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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

'Religion now more dangerous than Arabs'

Rabbi David Hartman, teacher and rebel, is celebrating his 80th birthday and cannot believe the kind of Judaism developing around him: 'Instead of creating a new humanity, Religious Zionism leaders are fighting over stones and verses'
Uri Misgav 
Published: 12.11.11, 19:00
“The leaders of Religious Zionism have lost all sense of purpose. Everything has become a war - a war with stones, a war to preserve power. Religion today is controlled by people who do not understand what Jewish revival is, what revolution is, and what we wanted to have here.”

What did they want?

“The revolution was meant to create a new humanity, a humanity that lives in reality and takes responsibility for that reality, working within that reality, not in a fantasy world.

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Not a world in which passages from the Bible are constantly quoted and fought over – that’s nonsense.”

This isn’t what you dreamed of.

“I moved here in 1971 out of a belief that we were creating a new history, a new Jew. So, yes, we have a State, but there is something missing. We are missing people to instill a spiritual vision. The leadership lost the connection to revolution, to awakening, to ethical possibilities. It’s killing me.”

Rabbi Professor David Hartman is hurting, even during his festivities. He recently marked his 80th birthday with a series of content- and participant-filled events, but he was not relaxed. He manages to overcome his physical pains, those that stem from his ailing health and even inhibit his ability to walk.

“The Land of Israel is attained through distress,” he smiles as he sits heavily. These are his spiritual pains, the ones that give him no rest.

He sighs, exhales heavily, moans, sometimes raises his voice, and occasionally bangs on the table. Eighty years after he was born to a religious family in Brooklyn, forty years after he moved to Jerusalem, leaving behind a prestigious theological and academic career, we meet for a long talk at the Shalom Hartman Institute, which he established in his father’s memory in the Talbieh neighborhood in Jerusalem, where he is President Emeritus.

Tens of thousands of teenagers, educators, and rabbis have passed through these doors and the many programs the Institute offers. Today the Institute defines itself as “a center of transformative thinking and teaching that addresses the major challenges facing the Jewish people and elevates the quality of Jewish life in Israel and around the world.”

In a world in which Religious Zionism is becoming more extreme – politically and religiously – this is a center of a different Judaism: moderate, compromising, humanistic, and universal – in short, in the spirit of Rabbi Hartman.

'It’s a sexual obsession.' Female soldiers (Arcive photo: Gadi Kabalo)

We set out all the building blocks of his life: God, Judaism, the land and State of Israel. The key question is what is happening to Religious Zionism, the stream that is meant to blend all these different elements.

We sharpen the question: How has the moderate voice within Religious Zionism become so small and withered? The very stream that should pursue peace and love of humanity, the one that Hartman has represented so visibly and audibly.

“I know Religious Zionism is dead,” he responds. “In America, I received a doctorate in philosophy. I taught general philosophy and Jewish philosophy. I wrote a book about Maimonides, whose greatness was in the way that the Jewish-particularistic and the universalistic coexisted within him. He lived with both of them, and it was impossible to know when he would choose to emphasize one or the other.”

Why did that happen?

“Religious Zionism is dead. It had a vision, but its leaders were afraid of losing their sense of belonging to Judaism. They thought that if they brought rabbis, everything would be ok. But it wasn’t. The haredim? They are being fruitful and multiplying. I have relatives who have 12 or 18 children. I’m happy for them, because I love Jewish life, but I’m not happy about their moral lives.

"The ‘hardal’ world (religious Zionist haredi) is becoming haredi. They think that a religious outlook requires detachment from the world of western culture. They love Israel, they serve in the army, but it doesn’t change their minds.

“We thought that paratrooper rabbis were the essence of modernism, but jumping from a plane does not symbolize spiritual maturity. It takes time and openness to develop a worldview and free thought. It requires a willingness to listen to different music – something they don’t have. Okay, so they go to elite army units. It doesn’t make them modern people.”

Speaking of the army, I asked Rabbi Hartman to relate to one of the hot-button issues: The attitude towards women in the IDF – or to be precise, the attempts to exclude them. For example, when soldiers in Military Training Camp abandoned a ceremony in which female soldiers were singing on stage.

“It’s insane, insane,” Hartman said. “These people emphasize marginal issues. The important thing is loving kindness. I served as an adviser to Zevulon Hammer, when he was Minister of Welfare in the first Rabin government. There was a debate about F-15s landing on Shabbat. I said, 'Planes are not obligated to keep Shabbat, pilots are. Why are you worrying about the plane and not trying to educate and open the heart of the pilot?' But they lost all contact with the pilot.

“Except my son-in-law, Aharal’eh Katz, who was killed in Lebanon. He was a spiritual giant. He received a Medal of Honor in the Yom Kippur War. He was the first navigator who was slated to be a pilot commander. He was an ethical man, who woke up early in the morning to pray so as not to impose on anyone else. He flew on Shabbat in place of others. He flew on Yom Kippur in place of others.

“It’s a different world. You don’t see that anymore. They emphasize trivial things. We lost the deeper meaning.”

In the main IDF hakafot event (the evening after Simchat Torah ), female soldiers were pushed aside.

“It’s a sexual obsession. They have made all of Judaism part of their sexual issues. Tell me, does all Judaism rest on this? I don’t understand, are they like sex maniacs, aroused the second they see a woman? Is this what we’re building the world on? Do you think that people will want to enter a spiritual life made up only of what is forbidden, forbidden, forbidden?”

From a halachic perspective, is there a problem with women standing up to sing?

“No. The Gemara talks only a loss of concentration while reciting the Shema. If women are singing when you are in the middle of reciting the Shema, it will hinder your intent. That’s it. No more. A rabbi in Israel saying that it’s better to die than to hear a woman singing is crazy.” (Referring to Elyakim Levanon, the rabbi of Elon Moreh, who declared that he would prefer to stand in front of a firing squad than hear a woman sing).

“Listen to this story about another rabbi, a normal one. You should say sheheheyanu over the fact that there are still rabbis like this. This daughter of this rabbi loves to sing. When his friends came to visit, someone asked him to tell her to stop singing. He replied that according to Halacha she’s allowed to sing, the man is not allowed to listen. He suggested that the guest leave.

“There used to be normal rabbis. One day, a group of believers came to a rabbi and asked him what they should be focusing on while fulfilling the commandment to burn chametz. He said, ‘You should make sure that your wife, who is dragging the sacks of flour, isn’t working too hard.’ Where has all that gone? What has happened to us?”

You tell me.

“I don’t know! It all started with the Labor Party. They decided that Jewish representation should be in the hands of the haredim. Today’s situation is Ben-Gurion's fault. He didn’t think that he and his friends should be responsible for the spiritual revolution. This disaster didn’t start in 1967 but rather in 1948. They made a distinction: Judaism would belong to the religious, and we would be responsible for state and society.”

Something that arouses love

It’s possible to yearn for the National Religious Party of the past, I said to him at this point. When we read the Eshkol government minutes from directly before and after the Six-Day War, the most moderate voices belong to Haim Moshe Shapira, Zerach Warhaftig, and Yosef Burg. You can’t help but wonder where that voice disappeared to.

“They lost faith in themselves,” Hartman responds. “They lost belief in the importance of their own spiritual enterprise. Secularism won. Not just in Israel. The direction of the entire world tilted towards secularism, and they didn’t have the strength to withstand that pressure. They searched for a direction that would give them strength, and they found the territories. It’s as if they are saying that settlers express love of Israel. That’s the great idiocy.

“I told the soldiers I teach: Love of Israel is not love of the land; it’s love of the people living in the land. There is no holiness in earth. I also told this to Hanan Porat and his friends, over and over again. Holiness is behavior with people.

“I am considered a world expert on Maimonides. People ask me if I’ve been to his grave. I haven’t. What do I need to go to a cemetery for? I learn from books, not from looking at headstones.”

