WILL NEW SETTLEMENTS REPLACE THE WALL OF APARTHEID?

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The city would cover 14,000 dunams (3,500 acres) of the Jerusalem Hills, encompassing the existing small towns of Tsur Hadassah and Mevo Beitar with 20,000 new housing units, just inside the Green Line dividing “Israel proper” from the West Bank.

Planners eye Jerusalem Hills as site for new city of 100,000

Israel Lands Authority plans town to be called Bat Harim, but Jerusalem municipality, greens aim to stop it.

By Nimrod Bousso IN
A construction site in Tsur Hadassah. Photo by Eyal Toueg

A construction site in Tsur Hadassah. Photo by Eyal Toueg

Jerusalem could be getting a giant satellite city in what is today verdant, rolling countryside.

The city would cover 14,000 dunams (3,500 acres) of the Jerusalem Hills, encompassing the existing small towns of Tsur Hadassah and Mevo Beitar with 20,000 new housing units, just inside the Green Line dividing “Israel proper” from the West Bank.

Plans for the proposed city of Bat Harim, which could one day be home to 100,000 people, are due to get their first hearing at a meeting of the Israel Lands Authority Council on Sunday.

But long before the first ground is broken, opposition to the planned city has already been quietly coalescing. The ILA and the Interior Ministry’s Planning Administration favor the idea, but the Jerusalem municipality, which is supposed to take over the area, is opposed.

The area is now under the jurisdiction of Yehuda Regional Council, but plans call for putting the area under the jurisdiction of Jerusalem, even though the capital lies two kilometers northeast of the region.

The area’s existing residents are fighting the idea as well. The Yehuda Regional Council, which would lose control of the area, is leading the battle, backed by residents of Tsur Hadassah and Mevo Beitar, who are loathe to give up their quiet small-town life for decades of construction and urban sprawl.

As it is, even while plans for Bat Harim are just getting started, plans have been approved to build 2,500 homes in Tsur Hadassah, which would double its population and turn the Jerusalem suburb into a small city in its own right.

Plans for about 1,000 of those units were presented a few months ago to a special committee created to speed building approvals to alleviating Israel’s housing crunch. There are also plans for 1,400 homes in Mevo Beitar.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, who apparently has not been party to the plans, made known his opposition in a letter to Interior Minister Gilad Erdan and the director general of the ministry, Shuki Amrani, a month ago.

“I was disappointed and surprised to discover in recent months that the Finance Ministry, Housing Ministry, ILA and National Planning and Building Council have been advancing … in an aggressive way – irresponsibly and without coordinating with the Jerusalem municipality – a massive building program in the environs of Jerusalem and its metropolitan area,” he wrote, referring for Bat Harim.

Barkat said that after a slowdown last year in housing starts in Jerusalem, the pace had been recovering and there was no reason for officials to be looking for places outside the city to start massive building projects.

Barkat expressed concern that Bat Harim would destroy the green belt that now surrounds most of Jerusalem and undermine his efforts to keep people from leaving the city because of the high cost of housing and lack of jobs.

“We are talking about erecting a new neighborhood [Bat Harim] that would attract quality population away from Jerusalem and undermine our efforts to strengthen neighborhoods,” he said. “It’s unacceptable that outside forces that don’t understand the national strategy for Israel’s capital are operating over the head of Jerusalem’s mayor.”

In fact, an earlier plan for a new city back in 1999 was ultimately rejected in favor of increasing population density in Jerusalem. A city spokesman said Barket had not yet decided what he would do next to block Bat Harim.

The Interior Ministry had not responded by press time to the report of Barkat’s letter. But the ILA, Environmental Protection Ministry and the Society for the Protecting of Nature in Israel are attacking the plans as an unnecessary assault on open countryside, even as there is plenty of undeveloped land inside Jerusalem still available for development.

The SPNI, which estimates that Jerusalem still has land available to build 100,000 housing units, launched a campaign in February to stop the plans and is organizing a rally outside ILA Council meeting on Sunday.

“Expanding Jerusalem westward by developing an area unconnected geographically from the city will require huge infrastructure investment,” David Leffler, the Environmental Protection Ministry’s director general, said in a letter to Erdan and Amrani last week, calling on them to abandon the plan entirely.

For its part, the ILA says it has little choice but to open up new areas for development to meet the area’s housing needs. It estimates that the Jerusalem area needs 2,500 new homes to be built every year, or 50,000 over the next two decades.

“The solution is the p’nui u’vinui program [enlarging existing buildings] and urban renewal, and also through new cities,” the ILA said in a statement to TheMarker, saying the area slotted for Bat Harim is one of “relatively low environmental sensitivity.”

Despite the opposition, the ILA in October budgeted 1 million shekels ($250,000) for initial planning for Bat Harim by an outside architectural firm. Its proposals will be presented at Sunday’s meeting.

The SPNI contends that the entire process violates the law, noting that planning authorities have in the recent past rejected any attempt to develop the area. The decision to build a new city can only be made by the government, it contends.

“We are amazed that such an ambitious and significant planning undertaking can get underway solely because of an internal decision taken by the ILA,” said SPNI’s attorney Tal Tsafrir.

83 YEAR OLD PALESTINIAN THROWN TO THE WOLVES IN JERUSALEM

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Let’s see how Bibi explains this to Congress …

Israeli authorities on Sunday ordered 83-year-old Palestinian grandfather Ayyub Shamasnah and his family to voluntarily evacuate their home in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah before next Sunday in compliance with a final supreme court decision.

Israel orders Palestinian family to evacuate Sheikh Jarrah house

(MaanImages)
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JERUSALEM (Ma’an) – Israeli authorities on Sunday ordered 83-year-old Palestinian grandfather Ayyub Shamasnah and his family to voluntarily evacuate their home in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah before next Sunday in compliance with a final supreme court decision.

Shamasnah lives with his wife, 75, children and grandchildren in a two-room, 65-square-meter house targeted by Jewish settlers who have already evicted several Palestinian families.

The family moved to Sheikh Jarrah after they were displaced from Qatanna village in northwest Jerusalem during the creation of Israel in 1948. They initially paid rent to Jordanian authorities, who were responsible for East Jerusalem until 1967 when Israel occupied the city.

Since 1968, the family has paid rent to Israeli authorities as protected leaseholders.

In 2011, the Israeli government’s Custodian for Absentee Property started legal proceedings to evict the Shamasnah family, claiming their rental contract expired in 2008. In May 2013, an Israeli court postponed the eviction until further discussions.

The court suggested during a hearing in May that the family could remain in the property until the elderly parents die, but settlers who are targeting the property once the family is evicted refused the proposal, according to the owner’s son Muhammad.

Speaking to Ma’an Sunday, Muhammad said that the Israeli supreme court decided in August 2013 that his family should evacuate the property before Jan. 3, 2015 to be delivered to the Israeli settlers.

“Thus, the family received a letter last Thursday from the settlers’ lawyer demanding that they comply with the court decision, or otherwise they will be evacuated by force.”

According to Muhammad, the Israeli authorities claim that the house was a Jewish property before 1948, and after the Palestinian Nakba all Jewish properties were entrusted to the Jordanian government’s Custodian for Absentee Property.

Then after the annexation of Jerusalem in 1967, the properties were entrusted to Israeli government’s Custodian for Absentee Property.

He added that his father had paid rent to both the Jordanian and Israeli authorities as protected leaseholders.

Then in 2011, he added, the family was surprised with the Israeli government’s Custodian for Absentee Property starting legal proceedings to evict the family claiming their rental contract expired in 2008.

In response, the family submitted court documents which proved they paid rent according to a contract signed in 1977. The family also submitted evidence that they had lived in the house since 1972, but “failed to give evidence they had lived in the house before 1968.”

 

Source

HUCKABEE DANCES WITH THE OCCUPATION

Mike Huckabee is already on the campaign trail for the next US Presidential election. Following is a video captured in a West Bank winery where he obviously was seeking the votes of Americans living in the area … hopefully the rest of you will remember this at the Republican Primary.

Dancing with and for the occupation

Dancing with and for the occupation 

Former Arkansas governor and likely 2016 presidential candidate Mike Huckabee showed off his Hasidic dancing skills during a trip to Israel.

Huckabee visited the Psagot winery, in the Binyamin Regional Council, on Tuesday and played among other songs the famous “Hava Nagila” song. During the event, he was also recorded dancing with Singer Yonatan Razel to a rousing hassidic tune.

THE TEMPEST WE KNOW AS THE OCCUPATION

Every day is Friday the 13th in Palestine

Every day is Friday the 13th in Palestine

The following is from the archives. As the cold winds blow in Jerusalem, the report is as valid today as when it was originally posted.
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Freezing cold winds, rain and threats of snow is what Jerusalem is experiencing today. That’s fine for those living in homes or apartments, but what about those living in tents or on the street? Even worse than the storm itself are the ongoing illegal activities of zionism in East Jerusalem neighbourhoods, Sheik Jarrah in particular. The evictions from private homes continue due to the implementation of lebensraum; Israel’s ‘final solution’ in motion … a policy that is supposedly opposed to by the West and the EU, but still in motion nevertheless.
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For some background on this almost forgotten struggle, I present here a five year old Op-ed from The New York Times; … nothing has changed.
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Not all Israelis agree with this policy. For over a year, hundreds, sometimes thousands, of Israelis and Palestinians have been gathering in Sheik Jarrah on Fridays to protest the expulsion of Palestinians from their homes. Israeli courts have deemed these nonviolent demonstrations to be legal, but this has not stopped the police from arresting protesters.

In a cruel historical twist, nearly all of the Palestinians evicted from their homes in Sheik Jarrah in the last year-and-a-half were originally expelled in 1948 from their homes in the West Jerusalem neighborhood of Talbieh. In the wake of the Six-Day War, Israeli courts ruled that some of the houses these Palestinian refugees have lived in since 1948 are actually legally owned by Jewish Israelis, who have claims dating from before Israel’s founding.

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Who Lives in Sheik Jarrah?

By KAI BIRD
Published: April 30, 2010
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AS a boy, I lived in Sheik Jarrah, a wealthy Arab neighborhood in East Jerusalem. Annexed by Israel in 1967 and now the subject of a conflict over property claims, my former home has come to symbolize everything that has gone wrong between the Israelis and Palestinians over the last six decades.

Despite talk of a slowdown in Israeli construction in East Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, Jerusalem’s mayor, toured Washington earlier this week and told officials that the expansion into Arab neighborhoods is going ahead at full speed.

As a result, “The battle line in Israel’s war of survival as a Jewish and democratic state now runs through the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem,” writes David Landau, the former editor of the Israeli daily Haaretz. “Is that the line, at last, where Israel’s decline will be halted?” I hope so.

My family lived in Israel from 1956 to 1958, when my father, an American diplomat, was stationed in East Jerusalem. We lived in the Palestinian sector, but every day I crossed through Mandelbaum Gate, the one checkpoint in the divided city, to attend school in an Israeli neighborhood. I thus had the rare privilege of seeing both sides.

