WHY IS ISRAEL SO AFRAID OF CRITICISM?

Robust democracies do not just tolerate criticism; they welcome it as a part of freedom of expression.

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Why does Israel feel threatened by humanitarian workers?

Anne Irfan *

Humanitarian workers habitually find themselves unwelcome, detained or turned back at Israeli-controlled border crossings. (Joe Goldberg)

The Israeli detention of and denial of entry Western activists, academics and humanitarian workers sympathetic to Palestinians has received particular attention in recent years, following the targeting of high-profile figures including Richard FalkNorman Finkelsteinand Noam Chomsky.

During the first week in February, I was on the receiving end of Israeli detention practices myself when I attempted to enter the occupied West Bank from neighboring Jordan via theAllenby Bridge border crossing.

Once on the Israeli-controlled side of the crossing, I was detained and interrogated for 12 hours before being denied entry and sent back to Amman. I have been given a five-year ban on entering Israel, the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The Israeli authorities also detained and interrogated my friend and fellow traveler, who had never previously visited the region.

For those who follow events and developments in Palestine, my experience will be unsurprising; stories of random and unexplained clampdowns are depressingly familiar.

The opacity, lack of due process and disregard for human rights that characterize Israeli detention practices also typify the occupation authorities’ actions in the West Bank (including occupied East Jerusalem) and Gaza.

If the Israeli government will openly flout countless UN resolutions, it is hardly going to care about a traveler’s right to privacy.

Nevertheless, the nature and manner in which I was detained and interrogated remain of value for what they reveal about the Israeli occupation and how it continues to operate in 2014.

Opacity

Most fundamentally, the Israeli detention of “undesirable” travelers provides a terrifying insight into the daily lives of millions of Palestinians, who go without the protections of a Western passport.

For all the fear and horror of my experience, I ultimately knew that the worst thing the Israeli authorities could do was detain and eventually deport me.

Palestinians have no such guarantee.

Moreover, during my detention and multiple interrogations I came face-to-face with the impunity and unaccountability of the system, maintained by way of total opacity.

On a superficial but symbolic note, all the Israeli occupation personnel wore badges with information in Hebrew only — a language which the majority of detainees and travelers through this crossing will not be able to read. We were given no information or explanations as to what was happening.

No recourse

When I was eventually informed that I had been denied entry, one reason given was “some information we found.” My request for further details was denied.

As anyone who has passed through a checkpoint in the West Bank will know, this impunity and arbitrariness is a central part of how the occupation works, and how it continues to exert power.

The time one has to wait, and whether or not one is allowed through, can all too often depend on the mood and character of whoever is on duty.

Entry can be denied with no reason and if this happens, there is no recourse.

My detention was also indicative of Israel’s increased targeting of non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

I have previously volunteered in Bethlehem in a program organized by a British NGO; more recently I worked for the London-based charity Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP).

My interrogators questioned me about this work at length, fixating particularly on pushing me to provide the names and contact details of Palestinians I knew in the West Bank (disappointingly for the Israeli staff, I was unable to oblige as nearly all the Palestinians I know are in the diaspora).

They were also interested in my journalistic work, asking me about the articles I have previously written for The Electronic Intifada.

While I had thought that a state facing a supposedly serious security threat might have a better use for its resources than interrogating a London-based humanitarian worker, it was interesting to discover just how gravely any work with Palestinians is regarded.

Unsurprisingly, my current employment with a poverty-relief organization that operates in sub-Saharan Africa was of little interest.

Strategic clampdown

On a similar note, the detention of international humanitarian workers is part of a strategic clampdown on non-violent activism. It was clear from how I was treated that the border staff did not believe I posed a physical threat.

I was frisked but not strip-searched and my belongings only went through the normal security checks. Although I was detained, interrogated and watched, I was not closely physically guarded.

Most of the time I was able to walk around the “waiting room” and go to the bathrooms without a guard accompanying me. My friend, who was also interrogated, was not searched at all throughout the detention period.

After 12 hours the Israelis announced that she was allowed to enter, although she chose to return to Jordan too.

This treatment is inconsistent if the border staff genuinely believed that I might pose a physical threat. It would appear that the intellectual threat is of greater concern.

Insecurity

Finally, the behavior of the Israeli border staff towards Westerners of Arab descent can be seen as a microcosm of the broader disregard with which Israel now routinely treats its international relations.

As a UK citizen, I remember the controversy that hit the headlines four years ago when it emerged that members of Mossad had carried out assassinations in Dubai on British passports, using identities stolen from people traveling through Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv (“Britons queued at Ben Gurion airport as Israeli officials cloned passports,” The Guardian, 24 March 2010).

The incident sparked unprecedented fury, with the then foreign secretary David Miliband issuing a strongly-worded statement and expelling an Israeli diplomat from London (“Britain expels Israeli diplomat over Dubai passport row,” BBC News, 23 March 2010).

After this, the Foreign Office issued new guidelines advising Britons not to part with their passports when entering through Israeli-controlled frontiers (“Don’t hand passport to officials, FCO tells Britons travelling to Israel,” The Guardian, 24 March 2010).

Notwithstanding the diplomatic row with a supposed ally, identical policies continue to operate in Israel.

Despite the ostensible show of strength that is central to detention practices, what my experience has ultimately revealed is the insecurity that lies at the heart of the Israeli state.

Robust democracies do not just tolerate criticism; they welcome it as a part of freedom of expression.

We are all used to hearing that Israel is “the only democracy in the Middle East,” according to a whole range of definitions. For now at least, those definitions continue to be stretched to the point of being unrecognizable.

*Anne Irfan holds a masters degree in Middle Eastern history. She is based in London and works in international development.

 

Written FOR

SAD DAY FOR HUMAN RIGHTS AT THE UN

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The greatest violator of the above has been elected  to chair the elections of the Human Rights Commission …. They should not even be allowed to sit on that Commission.

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Ambassador Prosor becomes first Israeli to chair elections to UN Human Rights Committee 

Israeli ambassador to UN unanimously nominated by representatives of 170 countries to chair significant elections, says ‘central role Israel plays to advance human rights is the real answer to anyone calling for boycotts against us’.

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Israeli Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor made history Tuesday when representatives of 170 countries unanimously nominated the Israeli diplomat to preside over the elections for the UN Human Rights Committee.

Prosor became the first Israeli diplomat nominated to supervise UN elections. Representatives of the Israel delegation to the UN said that choosing Prosor to chair the elections process is a sign of the popularity the current Israeli ambassador enjoys in New York.

“It is a great honor to chair the elections for the Human Rights Committee. The central role Israel plays to advance human rights around the world is the real answer to anyone calling for boycotts against Israel.”

Prosor chairing the elections (Photo: Tal Trachtman Alroy)
Prosor chairing the elections (Photo: Tal Trachtman Alroy)

Israel has been making inroads at the international organization after a few years in the diplomatic dark. A few months ago, Israel rejoined the Human Rights Council in Geneva and a few days ago it was admitted into JUSCANZ, a key UN group which advises the Human Rights Council as wel as other UN bodies.

Israel was previously admitted to the group in 2010, but recently joined its sessions in New York.

Elections to the Human Rights Committee occur once every two years. The UN Human Rights Committee is the diplomatic body charged with monitoring human rights developments across the globe. The committee meets is composed of 18 experts and meets three times a year for four-week sessions in New York and Geneva.

 

 

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A MUST READ FOR ANYONE DONATING MONEY TO ISRAEL

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Have a good look where your dollars are going, actually where they are not going …

You MUST ask yourself, who do you think you are helping by helping Israel?

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An elderly symbol of Israeli poverty, living on NIS 2,732 a month

73-year-old Yelena Elimelech, mentioned in Herzog’s Knesset speech Wednesday, has no pension, lives in a tiny state-owned apartment and barely buys food

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Yelena Elimelech, 73, has emerged as the real Riki Cohen of 2014. In a charged speech at the Knesset on Wednesday, Opposition Leader Isaac Herzog named her to Israel’s citizens, detailing the circumstances of her life and the grim economic reality she, like tens of thousands of other elderly Israelis, is forced to deal with.

“The truth is that I am very lucky because I have heating in my apartment. Other elderly people don’t even have that,” Elimelech says.

Asked how she can live on NIS 2,732 (about $775) a month, she says: “Live? That’s not a life.”

Herzog cited Elimelech as he slammed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a social-economic debate at the Knesset. “Yelena Elimelech is a real woman,” he said. “Unlike Riki Cohen, she has a name and a face and an age. She lives off a pension of NIS 2,723 a month.”

After paying her rent, electricity and other bills, Elimelech is left with just NIS 700, Herzog said. “Mr. Prime Minister, do you know how difficult it is to live off NIS 25 a day? This is the life of an elderly person living on a pension.”

Herzog’s speech did not come as a complete surprise to Elimelech, who had communicated with his aide earlier this week. She spoke to Ynet from her tiny (27 meters-squared) apartment in Jerusalem that is provided by the state. It includes a joint living room and kitchen, and a tiny bedroom.

“Every day I calculate what to buy, how to buy and where to save,” she says. “After the payments and the medication, I don’t have enough money left for food. I don’t buy in the supermarket, for example. I go there like I would go to a museum – just to look. I do my shopping at the market at the end of the day. The fruit and vegetables are not as good, but they cost less. I don’t buy meat because I can’t afford it. Sometimes I buy chicken.”

‘We are treated like second-class citizens’

Elimelech is part of a large group of Israelis who can’t make ends meet. According to the National Insurance Institute’s Poverty Report, released in December, a total of 439,000 poor families lived in Israel in 2012. The number includes 1,754,700 people, 817,200 of them children.

 

Elimelech. 'I want to buy my granddaughters cake' (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
Elimelech. ‘I want to buy my granddaughters cake’ (Photo: Gil Yohanan)

 

Within this group, the elderly population is even more vulnerable. The percentage of poor senior citizens has gone up to 22.7%, according to the report: From 156,000 (in 2011) to 186,000 (in 2012).

And what is Israel’s government doing to deal with these alarming figures? A Taub Center report published in October revealed that before taxes and welfare, Israel’s elderly are in an excellent situation on a global level. But after those payments, the situation is completely reversed. According to the report, one-fifth of Israel’s senior citizens live below the poverty line, seven times more than most countries in the developed world.

Like many other elderly people who immigrated to Israel in the 1990s from the former Soviet Union, Elimelech worked in temporary jobs which did not provide her with pension rights. She made aliyah in 1991 from Belarus, where she was a civil engineer, but here she could not work in that profession.

“When I came here I didn’t know a word of Hebrew and there was no chance of finding a job as an engineer,” she recalls. “So I worked in everything else: Cleaning, kitchen work, caring for elderly people, everything I could find to make a living.

“I expect the state to help me. My two granddaughters have gone into the army and contributed to the country. My daughter is 100 percent disabled after being injured in a terror attack. I am not asking for luxury, but I am also a human being and I want to live, not just to breathe and sleep. I want to be able to host my granddaughters and buy them cake. I want to have money to travel on the bus and go to a concert once a month.”

Without a pension, her entire income amounts to the allowance she receives from the National Insurance Institute, which she says is comprised of an old age pension and income support.

“We are being treated like second-class citizens,” she charges. “I would like the finance minister or prime minister to step into my shoes for a day so that they can understand my situation. They don’t even see me and my friends.”

Lack of food security

A program presented by the National Council for Nutritional Security, which was established in 2011 by then-Social Services Minister Moshe Kahlon, suggests granting some NIS 320 in monthly aid to about 100,000 needy families. The money would be received through food packages or vouchers.

Ynet has learned that the plan will last two years, and that in the first stage, the food will be handed over to the needy through associations. The state, the voluntary sector and the business sector will take part in the initiative.

The Council for Nutritional Security, headed by Prof. Dov Chernichovsky, says that according to a National Insurance Institute (NII) assessment that there are some 330,00 families living in Israel that suffer from “lack of food security.”

The term refers to two related phenomena: Shortage of food in the household and bad nutrition. According to the National Insurance Institute report, 18.3 percent of families in Israel feel a lack of food security and 10.5 percent suffer from serious lack of security, which may be accompanied by hunger.

Meanwhile, an International Monetary Fund report on Israel’s economy released Wednesday notes that despite a relatively high growth level, Israel’s poverty rate is still one of the highest among developed countries (members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development or OECD).

Stating that many of the poor were Arabs and haredim, the report’s authors warned that if Israel failed to integrate these two populations into the labor market, its growth would suffer in the long run, especially when taking the Israeli demographic profile into account – within 20 years these two populations will make up 40% of the country’s citizens. The report calls for increased educational efforts among these populations in order to integrate them into the labor market.

 

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THE WALL BETWEEN THE JEWS

The following is an excellent report FROM

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This mudslinging has become a normal spectacle to the bemused eyes of ordinary Israelis and Jews around the world. But what’s astonishing is that this mud is being thrown by Jews at Jews. Indeed, the valiant combatants for the good name of Israel miss an important point: the critiques of Israel in the United States are increasingly waged by Jews, not anti-Semites. The initiators and leaders of the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement are such respected academics as Judith Butler, Jacqueline Rose, Noam Chomsky, Hilary Rose and Larry Gross, all Jews.

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What To Call Occupation After 47 Years?

Israel’s Policies — Not Hatred of Jews — Making It Global Pariah

You Call This Life? West Bank Palestinian workers wait an an Israeli checkpoint near Hebron.

HAARETZ
You Call This Life? West Bank Palestinian workers wait an an Israeli checkpoint near Hebron.

By Eva Illouz

(Haaretz) — Open Haaretz on any given day. Half or three quarters of its news items will invariably revolve around the same two topics: people struggling to protect the good name of Israel, and people struggling against its violence and injustices.

An almost random example: On December 17, 2013, one could read, on a single Haaretz page, Chemi Shalev reporting on the decision of the American Studies Association to boycott Israeli academic institutions in order to “honor the call of Palestinian civil society.” In response, former Harvard University President Lawrence Summers dubbed the decision “anti-Semitic in effect, if not in intent.”