So let’s talk about the Hilltop Youth .

“Their behavior tells me that religious education has failed. There are priorities in life, and they have latched on to something trivial. Trivial!”

Why hasn’t there been a strong rabbinical outcry against “price tag” activities ?

“Because the leadership is twisted. Corrupt to the core. I met with soldiers in hesder yeshivot. You should have heard the kind of questions they asked me: ‘If I see an Arab who is wounded, his life is being threatened, am I allowed to call an ambulance to save him, or there is no such thing as the sanctity of gentile life?’

“My philosophical outlook has always been: What do you think? What do you feel is the right thing to do?”

And what did they say?

“They said, ‘We don’t know what the Halacha says. We need to hear from you what the Halacha is.’ (Shouting) I said to them: ‘Halacha is in your gut, the moral guidance you feel from inside. If you lose your autonomous moral feeling, you lose your divine image.’ That was a huge revelation for them. I said, ‘How do you imagine your God? Does he want the Arab to die, or does he respect life? Which God do you want to live with?’

Hilltop Youth. 'Love of Israel is not love of the land' (Photo: Gil Yohanan)

“But here they don’t educate towards the sanctity of life. They talk in slogans. They don’t say, ‘Man is good for he was created in the image of God.’ You can see this in the attitude towards Arabs, and you can see it in the attitude towards women. In my new book, "The God Who Hates Lies," there is an attack on the entire world of Religious Zionism precisely because of these issues.”

Hartman is considered one of the great students of Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik. Like him, he belongs to the liberal stream of Orthodox Judaism that is thriving in the United States but is struggling for survival in the Holy Land. He is a man with a large physical presence, and I sense a large heart as well. He is a fatherly figure and constitutes a spiritual father figure and guide to generations of students. He also has six children of his own.

One of his sons, Rabbi Dr. Donniel Hartman, is President of the bustling institute that bears the family name. One of his daughters, Tova, established the Shira Hadasha synagogue in Jerusalem 10 years ago, a synagogue that insists on merging Judaism and feminism. It was, of course, not a smooth road.

“When my daughter built the synagogue,” he recalls, “people came to me and said, ‘But she’s a woman.’ I said: ‘You are willing to go to a female brain surgeon, to let a woman be responsible for your life or death, but when a woman walks into the synagogue, she becomes a little girl? It’s ridiculous.'”

Meanwhile, in Jerusalem, women have been removed from billboards.

“That’s insulting to me. I’m embarrassed. This is what has become of the Zionist dream? When I came to Israel for the first time after the Six-Day War, Prof. Akiva Simon insisted that I go to a Hashomer Hatzair kibbutz. So I went. I saw that they were building a road in the middle of the kibbutz and asked him why. He explained that they were building a road so that a member of the kibbutz who was paralyzed and lived on the edge of the kibbutz could get to the dining room.

“Afterwards, people asked me what my most religious experience was in Israel. They thought that I would say, reading Mishna at the Western Wall. But I said that it was at the Hashomer Hatzair kibbutz where I saw them building a road for one person. That’s a holy place. The entire community makes sure that the individual does not lose his place.

“That’s what I thought I would see in Israel--a living Judaism that was gentle, sensitive, moral, loving. From the moment that I moved here, I fought for it to be that way. That’s why I built the institute, as a place open to religious and secular, Jews and Arabs.”

Is anyone even listening to you?

I have not lost hope. I wake up in the morning, and God says to me, ‘David, put on your tefillin and go to work. Don’t give up.’”

You talk to God?

“I search for God. I hope that he sees my work as important.”

He talks to you?

“Yes. He is pressuring me not to give up, to believe that I can contribute, not to stop believing that things can change, to get out of the war. It’s an existential war for me. What is happening today with religion is more dangerous than what’s happening with the Arabs. The Arabs want to kill my body – the Jews are killing my soul.”

From the dialogue you describe with God, it seems that this is not the Judaism he wants either.

“Right. I just wrote about that in my book. God says to me: ‘The work is not for you to finish, but you are also not free to shirk it off.’ Meaning, you have not finished entirely, but something is happening. All week we’ve been celebrating my 80th birthday. People and students have been coming to tell me, ‘You don’t know what a great influence you’ve had on my life.’

“To be religious today is an ongoing war not to let the haredim and the hardalim own the Torah. I want to return the Torah to the Labor Party, to the entire people of Israel. I don’t want religion to be the private property of certain people. I don’t want the length of the sidelocks to be the determining factor.”

Is this even a happy birthday for you?

“I’m sick. You can see that it’s hard for me to walk. But the joy of life, as in all holy wars, is still burning in my heart. I have not lost the faith that we can grow the light for the world from here.”

Like a knife in the gut

We discussed the polemics around the Tzohar rabbis’ complex marriage ceremonies. “I am happy for them that they have come to an arrangement, but this should be just the beginning,” Rabbi Hartman said. “We have to advance much further. What is this? Is the Torah private property? It’s terrible. Judaism and marriage ceremonies are not private property.

“I love teaching soldiers (in the Institute’s Lev Aharon program for senior IDF officers). Officers ask me to teach, and I come willingly. I teach that to be a Jew means to be a human being. Listen to this story. An officer came to me and said, ‘When I was in Lithuania, I was religious. When I moved to Israel, I lost all faith.’

"I asked him why, and he said, ‘Because here Judaism is racist.’ His friend volunteered to be an officer in a tank unit and was killed. The rabbis discovered that a few generations ago, one of his parents was not Jewish, so he couldn’t be buried in the cemetery. The officer said: ‘I’m called upon to die as a Jew, but to be buried without the dignity of being a Jew.’

“This was like a knife to the gut. I understood why he didn’t want any connection to this thing. You can’t respect a man who was willing to die for the survival of the Jewish people? I mean, there’s nothing holier than that. From my perspective, identifying with the survival of the Jewish people is religiousness today.

“That’s why there is no such thing as secularism. If you want the Jewish people to exist, you’re not secular. Will to survive, that’s all. If that’s not enough, then what the hell is enough? Gefilte fish?”

What do you think about the hesder yeshivot?

“Their problem is that they went only half way: they understood that it was important to find a way for yeshiva boys to be drafted into the army without compromising their ability to keep learning, but that’s only the beginning.

"The question is what content is given to them? Is national zealousness everything? The very extreme rabbis are dangerous in my opinion. I understand the need to belong to the land, but that doesn’t make you a Jew. What makes you a Jew is how you behave on that land.

“It’s killing me. I fight them. I was once called for a joint interview with Hanan Porat and Haim Druckman. I said to Hanan: ‘I want to see the new man that you built. The fact that you have more territories doesn’t make you a people. It doesn’t make everyone righteous and pious.’

"There are so many deep things in Judaism that need to be exposed. They buried it all. They took a few piquant things and turned that into all of Judaism. Kashrut, modesty.”

We got to modesty.

“Oho! It’s crazy. You have to accept the fact that Jews can be crazy. They are covering signs, building partitions, separating buses. We even have partitions on the street. It wasn’t always like that. It emerged because there was a vacuum. Aristotle said that nature abhors a vacuum. So people fill it in.

“Rabbi Nachum Rabinovich from the Maaleh Adumim hesder yeshiva told his students that you have to fight people who come to evacuate settlements because saving the land is equivalent to saving a life. I asked him, ‘And what about saving the person?’ I knew him when he was still in Canada. At the time I was the rabbi of a congregation in Montreal. He didn’t act like this then. He changed here.”

So your life work was in a sense a failure?

“A lot of young people come to me and say, ‘If not for you, I wouldn’t be religious.’ So I did not fail. I don’t believe that life here is for naught. Even though it drains my energy and I am weak – this is the place. If we can’t make it here, we can’t make it anywhere. I tried to create a different kind of spiritual ideal. Not a shteibel, not a shtetl – a people. It can be done.