At the time Sheik Jarrah was a sleepy suburb, a half-mile north of Damascus Gate. One of my playmates was Dani Bahar, the son of a Muslim Palestinian and a Jewish-German refugee from Nazi Europe. Before the establishment of Israel in 1948, such interfaith marriages were uncommon, but accepted. Another neighbor was Katy Antonius, the widow of George Antonius, an Arab historian who argued that Palestine should become a binational, secular state.

The Sheik Jarrah of my youth is gone; Mandelbaum Gate was razed by Israeli bulldozers right after the Six-Day War in 1967 that united Jerusalem. But the city remains virtually divided. Few Jewish Israelis venture into Sheik Jarrah and the other largely Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, and few Palestinians go to the “New City.”

Today East Jerusalem exudes the palpable feel of a city occupied by a foreign power. And it is, to an extent — although much of the world doesn’t recognize Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refuses to halt the construction of new housing units for Jewish Israelis in the Arab neighborhoods. “Jerusalem is not a settlement,” he recently told an audience in Washington.

Not all Israelis agree with this policy. For over a year, hundreds, sometimes thousands, of Israelis and Palestinians have been gathering in Sheik Jarrah on Fridays to protest the expulsion of Palestinians from their homes. Israeli courts have deemed these nonviolent demonstrations to be legal, but this has not stopped the police from arresting protesters.

In a cruel historical twist, nearly all of the Palestinians evicted from their homes in Sheik Jarrah in the last year-and-a-half were originally expelled in 1948 from their homes in the West Jerusalem neighborhood of Talbieh. In the wake of the Six-Day War, Israeli courts ruled that some of the houses these Palestinian refugees have lived in since 1948 are actually legally owned by Jewish Israelis, who have claims dating from before Israel’s founding.

The Palestinians have stubbornly refused to pay any rent to these “absentee” Israeli landlords for nearly 43 years; until recently, their presence was nevertheless tolerated. But under Mr. Netanyahu, a concerted effort has been made to evict these Palestinians and replace them with Israelis.

This poses an interesting question. If Jewish Israelis can claim property in East Jerusalem based on land deeds that predate 1948, why can’t Palestinians with similar deeds reclaim their homes in West Jerusalem?

I have in mind the Kalbians, our neighbors in Sheik Jarrah. Until 1948, Dr. Vicken Kalbian and his family lived in a handsome Jerusalem-stone house on Balfour Street in Talbieh. In the spring, the Haganah, the Zionist militia, sent trucks mounted with loudspeakers through the streets of Talbieh, demanding that all Arab residents leave. The Kalbians decided it might be prudent to comply, but they thought they’d be back in a few weeks.

Nineteen years later, after the Six-Day war, the Kalbians returned to 4 Balfour Street and knocked on the door. A stranger answered. “He was a Jewish Turk,” Dr. Kalbian said, “who had come to Israel in 1948.” The man claimed he had bought the house from the “authorities.”

That year the Kalbians took their property deed to a lawyer who determined that their house was indeed registered with the Israeli Department of Absentee Property. Under Israeli law, they learned, due compensation could have been paid to them — but only if they had not fled to countries then considered “hostile,” like Jordan. Because in 1948 they had ended up in Jordanian-controlled Sheik Jarrah, the Kalbians could neither reclaim their home nor be compensated for their loss.

The Kalbians eventually emigrated to America, but their moral claim to the house on Balfour Street is as strong as any of the deeds held by Israelis to property in Sheik Jarrah.

If Israel wishes to remain largely Jewish and democratic, then it must soon withdraw from all of the occupied territories and negotiate the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza with East Jerusalem as its capital. And if not, it should at least let the Kalbians go home again.

Kai Bird is the author of “Crossing Mandelbaum Gate: Coming of Age Between the Arabs and Israelis, 1956-1978.”

RABBINICAL TAUNTING OF THE SEASON

Photo © by Bud Korotzer

Photo © by Bud Korotzer

The annual demonstration in front of Leviev’s Jewelry store quickly turned into a celebration when it was learned that the shop had locked it’s doors and emptied its showcases …. but this didn’t stop ‘Rabbi’ Shmuley Boteach from taunting the would be demonstrators … caught on video

Adalah NY issued the following statement about the video …

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach taunted a crowd of human rights protesters in front of the seemingly closed and emptied flagship Leviev diamond store on Madison Avenue. Leviev’s companies have built thousands of Israeli settlement homes and have been accused of abusing and torturing Angolan diamond miners.

Boteach stood in front of the empty Leviev store and began shouting. “Israel,” “Down with Hamas,” “Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East,” “Down with the Palestinians.” He suddenly stopped and complained that he was being videotaped. Police told Boteach to leave as he was drowned out by chants of, “How fancy, how pretty, Leviev out of New York City.” Boteach was accompanied by a young man wearing a scarf for the notoriously racist Beitar Jerusalem football team. Boteach has expressed his support for Hebron’s notoriously violent and racist settlers. 

Neighboring store owners told the protesters that the Leviev store had closed and the space had been sold, but it was impossible to confirm this. Human rights advocates have protested at Leviev’s store since 2007.

And here’s the ziolies he wrote on his Blog

The coming boycott of Jewish businesses

Shmuley Boteach

I saw a nasty thing walking with my children in New York City on the Sabbath. On Madison Ave in the mid-sixties, we saw a group of people, chanting, singing.

Was it Christmas carolers? As we got closer we saw it was a protest. An anti-Israel protest.

But this one was not outside an Israeli Consulate or Embassy. It was outside a commercial, retail store. A diamond store. Owned by Lev Leviev, the Israeli billionaire businessman and philanthropist.

“Glitz and glam. He steals Palestinian land.”

I was appalled. I got closer. The protesters were accusing Leviev, a private Jewish citizens, of stealing Palestinian land, persecuting Palestinians, and supporting an imperial Israel.

I asked the protesters who Leviev was and why they were protesting him. Was he Israel’s Prime Minister or Foreign Minister? At least the Ambassador. How else to explain why they would be protesting outside a business simply owned by a Jew.

They told me he was an Israeli who supported Israel’s persecution of the Palestinians. He was a known, high-profile Jewish businessman. They were there to make sure no one bought his products.

I had had enough. I raised my hands into the air, in the mist of the protest, and said loudly, “Long Live Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East. The only country in that dark region that is a bastion of liberty and human rights. A place where Palestinian women need never fear honor killings. A place where Israeli Arabs have more guaranteed rights than any Arab nation. A place where gay Palestinians need not fear being shot in the head on false charges of collaboration. A place where Arabs can protest publicly, just like all of you, and not be shot. Long live righteous and majestic Israel.”

Instantly, all the protestors forgot about Leviev and turned their ire toward me. I was now the devil. They were shouting at me, abusing me. “F—ck off. Go F—ck yourself.”

I got louder.

“How revolting of all of you to protest a business because it’s owned by a Jew.” What is this? Nuremberg 1934? Absolutely reprehensible.

My kids were now engaged in the fight, singing “Am Yisrael Chai. The Jewish people are alive and well.” We were louder than the protestors.

I started saying “Down with Hamas which allows honor killings of innocent Palestinian women. Down with Hamas that slaughters innocent Palestinian gay men. Down with the Palestinian…. ” and I was about to say “… Authority for refusing to go to elections in 10 years and creating a dictatorship, robbing the Palestinian people of their freedom” when I saw that someone was filming me on the Sabbath.

The police came over, trying to quell the confrontation. They have a permit, he said. They have the right to protest.

God bless America. I respect their right for public demonstration. But I also respect my right to write this in a column.

Jews of the world. Wake up. There has never been an assault on us like this in our lifetimes. And we are allowing it. Through our timidity and through closing our eyes and pretending not to see, it’s growing. Our enemies are arraying against us. They have substituted anti-Semitism for Anti-Israelism. But it’s the same sentiment.

Jew-hatred, pure and simple.

This holiday season the world’s anti-Semites are giving thanks for the existence of the State of Israel. If not for Israel they would not have camouflage for their Jew-hatred. Israel has given them cover. It’s not the Jews we hate, but just the Jewish state. It’s not because we have an inherent dislike of Jews. We just hate occupation.

But then they call each other on their IPhones, even though they’re made in China which has been occupying Tibet since 1950.

But only a weak community would give these haters a fig leaf to cover over their clear bigotry, prejudice, and hatred.

My kids were flabbergasted that a private Jewish business could draw major accusations of Palestinian persecution. It suited the protesters well that it was a diamond dealer. Perfect stereotype.

But who would be next? Which Jewish business would they target next?

A few hours later we went to the Chabad public Menorah lighting outside the Plaza hotel on 5th Ave. There was a small protest against Israel there was well. Joining the protest was a 20-something man who told us all that the Jews owned all of 5th Avenue. He pointed across the street at the famous Apple 5th Avenue store. “Apple is owned by Jews.”

I looked at him.

“Um, erg, hmmm. Did you know that Steve Jobs was the son of an Arab-American? So how does that square with the Jews owning Apple?”

“Well the Jews bought it from Jobs with the endless money they have.”

Aha.

I thought to myself, Is there no respite from all this Jew-hatred? Can we not get away from them even at a Menorah lighting?

The other day Harvard University kicked out SodaStream from their cafeteria for the terrible sin of employing hundreds of Palestinians at a plant in Maale Adumim that treats Arabs as the absolute equals of their Israeli counterparts. Without SodaStream these Palestinian families would be destitute. But Palestinian activists at Harvard, animated by hatred of Israel over love for Palestinian lives, demanded a boycott and the caterer capitulated.

And so it goes. Jewish timidity in the United States is allowing more and more of these outrages to take place.

I wonder if we recognize the seriousness of what’s happening or will it engulf us before we take decisive action?

What is needed is an immediate move to organize Jewish students on campus to respond publicly to the anti-Israel onslaught at Universities. We need public demonstrations against Israel-hatred, anti-Semitism, and in favor of freedom and democracy in the Middle East. Jewish students should not just be fighting BDS but should be going on offense to push through resolutions in the City Councils sanctioning Hamas and the Palestinian Authority for not holding elections in a decade and transforming Palestinian society into dictatorships.

Organizations who dare hold ordinary Jews responsible for actions in the Middle East – which would be the equivalent of protesting an Arab-owned department store in Detroit for the butchery of Bashar Assad in Syria – should themselves be targeted for public demonstrations, calling them what they are: anti-Semites.

And let’s honor those brave individuals who have stood up to BDS.

Every June our organization hosts the International Champions of Jewish Values Gala Awards Dinner in New York. Last year the Hollywood celebrity we honored was Sean Penn for his unrivaled bravery in going to Bolivia and rescuing the life of a Jewish businessman who had been wrongly incarcerated.

The year before we honored my dear friend Dr. Mehmet Oz, a Muslim, for his tireless efforts to promote the value of human life by getting us all to live more healthy lives and for his continued friendship with the Jewish people. A few months after the award we hosted Mehmet and his family in Israel.

This year we intend to honor Scarlett Johannson for standing up to the pressure to abandon SodaStream, a company that is a model of Arab-Israeli brotherhood and fraternity.

Scarlett, if you’re out there, please come to New York and accept. The dinner is on 3 June, 2015.

As far as Leviev goes …. DesertPeace adds 

The bastard can run but he can’t hide! Wherever he is doing his dirty business we will find him!!

