Why Nazi Germany references are banned on this blog

Posted: January 12th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: racism, this is personal | Tags: , , | 6 Comments »

I have made up my mind to ban all Holocaust and/or Nazi Germany references on comments to my posts, for the following reasons:

1.    Israel is not Nazi Germany. It’s not even close. I find the current political trends troubling, even dangerous, but this country is not engaged in a systematic, full-scale genocide, and since 1948, it hasn’t committed mass deportations. There are better ways to say that the Palestinians deserve justice.

2.    Some argue that Israel has one or several laws that were introduced by the Nazis too. Even if that’s the case, so what? The same could be said on many laws, in many countries. Nazi Germany is the symbol of the ultimate historical evil because of the death camps and the industrialized genocide, and nothing else. It’s even not because of the concentration camps themselves, since those weren’t unique to Germany (the USSR had them, and so did the US), and surly not because of racist policy alone. Many countries had racist policies at one stage or the other. Saying that a racist law immediately turns a country into the equivalent of Nazi Germany is like saying universal health-care makes a country Nazi – a claim so stupid no sane person would even think of.

3.    Saying someone is Nazi means he represents the ultimate evil – something that shouldn’t be negotiated or compromised with, but only fought. If you think Israel should be wiped of the map, not just the country but its people themselves, you won’t find support on this blog (If you think the political structure which makes Israel what it is should be change, or that the country should become a bi-national or a multi-cultural one, you are welcomed to express your ideas here – but leave the WWII references out).

4.    My grandfather was a Holocaust survivor, and maybe because of that, I simply find these analogies offending. I rather not read them on my own blog.

5.    Adding WWII references to your argument sounds like a good way to get attention, but it’s actually counter-productive. More often than not, people start debating Nazism (usually revealing very poor historical knowledge) and the real issue you wanted to discuss is forgotten. I want debates here to be focused and on-topic, and I want them to deal with real issues, not propaganda.

This policy will apply for both sides. I will not allow such references to Israelis and Jews, but I will also delete all comments comparing Palestinians, Arabs or Muslims to the Nazis, or calling Leftwing activists Kapos, as some readers have.

The myth of “Good Israel” vs. “Bad Israel”

Posted: January 8th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: racism, The Left, The Right, The Settlements | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Some thoughts following Jeffrey Goldberg’s public doubts regarding the Israeli commitment to democratic values

“What If Israel Ceases to Be a Democracy?” asked the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg a couple of weeks ago. “Am I being apocalyptic? Yes. Am I exaggerating the depth of the problem? I certainly hope so,” he added.

Well, This week Goldberg got his answer from the Knesset: no, you are not exaggerating. As Roi Maor and Yossi Gurvits write, the decision to form a special committee which will look into the activities of human rights organizations is one big step away from the limited democracy Israel used to be. Where does it all lead? I honestly don’t know.

But I wanted to discuss something else. Reading his post, what struck me most was the way Goldberg analyzed the causes for the current political trends in Israel:

I will admit here that my assumption has usually been that Israelis, when they finally realize the choice before them (many have already, of course, but many more haven’t, it seems), will choose democracy, and somehow extract themselves from the management of the lives of West Bank Palestinians. But I’ve had a couple of conversations this week with people, in Jerusalem and out of Jerusalem, that suggest to me that democracy is something less than a religious value for wide swaths of Israeli Jewish society. I’m speaking here of four groups, each ascendant to varying degrees: The haredim, the ultra-Orthodox Jews, whose community continues to grow at a rapid clip; the working-class religious Sephardim — Jews from Arab countries, mainly — whose interests are represented in the Knesset by the obscurantist rabbis of the Shas Party; the settler movement, which still seems to get whatever it needs in order to grow; and the million or so recent immigrants from Russia, who support, in distressing numbers, the Putin-like Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s foreign minister and leader of the “Israel is Our Home” party.

This is a return to the old “good Israel” vs. “Bad Israel” theory. According to this idea, there are the peace-loving, democratic and liberal Israeli Jews, who represent the “real” values on which the country was born, and there are the “bad”, Sephardic Jews, Ultra-orthodox and Russian immigrants, who are to blame for all the current hiccups what was a model democracy until not that long ago. Goldberg is actually angry with them for taking away “his” Israel. I think he represents many in saying that

the Israel that I see today is not the Israel I was introduced to more than twenty years ago. The rise to power of the four groups I mentioned above has changed, in some very serious ways (which I will write about later) the nature and character of the Jewish state.