Rabbi Motti Elon. 'He apparently failed' (Photo: Gili Eliyahu)

“My son Ranan, for example, established the Kiryat Ono College. He brought in haredim, Ethiopians, he made a real educational revolution. He is making Jews take responsibility for their lives. It’s possible, but you have to fight for it.”

What do you think of the Rabbi Motti Elon story?

“I felt sad. You know what the conclusion is? That people are vulnerable. They have inclinations. They have weaknesses. Man should not believe that he is above having urges. He has to be aware of the fact that he can fall. Rabbi Elon was a star, and he apparently failed.

“The closed nature of the Orthodox world is unacceptable to me. To understand rabbis’ weaknesses the Orthodox world has to be part of the public discourse.”

Has religious authority become excessive?

“That’s a very important question. Their authority today is not about important things. They have too much self-confidence, and they do not demonstrate morality. They don’t say: ‘You see that rabbi? He represents true Judaism.’ I don’t see that phenomenon today. I’m looking. I haven’t found it yet. I fear God, not rabbis.”

They malign me

“People read my books. It makes me happy,” Rabbi Hartman says. “There is a minority that we can build upon, but I don’t know if it’s strong enough. One thing is for sure: It’s hard work. And they try to embarrass me. They try to say that Hartman is not really religious. They malign me. It doesn’t bother me. I am threatening to them – very threatening –I can’t be loved by all.

“At least it frees me from having to worry about marrying people. I left the Rabbinate. I said to myself, ‘Thank God I became a philosopher in America and found another way.’ I would die here as a rabbi. It’s better to be a philosopher, an educator, to build an institution that shines outward, that welcomes every person equally. There is a lot of work, but you can believe in possibilities. I thought that Israel would expand my soul. I am going to keep working until my last day.”

Is that an agreement between you and God?

“I don’t have to involve God in this. It’s an agreement between me and my people. It’s my family. When I moved to Israel, people in America said to me, ‘You’re so important to us here, and the Vietnam War is happening, why would you want to leave us?’

"I told them that I had to look after my family first and then worry about the rest of the world. My family needs help, and I have to be there. I don’t regret it for one second. There has not been one day during which I had a fleeting thought to leave Israel.”

But there are painful moments.

“Oho. There are moments I want to kill myself, when I ask myself, ‘This is Israel? This is the Jewish people?’ I feel like a lone voice calling out in the desert. But I cannot stay in the desert. I have to return to the town--to work with the army, the doctors.

“The Jewish people had the power to come here after the Holocaust and to survive, and the decision to survive was not a simple one. I have been searching for the deep feelings of Jewish existence my whole life.”

Maybe we’re feeling pangs for the Messiah?

“I can see that you’re sensitive, that you understand that there should be something else here. Stay here, and don’t rely on what some rabbinic authority tells you.”

No problem. I’m not religious. But I care about the existence of the Jewish people.

“Nu, so you’re a seriously religious person. More than them, because you care.”

I care a lot. But I’m worried.

“You have good reason to be.”,7340,L-4159477,00.html

Report: The IOF kidnapped 50 Palestinians in Al-Khalil last month

[ 12/12/2011 - 11:23 AM ]

AL-KHALIL, (PIC)– The Palestinian prisoner society said the Israeli occupation forces (IOF) kidnapped during last November 50 Palestinians including three children, four students and six patients in Al-Khalil city and its adjacent areas.

Among the detainees in that month was a blind man called Mohamed Amro who was brutally treated by Israeli soldiers and taken to Etzion prison, a report issued by the center stated.

Most of these detentions took place during violent night raids on homes in Al-Khalil, Arroub, Dahirya, Sa’ir, Dura, Beit Ummar, Yatta, Beit Ola and other small villages.

Demolition of furniture and property, and Physical violence against Palestinian civilians were reported to have taken place during those raids. Israeli soldiers also used dogs to terrorize families inside their homes.

The most violent incident during the reporting month was what happened to citizen Mutaz Abido when he was shot without prior notice by Israeli soldiers after a raid on his house and now he is in Hadassah hospital under tight security guard.

Two women were also beaten severely by Israeli soldiers after they suffered tear gas suffocation and then taken to Maskubiya interrogation center.

An Israeli court issued administrative prison sentences from four to six months against seven Palestinians from Al-Khalil city during the same month, according to the report.

Source and more at the Palestinian Information Center

Interior ministry: No Qaeda elements in Gaza

[ 12/12/2011 - 05:33 PM ]

GAZA, (PIC)– The Palestinian interior ministry has denied Hebrew press reports claiming that elements of Al-Qaeda had entered Gaza from Sinai through the tunnels.

Interior minister Ihab Al-Gussain described the report by a Hebrew daily as false.

He quoted a recent press Hebrew report as saying that 12 Bedouins were the ones who carried out the attack on Eilat in mid-August and no Palestinian participated in the incident.

The minister said that the report affirmed his ministry’s repeated assertion that no Palestinian from the Strip had any connection to that attack.

Ghussain charged that Israel was always holding Gaza responsible for any attack to resume its crimes against the Palestinian people.

Source and more at the Palestinian Information Center

New report documents children under fire in Gaza

13 December 2011 | AlertNet

Children walk past a poster welcoming freed Palestinian prisoners in Qalandiya refugee camp near the West Bank city of Ramallah, October 19, 2011. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

Twenty-eight cases of children being shot at by the border fence between Israel and the Gaza strip whilst gathering building materials like gravel, or working by the fence, have been documented by Defence for Children International in their latest report ‘Children of Gravel’.

The shootings reportedly took place between March 26 2010 and October 3, 2011, according to Defence for Children International (DCI)-Palestine Section . According to DCI, the Israeli soldiers often fire warning shots to scare off workers by the border. Their report also states that ‘these soldiers sometimes shoot and kill the donkeys used by the workers, and also target the workers, usually, but not always, shooting at their legs.’

‘That children are in a situation where they need to work to help their parents meet basic family needs is an infringement of their rights. That children are in the line of fire to meet these needs is appalling,’ says World Vision Programme Director for Gaza, Siobhan Kimmerle.

Forty percent of Gaza’s population is unemployed and 80% of the population is completely reliant on foreign assistance. In addition, Israeli restrictions limit the amount of construction material entering the Gaza borders for reconstruction and development. As a result, many workers collect gravel and sell it to builders to use for concrete. The children among the gravel collectors earn about US$8-$14 per day to help support their families.

The North Gaza governorate is one of the most impoverished governorates in the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt) and the neediest in the Gaza Strip. In comparison to the other governorates in the Gaza Strip, North Gaza’s food insecurity rate is the highest at 60% and the unemployment rate the second highest at 39%. World Vision works with communities in North Gaza to help improve family livelihoods and help ensure their children are cared for and protected.

Currently there are 2,411 registered children in World Vision’s North Gaza Area Development Programme, with 7,061 beneficiaries and as many as 22,594 indirect beneficiaries. World Vision’s programming in North Gaza includes rural development, job creation, and child empowerment projects.

The blockade of the Gaza Strip, including Israeli restrictions on items entering the borders, continue to harm Gaza’s deteriorating economy. The Israeli military continues to restrict Palestinians’ access to the land on the Gaza side of the Israeli-Gaza border, maintaining that anyone that comes within 300 metres of the borders puts his/her life at risk, which has had a negative impact on the physical security and livelihoods of Palestinians living in that area. DCI’s documentation indicates that children have been shot at while being between 30 to 800 metres within the Israeli border fence.

To read the DCI’s Urgent Appeal-Children of the Gravel, please visit

World Vision continues to work for the well-being of children and advocate for an end to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. World Vision believes that this conflict threatens the lives of all Palestinian and Israeli children, and one of the greatest obstacles to achieving fullness of life for each and every child is the ongoing conflict and the perpetuation of violence.


1) Defence for Children International-Palestine Section, Urgent Appeal-Children of the Gravel, available at, Last accessed on November 25, 2011.

2) Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook, Gaza Strip, available at Last accessed on November 25, 2011.
3) Oxfam International, Crisis in Gaza, available at Last accessed on December 9, 2011.

Updated on December 13, 2011

REPORT OCHA: Israel razed 22 Palestinian buildings in less than a week

[ 13/12/2011 - 11:10 AM ]

CAIRO, (PIC)– The UN office for the coordination of humanitarian affairs (OCHA) said the Israeli occupation authority (IOA) in less than one week demolished 22 Palestinian buildings and homes in the in the occupied Palestinian lands of West Bank and Jerusalem.

According to a report released Monday by OCHA, the IOA, within the first six days of the current month, knocked down 22 buildings and homes belonging to Palestinians at the pretext of unlicensed construction in east Jerusalem neighborhoods and the area C under control of the Israeli occupation.

The report also said the IOA issued 19 written orders to terminate the construction of several residential buildings, one mosque, five wells, four cattle pens and 11 electricity projects in the cities of Al-Khalil and Qalqiliya west of the West Bank.

The report noted that the Israeli occupation forces started last week to build a new section of concrete barrier in the area north of Qalandiya village and the entrance of Shufat refugee camp in central Jerusalem, which will result in the isolation of an area of 400 hundreds dunums of Palestinian lands from the holy city.

Source and more at the Palestinian Information Center

Israeli Bulldozers Demolish House in Jerusalem, Efrat Settlement to Expand near Bethlehem

12.12.11 - 23:35


On Monday, Israeli bulldozers started demolishing a house belonging to a Palestinian citizen in Beit Hanina, north of Jerusalem, under the pretext that it had been built without an Israeli-issued permit.  

A home in the village of Beit Hanina, near Jerusalem, lies destroyed on Tuesday, December 6 (Lo Yuk Fai, PNN).

Eyewitnesses said that Israeli soldiers and police surrounded the area, imposed a tight cordon around the house, and demolished the house along with everything inside it, without allowing the family to take out any belongings.

Also on Monday, the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reported that Israeli authorities had approved 40 new settlement units in the illegal southern West Bank settlement bloc of Etzion, specifically in the settlement of Efrat. 

According to the newspaper, approval was granted for a new neighborhood and farm on the outskirts of Efrat, which would lead the settlement to exceeds its current limits and extend it northeast toward the city of Bethlehem, the refugee camp of Dheisheh, and the village of al-Khader. 

Israeli radio broadcasted on Monday that the Israeli government and settlers had reached an understanding to remove two out of ten buildings in the outpost of Ramat Gilad.

National Union MK Michael Ben-Ari called the decision a “surrender” to the left wing, and Peace Now director Yariv Oppenheimer called it “giving in” to the right-wing settlers and the disappearance of the two-state solution.

Newt Unleashes His Tetrodotoxin at the Palestinians

12:58 12/13/2011

The 'Palestine Post' declares the establishment of Israel in 1948. (file)
By William A. Cook

'Remember there was no Palestine as a state. It was part of the Ottoman Empire. And I think that we've had an invented Palestinian people, who are in fact Arabs, and were historically part of the Arab community…' -- (Newt Gingrich, Fox News. December 10, 2011)

Many “Newts” produce toxins, the rough skinned Taricha, for example, produces enough to kill an adult human, and while all “Newts” go through a metamorphosis from tadpole to lizard, few expected that metamorphosis to reach human form in the person of the front running Republican candidate for President, Newt Gingrich. This Newt avoided the Vietnam War draft while studying for his degrees, then accepted a position as an historian and geographer at West Georgia College, a position he lost when his colleagues denied him tenure. A resourceful man, Newt ran for a congressional seat numerous times before capturing the 6th Georgia district seat in 1979, when the incumbent retired. He resigned his position in 1998 following disciplinary action by his colleagues for 84 ethics violations, having served as House Speaker from 1995 to 1999. Today he’s back, metamorphosed into a presidential candidate willing to spread lies about a people who have lived for 63 years under the brutal occupation of the Israeli military.

Consider his statement to the people of Israel on Jewish Television this past week quoted above. “Remember there was no Palestine as a state.” Omitted was the second part of that statement if the first was to have relevance: “Remember there was no Jewish state.” What existed was a Mandate Government under the control of the United Kingdom that governed this area beginning in 1922 through the authority of the League of Nations following the demise of the Ottoman Empire and later under the continued authority of the United Nations. During the Mandate period, from 1922 to May 15, 1948, the British government attempted to meet its obligations as enunciated in the Balfour Declaration to help in the “establishment of a national home for the Jewish people.” The Command Paper 1922, from the Avalon Project at Yale Law School, underlines this intent: “His Majesty’s Government therefore now declare(s) unequivocally that it is no part of their policy that Palestine should become a Jewish State.” It must be noted here that the Command Paper specifically marks the existence of a Palestine area to which the Jews were immigrating.

“I think we have an invented Palestinian people,” Gingrich continues, forgetting to mention that Dr. Shlomo Sand in his recent book The Invention of the Jewish People, according to Leon Hadar in his review, concludes by,
“Countering official Zionist historiography, Sand questions whether the Jewish People ever existed as a national group with a common origin in the Land of Israel/Palestine. He concludes that the Jews should be seen as a religious community comprising a mishmash of individuals and groups that had converted to the ancient monotheistic religion but do not have any historical right to establish an independent Jewish state in the Holy Land. In short, the Jewish People, according to Sand, are not really a “people” in the sense of having a common ethnic origin and national heritage. They certainly do not have a political claim over the territory that today constitutes Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, including Jerusalem.”
In an even more recent book, just published by Pluto Books, Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh in an historical review of the ancient lands of Palestine noted that “The kingdom of Judah lasted 341 years (927-586 BCE) while Israel lasted even a shorter 205 years (927 - 722 BCE).” In short, between the two recent studies, Gingrich could have found the truth; but truth is not what Gingrich needed for his interview: he needed a fabrication that would endear him to his audience both in Israel and in the United States as he groveled for monetary support for his campaign at the expense of the Palestinian people.

Consider the reality of the past two thousand years, when this area “between the Jordan and the Mediterranean,” which “has had a history of 6000 years of civilization,” known for a large portion of its history, as the Southern part of the Land of Canaan, has been called, for all these 2000 years,  Palestine. As Qumsiyeh reviews this period he concludes, “These people (known to the world as Palestinians) absorbed the religions and various philosophies and changed their allegiances to survive in an ever amorphous world.  This world, sometimes violent, sometimes symbiotic was always there.”
“Known to the world as Palestinians”; known to Newt Gingrich as “invented.” So how is it, this historian and geographer, could determine that the people of Palestine did not exist, that they could have removed themselves to “other” Arab lands and left all of Palestine to the Jews? In an unfortunate comment meant to deflect criticism about his reinvention of history, Gingrich made this comment: "Somebody ought to have the courage to tell the truth. These people are terrorists," he said. "It's fundamentally time for somebody to have the guts to stand up and say, 'Enough lying about the Middle East." In four words, he turns all Palestinians into “terrorists.” And he justifies this slanderous and invidious judgment by assuming the chauvinistic persona of the brave man who condemns those who lie about the Middle East even as he omits the decision of the Mandate Government to hand over the resolution of the immigrant problem in Palestine to the UN, a decision that resulted in the Partition Plan (1947) dividing that land into two areas, one for Jews the other for the Palestinians who lived there, who had a 71% to 29% majority in the whole of Palestine. Since the Resolution created, numbered 181, divided the land into two, recognizing two peoples contending for the area of Palestine, it recognized as well Palestinians inhabiting the land with heritage going back two thousand years to the Roman era. At the same time, as immigration for Jews materialized through the 1940s, the contrast between indigenous inhabitants and newly arrived immigrants from foreign lands makes ludicrous Gingrich’s comments.