Photos from the protest © by Bud Korotzer

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THE SETTLEMENTS ARE STRANGLING PALESTINIAN TOURISM

Palestinian officials say the growth of Israeli settlements – there are now 22 around Bethlehem – is steadily strangling access, prompting tourists to stay away.

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The Occupation would even keep Mary and Joseph from entering Bethlehem today

The Occupation would even keep Mary and Joseph from entering Bethlehem today

Israeli settlements squeezing Palestinian tourism, officials say

Palestinian tourism expert says $1.4 billion lost every year, as roads for settlers, border controls and administrative issues seriously hinder local industry.

Reuters

Standing on the monumental hillside south of Bethlehem where King Herod the Great was buried more than 2,000 years ago, Fadi Kattan stretches out his arm to point out the nearby Israeli settlements of Tekoa and Nokdim.

“That’s part of the problem,” says Kattan, a Palestinian tourism expert, explaining the obstacles hindering the growth of the local industry in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Because of the roads Israel builds mainly for Jewish settlers, including Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who lives in Nokdim, Palestinian areas are frequently cut off, making them less accessible to tourists, he says.

Then there is Herodium, a major attraction administered by Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority. The income flows to Israel, not the Palestinians. The same goes for Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found, which is also in the West Bank.

Christmas festivities in Bethlehem (Archive photo: Reuters)
Christmas festivities in Bethlehem (Archive photo: Reuters)

Perhaps most challenging, Palestinian tour operators cannot easily tap into the 300 million Arabs living in nearby countries since very few of them can readily visit the West Bank, whose borders are controlled by Israel.

“When you add it all up, the movement and access problems and everything else, we are losing $1.4 billion a year,” says Kattan, estimating that current revenue of $460 million a year would be nearer $1.8 billion if locals had full control.

It is an issue that comes to the fore every year in the run-up to Christmas, when tens of thousands of religious tourists make their way to Bethlehem, other parts of the West Bank and Jerusalem to celebrate the birth, life and death of Jesus.

To highlight the increasing strain Bethlehem and surrounding towns are under, Palestinian officials took a group of foreign journalists on a guided tour of the area this week.

The ruins at Herodium (archive photo)
The ruins at Herodium (archive photo)

Underscoring how sensitive the topic is, the Israeli tourism ministry is taking journalists on its own tour of Nazareth and other Christian towns in Israel on Sunday, and the Israel Project, a pro-Israel lobby, has organised another media tour two days later covering Christian churches.

When it comes to Bethlehem, a city of 25,000 just five miles south of Jerusalem, the critical issue is getting foreign tourists past Israel’s separation wall and checkpoints and convincing them to stay the night.

Many now choose to stay in Jerusalem and make a day trip. Palestinian officials say the growth of Israeli settlements – there are now 22 around Bethlehem – is steadily strangling access, prompting tourists to stay away.

“We can’t have real development in this sector until the occupation ends,” said Rula Ma’aya, the Palestinian minister of tourism, decrying the pressure on overnight stays.

Figures show overnight stays are up 9% this year from last year, but officials say the number remains far below what it should be and the overall revenue is down.

While visitors from Russia, Poland and Italy – the top three – tend to stay the night, Americans, who spend more, are more likely to stay in Jerusalem, with the revenue going to Israel.

“In history, Bethlehem and Jerusalem were always twin cities,” said Ma’aya. “Now, Bethlehem is being isolated.”

#WeekofAction ~~THE WEST BANK IS NOT FOR SALE!

Boycott RE/MAX Week of Action

SHAME on RE/MAX! While Palestinian homes and olive groves are bulldozed to make way for new settlements, Israeli RE/MAX agents are doing business in all the major West Bank settlements, including Adam, Beit Arye, Beit El, Giva’at Ze’ev, Ma’ale Adumim, Oranit, Salit, Sha’arei Tikva and Zufim.

In occupied East Jerusalem, the company markets and rents properties in the settlement neighborhoods of Gilo, Har Homa, Ramot, French Hill and Pisgat Ze’ev. The settlement properties cater to young Israeli couples and first-time buyers by offering less expensive suburban real estate.

Through REMAX you can find —for a cool $1 million—a 4,000 square-foot villa just minutes from Jerusalem, “at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac” in the settlement of Ma’ale Adumin with balconies, high quality materials, and swimming pools for example.

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Boycott RE/MAX protests flood the US during Week of Action

Ben Norton FOR

While temperatures cooled, the first week of December saw a tremendous kindling of the Boycott, Sanctions, and Divestment (BDS) movement, as Palestinian solidarity activists across the US flooded RE/MAX offices, demanding that the real estate giant cease its activities in illegal, Jewish-only settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

RE/MAX is one of the largest real estate corporations in the world. RE/MAX International, based in the US, with headquarters in Denver, Colorado, oversees more than 100,000 agents in over 7,000 offices in almost 100 countries. Realtor Magazine has consistently ranked numerous RE/MAX franchises in its annual list of Top 100 Companies.

Several of RE/MAX’s Israeli franchises sell property in illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, including the French Hill, Armon HaNatziv, and Pisgat Ze’ev. The office of RE/MAX Israel’s Atid franchise is itself located in Maale Adumim, a major illegal settlement in the occupied West Bank. RE/MAX Israel agents openly admitthat many of the homes they sell can only be owned by Jewish people.

A screen grab from RE/MAX Israel’s website shows a map of some of the settlement houses it markets.

The United Nations published a report in 2013 indicating that RE/MAX LLC, the US-based parent company, can be “held accountable” for the crimes of RE/MAX Israel, over which it “has constant interaction and influence.” Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Conventionmandates that the “Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies,” and UN Security Council Resolution 446explicitly states that Israel’s settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, in which RE/MAX Israel is operating, “have no legal validity.”

No Open House

In October 2014, peace and social justice organization CODEPINK launched the Boycott RE/MAX: No Open House on Stolen Land (or No Open House, for short) campaign. At the end of November, No Open house launched its official website, BoycottREMAX.org. The website includes answers to frequently asked questions, a campaign timeline and tactics, a newsletter, links to further reading materials, and a wide array of resources, including shareable memes, protest chants, and a draft of a letter to send to RE/MAX.

CODEPINK says its goal in launching the campaign is to pressure RE/MAX “to cut its ties with franchises involved in the sale or rental of settlement properties.” Sophia Armen, National Coordinator of the Boycott RE/MAX: No Open House on Stolen land, explained the “campaign is a call for people of conscience to address the complicity of RE/MAX corporation in heinous violations of international law. It is our duty, as people concerned with justice, to be in solidarity with Palestinians and to address how these large corporations are profiting off continuing displacement, dispossession and death in Israel/Palestine.”

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In October 2014, CODEPINK sent a letter to RE/MAX co-founder and Chairman of the Board Dave Liniger. The RE/MAX executive never responded. Overall, CODEPINK co-founder Medea Benjamin says, RE/MAX has been largely unresponsive and dismissive. In the summer of 2014, CODEPINK began working on building a coalition with Palestinian solidarity groups around the country, including countless chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), Jewish Voice for Peace, and a variety of social justice, peace, anti-war, and leftist organizations.

By October, CODEPINK made a national call for a Week of Action, to be held from 29 November to 5 December. Activists from over 15 major cities organized demonstrations outside of local RE/MAX offices. CODEPINK organizer Desirée Fairooz says the strategy of activists targeting local RE/MAX franchises “is the only way to express solidarity with this campaign in their own hometowns,” noting it is not clearly feasible for everyone to travel to the Denver headquarters to protest. Fairooz says she hopes local protests will inspire franchises to tell “LLC ‘Make it stop!’, thereby pressuring LLC to close operations in Occupied Palestine.”

On 21 November, Rich Forer, author of Breakthrough: Transforming Fear Into Compassion – A New Perspective on the Israel-Palestine Conflict, delivered a petition with over 4,000 signatures to the RE/MAX headquarters in Denver, Colorado, requesting that Chairman Liniger “stop RE/MAX Israel’s illegal sales of Jewish-only settlement homes on Palestinian land.” In the early December Week of Action, activists throughout the country delivered this petition to local RE/MAX offices.

Boycott RE/MAX Week of Action

No Open House protesters in Dallas, Texas on 29 November  CREDIT: Facebook

On Saturday, 29 November, three Boycott RE/MAX demonstrations were held, thousands of miles apart. Activists from a variety of groups, including CODEPINK, Veterans for Peace, Jewish Voice for Peace, and more gathered in Dallas, Texas; Strongsville, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland; and Somerville, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston, to protest outside of RE/MAX offices. Those in Strongsville and Somerville stood outside for hours in below-freezing weather. Cleveland-based activist Toni Ann Rozsahegyi said she helped organize the action because she feels “it’s important to raise awareness of the fact that companies like RE/MAX break international law and impede the peace process for profit.”

No Open House protesters in Los Angeles, California on 1 December   CREDIT: Facebook

On Monday, 1 December, Palestinian solidarity activists in Los Angeles demonstrated in front of a RE/MAX office, holding signs reading “RE/MAX, stop making money off violating law,” “RE/MAX sells ILLEGAL settlements,” “RE/MAX, stop selling stolen land,” “RE/MAX, every settlement is an obstacle to peace,” and more.

No Open House protesters in Denver, Colorado on 2 December   CREDIT: Facebook

No Open House protesters in Boston, Massachusetts on 2 December   CREDIT: Facebook

On  Tuesday, 2 December, activists from CODEPINK Greater Boston, the Boston Coalition for Palestinian Rights, United for Justice with Peace, Jewish Voice for Peace Boston, and more held a demonstration outside a RE/MAX office in Boston. Organizer Hayat Imam said she “salute[s] CODEPINK for putting out the call for actions against RE/MAX to demand that they stop the sale of houses on stolen Palestinian land by their franchisee RE/MAX Israel” and feel[s] good about the fact that our action is the opening salvo of the boycott in Boston.” Imam explains the activists made an appointment with RE/MAX and organized a representative “delegation” of individuals “who had just been to Palestine so they could talk about the first hand conditions there” to hand a letter to the RE/MAX Chair.

Coalitions of protesters also gathered in both Chicago and Denver. Pat Hunt, an organizer in the former, insisted that “it’s our responsibility to shine a light on the illegal settlements and” on RE/MAX Israel’s illegal profiteering. “We need to keep the pressure on companies that participate in apartheid and let them know we will not tolerate it,” Hunt said.

On Wednesday, 3 December, Palestinian human rights advocates protested in San Francisco and Washington, DC. Activists in the nation’s capital were joined by Richard Falk, professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University and former United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967.

Falk spoke about the importance of pressuring RE/MAX to end its illegal activities and addressed the the illegality and immorality of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories.

We are here today to bring pressure on RE/MAX to comply with international humanitarian law, to cease engaging in commercial activities with the settlements on the West Bank and East Jerusalem. And we have made every effort to engage the officers of RE/MAX in a constructive dialogue, which they have refused to engage in, presumably because they have no response to make. And we are disappointed that they won’t even physically receive our petition.