On the same page, Naftali Bennett called the bill to prevent outside funding of left-wing NGOs in Israel “too soft.” The proposed law was meant to protect Israel and Israeli soldiers from “foreign forces” which, in his view, work against the national interest of Israel through those left-wing nonprofits (for Bennett and many others in Israel, to defend human rights is to be left-wing).The Haaretz editorial, backed by an article by regular columnist Sefi Rachlevsky, referred to the treatment of illegal immigrants by the Israeli government as shameful, with Rachlevsky calling the current political regime “radical rightist-racist-capitalist,” because “it tramples democracy and replaces it with fascism.” The day after, it was the turn of Alan Dershowitz to call the American Studies Association vote to boycott Israel shameful, “for singling out the Jew among nations. Shame on them for applying a double standard to Jewish universities” (December 18).

This mudslinging has become a normal spectacle to the bemused eyes of ordinary Israelis and Jews around the world. But what’s astonishing is that this mud is being thrown by Jews at Jews. Indeed, the valiant combatants for the good name of Israel miss an important point: the critiques of Israel in the United States are increasingly waged by Jews, not anti-Semites. The initiators and leaders of the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement are such respected academics as Judith Butler, Jacqueline Rose, Noam Chomsky, Hilary Rose and Larry Gross, all Jews.

If Israel is indeed singled out among the many nations that have a bad record in human rights, it is because of the personal sense of shame and embarrassment that a large number of Jews in the Western world feel toward a state that, by its policies and ethos, does not represent them anymore. As Peter Beinart has been cogently arguing for some time now, the Jewish people seems to have split into two distinct factions: One that is dominated by such imperatives as “Israeli security,” “Jewish identity” and by the condemnation of “the world’s double standards” and “Arabs’ unreliability”; and a second group of Jews, inside and outside Israel, for whom human rights, freedom, and the rule of law are as visceral and fundamental to their identity as membership to Judaism is for the first group. Supreme irony of history: Israel has splintered the Jewish people around two radically different moral visions of Jews and humanity.

If we are to find an appropriate analogy to understand the rift inside the Jewish people, let us agree that the debate between the two groups is neither ethnic (we belong to the same ethnic group) nor religious (the Judith Butlers of the world are not trying to push a new or different religious dogma, although the rift has a certain, but imperfect, overlap with the religious-secular positions). Nor is the debate a political or ideological one, as Israel is in fact still a democracy. Rather, the poignancy, acrimony and intensity of the debate are about two competing and ultimately incompatible conceptions of morality. This statement is less trivial than it sounds.

For a long time, the debate between different factions of Jews was framed as an ideological, strategic or political one (“when, how and what to negotiate with Palestinians”). But with time, in the face of the systematic colonization of the land, the pervasive exclusion of Arabs from the body collective, the Judaization of Israel, the tone of the debate has changed and been replaced by a question about the moral nature of Zionism. Moral evaluations – whether we think people are “good” or “bad,” “just” or “unjust,” “worthy” or “unworthy” – are more fundamental to judgment than political opinion or aesthetic taste. In that sense, moral evaluations are far less negotiable than any other form of evaluation.

I will call one group the “security as morality” group. For this group, Israel is twice morally beyond reproach. First, because Jews were the super victim of history and because of Israel’s inherently vulnerable state amidst a sea of enemies. The status of victim – whether potential or actual – disculpates Israel from the crimes of the strong. Second, because its weakness commits it to the forceful defense of its military security, its land and its identity.

Surveying history, the “security as morality” group observes that might has regularly been right, and that Israel is no less entitled to its violent policies than America or other countries have been to their own. For this group, then, Israel is exonerated by the fact that it’s at once a victim and doesn’t have a worse historical record than the strong nations of the world. Israel’s morality becomes defined by the outrages of its enemies, Nazis or Hamas, and by the worst deeds of the enlightened nations.

The second group of Jews derives its positions from universal standards of justice, and from the observation that Israel is fast moving away from the pluralistic, multiethnic, pacific democracies of the world. Israel stopped being a valid source of identification for these Jews not because they are self-hating, but because many of them have been actively involved, in deed or thought, in the liberalization of their respective societies – that is, in the extension of human, economic and social rights to a wider variety of groups.

From the standpoint of that struggle, successfully waged in most Western countries, Israel makes an unacceptable demand: it requests from Jews loyalty to its policies, claims to have a moral and political status superior to that of its neighbors, yet consistently violates the human rights of Palestinians, Arabs, and liberal Judaism; uses violence; violates international law; and practices state-sanctioned discrimination toward non-Jews. For liberal Jews, Israel bullies like a Goliath, yet persists in wanting to be admired as a David.

Interestingly enough, there are not many episodes in history where groups have fought over moral issues. Most struggles in history are usually connected to belief and dogmas (e.g., religious wars), economic interests (class struggles) or to political power (nationalist liberation movements). Very few struggles have been about a moral debate on how a group or nation should treat a third group of people.

There is, however, one well-known episode of history in which a single group divided itself in two sides around the moral question of how a third group of people should be treated, and this episode was the American antislavery movement.

In using this example as a soundboard to think about the moral debate that is dividing the Jewish people, I do not claim that slavery and the occupation are equivalent. They differ significantly. But there are some analogies, in that the Jewish world has become splintered around two intractable moral claims about the treatment of Palestinians. An analogy is nothing more than a tool to probe thinking. Suppose someone didn’t know what a tiger was. If I had to explain what a tiger is, I’d say: “It is like a lion, only with stripes.” In giving this answer, I remain fully aware that a tiger is not a lion, but only like a “lion,” and this is because a tiger is closer to a lion than it is to a fish, a bird or a horse. An analogy helps us imagine and think about something we do not fully grasp, even when that analogy is an imperfect one.

The debate about the occupation is not equivalent to the debate about slavery, but it bears, here and there, some resemblance to it. And it is for this reason that I use it as a strategy for thinking.

The United States was established as a British colony in the 17th and 18th centuries. Slavery was a crucial part of the violent colonization of the American territory. Great Britain then allowed the slave trade with the Caribbean, the Americas and Brazil, thus enabling the wide use of slaves in the vast and powerful plantation system in the South and in cities such as New York. Both the North and South enjoyed the benefits of labor produced by slaves in houses, farms, land and small workshops. At the beginning of the 19th century, however, Britain – who had a vast and brutal Empire – forbade the transatlantic commerce of slaves. This was because Britain, like much of Europe, was caught in its own contradictions: it became aware that the violent use of other people went against the value of “progress” and “enlightenment” it otherwise used to justify its own superiority over world populations.

Arguments against slavery were advanced in the 18th century, but only in the 19th century did the argument against slavery gain momentum and become widespread, especially among city dwellers. Many reasons were offered for the striking change of attitude, the most obvious being the circulation of enlightenment ideas about the basic rights of human beings; the emergence of mass circulated newspapers and novels that depicted stories of suffering and made empathy into a civilized emotion; the increasing recognition that distant strangers were human beings equal and similar in rights. The eminent historian of slavery, David Brion Davis, claims that, ultimately, it was a moral argument that compelled England to claim the Transatlantic Commerce of Slaves illegal, and it was a moral argument that gave rise to what historians have called “humanitarian sensibility” in Britain and in the United States – that is, a new awareness for the suffering of strangers and for the sacredness of the human person.

In the United States, once the American Constitution was written, many started to question the flagrant contradiction between the ideals it endorsed and the brutal domination of an entire group of people that slavery represented. Christians (Quakers and Methodists mostly) joined in this struggle as well, because some slaves were converted to Christianity – and as Christians, they had a soul, and if they had a soul, they could not be animals and were by definition free. (As early as 1772, James Somersett, a black man who had escaped from his master, was freed by the judge because the slave had been baptized.)

In the United States, abolishing slavery proved to be a difficult task, as the internal slave system was very lucrative (slaves being sold within the American territory rather than imported) and so much of the plantation economy relied on slave labor. But the most significant obstacle was the proslavery ideology that was everywhere: in schoolbooks, political speeches, Church sermons, laws and fictional literature. As is always the case in history, once a group of people controls economic, human or territorial resources, it justifies its domination over a group with an ideology.

What is ideology? The set of beliefs and stories a group that dominates another tells to itself in order to make its domination seem natural, deserved and necessary (for example, if Jews are both powerful and dangerous, it is easy to justify their persecution; or if Mizrahim are stupid and uneducated, they naturally deserve to live in the periphery). When the ideology is pervasive, present in different arenas (school textbooks, politics, newspapers) and when it is sustained by concrete economic and political interests, ideology becomes an automatic way of thinking, an irresistible way of explaining reality and acting – or not acting – in it.

In order to defend and justify their domination over Africans, the proslavery camp used a number of arguments and diffused them widely: the first argument was a hierarchical view of human beings. Whites were unquestioningly superior to Africans, who were compared to animals, and as animals they were dangerous, to be domesticated and controlled. It is interesting to note that here, as in other and subsequent forms of racism, blacks were viewed both as weak (inferior) and strong (dangerous).

Proslavery people in Britain and the United States further argued that Africa itself practiced slavery, and that Britain and America in fact were contributing to the cultural development of the slaves – because African societies were unskilled and primitive, they stood to benefit by being exposed to the “advanced” European civilization. The domination of a people is not only caused by the belief that a people is inherently inferior and dangerous, but the very act of domination makes these beliefs seem true: the proof of the racist was in the pudding of the plantation owner.

Proslavers also argued that the land itself was crucial for the nation and for economic prosperity. Owners of farms and plantations viewed the land as something to fight for and cherish, a source of national pride and moral identity. In England and America, the proslavery lobby despised industrial and wage capitalism, which they viewed as creating a society of selfish strangers. They, the plantation owners, defended a less selfish view of society and the nation. Slaves were a part of the household and could help maintain a society of large units who cared for each other.

But perhaps the strongest element justifying the proslavery outlook was the use of the Bible. For the many Christian believers who made up the South, control over human beings was based on, and justified by, the famous Bible passage (Genesis 9:18-27) in which Noah curses Ham (presumably of dark color) and dooms him to be subjugated by Japheth (presumably of lighter color). This biblical narrative played a crucial role in justifying slavery because it made God and the holy scriptures give it a seal of sanctity and inevitability (it was later shown by Christians themselves that this interpretation had no basis in the actual biblical text). Any domination of human beings is far more powerful if it uses grand historical and collective narratives that lend to it an aura of historical mission.

Slavery provoked one of the greatest moral wars of modern times and, for a while, threatened to divide the nascent American nation into two distinct national entities. The two camps went to war and although the reasons for the war were not only connected to slavery, both parties saw slavery as the essential moral cause to oppose or defend.


Roman law defined human beings as either slaves or as free, and history has inherited this dichotomous division. Because of this legal division, we conventionally think that slavery has disappeared from the modern world. But slavery has not disappeared. It is more accurate to think of slavery on a continuum, as one of the most extreme forms of human domination, characterized by the fact that a human being is treated as the property of another person, and can be sold and bought like an object or animal.

But slavery is not only that. If a person or group creates mechanisms to alienate the freedom and life of another, that person is not technically speaking a slave, but s/he is subject to conditions of slavery. If an immigrant worker’s passport has been taken away from them by their employers and made to work 12 hours a day without legal rights and protection, they live in conditions of slavery. If women are trafficked for sex purposes and held in conditions of quasi-captivity by their pimps, they live in conditions of slavery. Slavery, then, is not only the fact of being turned into a tradable property. It is a set of social conditions that make someone’s existence closely determined by someone else’s decision, will and power.

Harvard sociologist Orlando Patterson, a specialist in the history and sociology of slavery, defines slavery thus: “The permanent, violent and personal domination of natally alienated and generally dishonored persons” (quoted in Brion Davis’ “Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World”). Note that this definition does not assume that a slave is necessarily a tradable property. Rather, as Patterson defines it, a slave is someone who is born in a condition in which his life at birth is dependent on the will of a master; it is someone who is born in a condition of dishonor. From this definition, we can describe a condition of slavery as having a number of characteristics.

Slavery is a state where one does not have access to citizenship. In that sense, slaves are by definition deprived of the security that membership to a sovereign political community provides. It also means that they don’t develop the skills that come with the exercise of rights and duties toward a political community. This is what Patterson means when he speaks of general “dishonor”: a slave is deprived of the possibility of being recognized by a sovereign cultural or political community.

Another characteristic follows: a slave is submitted to a different legal system than the one by which the ordinary, free population is regulated (in many cases in the American South, the law was changed so as to be applied specifically to African-Americans). Hence, in a slave society, the law is naturally made to fit the needs of the ruling group, to exonerate them when needed, and to be especially harsh on the slaves.

Third, slaves are used to maintain and extend the property of a master but are denied the right to acquire or extend their own property, through various legal and forceful means. The capacity of slaves to own or increase land and property is very limited or nonexistent.

A fourth characteristic is that slaves are the object of arbitrary physical punishment, and their life and death are often the master’s decision. Slaves live in fear, because they know that they can be physically punished, beaten, lashed, killed at any time.

Fifth, slaves have very limited social space to move in and out of. In the 19th century, seeing an unknown African-American somewhere was enough to raise suspicion that he had run away. Sixth, the personal life – sexuality and marriage – of slaves is controlled by the master – such as the fact that slaves could marry only with the permission of the master (in the Roman world, masters had almost unlimited rights to rape slaves).


Ideology is made of stories and powerful metaphors that define how we perceive and understand reality. Thus, when Israelis cast their relationship to Palestinians as a purely military one, the label of “military conflict” has a number of logical, moral and political consequences. Palestinians are “soldiers,” not civilians; they are enemies to be subdued, not ordinary civilians; they threaten Israelis, are not helpless; they must be subjugated by force, in a zero-sum game – if one loses, the other wins.

But the military metaphor with which Israelis have made sense of their relationship to Palestinians hides a disturbing fact: what started as a national and military conflict has morphed into a form of domination of Palestinians that now increasingly borders on conditions of slavery. If we understand slavery as a condition of existence and not as ownership and trade of human bodies, the domination that Israel has exercised over Palestinians turns out to have created the matrix of domination that I call a “condition of slavery.”

The Palestinian Prisoner Affairs Ministry has documented that between 1967 and 2012, Israeli authorities arrested some 800,000 Palestinians by power of the “military code.” (A more conservative assessment from Israeli sources documented that 700,000 Palestinians were detained between 1967 and 2008.) This number is astounding, especially in light of the fact that this represents as much as 40 percent of the entire male population. When a large part of the adult male population is arrested, it means that the lives of a large number of breadwinners, the heads of a family, are disrupted, alienated and made into the object of the arbitrary power of the army. In fact, which nation would create a Prisoner Affairs Ministry if imprisonment was not such a basic aspect of its life?