Even more ludicrous and perhaps more frightening, is this man’s willingness to undermine US policy since WWII, a policy that recognized the Palestinian people and their rightful claim to their own state. His convoluted logic would have the United States President negotiate peace with a people he has determined to be terrorists, all of them. He claims that what has been going on is a “delusional peace process”; true enough, but not because the Palestinians haven’t been willing to arrive at peace, but because Israel has had no intentions of recognizing a Palestinian state as the Likud Party Platform declares openly even now, “no state of Palestine west of the Jordan River.” But this fact, neither Gingrich nor the American press nor the Israeli government will acknowledge; it is rather the unwillingness of the Palestine Authority and Hamas to recognize Israel and cease their violence against Israel that prevents peace. But once again, had Gingrich taken the time to read yet another book on the subject, released in the summer of 2010, The Plight of the Palestinians, published by Palgrave MacMillan, he could have read about Israeli intransigence in negotiating peace, “The Problem with Israel,” by Dr. Jeff Halper, an article that recounts 19 different proposals rejected by Israel.

In that same volume, Gingrich could read about the Zionist stated reality that they had no plans to abide by the UN Partition Plan, but rather eradicate all Arabs from the land of Palestine, and that in Jewish documents from the Mandate period. “The challenge of Zionism was to create a Jewish state in a land already inhabited by natives who mostly practiced Islam and Christianity.  Early Zionist understood the challenge and contrary to their public pronouncements about "a land without a people for a people without a land" came to see that the natives posed an obstacle to their visions” (Qumsiyeh).

There are 32 chapters in that book that detail Israel’s ongoing genocide against the Palestinian people, all written in the first decade of this century, a veritable catalog of ethnic cleansing to complement Dr. Ilan Pappe’s volume on the same subject, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine.

Let me close this recounting of Gingrich’s vitriolic commentary by remembering the Palestinians who suffered at the hands of real terrorists during the Nakba, an historical event he must immerse himself in if he is to understand how toxic his offhand commentary is to those who lived through these years awaiting justice. Here are the words of the Zionist’s general:

“Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages. You do not even know the names of these Arab villages, and I do not blame you because Geography books no longer exist, not only do the books not exist, the Arab villages are not there either … There is not one single place built in this country that did not have a former Arab population.” (Moshe Dayan, Address to the Technion, Haifa, as quoted in Haaretz, 4-4-1969) 

“Thus began in November of 1947 what is euphemistically called the ethnic cleansing of Palestine by the combined forces of the Jewish armies, the Haganah, the Stern, and the Irgun as they drove more than 700,000 Palestinian Arabs from their homes leaving them destitute, homeless and abandoned without a country in what is now the largest refugee Diaspora in the world.

More truthfully, the plight of the Palestinians that began so ruthlessly in 1947, and is now called the Nakba, was an intentional, calculated campaign to force the Palestinian Arabs out of Palestine, a systematic genocide of a people as defined by the United Nations in its adoption of Genocide Convention, Article II” (The Plight of the Palestinians). Now that Gingrich knows what to read, will he?

- William A. Cook is a Professor of English at the University of La Verne in southern California. His works include Psalms for the 21st Century, Mellon Poetry Press, Tracking Deception: Bush Mid-East Policy, The Rape of Palestine, The Chronicles of Nefaria, and most recently in 2010, The Plight of the Palestinians. He contributed this article to Contact him at: or visit:

The Fearmongers: Netanyahu and His Kippah

12:28 12/09/2011

By Uri Avnery

On the anniversary of David Ben-Gurion's death, the usual memorial meeting was held at his graveside in Sdeh Boker, the Negev desert village where he lived in his retirement. There is no cemetery, just his grave and that of his wife Paula.

The newspapers published a picture of Binyamin Netanyahu making a speech under a big photo of the late leader gazing thoughtfully into the distance.

One little detail in the picture caught my eye: Netanyahu was wearing a kippah.

Why? Ben-Gurion was a convinced atheist. He refused to wear a kippah even at funerals. (Though a complete atheist myself, I do sometimes wear a kippah at funerals, out of consideration for the feelings of others.)

The place was not a synagogue, nor even a cemetery. So why for God’s sake (sorry) did the man put this black kippah on his head?

For me that is a sign of what I call the re-Judaization of Israel.

Zionism was, among other things, a revolt against the Orthodox Jewish religion, that was associated with the Diaspora which Zionists contemptuously call Galut (“exile”). All the founding fathers of Zionism – Theodor Herzl, Max Nordau, Chaim Weizmann, Ze’ev Jabotinsky and the rest – were convinced atheists.

So why did Ben-Gurion give the religious parties two autonomous education systems, financed by the state?

Why did he release pupils of religious seminars (“yeshivot”) from military service?

People of my age can remember the situation. Ben-Gurion, like all of us, believed that the Jewish religion was about to die out. Some old people, who spoke Yiddish, were still praying in the synagogues, but with time they would disappear. We, the young new Israelis, were secular, modern, free from these old superstitions.

Not in his darkest nightmares (or daymares) could Ben-Gurion have imagined a time when religious pupils, some of whom are not taught in their schools even the most basic modern skills, would amount to nearly half the Israeli Jewish school population. Or that the number of religious shirkers now  deprives the army of several divisions.

Step by step, the religious community is taking over the state. The religious settlers, the religious anti-Arab pogromists, their allies and ultra-right collaborators are gaining new footholds by the day. Just now the army has announced that 40% of candidates for junior officers’ courses are wearing kippahs. In 1948, when our army came into being, I did not see a single kippah-wearing soldier, not to mention an officer.)

But the danger of re-Judaization goes far beyond the political sphere.

Let me take a metaphor from nature.

The premier necessity in nature is survival. There are many different strategies for survival, and nature embraces all of them – as long as they are successful.

The gazelle survives by running away. When in danger, it escapes. It is very successful in this. Fact: the gazelles have survived.

The lion survives by fighting. When in danger, it attacks. It relies on its teeth and claws. It is very successful in this. Fact: the lions have survived.

Jews have survived by fleeing. They were immensely successful in this. After thousands of years of the most atrocious persecutions, pogroms and holocausts, they are still there. Their dispersal over the world furthers this technique. At the slightest danger, they can escape from one country to another.
Jews have not built Taj Mahals or majestic cathedrals. Their treasures are holy texts, literature and music – things you can store in your head and take with you when you are on the run.

Like some animals in nature, Jews sense the slightest danger from far away. It’s like a red light in their head – it goes on when nobody else yet perceives the menace. (Indeed, I would not be alive today if my father had not perceived the danger of the Nazi regime from the first day and organized our escape, while almost everybody around was scoffing at him.)   

Zionism wanted to turn the gazelle into a lion. It said: no more running away. When in danger, we stand and we fight.

No more the cowardly Jew of the anti-Semitic caricature. From now on, the heroic Israeli, upright and proud.

And, as seems to be human nature, we overcompensate for the past. We have become aggressive, militaristic, even brutal. The oppressed have become oppressors. Jews used to say: “If force does not work, try using your brain.” Israelis say “if force does not work, try using more force.” (I confess that I coined this phrase many years ago as a joke. Alas, a joke no more.)

However, lately it seems to me that the old Jew has not disappeared. He has only been hiding. Hiding inside the Israeli. He and his little red light are right there.

How did I find out? Just by listening to Binyamin Netanyahu, with or without his kippah.

Netanyahu has invented (or adopted) a peculiar style of ruling: governing by playing on people’s fears.
Since coming back to power, he has been treating us to an endless series of fears. Fearmongering is the order of the day  - every day.

At the beginning there was Barack Hussein Obama, who threatened to punish us for not giving up our sacred right to build settlements all over the country God himself promised us. Unfortunately, Obama capitulated right away, so another menace was needed.