It is a shame that the interests of the market take precedence over the interests of people and the well-being of people and a common sense of morality. …

To establish a settlement of the occupying power’s people in an occupied society is a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law. And this has gone not for just a few months, or even a few years, but more than 47 years. …

And RE/MAX, in the mean time, will feel the costs of continuing to deal with these unlawful settlements. They really are making a sustainable peace between these two peoples a real impossibility. So it’s not just a matter of violating a particular provision of law; it’s subjecting the Palestinian people as a whole to the daily ordeal of living under this prolonged occupation that’s gone on longer than any other comparable situation in recent history.

It is a scandal that the international community has allowed this to go on for so long.

DC-based CODEPINK organizer Anna Kaminski addressed the need to make realtor allies in the Boycott RE/MAX movement. “While local franchises indeed have nothing to do with RE/MAX Israel, this visibility of protests helps to mount pressure on headquarters which has the power to halt operations in any franchise at any time,” she said. Protesting local RE/MAX branches “can also help individual franchises learn more about what their company is doing overseas and realtors can use the opportunity to learn more about the conflict and how their company violates international law. Realtors can then use their concern regarding a boycott to help mount pressure on RE/MAX HQ.”

Only miles away, on the same day, in Olney, Maryland, activists gathered outside of a RE/MAX office, holding signs reading “RE/MAX Israel complicit in theft of Palestinian homes,” “Stolen land not for sale,” and “RE/MAX profits – Palestinians suffer.”

No Open House protesters in Olney, Maryland on 3 December   CREDIT: Facebook

On Thursday, 4 December, activists woke up bright and early to protest RE/MAX in Houston, Texas, in what was the second Boycott RE/MAX demonstration in Texas in five days.

On Friday, 5 December, the country saw its largest flood of Boycott RE/MAX protests. Activists gathered outside of a RE/MAX office in Rochester, Minnesota. Just two days after one demonstration, San Francisco Palestinian human rights activists got together for another.

UCSB SJP members meeting with RE/MAX representatives  CREDIT: Facebook

Miles away, in Ventura, California, University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) Students for Justice in Palestine met with RE/MAX representatives, asking the workers to pressure their company to stop its operation in illegal settlements. The students also connected the struggle of indigenous Palestinians against Israeli colonization to that of immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border, as well as to the struggle of black Americans in Ferguson and across the US, protesting police brutality and structural racism in the Justice System. Anumita Kaur, a UCSB SJP organizer, spoke of what she sees as the importance of the BDS movement, explaining that, as “students at the UC, our tuition money is invested in corporations profiting off of Israeli apartheid and occupation—we are not okay with this.”

In Portland, Oregon, protesters assembled in freezing weather. They made cardboard props of RE/MAX apartment complexes, emblazoned with the word “stolen,” and stood next to mounds of snow. Portland-based CODEPINK organizer Lisa Savage explains they scheduled the demonstration to coincide with evening commute traffic and to be end when a Black Lives Matter civil rights march began, which many of the Palestinian solidarity activists then joined.

No Open House protesters in Portland, Oregon on 5 December   CREDIT: Lisa Savage

SJP activists in NYC RE/MAX offices  CREDIT: Facebook

New York City held the fifth demonstration on this day. Members of Jewish Voice for Peace, Students for Justice in Palestine, and many others flooded New York RE/MAX offices, asking the offices to convey to RE/MAX International that RE/MAX Israel’s illegal sales must cease immediately.

No Open House’s Week of Action marked just the beginning of the Boycott RE/MAX campaign, and it marked it with a bang. Activists around the country showed great enthusiasm and took great initiative, organizing more than 20 demonstrations. Noteworthy was the community-based nature of all these protests, demonstrating that the Palestinian solidarity movement is a true grassroots movement, and that this grassroots movement is growing rapidly. While the chill of winter begins to fill the air, this new phase of the BDS movement is just heating up.

WHY HELEN THOMAS SAID THOSE WORDS

The words of Helen Thomas echo in my mind whenever I read something like the report that follows ….

GOD IS GREAT is a deafening sound to dogs and other similar creatures

Illegal Jewish settlers are bothered by the call to prayer

Illegal Jewish settlers are bothered by the call to prayer

Israel bans Muslim
call to prayer in Hebron
61 times in October
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HEBRON (Ma’an) — Israeli forces have forbidden mosque leaders from calling for prayers through loudspeakers at the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron 61 times in October under the pretext that it bothers nearby Jewish settlers, the Palestinian ministry of endowment said Sunday.
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The ministry of endowment’s Hebron office said in a statement that banning the call for prayer “is racism and clear violation of freedom of worship which all international conventions maintain.”

DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER ~~ SO IS PALESTINE!

Blood diamond mogul Leviev says he won’t build beyond the ‘Green Line’ ….. but which side of the line is he talking about?

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Image created by Gianluca Costantini

Image created by Gianluca Costantini

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Africa Israel has come under a boycott since 2008 because of its operations beyond the Green Line. That same year, UNICEF announced it was cutting ties with Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev, who had sponsored a portion of the UN organization’s activities, because of “his involvement in the building of settlements in the West Bank.”

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Lev Leviev, center, launches a new Africa Israel project (Photo: Courtesy of Africa Israel)
Lev Leviev, center, launches a new Africa Israel project (Photo: Courtesy of Africa Israel)

Business powerhouse Africa Israel: No building beyond Green Line

Sources in company say such investment is not economically viable; move comes after years of boycotts of company due to operations beyond Green Line.

Ofer Petersburg FOR

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Africa Israel Investments staged an event on Sunday to announce a significant expansion of its construction projects in central and West Jerusalem – 935 housing units at an investment of NIS 2.4 billion. The biggest noise, however, came from Oren Hod, CEO of Africa Israel Residences, who surprisingly announced: “We won’t be building beyond the Green Line.”

This change in policy does not apply only to the company’s entrepreneurial arm, Hod’s domain, which hasn’t been significantly active in such areas in any event, but to its executive arm, too, including the Danya Cebus construction firm, which also built for other companies. The decision means that Africa Israel will not participate in new tenders in Pisgat Ze’ev, Har Homa, Gilo and parts of Ramot.

The main reasons behind the Africa Israel decision are believed to be the political and security developments in Jerusalem in recent years, coupled with protests around the world against the company due to construction beyond the Green Line. According to Africa Israel sources, another reason for the decision is that construction in those areas is not economically viable.

Danya Cebus, a subsidiary of Africa Israel, has carried out construction projects in East Jerusalem in the past. Among other places, the company has built in Har Homa, Gilo, Ma’aleh Adumim, Ariel and Adam, and was also responsible for a huge neighborhood, East Matityahu, in Modi’in Illit.

Africa Israel has come under a boycott since 2008 because of its operations beyond the Green Line. That same year, UNICEF announced it was cutting ties with Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev, who had sponsored a portion of the UN organization’s activities, because of “his involvement in the building of settlements in the West Bank.”

Also in 2008, Dubai threatened to sever ties with Leviev’s agents in the diamond trade abroad following demonstrations by the pro-Palestinian Adalah organization. And subsequently, following reports that the British Embassy was planning to lease a property from Africa Israel, a columnist in the Guardian newspaper wrote: “Rewarding Leviev with the contract for our new embassy shows that Her Majesty’s government is not serious about stopping Israeli settlements.”

In 2009, BlackRock UK, one of the world’s preeminent asset management firms, sold all its Africa Israel stock, despite having held a large stake in the company. According to reports, the move came as a result of pressure from the three Norwegian banks that market BlackRock funds. In 2012, New Zealand-government investment funds that turn over investments to the tune of some $20 billion joined the boycott.

In 2011, Adalah-New York demanded that the Fashion Institute of Technology, which was staging an exhibition of British designer Daphne Guinness’ clothing at the FIT’s museum in New York, reject funding from the LVD Foundation, headed by Leviev. “We feel confident that you do not wish to tarnish the good name and the good works of the Fashion Institute of Technology by associating yourself with Lev Leviev’s companies’ human rights violations and questionable business practices,” Adalah-NY wrote in its appeal.

Last January, the Norway’s Finance Ministry announced a boycott of the company and its removal from the investment portfolio of its Government Pension Fund Global after the Norwegian Council of Ethics found that Africa Israel is active in East Jerusalem. The pension fund is managed by the Norwegian central bank and is designed to ensure more efficient and equitable utilization of the Norwegian oil money.

“The decision to exclude Africa Israel and Danya Cebus from the fund stems from their contribution to significant violations of human rights in the framework of a war or conflict by means of building settlements in East Jerusalem,” read the Norwegian announcement.

According to a statement at time from the company, “Africa Israel and its subsidiaries operate in Israel and around the world with the purpose of promoting their business activities in accordance with the law in place in every country in which they operate. In light of this, all we can do is express regret for this decision that pertains to Africa Israel and other large Israeli companies, and wonder how it serves the best interests of the citizens of Norway whose money is managed by this fund.”

As mentioned above, in conjunction with its decision to cease construction activities beyond the Green Line, Africa Israel Residences is expanding its investments in the center and west of the city and is looking for additional land reserves, having recently acquired Mapai House on Jaffa Street where it is planning a 170-apartment high-rise at an investment of NIS 380 million.

Among others, the company will also be erecting two high-end projects – at 7 HaRav Kook Street, which will comprise 131 apartments at an investment of NIS 300 million, HaNevi’im Courtyard, where the company will be selling two-room apartments at NIS 1.82 million and three-room apartments at NIS 2.95 million. The company is also currently marketing its Savyonei Arnona project, with the Savyonei Ramat Sharet project to go on the market soon too. Africa Israel is also moving ahead with the planning of its President’s House hotel project, which will include residential and hotel space.

According to Oren Hod, the company is looking for additional projects in the capital as prices have yet to reach their peak level. “In Rishon Lezion West, we are selling for NIS 2.9 million, and the same apartment in Savyonei Arnona is going for NIS 2.4 million.”

 

BIBI FACES THE NATION AND LIES THROUGH HIS TEETH

I’m not sure if this man is stupid or does he think everyone else is ….

Watch the following and decide for yourself.

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For a pretty clear picture of the truth in these matters …. read THIS from the archives. It’s very informative.

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A LONG BUT MUST READ, ESPECIALLY IF YOU ARE JEWISH

5th AVENUE SYNAGOGUE WILL BE CLOSED TO JEWS THIS COMING SABBATH

Just imagine the uproar if the above headline was true …

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BUT …..

The silence is once again deafening when Muslims are barred from THEIR place of worship on THEIR Holy Day …

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Israel bans Muslims from Ibrahimi Mosque Thursday, Friday

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(MaanImages/File)
HEBRON (Ma’an) — The Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron will be closed to Muslim worshipers on Thursday and Friday, an official at the mosque told Ma’an Sunday.Hijazi Abu Sneina told Ma’an the mosque would be open to Israeli settlers during the two days of Rosh Hashanah, or Jewish New Year, but closed to Muslims.

The Ibrahimi Mosque, believed to be the burial place of the prophet Abraham, is located in central Hebron, a frequent site of tensions due to the presence of 500 Israeli settlers in the Old City.

A 1997 agreement split Hebron into areas of Palestinian and Israeli control.