Let’s not deal with what some see as latent racism in these assumptions (I don’t think this is the case with Goldberg), and talk politics instead. First, Shas, is actually weaker than at any point since the mid nineties. The party is going through an internal crisis (some say it will split once its spiritual leader, Ovadia Yosef, passes away). The other Orthodox party, United Torah Judaism, has five seats – roughly the same number it always had. As for Avigdor Lieberman, the conventional wisdom is that only 60-something percent of his votes were from Russian immigrants and the rest came from ordinary middle class Jews. Pollsters claim that those middle class voters are the reason for Lieberman’s rise in the last elections (and probably, in the next ones).

We are left with Goldberg’s favorite target, the settlers. Contrary to the common belief, the settlers are also weaker than ever: the National Religious Party, which used to represent their interests, split into two, and the only real hard-core, rightwing party (The National Unity) has only four Knesset seats and was left out of the government by Netanyahu.

So, If the settlers and the orthodox might be so weak– or at least, not stronger than ever – how come we end up with the most racist, rightwing Knesset in the country’s history?

The answer is as simple as it is unpleasant: it’s Israel’s “good guys” that turned bad – and maybe they weren’t that good in the first place. The Israeli middle class, the good ole’ boys, are the ones supporting the racist bills in the Knesset and the anti-democratic initiatives. In other words, we always had Rabbis like Shmuel Eliyahu and members of Knesset like Kahane’s student Michael Ben-Ari. The difference is that now, we have Kadima and Likud backing them.

Just like the settlements couldn’t have been built without the active support and participation of the Israeli center-left (including Labor party, which started the whole thing back in the 70′s), the current torrent of racist bills couldn’t have come without the help of Kadima, Labor and Likud members. And with all the ridiculous, xenophobic and undemocratic ideas they came up with, their public can’t get enough. When it comes to questions of human rights and democracy, there is no coalition and opposition in the Knesset: Almost everyone is on the same side.

Israel has always been a place that favored Jews over non-Jews. It was always a country that confiscated and colonized Arab land, on both sides of the 67′ borders. In the past, it was easier to avoid those issues, but today, faced with a choice between democracy and the “Jewishness” of the state, it’s clear what almost all Israelis – and not just the Russians and the Hassidic – prefer.

By now, any reasonable person can understand that the “good guys” won’t save the day. It’s more likely that they will vote again for Lieberman or Kadima – two parties that actually get along quite well ( some Kadima Knesset Members even joined the coalition on the shameful vote this week). Dennis Ross and others can spend another decade in efforts to create the political environment that would allow the peace camp in Israel to take the lead again – without real outside pressure, it simply won’t happen. With the exception of Rabin’s government, this country was led by conservative politicians, all of them but one from the Likud, since 1986. And people still don’t get it: Israel wasn’t hijacked by the right. It was there all along.

New racist rabbinical letter warns against dating Arabs

Posted: December 30th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, racism, The Right | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments »

Poll finds half of the Jewish public in Israel supporting the ruling against renting homes to Arabs

As if the Rabbis’ edict against renting homes to Arabs wasn’t enough, a new letter, made public yesterday, has some 30 well-known wives of Orthodox Rabbis warning Jewish girls against dating Arabs or even working with them.

Ynet reports:

The letter stated that “there are quite a few Arab workers who use Hebrew names. Yusuf becomes Yossi, Samir becomes Sami and Abed becomes Ami. They seek your proximity, try to appeal to you and give you all the attention you could ask for, they actually know how be polite and act making you believe they really care…but their behavior is only temporary.

“As soon as they have in you in their grasp, in their village, under their complete control – everything becomes different. Your life will never be the same, and the attention you sought will be replaced with curses, physical abuse and humiliation.”

The letter further stated, “Your grandmothers never dreamed that one of their decedents would, by one act, remove future generations from the Jewish people. For you, for future generations, and so that you will never have to endure the terrible suffering, we appeal to you, begging, pleading, praying: Don’t date them, don’t work where they work and don’t perform National Service with them.”

One of the names on the letter is that of Nitzhia Yosef, the wife of Rabbi Yaakov Yosef and daughter-in-law of Shas’ spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.

The notion that Arabs change their names in order to seduce Jewish girls is not new. It was a common talking point by the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, the ultra-right leader and founder of JDL who was kicked out of the Knesset for his racist platform. At the time, Supreme Court Justice Meir Shamgar wrote that the actions of Kahane remind us “the worst persecutions in Jewish history” (as Ariana Melamed noted, Hitler made similar accusations in chapter 11 of Mein Kampf: “With satanic joy in his face, the black-haired Jewish youth lurks in wait for the unsuspecting girl whom he defiles with his blood, thus stealing her from her people.”)