No problem. Mahmoud Abbas, yesterday’s “plucked chicken”, turned into a roaring tiger and applied to the United Nations to accept the State of Palestine as a member. As everybody knows, that was a mortal threat to Israel. It was only averted by Obama’s (yes, the same Hussein Obama) promise to use his veto on behalf of Israel. But the Palestinians have nevertheless been accepted by UNESCO, so the terrible danger has not been banished.

Than came the Arab Spring. As Netanyahu realized from the first moment, even before our great and glorious friend Mubarak was sent to the glass cage, that presented a mortal threat. Now it has been eerily confirmed: Islam, deadly Islam, is taking over Egypt.

Islam, as Netanyahu tells us at every opportunity, is a murderous anti-Jewish creed. There are no moderate Islamists – they are all out to throw us into the sea. Even in our former ally Turkey.

And they are winning not only in Egypt. These terrible Islamists have already won in Morocco and Tunisia, and are going to win in Libya, Jordan, Yemen, Syria. Our “villa” will be surrounded not just by a jungle, but by a jungle full of deadly Islamist predators. How absolutely terrifying.

Then another frightful danger was exposed just in time: human rights associations are threatening the very existence of Israel. They are part of a world-wide anti-Semitic conspiracy. Fact: they are financed by foreign governments. A new law had to enacted against them in a hurry. Fortunately, such laws were recently enacted in some former Soviet countries. So our Moldavian foreign Minister (or, rather, our foreign minister from Moldavia), Avigdor Lieberman, obtained the text from his great friend, Alexander Lukashenko, that model democrat from Belarus, and the other renowned democrat, Vladimir Putin.

All these mortal dangers were enough to wipe out the sudden surge of social protest, but they were nothing compared to that awful, overwhelming danger: the Iranian Bomb.

The Iranian Nuclear Bomb means a Second Holocaust, no less. Only the strong leadership of Binyamin Netanyahu can save us in the nick of time.

Faced with such petrifying danger, nobody asks the relevant question: why would any Iranian leader attack a country that has plenty of nuclear bombs of its own and the ability to devastate all of Iran in a “second strike”? The German government is providing us with the sixth of the submarines we have just for this purpose.

Yes, the Iranian leaders may be religious fanatics. But we have plenty of those, too, and some are members of our government coalition. At the moment the country is in an uproar because the rabbis demand that religious soldiers may leave any military ceremony where female soldiers are allowed to sing. “A woman’s voice is her sexual part,” a holy text asserts. And a prominent rabbi has just announced that a religious soldier should rather face a firing squad than listen to a woman singing. (I am not making this up.)

But Iran is dominating our public discourse. All the red lights are blinking like mad.  The Jew inside us is mortally afraid. The gazelle says: Run. The lion says: Attack.

The Bible tells us: “Happy is the man that feareth alway!” (Proverbs 28:14). But constant fear is a bad adviser when conducting your affairs, the more so when directing the policies of a state. But it may be good politics when you want to keep your own people in check while chipping away at democracy, equality and human rights.

So let’s release the ghetto Jew inside us and send him on his way. Let's overcome our fear of fear itself. And, while we are at it, let’s kick the fearmongers out.

- Uri Avnery is an Israeli peace activist and a former Knesset member. He is the founder of Gush Shalom. He contributed this article to

To Exist is to Resist': On Intifada and Sumud

 19:52 12/11/2011
Intifada. (Art: Sauda Camo)
By Mohammed ALNadi - Gaza

As I write this, I'm listening to 'Ween el Malayeen' song, meaning 'where are the millions', a revolutionary song which used to stir the patriotic emotions inside millions of raging Arabs at the time of the first Intifada. This song is the Intifada's trademark which is reminiscent of vivid bittersweet memories of Palestinians in their most courageous images. It is associated with the unarmed, bare-chested Palestinian who stood firmly catapulting his stone at the Israeli killing machine, and who dared to grab the fuming tear gas grenade with his bare hands and throw it back at the Israeli soldier.
The first Palestinian Intifada, or uprising, began 24 years ago, as an accumulative result of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in 1967, and its mounting brutal, repressive actions against Palestinians in all the occupied territories.

Every year on December 8, Palestinians all over the world commemorate this remarkably significant event in the history of Palestinian armed resistance. For them, it is one of the most honorable memories of which we are most proud, because it embodies the Palestinian unified spirit of defiance and perseverance against oppression and injustice.

I was born in the very early days of the Intifada, only 4 days after it had begun. I bear no memories of it because I was still a suckling, yet I have tens of stories to tell. My family was living in al Zaytoun neighborhood, east of Gaza City, and, as any other area at the time, it was constantly subject to Israeli curfew. My eldest brother was in his twenties when the Intifada erupted, and as any angry youth did, he would go with his friends and cousins to set up barricades and burn tires to block the way of the Israeli military jeeps and hurl stones at the Israeli soldiers who would meet totally unarmed Palestinians with firing live ammunitions while shielding themselves behind their armored military vehicles.

Palestinian youth and children didn’t take a day off resisting the Israeli occupation. Even when there was a total curfew, my brother says, “They would stealthily go out onto the streets to block roads, spray graffiti, and set tires on fire,” knowing that if someone was caught, “Israeli soldiers would crack his bones using rocks and sticks as ordered by Yitzhak Rabin, or take him someplace where he would be beaten and tortured, and usually he wouldn’t be allowed to return home.”

My brother was lucky he didn’t get a bullet in the head during the Intifada, but the scars from Israeli rubber-coated steel bullets are still clear in his legs. When I asked him about what a little harmless stone could do before the Israeli soldier who is armed to the teeth, he said: “the stone is nothing if compared to Israeli weapons and it didn’t harm much actually, but it was one of the means available to us, and we always viewed it as a symbol of the Palestinian sumud (Arabic for steadfastness).”
Israeli soldiers would raid houses overnight and break into them, terrorizing women and children. “We mothers would worry about our sons and fear that Israeli soldiers would arrest them, so we would make sure anything our sons used for resistance was hidden,” my mother says.

It is quite interesting how Palestinians tend to identify themselves with dates from the history of the Palestinian struggle. They see these incidents as a source of honor and inspiration to keep the fight on, and as a way to perpetuate the linkage between the past, the present and the future. Even my 66-year-old illiterate mother doesn’t memorize any of my 12 siblings’ birthdates. She remembers mine only, because she tends to relate it to the beginning of the Intifada. 

The Palestinian Intifada is not over, and it will never stop as long as there is occupation. We Palestinians have nothing to cherish more than our legacy of resistance that has endured throughout our decades-long struggle against the Israeli occupation on the road of liberation. The culture of resistance—either non-violent or armed resistance--is the base of our existence. So it is extremely important to teach about the Intifada and pass it down our posterity.

- Mohammed AlNadi is Gaza-based English literature graduate. He works as a translator. He contributed this article to

Settlers Throw Stones at Houses near Nablus

13.12.11 - 00:28


On Monday, extremist settlers from the settlements of Yitzhar attacked the Palestinian village of Asireh al-Qibliya, south of Nablus.

The village of Asireh al-Qibliya, south of Nablus, with the settlement of Yitzhar behind it (Brendan Work, PNN).

Local sources said that a number of settlers came from one of Yitzhar, surrounded three houses and threw stones into the windows. Settlers also broke the windows of some nearby vehicles and tried to burn others.

The villages south of Nablus, including Asireh and Tell, are regularly attacked by settlers from Yitzhar and Har Bracha, which are considered to be some of the most radical settlements in the West Bank. 

The head of the Yizthar yeshiva, Yitzhak Shapira, is the author of the King’s Torah, a controversial book which says killing the children of non-Jews is religiously permissible and even encouraged. 

The Liebman family of settlers from Yitzhar earlier put $100,000 rewards on Facebook for information leading to the capture of two Palestinian ex-prisoners from Tell, freed in mid-October’s Gilad Shalit deal.