More than 500,000 Israeli settlers live in settlements across the West Bank and East Jerusalem, in contravention of international law.

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Is this what we can expect next?

Is this what we can expect next?

ISRAELI TWO STATE SOLUTION ~~ ONE JEWISH STATE IN THE EAST, THE OTHER IN THE WEST

That certainly simplifies matters ….. A Palestinian State doesn’t quite fit into zio’s ‘Master Plan’

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ONE-STATE-TWO-STATE-PUZZLE

Image Credit – David Klein

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Some 400 hectares (988 acres) in the Etzion settlement bloc near Bethlehem were declared “state land, on the instructions of the political echelon” by the military-run Civil Administration.

Israel Radio said the step was taken in response to the kidnapping and killing of three Jewish teens by Hamas militants in the area in June. The notice published by the military gave no reason for the decision.

Hmmm …. I thought that was the reason for the genocide in Gaza

 

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Israel Appropriates West Bank Land for Possible Settlement Use

Peace Now: Biggest Land Appropriation in 30 Years

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GETTY IMAGES

By Reuters

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Israel announced on Sunday a land appropriation in the occupied West Bank that an anti-settlement group termed the biggest in 30 years and a Palestinian official said would cause only more friction after the Gaza war.

Some 400 hectares (988 acres) in the Etzion settlement bloc near Bethlehem were declared “state land, on the instructions of the political echelon” by the military-run Civil Administration.

Israel Radio said the step was taken in response to the kidnapping and killing of three Jewish teens by Hamas militants in the area in June. The notice published by the military gave no reason for the decision.

Peace Now, which opposes Israeli settlement activities in the West Bank – territory Palestinians seek for a state, said the appropriation was meant to turn a site where 10 families now live adjacent to a Jewish seminary into a permanent settlement.

Construction of a major settlement at the location, known as “Gevaot”, has been mooted by Israel since 2000. Last year, the government invited bids for the building of 1,000 housing units at the site.

Peace Now said the land seizure was the largest announced by Israel in the West Bank since the 1980s and that anyone with ownership claims had 45 days to appeal. A local Palestinian mayor said Palestinians owned the tracts and harvested olive trees on them.

Israel has come under intense international criticism over its settlement activities, which most countries regard as illegal under international law and a major obstacle to the creation of a viable Palestinian state in any future peace deal.

Nabil Abu Rdainah, a spokesman for Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, called on Israel to cancel the appropriation. “This decision will lead to more instability. This will only inflame the situation after the war in Gaza,” Abu Rdainah said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu broke off peace talks with Abbas in April after the Palestinian leader reached a reconciliation deal with Hamas, the Islamist movement that dominates the Gaza Strip.

In a series of remarks after an open-ended ceasefire halted a seven-week-old Gaza war with Hamas on Tuesday, Netanyahu repeated his position that Abbas would have to sever his alliance with Hamas for a peace process with Israel to resume.

Israel has said construction at Gevaot would not constitute the establishment of a new settlement because the site is officially designated a neighborhood of an existing one, Alon Shvut, several km (miles) down the road.

Some 500,000 Israelis live among 2.4 million Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, territory that the Jewish state captured in the 1967 Middle East war.

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Here’s just one of those settlers ….. would you want her for a neighbour?

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And the American response … (Don’t forget who will pay for the new settlements)

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US rebukes Israel over claim of West Bank land

State Department urges Jerusalem to reverse decision, calling the move ‘counterproductive’ to efforts to achieve two-state solution; Palestinians say decision will lead to more instability.

Read the full report HERE

VIDEO ~~ HACKING AWAY AND DESTROYING THE OCCUPATION

ethical-hacking-banner1

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Philly BDS offers, “Recycle, Hack, Destroy”- a light video at a dark time

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Our thoughts are with the people of Gaza at this time, who are currently under military assault. Though this film is lighthearted, our hearts are heavy as we watch in horror the violence perpetrated by the Israeli government and the untold suffering of the Palestinian people.

In 2005, Palestinian civil society issued a call to the world to apply boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it meets its obligations under international law. Now, in the midst of Israel’s ongoing terror campaign, BDS remains the best way the international movement can show Palestine our solidarity.

SodaStream’s main production site is in Mishor Edomim, the industrial park of Ma’aleh Adumim, an illegal Israeli settlement in occupied Palestine. This facility is on land that was illegally confiscated from Palestinian owners.

Support Palestinian human rights.
Boycott SodaStream.
Boycott Israel.

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Also see THIS from Mondoweiss

HELP BURST SODASTREAM’S BUBBLE

picket

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Click HERE to see a brilliant presentation from the Jewish Voice For Peace

KERRY MIGHT BE RIGHT .. IT’S NOT APARTHEID, IT’S WORSE THAN THAT!

Israel rarely grants Palestinians permits to build in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. It has demolished at least 27,000 Palestinian homes and structures since occupying the West Bank in 1967, according to the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions.
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Israeli bulldozers demolish mosque, 3 houses near Nablus
(MaanImages/File)
NABLUS (Ma’an) — Israeli bulldozers on Tuesday demolished a mosque and three houses in a Palestinian village south of Nablus, an official said.

Ghassan Daghlas, a Palestinian official who monitors settlement-related activities in the northern West Bank, told Ma’an that over 20 Israeli military vehicles entered Khirbet al-Tawil near the town of Aqraba early Tuesday morning.

Bulldozers immediately began demolishing a mosque and three houses belonging to Osama Anas, Anwar Sidqi Hani, and Muhammad Hani.

The structures were demolished under the pretext that they were built without permits, Daghlas said.

Israel rarely grants Palestinians permits to build in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. It has demolished at least 27,000 Palestinian homes and structures since occupying the West Bank in 1967, according to the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions.

Israel destroyed more than 663 Palestinian properties in the West Bank and East Jerusalem in 2013, displacing 1,101 people, according to UNOCHA. Some 250 people have been displaced since the beginning of 2014.

The internationally recognized Palestinian territories of which the West Bank and East Jerusalem form a part have been occupied by the Israeli military since 1967.

TRY A FREE SCOOP OF THE OCCUPATION AT BEN & JERRY’S

Your ice cream is free today – Palestine is not!

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BDS activists leaflet Ben & Jerry’s shops on commercial ties to Israeli settlements

Activists in Bradfort, CT (Photo via Vermonters for a Just Peace in Palestine/Israel)

Activists in Bradfort, CT (Photo via Vermonters for a Just Peace in Palestine/Israel)
The second annual Free Cone Day leafleting action at Ben & Jerry’s scoop shops on Tuesday, April 8, organized by Vermonters for a Just Peace in Palestine/Israel (www.vtjp.org), was a great success.

Solidarity activists in at least 12 states (CA, CO, CT, NY, MA, MN, NC, NH, OR, NH, VT, and WA) distributed thousands of leaflets prepared by VTJP on Ben & Jerry’s commercial ties to illegal, Jewish-only settlements.

Additionally, 335 e-mails were sent to the company’s CEO, Jostein Solheim, on April 8, and in the two weeks leading up to FCD, more than 500 messages were e-mailed to him.

Your ice cream is free today – Palestine is not!

VTJP is still compiling reports on this year’s FCD action, and, in due course, we’ll post on our website [www.vtjp.org/icecream] a comprehensive summary of what transpired on April 8.

Here’s a sampling of what we’ve learned so far:

In San Jose, California, nearly 1,100 leaflets were handed out, and one of the activists shared an observation common to those who leafleted everywhere: “Most of the customers were pleasant, and many were interested to hear the information and take a leaflet.”

At least 1,000 more leaflets found their way into the hands of people at four scoop shops in Berkeley, Oakland, and San Francisco.  There, as in San Jose, most encounters with the public were friendly and, according to one of the activists, “Many were ignorant of the situation in [Israel-Palestine], so it was a wonderful opportunity for education.”

Our compatriots with the New England Palestine Education Network and Veterans for Peace in Manchester, New Hampshire, told us many people are surprised to learn that Ben & Jerry’s ice cream is being sold in Israeli settlements.  VTJP activists have had the same experience frequently.

In Denver, a student activist was grateful for the opportunity to talk with people in his community about the Ben & Jerry’s campaign and the Israeli occupation generally.  He also appreciated the exposure this action generated for the Students for Justice in Palestine chapter at the University of Colorado.

Members of Upper Hudson Peace Action’s Palestinian Rights Committee leafleted outside a cone shop in Albany, New York, and held a sign that read: “Ben & Jerry’s: Yes in Albany. No in Illegal Israeli Settlements.”  They spoke with the shop manager, who was polite, said he knew why they were there, and invited them in for a free cone.

In Portland, Oregon, twelve volunteers from the local chapters of Jewish Voice for Peace, Portland Palestine Coalition, Lutherans for Justice in the Holy Land, and Americans United for Equal Palestinian Rights passed out hundreds of leaflets and only two were dropped on the ground.

Jewish Voice for Peace activists in Tacoma, Washington, noted that not only were folks “willing to take the info, but the overwhelming majority left with leaflet still in hand!” The action also provided a great opportunity to reach a lot of young people.

In Vermont, there was leafleting at the two scoop shops in Burlington, including the one at the University of Vermont, and at the company’s factory in Waterbury.  Members of VTJP’s BDS committee spoke with CEO Jostein Solheim and Rob Michalak, the head of the company’s Global Mission Office, when they dropped in at the scoop shop in downtown Burlington.

The Ben & Jerry’s Campaign is Growing!

The FCD action this year saw many more activists, groups and scoop shops involved.  Moreover, since last September, 220 organizations around the world have signed VTJP’s letter [http://www.vtjp.org/icecream/internatletter.php] urging the company to stop doing business with Israeli settlements.  We respectfully ask organizations that have not done so to consider adding their names to the letter.

What began as a conversation in 2011 between a small band of activists in Vermont on how to contribute locally to the international BDS movement has grown into something much bigger than we could have imagined, and inspires us to keep organizing and engaging Ben & Jerry’s.

VTJP is one year into this campaign, and there is still much work to be done.

EARTH DAY Vs. THE ISRAELI OCCUPATION IN NEW YORK

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On Earth Day, Activists Ask Zabar’s to Stop Selling Israeli Occupation Profiteer SodaStream

On Earth Day, 70 human rights activists gathered on New York City’s Upper West Side outside the iconic Zabar’s store, demanding that SodaStream home carbonation devices be removed from the shelves because they are made in an illegal settlement in the occupied West Bank (photos; video). The demonstration was coordinated by the NYC Coalition Against SodaStream, which is made up of Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel, Jewish Voice for Peace NYC Chapter (JVP), Jews Say No!, and Park Slope Food Coop Members for BDS.
In early April, the coalition began a series of actions at Zabar’s to raise awareness about SodaStream, after the store’s management did not respond to activists’ requests for a meeting. Over 1200 people so far have signed a petition asking Zabar’s to stop selling SodaStream, with 130 signatures collected this evening alone. On the busy Broadway sidewalk, people handed out postcards including to several Zabar’s workers encouraged petition-signing, and blew bubbles. Signs and chants played on Zabar’s high standing among food-lovers, such as “Bagels, lox, and a schmear! But get that SodaStream outta here!” One sign, based on a graphic by the Institute for Middle East Understanding (IMEU), addressed the issue of labor and political repression by pointing out that the number of Palestinians employed by SodaStream is 500, while the number of West Bank Palestinians  denied basic rights by occupation SodaStream helps sustain  is 2.6 million. With guitar accompaniment, activists sang “Soda Streamin'” to the tune of “California Dreamin'”: “Don’t buy oppression any more / Take settlements away / No more SodaStreamin’ / No more apartheid days.”

