existence, Israel has received more US tax money than any other nation.
As we seek peace and joy for the world, it is time to reconsider an expenditure that perpetuates injustice, tragic violence, and conflict. Please help.*
Thanks Giving .. A poem by Tom Karlson
“I suppose I should be ashamed to say that I take the western view of the Indian. I don’t go so far as to think that the only good Indian is the dead Indian, but I believe nine out of every ten are, and I shouldn’t like to inquire too closely into the case of the tenth.”
That original sin
Our original sin
Not a talking snake sin
No Adam or Eve sin
This original sin
This first holocaust sin
This First Nation
Long gone sin
200 languages silenced sin
This good, dead, jailed, Indian sin
310 million All-Americans
Sit at the table
Football and eats
And a parody written by Michael Rivero of WRH
I have recently had a religious epiphany. I have decided to convert to the Sun Dance faith. This is a religion practiced by many of the North American native people for thousands of years. It’s easy to be a Sun Dancer; you can see the Sun! That’s a definite plus compared to religions relying on that imaginary playmate in the sky.I have long felt a kinship with my newly adopted religion and people as you can see in this photo of myself and my wife from the early 1990s.
In the spirit of traditional naming custom I have taken an aspect of my life as a blogger and adopted my new Native American name, “Types With Tired Fingers.” Because I am now religiously connected with the original people of the North American continent, who have been there for thousands of years, I hereby call on the United States Government to withdraw and return this land to its rightful traditional owners, myself included. After all, “We” were here first!
Sounds silly, doesn’t it?
And it is. My actual ancestry is a blend of Sephardic, French, and English. There is a family legend regarding a teensy bit of Huron blood, but no real documentation to support it. I am not actually a Native American. And pretending to their religion does not make me one.
Yet this very same silliness underlies the Israeli claim to Palestine. The Jews who migrated to Palestine after World War 2 are not descendants of the Hebrews you read about in the Bible. They are descended from Khazars in central Asia, near present-day Russian Georgia, who converted to Judaism in 800AD. Khazaria fell a century later and the descendants of the converted Jews migrated northward into Russia and west into Europe. This group of Jews, called Ashkenazi, are not descended from any of the 12 tribes described in the Bible. DNA tests confirm this, as does their pale skin that makes it clear they are not originally from the Middle East.
Thus, Israel’s claim to the lands of Palestine rests solely on the fact that they have adopted the religion of a people who lived on that land thousands of years ago. One might just as easily adopt the religion of Ra and on that basis lay claim to Egypt.
Of course, common sense says that simply adopting the religion of the Sun Dance does not give me a claim to the lands of the United States. Were I to worship Ra (or Aten), likewise does not give me a claim to the lands of Egypt. Worshipping Sol Invictus does not give me claim to Italy.
And worshipping Yahweh does not give the Khazars any real right to Palestine.
Just something to think about.
Approximately 100 Palestinians and a handful of international activists entered the Rami Levy supermarket in the West Bank settlement of Sha’ar Binyamin Wednesday morning to ‘protest occupation and settler terror’ and to call for the boycott of ‘the occupation and its products.’ Two Palestinians and two internationals were beaten and arrested.
Activists in Rami Levy supermarket in Shaar Binyamin settlement (photo: flickr/Activestills)
Palestinian and international activists were unarmed. Carrying flags and signs, they entered the supermarket, chanting for freedom. They say that the Israeli police used excessive force to disperse the nonviolent protest.
Activist Abir Kopty, who was at the scene, reported that “as activists exited the building, about forty policemen and soldiers were waiting outside, they attacked physically the demonstrators and fired stun grenades at them, causing several injuries, two of which were taken by ambulance to the hospital.”
Bassem Tamimi, head of Nabi Saleh’s Popular Committee, was among the injured. He reportedly suffered broken ribs as a result of being beaten by Israeli forces as he was arrested.
This protest emphasizes, according to Kopty, that “as long as there is no justice to Palestinians, Israeli and settler daily life can’t continue on as normal.”