Thousands protest Israel Bedouin relocation plan

Published Sunday 11/12/2011 (updated) 13/12/2011 10:19
Bedouin citizens of Israel pray during a protest outside the office of Israeli
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Dec. 11, 2011.
(REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)
JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Several thousand people demonstrated on Sunday outside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office, protesting over a plan they say will displace tens of thousands of people from their land.

The demonstrators came from Bedouin communities across Israel, gathering outside Netanyahu's Jerusalem office holding signs reading "We are staying here" and "No to the Praver Plan."

Palestinian citizens of Israel closed schools and businesses for the day on Sunday, in a strike to protest the Praver plan approved by the government in September, Israeli news site Ynet reported.

Israel says the plan will address the problem of unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Negev desert of southern Israel, helping Bedouin better integrate into Israeli society.

But the proposal was formulated without any consultation with the community, with rights groups slamming it as a major blow to Bedouin rights and warning it would forcefully uproot tens of thousands from their land.

In October, several thousand Bedouin joined a similar demonstration in Beersheba, with Bedouin villages and towns observing a general strike.

The Higher Arab Monitoring Committee, which represents Arab communities in Israel, has described the so-called Praver initiative as a "disaster" which would have "dangerous" consequences.

There are around 160,000 Bedouin in Israel, most of whom live in and around the Negev desert, largely the descendants of Palestinians that managed to remain during the 1948 war that established the state of Israel.

More than half of them live in unrecognized villages without municipal services like water and electricity, and much of the rest also live in extreme poverty.

Ma'an staff contributed to this report

Israel 'stops 80-year-old exiting Gaza with wife body'

Published Sunday 11/12/2011 (updated) 12/12/2011 16:23
The Erez crossing is the sole crossing out of Gaza via Israel.
(MaanImages/Wessam Saleh, File)

HEBRON (Ma'an) -- An elderly cancer sufferer was banned from accompanying the body of his dead wife through Israel's Erez crossing from Gaza, family members said on Sunday.

Huda al-Nmoura, from Hebron, died while visiting her sons in the Gaza Strip. Anees and Akram al-Nmoura were exiled from the West Bank after they were released from Israeli jail under an October exchange deal with Hamas.

Huda's husband Mahmoud Taleb al-Nmoura went to Gaza to bring back his wife's body, but Israeli authorities prevented him from leaving the blockaded strip with the body via the sole passenger terminal at the Israeli border, his family said.

The 80-year-old was deemed a security threat and ordered to return to Hebron through the Rafah crossing into Egypt, then take air or sea transport into Jordan, before crossing back into the West Bank.

It was not clear whether the cancer sufferer could complete the three-country journey before Huda Al-Nmoura is buried in the town of Dura south of Hebron at noon Monday, relatives said.

Dozens of rightists break into IDF base in West Bank, wound officer

 Published 06:23 13.12.11 Latest update 10:00 13.12.11

Some 50 right-wing activists throw rocks, burn tires, and vandalize military vehicles; no one arrested in incident; earlier, right-wing activists arrested on Jordan border.

By Anshel Pfeffer

Some 50 settlers and right-wing activists entered a key West Bank military base early Tuesday morning and threw rocks, burned tires, and vandalized military vehicles. 

The settlers were acting in response to a rumor that the IDF would act to evict a West Bank settlement in accordance with an August Supreme Court ruling

Price tag - Haggai Ofen - January 26 2010 Settlers near the outpost of Givat Menachem, 2010.
Photo by: Haggai Ofen

In the attack on the Efraim Regional Brigade's base near the West Bank city of Qalqilya, right-wing activists threw stones at region's brigade commander and his deputy after forcefully opening the door to their jeep. The brigade commander was lightly wounded after a stone hit his head. 

In addition to the attack on the IDF base, right-wing activists blocked a main West Bank road and threw stones at passing Palestinian vehicles and IDF soldiers in the area. 

Around 100 right-wing activists and settlers came to the area of the base before 50 of them enetered the base, according to the IDF spokesman. 

The youths were repelled by security forces. No arrests were made. 

Earlier during the night, the IDF and police rushed to the otherwise quiet border with Jordan after a group of 17 right-wing activists, three of them minors, occupied structures near the border. The activists said the action was intended as a message to Jordanian authorities to keep out of Temple Mount affairs. 

The IDF and police surrounded the activists, who were hilltop youth, and prepared to evacuate. Four other activists were arrested before joining the group on the border. 

The activists seized abandoned churches near the Qasr al-Yahud holy site, which is the believed site of Jesus' baptism. 

The activists, accompanied by television crews, cut their way through a fence that used to protect a minefield surrounding the area, before it was cleared by Israeli security forces. The activists danced near the structures, entered one of the churches and chanted songs. They were all arrested. 

In another incident overnight Tuesday, a group of five Breslov entered Joseph's Tomb in the West Bank to pray without permission. Palestinian security forces opened fire, but no one was hurt.   
A similar incident took place in September,  when unknown perpetrators infiltrated a base in the Binyamin region and snuck their way to a mechanics workshop on site, where they slashed the tires and cut the cables of twelve army vehicles. 

The settlers were galvanized into action by rumors that the eviction of several West Bank settlements was imminent. The Supreme Court ruled in September that the state must destroy Migron, the largest outpost in the West Bank. Forty-five families live in Migron, which has a total population of 280 people.

IDF fires tear gas, beats mourners after Tamimi funeral

On Sunday morning, thousands of mourners lined Ramallah’s streets for the funeral procession of Mustafa Tamimi, a 28-year-old Palestinian who was killed by the Israeli army this weekend. The procession continued to Nabi Saleh, where hundreds attended Tamimi’s burial. The army reportedly fired tear gas on some of the mourners, beat unarmed demonstrators, and arrested seven activists

Mourners carry Mustafa Tamimi's body through Ramallah (photo: Activestills)

Hundreds of mourners proceeded to Nabi Saleh, Tamimi’s village and the place he was shot by a tear gas canister during the weekly demonstration against the Israeli occupation and the illegal settlement encroaching on Nabi Saleh’s land. Tamimi was shot in the face at close range on Friday and died of the injuries Saturday morning.

Mustafa Tamimi's funeral procession (photo: Activestills)

Those attending the funeral in Nabi Saleh reported that the Israeli army gathered on the hills nearby. They also said that an armored military jeep used to shoot tear gas–a “tear gas jeep” as Abir Kopty put it–was waiting at the entrance of the village when the funeral procession arrived.

When the mourners shouted at the soldiers for killing Tamimi, soldiers cursed them.

After Tamimi’s burial, local youth headed in the direction of the spring that belongs to the village but has been appropriated by the neighboring settlement, Halamish. The army fired tear gas and skunk water on the unarmed demonstrators.

Soldiers and protesters clash in Nabi Saleh Sunday (photo: Activestills)

“In Palestine, even anger is not allowed,” Abir Kopty remarked on Twitter.

Fearful of violent clashes with the Israeli army, some residents of Nabi Saleh called on the youth to stop the protest. They attempted to go on with their demonstration, however, and witnesses on the ground in Nabi Saleh said that soldiers beat a protester to the point that an ambulance was needed.
After an ambulance arrived, Diana Alzeer reported on Twitter that the army continued to beat the unarmed demonstrators.  Emilie Baujard, a French journalist, reported that seven protesters were arrested. Leehee Rothschild noted that several Israelis were among those detained.

Several witnesses said that soldiers attempted to choke Israeli activist Jonathan Pollak, who was evacuated to the hospital.

Abir Kopty and other witnesses reported that of the seven who were arrested, three were Israeli, one was Palestinian, and the rest were internationals.