These facts also mean that a significant portion of the non-incarcerated population lives under the constant fear and threat of imprisonment. The Israeli NGO Public Committee against Torture in Israel (PCATI) has established that, once arrested, hundreds are categorized as “ticking bombs” or “serious threats.” Once labeled as such, they are treated with a violence prohibited by international law: prisoners are bound to their chairs in painful positions for hours, held in isolation, beaten, shaken, prevented from sleeping, verbally abused, cursed and psychologically humiliated.

The violence exercised by the military does not stop there. During Operation Cast Lead in 2008-09, the IDF used Gazan civilians as “human shields,” a practice prohibited by Israeli and international law and conventionally viewed as barbarian. Using others as human shields consists of taking civilians as hostages, using them for Israeli military purposes, threatening their families with injury if they don’t cooperate with the Israel Defense Forces’ attempt to obtain information.

Palestinian boys, from age 13-17, are frequently arrested by the IDF. Military Court Watch, an Israeli NGO, has found that 50 percent of these children are arrested in night raids, and that 80 percent are blindfolded. In a widely publicized news story, PCATI found that children are also the object of treatment that is equivalent to torture, and that the IDF engages in such practices as putting Palestinian children guilty of minor crimes in cages (for two days), exposed to the cold in the deep of winter.

To the military violence, we must add the fact that Palestinians are regularly exposed to acts of violence by civilians. The settlers known as “hilltop youth” and “price tag” attacks aim to hurt Palestinians in various ways, in their lands, property or body. These acts are only sporadically prosecuted by Israel, and when they are, more often than not it ends with no conviction.

Indeed, Palestinians are subject to a legal system that is different from the one in Israel. As the Calcalist blogger Yossi Gurvitz writes: “[R]esidents of one street in Hebron are judged according to one legal system, and residents [of a] nearby street under a different legal system. If a Palestinian child is suspected of throwing stones at soldiers, IDF gunmen break into his home at night, take him, blindfolded, to interrogation, accompanied by torture at times, and he will be put in custody. If a settler is suspected of throwing a stone at a soldier, it is likely nothing will happen to him. Naturally, no one would think of breaking into his house during the night.”

Another example of the stringency of the laws existing in the territories is that there’s no possibility for a Palestinian to get a verdict of “non-conviction” in relation to petty crime. Or a Haaretz editorial titled “An apartheid legal system just got worse,” which addresses the new military order issued by the GOC Central Command, Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon, prohibiting Palestinians from appealing military court decisions to confiscate their property. As the article argues, the order “embodies the essence of the story of the occupation and demonstrates the different law applied to Israelis and Palestinians in the occupied territories. This order violates the rights of the Palestinians, and allows arbitrary damage to them, contrary to international law and the laws of basic justice. The military can make decisions of this nature – contrary to justice – due to the existence of two different legal systems in a given geographical area: one for Jews and one for Arabs.”

These facts mean, de facto, that Palestinians live not only with a legal system different from the one used in Israel, but without serious legal protection as well. Moreover, since the 1990s, Israel has imposed severe restrictions on Palestinian movement in the West Bank. During the second intifada, Israel placed dozens of checkpoints in the West Bank that impede the movement of Palestinians within the area itself. To the Israeli, this seems only a problem of wasted hours, but the hindrance of movement touches on the very essence of freedom. It creates a wide-reaching feeling of imprisonment. (As prime minister, Ariel Sharon cut Gaza City from Ramallah, for no other reason, probably, than to create such constraints on movement.)

This feeling of spatial imprisonment is accompanied by economic strangulation. An essential part of Israeli domination is achieved by making Palestinian livelihoods depend on Israel, and monitoring permits of entry to Israel. By making entry to work in Israel conditional upon good behavior, Israeli powers create fear and extreme psychological dependency. Moreover, because Israel restricts Palestinians’ capacity to build new industries, they force them to work in the very settlements that take their own land, thus increasing their sense of humiliation and expropriation.

As for the capacity to own property, Israel has long practiced land expropriation, and made it impossible for Palestinians to extend their property. The NGO Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) established that, in 2013 alone, 634 Palestinian buildings were demolished, 1,033 people displaced and 3,688 injured by the IDF. From these figures, it can be inferred that a basic condition of life – to have a shelter and home – has been systematically and widely undermined by the policy of house demolition.

Finally, when it comes to marriage, here, too, the occupation has torn families apart. According to a report by B’Tselem – the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, Israeli restrictions on the passage from and to Gaza Strip split families and force on couples – where one of them is from Gaza, and the other the West Bank or Israel – a series of bureaucratic restrictions, with no possibility of conducting a reasonable routine. The simplest thing – raising a family, living with spouse and children, and maintaining contact with families of origin of both partners – become unachievable.

In traditional Palestinian society, the custom is that the women will move in with the husband’s family, so the procedures established by the Israeli offensive affect mainly women: Married Gazans living in the West Bank are forced to leave their family and familiar surroundings, without any possibility to visit the Gaza Strip, except for the most exceptional cases. Those who failed to update their address are in constant danger of expulsion from their homes.

We can say conservatively and impressionistically that 70 percent of the Palestinian population live with a permanent sense of dishonor, conduct their lives without predictability and continuity, live in fear of Jewish terror and of the violence of the Israeli military power, and are afraid to have no work, shelter or family. When we put these numbers under a single coherent picture and ask sociologically what kind of life this is, we are compelled to observe that a large quantity of Palestinians live in conditions in which their freedom, honor, physical integrity, capacity to work, acquire property, marry and, more generally, plan for the future are alienated to the will and power of their Israeli masters. These conditions can only be named by their proper name: conditions of slavery.

It should be clear, however, that the occupation is a condition of slavery, but not slavery: a striped lion is like a tiger, but isn’t a tiger. The occupation started as a military conflict and, unbeknown to itself, became a generalized condition of domination, dehumanizing Palestinians, and ultimately dehumanizing Israelis themselves. This magnificent people – which distinguished itself historically by its love of God, its love of texts and its love of morality – has become the manager of a vast enterprise of brutal military domination.

Without ever intending to, Israelis have become the Lords and Masters of a people, and the only interesting question about this is not how we got there (domination has its own internal incremental and implacable dynamic), but why so many Jews outside and inside of Israel are not more disturbed by this.

The reason for this is that Israel has its own proslavery lobby, which is now in the corridors of power, shapes Israel’s policy and has successfully managed to make the occupation appear to be a containable casualty of war and nation-building. The settlers’ discourse – which only 20 years ago was marginal in Israeli society –has become mainstream, and one can only be struck by its resemblance to the 19th-century American proslavery ideology.

The idea that Jews are inherently superior to Arabs is so widespread, deep and unquestioned, that it is hardly worth my time dwelling on it here. The idea of Jewish superiority exists everywhere in Israel, but is most blatant in the territories. Like the whites in the American South, Jews view themselves as obviously more moral, superior, civilized, technologically and economically far more accomplished than the inferior Arabs (Arab nations are indeed politically and economically backward, but this in no way makes Arabs inferior). In the same way that it was entirely obvious to proslavers that Africans were primitive and animal-like, Arabs are viewed as unreliable, liars, stupid and dangerous. These views dictate official policy. And in the same way that the whites in the South claimed to be civilizing the primitive Africans, one can frequently hear that Arabs have benefited from the technological and political enlightenment of Israel.

An example of Jewish supremacy can be seen in the book “The King’s Torah” (“Torat Hamelech”), written by the head rabbi of Yeshivat Od Yosef Chai (which was located in Nablus and then moved to the Yitzhar settlement). According to the book, Jews are superior to non-Jews, with Gentiles being close to animals because they did not accept the Seven Laws of Noah. In an amended world, killing a non-Jew who does not accept the commandments of Noah will become necessary. The book also suggests that because Jews are now at war, it is permissible – based on traditional sources – to kill Gentiles, including children, because of the fear that they will grow and become dangerous adults. In a review of the book, the highly respected historian Yehuda Bauer suggests that the book is not a marginal phenomenon of a handful of extremists. According to him, the book was endorsed by famous rabbis, such as Rabbi Yitzhak Ginsburg (the former head of Yeshivat Od Yosef Chai) and the well-known Hebron Rabbi Dov Lior. Yeshivas teach this book or at least contents that are very similar to it, and Yeshiva students are recruited into the IDF in increasing numbers. Some of these young people become an important nucleus of hilltop youth and price-tag launchers who reject the laws of the state, illegally take possession of the land, and attack Palestinians. Even the Hebrew University Hillel hosted an official event to discuss the book with its author, thus putting it on a par with academic books.

Prof. Bauer concludes that the book should be taken seriously because it indicates the direction of a growing part of the settlers’ movement. One hopes that the price tag attacks, which have grown at a staggering rate in the last few years, create an atmosphere of (Jewish) terror among Palestinians and have remained unpunished by the state, do not end up resembling the Ku Klux Klan in the American South.

Like their 19th-century counterparts, the settlers hold in contempt the “individualism” and “egoism” of the city dwellers of Tel Aviv, the city most likely to oppose the occupation – much like the white farmers held in contempt the abolitionists of America’s urban east coast. They view the “state” of Tel Aviv as a place in which raw economic forces and crass materialism destroy the idealism of the land.

Israel Harel, the first chairman of the Yesha Council of settlements, claimed in a Haaretz article that the environment in Tel Aviv projects an atmosphere that encourages evading military service, and that Tel Aviv conveys a degree of detachment from Israel’s survival needs. In his book on the settlement movement (“The Settlers and the Struggle over the Meaning of Zionism”), Gadi Taub quotes Harel as saying that the Israelis have lost their identity and spine, and are a metastasis of the West. Using fears of decadence familiar to the European right, Harel claims that the West has observed a steady deterioration in values, materialism and Nihilism.

Finally, and most strikingly, exactly like their southern 19th-century counterparts the settlers have abundantly sanctified the land through Bible narratives and see themselves, like the proslavery owners, as executing God’s will. Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook, the son of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, claimed that the “Lord of the universe has its own politics, according to which the politics of Earth is managed … part of this redemption is the conquest of the land and settlement in it. No earthly politics can stand against this assertion of divine politics.” Hanan Porat, one of the leaders of the settlement movement, argued that the “commandment to settle the land increases the lifetime value of the individual.” The Bible has been used both as a way to sanctify the land and justify its conquest.

Given what precedes them, the positions of MKs such as Miri Regev, Yariv Levin, Danny Danon and Naftali Bennett seem to be a “vanilla” version of the worldview defended by settlers. If indeed the settlers and their representatives in the Knesset have “mainstreamed” views that are strangely reminiscent of those of slave owners, then this only begs further the question of why so many are unable or unwilling to grasp this.

I will venture one explanation. Jews around the world view themselves as a minority in need of protection. Israel itself, because of its inherent connection to the Jewish people, has kept alive the memory of persecutions. Jews around the world live their identity as a weak one, as belonging to a minority, as bound to a history of perennial struggle against Amalek. Such vision is bound to project its own existential anxieties and sense of vulnerability, even on a military superpower such as Israel and to view its justification of military violence as a simple strategy of (ancestral) survival.

Undoubtedly, there are major differences between Palestinians and black slaves: Some Palestinians are virulently anti-Semitic and are supported by even more violent anti-Semites in the surrounding Arab countries; Palestinians have their own police force; from time to time, they send suicide bombers or launch missiles on Israel.

But my point is precisely the following: The occupation is like a photomontage that superposes two different pictures of two different realities. I ask my reader to see two images at once: the occupation as a humanitarian disaster, superposed on the occupation as a military conflict. More than that, the enslavement of the life condition of Palestinians has prevented the possibility of making this conflict into a military one. Israel, the most security-conscious state on the planet, has failed to make its conflict with the Palestinians into a military one. Instead, it has been dragged into a humanitarian disaster that has provoked a moral war and unbridgeable rift within the Jewish people. The public relations strategies of the state will not silence this moral war.


What does it mean for a country to have created such conditions of slavery for a people, and yet fail to register it? The question here is not only about the (im)morality of the occupation, but, more fundamentally, about the increasing difficulty of articulating a moral language to grasp the very nature of the occupation – initially the result of a military conflict and now a humanitarian disaster. If 19th-century slavery was known as slavery to all involved, the occupation has not produced its own adequate moral label.

We do not know what the occupation is, and we do not know what it is because language itself has been colonized. By defining it in military terms, Israelis fail to see what the world sees. Israelis see terrorists and enemies, and the world sees weak, dispossessed and persecuted people. The world reacts with moral outrage at Israel’s continued domination of Palestinians, and Israel ridicules such moral outrage as an expression of double standards. The world sees Israeli tanks and military technology against Palestinian, homeless people, but Israel sees these denunciations as self-hatred or anti-Semitism. The world wants a just solution, and Israel sees the demand for justice as a threat to its existence.

In that sense, the debate dividing the Jewish people is more difficult than the debate about slavery, because there is no agreement even on how to properly name the vast enterprise of domination that has been created in the territories. If Britain at the beginning of the 19th century understood that it couldn’t keep claiming that it represented the enlightened values of freedom and humanity and engage in the barbaric commerce of slaves, Israel is more embarrassed, for in a way it doesn’t know that it’s engaged in an enterprise it cannot justify.

Israel is dangerously sailing away from the moral vocabulary of most countries of the civilized world. The fact that many readers will think that my sources are unreliable because they come from organizations that defend human rights proves this point. Israel no longer speaks the ordinary moral language of enlightened nations. But in refusing to speak that language, it is de facto dooming itself to isolation. Israel will not indefinitely have the cake of “democracy” and eat it in the occupation.

THE BRAVE, AMAZING CHILDREN OF PALESTINE

Bless them all and may they soon see a FREE PALESTINE!

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Ahed Tamimi, a brave Palestinian girl

Ahed Tamimi, a 13-year-old Palestinian girl who stood up to Israeli soldiers who had arrested her brother, was invited to Turkey by the Başakşehir Municipality as a guest of honor.

Ahed Tamimi and her mother Neriman Tamimi landed in Turkey yesterday at around two pm, arriving to Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport on a Royal Jordanian Airlines flight via Amman. Thirteen-year-old Tamimi and her mother were greeted by students with flowers and waving flags from a ‘knowledge center’ named after the late Cevdet Kılıçlar, who was killed on the Mavi Marmara.

