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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Anti-Zionism in the 21st Century: the struggle continues

Tuesday, 24 January 2012 18:36
The essence of the Palestinian struggle is the battle against Zionism. It is a battle against its racism, against its murderous war crimes, against its insatiable territorial hunger, against its disdain for non-Jewish human rights, and against its devoted attempts to destroy Palestinian national identity. As voices of normalization are on the rise, and social media is invaded by paid pro-Zionist bloggers, there is an increased need for anti-Zionists to draw attention to the crimes committed by 'Israel', and to speak up against the ongoing media silence and the apologist activities of those misleadingly portraying themselves as 'peace doves'. Let us first look briefly at the history of the anti-Zionist struggle, and then see where we stand today.

The battle against the ideology of Zionism

Years before the creation of the state of 'Israel', there was already a full-blown battle going on against Zionism. On one side, the Palestinians were resisting against the usurpation of their land, having grown aware of the far-stretching implications of the Balfour declaration of 1917, which laid the foundation for the mass-immigration of European Jews into Palestine. In those same decades, there was also an ongoing struggle within the Jewish communities in Europe, where many were opposed to the tenets of Zionism either on a religious basis, or on the realization that colonizing an inhabited land would inevitably cause an injustice that would continue to reverberate for many years to come. A famous example of this in that period of time was the famous genius Albert Einstein, who in 1938 already expressed his opposition to the creation of a 'Jewish state', and in a letter to the New York Times that he wrote together with a number of prominent Jews in 1948, strongly denounced the horrendous Deir Yassin massacre.

The ongoing struggle of the Palestinians against Zionism and the continuing expropriation of their land is well-known, but not everyone is aware that within Jewish ranks, true ideological opposition against Zionism still exists. The most well-known group among these is Neturei Karta ('Guardians of the City'), an organization of international Jews united against Zionism. On another note, within the current framework of the Zionist state, a coalition of groups that call themselves 'Campus Watchdogs' recently went as far as labeling 10 % of Israeli academics as 'anti-Zionist'. It is likely that this number is highly overrated, since this McCarthyism-like approach can be expected to have lumped together a wide variety of people who expressed criticism at their government's actions. In a similar way that outside criticism of 'Israel' quickly gets labeled as 'anti-Semitism', many of the one thousand mentioned academics, publicists and journalists are likely to have received the label of 'anti-Zionist' despite adhering to many of Zionism's principles.

Tribal, religious, or ideological struggle?

For some, the ongoing misery is a war between two peoples, basically a 'tribal war'. Others prefer seeing it as a war between religions, with Judaism on one side and Muslims on the other side. Those who adopt this view are ignoring the pluralistic ethnic and religious composition of the Palestinian people, and are for instance ignoring the fact that many Palestinians are Christians, who have not been spared the gruesome fate of their Muslim compatriots. Thirdly, there are those who view the struggle as a battle between ideologies: Zionism on one side, and anti-Zionism on the other.

As the original PLO manifesto (28 May 1964) stated, the organization declared that "Palestine with its boundaries that existed at the time of the British mandate is an integral regional unit"  and that it sought to "prohibit the existence and activity of Zionism". It also contained statements calling for a right of return and self-determination for the Palestinians. When reading the manifesto, it becomes clear that the PLO, the first more officially organized Palestinian movement against the land theft and expulsion committed by the Zionist terrorist organizations that later declared the Zionist state, was an explicitly anti-Zionist movement. The PLO incorporated the various existing political movements in one body, and was declared to be the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. This was widely accepted by an overwhelming majority of Palestinians.

The Oslo disaster

As illustrated above, the foundations of the Palestinian struggle were based on the territorial integrity of Palestine (i.e. the one state solution) and the right of return of all expelled Palestinians. These original foundations became embedded in an entire generation of Palestinians worldwide. In 1993, the leadership under Yaser Arafat adopted the two-state solution instead, which largely happened in a top-down manner and led to the Oslo accords, However, it soon became clear to all that the Oslo accords were only accepted by 'Israel' as a deceptive method to hypnotize the Palestinians as well as the masses of the world into an illusion of Israeli willingness for territorial concessions, while in truth confiscating huge swathes of land, building a separation wall and almost tripling the settler population (from 250,000 to 700,000). It should be no surprise that even early on, as the scam became blatantly clear to all except seemingly to the leadership of the newly created Palestinian Authority, the original tenets of the struggle were yet again embraced by many Palestinians inside of Palestine as well as in the diaspora.

Return to the struggle

As the state of confusion created by the Oslo accords lingered on, some defeatist voices however also turned to normalization, instead of returning to the basics of the struggle. It is not to be wondered at that disillusion and opportunism play their role in such a complex situation, wherein many lose hope when faced with the overwhelming military, economical and strategic dominance of the Zionist state. Nevertheless, youth movements that are currently active in keeping the struggle for Palestinian rights alive, predominantly see anti-normalization as one of their main strategic goals. They adhere to the above-mentioned basic tenets of the struggle, and reject the failed formula of negotiations that is still pursued by the Palestinian Authority, despite its lack of popular mandate for it. For most Palestinians it is blatantly clear, that the so-called 'Peace Process' has only caused damage to their cause and has not brought even the slightest prospects of a better future, let alone of self-determination or independence.

Internationally, pro-Palestinian activists also largely adhere to the basic tenets of the Palestinian struggle, namely the one-state solution and the right of return of the Palestinian refugees.  There are other issues as well that are deemed non-negotiable to the majority of Palestinians, such as strong opposition against the Judaization of Jerusalem (Al Quds) which is projected as the future capital of liberated Palestine, and the release of all thousands of Palestinian political prisoners.

There is definitely also a group of 'two-staters', but their numbers are dwindling fast, and they rarely engage in activism since their views are largely represented by the Palestinian Authority. The strongest cure for the fallacy of the two-state solution was seeing the Palestinian side of that solution being gobbled up by the Zionist state over the years, faster than one could issue statements of protest against them.

New shape of the struggle: back to anti-Zionism

It is clear nowadays that the Palestinian Authority is not a useful apparatus for waging any form of struggle, but an administrative body that functions mainly as an extension of the Israeli security apparatus, in a framework inherited directly from the Oslo agreements. This does not mean that the people have stopped struggling. The modern Palestinian struggle has moved towards preferring popular resistance over armed struggle, and employing BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) as a main strategy of generating pressure against the Zionist state. What has also changed, is that this struggle has gained large numbers of international supporters all over the world, who support the Palestinians in their pursuit of freedom from Zionist oppression.

These changes have also brought anti-Zionism back to the forefront, and this has far-reaching implications. Whereas a two-state solution almost automatically implies the undertaking of steps towards normalization, since it implies an acceptance of Zionism and relinquishing the claim of 78 % of Palestinian territory to it, a one-state solution which aims to create a state for all of its inhabitants that does not discriminate on the basis of race of religion, requires a strong and uncompromising return to anti-Zionism as a unifying strategy.

Anti-Zionism versus normalization

In a struggle that aims to achieve this, normalization is an extremely damaging concession that can never be combined with the dismantling of Zionism, which is the ultimate goal of its strategy. After all, a struggle against racism cannot be successful if the inherently racist tenets of Zionism are accepted. The 'Oslo-period' has however sown its sorrowful seeds in more places than may directly become apparent. The vast majority of the Arab masses have not accepted Zionism in their midst, but there are stubborn strands of normalization that seem to be enjoying an increasing momentum within 'progressive' ranks of various Arab communities.