Adalah-NY’s Riham Barghouti explained that shoppers’ purchases of SodaStream products enables the continuation of the Israeli occupation and devastation of Palestinian land. “SodaStream’s main factory is built on an illegal Israeli settlement. And despite its greenwashed image as a supporter of environmental causes, SodaStream is actually helping to destroy Palestine’s environment through uprooting of olive trees, depletion of water resources, and the confiscation and pollution of the land,” she told the crowd. Donna Nevel of Jews Say No! spoke as a neighborhood resident, saying, “For those of us on the Upper West Side, Zabar’s has been an important institution in our community. We want to continue to love and support it. Zabar’s, do the right thing and stop selling SodaStream.”
Today’s demonstration comes on the heels of the environmental organization Earth Day Network’s decision to end its partnership with SodaStream in response to criticism on human rights grounds. In an earlier development, the actor Scarlett Johansson had been a longtime Ofxam Ambassador until her position as a Global Brand Ambassador for SodaStream led to widespread protests and, ultimately, the breaking of ties between her and Oxfam in January.


 

Some photos from the event …

Credit: Bud Korotzer

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For a photo gallery of the demo, click HERE

EARTH DAY CONFRONTS THE OCCUPATION

“The Earth Day Network is rightfully following the path of Oxfam by disassociating itself from SodaStream, a company that produces its water carbonating devices in an illegal Israeli settlement in occupied Palestinian territory. Jewish Voice for Peace will continue campaigning against SodaStream in Seattle, New York, DC, Minneapolis, Boston, Portland ,and other cities across the U.S. to remind consumers that buying products manufactured in stolen land is neither ethical nor sustainable,” said Sydney Levy of Jewish Voice for Peace.

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Earth Day Network dumps SodaStream and Scarlett Johansson

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A previous version of the Earth Day Network website showed SodaStream logo.

The Earth Day Network, which promotes the annual Earth Day environmental consciousness initiative, has cut ties to a campaign launched by Israeli occupation profiteer SodaStream and endorsed by its spokesmodel Scarlett Johansson.

The screenshot above shows the SodaStream logo as it appeared previously on the Earth Day Network’s official sponsor page. On the current version of the page, the SodaStream logo is gone.

Here’s the press release from the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation:


Earth Day Network Cuts Ties with SodaStream After Palestinian Rights Groups Decry Greenwashing Campaign

21 April, Washington, DC – On the eve of Earth Day, groups working for Palestinian rights globally are celebrating Earth Day Network’s decision to end its partnership with SodaStream, whose main production factory is located in an illegal Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank.

Earlier this month, SodaStream, which markets its home carbonating devices as a green alternative to bottled beverages, announced the launch of an awareness-raising campaigncentered around the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Several articles reported that this “Secret Continent” campaign was developed with Earth Day Network (EDN), which works with more than 22,000 partners in 192 countries to broaden, diversify, and mobilize the environmental movement.

Groups in the United States and abroad mobilized opposition to this partnership between EDN and SodaStream due to the company’s complicity in Israel’s military occupation, including the destruction that Israeli settlements have caused to the Palestinian environment.

In response, EDN’s logo has been removed from the Secret Continent website and EDNno longer lists SodaStream as a sponsor.

“This Secret Continent campaign is a clear example of SodaStream attempting to greenwash its complicity in Israel’s occupation through a public relations stunt. SodaStream appeals to customers by marketing itself as environmentally friendly, but a product manufactured in an illegal settlement on occupied land cannot be ‘green.’ We applaud Earth Day Network for listening to the thousands of concerned individuals who contacted them and sending the message that companies profiting from human rights abuses have no place in the global environmental movement,” said Ramah Kudaimi of theUS Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.

PENGON, the Palestinian Environmental NGOs Network, added: “We are happy to see that Earth Day Network cut ties with the Israeli settlement manufacturer SodaStream. Israeli occupation and its settlement enterprise are not environmentally friendly. On the contrary, they are based on the pillage of our land and deplete and pollute our water resources. Over the last 40 years, Israeli occupation has cut hundreds of thousands of trees to make space for their colonization. We call on all environmental organizations and activists to stand with us against the Israeli occupation and its systematic large scale destruction of our land.”

This is the second major controversy this year involving SodaStream’s settlement factory. In January Oxfam International came under fire to drop Hollywood star Scarlett Johansson as a Global Ambassador after she became a Global Brand Ambassador for SodaStream. After an international campaign, Johansson resigned from her role with Oxfam.

“The Earth Day Network is rightfully following the path of Oxfam by disassociating itself from SodaStream, a company that produces its water carbonating devices in an illegal Israeli settlement in occupied Palestinian territory. Jewish Voice for Peace will continue campaigning against SodaStream in Seattle, New York, DC, Minneapolis, Boston, Portland ,and other cities across the U.S. to remind consumers that buying products manufactured in stolen land is neither ethical nor sustainable,” said Sydney Levy of Jewish Voice for Peace.

Since the 2005 call from more than 170 Palestinian civil society groups for the international community to engage in boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaigns targeting institutions and corporations complicit in Israel’s oppressive policies towards Palestinians, activists across the globe have been organizing under the slogan “Occupation is Not Green” to convince stores and consumers to boycott SodaStream.

“We congratulate Earth Day Network on doing the right thing by ending its collaboration with SodaStream. After the media firestorm surrounding SodaStream, Scarlett Johansson, and Oxfam, and now this dissolved partnership with Earth Day Network, SodaStream is going to have difficulty finding reputable individuals and groups to help whitewash and greenwash its ugly occupation profiteering,” said Nancy Kricorian of CODEPINK: Women for Peace.

Jamal Juma’, coordinator of the Stop the Wall Campaign in the occupied West Bank, added: “We thank the Earth Day Network for having canceled its cooperation with SodaStream and are grateful to all those people around the world that continue mobilizing to ensure the truth about SodaStream is no secret anymore.”

“While the illegal Wall and the settlements rob Palestinians of their land and resources and lock them up into economically and socially unsustainable enclaves, companies such as SodaStream ensure profitability of the Israeli settlement enterprise by exploiting Palestinian workers who are left without workers’ rights and without any viable alternative to make a living.”

Following a recent visit to the occupied Palestinian territories, Friends of the Earth International chairperson Jagoda Munic condemned what she referred to as the “less visible forms of occupation,” which include toxic waste-dumping, the expropriation and diversion of fresh water sources, and the development of polluting industries close to Palestinian towns.

She called these Israeli governmental policies “truly shocking” and went on to say: “Palestine stands as an example of the link between environmental injustice and social and political injustice.

ZION GONE BONKERS ~~ CALLS DERSHOWITZ AN ANTI SEMITE

The following is almost amusing ….

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“If you don’t want people like me defending Israel,” he told them, “then you’re in serious trouble.”

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In Philly, rightwing Zionists call Dershowitz anti-Semitic for opposing settlements

AN AFRO-AMERICAN RELIVES SEGREGATION ON A VISIT TO ISRAEL/PALESTINE

When I first visited Occupied Palestine, in 2011, there was something about the experience that seemed very familiar. It was not only the sense of the racist oppression the Palestinians were experiencing; it was something else. When I returned home I realized what it was.

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Traveling Through Palestine While Black: A Firsthand Look at a Slow-Moving Annexation

Witnessing a brutal occupation, where permanent insecurity and maximum humiliation are the norm.
By Bill Fletcher, Jr.*
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A Palestinian boy and Israeli soldier in front of the Israeli West Bank separation barrier.
Photo Credit: Justin McIntosh/Wikimedia Commons

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In the first several days after returning from Israel and Occupied Palestine, I dreamed of Palestine each night. It was never a pleasant dream. While I cannot remember the details, I was always left with a feeling of anxiety and insecurity. In that sense the dreams matched the realities of the Palestinians, be they citizens of Israel or residents of the Occupied Territories. It also corresponded to the emotions raised in a recent trip in which I participated.

Prison

It has become almost a cliché to speak of Gaza, the Palestinian territories on the Mediterranean controlled by Hamas and blockaded by Israel, as the largest open-air prison on the planet. Yet I am not sure I will any longer agree with the limits of that characterization. The Palestinians are all in prison. While Gaza may be a maximum security facility, the West Bank is nevertheless a prison. So little is actually controlled by Palestinians despite the formal notion of autonomy. Israeli military incursions can and do happen at any time convenient for the Israeli government and its military occupation. Palestinians are prohibited from using certain roads. The ominous and illegal separation wall, better known as the apartheid wall, spreads like a disease across the land, dividing the Palestinians not as much from the Israelis as from their own land.

For all of that, it is the sense of permanent insecurity and maximum humiliation that reinforces the feeling one gets of being in a prison. There are checkpoints at seemingly every turn; one is subjected to being stopped at any time. There is an attitude of arrogance and contempt on the part of most of the Israeli military personnel. With their submachine guns and their insistence on using Hebrew in communicating with the Arabic-speaking Palestinians, they invade the space of the indigenous population, always reminding them that there is no such thing as privacy in the Occupied Territories.

An African-American delegation

Within black America there has for decades been an amorphous constituency that, at a minimum, has been interested in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, and in many cases has been supportive of Palestinians and their fight for national self-determination and democracy. Yet the issue of Palestine has rarely been one around which African Americans, in any great numbers, have organized and mobilized, or for that matter even spoken out.

It has nevertheless been the case that since the June 1967 Six Day War between Israel and its Arab neighbors, there have been African Americans who have raised questions about the objectives of Israel in its occupation of Palestinian territories and its treatment of its own Palestinian minority. The Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) offered an historic condemnation of Israel in the aftermath of the June 1967 war, resulting in SNCC losing a significant portion of its white support in the USA. The black radical movement, of which SNCC was part[during the course of the 1970s], frequently linked the cause of the Palestinians with the struggles against colonialism and white minority rule in Africa. And during the 1970s and 1980s, center-left political figures such as Rev. Jesse Jackson began pushing the US mainstream consensus around the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, insisting on the legitimacy of the demands of the Palestinian people.

The small African-American delegation of which I was a part of in many ways reflected this internationalist tradition. Though broadly speaking progressive, most of the members of the delegation were under 45 and had little background in the Palestinian liberation struggle. Comprised largely of artists, the members of the delegation were individuals cognizant of but not immersed in international issues at the level of organizing and mobilizing.

Almost universally, delegation members were unprepared for the in-your-face brutality of the Occupation. While it may seem melodramatic, the visit was potentially life-changing for each member of the delegation. The question is whether the overwhelming sense of the criminality of the Occupation will be suppressed inside each of us over time since such feelings compel one to ask several questions, not the least being, how can the USA be so complicit in this horror?

The Middle East’s One True Democracy?