Rabbi Kahane was expelled for public life back in the eighties, and Israel today is a very different place. A recent poll by the Harry S. Truman institute in the Hebrew university had 44 percent of the Jewish population in Israel supporting the Rabbis letter that forbid renting homes to Arabs (the wives’ letter was published after the poll was conducted). As I reported last year, the municipality of Petah Tirva, a Tel Aviv suburb, even formed a special unit that would “locate and help girls that date Arabs.

Last year, residents of a Jewish neighborhood found the following flyer in their mailbox. It reads: “This Arab, which works at the Zil Ve-Zol grocery store in Romema [Jerusalem] is dangerous for the daughters of Israel, he violates Jewish girls!!!”

At the time, some people have seen this as an isolated incident. Today, it’s clear that racism against the Arab minority became a political norm.

As Yossi Gurvitz wrote, many in the Israeli leadership, including PM Netanyahu himself, made their political fortune on incitement and hate-talk. It’s very unlikely that they will take action against the Rabbis’ wives, just as they didn’t take action against their husbands – most of them civil servants, making their living of taxpayer money. The grim news is that Israel doesn’t have a leader that would send the National Guard to Little Rock or the FBI to Mississippi. Instead, we have our KKK high priests serving at our synagogues, and our George Wallaces at the Knesset.

The rabbis’ racist letter: many words, little action

Posted: December 16th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, racism, The Right | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

While public figures in Israel condemned the latest rabbinical Fatwa against renting homes to Arabs, little to no action was taken against its authors. Also, some secular Jewish communities are introducing their own version of the racist letter

Almost two weeks passed since dozens of Israeli rabbis – most of them civil servants, working for Israeli municipalities –signed a letter forbidding renting homes to Arabs. During this period, strong condemnations for the letter were heard from public figures, but little action was taken against the rabbis themselves.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke against the letter, and so did Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud) and President Shimon Peres. Two very important religious figures – the Ashkenazi leader Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv and Rabbi Ovadia Yosef of Shas – condemned the letter. As a result, at least three of the signing Rabbis withdrew their names from it.

Several Jewish research institutes, most of them left-leaning, published an ad on Haaretz against the letter. Many rabbis and 900 hundreds former Yeshiva students signed public letters opposing the racist nature of the rabbis’ ruling. The Israeli Bar Association issued a condemning statement.

These were positive developments that proved that there are still many Israelis that would stand up against racism and hate. We shouldn’t ignore their voice or downplay its importance.

Another encouraging sign was the response the rabbis’ letter got from the American Jewish community. Some 500 rabbis signed a public petition - issued by the New Israel Fund – condemning the letter. This initiative got good media coverage in Israel, including a half-page article on yesterday’s Yedioth Ahronoth.

The problem is that so far, no concrete action was taken against the rabbis who signed the letter (with the exception of the Government Attorney that, under some public pressure, ordered his office to examine whether the rabbis violated a law forbidding racist incitement). With no official action, the nature of the letter remains in the sphere of the legitimate public debate – something that’s similar to discussing the pros and cons of rape.

When public officials announce that renting apartments to Arab citizens is forbidden – and that Jewish communities should outcast those renting homes to Arabs – action is the only solution. It’s not the time for political calculations. In such a moment, real leadership sends the Civil Guard to escort and protect the members of the minority under threat.

So far, Israeli leaders – including Labor party, which insists on staying in this government – fail this test.

The danger of inaction is clear: it makes racism a legitimate political choice (adopted by most of the Jewish public, according to a recent poll). Already, someone opened a hotline for Jews who want to report people who rent Apartments to Arabs (I encourage readers to jam it with made-up information; the number is 0522258183). The result: hundreds more rabbis have added their names to the letter, and there are even reports on a “soft” version of the letter - one which will enable more to sign it.

What’s even worse is that you could also hear voices in the center saying things along the lines of “I don’t support the letter, but…”. Such claim is made in a bizarre op-ed on Haaretz today by Ruth Gavizon, the former head of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel who turned into a neo-Zionist. While condemning the racist tones of the rabbis’ letter, Gavizon frames it within “a legitimate debate” over the notion of separate communities:

It would be a mistake to have the public response take the form of indicting or firing the rabbis, separating religion and state or denying the legitimacy of the state’s Jewish character. Ranting and raving could prevent us from seeing the picture in all its complexity and from confronting the authority of the rabbis in this country, both as regards the content and “Jewish” morality of their positions and as regards the residential dwelling patterns of different communities here.