While Ahed made the sign of victory to news reporters, students had arrived to the airport wearing t-shirts with images of the young girl standing up to Israeli soldiers.

Expressing how pleased she was to be in Turkey, Ahed Tamimi said, “I love Erdoğan very much. I feel very happy to be in Erdoğan’s homeland.” When asked to relay what happened with the Israeli soldiers, Ahed Tamimi stated, “I wasn’t scared of the Israeli soldiers. I let them feel the Palestinian spirit and fear.”

TAMIMI TO RECEIVE AWARD FOR COURAGE

While in Turkey, Ahed Tamimi will be the recipient of the Handala Courage Award handed out by the Başakşehir Municipality and will also participate in a panel on Palestine where she will provide a child’s perspective on the painful events happening in her nation.

Ahed Tamimi, whose father is already in prison, stood up to Israeli soldiers when they arrested her brother, in a display of courage talked about all over the world.

THERE WILL NOT BE PEACE IN ISRAEL UNTIL …

There can be no talk of peace in the current climate. The struggle faced by the Palestinians in Israel is for full civil rights and an end to discrimination, as the struggle faced by their brethren in the Palestinian territory is to end the 46-year-long occupation. Both will continue to fight for these human rights, because they can’t be trampled on forever.

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Palestinians in Israel The Struggle for Rights

By Fida Jiryis *


“In fact, in the ‘sovereign state of the Jewish people’ there is little hope that Arab citizens will gain equal rights. For the Jewish majority, Israel is comparable in its civil liberties and inequities to Western democracies. But Arabs have no place in the Jewish state, except as a tolerated but essentially foreign element […] There is no substantial segment of Israeli society that opposes or seriously questions the fundamental principle of discrimination.”i
Few situations are as complex or riddled with contradiction as that of the Palestinian citizens of Israel. While many other minorities in the world suffer from discrimination and animosity, few are seen so blatantly as an enemy who must be treated with systematic oppression, with the hope that it would somehow disappear. A ludicrous notion, yes, but one that is deeply entrenched in the Israeli psyche and that will take a long process of understanding to reverse.Sadly, that process has not begun. Israel’s Palestinian minority is treated with mounting animosity and suspicion, targeted by a system of institutionalised, state-condoned discrimination and racist laws. In the “only democracy in the Middle East,” it has become commonplace to speak of a Jewish-only state, oaths of allegiance to such a state, and the threat of revoking citizenship from any dissidents – which is unparalleled worldwide and is against human rights – whose “crimes” may amount to no more than speaking out against injustice. In fact, the state goes far beyond this: it refers to its Palestinian citizens as a “demographic problem,” and its politicians frequently speak on policies of “transferring” them to the Palestinian territories, as though these “citizens” are pawns to be moved at will. In short, Israel defines itself as a Jewish state, and those Palestinians who live in it – about 1.5 million people, or a fifth of its population – are a thorn in its side. It wants to be rid of them to fully practice being its exclusionist self.

While these Palestinians are, on paper, free and equal citizens of the state, in reality, this citizenship is far from equal. I have only to travel through Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, for example, to be reminded of this. The infamous search process there has been described by many, and I’ve met one or two foreigners who, after having experienced it, have sworn never to come back. As soon as I line up at the check-in, an army of security personnel pounces. They see my passport, recognise me as Palestinian, and immediately give me a sticker that indicates that I must be searched. I’m then subjected to long, detailed questioning about where I’m going and for what purpose, and an equally harrowing baggage search, which is done slowly and manually, as though the x-ray machines wouldn’t pick up objects of suspicion. People’s reaction to this treatment is varied; some are frightened and intimidated, but most are humiliated and furious; many a voice rises in these halls.

Well, one does not travel every day. More pressing are the questions of daily life and work. For Palestinians to actually get jobs in the Israeli system is an exercise in itself. When I arrived in the Galilee in 1995, fresh out of Lancaster University in England with a BSc in computer science and some work experience, numerous interviewers in Israeli hi-tech companies demanded my army number. I was unable to provide it. Palestinians are exempt from serving in the Israeli army that oppresses their fellow Palestinians in the occupied territories. I was thanked and told that the companies would “call me.” No such calls came. In fact, as I discovered, this is the state’s way of discriminating against Palestinians in employment without appearing to do so outright. In the few instances when I found a job, it was in smaller companies with less rigid hiring procedures that were usually desperate for someone who knew English, since neither Arabs nor Jews in Israel are especially fluent in English. Twice, I found myself the only Arab among thirty or more Israeli employees.

The state has put in place an almost mind-boggling array of discrimination tools, such that one almost wonders at the ingenuity with which a people can practice systematic oppression of another.

In every Arab community, and in the five mixed cities where both Jews and Arabs live, de facto discrimination is readily apparent. Israel’s 1.37 million Arab citizens vote, pay taxes, and speak Hebrew, yet they suffer pervasive discrimination, unequal allocation of resources and violation of their legal rights. Housing, education, and income all substantially lag behind those of the Jewish majority. Only 3 percent of the land in Israel proper is owned by Arabs; permits are rarely granted to Arab families to expand their housing; and most Jewish towns and neighbourhoods remain off-limits.ii

Even more alarming, Israeli society is tending more towards right-wing ideology and racism. A 2012 surveyiii found that most Israelis believe that the state practices “apartheid” against Palestinians, and they are in favour of this. One-third to one-half of Jewish Israelis, according to the survey results, want to live in a state that practices formal, open discrimination against its Arab citizens.

The majority of the Jewish public, 59 percent, wants preference for Jews over Arabs in admission to jobs in government ministries. Almost half the Jews, 49 percent, want the state to treat Jewish citizens better than Arab citizens; 42 percent don’t want to live in the same building with Arabs and 42 percent don’t want their children in the same class with Arab children.

A third of the Jewish public wants a law barring Israeli Arabs from voting for the Knesset and a large majority of 69 percent objects to giving 2.5 million Palestinians the right to vote if Israel annexes the West Bank.

A sweeping 74 percent majority is in favour of separate roads for Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank.

The findings “reflect the widespread notion that Israel, as a Jewish State, should be a state that favours Jews,” wrote Noam Sheizaf, an Israeli journalist and blogger. “They are also the result of the occupation … After almost half a century of dominating another people, it’s no surprise that most Israelis don’t think Arabs deserve the same rights.”

Far from building bridges and attempting to negotiate a peaceful reconciliation, we live at the opposite end of the spectrum.

What do people do? Well, what they do everywhere else: they get up, send their children to school, and go out to battle the odds for survival every day. Some attend Israeli universities, get degrees, then usually find themselves in lower paying jobs that they’re just glad to have. Others finish school and, with difficult financial conditions being prevalent among the Arab population and their not being eligible for any government student loans, find themselves out of education and in the workforce. A large number of Israel’s Palestinians thus work in construction, factories, and other forms of manual labour simply because of lack of opportunity. Many university graduates also join these ranks after spending years looking for a professional job to no avail.

But Palestinians are highly resilient, because they’ve simply had to be. So they keep their culture, speak their language, albeit with a lot of Hebrew influence, and practice their customs. They protect as much as they can of their heritage and push forth for a decent life in this state that was forced on them. And, at the end of the day, they’re not going anywhere.

In recent years, also, youth have become fed up with the system and are more forthcoming in voicing their dissent. Their parents and grandparents grew up in a culture of military rule; today’s generation is far from being intimidated. It is getting more education and is realising, as it sees itself within the world and looks at other countries, that it is living in a system of apartheid. There is increasing awareness among Palestinians, even the poorest and least educated, that they are not being treated fairly and that discrimination is a yoke on their backs.

There can be no talk of peace in the current climate. The struggle faced by the Palestinians in Israel is for full civil rights and an end to discrimination, as the struggle faced by their brethren in the Palestinian territory is to end the 46-year-long occupation. Both will continue to fight for these human rights, because they can’t be trampled on forever.

*Fida Jiryis is a Palestinian writer, editor, and author of Hayatuna Elsagheera (Our Small Life), 2011, and Al-Khawaja, 2013, two collections of Arabic short stories depicting village life in the Galilee. 


i The Arabs in Israel, Sabri Jiryis, Monthly Review Press, USA, 1976, p. xi.
ii The Paradox of Ethnicity and Citizenship, New Israel Fund, 2011, http://www.nif.org/issue-areas/israeli-arabs/
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iii The new Israeli apartheid: Poll reveals widespread Jewish support for policy of discrimination against Arab minority, Catrina Stewart, The Independent, Tuesday October 23, 2012; Survey: Most Israeli Jews wouldn’t give Palestinians vote if West Bank was annexed, Gideon Levy, Haaretz, October 23, 2012.

Written FOR

ISRAEL’S LATEST HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATION CAUGHT ON VIDEO TODAY

IDF stands idly by as settlers throw stones at Palestinians

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New video by human rights organization shows soldiers failing to intervene in standoff between Palestinians and settlers in West Bank.

Video: B’Tselem

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See Report HERE

JUST WHAT IS THE PRAWER PLAN AND WHY ALL THE FUSS AGAINST IT?

2014-solidarity-with-palestine-un
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The UN has declared the year 2014 as the Year of Solidarity with Palestine. Israel has declared it as the Year to Erase What Is Left of Palestine …
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The full, translated text of Israel’s Prawer Plan (Click)

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‘ARE YOU NOW OR HAVE YOU EVER BEEN’ …. A PALESTINIAN?

are you or have you ever been

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“Where was your father born?”

“Where was your grandfather born?”

“What is your father’s name?

“What is your grandfather’s name?”

“What is your great grandfather’s name?”

“Which part of Israel are you from?”

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Palestinian Brit trying to volunteer in Bethlehem interrogated for five hours at Ben Gurion airport
 Anonymous

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Anonymous, 18, is a Greek-Palestinian British student who lives in London. The author usually goes to Jordan every 2 years, but never had the chance to go to Palestine and hoped to this year as part of a volunteering program. Knowing there would be difficulties at the airport, but never expected what happened. Anonymous says, “What shocked me that even though I had a British passport they still gave me a hard time, I felt like I was a criminal.”

I’m an 18 year old student, born and raised in London. Throughout my whole life my parents have brought me up to be proud of my Palestinian roots, I was brought up listening to stories from my father and grandparents about Ain Karem, my village.  It has always been a dream of mine to be able to visit my homeland, Palestine, and this year in October I had the opportunity to finally go, I was going to go to the Palestinian territories to volunteer in a school in Bethlehem. I was told to not tell the Israeli authority the real purpose of my visit to Palestine, activists and volunteers are usually not allowed to enter Israel. I knew that I was going to face many problems at Ben Gurion airport, due to my Palestinian background.

I arrived at Ben Gurion airport, I showed my passport to the lady at border control, she looked at my name on my British passport and immediately she called border security. I was escorted by two security men to a waiting room. After 30 minutes a man called me to his office, the questions he asked were:

“Where was your father born?”

“Where was your grandfather born?”

“What is your father’s name?

“What is your grandfather’s name?”

“What is your great grandfather’s name?”

“Which part of Israel are you from?”

Then they asked me what the purpose of my trip to Israel was, I told them that I was visiting Israel for tourism. The first part of the interrogation had finished. My legs and arms were shaking, but I made sure that I didn’t show them that I was frightened.

Two hours had gone by and I was still waiting, a second man called me in to another room for questioning, this time I could sense that they were going to be really tough. I walked into the room and there was also another man sitting in the background. Again the man asked me the same questions. However this time they wanted all the details of my stay. I was prepared for these questions, at this point the Israeli authority still thought that I was in Israel for tourism. They asked me: “where are you going to stay?” I told them that I was planning to stay at a hotel in Jerusalem. They also asked me why me parents didn’t come with me, how much money I had on me. They also wanted contact details of my family in Jordan. I refused to give them such details.

The man then told me, write my e-mail address on a piece of paper. “Can you write your email address and password for us?” I simply replied, “No mate, I don’t think so, that’s illegal.” He just laughed and took my email address only (they still managed to hack into my personal email either way).

The interrogation stopped for 45 minutes and a different man came into the room to ask me further questions. He sat down, looked at me in the eyes and said “You’re a liar.” At this point I knew that they had hacked into my email account and seen my emails to the Palestinian volunteering organisation. The man then said to me:

“I know you lied, see the man at the back, he’s a psychologist and he was examining your body language throughout the whole process… why did you lie about your volunteering placement?”

My reply: “It’s not really my fault to be honest, you people give the impression that you want to kill any Palestinian activist or volunteer, this is why all people lie to you. I’m not stupid I know that you detained me because of my Arabic name.” His eyes turned red from anger. He banged his hand on the table and told me to be careful or I will be on the blacklist.

He quickly left the room and after an hour two women came in and asked me the same questions but in different ways. At this point I wasn’t scared, it just turned into a joke for me. They asked me:

“Why did your mum marry your dad? She’s non-Arab.”

I replied, “erm because she fancied him.” I could tell that they were getting agitated.

Then they asked me “Why did your dad move to London?”

I replied “because he wanted to be closer to the London eye,” and they looked at each other and said something in Hebrew.

They then asked me specific questions about my family in Jordan. “Which exact area was your dad born in?” My reply was, “Look guys I don’t know, I know you know the answer to that because you have my whole family history in your computer system so why waste my time in asking me these questions, just check in your computer, so I can find out myself.” They looked at me and just laughed, they then left.

I was in that room for at least 3 hours, I was not allowed to contact anyone, I was more worried with the fact that the taxi driver waiting for me might have left. After an hour another two men took me in for questioning, again, same questions were asked, we were just going around in circles, the Israeli authorities aim to make you nervous, but I didn’t care. At that point it was all a joke for me.

After five hours I finally got my Israeli Visa. As I walked out of the departures area, I started to panic because I could not see the taxi driver, I went to customer services and I told them that if I don’t find the taxi driver they will have to book me a hotel in Jerusalem so I could stay the night and then travel to Bethlehem the next day. As I was talking to them I saw my name, the taxi driver was there, a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. The taxi driver waited for 5 hours, he was a Palestinian man named Mohammad. Every 20 minutes he would call border control to tell them to release me, he told them to tell me that he would be waiting for me until I got out, but they did not tell me, they knew that the only thing that was making me panic was the thought of the taxi driver not being there.