A mourner confronts a soldier with a poster commemorating Tamimi (photo: Activestills)

Here are a few additional photos that Joseph Dana, who attended the procession in Ramallah, put on his Twitter account, @ibnezra, shared with permission:

Mustafa Tamimi's body, wrapped in a Palestinian flag and keffiyeh, being carried in Ramallah (photo: Joseph Dana)

A child overcome by grief as Mustafa Tamimi's body is loaded into a car to be taken to Nabi Saleh, where he will be buried (photo: Joseph Dana)

Activists: Soldiers open fire toward Gaza demo

Published yesterday (updated) 14/12/2011 00:19
Palestinians demonstrate against Israeli incursions and land confiscation near
the barrier north of Beit Hanoun (MaanImages/Wissam Nassar, File)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces fired toward Palestinian protesters on Tuesday during a demonstration against land confiscation near the Israeli border, activists said.

Saber Zaanin, local coordinator, said activists and internationals were fired upon while heading toward the destroyed Dumra village north of Beit Hanoun, inside Israel's buffer zone.

Israeli forces fired at them and tanks headed toward the wall. International solidarity activists got on a farming plow, which was pushed inside the buffer zone by 200 meters, he added.

Zaanin pointed out that the activity is a message for the people in Nabi Saleh that they "are not alone facing Israel and its walls", and that the "seeds of resistance planted in the buffer zone area are for peace."

An Israeli army spokesman did not immediately return a call late Tuesday.

Hundreds of settlers attack Nablus village

Published Monday 12/12/2011 (updated) 13/12/2011 12:59
An Israeli soldier stands guard near a Jewish settler during skirmishes
near the West Bank village of Immatin.(MaanImages/file)
NABLUS (Ma’an) -- Hundreds of settlers stormed the Nablus village of Asira al-Qibliya overnight Sunday, causing damage to Palestinian property.

Witnesses told Ma'an that around midnight more than 200 settlers from the notorious Yitzhar settlement entered the village and threw rocks at Palestinian homes.

Local resident Ibrahim Makhlouf said that the settlers smashed the windows of a bus and tried to set it on fire.

“They were armed and wearing black uniform as if it was an organized militia,” he told Ma'an.

The attackers smashed the windows of three other houses belonging to Basim Salih, Jamil Abdullah and Khalil Mahmoud Salih, Makhlouf added.

Settler-related incidents resulting in Palestinian injuries and damage to property are up more than 50 percent this year, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which documents violence in the Palestinian territories.

Last week, a mosque was set on fire by settlers in the West Bank village of Bruqin, near Salfit, local officials said.

A report released by The Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees found that in October, over 53 percent of settler attacks had taken place in the Nablus district.

Record number of Palestinians displaced by demolitions as Quartet continues to talk

 13 December 2011

There has been a sharp rise in demolitions of Palestinian homes in 2011
There has been a sharp rise in demolitions of Palestinian homes in 2011
© Amnesty International

"Israel’s escalating violations show the fundamental failure of the Quartet’s approach."

Amnesty International's Phillip Luther 
Tue, 13/12/2011

Israeli authorities have stepped up unlawful demolitions in the West Bank including East Jerusalem over the past year, displacing a record number of Palestinian families from their homes, an international coalition of 20 leading aid agencies and human rights groups said today.

The statement comes as the Middle East Quartet meets in Jerusalem in its latest effort to revive peace talks.

The sharp rise in demolitions in 2011 has been accompanied by accelerated expansion of Israeli settlements and an escalation of violence perpetrated by settlers, the groups said.

The humanitarian and human rights groups, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Oxfam International, are calling for the Quartet to hold all parties to the conflict to their international law obligations. The Quartet must, therefore, press the Israeli government to immediately reverse its settlement policies and freeze all demolitions that violate international law.

“The increasing rate of settlement expansion and house demolitions is pushing Palestinians to the brink, destroying their livelihoods and prospects for a just and durable peace. There is a growing disconnect between the Quartet talks and the situation on the ground. The Quartet needs to radically revise its approach and show that it can make a real difference to the lives of Palestinians and Israelis.” said Jeremy Hobbs, Executive Director, Oxfam International.

The evidence of rapidly deteriorating situation on the ground includes:
  • Doubling the number of people displaced by demolitions: Since the beginning of the year more than 500 Palestinian homes, wells, rainwater harvesting cisterns, and other essential structures have been destroyed in the West Bank including East Jerusalem, displacing more than 1,000 Palestinians, UN figures show. This is more than double the number of people displaced over the same period in 2010, and the highest figure since at least 2005. More than half of those displaced have been children for whom the loss of their home is particularly devastating.
  • Accelerating settlement expansion: Plans for around 4,000 new settler housing units have been approved in East Jerusalem over the past 12 months - the highest number since at least 2006, according to Peace Now. In November, moreover, Israel announced plans to speed up construction of 2,000 new units in the West Bank including East Jerusalem.
  • Sharp increase in settler violence: violent attacks by settlers against Palestinians have escalated by over 50% in 2011 compared to 2010, and by over 160% compared to 2009, the UN reports. 2011 has seen by far the most settler violence since at least 2005. Settlers have also destroyed or damaged nearly 10,000 Palestinian olive and other trees during this year, undermining the livelihoods of hundreds of families. The perpetrators act with virtual impunity, with over 90% of complaints of settler violence closed by the Israeli police without indictment in 2005-2010.
  • Impending threat of forced displacement of Bedouin: Up to 2,300 Bedouin living in the Jerusalem periphery could be forcibly and unlawfully relocated if Israeli authorities follow through with their reported plans in 2012, which would destroy their livelihoods and threaten their traditional way of life. Rural communities in the Jordan Valley are also facing the prospect of further demolitions as settlements continue to expand.
“The Quartet should call ongoing settlement expansion and house demolitions what they are: violations of international humanitarian law that Israel should stop,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

“Israel’s escalating violations show the fundamental failure of the Quartet’s approach. It’s time for the Quartet to understand that they cannot contribute to achieving a just and durable solution to the conflict without first ensuring respect for international law,” said Phillip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Interim Programme Director, Amnesty International.

Netanyahu: All lines were crossed when Israeli citizens attacked IDF soldiers

Published 20:37 13.12.11 Latest update 20:37 13.12.11

PM says will use 'all of his power' to stem violence by right-wing extremists; Livni: Government shares responsibility for attack on IDF base.

By Ophir Bar-Zohar and Haaretz
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday that the attack by right-wing extremists on an IDF base in the West Bank has "crossed all the lines," and that he intends to establish a special task force to tackle the growing phenomenon. 

"I intend to fight with all my power as the prime minister of Israel," he said. "I met today with the head of the Shin Bet security service, the chief of police and the IDF chief of staff, and I've asked the defense minister to prepare this week a plan to take care of the rioters." 

Benjamin Netanyahu - Reuters - 30.10.2011 Benjamin Netanyahu speaking during the weekly cabinet meeting in the northern town of Safed October 30, 2011.
Photo by: Reuters

Earlier on Tuesday, Netanyahu said the situation is "intolerable," adding that "we must take care of these rioters with a firm hand. We will not tolerate a situation in which IDF officers and soldiers are attacked and distracted from protecting Israeli citizens."

Opposition leader Tzipi Livni (Kadima) harshly condemned the attack on Tuesday, adding that anyone who commits acts of violence against IDF soldiers does so due to the current climate in the Knesset.

In a statement, Livni claimed that the current government is “partner” to a wave of legislation that must be stopped, and that the latest incidents of right-wing violence are not random, but rather constitute a “struggle over Zionism and over the character of Israel.

Livni also spoke directly to Netanyahu, saying that the prime minister treats the incidents as matters of law enforcement rather than ideology, because “he feels uncomfortable confronting his natural allies.”

Early Tuesday morning, some 50 settlers and right-wing activists entered a West Bank military base and threw rocks, burned tires, and vandalized military vehicles. An IDF officer was lightly wounded as a result of the rock-throwing.

In addition to the attack on the IDF base, right-wing activists blocked a main West Bank road and threw stones at passing Palestinian vehicles and IDF soldiers in the area.

Around 100 right-wing activists and settlers came to the area of the base before 50 of them entered the base, according to the IDF spokesman. The youths were repelled by security forces. No arrests were made.