Two Egyptian examples can be mentioned in this context. One is Mona Eltahawy, who seems to consider 'Israel' to be a civilized state and refused to condemn the genocidal massacre in Gaza that claimed the lives of 1,400 Palestinians (including at least 300 children) by massive attacks from drones, tanks, Apaches and F-16's - on a population that possesses no bombing shelters or anti-aircraft artillery. Another even more mind-blowing example is Maikel Nabil, an Egyptian blogger who enjoyed wide campaigns for his release when he was arrested for criticizing the SCAF military junta of post-Mubarak Egypt. He expressed his love for Israel on his blog and in Israeli media with an enthusiasm rarely ever seen before in the Arab world. There are other examples too, such as Arab-American comedian Ray Hanania of Palestinian origin, who proclaimed himself a candidate for Palestinian presidency in a video that he posted on Youtube, wherein he called for an acceptance of Israeli settlements, and an end to the Right of Return.

Sucking up to the only Ziocracy in the Middle East

It is true that these examples do not represent the sentiments of the majority of Palestinians and other Arabs, whether in the Arab world or outside of it, but these voices cannot be ignored either. The main reason for this is that voices of normalization like the ones mentioned above often receive disproportionate attention in Western-dominated mass-media, and thereby have a number of insidious destructive effects upon the struggle.

First of all, they make those who are true to the anti-racist struggle against Zionism seem extremist, by offering alternatives that at first sight strike the general public as being more inspired by peaceful motives. This is a distortion of reality: support for 'Israel', the most belligerent state in the Middle East, the only state in the region in possession of (over 300) nuclear arms, and the only 'Ziocracy' where ones ethnic background automatically categorizes one as having less rights than others, can never be truthfully designated as 'peace-loving'.

Secondly, the apparently human inclination of the masses to flock around the famous without delving deeply into their philosophies, brings multitudes of people close to positive truth-distorting evaluations of the Zionist state. For example, progressive Arabs who embrace Mona Eltahawy's feminist activities, are inclined to also automatically defend their idol's views on 'Israel', simply because they are already in a state of adoration of her person. Another example involves Maikel Nabil: when progressive activists rallied for him due to his unjust incarceration by SCAF, his shocking pro-Israel views seemed to be lumped together with his anti-SCAF views under the label of 'freedom of speech', effectively paving the way for the perceived 'right' of Egyptians to view 'Israel' in an undeservingly positive and gruesomely distorted loving manner.

Continued efforts: the struggle goes on

The true and original struggle of the Palestinians is a struggle against Zionism, and this is entirely incompatible with the views mentioned above. Normalization must therefore be opposed, vocally, directly, loudly and clearly. There is definitely a need for increased activity on this front, since anti-normalization and BDS do not enjoy the support of mass media, unlike the voices of normalization.

If this means that these voices need to be confronted even on a personal level, then so be it. It may not be a pleasant thing to do, and some might argue that it distracts from calling attention to the continuing atrocities that the Zionist state is inflicting on a daily basis upon the defenseless Palestinians living under Israeli occupation. However, as has been argued in the article "Anti-normalization: an necessary part of BDS campaigning", calling attention to these injustices will remain highly ineffective if the public is simultaneously exposed by mass media to Arab voices that aim to paint a misleading image of 'Israel' as if it were a beacon of civilization, and a saviour for mankind.

In other words: if you value BDS and wish it to be effective, and if you believe in opposing the racist ideology of Zionism, one of your tasks is also to confront those who suck up to power for their own personal gain. And since their number is increasing, it looks like you have work to do.

Extremist Jews Destroy Graves in Islamic Cemetery, Says Group

Date : 25/1/2012   Time : 15:27

BISAN, January 25, 2012 (WAFA) -  Al -Aqsa Institute for Waqf and Heritage revealed Wednesday that several  extremist Jews destroyed  a large number of tombstones in Bisan Cemetery, north of Israel, according to a press release by the institute.
A delegation from the institute went on an inspection visit to the cemetery and found out that a large number of graves and tombstones were destroyed by extremist Jews.
“The extremist Jews seek to obliterate what is left of Islamic landmarks in the city,” said deputy of the institute Sami Rizqallah.

Israeli Authorities Tell Palestinian his House will be Demolished

Date : 26/1/2012   Time : 12:32
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JENIN, January 26, 2012 (WAFA) – The Israeli military authorities Thursday informed a Palestinian from Ya’bad, a village southwest of the northern West Bank city of Jenin, that the house he was building will be demolished, according to the house owner.
Othman Abu Obaid told WAFA that the planning department of the Israeli military authorities handed him a notice to stop the construction work on his 130 square meter house, which is adjacent to Mabo Dotan, a Jewish settlement built on Ya’bad land, under the pretext the house was located in area C, which is under full Israeli control.
They also handed him a notice to demolish a 60-cubic-meter water tank, which was built with a Norwegian fund.

California professor under attack for opposing "study in Israel" scheme

25 January 2012
Palestine solidarity activism on US campuses continues to grow despite attacks by Israel lobby groups.
(Maureen Clare Murphy / The Electronic Intifada)
A mathematics professor at the California State University at Northridge is the target of an attack campaign by various pro-Israel lobby groups and individuals because he maintains a website that supports the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, and for his outspoken criticism of Israeli policies.

Recently, Dr. David Klein has come under fire for organizing in opposition to the 23-campus-wide California State University (CSU) system’s resumption of a study abroad program in Israel, which was discontinued in 2002 because of a US State Department warning on travel to the region during the second Palestinian intifada.

In an open letter delivered to to CSU Chancellor Charles Reed last month, Klein — along with the signatures of more than 80 CSU faculty and staff members, and dozens of students statewide — urged the CSU administration to not reinstate the study abroad program.

In addition to an explanation of the historic injuring and killing of US citizens — including university students — by Israeli soldiers during unarmed protests in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the letter states that CSU students interested in this study abroad program “could face discriminatory treatment, based on race and ethnicity” (“An open letter to CSU Chancellor Charles Reed regarding the CSU-Israel study abroad program”).

It is well-known that at border crossings and the airport, Israel discriminates against — as well as regularly detains and deports — US citizens with Middle Eastern ancestry, or Arabic or Muslim names.

The US State Department’s travel warning explicitly states that Palestinian-American dual citizens — persons who were born in the West Bank or Gaza Strip and have become naturalized US citizens — “are considered by the Israeli government to retain their Palestinian nationality, and Israeli authorities will view them as Palestinians.”

The travel warning adds, “Palestinian-Americans whom the Government of Israel considers residents of the West Bank or Gaza may face certain travel restrictions. These individuals are subject to restrictions on movement between Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, and within the West Bank and Gaza that are imposed by the Israeli government on all Palestinians” (Israel, the West Bank and Gaza: Country-specific information).

However, despite the open letter, the inherent discrimination within the Israeli study abroad program itself, and enormous statewide budget cuts that have eviscerated educational resources, the CSU administration announced in mid-December that it was “pleased to announce the re-opening of its program in Israel starting Fall 2012” (“Israel: Overview”).

The program will be hosted at the University of Haifa, making it nearly impossible for Palestinian CSU students who were born in the West Bank or Gaza to attend.