The controversy over desirable living patterns for Jews and Arabs and the use of the law to obtain them is not dictated by religion. Some advocate “color blindness” as the only normative approach to civil equality, on the assumption that this leads to greater integration. Some advocate complete segregation. And some, like me, prefer more diverse social arrangements that would provide different communities with various living options, based on their level of integration and inner cohesiveness.

Gavison is not alone. Just today, Haaretz reported that another Jewish community in the north is working on a charter that would forbid Arabs from joining it. The “separate communities” idea is the upper-class, secular, version of the rabbis’ letter.

50 Israeli Rabbis issue ruling forbidding renting of homes to Arabs

Posted: December 7th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, racism, The Right, The Settlements, the US and us, war | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments »

Rabbis signing the public letter are state employees; so far, not one of them was prosecuted or fired

The Israeli media is reporting this morning that some 50 rabbis have signed a declaration calling for Jews not to let Arabs hire apartments in their communities. The Rabbis expressed support for Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu of Safed, who was the first to issue such ruling.

The rabbis’ declaration states that anyone renting his apartment to an Arab is doing harm – both in the eyes of god and for his fellow men. The Rabbis state that it is not allowed to have Arabs hire apartments in Jewish communities outside Israel as well. The Letter urges Jews to boycott anyone renting apartments to Arabs.

From Haaretz (my bold):

The rabbis’ letter, which was first published months ago and reprinted in October, urges Jewish owners of apartments to reconsider renting their properties to Arabs since it would deflate the value of their homes as well as those in the neighborhood.

“Their way of life is different than that of Jews,” the letter stated. “Among [the gentiles] are those who are bitter and hateful toward us and who meddle into our lives to the point where they are a danger.”

The rabbis also urge neighbors of anyone renting or selling property to Arabs to caution that person. After delivering the warning, the neighbor is then encouraged to issue notices to the general public and inform the community.

“The neighbors and acquaintances [of a Jew who sells or rents to an Arab] must distance themselves from the Jew, refrain from doing business with him, deny him the right to read from the Torah, and similarly [ostracize] him until he goes back on this harmful deed,” the letter reads.

Like Rabbi Eliyahu of Safed, the Rabbis signing the letter are serving as “local rabbis” (rabbis in charge of the religious services provided by their municipality), meaning they are state employees that receive their salary from taxpayer money. Among the signers of the letter were rabbis from Rishon Letzion, Ramat Hasharon, Hertzlia Kfar Sava and Hulon (all of them suburbs of Tel Aviv), Jerusalem, and other towns and settlements.

This is more than a racist statement. This is a racist policy, carried out by members of the municipal bureaucracy in Israel. It’s being done in public, and so far – with not one of these rabbis having to pay a price for their actions. Dealing with this issue becomes a test for Israeli society and for the Israeli government.

UPDATES: MK Ilan Gilon (Meretz) and MK Ahmed Tibi (Ra’am-Ta’al) calling to fire, prosecute racist Rabbis. But who will be the first coalition member to speak?

UPDATE II: The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) issued this statement following the Rabbis’ rulling:

“Rabbis who are civil servants have an obligation to the entire public, including Israel’s Arab citizens. It is unthinkable that they would use their public status to promote racism and incitement. Human rights day will be marked around the world this Friday and it should serve as a reminder to all our leaders of their responsibility to the citizens of the State and their obligation to take action against racism and similar worrying trends”.

In November, ACRI intervened before Justice Minister Yaakov Ne’eman, urging him to remove Zafed Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu from his public post, following his racist remarks against Arabs and his support of a campaign calling on Zafed residents not to rent out apartments to Arab students.

The organization is preparing a similar intervention against the above case.

UPDATE III: PM Netanyahu also condemned the Rabbis’ ruling, saying it was racist and offending. Yet one could expect of the head of the executive authority to do something – not just speak.

Israeli security forces practice dealing with “riots following population exchange”, mass detentions of Israeli-Palestinians

Posted: October 8th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, racism | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

IBA Radio is reporting that Israel’s security forces ended Thursday a large national drill, in which the civil defense forces, police, military police, fire department and Israel’s prisons unit trained for large scale riots in the Israeli-Arab public, following a signing of a peace agreement that would include “population exchange” (transfer of Arab population to the Palestinian state).

According to Kol Israel’s report, in such an event, a large detention camp for Palestinian citizens would be constructed in Golani Junction, at Israel’s north, and all illegal aliens would be released from prisons to make room for Palestinians.