Bassem Tamimi being arrested in the Shaar Binyamin settlement today (photo: flickr/Activestills)
Last week also saw a protest that disrupted the flow of Israelis and settlers everyday life when a group of 50 Palestinian activists blocked Route 443 for half an hour. The road is built on occupied Palestinian land and connects settlements, which the international community considers illegal, to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. To an Israeli driver, Route 443 essentially erases the Green Line and gives the impression that the occupied West Bank is part of the country. The action of blocking the road may have reminded the Israelis who use it that the land 443 runs through is, indeed, occupied.
And from Gideon Levy;
Nice to make your acquaintance, we’re racist and pro-apartheid. The poll whose results were published in Haaretz on Tuesday, conducted by Dialog and commissioned by the Yisraela Goldblum Fund, proved what we always knew, if not so bluntly. It’s important to recognize the truth that has been thrown in our faces and those of the world (where the survey is making waves ). But it’s even more important to draw the necessary conclusions from it.
Given the current reality, making peace would be an almost anti-democratic act: Most Israelis don’t want it. A just, egalitarian society would also violate the wishes of most Israelis: That, too, is something they don’t want. They’re satisfied with the racism, comfortable with the occupation, pleased with the apartheid; things are very good for them in this country. That’s what they told the pollsters.
Until a courageous leadership arises here, the kind that appears only rarely in history, and tries to change this nationalist, racist mood, there’s no point in hoping for change to come from below. It won’t come; indeed, it can’t come, because it is contrary to the desires of most Israelis. This fact must be recognized.
The world must also recognize this. Those who long to reach an agreement and draw up periodic peace plans must finally recognize that Israelis are plainly telling them, “No thanks, we’re not interested.” The Arab world must similarly recognize that this survey (and others like it ) is Israel’s real Bar-Ilan speech.
It’s hard to blame Israelis. Years of brainwashing; the demonization and dehumanization of Arabs in general and Palestinians in particular; coupled with years of vicious terror, have left their scars. What, for heaven’s sake, do you want from Israelis, who are exposed daily to the media telling them, for instance, that the recent visit to the Gaza Strip by the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, who came to donate hundreds of millions of dollars to build roads, is “Qatar for terror” (as the lead headline in yesterday’s Hebrew edition of Israel Hayom put it )? Why would they want to make peace with those who for decades have been systematically portrayed to them seeking only to annihilate them?
Why would the average Israeli agree to have an Arab student in his child’s class or an Arab family in his apartment building if he has never met an Arab and knows of them only as terrorists, criminals or primitive people – the only images of Arabs to which he has been exposed? Why would he think that discrimination against Arabs by government ministries is a bad thing if the only reality he knows is one where Arabs are sewer workers or street sweepers, and he doesn’t know that Arabs are capable of more than that?
After all, even secular Israelis, who displayed the most tolerant views in the survey, don’t actually know who they’re talking about. When have they ever met an Arab? When have their children met one? And if they have, what kind of Arab have they met besides the delivery boy from the grocery store, the owner of the neighborhood greengrocer, the car-wash employee, Ahmed the plasterer or scaffolding builder? And that’s without even talking about Palestinians: The last time (and also the first ) they met a Palestinian, if ever, was during their army service, through the sight of a rifle, as a suspicious and dangerous object.
Nevertheless, this brainwashing doesn’t absolve Israelis of responsibility. It’s true that the education system, and even more so the media, incite and inflame, sow hatred and fear. But they do so to conform to their audience’s tastes. It’s a depressingly vicious circle, in which it isn’t clear which came first.
After all, if the Israeli media thought their brainwashing was repulsive to its customers they would long since have abandoned it. But it knows its customers’ hearts. The political establishment, too, understands the nature of the beast. That’s why we are now caught in a mad, dizzying race to the right: Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid is vying with Labor Party leader Shelly Yacimovich over who is more right-wing.
Thus the situation can’t be excused on the grounds of incitement: Israelis are always happy to be incited against the Arab from Baka or the Palestinian from the casbah. Ratings-conscious media and politicians facing primary battles are only hitching a ride on them.
One-third of Israelis want to deny Arab citizens the right to vote; about half of Israelis favor a policy of “transferring” Arabs out of the country; and a majority says there is apartheid here. We need to finally give up on the hope that things will get better.