On my way back to London I was held for 4 hours, I was strip searched, all my bags were searched, every single item was taken out, even all my underwear were put through the x-ray scanner.

The Israelis use these intense interrogation methods to try and put off Palestinians from visiting the West Bank. However this makes people even more determined to go back to Palestine. I resisted because I was in the right.

All Palestinians should try to visit Palestinian territories, to see for themselves the daily struggle that the people have to face such as checkpoints everywhere, the IDF dehumanizing people every day, how people live in constant fear. Even though I was only there for 1 week I felt that I as surrounded by a military machine. We all need to remember that “To exist is to resist”.

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The author at the Herodium, where you can see Jericho, Hebron, Bethlehem and the Dead Sea.

Written FOR

GIVING THE ADL A RUN FOR THEIR MONEY

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In a lengthy document published in 2006, the Anti-Defamation League accused CAIR of holding extreme positions on Israel and of having links to individuals and groups that expressed support for terror organizations.
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Jacob Bender Is First Jew To Lead Chapter of Muslim Advocacy Group CAIR

Philly Activist Faces Hostilty From Jewish Establishment

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COURTESY OF JACOB BENDER

By Nathan Guttman

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Jacob Bender is set to be the voice of Philadelphia-area Muslims, to take on discrimination they encounter in workplace and in the public sphere, and to fight expressions of hate.

And his Jewish faith, Bender believes, can only help him do the job effectively.

“The Muslim community is under attack from Islamophobic forces, and it is the obligation and responsibility of people of good will to stand up and say this is a bigoted attack,” Bender said. “This is fully in keeping with my life goals.”

The Council on American Islamic Relations’ Philadelphia branch announced the appointment of Bender as its executive director October 15. Bender is the first Jew, and the first non-Muslim, to serve as director of a CAIR branch.

“The needs of the Muslim community are really the needs of any minority community in the United States,” said Iftekhar Hussein, chairman of CAIR-Philadelphia’s board of directors. “Jacob, being Jewish, understands that from his own background.”

An activist on Jewish-Muslim interfaith issues who has been involved in the past on the progressive end of Middle East peace advocacy, Bender will face two entirely different sets of expectations in his new position.

He will meet a local Muslim community expecting a non-Muslim to represent its needs just as well as would a member of their own faith.

He will also face a national Jewish leadership that has all but deemed CAIR off-limits for any dialogue.

In a lengthy document published in 2006, the Anti-Defamation League accused CAIR of holding extreme positions on Israel and of having links to individuals and groups that expressed support for terror organizations.

Jewish groups have also pointed in the past to the fact that CAIR was initially named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the case of the Holy Land Foundation, an American-based charity charged with raising funds for Hamas. But in 2012 a circuit court ordered that the reference to CAIR be expunged.

“CAIR is far off the radar screen of the Jewish community,” said Ethan Felson, vice president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. “The Jewish community looked at their record and said, ‘We won’t work with this group.’”

While no official policy has been adopted, the Jewish community has excluded CAIR from all joint interfaith activities with the Muslim community and has focused on ties with the Islamic Society of North America and with local mosques and imams.

CAIR and Bender reject the Jewish organizations’ claims that the group is in any way extreme. “There will always be those who will try to demonize other groups,” Bender said. “As someone who has long supported Palestinian rights and was critical of the policy of occupation, I find no contradiction between my long-stated opinions on the Middle East and those of CAIR.”

Israel is not a top issue for CAIR, especially its branches, which tend to deal more with countering discrimination against Muslims within the local community. Still, for many in the Jewish community, the Arab-Israeli issue is viewed as the key obstacle distancing CAIR from the American Jewish establishment.

Could having an American Jew in a leadership position bridge the divides between the two sides? Most respond with a mix of hope and skepticism.

“There’s always potential for change,” Hussein said, while noting that building ties with Jewish organizations wasn’t the motivation behind hiring Bender for the post. “Those who are not in contact with CAIR should come to the table and understand that we are a civil rights organization.”

Abraham Foxman, the ADL’s national director, said in a statement to the Forward that “time will tell.” Bender’s Jewish faith, he said, does not necessarily matter. “Unfortunately, there are Jews who are anti-Jewish and anti-Israel,” Foxman added, “but we will wait and see.”

Bender’s interest in the Muslim community began after the 9/11 terror attacks. A video and television producer, he began organizing interfaith meetings and speaking out against expressions of Islamophobia that have increased following the attacks.

In 2009, the documentary he directed, “Out of Cordoba: Averroes and Maimonides in Their Time and Ours,” was released. The film is “about Jews, Muslims and Christians struggling against the hijacking of their religions by extremists,” Bender wrote in a short description accompanying the movie.

The film focuses on two historical contemporaries from medieval Spain: the Jewish philosopher Maimonides and the Muslim thinker Averroes. Through these two profiles, Bender sought to challenge “the propositions that there is an inevitable ‘clash of civilizations’ between the West and the Muslim world.”

For the past two years, Bender has been traveling with the movie to Jewish and Muslim communities nationwide, speaking about the need for greater interfaith understanding. In the 1980s Bender was active in several Jewish progressive organizations advocating a two-state solution. He later served as executive director of the American Friends of Meretz, the left-wing Israeli political party.

His job at CAIR-Philadelphia, one of a network of 20 independent chapters across the country, will focus primarily on countering anti-Muslim discrimination. In recent years the chapter has been among the key groups fighting against anti-Sharia laws proposed in Pennsylvania. It has spoken out publicly against anti-Muslim stereotypes following the Boston marathon bombing.

Bender’s background in filmmaking and public speaking, the group’s lay leaders noted, made him fit for the role of a spokesman for the organization and for Muslim civil rights.

“I’ve never had any question or negative feeling about CAIR ever since I came in contact with them,” Bender said. “I’ve never encountered any anti-Jewish or anti-Semitic sentiment. The opposite is true.”

 

Source

‘BIAS’ PROBE AT RUTGERS U

When I think of Rutgers University the first thing that comes to mind is the fact that Paul Robeson was an All American Football Player there, the first Black man at a major US campus to have that honour. I thought of Rutgers as a bastion of Liberal thought, that is, until I read the following;
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Rutgers students face “bias” probe for flyers criticizing Israeli home demolitions

 Ali Abunimah 

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SJP member Amanda Najib delivers a mock eviction notice at the Rutgers University campus in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

 (Syjil Ashraf)

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Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at Rutgers, the state university of New Jersey, is under investigation by campus administrators after complaints of “bias.”

One Zionist group has alleged that SJP specifically targeted the dorm rooms of Jewish students on the New Brunswick, New Jersey campus with mock “eviction notices” designed to draw attention to Israel’s practice of demolishing Palestinian homes.

But this claim has been contradicted by the university in a statement to The Electronic Intifada.

A campus rabbi has even demanded that SJP be “disbanded” by the university to set an “example.”

The “bias” investigation comes after the university has already issued a written warning to SJP that it violated school policy by posting the flyers without prior approval from administrators.

The claims are only the latest in a long-running effort by pro-Israel advocates to paint Rutgers University as hostile to Jewish students.

Action to raise awareness

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Activists have used mock eviction notices on several campuses to draw attention to Israel’s demolitions of Palestinian homes.

 (Syjil Ashraf)

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“On the night of Sunday, October 6th, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) board members printed mock eviction notices and distributed them in dormitory buildings,” Students for Justice in Palestine — Rutgers New Brunswick explained in a statement emailed to The Electronic Intifada.

“This action was intended to call attention to the systematic demolition of the homes of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and Israel.”

Last week, The Electronic Intifada published a photo story of Khirbet al-Makhul, a Palestinian community of 120 people in the occupied West Bank, demolished to make way for a live-fire training area for the Israeli army.

In August, Human Rights Watch urged Israel to “immediately end unlawful demolitions of Palestinian homes and other structures,” noting an alarming increase in the number of Palestinians made homeless in eastern occupied Jerusalem since last year.

“Our completely fake notices brought no harm; it is the confiscation of Palestinian land that these notices bring attention to that continues to bring harm to millions,” Rutgers SJP added.

Bogus allegation Jews targeted

Andrew Getraer, executive director of the pro-Israel advocacy group Rutgers Hillel, told theDaily Targum, the campus newspaper, that “We had many students who came to us who were very upset when they received eviction notices, who felt harassed, who felt that they have been deceived and made to feel targeted and unsafe in their dorm rooms, and … We directed them to the appropriate deans … There were several students who filed complaints.”

Getraer claimed that “in some cases, Jewish students were targeted and explained how some students came to Hillel stating how they were the only student who received a flyer on their floor.”

SJP at Rutgers denied this, explaining the measures it took to avoid the possibility of bias accusations:

We posted the notices under many doors on different floors of student dormitories and residence halls. We chose doors at random, aiming to maximize the number of people who would be viewing the notice, with one exception: we intentionally avoided the Hillel building and Les Turchin Chabad House, locations with many, if not exclusively Jewish, residents. This was done to avoid the possibility that Jewish students would feel that they were singled out or targeted.

A university statement appears to support SJP’s account and contradict the claims of Hillel’s Getraer.

“The flyers were distributed randomly to about 800 students and the university is in the process of reviewing a student complaint arising from the incident,” university spokesperson E.J. Miranda wrote in an 11 October email to The Electronic Intifada.

Identical claims that Jews were targeted have been made in other cases where campus Palestine activists distributed mock eviction notices, including at Harvard University andFlorida Atlantic University.

Florida Atlantic confirmed there was no evidence Jewish students were targeted and declined to take punitive action.

The claim that Jews were targeted at Harvard appears to have been fabricated by Israel’s far-right Arutz Sheva website.

Call to disband SJP

Pro-Israel groups have been swift to condemn the SJP educational effort and to call for official retribution.

Rabbi Esther Reed of Rutgers Hillel told the Targum that she found the flyers “alarming and reprehensible” as well as “factually inaccurate,” complaining that they “vilified Israel.”

Rutgers Hillel also released a formal statement condemning the flyers, stating that they made “students feel unsafe in their homes.”

Another Hillel official, Rabbi Akiva Dovid Weiss, opined on the incident for Arutz Sheva, calling on Rutgers to ban SJP to set an “example for all others”:

[No] student in this university ever will feel safe until they know that university groups that engage in this kind of behavior will be unconditionally disbanded, since actions that compromise the emotional safety of our students within the privacy of their own residences cannot be tolerated and have no place on our campus.

The flyers were also condemned by anti-Palestinian and anti-gay activist group Christians United for Israel (CUFI) on the conservative news site The Blaze, which stated that “We focus on the real debate as opposed to theatrics.”

Bias investigation

The Targum reported on 11 October that complaints had been filed with the bias committee, and that committee, which “deals with the content in the flyers,” in turn alerted the Office of Student Life, which oversees student organizations.

Kerri Wilson, director of student involvement, told the Targum that SJP “was found responsible for violating student involvement posting policy for the residence halls,” resulting in a written warning over the unauthorized distribution of the flyers.

“We have faith that the Rutgers community and administration will recognize that our cause is important, not only to the Palestinians, but to the humanitarians in all of us,” the Rutgers SJP statement said in reference to the complaints.

“Students for Justice in Palestine is proud to be at Rutgers University, and we will not — should not — be silenced.”

Bias complaints are handled by the university’s Bias Prevention Education Committeewhich includes a “Response Team” made up of deans of students and a “Bias Prevention Education Advisory Team.”

The Bias Prevention Education Advisory team Team is co-chaired by Hillel Rabbi Esther Reed herself.

It is unclear whether she would play any role in the investigation, given her organization’s advocacy for Israel and her own prejudicial public statements regarding the flyers.

Rutgers Hillel has itself come under attack for promoting bias on campus. In 2003, sixty professors signed a statement expressing “growing unease to the role [Rutgers] Hillel has recently come to play in the promotion of the extreme right on campus.”

Then, as now, Getraer was executive director.

As recently as 2012, Rutgers Hillel has hosted Israeli soldiers who have personally participated in the military occupation of Palestinian land and justified killings of Palestinians.

Rutgers targeted

The allegations of “bias” at Rutgers are only the latest in a series of attempts to portray the campus as a hostile environment for Jewish students as a result of Palestine solidarity activism.

Rutgers is the subject of a 2011 complaint to the US Department of Education by the Zionist Organization of America under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, alleging pervasive anti-Semitism on campus.

A similar tactic has been used by various Zionist groups in an effort to suppress Palestine solidarity activism on other campuses.

But three similar complaints against the Berkeley, Santa Cruz and Irvine campuses of the University of California were recently thrown out by the US Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, in what has been seen as a major victory for free speech.

While the Rutgers case is still pending before the Office of Civil Rights, university officials have dismissed the allegations as “factually inaccurate and significantly distorted.”

Gregory S. Blimling, the university’s vice president for student affairs, told the Chronicle of Higher Education in April 2012 that the issues raised in the complaint were not about anti-Semitism, but disagreement over Israel’s policies.

“There are people on both sides of that debate,” Blimling said, “who would like to have the other side of that argument not have the same freedoms they do.”

While Blimling may believe that, the indisputable fact is that only anti-Palestinian groups have resorted to legal measures to try to silence criticism of Israel on campus.

Faculty “frightened”

The attack on Rutgers has already affected the right of students to freely learn and talk about the question of Palestine.

Junior faculty are too afraid to even discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in class, according to Professor Charles G. Häberl, 2009–12 director of the Rutgers Center for Middle Eastern Studies.

“They are frightened to say anything about these issues, especially since they don’t have the shield of tenure to hide behind. And I don’t blame them,” Häberl told the Chronicle.

Anti-Palestinian groups are likely to consider that a success.

Full statement from Rutgers SJP

On the night of Sunday, October 6th, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) board members printed mock eviction notices and distributed them in dormitory buildings at Rutgers New Brunswick. This action was intended to call attention to the systematic demolition of the homes of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and Israel. Since 1967, approximately 24,000 Palestinian homes have been demolished by Israel, as estimated by the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions. The facts about Palestinian home demolitions included on the mock eviction notices are all true and substantiated by human rights organizations, as well as international bodies such as the United Nations and International Court of Justice. More information can be found at www.icahd.org.