Two weeks ago, Israel’s foreign minister was criticizing for presenting his plan for population exchange in a speech at the United Nation General Assembly. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later claimed that FM Avigdor Lieberman didn’t represent Israeli government policy in his speech.


On one hand, I think we should not turn this into a conspiracy item. The fact that the security forces are training doesn’t mean that Israeli leaders have such a plan or that they have a secret deal for population exchange with the Palestinian Authority.

On the other hand, this report does teach us a lot about the way Israel views its Palestinian citizens: while Israeli leaders praise Israeli democracy and claim that Palestinians are equal citizens (within the Green Line borders), policy makers view Arabs first and foremost as a security threat, and as people whose citizenship might be revoked at any given moment.

Some might argue that security forces must train for every scenario, even one that is not very likely to happen, so we shouldn’t deduct much from this item.

Well, how about training for widespread demonstrations and terror attacks following the evacuation of settlements? This is something that can actually take place, but no one would ever consider preparing for mass detentions of settlers right now. The political consequences of even contemplating such idea in public would be disastrous, as they should be.

Arab citizens should be treated with the same respect.

Kol Israel (Israeli public radio) is retorting that Israel’s internal security forces ended Thursday a large national drill, in which the civil defense forces, police, military police, fire department and Israel’s prisons unit trained for large scale riots in the Israeli-Arab public, following a signing of a peace agreement that would include “population exchange” (transfer of Arab population to the Palestinian state).

According to Kol Israel’s report, in such an event, a large detention camp for Palestinian citizens will be constructed in Golani Junction, at Israel’s north, and all illegal aliens will be released from prisons to make room for Palestinians.

Two weeks ago, Israel’s foreign minister was criticizing for presenting his plan for population exchange in a speech at the United Nation General Assembly. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later claimed that Lieberman didn’t represent government policy in his speech.

Still, I think we should not turn this into a conspiracy item. The fact that the security forces are training doesn’t mean that Israeli leaders have such a plan or that they have a secret deal for population exchange with the Palesinian Authority.

On the other hand, this report does teach us a lot about the way Israel views its Palestinian citizens: while Israeli leaders are praising Israeli democracy and claiming that Palestinians are equal citizens (within the Green Line borders), policy makers view Arabs first and foremost as a security threat, and as people whose citizenship might be revoked at any given moment.

Some might argue that security forces must train for every scenario, even one that is not very likely to happen, so we shouldn’t deduct much from this item.

Well, how about training for widespread demonstrations and terror attacks following the evacuation of settlements? This is something that can actually take place, but no one would ever consider preparing for mass detentions of settlers right now. The political consequences of even contemplating such idea in public would be disastrous, as they should be.

Arab citizens should be treated with the same respect.

Video proves: Israeli guard lied about shooting that led to East Jerusalem riots

Posted: September 28th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, racism, The Settlements | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off

New evidence embarrasses Jerusalem’s police, already under fire for having a heavy pro-settler bias

New video, aired on Israeli channel 2, might indicate that the version of the Israeli security guard for the killing which led to Silwan (East Jerusalem) riots last weekend was false.

The protest in East Jerusalem lasted three days and resulted in the death of a Palestinian baby. The demonstrations started after a private security guard for one of the settlements opened fire on Palestinians in Silwan (an East Jerusalem neighborhood, located next to the old city).

The guard later told the police he drove into a Palestinian ambush at 4 am in the morning. The protesters blocked his way, and his jeep wouldn’t start. Fearing for his life, he claimed to have been forced to open fire. Samer Sarhan, father of five, died from the shooting.

The Jerusalem police accepted the guard’s story, released him on the same day and issued a statement supporting him.

But new evidence from a local security camera might indicate that the guard could have drove away from the scene immediately, without opening fire.

Here is Channel Two’s report, with English subtitles (source: Wadi Hilweh Information Center):

This absurd act of rebellion: why did we publicly violate the law (interview with Klil Zisapel)

Posted: September 8th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, racism, The Left | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Poet Klil Zisapel was one of twelve Israeli women that took a group of Palestinian women and children on a fun outing to Tel Aviv, knowingly violating the Entry into Israel Act. In an interview to Promised Land Blog Klil explains her own reasons for taking part in this initiative, and shares some of the experiences of that special day

An unusual ad appeared in the Haaretz daily a month or so ago: it held the story of twelve Israeli women about how they took a group of Palestinian women and children on a fun outing in Tel Aviv; by doing so they intentionally violated Israel’s entry laws and, like their Palestinian travel-mates, taking on the risk of long-term imprisonment. Since the nineties, the Palestinian population is denied permission to leave the West Bank without special authorization from Israel’s military – and such permits are only given to a select few.