It is clear that it is more than possible to visit Israel and have no sense of the apartheid system that operates both within its borders as well as in the Occupied Territories. Such visits happen all the time. It is not possible, however, to visit the Occupied Territories and walk away with such ignorance intact unless, perhaps, one goes directly from Jerusalem to a settlement in the dead of night and fails to leave the settlement’s confines.

Israel has been an explicit occupying power—by international standards—since the June 1967 war when it seized the West Bank from Jordan, the Golan Heights from Syria and the Sinai from Egypt.1 Almost immediately after the commencement of the Occupation, Israel began to construct a system and program of settlements in the Occupied Territories. What too many people in the USA fail to understand—or do not wish to understand—is that settlements on occupied territory represent a violation of international law. Both Israel and Morocco (in the latter’s occupation of the Western Sahara) are explicitly in violation of international law through their respective colonization projects. The United Nations has been quite clear that Israel should stop settlements, but in large part due to the refusal of the United States to take a serious stand against this practice, Israel has snubbed its nose at the UN and at most of the rest of the world.2

The term “settlement” does not properly convey what one sees in the Occupied Territories. What strikes any first-time visitor is that the settlements can better be described as suburban communities, not unlike the communities of stucco-tiled homes that line the hills along the coast of southern California. The word settlements brings to mind tent cities or other impermanent housing arrangements with neither water nor sewer service out in the middle of nowhere. That is not what one sees in the West Bank.

Much as they did within Israel proper, the Israeli authorities have seized lands owned by Palestinians in order to create, in this case, settlements on the West Bank. This land has been seized in the name of security in some instances, and has been seized in other instances because the Palestinians have allegedly abandoned it. In still other cases, land has been seized because Israeli authorities have proclaimed an archeological find located in the territory inhabited by Palestinians, thus justifying land theft and the removal of Palestinians. There are a host of reasons that are offered, with desperate attempts to find justification within an alleged legal framework.

But here is where the trick unfolds. The Israeli authorities make and then enforce respect for the laws that they need in order to advance their own objectives. Even in situations such as Hebron where the Israeli court has agreed that certain territory should be returned to the Palestinians, the Israeli military refuses to comply and nothing has been done about it.3

The “settlements” begin with what look like camps. Indeed, some of them are called outposts if they’re originally built without explicit government approval. They seem innocuous at first, but what is striking is that they are each designed as part of a process of surrounding Palestinian cities. While, for instance, the city of Bethlehem is Palestinian, Israeli settlements have been established around Bethlehem which, in conjunction with the refusal of the Israeli authorities to allow Palestinian expansion, essentially chokes the city itself.

So, for a moment, think about a nice suburban community in the USA. Now, think about several such communities being located on hilltops surrounding a central community inhabited by a different ethnic group that is not allowed to partake in any of the resources of those suburban communities. In fact, residents of that central community are not permitted to use the same roads as the settlers and are not even guaranteed water. It was pointed out that one can tell the difference between Israeli settlements and Palestinian communities by who has water tanks on their roofs. Why? Because the settlers are guaranteed access to water pumped into their homes. Palestinians have to rely on water that is collected over time and stored in water tanks on their roofs.

The West Bank is divided into three zones: A, B and C. “A” are those zones under Palestinian control. “B” is under Palestinian administrative control, but the Israeli military has the final word. “C” is under Israeli military control. Sixty percent of the West Bank is classified as Zone C. These designations, which arose out of the fateful Oslo Peace Accords, have resulted in the interminable squeezing of the Palestinian population. There is no room for their expansion, they control no water and there is the ominous separation wall which disrespects international law by its very existence, cutting through the West Bank and cutting off entire communities from the land that they farm. As one Palestinian explained to me, the Palestinian experience is akin to the legendary Chinese water torture, with the drops of water falling on one’s forehead, slowly driving the person insane. In this case, each drop—each micro- and macro-aggression—is aimed at making the situation so intolerable for the Palestinians that they will abandon their homeland.

You Cannot Run Away From Race

Israel and the Occupied Territories exist within the framework of a particular and peculiar racial hierarchy. During the first three decades of its existence, the world was led to believe that race was not a factor in Israel, discounting, of course, the treatment of the Palestinians. With the appearance of the Israeli Black Panther movement in the early 1970s, all of that changed, and actually introduced complications.

The Israeli Black Panthers originated in the Mizrahi community, that is, Jews from the Middle East and North Africa. They emerged as a militant protest movement challenging an Israeli establishment that was dominated by Ashkenazis (Jews from Europe). Though the movement borrowed the name from the US-based Black Panther Party, in reality the movements had little in common other than addressing, to varying degrees, race. The Israeli Black Panthers were not a particularly left-wing formation and they were not at all sympathetic to the Palestinian people. Instead, they were a movement that challenged racial discrimination and privilege within the Jewish Israeli bloc, but in no way suggested that the very existence of an Israel that marginalized and oppressed Palestinians undermined any intentions or efforts to eradicate racial discrimination.

Thus, the Israeli racial hierarchy exists with the Ashkenazi Jews largely at the top; then the Mizrahi. At that point the hierarchy reformats given that outside of the Jewish Israeli bloc there are three very separate groups: the Palestinians, the Druze (an ethno-religious community), and most recently, African migrants.

There are many people who have been involved with the issue of Palestine who refrain from references to “race” when it comes to describing or analyzing the situation of the Palestinians. Instead, they focus on the “national” aspect of the oppression and the generalized denial of human rights. Yet in walking the streets of Occupied Palestine, and also in walking through Israel-proper, members of our African-American delegation could not escape the feeling that we had seen this before.

The United Nations definition of the “crime of apartheid” from 1973 reads in part: “Inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them.” This definition is of critical importance for several reasons, not the least being that it is not limited to the South African or even Southern African context. In other words, as far as the international community is concerned, “apartheid,” as a system, is a category of racist oppression that can exist outside of Southern Africa, though the term itself was coined in South Africa.

The stench of race and the racism perpetrated against the Palestinians is evident throughout Israel and the Occupied Territories, manifesting itself in various forms. The most obvious form surrounds the matter of the “right of return.” Jews, regardless of nationality, are guaranteed a home in Israel. Palestinians, irrespective of whether their families inhabited a piece of land for generations, are not guaranteed the right to return to their lands in Israel if the Israeli state has declared that they have abandoned the land. This is once again in contravention to United Nations resolutions and Geneva Conventions.

Palestinians, regardless of their country of residence, are subject to humiliating harassment when they attempt to enter or leave Israel. Palestinian citizens of Israel find themselves subject to full body searches at airports and other exit points, not to mention extensive interrogations.

As noted earlier, there are certain roads on which Palestinians are prohibited. This was a matter that our delegation directly experienced. The van we were using was authorized to travel on settler-only roads, but our Palestinian guide could only travel with special permission. Yet these “settler-only” roads often run under or through Palestinian land. The inability of Palestinians to use these roads means that travel between various points within the West Bank is nothing short of onerous. A trip that would normally take 30 minutes can end up taking 90 minutes or more.

An additional feature to “race” in Israel and the Occupied Territories is something that can perhaps be described as ecological racism. It concerns trees—specifically, pine trees. In the vicinity of many of the Israeli settlements one finds pine trees. They are very beautiful but there is a problem. These pine trees are not native to Israel/Palestine. They have been brought to the region by Europeans. The planting of these pine trees is as ecologically catastrophic as it is offensive to the Palestinians. There are pine trees that are native to the region, but the settlers have decided to ignore that reality and bring in alien vegetation that is harmful to the land and the water table.4 The settlers have made a practice of planting these European pine trees on the locations of Palestinian villages in the Occupied Territories that were destroyed in order to make way for the Israeli settlements.

In order to understand race, one must appreciate the notion of arbitrariness. Anyone who has directly experienced racism realizes that it is the insecurity and the notion that at any moment matters can be taken out of your hands that makes the racist oppression ever-present and very real. In the case of an African American in the USA, the idea that one can be stopped by the police when driving through a white neighborhood, or in a different scenario, shot and killed by a white homeowner if you happen to knock on his door, that emphasizes the perpetual vulnerability that one experiences.

This is very much the same with Palestinians. A former Israeli soldier, offering insight into the workings of the Occupation, noted that Israeli soldiers are trained and encouraged to engage in random, violent acts against the Palestinians, for example, through invading the homes of Palestinians for no apparent reason. The idea behind such psychological warfare is to keep the Palestinian people perpetually unstable and uneasy.

Violence perpetrated against Palestinians, particularly by settlers, is rarely punished by the Israeli state. Yet any violence by Palestinians against settlers earns the wrath of the settlers and the Israeli military. Again, despite the pretense of a system governed by laws, the Israeli domination of the Palestinians—whether in Israel or in the Occupied Territories—is outside the law. To borrow from the Dred Scott decision in the US, the Palestinians have few, if any rights, that Israelis are bound to respect. Though this is frequently covered in religious and semi-religious rhetoric, the basic fact remains that the Palestinians exist as a subordinate species as far as most Israelis are concerned.

This sense of violence surrounded our experience as a delegation. We never feared a terrorist attack or armed assault by Palestinians. Yet every day, it is fair to say, we approached our activities with caution vis-a-vis the Israelis. One never knew, from one moment to the next, whether we would be held and interrogated, or whether our Palestinian guide would at some point be whisked away from us for allegedly breaking any of the myriad restrictions imposed on the Palestinians by the Israeli establishment.

But the sense of violence was concrete in a different manner. At one point, in a tour of the South Hebron Hills, our van stopped and a guide, who happened to be a former Israeli soldier, had us outside while he was explaining the Israeli system of outposts and settlements. Several settlers drove by, slowly, watching us. In one case a settler, who as it turned out had been implicated in physical assaults on Palestinians, drove by twice, the second time stopping his vehicle immediately behind us where he just sat for several minutes, glowering. Although our Israeli guide was not particularly worried, our delegation, keenly aware of African-American history and black experience at the hands of white vigilantes, was less than sanguine about sitting out in the middle of nowhere. At the end of the day, we all knew that there existed scant (no) justice (system) in the Occupied Territories for people like us.

Race has taken on a newer form in Israel with the introduction of African migrants. There are actually two sets of African migrants. First, the Ethiopian Jews (Falasha), many of whom were brought to Israel in a mass retrieval. The Israeli establishment, irrespective of their rhetoric, has never been entirely comfortable with this population, and Israeli right-wing and semi-fascists are even less so. A recent incident whereby a Falasha, who is an elected member of the Knesset, was not allowed to donate blood highlights the point. Nevertheless, this segment of the population is considered, officially at least, to be legitimate. They are found in the Israel Defense Forces and elsewhere.

Separate and apart from the Falasha are the African migrants who have traveled to Israel as political refugees. Described by none other than Prime Minister Netanyahu as “infiltrators”—a term which I only recently learned had originally been coined to describe expelled Palestinians who crossed back into Israel—this population has grown over the last decade. A significant percentage of these migrants are from Eritrea and Sudan. Their likelihood of gaining citizenship or a legal status is slim to none. Yet, as with migrants in so many other parts of the world—including but not limited to the US—the Israeli economy finds such migrants quite useful as a productive and vulnerable workforce, even if the Israeli political Right wishes them expelled.