We posted the notices under many doors on different floors of student dormitories and residence halls. We chose doors at random, aiming to maximize the number of people who would be viewing the notice, with one exception: we intentionally avoided the Hillel building and Les Turchin Chabad House, locations with many, if not exclusively Jewish, residents. This was done to avoid the possibility that Jewish students would feel that they were singled out or targeted.

The fake eviction notices were just that—fake. The notices clearly stated that the eviction was not real, and was authored by SJP.

This peaceful, quiet demonstration is not unprecedented. It originated with student activists at New York University and has spread to other schools across the country, including Harvard, Yale, San Diego State, and Florida Atlantic University. This action is part of our long-term mission to draw awareness to a human rights issue that affects the global community on many levels, including social, psychological, humanitarian, and economic.

The Palestinian-Arab refugee and displaced population is the largest in the world, and forced evictions are one of the milder methods used to achieve this. It cannot, thus, be truthfully denied that for 65 years now, the Israeli government has oppressed and traumatized the Palestinian people by means of racial discrimination, ethnic cleansing, illegal settlement and colonization, forced military occupation, and more. Thousands of Palestinian men, women, and children have been killed since the beginning of this conflict, and Palestinian refugees and their descendants number in the millions.

Rutgers University has a strong history of student protests and being the voice for those whose cries have fallen on deaf ears. We are proud to uphold this tradition that is fundamental to what it means to be a student at this university as well as a citizen of this nation. The First Amendment protects our right to free speech at a public university – especially speech about one of the most urgent international human rights issues of our time. This is a college campus, the quintessential marketplace of ideas, where vigorous debate about serious problems is part of the educational experience. Free Speech is sometimes controversial and upsetting to some; it would be worthless if it were not. But as was recently noted by the U.S. Department of Education in dismissing complaints against campuses like Rutgers alleging that pro-Palestinian activism creates a hostile environment for Jewish students, “[i]n the university environment, exposure to robust and discordant expressions, even when personally offensive and hurtful, is a circumstance that a reasonable student may experience.

Our completely fake notices brought no harm; it is the confiscation of Palestinian land that these notices bring attention to that continues to bring harm to millions. We hope that those who received and read them were given more insight as to the plight of the Palestinian people after being put in their shoes for a few seconds.

We have faith that the Rutgers community and administration will recognize that our cause is important, not only to the Palestinians, but to the humanitarians in all of us. We ask for your support not only in our fundamental right to freedom of speech, but also in fighting for Palestinian liberty, justice, human rights, and self-determination. Students for Justice in Palestine is proud to be at Rutgers University, and we will not— should not— be silenced.

In solidarity,

Students for Justice in Palestine — Rutgers New Brunswick.

 

 

Written FOR

FANNING THE FLAMES OF ISRAELI RACISM … VIDEO

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In the last three years, angry residents of south Tel Aviv have repeatedly taken to the streets, marching through neighborhoods now populated by significant numbers of non-Jewish Africans, demanding that they all be expelled from the country. Right-wing lawmakers have sought to score political points by attending the protests and fanning the flames of racial hatred.
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Video: Israeli crowd cheers as Africans called “slaves”

David Sheen*

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An Israeli high court decision on 16 September striking down legislation authorizing the indefinite incarceration of asylum-seekers from Africa brought hundreds of residents of Tel Aviv into the streets in protest the following day.

Blocking the intersection at the entrance to the Hatikvah market in south Tel Aviv to traffic for an hour and a half, Jewish Israelis decried the court ruling, which mandates that the 2,000 Africans jailed in Israel on the basis of the invalidated law must be released within ninety days.

In the last several years, south Tel Aviv has become home to approximately 30,000 non-Jewish African nationals, most of whom entered the country by walking across Israel’s desert border with Egypt.

Israelis opposed to their presence accuse them of migrating to Israel solely to earn more money than they could hope to in their home countries, while advocates for the Africans claim that most of them have fled dictatorial regimes and ethnic cleansing campaigns.

Fanning the flames

The overturned amendment represents part of the Israeli government’s unconcealed efforts to dissuade other Africans from arriving and to convince those already in the country to leave quickly. Other anti-African measures implemented by the government include the construction of border fences and the refusal to grant refugee status or even temporary work permits to the vast majority of the asylum-seekers. Without any legal means of sustenance, most of the Africans remain impoverished, living in the only areas they can afford to — neighborhoods which were poor to begin with.

Some Israelis from the political left and center have urged the government to grant residency to the asylum-seekers, which would allow them to contribute to the economy, earn a living and relieve some of the economic burden on poorer neighborhoods like south Tel Aviv. But the political and religious ultra-right, which has ruled uninterrupted since 2009, refuses to consider that option, since it vehemently opposes any proposals which would permit a significant number of non-Jewish persons to remain in the country on a long-term basis.

In the last three years, angry residents of south Tel Aviv have repeatedly taken to the streets, marching through neighborhoods now populated by significant numbers of non-Jewish Africans, demanding that they all be expelled from the country. Right-wing lawmakers have sought to score political points by attending the protests and fanning the flames of racial hatred. With municipal elections scheduled for 22 October, several candidates for Tel Aviv-Jaffa city council capitalized on the 17 September rally and filled the crowd with their activists and banners.

Frightening

The above video, which I shot at the rally, gives the viewer a court-side seat to the one of the most frightening displays of ultra-nationalism to come out of Israel in recent years. The rally’s master of ceremonies characterizes all Africans as slaves, and the crowd cheers him on.

Michael Ben-Ari, a former member of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, calls for martial law to prevent “ten million Chinese, five million Indians and twenty million Africans” from entering the country and turning Israel from a “Jewish state” to a “multi-national state.” Little children chant: “The people demand the expulsion of the Sudanese!” to the delight of their adult guardians.

But what stands out for me as the most revealing episode of the evening is my interview with a twenty-year-old Israeli soldier in civilian attire who says that he is afraid of being attacked when he walks around the neighborhood, even when he is armed with an assault rifle. When I asked what had happened to him to have aroused such intense fears, he told me that the anxiety took hold when he observed non-Jewish African people smoking and cooking outdoors on Yom Kippur, a day when these behaviors are forbidden to Jewish people.

It is difficult to imagine that there might be a single Jewish person anywhere in the world outside of Israel who stepped out of a synagogue on Yom Kippur, saw a non-Jewish person taking a drag on a cigarette or flipping a burger on a barbecue grill, and suddenly became afraid for his or her life.

The fact that this is the reported experience of a battle-ready Israeli soldier in Tel Aviv, the largest Jewish-majority city in the history of the world — leads one to surmise that this fear of African asylum-seekers probably has more to do with state-sponsored propaganda demonizing non-white non-Jewish people, than with any supposed demonic qualities that propaganda ascribes to its victims.

*David Sheen is an independent writer and filmmaker. Born in Toronto, Canada, Sheen now lives in Dimona.

Written FOR

THE ZIOPATION CANNOT CRUSH OUR DREAMS

“My dream is like the dream of any Palestinian kid,” says Tayma. “It is to live in safety and not in the shadow of colonization, and not to feel crushed every time I leave the house. And my other dream is to become a famous Palestinian rapper.”
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Short film about Tayma

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Find out more about Tayma’s story in this short film produced by Defence for Children International Palestine.

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Tayma, 13, an aspiring Palestinian hip-hop artist, shares her experiences of growing up with settler harassment and intimidation in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan through her lyrics.

“We had a childhood just like everyone else, but it wasn’t a normal childhood,” says 13-year-old Tayma. “Everywhere we turn, the settlers are around us … They came to our land, stole our land, and are saying that it’s theirs.”

Tayma lives in the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan on the outskirts of Jerusalem’s Old City. Israeli authorities issued many of the Palestinian families living in Silwan with demolition orders for their homes to clear the area for a national park.

Israeli authorities also approved a large tourism center in the heart of the neighborhood, which will include parking, an event hall, a cafeteria, and stores. They’ve handed development of the area to Elad, an Israeli settlement organization.

“All the houses here are under threat of demolition [by Israel] so that the settlers can build a park for their children,” says Tayma. “They want to throw Palestinian families on the streets so that they can build parks for their own children.”

Israeli settlers have moved into Silwan. With the aid of Israeli security forces, they subject the longtime Palestinian residents to daily violent harassment and intimidation.

Tayma and her sibling must share the same steps with settlers to access their home. “Sometimes we rub each other the wrong way, which creates some bad situations between us,” she says. “There are cameras everywhere that watch the kids as they go up and down the steps.”

“My dream is like the dream of any Palestinian kid,” says Tayma. “It is to live in safety and not in the shadow of colonization, and not to feel crushed every time I leave the house. And my other dream is to become a famous Palestinian rapper.”

Produced BY
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Now look into my eyes and tell me what you see ….
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FABRICATING ‘FACTS’ ABOUT SYRIA

The report admits that HRW did not have physical access to the site and had based its study on Skype interviews with ‘More than 10 witnesses and survivors’ made over a period of two weeks between 22 August and 6 September. These were supplemented by video and photo footage and other data from an unnamed source or sources.
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Is Human Rights Watch Manipulating Facts about Syria?

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A still taken from the video analyzed by Eliot Higgins. Higgins deduced that this is a Syrian Army operation entirely from the red berets worn by some of the personnel. (Photo: Supplied)
A still taken from the video analyzed by Eliot Higgins. Higgins deduced that this is a Syrian Army operation entirely from the red berets worn by some of the personnel. (Photo: Supplied)
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By Richard Lightbown

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On 21 August 2013 a series of chemical attacks were perpetrated in the Ghouta suburbs of eastern Damascus. Sources say that between 281 and 1,729 civilians were killed, while Medcins Sans Frontiers reported around 3,600 were injured in the attacks. On the same day UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon instructed the UN Mission already in Syria to investigate allegations of chemical weapons use in Khan al-Asal, Sheik Maqsoos and Saraqueb to focus their efforts on the Ghouta allegations.

Before the UN Mission had reported its preliminary findings Human Rights Watch (HRW) jumped the gun on 10 September with its own report written by Peter Bouckaert, the organization’s Emergencies Director. The report admits that HRW did not have physical access to the site and had based its study on Skype interviews with ‘More than 10 witnesses and survivors’ made over a period of two weeks between 22 August and 6 September. These were supplemented by video and photo footage and other data from an unnamed source or sources. It is unclear then, exactly how many exposed survivors were interviewed by HRW or who the other witnesses were.

In compiling the report HRW had also drawn on the technical services of Keith B. Ward Ph.D., an expert on the detection and effects of chemical warfare agents. However the organisation did not disclose that Dr Ward is employed by Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency of the United States government. The HRW investigation was also ‘assisted by arms experts including Nic Jenzen-Jones […] as well as Eliot Higgins […] who collected and analysed photos and videos from the attacks.’

Mr Jenzen-Jones’s LinkedIn profile does not list any training or experience with armaments, and his only qualifications appear to be ‘certified armourer and ammunition collector’ – which probably relates to the Firearms Amendment (Ammunition control) Act 2012 of the state of New South Wales, Australia. In reports on the story on his own blog ‘The Rogue Adventurer’, Mr Jenzen-Jones relies on data taken uncritically from sources such as the New York Times and even a Los Angeles Times article based on Israeli intelligence Apparently he is not familiar with Israeli falsified reports such as the alleged use of guns by passengers on the Mavi Marmara against Israeli commandos (which remain uncorroborated despite Israeli forces seizing virtually all photographic data from the more than 600 passengers, along with film from security cameras located throughout the ship and Israel’s own constant infra-red surveillance from boats on both sides of the ship and at from least two aircraft). As former CIA director Stansfield Turner is alleged to have said, Mossad excels in PR, and not in intelligence.

HRW’s other expert, Eliot Higgins is an untrained analyst who was recently talked-up into some kind of expert by Matthew Weaver in the Guardian. On his Brown Moses Blog of 28 August 2013 Mr Higgins featured a video sent to him by a source allegedly showing the type of munition linked to the chemical attacks being fired close to Al-Mezzah Airport near Daraya. The video has been filmed at some distance and none of the upwards of 20 men roaming around the site can be clearly seen. An unmarked Mercedes semi-trailer lorry apparently delivers the rocket which is loaded (this is not seen) onto an unmarked white rigid lorry on which the launcher is mounted. The men aimlessly roaming around are mostly wearing army fatigues, although others, including some on the launcher, are in civilian clothes. A number of those in military uniform are wearing red berets. Based solely on this headgear, and the fact that the Syrian Republic Guard as well as the military police are issued with red berets, Mr Higgins is emboldened to state that ‘…this video shows the munition being used by the government forces […].

Stills taken from the video analysed by Eliot Higgins. Mr Higgins has deduced that this is a Syrian Army operation entirely from the red berets worn by some of the personnel. The rocket shown can also carry conventional explosives.

In a previous posting on 26 August, Mr Higgins estimated from shadows that a rocket shown in photographs between Zamalka and Ein Tarma had been fired from north of the site, and he set about trying to locate the launch site with the help of correspondents. Hoping to find the exact location, he speculated that the 155th Brigade missile base was a possible site for the crime. This line of investigation quietly disappeared after the UN Mission reported that the missile they had examined at Zamalka/Ein Tarma was pointing precisely in a bearing of 285 degrees, i.e. nearer west than north.

Meanwhile Mr Bouckaert in his report two weeks later reported that two of his witnesses told HRW that the rockets came from the direction of the Mezzeh Military Airport. These accounts also became inconvenient later when, as we shall see, HRW seized on the azimuths provided by the UN Mission and dashed off on a new wild goose chase. Apparently HRW now considered that nearly 20 per cent of the ‘witnesses and survivors’ it had interviewed were no longer credible regarding the direction of the rockets.

Nevertheless on page 1 of his report Mr Bouckaert felt confident enough to declare,

“Based on the available evidence, Human Rights Watch finds that Syrian government forces were almost certainly responsible for the August 21 attacks, and that a weapons-grade nerve agent was delivered during the attack using specially designed rocket delivery systems.”