“We crossed the checkpoint with them [the Palestinian women] and knowingly violated the Entry into Israel Act. We are hereby declaring this fact publicly… we do not recognize the legitimacy of the Entry Into Israel Act, which permits every Israeli and every Jew to move freely throughout most of the land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River and denies that right to the Palestinian, whose land this is, as well,” said the ad which they published in Haaretz. Following the publication, a right-wing organization filed a complaint with the police, demanding that the ad signatories be prosecuted. The penalty set forth by law for the crime of moving from the Palestinian Authority into Israel any person who does not have a legal pass to be there is up to two years of imprisonment.

Poet Klil Zisapel was one of the Israeli women who took part in organizing the Israeli-Palestinian trip to Tel Aviv. She talks here about the motivation behind the public flouting of the law, the decisions about where to travel, and the shared experiences of that day.

Q: Why did you decide to flout the Entry into Israel Act openly?

Klil Zisapel: “I suppose that this idea comes into being in every one of the Israelis who travels to and from the Occupied Territories and who has any kind of personal relationship with Palestinians. A personal relationship brings into consciousness the absurdity of the situation and makes it impossible to forget the terrible strictures imposed on the population which is living on its own land, in areas that are under Israeli occupation. A real relationship with anyone, beyond the wall and on the other side of the checkpoints, suddenly focuses in the life of an Israeli Jew like me the enormous price that tens of thousands of innocent people on the other side are made to pay.

“It is a daily price, a wicket and strangulatory one – it cannot be described only in words, or at least it cannot be grasped through the enumeration of the prohibitions and restriction in their own right. Relationships with Palestinians make present the terrible things done in our name, as Israelis, and the constant presence of these pangs from our conscience arouses the need to rise up and cross boundaries.

“The initiative itself started with a similar action which Ilana (Hammerman) reported in an article in Haaretz, born of her relationship with a Palestinian family. This was neither the first nor the only case, but in most other cases, violation of the Entry into Israel Act was done for medical or other urgent reasons. However, there were other cases where Ilana drove people who did not have passes in her car, for purposes similar to the ones in the article.

“After a complaint was filed with the police about Ilana, I told her that I would really like to do that sort of thing, too, but my Palestinian friends were afraid – and from their perspective, this may have been justified. The prior and dangerous experience of a young man in sneaking into Israel and moving around its back yards, attempting to make a living, does not leave him space to put himself into danger for spiritual ‘luxuries’, despite the desire to see the Mediterranean or Acca or Ramle, or the curiosity to peek at the tall buildings in Tel Aviv or to visit my home.

“The other women who signed the ad also contacted Ilana, each in her own time and in her own way. It was finally proposed that a joint, multi-person trip be organized, one which could rail against the filing of the complaint, evoke a greater public resonance, and encourage other people to join this kind of initiative. The goal was to make the opening of [criminal] proceedings against us, if such a thing would indeed happen, more comprehensive – and thereby, all the more spurious.

“It is important to note that all of the other Israeli women are or were active in various contexts. Most of them, like Ilana, have already found themselves violating the Entry into Israel Act or one of the other laws of the occupation, through relationships that they had formed with Palestinians. Thus, the public and symbolic action also had significance for the Israel women involved, because it implies and enfolds within it the prior, personal, private civil disobedience that each of us had committed.”

Q: How did the relationship with the Palestinian women who took part in the trip come into being?

KZ: “I cannot answer that question, due to concerns about exposing organizers on the other side. The sanctions that could be imposed on them due to illegal stays inside Israel could be most grave, especially due to the defiant and provocative nature of this action.

“I can only say that people who wanted to come were indeed found. One of the women even told Ilana and Ofra (Yeshua-Lyth) on the last meeting that a million Palestinian women already want to come with us for a trip into Israel. Of course, that is an exaggeration, but we want to believe that this statement expresses the enthusiasm on the other side.

“In a preliminary meeting we talked about options. I thought – and also said – that it would be best to violate the Family Unification Act, which is in fact a law against family unification, and its declared goals are demographic. In other word, cross the checkpoints into the country, with the women and the children, to Acca or to Baka Al Gharbia or wherever, to meet a grandmother or other relatives that they had not seen for years or perhaps ever. There was agreement that it was a good idea, but that organizing such an operation would be complex and take a long time, so that will be next time, inshallah.”