Already four CSU students are currently enrolled for the 2012-2013 school year, according to the Daily 49er, the campus newspaper of CSU-Long Beach (“Israel program back after safety concerns,” 23 January 2012).

Continuation of a disturbing trend on US campuses


Klein, a longtime human rights activist, told The Electronic Intifada that he worked with popular solidarity committees in El Salvador and Nicaragua in the 1980s, and also confronted Ku Klux Klansmen in rural Louisiana. But it was Israel’s attacks on the Gaza Strip in the winter of 2008-09 that spiked his interest in Palestinian rights. Klein began a website on his own CSU-Northridge faculty page to bring attention to what was happening in Palestine, and it has since become an in-depth resource for the growing, international Palestinian-led BDS movement.

In addition to hosting the website, Klein also joined the organizing committee of the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel and is a faculty advisor for the local Students for Justice in Palestine chapter at CSU-Northridge.

Since beginning his Palestine solidarity and BDS activism work, Klein has faced aggressive slander and threats by anti-Palestinian individuals and Israeli lobby groups who have called him and his website “anti-Semitic” (“Sample hate mail, opposition, and expressions of racism in response to the open letter to CSU Chancellor Reed and this website”).

Some of the most vicious attacks levelled against him personally, he said, include those by two faculty members at the University of California (UC) Santa Cruz and UC Los Angeles who have founded the Amcha Initiative, a project which aims “to inform the Jewish community about the efforts made by Jewish students and faculty to combat anti-Jewish bigotry on California campuses.”

The two professors boast on the Amcha website that they have launched the “Investigative Taskforce on Campus Antisemitism” and have filed complaints with the UC system claiming “anti-Israel” and “anti-Jewish discourse and behavior in classrooms, [and] at university-sponsored events” (About us).

However, just recently, a California court and a University of California official disagreed with these types of claims. In late December, the court dismissed a lawsuit brought by students at UC Berkeley who claimed that they faced anti-Semitism on campus. The court determined the plaintiffs could not provide evidence to support their allegations.

Following on the heels of the lawsuit dismissal, a major announcement was made last week by University of California President Mark Yudof — an ardent supporter of Israeli policy — who, as Ali Abunimah reported for The Electronic Intifada, denied claims that Jewish students on UC campuses “face a climate of hostility that amounts to a violation of their civil rights, due to Palestine solidarity activism.”

Referring to two civil rights complaints at UC Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz — where Amcha’s members have alleged that Jewish students face “intellectual and emotional harassment and intimidation” as a result of classroom discussions and on-campus events — Yudof stated: “These cases have to be carefully crafted with a fact pattern that is compelling. I don’t think in either of these cases these fact patterns exist” (College leaders balance Israel and speech,” The Forward, 17 January 2012).

Despite their inability to prove that a frightening culture of anti-Semitism exists on UC and CSU campuses, members of anti-Palestinian groups such as Campus Watch, Amcha and the nationwide academic watchdog group euphemistically called Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) have not relented in their mission to conflate anti-Semitism with Palestine solidarity activism or academic discussions on Israel’s policies towards Palestinians.

The larger issue for the pro-Israel groups is that they don’t want to allow the criticism of Israel to be public if they can stop it,” Klein explained. “On a level playing field, in a debate or in a situation where all facts can be aired, they would lose. So the only way to win is to silence debate.”

Open debate: “breaking the rules” of academic freedom?


Dr. Lisa Rofel, a cultural anthropology professor at UC Santa Cruz, told The Electronic Intifada that she was subjected to harassment by Amcha and SPME after organizing on-campus events related to Palestine and critical analysis of Zionism. A member of the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, Rofel said that she was brought up on charges three times by Israel lobby groups who claimed that she “broke the rules of academic freedom by talking about politics on campus.”

Rofel said that the chancellor’s lawyer on campus disagreed with the claims, so she was then brought up on the same charges to the university’s committee on academic freedom, who told the Israel lobbyists that they had no case and to stop harassing her.

They were then very unhappy,” Rofel said. “Then, someone who’s a big supporter of Israel went to the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights and managed to get anti-Semitism [categorized] as a racial discrimination.”

It’s very disturbing to me to define Jewish identity as a racial identity, because that’s what Hitler did,” Rofel added. “But you have to define it this way to claim anti-Semitism, and the whole point is that they’re trying to bring up a charge of anti-Semitic discrimination on campus with the Department of Education against those of us who put on these events, and against the university administration who didn’t do anything to stop it.”

The Israel lobby’s threats and intimidation tactics against other US professors have worked — and some academics have been punished for holding open discussions on Israeli policies. Dr. Terri Ginsberg, who was denied tenure at North Carolina State University (NCSU) in 2008, has been subjected to academic censorship efforts by Israeli lobby groups and has been subsequently blacklisted for other faculty positions. She is now embroiled in legal proceedings in her ongoing fight against censorship and intimidation.

In an interview with The Electronic Intifada in December, Ginsberg said that NCSU admitted that it openly suppressed a speech of hers which was “critical of Zionism and supportive of the Palestine liberation struggle” and that the university “chose not to interview or hire” her for a tenure-track position because of her scholarship on Palestine and the Middle East.

In reference to Ginsberg’s ongoing struggle, Rofel said she feels that the administration at UC Santa Cruz isn’t as susceptible to Israeli lobby attacks, and she feels generally supported.

[The university] has protected me in terms of not finding me guilty of any charges related to violations of academic freedom,” Rofel said. “And I feel very lucky to be on this campus, because [what happened to Ginsberg] would not happen here.”

An imperative time for universities to support faculty, students


Back at CSU-Northridge, Klein said that like Rofel, his university’s administration has been protective of him and has supported his activism under the banner of academic freedom. He added that there has not yet been any indication that his website nor tenured position are in jeopardy.

However, even after the CSU system reinstated the Israel study abroad program last month, Klein said the attacks on him by outside lobby groups and individuals have not quelled, and the demands to take down his website are still unrelenting.

Klein told The Electronic Intifada that he believes there is “a great deal of coordination” among various Zionist and Israeli lobby groups, but it is Amcha’s targeted attacks in particular that have been most troublesome.
Tammi Rossman-Benjamin and Leila Beckwith, the founding members of Amcha, “have been beating the drums the hardest, demanding that the university take down my website,” Klein said.

And now, since the university has supported my website as an expression of academic freedom, now they’re attacking the university administration,” he added. “The acting president, Harry Hellenbrand, is a signer of the open letter [against the reinstatement of the Israel study abroad program], and they’re attacking him for that, and they’re going to the chancellor.”

US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI) organizing committee members Sunaina Maira, professor of Asian American studies at UC Davis, and Nada Elia, professor of Global and Gender Studies at Antioch University in Seattle, told The Electronic Intifada by email that the attempts to censor Klein run against the very idea of academic freedom and open discussion in university classrooms. Maira said that the viciousness of the attacks on Klein “betray a desperation to shut down free and honest debate and to exceptionalize the case of Israel.”

Professor Klein is a courageous and conscientious scholar who has chosen not to remain silent in the face of egregious violations of international law and overt racial discrimination in Israel,” Maira added.

As a principled Jewish American scholar, he has worked with students and colleagues to oppose a program that would legitimize an illegal occupation and discriminatory policies, which the Brand Israel campaign would like the world to ignore, in the face of growing global condemnation and international outrage,” she said.
Elia said that the Israeli lobby’s attempts to excoriate the cultural and academic boycott movement against Israeli institutions and describe it as an effort that violates, not protects, academic freedom should be carefully examined.