Walking through the streets of South Tel Aviv on a Saturday afternoon is a surreal experience. Our delegation saw a huge wedding party of East Africans. A park became the home for hundreds of African men, socializing or simply hanging out. This migrant population has become an unstable element in Israel. The political establishment has shown no interest in offering asylum—temporary or permanent—to these migrants, so many of whom have sought freedom from hunger, repression and war. Instead they have been locked up or are living lives in the shadows. In the recent past they have begun to organize and mobilize, insisting upon their human rights. In fact, our delegation spoke with Israeli supporters of the migrants who informed us that the loose organization of migrants wishes to take their case to the United Nations if the Israeli government continues to refuse to recognize their rights as legitimate refugees.

In the case of both the Palestinians and the African undocumented migrants there is a demographic concern that eats away at the Israeli political establishment. They are actually quite open about this concern. Contrary to the international notion of an ethnically pluralist democracy, the Israeli establishment believes that they, and they alone, have the right to an ethnically/religiously pure nation-state. However, they face four problems: the existence of Palestinian citizens of Israel who represent approximately 20% of the state of Israel and are growing; the Palestinians in the West Bank; a Palestinian Diaspora that insists upon its internationally recognized right to return to the land that they believed that they temporarily vacated in 1948, and later in 1967; and the undocumented Africans.

For the Israeli establishment the sum total of these problems is a demographic threat to Israel. Specifically, the Israeli establishment is deeply worried that they will quickly become another apartheid South Africa or white minority Rhodesia, wherein the Jewish population ends up constituting a minority and is swamped by non-Jews.5 Although publicly cast in religious terms, the problem really comes down to cold demographics, in that sense so very similar to the US Southwest in the period after the US war against Mexico and the white expansion into lands populated by Mexicans and those populated by Native Americans.

Since We Are Talking About Race…

There is another side to race in Israel and Palestine that gained the attention of our delegation: race within the Palestinian community.

Among Arabs, race is a very complicated matter that cannot be distilled down to skin tone or hair texture. The Arabic word that is frequently used for “blacks” is the same word that is used for “slaves” (Abeed or Abid). Yet, some who use that term—as in the case of Northern Sudanese—would be described as black in a US context.6 It is also worth noting that there has been struggle around the very usage of the term, much as there has been in the USA around terms such as “Oriental.”

One can get different signals from within both Arab and Muslim history regarding race. One of the most important people in Islamic history was an Ethiopian slave liberated by the Prophet Muhammad, named Bilal ibn Rabah. And certainly a “black” presence can be seen throughout the Arab world and Arab history, e.g., in the recent past, Egypt’s Nasser and Sadat. At the same time there was the Arab-run slave trade and in various parts of the Arab World biases against those seen or described as black.

Arabs who migrated to the USA (pre-1980) by and large developed a relationship with African Americans that was less than solidaristic. Arab/African American tensions in the US in part reflected the economic niche that many Arabs came to occupy, that is, store owners in African-American neighborhoods, and otherwise having little constructive contact. This was compounded by attempts by Arab immigrants to assimilate into white America, attempts which grew in complexity in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.

The problematic side to the relationship between Arabs and African Americans in the US contrasts with the emergence of a significant Muslim trend within black America and also with the attention that the Arab world received within progressive political circles in black America in the context of the anti-colonial struggles of the 20th century. For example, the Egyptian Revolution and the Algerian Revolution were discussed in African-American political movements and frequently served as points of inspiration. The favorable feeling toward the Arab world in much of black America was aided by the outstanding assistance that Arab nations, such as Egypt and Algeria, offered to anti-colonial struggles in other parts of Africa.

The Palestinian movement, as it moved to the Left and became more radical in its analysis and approach, also saw itself as aligned with other anti-colonial and national liberation movements. This included attention to the African-American people’s movement in the US. The Left within the Palestinian movement had an appreciation of the African-American struggle, but the global solidarity work of the Palestine Liberation Organization never matched that of South Africa’s African National Congress or Pan African Congress of Azania in terms of building a breadth of organized support.

Nevertheless, certainly by the time of the Oslo Accords (1993), the PLO/Palestinian Authority adopted a different and more insular view. Much like Ireland’s Sinn Fein, which in the aftermath of the cease fire in the north of Ireland slowly but surely abandoned many of the broader international relationships it had cultivated, the Palestinian Authority turned in on itself, ignoring many of its global supporters, and sadly, ignoring many from the global Palestinian Diaspora as well. As such, connections that seemed to have existed between the Palestinian movement and black America dried up.

Attention to the matter of racism among Arabs reemerged in the context of the civil war that took place in the Sudan (between the North and the South), and subsequently, the war in Darfur and the genocide that unfolded. As a result of the fact that so many countries of the Arab world united behind Sudanese President Al Bashir in both internal conflicts (claiming that the West was attempting to dismantle the Sudan), and ignored the plight of those who suffered at the hands of his and prior regimes, sensitivity to this issue has grown within segments of black America.

Our delegation was not immune to that sensitivity. Thus, it was fascinating to have begun the trip with a discussion with Afro-Palestinians. There is a lengthy African presence within and among the Palestinian people. While there are those who can trace their ancestry back 1,000 years, over the last 100 years migrants from various parts of Africa settled in Palestine (what is now Israel as well as the Occupied Territories) and were absorbed into the larger Palestinian community. This community sees itself as Palestinian and there has been much intermarriage with other segments of the Palestinian community. Yet, shades of color and the legacy of the Arab slave trade remain a component of the Arab reality, compounded by the impact of European colonialism and its modification of the ignominious color line.

The biases we occasionally encountered were not surprising, any more than unpleasant encounters between an Arab delegation and some African Americans, if the former were visiting the US. The critical matter that confronted us, as a delegation, was the attitude of leading elements of the Palestinian movement toward race both within and among the Palestinian people, but also vis-à-vis the Arab relationship within and toward the larger African world.7 It was here that we began a constructive dialogue that can be mutually beneficial. Among other things it reminded the African Americans that race does not play itself out identically around the world. Our experience with white supremacy in the US, for instance, is quite different from the rationale and operation of race among Arabs, a formerly colonized people. Our experience with white supremacy, however, shares a great deal in common with the Palestinian experience with Israeli apartheid in both the state of Israel and the Occupied Territories.

Time Running Out

When I first visited Occupied Palestine, in 2011, there was something about the experience that seemed very familiar. It was not only the sense of the racist oppression the Palestinians were experiencing; it was something else. When I returned home I realized what it was.

In 2005 I drove with my family from Los Angeles to Boulder, CO. We drove through a Navaho area. There was a sense of depression, if not despair, from the Navaho we encountered and the realization that this proud people had been relegated by a conqueror to less than perfect lands where they were to remain. Some Native Americans were not so “lucky.” They are only remembered by the names of some rivers and towns, having been annihilated in the process of the European expansion westward.

There was a moment in the early 19th century when the demographic balance of North America was not so unbalanced that it might have been possible for Native Americans to have constructed a different outcome. This was the principal focus of the Shawnee leader Tecumseh, but there were others who also recognized the nature of the challenge. Unfortunately, by the time of the US war against Mexico, the balance was clearly against Native Americans. Immigrants from Europe were flooding into North America, and combined with technology (including military technology), the Native Americans were defeated and ultimately marginalized.

While Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. may have been correct in affirming that the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice, this does not mean that every morally just struggle wins, at least in the short-term. There is something about timing, which is linked to organization and the extent of support any cause has within both a nation-state context and globally.

As our delegation rode through Israel and the Occupied Territories I could not help but wonder how much time remained for the Palestinians. I do not mean to suggest that they face physical annihilation, in the sense of extermination through mass executions.8 They do face the possibility of a different sort of annihilation. If their land continues to be seized; if they cannot build; if they remain cornered like rats in a maze; they will cease to exist. They will find themselves without their homeland, and much like Native Americans in North America, relocated to some other territory or simply dispersed onto the winds.

Much of the Israeli political establishment believes that Palestinians should be evicted and moved to Jordan. In that sense the Israeli strategy for a slow-moving annexation of the West Bank, as criminal as it is, is nevertheless quite understandable. They want to turn the conditions in the Occupied Territories, along with the conditions for Palestinian citizens of Israel, into something so inhospitable, that there is no choice but to move.

Our delegation certainly was moved to speak out against this abomination. Yet so much more is necessary. Insofar as the leadership of the Palestinian Authority is prepared to make serial and humiliating concessions to the demands of Israel and its US sponsors, the future of the Palestinians will resemble the reality of today’s Native American nations in North America. In the alternative, the extent to which the global community is moved to counter the current denial of Palestinian rights, appropriation of Palestinian lands, and displacement of Palestinian people—as occurred with regard to colonialism and white minority rule in Africa—is the extent to which Dr. King’s arc will bend toward justice.

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1 Some in the Palestinian movement have taken the position that the entire area of historic Palestine is occupied. They base this claim on the manner in which the United Nations divided up the then-British-controlled “Palestine Mandate” into Jewish zones and Arab zones (and Jerusalem as an international city) without the input or approval of any Arabs, not the least being the exclusion of the Palestinians themselves. In the text of this essay, however, the use of the term “occupied” makes reference to territories seized by Israel through the June 1967 war.

2 Morocco, in part due to its alliance with France and the US, has done much the same.

3 For more on the situation in Hebron, see: Allison Deger, “Palestinians in Hebron demand Israel ‘Open Shuhada Street’ and protest 20th anniversary of Ibrahimi Mosque massacre,” Feb. 24, 2014, mondoweiss.net/2014/02/palestinians-twentieth-anniversary.html. Additionally, see: Alternative Information Center, “Settler Aggression Against Palestinian Children in Hebron,” Institute for Middle East Understanding, April 14, 2011, at imeu.net/news/printer0020752.shtml.

4 It is interesting to note that European settlers did much the same thing in South Africa. The post-apartheid government began taking steps to remove the alien vegetation due to its impact on the environment.

5 A close examination of the current numbers, if one were to look at the Gaza, West Bank, and Palestinian citizens of Israel, points to the basis for the demographic unease within the Israeli establishment. This helps to explain the xenophobic tendencies within the right-wing of the Israeli establishment that would actually like to envision a wholesale population “swap.”

6 Look at a picture of Sudan President Al Bashir, for instance.

7 The wording of this challenge is complicated by many factors. “Arab” represents a culture and Arabic is a language. Arabs are themselves quite diverse. In fact, there is an overlap between Arabs and other ethnic groups in North Africa especially, e.g., the Berbers. Arabs are part of Africa (and Asia) and the broader African world, while at the same constituting their own Arab world. Neither is monolithic. The Maghreb, or the Arab world to the west of Egypt, includes various tribes and ethnicities as far west as the Western Sahara and Mauritania.

8 The Deir Yassin massacre is among the most well-known of the ethnic cleansings carried out against Palestinians between 1946-’49 at the hands of Zionist military units.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a racial justice, labor and international writer and activist. He is a senior scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum, an editorial board member of BlackCommentator.com, and the co-author of Solidarity Divided.

 

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