Q: How did you decide where to go?

KZ: “A preliminary meeting was held with the Palestinian women and indeed, there was deliberation about the destinations. Jerusalem, and in particular, the Al Aqsa Mosque, were the preferred destination for them. I’m afraid to say that this was taken off the agenda, because we feared for their safety: there is dense police action in Jerusalem, and many cases of requiring and examining identification papers – especially for Arabs, in an intentional search for people traveling without a permit. The situation is different in Tel Aviv.

“We continued deliberating this until almost the very last moment, and eventually some of the women (depending on the car they were in) visited one place or another and the others did not. But for all of them, the focal meeting was at lunch, in a Jaffa restaurant overlooking the sea, and then we spent many hours on the Ajami beach. On the way back, the women looked at Al Aqsa from Mount Scopus.”

Q: Some would say that the Palestinians have more pressing issues than the need for having a fun day in Tel Aviv.

KZ: “Of course there are countless requirements of the population that lives under occupation, all of which are urgent. However, I think there is a point to choosing such a day of fun. It seems to me that few of the Israelis would say that they object to such a trip in and of itself, if it were not against the law, and that the law was meant to ban entry to people intent on committing attacks. But the truth is that the border is not hermetically sealed. There are many people among us who do not have valid passes, but most residents of Israel, including members of my own family, do not imagine this nor do they think about it. These Palestinians do not cause any damage to Israel or to the Israelis, but they are never openly supported by the construction contractors or restaurant-owners that employ them. If they are caught, they are entirely on their own. Unfortunately, some employers seem to see an advantage in having employees with no rights, without the ability to complain or even to demand their fair wage, if they were deprived of it.

“The great risk which the Palestinian women assumed, and the (small) risk which we assumed are in direct contrast of the daily reality of the pores and holes in the separation policy. I would like to be able to hope that in our unusual and somewhat pointless action can shed light on the absurdity of the Entry into Israel Act. It may be able to provide a peephole into the mass that is blocked and imprisoned beyond the wall and the checkpoints: women, children, and elderly people, none of whom can visit their family members or their holy places or their places of birth. And also, the sea, for those who are moved by it. That day, one elderly woman shed quiet tears when she saw the sea.”

Q: Please tell us more about the day you spent together.

KZ: “The experience itself was really most exciting, and throughout that day I found myself feeling a variety of surprising feelings. For example, about clothing. We were driving down Nordau Avenue in Tel Aviv, a 26-year-old Palestinian woman, her four-year-old daughter, Ilana, and myself – and as we got relatively close to the beach and could see people walking toward it I could see that the girl was laughing, and the mother was laughing with her a bit, but trying to choke down the laughter and silence her. When I looked out the window I saw men of all ages wearing only shorts and beach flip-flops, and nothing else, and women of all ages in the very shortest of dresses – and I suddenly understood that this scene seemed to them (and suddenly, to me, too) ridiculous, embarrassing, and unnecessary. I asked them if she was laughing because everything was so short, so bare (talking with our hands helped, too, and after all, I was also wearing a sleeveless shirt, although my pants came down beyond my knees). The mother, who did not want to offend us, admitted with some embarrassment that it was indeed so, and she was relieved when we laughed together. It was no less hot in their village, but everyone there was covered in such a way that was not disturbing or eye-catching. To tell you the truth, in contrast to what I could suddenly see through their eyes in Tel Aviv, it was a more pleasant sight.

“And on the other hand, one of the women wore makeup. One of the girls really liked the light scarf I brought to cover my shoulders, so I left it for her, to her obvious delight; for other women we bought straw hats, because they loved the hats worn by Israeli women. This is feminine communication which is somewhat silly but is also intimate, and linked us with the women. I have learned not to dismiss this communication, although it could of course be sparse and impoverish communication if that is as far as it goes.

“Here is another example: when we got to Tel Aviv, seeing the huge buildings which stand to such great heights, the four-year-old girl who was in the car with me told her mother that when she gets back, she will ask her father to build a tall building for her, too, in their village. When Ilana translated the girl’s response to me I laughed and asked Ilana: ‘oh no, are we doing a good or a bad thing here?’

“And there was also intimacy which is simply human, which comes into being unexpectedly in the course of such a day. That sort of thing happened when one of the Palestinian young women feared for her unborn baby, whose movements she had not felt since the morning. When finally, in the late afternoon, she told Michal Pundak about it, Michal called a friend of hers, a doctor, and got advice from him: she should lie on her left side and have some chocolate. After long and scary minutes, the baby kicked. The moments of joint concern, the cheers of relief when things fell into place – these formed a deep and enduring bond between Michal and that woman.”