We should be very clear about the fact that the Palestinian call for boycotting Israeli institutions which are complicit in the occupation is not a violation of academic freedom — it is a means to an end, a strategy to achieve the academic freedom that currently does not exist in Israel and Palestine, and is seriously jeopardized in the US,” she stated.

As of press time, more than 860 persons have signed on to a public petition (penned by his colleagues at USACBI) demanding that the California State University system — and, specifically, CSU Chancellor Reed — defend David Klein and not capitulate to the lobby’s demands that his website be taken down, nor should he be subjected to academic punishment (“Sign petition in support of Dr. David Klein and academic freedom here”).

Along with public support, Klein said he’s optimistic about the support from within the university itself. “So far, the administration is standing with me,” he explained. “Hopefully it’ll be representative of a paradigm shift.”

Klein said that now, more than ever, is an imperative time for universities to stand by their faculty and students. In addition to the attacks on academics like Terri Ginsberg and Norman Finkelstein, ten Muslim students at UC Irvine last fall were charged and convicted by the Orange County District Attorney’s office with disrupting a public meeting for their protest of the Israeli ambassador’s speech on campus.

[It sets] an important precedent,” Klein said, referring to his case. “It’s a precedent for a faculty member to be able to post criticisms of Israel and Israeli policy on a website. So if the current situation stands and I’m allowed to continue to do that, it immediately opens doors for other faculty in the 23 other state university systems. But it would also have positive effects for the other university systems as well.”

While well-funded Israel lobby groups attempt — and fail — to prove that a pandemic of anti-Semitism exists on college campuses, student activism in support of Palestinian rights continues to strengthen.

Groups such as Students for Justice in Palestine — with growing chapters across California and the rest of the US — are more determined than ever to press forward with divestment initiatives and creative protests against Israeli apartheid policies.

I can’t put my finger on it but I feel that worldwide, there’s a shift in the last couple of years where there’s a greater opening to criticize Israel and the policies that Israel imposes on the Palestinian people,” Klein said.

Lisa Rofel of UC Santa Cruz said that although she’s less optimistic than her colleague about a general paradigm shift, she knows that it’s important to analyze the reasons why Israel lobby groups are spending so much time and effort attempting to censor discussion.

She told The Electronic Intifada: “The activities of people who are trying to silence us are very worrisome, because they’re so anti-democratic, so rigid. If they’re so convinced about the rightness of their position, then they shouldn’t worry about open debate.”

Nora Barrows-Friedman is an award-winning independent journalist, and is a staff writer and editor for The Electronic Intifada. She also writes for Inter Press Service, Al Jazeera, Truthout and other outlets, and regularly reports from Palestine.

"We won’t be silenced," say students arrested over Peres boycott call

24 January 2012
Khalil Gharra (
Three Palestinian students at the College of Engineering in Jerusalem (JCE) have been put under house arrest for a week and instructed not to contact any of their peers for using the social media website Facebook to urge a boycott of a speech by Israeli President Shimon Peres.

A couple of weeks ago, students received a message from the college authorities, notifying them of a visit by Peres scheduled for 10 January. The message emphasized that attendance during Peres’ speech was “compulsory.”

Three Palestinian students then posted on the college’s Facebook page that they would not attend the speech and asked others to follow suit. In response almost all the Palestinian students of the college boycotted the speech.
Following the event, the three students who urged the boycott were called for an interrogation at an Israeli police station. They were accused of threatening other students, as well as racism. They were then put under house arrest for a week, outside Jerusalem, and were instructed not to contact other students.

Intense debate”

Khalil Gharra, one of the three targeted students, told The Electronic Intifada, “There was an intense debate on the Facebook page of the college’s first year students between students who rejected the college’s policy regarding the compulsory attendance of Peres’ speech and others who supported it.”

He added, “The debate revolved around the commitment of the students to the decision of the college, and around how the college should not be forcing students to attend a lecture delivered by a ‘political symbol.’ This act contravened the students’ freedom of expression. Within this context, I expressed my opinion, saying that I wouldn’t attend the lecture. And I advised others to do the same.”

Gharra added that another debate is now taking place on Facebook regarding the punishments that the police imposed on him and his friends. He said that many Palestinian students have protested over the case, and have expressed their support for the targeted students.

Referring to his interrogation, Gharra said: “An officer from a police station in the Talpiot area in Jerusalem contacted me more than once and asked me to go immediately to the police station to be interrogated in a case that I knew nothing about. I refused to do so as these kind of invitations are illegal. The next day I received a printed invitation to my room in the students’ dorms.”

According to Gharra, the letter stated, “If you do not arrive to the station immediately, we will come and arrest you in the late hours of the night.”

At the station he was told that he was accused of threatening behavior and of incitement to racism. Ghara said, “I denied all the charges against me. Later the interrogator consulted other interrogators and officers who are in charge of the case, and he decided that I should be deported from Jerusalem and that I’m not allowed to contact any student till 25 January. Moreover, he decided to put me under house arrest until 21 January.”

Political persecution”


Ghara argued that this specific case should not be viewed separately from other restrictions on Palestinian student activism in Israeli universities. He said, “It’s clear to me from the investigation’s course that the case is about political persecution. However, they won’t stop us from our political activism. I won’t bend to the policy of repression that the police and the intelligence are practicing on Arab students. Our activism is legal and it’s our right to organize and express our opinion.”

Alaa Mahajna, the students’ lawyer, also argued that the case is not criminal but political. He said, “The students are suspected of threatening and incitement to racism following Shimon Peres’ speech. However, Peres is a controversial political figure, some consider him to be responsible for murdering more than a hundred innocent people during the Qana massacre [in Lebanon] in 1996, when he was the prime minister of Israel. The argument about whether to attend or boycott the speech was conducted through the public sphere — Facebook — where everyone could express his or her opinion. As a lawyer, I don’t see any legal basis for the suspicions against the students.”

These legal actions are part of the whole process of political persecution, which aims to shut down the voice of the Palestinian students in Israeli universities,” he added.

Palestinian students in the college are organizing a petition to express their support for the targeted students, emphasizing their right to protest.

Moreover, the Palestinian students association at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem released a statement condemning the violation of the right to free expression. The association also confirmed the importance of boycotting Israelis who are involved in war crimes, referring to Peres’ role in the Qana massacre.

Yara Sa’di is a postgraduate student and activist from Haifa.

UK Labour Party student officials face backlash over free tour of Israel, settlements

16 January 2012
A member of the UK’s National Union of Students Executive Council has denounced several youth and student officers from the opposition Labour Party for taking part in an all-expenses-paid tour of Israel and its illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank. The Labour students delegation met with Captain Barak Raz, an Israeli army spokesperson and other Israeli officials.

The Union of Jewish Students (UJS), a pro-Israel group, paid for the entire junket. The 4-9 January tour was led by Dan Sheldon, UJS campaigns officer. It included meetings with Tony Blair, the former UK prime minister who now works as a representative of the Middle East “Quartet” (the US, European Union, UN and Russia), and Mark Regev, chief spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Delegation member Joe Vinson told The Electronic Intifada that the group had “visited the [Israeli] settlements” in the West Bank as well as “various religious landmarks” on a “fact-finding mission to explore the conflict.” Of the settlements, Vinson said it was “not ideal that Israel is building on Palestinian territory.” All Israeli settlements in the West Bank are illegal under international law, a position upheld by successive UK governments. Vinson is president of Cornwall College Students’ Union.