The ‘evidence’ produced on p20 of the report amounts to nothing more than supposition. Mr Bouckaert merely states his skepticism that the rebels could have fired surface-to-surface rockets at two different locations in the Damascus suburbs; he asserts that the types of rockets thought to have been used are not reported to be in possession of the opposition nor is there any footage showing that they have mobile launchers suitable; and he states that the large amounts of dangerous nerve agent would require sophisticated techniques beyond the capabilities of the rebels. No actual evidence is cited to show that this weaponry is Syrian Army equipment. On the contrary the Soviet 140 mm rocket referred to on p15 requires a BM-14 rocket launcher, first produced in the late 1940s. The Syrian Army equipment list produced by Global Security shows none of this obsolete weaponry in stock but instead lists around 300 of the BM-21 launcher which replaced it. The BM-21 launches a 122mm rocket, so the Army would be unable to fire the 140mm rocket that rebels found and the UN Mission inspected at Moadamiyah. Mr Bouckaert might also recall that Israel has a common border to Syria and is known to have stocks of sarin amongst the vast collection of illegal chemical and biological weaponry amassed by the Israel Institute for Biological Research (IIBR) at Nes Ziona. YouTube videos also show Syrian rebels in possession of mobile rocket launchers. HRW really did assemble a Mickey Mouse team of researchers when they cobbled together this report.

Nevertheless HRW’s reputation and distribution ensured that their allegation was distributed by agencies such as Associated Press and reported by outlets which included the BBC, CBS, New York Post and other international media such as the Tasmanian newspaper The Examiner and the Jakarta Post None of these outlets questioned the veracity of this very serious allegation against the Syrian Army.

On 11 September, a day after the HRW report was published, the International Support Team for Mussalaha in Syria published its unique and important analysis of documentation nominated by US intelligence. Having carefully and thoughtfully analyzed the data, including a number of images also published in the Bouckaert report, the study discovered not only widespread manipulation of evidence, but in the tradition of BBC reporting in Syria, they also discovered that photographs of victims in Cairo had been described as victims of a chemical attack in Syria. This preliminary study concludes that there has been gross media manipulation and calls for an independent and unbiased International Commission to identify the children who were killed and try to find the truth of the case. This writer has not seen any HRW document which refers to the ISTEAMS study.

The UN Mission report was published six days after the Bouckaert report on 16 September. This disclosed that the Mission had been allowed a total of only seven-and-a-half hours on-site in the two suburbs which are both located in opposition-controlled areas. During that period they had experienced repeated threats of harm and one actual attack by an unidentified sniper on 26 August. Nevertheless they had collected samples and ‘a considerable amount of information’ along with ‘primary statements from more than fifty exposed survivors including patients, health workers and first-responders.’ In fact the statements had been taken in interviews with nine nurses, seven doctors and 36 survivors. The Mission concluded that there was ‘definitive evidence of exposure to Sarin by a large proportion of the survivors assessed’ and it stated that it had been informed that victims began suffering effects following an artillery barrage on 21 August 2013. All interviews, sampling and documentation followed procedures developed by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the World Health Organization.

The report states that ‘several surface to surface rockets capable of delivering significant chemical payloads were identified and recorded at the investigated sites’ but only five impact sites in total were investigated by the Mission (presumably because of the time constraints imposed on them by those who controlled the areas).

The UN report is not without its contradictions. In a summary in their Letter of Transmittal the authors wrote ‘In particular, the environmental, chemical and medical samples, we have collected, provide clear and convincing evidence that surface-to-surface rockets containing the nerve agent sarin were used in Ein Tarma, Moadamiyah and Zamalka…’. And yet none of the 13 environmental samples taken from Moadamiyah were found to have any traces of sarin, although one of the two laboratories conducting the analyses found degradation products of sarin in four of the thirteen samples while a further sample was found to contain degradation products by the other lab. Although two of the samples were unspecified metal fragments, none of the samples was specifically described as being part of a rocket. Does the discovery of degradation products in 38 per cent of the samples (and only 23 per cent of the tests) along with a complete absence of the chemical agent itself constitute ‘clear and convincing evidence’ that Moadamiyah was attacked by surface-to-surface rockets containing sarin?

Most important however are the two caveats included in the report. On p 18 the inspectors wrote concerning the Moadamiyah site,

“The sites have been well travelled by other individuals both before and during the investigation Fragments and other possible evidence have clearly been handled/moved prior to the arrival of the investigation team.”

Similar tampering of the evidence was noted at the other site as the report notes on p22,

“During the time spent at these locations, individuals arrived carrying other suspected munitions indicating that such potential evidence is being moved and possibly manipulated.”

HRW was quick to seize on the UN report to substantiate its own allegations, although some adjustments were now necessary to get their allegations to dovetail neatly into the report’s findings. On 17 September Josh Lyons used the azimuths cited for the rockets in Appendix 5 of the Mission report  to produce a cross reference which suggested that the military base of the Republican Guard 104th Brigade had been the launch site for the chemical weapons. (Mr Lyons called this ‘Connecting the dots’. By coincidence, when referring to the Sellström Report on 19 September, John Kerry  said ‘But anybody who reads the facts and puts the dots together, which is easy to do, and they made it easy to do, understands what those facts mean.’? ‘Facts’ can mean anything if distorted enough, Mr Kerry.)

Once again no supporting evidence was provided to explain why HRW blames the Syrian Army, and all previous locations suggested for the launch were conveniently forgotten. To recap, Peter Bouckaert reported two witness statements that the rockets came from the direction of the Mezzeh Military Airport (more than 6 kilometres from the Republican Guard base) and HRW’s ‘expert’ Eliot Higgins was convinced that they were fired from north of the target sites.

Referring to unspecified ‘declassified reference guides’ Mr Lyons tells us that the 140mm artillery rocket could have reached Moadamiya, 9.5Km from the Republican Guard’s base. Yet even if a seventy-year old rocket system could indeed fly that far, Mr Lyons is forgetting that the Syrian Army no longer has these outdated systems. It therefore no longer has 140mm rockets, one of which is alleged to have been responsible for part of this crime against humanity. He is also forgetting that no actual chemical agent was found at Moadamiya, so it is premature to start producing cross references from that site. And above all he is deliberately omitting to tell his readers about the caveats written for both target sites by the UN inspectors that clearly and unequivocally suggest that the evidence has been tampered with at both sites which are located in opposition-controlled areas.

None of these inconvenient truths have stopped the HRW juggernaut. On 20 September the Guardian published an article by HRW staffer Sarah Margon promoting both the Bouckaert report and the Lyons’ calculations (apparently unaware of the contradiction between the two). She ended up by calling for an Obama/Kerry commitment to ensure there is ‘accountability for those who would use the world’s most heinous weapons against the world’s most vulnerable people’. But of course she was not writing about Fellujah or Gaza or the IIBR at Nes Ziona.

(The author is grateful for assistance from Josh Lyons of HRW Emergencies Division in the preparation of this article.)

- Richard Lightbown contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.

PALESTINIAN YOUTH TAKE BACK THE NIGHT

After watching their land being raped for over 65 years, Palestinian youth are attempting to take back the night …
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The new wave of movements which have gained prominence this summer can be traced back partly to a group of third generation, internally displaced youth from the village of Iqrit, who in August 2012 decided that they would take matters into their own hands and return to their ancestral village.
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Palestinian youth assert right of return with direct action

Nadim Nashef*
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Summer camps aim to reconnect Palestinian youth to their ancestral villages. (Photograph courtesy of Baladna)

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During the summer of 2013 a new grassroots movement burst onto the scene and announced itself as a major development in the long struggle for the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

Activities occurring throughout the Galilee region of present-day Israel have been held which reaffirm the connection of the younger generation of internally displaced Palestinians to their ancestral villages. Events and projects simultaneously take practical steps to realize this long-denied, fundamental right.

The right of return is one of the most evocative and central issues for Palestinians ever since the Nakba (catastrophe) of 1948, which saw the destruction of more than 530 Arab villages and the displacement of approximately 800,000 Palestinians. The majority of them ended up as refugees in neighboring Arab states, or in those parts of Palestine which initially remained outside of Israeli control, namely the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Between 30,000 and 40,000 managed to remain inside the new state of Israel, however, finding refuge in nearby towns which had survived the ethnic cleansing of the majority of Palestine’s villages.

Brutal Israel

Attempts by the original inhabitants to return to their villages in the immediate aftermath of the Nakba were fought against by the new state, which used all the means at its disposal, often brutally.

Dispersed villagers attempting to return from outside the borders of the new state were often shot dead on sight by the Israeli army. Meanwhile, villagers attempting to return who had managed to remain within the borders of the new state were routinely rounded up and deported as “infiltrators.” Legislation such as the Absentees Property Law enabled the confiscation of property of those Palestinians who had been made into internally displaced persons, while denying their rights to live there or even to enter the site of their ancestral lands.

Between 1948 and 1955, the majority of these villages were destroyed by the Israeli army and covered either with pine forests or new Jewish-only settlements. In many cases, a cemetery, mosque or church was the only remaining evidence of a village’s existence.

The new wave of movements which have gained prominence this summer can be traced back partly to a group of third generation, internally displaced youth from the village of Iqrit, who in August 2012 decided that they would take matters into their own hands and return to their ancestral village.

Iqrit’s residents were originally ordered out of their village for two weeks shortly after the Nakba for so-called security reasons. Exceptionally, three years later they obtained Israeli high court approval to return, and received information that they would be able to return on Christmas Day, especially symbolic for the Christian community.

On that day in 1951, as the villagers waited to return, the Israeli army razed the village to the ground.

Potent symbol

Now living in two small rooms built as extensions of the still-standing church, Iqrit’s youth activists today sleep in the village in shifts in order to maintain a permanent presence there. This summer a small football stadium was also built, a potent symbol of the will and permanence of their return.

Iqrit’s community has been organizing summer camps for its younger members annually since 1996; this year approximately 200 youth between the ages of 8 and 16 attended. The aim of the camp was to help the youth develop their identity by teaching them about their own history, and connecting this to the wider Palestinian history before 1948.

In addition to the summer camp and the newly permanent presence, villagers hold religious celebrations during Easter and Christmas in the local church. The village’s cemetery is also still in use.

The youth-led, grassroots approach of Iqrit is very much indicative of the movement as a whole. Youth took the lead in 2013’s “Summer of Return,” ensuring that demands for the right of return find a renewed voice among the latest generation of the dispossessed.

One village which has adopted Iqrit’s strategy of youth-based return is Kufr Birim. Located close to the boundary between Israel and Lebanon — not far from Iqrit — for the past few years Kufir Birim has played host to summer camps for children.

This summer, people with family connections to Kufir Birim have also decided to maintain a permanent presence in the village, centered around the old community’s surviving church. However, their initiative has not been without obstacles.

Refusing to leave

In August, the Israel Lands Authority told the camp’s members that they had to leave within a week or they would be removed by force (“Authorities threaten displaced community’s return to village,” +972 Magazine, 22 August 2013).

On 28 August, Iqrit also received a visit by inspectors from the Israel Lands Authority, accompanied by border policemen. They came during the morning and confiscated tents and beds, uprooted the small garden, removed signs and destroyed property, including the new football stadium.

However, as in Kufr Birim, the youth are not willing to leave their ancestral land.

This summer has also witnessed a very successful summer camp in the village of Ghabisiya, while Baladna (the Assocation for Arab Youth) and a number of other groups initiated the Udna (Our Return) project with the participation of five ethnically cleansed villages: Saffuriyya, Miar, Maalul, Lajjun and Iqrit, with one youth group in each village.

The project aims to educate the new generation with family connections to these villages of their history and rights, with film screenings and storytelling featuring residents who survived the expulsion. Practical approaches to the issue of return such as town planning and logistics were also explored, while musical events by local artists added a cultural feature.

Iqrit, Kufr Birim, Ghabisiya, Saffuriyya, Miar, Malul, Lajjun. These are just seven of the Palestinians towns and villages which were destroyed and whose inhabitants were displaced during the Nakba.

Yet the combined activities of these villages during the summer of 2013 represent the most significant movement in the struggle for return since the years following the Nakba. Far from forgetting their roots and historical injustices, the latest generation of Palestinians inside Israel are showing their dedication to their right of return.

This, combined with the youth’s energy, enthusiasm and innovative approaches, has resulted in a grassroots, youth-led movement unprecedented in the history of activism for the right to return. Whatever the immediate reaction of Israeli authorities to the return of villagers in Iqrit and Kufr Birim, these movements have captured the imagination of people across historic Palestine, young and old.

And while the future of the movement is full of uncertainty, the determination and energy of our youth alone is reason for optimism.

*Nadim Nashef is is the director of the Haifa-based Association for Arab Youth-Baladna.

 

 

Written FOR

WHAT KERRY OVERLOOKED IN GAZA >>>

The siege is collective punishment of Palestinians in Gaza, but it is also a collective crime.
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As noose tightens, Palestinians in Gaza face darkest days

 Ali Abunimah 

 

Palestinians wait at a gas station in Gaza City on 1 September 2013, as tightening blockade has worsened fuel crisis.

 (Ashraf Amra / APA images)

Click HERE to see Tweets ….

 

These tweets by blogger Omar Ghraieb capture the despair felt by many of Gaza’s almost 1.7 million Palestinian residents as Israel’s blockade, compounded by Egypt’s intensifying crackdown, has brought the territory once more to the brink of catastrophe.

Since the 3 July military coup against Egypt’s elected president Muhammad Morsi, the military regime has destroyed almost all the vital underground supply tunnels under the Gaza-Egypt border.

This week, Egypt began demolishing houses along its side of its border with Gaza, a futile and criminal Israeli-style tactic, that is seen as a prelude to establishing a “buffer zone” to further isolate Gaza.

As a result of these and other Egyptian measures, supplies of some critical medicines have hit zero, the construction industry has collapsed, and the Rafah crossing, the only entry and exit for most Gazans, is frequently closed.

The population of Gaza still faces 12-hour daily blackouts due to Israel’s destruction of the electricity infrastructure, but even the relief provided by noisy and often dangerous portable generators is fading into darkness as fuel supplies run out.

Slow death

A new report, “Slow Death; The Collective Punishment of Gaza has reached a Critical Stage,” from the human rights monitoring group Euro-Mid Observer, highlights the acute crisis that compounds the effects of the prolonged Israeli blockade.

Ten facts about the Gaza blockade

The report is worth reading in full, but these ten facts about the impact of the blockade capture the scale of the mounting catastrophe and underscore the urgent need for pressure on Israel to end it and for Egypt to end its complicity.