Vinson defended the tour, claiming it had given the Palestinian perspective as well as the Israeli. “We didn’t control the agenda,” it was set by the UJS, Vinson said. “Not for one minute do I think that the UJS tried to use it as a Zionist propaganda trip, they were very conscious to give the two sides of the argument throughout the whole trip.”

Unbiased” propagadanda


Vinson said that Captain Raz “didn’t give us much opinion, it was very much an unbiased point of view that he gave us. It was mostly information about what they do to ensure that peace is consistent in the West Bank.” He added, “it was interesting, but didn’t really give us much to go on.” During the trip, Vinson wrote on his Twitter account that he had been “Really glad to meet” Captain Raz.

Really glad to meet @CaptainBarakRaz. Very interesting to hear about his time serving in the West Bank.
Jan 06 via Twitter for iPhone Favorite Retweet Reply

Asked if he thought it was problematic to visit settlements as part of an Israeli delegation, Vinson said, “I certainly see the issues that surround that and the international law” but that it was crucial “to get opinions from all sides of the argument.”

When pressed, Vinson said OneVoice Palestine was the only Palestinian group his delegation had met. OneVoice is an Israeli-Palestinian group founded by Israeli businessman Daniel Lubetzky. It has often been criticized by Palestinians for encouraging normalization between Israelis and Palestinians in violation of the Palestinian civil society call for boycott, divestment and sanctions on Israel.

A “Palestinian perspective” given by Israelis


Vinson admitted that “we didn’t meet with as many Palestinians as we did Israelis” but said that the guide for the tour “was always trying to put the Palestinian perspective across, we were always asking him questions about things from a Palestinian perspective.” According to other members of the delegation writing on Twitter, this guide who supposedly gave “the Palestinian perspective” was Jeremy Leigh of tour group Jewish Journeys. “Born in the UK and a graduate of the Reform Zionist youth movement, RSY-Netzer, [Leigh] has been living in Israel since 1992,” says the group’s website.

The Electronic Intifada asked Vinson what he thought qualified Leigh to give a “Palestinian perspective.” He replied: “the fact that he’s lived there for 20 plus years and I guess he acknowledges both sides of the argument.”

Also on the delegation were: Emma Meehan, the secretary of Scottish Young Labour and a vice-president of Edinburgh University’s Students’ Union; Ruth Brewer, of Liverpool Labour Students; Jess Leigh, the vice-chairperson of Labour Students; Sam Woodcock, co-chairperson of Manchester Labour Students; and Nick Pringle, northern coordinating officer of Labour Students. Labour is now Britain’s main opposition party, having been in government from 1997 to 2010.

Student activists denounce tour


James Haywood of the National Union of Students (NUS) Executive Council denounced the tour. Haywood said, “for elected officers to accept all-expenses-paid trips to Israel is scandalous, all the more so that it was arranged by an openly pro-Israel organization. I’m not surprised that these officers didn’t meet Palestinian refugees, students and activists — because they would have seen the truth of the racism and oppression they suffer from daily.”

Haywood, a Palestine solidarity activist and an elected student officer, is on the same NUS Society and Citizenship committee as Vinson.

Majdi Hafi, president of the Student Council for Birzeit University in the West Bank told Edinburgh student newspaper The Journal he was “very disappointed and shocked” to learn of the trip.

As students at Birzeit University we were looking forward to working towards forming closer relations” with the Edinburgh Students’ Union, he wrote. But he said the trip’s “sole aim is to whitewash Israel’s crimes and the suffering of the Palestinians.”

He said the delegates had shown “a blatant disregard for the history of student activism for human rights at Edinburgh University,” and called upon “the other sabbatical officers, and the wider student body [to] distance themselves from this shameful trip and condemn Ms. Meehan for taking part.”

Liam O’Hare, president of Edinburgh Students for Justice in Palestine, told The Journal he was “horrified” that Meehan had chosen to join the trip, which he said was “designed to whitewash the continued ethnic cleansing of Palestinian people.” The trip “has brought the union into disrepute,” he said, promising to protest against it in all relevant forums.

Shallow understanding


Vinson said the tour was a fact-finding mission to encourage debate and improve understanding. If that was really its aim, it seems to have been pretty unsuccessful judging from what delegates have publicly discussed about their trip.

In one now-deleted Tweet, Ruth Brewer commented on the looks of Israelis: “I don’t understand why people boycott Israeli goods, the lads here are fine to dine.”

The Electronic Intifada asked Vinson how the trip facilitated discussion when they had met with only one Palestinian group, and he had mentioned not discussing the conflict with Captain Raz. He confusingly replied they they had asked Raz “why some Palestinian settlements were being pulled down in Israeli areas and vice versa.” When asked if he meant Israeli settlements, Vinson said “sorry, other way around.”

Brewer tweeted that they had spent the day in East Jerusalem and the Gush Etzion settlement, then “took a short cut through the West Bank” to Tel Aviv where she was “enjoying cocktails.” She later deleted this tweet and several others.

Other members of the delegation tweeted enthusiastically about their free trip to Israel, thanking the UJS for arranging it. The highlight for many seems to have been their meeting with Tony Blair. They came across as star struck after the official Twitter account of Blair’s office wrote to delegation members: “Thanks for coming along. Was good to meet you all here.”

The mapping information on various tweets from the meeting shows it took place in eastern Jerusalem (illegally occupied by Israel since 1967), near the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. Blair is known to have his office in this area.

On the frontline of Zionism


Dan Sheldon of the UJS did not reply to an email asking for comment.

Asked about the UJS’ objectives, Vinson said: “I don’t think it’s fair to call them a pro-Israel group, I’d say they’re a pro-two-state-solution group.” He accepted the free trip because “I didn’t know much about the conflict before,” wanted to experience what it was like first hand, and “figured I’d probably never get the chance to go to Israel again, so it seemed like a good opportunity.” Of the clause in the UJS constitution that calls for “inspiring Jewish students to make an enduring commitment” to Israel, Vinson said he hadn’t been aware of it before he went.

At a recent conference, Sheldon said that UJS had “been at the center of the debate about how we should do Israel for many decades. Many consider us to be on the ‘frontline’ in the battle for Israel — our campuses have been playing out a shadow conflict for as long as anyone can remember.”

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist who writes about Palestine.

New Israeli search method at West Bank checkpoint worries Palestinians

  • Published 21:30 25.01.12
  • Latest update 21:30 25.01.12

According to eyewitness reports, Israeli police officers have begun searching Palestinian vehicles at a Bethlehem checkpoint through use of nausea-inducing chemicals.

By Amira Hass
Israel Police have begun implementing a new method of searching Palestinian vehicles through use of nausea-inducing chemicals at a Bethlehem checkpoint, international aid workers have reported.

Since December, Israeli police officers have introduced what they call a sophisticated method of tracking explosive materials.

Palestinian workers, Bethlehem checkpoint Palestinian workers at the Bethlehem checkpoint.
Photo by: Daniel Bar-On

Palestinians with Israeli license plates, usually residents of Jerusalem or foreign residents are allowed to pass through the checkpoint. Cars traveling to Jerusalem are often asked by Border Police soldiers to park their car in a side lot with eight parking spaces near the checkpoint. Once parked, the passengers are asked to roll up all windows, apart from that of the driver – and exit the vehicle. Two tubes are then connected to the vehicle – one is connected to an air pump, the other, which passes through a tiny filter, is attached to the vehicle. A policeman with a stopwatch flicks the air pump switch. (see the video:
According to Palestinians, police officers who carried out the search refused to describe the procedure. An official in the Israel Police told Haaretz that it is an approved procedure, and another police source said there is no use of any chemicals, but would not expand on the new search method.

A foreign resident who works at an international organization and must pass through the checkpoint several times a week told Haaretz that the tube is left connected for approximately 10 minutes. Afterward, the filter is removed and taken to a nearby building. The worker says she was under the impression that some kind of chemical was disseminated into the vehicle, as she and another passenger began feeling nauseous and suffered from headaches several days afterwards. The worker has informed her country’s embassy.

However, a Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem, whose car also underwent the same procedure, told Haaretz that he did not feel a thing, and that the police officers added that it was “only oxygen” being pumped into the vehicle.

Israel Police officially responded to the inquiry by saying that “as the force entrusted to protect the country’s citizens and their quality of life, it must conduct arbitrary, rudimentary checks through use of sophisticated technological means, all the while alleviating the experience of those being checked.”

Approximately three months ago, the police used bomb-sniffing dogs at the checkpoint. One man who passes through the checkpoint regularly told Haaretz that the security forces have a tendency to switch methods.

Ethiopian Jews are not alone - they are the latest in a long line of victims of Israeli intolerance

  • Published 08:03 26.01.12
  • Latest update 08:03 26.01.12

As the rest of the world marks International Holocaust Day, we – in Israel – face the challenge of standing up for the ‘other’.

By Rabbi Gideon D. Sylvester / Jewish Thinker blogger Tags: Jewish World

"Tottenhams are on their way to Auschwitz,(Seig Heil,) Hitler's going to gas them again."

On International Holocaust Day, I find it shocking that these offensive chants, accompanied by hissing in imitation of gas chambers, have become part of Britain's football culture.

immigrants from Ethiopia - Michal Fattal - 10112011 A family of immigrants from Ethiopia in Mevasseret Zion, outside Jerusalem, this week.
Photo by: Michal Fattal

Incredibly, racism is not limited to gentiles in the diaspora; sadly, it's also present here amongst Israeli Jews.
Last week, we heard reports that residents of Kiryat Malachi had signed secret agreements not to sell or rent out properties to Ethiopian Jews. Interviewed on Israeli television, locals described their Ethiopians neighbors as "cockroaches."
This discrimination is not limited to the south of the country. A Jerusalem bus driver was recently caught pouring racist invective on a group of Ethiopian children.

Representatives of the Ethiopian community say these news headlines merely reflect a phenomena that has been going on for years and this is borne out by recent statistics showing that college educated Ethiopian immigrants earn about half as much as their native Israeli peers.

Prejudice against Ethiopians is particularly sad given the excitement that accompanied their arrival in Israel. The world was riveted by this ingathering of the exiles. We, too, reveled in stories of how this community was adapting to modernity, proudly noting that ours was the first western country to bring black people to freedom in its land.

If the beginning was so promising, how did things go so wrong? Former minister Rabbi Michael Melchior points out that there is no such thing as "half-human rights"; either we respect everyone's rights or no one is safe." This winter saw a succession of attempts to pass ugly, racist legislation through the Knesset. "Price tag" attacks were carried out on Palestinian olive groves and mosques and these were followed by assaults on Israeli soldiers. Then, we heard about the humiliation of Israeli girls in Beit Shemesh, which were followed by revenge attacks on ultra-Orthodox Jews.

Ethiopian Jews are not alone. They are the latest in a long line of victims of intolerance.

Racist parties in other countries such as the English Defence League now carry our flag at their demonstrations, portraying Israel as an outstanding model of their racist ideology.

The Bible teaches that humanity is created in the image of God. It insists that we love our neighbors as well as strangers; and it forbids us from hating them. Israel's Declaration of Independence adopted these liberal values proclaiming that the new country would, "ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex". Its authors understood that Jews who suffered so much from persecution had to ensure that their new country modeled tolerance.

When racist taunts were the norm at British sports stadiums, several footballers took a stand. They established organizations like, "Kick racism out of football", playing on their influence among young people to campaign against intolerance. They could not completely eliminate it, but their high profile activities made the taunting of black and Asian players socially and professionally unacceptable.

Now, the same non-Jewish footballers are tackling anti-Semitism. It's deeply moving to see people who do not share our faith, history or heritage leading the charge to end anti-Semitic chanting at football grounds to prevent attacks on our people. Could we not do something similar to help those who suffer from discrimination here?

Our Biblical prophets envisioned a great Jewish nation led by people of stature offering a moral vision to the world. Sadly, after years of persecution, many Israelis have adopted a siege mentality in which they only look after "their own". Even the definition of "their own" gets narrower and narrower, with each group worrying only about their own constituency.

Those of us who love and care for the State of Israel must be concerned and act. Only if we are prepared to stand up for the "other" will we protect our own moral standing. Only when we step beyond our own communities to engage with those who are different from us will we escape the menacing shadow of racism and discrimination. As the rest of the world marks International Holocaust Day, this is the challenge we face.
Rabbi Gideon Sylvester directs the Rabbis for Human Rights Beit Midrash at the Hillel House of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and serves as the British United Synagogue's Rabbi in Israel.

Thousands of Ethiopian Israelis protest racism in Jerusalem march


By Max Schindler

Thousands of Ethiopian Israelis and their supporters marched through central Jerusalem on Wednesday to call attention to a recent groundswell of racism and discrimination.

Thousands of Israeli Ethiopians and supporters demonstrate Wednesday in Jerusalem (photo: Oren Ziv / Activestills)

Holding picket signs and shouting “a new generation demands change,” the demonstrators joined a wave of protests triggered by a Channel 2 report last week that a group of homeowners in Kiryat Malachi—a Southern town with a large Ethiopian population— signed a pledge to neither rent nor sell to Israelis of Ethiopian origin.

The news sparked outrage in the Ethiopian community and demands by activists for a response from the government.

Mulet Araru, a 26-year-old university student, led the protest after walking for three days from Kiryat Malakhi, some 60 kilometers from Jerusalem. In a hoarse voice, Araru addressed the crowd, declaring, “I have no other land,” infusing his speech with traditional Zionist rhetoric and slogans.

The protestors marched from the Knesset to Independence Park, with a quick stop in front of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s residence in the neighborhood of Rechavia. At the Knesset, opposition MKs Tzipi Livni (Kadima) and Shelly Yachimovich (Labor) addressed the crowd.

The atmosphere seemed tense at times, with activists sprinting towards Netanyahu’s home. Most demonstrators were students of Ethiopian origin, many of high school age.

Thousands of Israeli Ethiopians and supporters demonstrate Wednesday in Jerusalem (photo: Oren Ziv / Activestills)

With differing and sometimes competing protest signs, the crowd spanned the ideological spectrum. Some demonstrators hoisted Israeli flags while others clutched photos of Nelson Mandela and sharply criticized Israel’s treatment of their community.

One Israeli-Ethiopian man held a sign asking “Is there a future for me in this state?” Others carried posters appropriating phrases and symbols from the American civil rights movement and black American figures such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X.