  • According to the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 57 percent of Gaza households are food insecure as of July 2013; however, if the current Israeli and Egyptians measures remain as they are, 65 percent of Gaza households will be food insecure (World Food Program estimate, June 2010).
  • As of August 2013, more than a third (35.5 percent) of those able and willing to work are unemployed (Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics) – one of the highest unemployment rates in the world. Economists expect that the continuous closure of the tunnels will lead to a sharp increase in the unemployment level (43 percent by the end of 2013 compared with 32 percent in June 2013).
  • The continuous closure of the tunnels will lead to a 3 percent decline in the growth by the end of 2013 compared with 15 percent as of June 2013.
  • The construction sector is working at less than 15 percent of its previous capacity, leading to more than 30,000 losses in job opportunities since July 2013.
  • A longstanding electricity deficit, compounded by shortages in fuel needed to run Gaza’s power plant, results in power outages of up to 12 hours a day (UN OCHA, July 2013).
  • Only a quarter of households receive running water every day, during several hours only.
  • More than 90 percent of the water extracted from the Gaza aquifer is unsafe for human consumption.
  • Some 90 million liters of untreated and partially treated sewage are dumped in the sea off the Gaza coast each day, creating public health hazards.
  • Over 12,000 people are currently displaced due to their inability to reconstruct their homes, destroyed during hostilities (UNOCHA, July 2013).
  • The economy has endured severe losses worth $460 million in all economic sectors within the past two months (Ministry of Economy- Gaza).

Collective punishment, collective crime

Although it remains the occupying power, Israel declared Gaza a “hostile entity” in 2007 and its then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert declared, “We will not allow the opening of the crossings to Gaza and outside of Gaza to the extent that it will help them bring back life into a completely normal pace.”

These and other Israeli official statements quoted in the Euro-Mid report highlight that the catastrophe in Gaza is a calculated and intended effect of the siege, making it a war crime and collective punishment under international law.

Complicity

Euro-Mid calls on the “international community,” to pressure Israel to end the blockade.

That call is right, but it is an unavoidable fact that the siege would not have lasted seven long years already without the complicity and support of the “international community” in the form of the United States and its allies, particularly the European Union and compliant Arab regimes.

The siege is collective punishment of Palestinians in Gaza, but it is also a collective crime.

 

 

Written FOR

ISLAM ‘EXPOSED’ BY NYPD

The New York Police Department’s dragnet surveillance program labeled mosques as terrorist organizations to justify infiltrating religious institutions.
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The NYPD’s bigoted logic: Mosques are fronts for terrorism

Alex Kane
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From left to right, David Cohen, NYPD Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence and former CIA agent; Mayor Michael Bloomberg; and NYPD chief Ray Kelly (Photo: EPA/ANDREW GOMBERT)

From left to right, David Cohen, NYPD Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence and former CIA agent; Mayor Michael Bloomberg; and NYPD chief Ray Kelly (Photo: EPA/ANDREW GOMBERT)

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The New York Police Department’s dragnet surveillance program labeled mosques as terrorist organizations to justify infiltrating religious institutions. The latest bombshell on the program, published by the Associated Press’ Pulitzer Prize winning duo Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo, exposes the logic governing the NYPD’s post-9/11 activities: every Muslim is a potential terrorist.

Since the NYPD implemented its surveillance program with the help of the Central Intelligence Agency, at least a dozen mosques have come under the purview of “terrorism enterprise investigations” (TEI). Labeling a mosque a TEI means that every single person attending the institution is a potential subject for investigation. NYPD agents from its Intelligence Division were sent into mosques to record sermons and spy on imams. The AP reporters write that “many TEIs stretch for years, allowing surveillance to continue even though the NYPD has never criminally charged a mosque or Islamic organization with operating as a terrorism enterprise.”

The use of TEIs developed after 9/11, when former CIA agent David Cohen and current NYPD Intelligence Division official went to a federal judge to argue for changes in the legal framework governing surveillance. Cohen was largely successful, and the court agreed that the NYPD could open up TEIs. Cohen was also successful in convincing the judge to eliminate outside oversight of surveillance operations. Before 9/11, what are known as the Handschu guidelines required that an outside body review requests for investigations involving political groups. But after 9/11, the review process became only internal. A document published by the AP details the internal review process at one May 2009 meeting. Every single request for opening up a TEI into a mosque was granted by NYPD higher-ups.

But even with the loosened Handschu guidelines, civil rights lawyers still say the NYPD is violating the law. “The ways in which we think they’re violating the Handschu guidelines really rest on the fact that you still do need some information about criminal activity to launch an investigation,” Jethro Eisenstein, one of the original lawyers who filed a lawsuit against NYPD spying in the 1970s, told me in May. Instead, Eisenstein said, the NYPD is blanketing the “Orthodox Muslim observant community with surveillance. And that’s a violation of the Handschu guidelines.”

The latest AP story also contains other revelations: the NYPD attempted to infiltrate a prominent non-religious Arab organization, the police spied on guests attending a Brooklyn imam’s wedding and also asked the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to install eavesdropping equipment in a mosque. The FBI refused to do so, but the NYPD took other measures to spy on the mosque.

“These new NYPD spying disclosures confirm the experiences and worst fears of New York’s Muslims,” Hina Shamsi of the American Civil Liberties Union told the AP. The ACLU recently filed a lawsuit alleging the NYPD program was unconstitutional. “From houses of worship to a wedding, there’s no area of New York Muslim religious or personal life that the NYPD has not invaded through its bias-based surveillance policy.”

Some of the new details on the surveillance program track with past articles published by the AP in that they show how prominent members of the city’s Muslim community, often with ties to the police, are routinely spied on. One of those members is Linda Sarsour, a Palestinian-American Muslim and a prominent leader in the fight against NYPD spying. Sarsour, who has been honored by the White House and has met with NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly many times, runs the secular Arab-American Association of New York. And the NYPD attempted to get its own informants onto the board of Sarsour’s group.

Another subject of NYPD spying was Zein Rimawi, a Palestinian from the West Bank who immigrated to the U.S. A founder of the Islamic Islamic Society of Bay Ridge, Rimawi’s mosque was targeted and put under surveillance in 2003 by the NYPD.

Commissioner Ray Kelly defended the NYPD’s activities in an appearance on MSBCthis morning as following the law and meant to protect New Yorkers. But he had previously said that the NYPD does not use TEIs to conduct surveillance, according to Brooklyn City Councilman Brad Lander.

I asked Comm Kelly whether NYPD has “Terrorism Enterprise Investigations” into mosques. He said no (then & now). But: link to t.co

— Brad Lander (@bradlander) August 28, 2013

The new expose on the NYPD is based on documents that will be published in an upcoming book by Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo. An excerpt of the book was recently published by New York magazine. On MSNBC, Kelly said Goldman and Apuzzo were “hyping a book” that will include “a fair amount of fiction.”

The new revelations come smack in the middle of a nationwide debate on surveillance. As Goldman and Apuzzo write in the magazine, the NYPD’s activities are far more intrusive than the National Security Agency’s. “The NYPD went even further than the federal government. The activities Kelly set in motion after 9/11 pushed deeply into the private lives of New Yorkers, surveilling Muslims in their mosques, their sporting fields, their businesses, their social clubs, even their homes in a way not seen in America since the FBI and CIA monitored antiwar activists during the Nixon administration,” the reporters write.

Both the NSA and NYPD’s activities share a common root, though: they violate civil liberties in the name of fighting terrorism.

 

Written FOR

PHOTO ESSAY ~~ MORNING BLUES AT THE CHECKPOINT

It’s inhumane. They treat us like animals. Every morning I feel like an animal in a cage.
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The morning commute (through the checkpoint)
Philip Weiss

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Recently a Finnish photographer who had worked in the region sent us these photographs that were posted at his/her blog Ubuntifada. They were taken in late June, at the Bethlehem checkpoint to enter Israel. They depict the everyday experience of hundreds of Palestinians who go to work in Israel. I am respecting the photographer’s desire for anonymity because of employment/funding issues. He/she wrote the following at that site to explain the photos: 

Morning blues in the checkpoint

5:00 in the morning in Bethlehem. The rising sun is replacing the blue morning mist with its first warm rays. Hundreds of men are standing in a cage, holding the metal bars like prisoners and anxiously waiting. The atmosphere is as blue as the air.

Actually, it could be just a crossing between two countries – though a very disturbing one with its iron gates and cages, bars and burrows, loud PA systems and shouting, soldiers and police and private security guards all armed to the teeth. But instead of being in the border, checkpoint 300 stands 2 kilometers south of the green line, deep inside of the occupied West Bank.

Every working day from 4:00 to 7:00 around 4000 Palestinians cross this illegal checkpoint on their way to work in East Jerusalem or in Israel. And the ones standing in line are actually the lucky ones – they have been able to even get a permit.

It’s inhumane. They treat us like animals. Every morning I feel like an animal in a cage.

Adel, who crosses the CP five mornings a week

 

 

Source

PHOTO OF THE MONTH AND CALL TO ACTION

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 What is the Prawer Plan? 
On 24 June 2013, the Israeli Knesset approved the discriminatory Prawer-Begin Bill, with 43 votes for and 40 votes against, for the mass expulsion of the Arab Bedouin community in the Naqab (Negev) desert in the south of Israel. If fully implemented, the Prawer-Begin Plan will result in the destruction of 35 “unrecognized”Arab Bedouin villages, the forced displacement of up to 70,000 Arab Bedouin citizens of Israel, and the dispossession of their historical lands in the Naqab. Despite the Arab Bedouin community’s complete rejection of the plan and strong disapproval from the international community and human rights groups, the Prawer Plan is happening now.
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The Prawer-Begin Bill is an unacceptable proposition that entrenches the state’s historic injustice against its Bedouin citizens. Adalah and our NGO partners have been challenging the Prawer Plan before courts, government authorities and the international community, but we need your help to stop what would be the largest single act of forced displacement of Arab citizens of Israel since the 1950s!
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Please sign our petition and visit our Facebook page to find out what you can do to Stop the Prawer Plan!
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What is the Prawer Plan?
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Arab Bedouin citizens of Israel, inhabitants of the Naqab (Negev) desert since the seventh century, are the most vulnerable community in Israel. For over 60 years, the indigenous Arab Bedouin have faced a state policy of displacement, home demolitions and dispossession of their ancestral land. Today, 70,000 Arab Bedouin citizens live in 35 villages that either predate the establishment of the State in 1948, or were created by Israeli military order in the early 1950s. The State of Israel considers the villages “unrecognized” and the inhabitants “trespassers on State land,” so it denies the citizens access to state infrastructure like water, electricity, sewage, education, health care and roads. The state deliberately withholds basic services from these villages to “encourage” the Arab Bedouin citizens to give up their ancestral land. If Israel applied the same criteria for planning and development that exist in the Jewish rural sector, all 35 unrecognized villages would be recognized where they are.
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In September 2011, the Israeli government approved the Prawer Plan, the brainchild of former Deputy Chair of the National Security Council, Mr. Ehud Prawer. The Prawer Plan will result in the destruction of the unrecognized villages and the forced displacement of up to 70,000 Arab Bedouin citizens. This plan was completed without consultation of the local community, and is a gross violation of the constitutional rights of the Arab Bedouin citizens to property, dignity, equality, adequate housing, and freedom to choose their own residence.
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Prawer is Happening Now
Despite complete rejection of the plan by the Arab Bedouin, and strong disapproval from the international community, Prawer is happening now. More than 1,000 houses were demolished in 2011 alone, and civil society observed the same practices in 2012.  Since Prawer was announced, the government announced plans that will displace over 10,000 people and plant forests, build military centers, and establish new Jewish settlements in their place.
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The Prawer Plan is today being turned into an Israeli law. On 6 May 2013, the Ministerial Committee on Legislation approved the proposed “Law for the Regulation of Bedouin Settlement in the Negev – 2013” (“the Prawer-Begin Bill”, after recommendations by Minister Benny Begin were included). On 24 June 2013, the Knesset approved the Prawer-Begin Bill with 43 votes for and 40 votes against. The bill will now be sent to the Committee for Interior Affairs and Environment to be prepared for the second and third readings.
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The international community has repeatedly expressed its opposition to the Prawer Plan. In March 2012, the UN Committee on the Elimination for Racial Discrimination called on Israel to withdraw the proposed implementing legislation of the Prawer Plan, on the grounds that it was discriminatory. In July 2012, the European Parliament passed a historic resolution calling on Israel to Stop the Prawer Plan and its policies of displacement, eviction, and dispossession. 
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THE BORN AND BRED NON CITIZENS OF JERUSALEM

 Image ‘Copyleft’ by Carlos Latuff
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Israel classifies Jerusalem natives as noncitizens
 

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM  — The Israeli ministry of interior has come up with a new plan to expel the Palestinian natives of occupied Jerusalem from their city through classifying them as “noncitizens,” lawyer Ahmed Roweidi revealed. Roweidi stated on Tuesday that the Israeli interior ministry started to specify periods for the residence of the natives in Jerusalem and classified them as noncitizens who are susceptible to deportation anytime. Roweidi described this new measure as a prelude to a new ethnic-cleansing campaign against the Palestinian natives in the holy city. He affirmed that a number of Jerusalemite citizens went lately to the Israeli occupation authority to renew their IDs and noticed that the word “resident” was added into the new cards with an expiry date for their residence in the holy city.
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The response …
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Jerusalemite groups: The natives of Jerusalem are citizens, not residents

 

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, The higher Islamic commission and the council of awqaf and Islamic affairs in occupied Jerusalem said that the Palestinian natives of Jerusalem are citizens and can never be residents.

This came in a statement released on Saturday by the two Jerusalemite institutions in response to a recent Israeli measure classifying the Palestinian natives of Jerusalem as residents and not citizens in new IDs issued by the interior ministry.

The new Israeli IDs given to the Palestinians in Jerusalem do not only identify them as residents, but also they are provided with an expiry date for their residence in their holy city.

The higher Islamic commission and the council of awqaf and Islamic affairs condemned the Israeli measure as racist and urged the Palestinians in the holy city to uphold their legitimate rights, protect their homes and property and defend their holy sites.

They highlighted that the Palestinians in the holy city are its native citizens and their citizenship cannot be decided by the Israeli occupation regime, for they are deeply rooted in their city.

 

 

Both reports FROM

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