Thousands of Israeli Ethiopians and supporters demonstrate Wednesday in Jerusalem (photo: Oren Ziv / Activestills)

Some 120,000 Jews of Ethiopian origin reside in the country, many of them having arrived in three airlift operations in the 1980s and early 1990s. Many continue to face socioeconomic difficulties, racism and other barriers to social integration – including segregation in schools, and challenges stemming from the Rabbinate’s refusal to recognize the community’s religious leaders.

Max Schindler is a student at Cornell University who is spending the year volunteering on a kibbutz and writing about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Palestinian goes on hunger strike to protest settler violence

According to the Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), Hana Abu Haikel has gone on hunger strike on behalf of her family to protest both settler violence and the Israeli army’s failure to stop settler attacks on Palestinians and their property. CPT reports that the Abu Haikel family has filed 500 complaints against settlers and have received no response from Israeli authorities. 

The Abu Haikel family, next to their car, which was burnt by settlers this weekend (photo: CPT)

Settlers pelted the Abu Haikel’s home in Hebron with stones this weekend and set fire to the family car. It was the eighth car the Abu Haikels have lost to settler violence.

The hunger strike began on Monday, January 16. The family has also decorated their ruined car with Palestinian flags and signs that read, “We are here not to upset, and not to make anyone happy… We are here because we are here…”

The Abu Haikel's car. It is the eighth car they have lost to settler violence. (photo: CPT)

The Abu Haikel family has been confronted with a wide variety of settler harrassment and attacks. Settlers have cut their fence and entered their garden; damaged their home with pipes at night; and have burned their olive trees.

The CPT maintains a presence in Hebron and, among other activities, monitors the Israeli army’s treatment of Palestinians.

Activists resisting home demolitions face ‘IDF Price Tag’ attack


On Monday night, the IDF demolished Palestinian homes closely identified with the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions. Resistance and acts of solidarity will continue, but even resistance cannot keep pace with the massive Price Tag assault that is the Israeli Occupation. 
Salim Shawamreh stands on the ruins of his demolished home (photo: Jeff Halper)

By Jeff Halper

It has become commonplace among violent West Bank settlers to randomly attack Palestinian mosques, homes, olive orchards and individuals in order to send a message to other Israelis. They are called “Price Tag” attacks, after the “signature” the settlers leave scrawled on the walls of the burnt-out buildings. In the dark of night this past Monday, January 23, the IDF carried out its own Price Tag assault on ICAHD, the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions.

At 11:30 p.m. on that cold, rainy night, I got a panicky phone call from Salim Shawamreh, a Palestinian man from the West Bank town of Anata whose home has been demolished by the Israeli authorities four times and rebuilt as an act of resistance each time by ICAHD. “Army bulldozers are approaching my home,” he cried. “Now they’re beginning to demolish it!”

As has become routine, I alerted our activists, plus journalists and foreign diplomats, and we rushed out to Anata. We knew we could not save the homes, but we could resist; stand in solidarity with the families, soaked, with their belongings, in the rain; document what was happening and broadcast this latest war crime to the world. It was another of those thousands of attacks on Palestinians that occur daily but never reach the newspapers – probably because there are so many and they are so routine by now that they are not, in fact, “news.”

By the time we reached Salim’s house – which we rebuilt in 2003 and have called Beit Arabiya ever since, the “house of Arabiya,” home to Salim’s wife and mother of their seven children – it was gone. Salim himself was afraid to go down the hill to see it because of the soldiers, but I ran down. Even in the dark and rain I could see the ruins of the home, and the family’s belongings that had been thrown out. But I couldn’t tarry. The bulldozers had moved up the hill and were in the process of demolishing a Jahalin Bedouin enclave there – part of the Jahalin tribe that was being removed and relocated on top of the Jerusalem garbage dump near Abu Dis.

Our activists were already there, scuffling with the army and trying to reach the bulldozer to hamper its destruction. The soldiers, claiming that this was a “closed military area” but unable to produce any proper military order, attacked the activists physically and verbally. Itay Epshtain, ICAHD’s Co-Director, was hit with a gun and thrown to the ground. All the while, the soldiers cursed at “the anarchists and leftists.” One yelled at Rabbi Arik Aschermann from Rabbis For Human Rights to take of his skullcap because “he was a disgrace to Judaism.” But it was the women who received the most violent verbal abuse, in addition to physical. “May the Arabs here rape you!” one soldier yelled at an activist.

In the end, Beit Arabiya, six Jahalin homes and most of their animal pens were demolished before the army left. The bulldozer, protected by dozens of troops, belonged to a commercial contractor who was paid well for the demolitions by the Civil Administration, Israel’s military government in the West Bank that uses the word “civil” to downplay its military connections, and to make it appear that demolitions of “illegal” Palestinian homes are simply part of “proper administration.”

After staying with the families and promising to rebuild, we finally left to send out press releases; put out information on our website and social media; and begin mobilizing activists abroad and, through them, governments and UN bodies. Only when we returned early in the morning did we learn that yet another house had been demolished: that of the Abu Omar family, a family of 17 people who lived in a home that had been demolished last year, which ICAHD had rebuilt in our 2011 summer rebuilding camp. We had thought the bulldozer and soldiers had left for the Border Police base on the hill opposite Beit Arabiya and the Jahalin, but in fact they had only gone around Anata. At 3:30 a.m. they pounced on the Abu Omar family, forced them out of their home, removed their belongings and demolished it. The family was so dazed by the sudden violence, terror, confusion and need to protect the terrified children that they hadn’t even thought of phoning us.

The IDF attack on three sites that for years have been identified with ICAHD’s resistance activities was clearly an official, government-sponsored, violent Price Tag assault on Palestinians in order to “send a message” to ICAHD. Out of the tens of thousands of demolition orders outstanding in the Occupied Territory, they chose these three. In fact, the “message” had already been delivered. Already at the second demolition of Beit Arabiya in 1999, Micha Yakhin, the Civil Administration official responsible for overseeing the demolitions in that part of the West Bank, told me: “We will demolish every home you rebuild.”

ICAHD has rebuilt 185 demolished Palestinian homes in the past 15 years, all as acts of political resistance – not humanitarian gestures – all funded by donations. We will rebuild the homes demolished Monday night as well. The coming together of Palestinian families and community members, Israeli activists and international peace-makers to rebuild homes is one of the most significant forms of resistance, solidarity and mobilization. But Israel demolished 200 homes last year alone in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, of more than 26,000 Palestinian homes in the Occupied Territory since 1967. Resistance cannot keep pace with the massive Price Tag assault that is the Israeli Occupation.

Jeff Halper is the Director of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD). He can be reached here.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Israeli settlers reject Netanyahu's request to evacuate largest outpost in West Bank

  • Published 01:48 23.01.12
  • Latest update 01:48 23.01.12

PM asks Migron settlers to voluntarily evacuate the outpost and receive support to establish a community on nearby state land in return.

By Barak Ravid and Chaim Levinson 

The ongoing controversy about the evacuation of the Migron outpost hit a new high Sunday, as settlers angrily rejected a compromise proposal offered by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Netanyahu asked the Migron settlers to voluntarily evacuate the outpost and receive in return support to establish a community on nearby state land. The settlers rejected the proposal and demanded that Netanyahu authorize the Migron outpost's settlement by legislation. They threatened that a Migron evacuation would cost Netanyahu his job, because the national religious public will not tolerate a forcible evacuation of the outpost.

migron - Haaretz - August 3 2011 The West Bank outpost of Migron.
Photo by: Haaretz

At Sunday's cabinet session, Netanyahu evinced support for the compromise formula forged by Minister Benny Begin. "The High Court of Justice has ruled that Migron must be evacuated by March 31," said Netanyahu. "The government wants to carry out the court's decision, in a fashion that involves consent and is peaceful."
Netanyahu told cabinet ministers that under the compromise formula, a new Migron will be built on state lands on an "authorized, planned basis." It will not be on private Palestinian land.

"The government calls on Migron residents to agree to this proposed compromise, and thereby allow the government to turn soon to the court and ask for this compromise arrangement to be approved," Netanyahu stated. "This is a good proposal which does not solve all the problems, but is sufficiently substantive and can solve the Migron issue."

Netanyahu's comments came a week ahead of Likud primaries, in which he vies against right-wing hawk Moshe Feiglin. Likud regulars have been pressuring Netanyahu, asking that the Migron evacuation be bypassed. Opponents of a Migron evacuation included Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat and Minister Yuli Edelstein. This ministerial trio, along with a number of Likud MKs, entreat Netanyahu to solve the Migron issue via a legislative move that would retroactively authorize the outpost and essentially appropriate the land from Palestinian owners in exchange for a compensation payment.

The government's compromise proposal was first brought to the settlers by Begin a few weeks ago, as Haaretz reported in early January. Under Begin's proposal, the state would establish a new settlement on state-owned land, on the same mountain whose summit currently holds the Migron outpost. After the new settlement's establishment, Migron residents would receive the land without the issuance of a tender offer, and they would build homes out of their own funds.

The proposal borrows heavily from a 2007 Migron proposal offer, under which the state would have removed the outpost to a nearby area. The settlers eventually rejected this compromise formula.
Sunday, Migron settlers rejected the new compromise formula. They demand that the government engage "a real clarification" of the land's status. They say that the land never belonged to Palestinians, and that they have deeds attesting to their own purchase of some of the land. These claims were rejected in the past by the Civil Administration.

Migron settlers add that should it turn out that the land is owned by a Palestinian individual or group, the way to solve the impasse is to provide compensation payments.

The settlers are dissatisfied with Begin's handling of the issue, saying that he never really engaged in a dialogue with them. Instead, the settlers say, Begin basically delivered the proposal formula as a dictate.

Underscoring this discontent, Avi Roeh, head of the Binyamin regional council, sent a public letter to Netanyahu demanding that Begin be relieved of responsibilities for dealing with the Migron issue.

The Begin compromise has over the past month stirred internal disputes among settlers. Members of the Yesha settler council support the compromise. Settlement activist Ze'ev Hever, who supports the compromise, informed government ministers that some of the Migron residents are prepared to evacuate, and predicated that compromise opponents will eventually relent.

On the other hand, Roeh is leading opposition to the compromise, together with Likud activists on the West Bank. These opponents view the Begin proposal as a slippery slope that could lead to the evacuation of other outposts.

In lieu of the Begin compromise, hard-line right-wing activists support a bill proposed by MK Zevulun Orlev, under which, after four years of residence in an outpost established on private land, settlers would be allowed to remain and compensations would be relayed to the owners. Migron settlers relayed Sunday that "for some time we have been proposing an array of compromise solutions that would avoid the destruction of this community, and the removal of more than 50 families. Out of respect for the law and the judicial system, we call for a real dialogue with the prime minister and his advisers, so as to work out solutions that will be acceptable to jurists and the High Court."

Israel's legal 'abuse' of Arab minority is undemocratic

  • Published 03:38 23.01.12
  • Latest update 03:38 23.01.12

The call for international public opinion to raise its voice completes the struggle of the democratic forces here. This will make it clear to all that the right-wing establishment in Israel has crossed a line in the direction of apartheid.

By Oudeh Basharat

It is difficult to compare the democratic State of Israel to a dark dictatorship. Nevertheless, they have one thing in common: People don't sleep well at night under either regime.

In dictatorships, they fear a revolution on the part of the majority, and in Israeli democracy they do not stop studying the graphs of the birth rate among Arabs, in case the demographic balance is upset.

And there is another commonality: Both groups of the population are oppressed. In a dark dictatorship, the minority oppresses the majority while in Israel, the regime which is supported by an ethnic majority that oppresses the minority. 

For 63 years, Israel has not stopped abusing its perfectly pleasant minority, and all of this is completely legal. Every dunam that has been expropriated was approved in the Knesset, every house that was destroyed was sanctified by a court. Local governments in Arab areas are discriminated against in their budgets on the basis of ministerial procedure. All of this is able to take place because the representatives of the ethnic majority are in control in the Knesset, the government offices, the economic institutions and the legal system.

Thus, and also as a result of the demographic phobia, another chapter was written this month in the attempt to harass the minority. The Citizenship Law prohibits Palestinians from living with their Israeli spouses within Israel proper. So, in the guise of an innocent "regulation," women are separated from their husbands and children from their parents, and their lives are turned into an ongoing nightmare.

In the enlightened world, a regulation of this sort would have been thrown out immediately. In Israel it gets the blessing of the Supreme Court of the ethnic majority. The Supreme Court, which is supposed to be the court of last resort for the downtrodden, has left the Arabs without succor. And the Arabs who have learned from their long years of suffering, say: "If your judges deprive you, then to whom can you complain?"

To whom will the Arab citizens complain when the liberal flank - Yair Lapid, Tzipi Livni and Shelly Yachimovich - do not say a word in the face of this injustice, while the right-wing jumps for joy at the suffering of the Arabs?

Meanwhile, the children want to grow up. They cannot wait until the weather is fair. And with the intoxicating smell of the Arab Spring, another arena for struggle is growing - the international arena, with all its institutions. But a hypocritical cry will issue forth from the majority, as if the Arabs are undermining the country's right to existence. No, the Arabs are merely complaining about the right of the majority to abuse them.

No regime has the right to oppress part of its residents, whether it is a corrupt dictatorship or a blooming democracy. But like an abusive husband who forbids his wife to go to the police because one does not air dirty laundry in public, so Israel would like its Arab citizens to behave. Let the laundry smell inside.

And there are people who hope that the minority will move to another apartment because of the smell. The ones who are invited to move to another apartment are those who are disturbed by the crying of a newborn baby, whether it is Arab or Jewish. An Arab baby that is born is not the product of a conspiracy. An Arab baby, like a Jewish baby, is a blessing.

It is important to note that the expression "ethnic majority" is a rough generalization, since many Jews are courageous partners to the struggle against racism. The call for international public opinion to raise its voice completes the struggle of the democratic forces here. This will make it clear to all that the right-wing establishment in Israel has crossed a line in the direction of apartheid.

When Menachem Begin was prime minister, there were intellectuals who pinned their hopes, in vain, on the American administration restraining him. Like then, we cannot wait for salvation to come from the White House. Only the enlightened public opinion of the world can help. And that is for the benefit of the entire family, including those members who on the face of it are not deprived.

Karl Marx said that a people which oppresses another people cannot be free. This is also for the benefit of the ethnic majority which is entitled once and for all to sleep well, without nightmares about demography, and which is entitled to be a people that is free from abusing Arabs.