This interview, originally written in Hebrew, was translated to English by Dena Shunra.

UPDATE: Yossi Sarid has picked Ilana Hammerman as his woman of the year.

12 Israeli women publicly defy army orders, take Palestinians for a day trip in Tel Aviv

Posted: August 7th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, racism, The Left | Tags: , , , , , | 10 Comments »

Until the Oslo years, Palestinians enjoyed freedom of movement throughout Israel. But since the mid 90′s, only those with special permits from the IDF can cross the Greed Line west – to work, for a visit of friends or family members, or for medical treatment.

The blockade policy has become much harder on Palestinians since the separation barrier was constructed. Very few travel permits are issued, and as a result, many young Palestinians never leave their home town and the surrounding villages. In fact, many never left the territories in their life, and the only Israelis they ever met were either settlers or soldiers.

This ad was published yesterday (Friday) in Haaretz (English translation below):

haaretz ad


Women in the footsteps of Ilana Hammerman: not obeying illegal and immoral laws

On Friday, July 23rd, a dozen Jewish women, a dozen Palestinian women, one baby, and three Palestinian children took a trip from the West Bank in six private cars. We crossed several checkpoints, drove to Israel’s coastal plain, and toured Tel-Aviv and Jaffa together. We ate in a restaurant, swam in the sea, and played on the beach. We ended our day in Jerusalem. Most of our Palestinian guests had never seen the sea. Most had not, in their entire lives, prayed at their sacred places: they looked upon them longingly from the heights of Mount Scopus.

None of our guests had an entry permit from the Israeli authorities. We are announcing here publicly that we deliberately violated the Law of Entry into Israel. We did this in the footsteps of Ilana Hammerman, after the state lodged a complaint against her with the Israeli police. She had written an article published in Haaretz on May 7th reporting on a similar excursion.

We cannot assent to the legality of the “Entry into Israel Law”, which allows every Israeli and every Jew to move freely in all regions between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River while depriving Palestinians of this same right. They are not permitted free movement within the occupied territories nor are they allowed to enter the towns and cities across the green line, where their families, nation, and traditions are deeply rooted.

They and we, all ordinary citizens, took this step with a clear and resolute mind. In this way we were privileged to experience one of the most beautiful and moving days of our lives, to meet and befriend our brave Palestinian neighbors, and together with them, to be free women, if only for one day.

We did not go with “terrorists” or enemies, but with human beings. The authorities separate us from these women with fences and roadblocks, laws and regulations, often claimed to protect our safety. In fact, the barriers are only designed to perpetuate mutual enmity and the control of Palestinian land seized illegally in contravention of international laws and the values of justice and humanity.

It is not we who are violating the law: the State of Israel has been violating it for decades. It is not we—women with a democratic conscience—who have transgressed: the State of Israel is transgressing, spinning us all into the void.

Henry David Thoreau, in his famous essay “Civil Disobedience” (1845) wrote:
“…when a sixth of the population of a nation which has undertaken to be the refuge of liberty are slaves, and a whole country is unjustly overrun and conquered by a foreign army, and subjected to military law, I think that it is not too soon for honest men to rebel and revolutionize. What makes this duty the more urgent is the fact that the country so overrun is not our own, but ours is the invading army.”

Listen to these words, see how aptly they describe our situation here and now —and do as we have done.

Signed (in alphabetical order): Annelien Kisch, Ramat Hasharon; Daphne Banai, Tel Aviv; Esti Tsal, Jaffa; Ilana Hammerman, Jerusalem; Irit Gal, Jerusalem; Klil Zisapel, Tel Aviv; Michal Pundak Sagie, Herzlia; Nitza Aminov, Jerusalem; Ofra Yeshua-Lyth, Tel Aviv; Roni Eilat, Kfar Sava; Ronit Marian-Kadishay, Ramat Hasharon; Ruti Kantor, Tel Aviv

Arrested for stealing water, on the hottest week of the year

Posted: August 4th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: racism, The Settlements | Tags: , , , | 8 Comments »

Fadel Jaber arrested for "stealing water"

Yesterday, my friend Joseph Dana and I went for a visit in the Palestinian village of Sussia, on South Mt. Hebron. For some years now, Joseph and other activists of Taayush have been helping the local community in the area, which suffers from frequent harassments of the local settlers.

It was a very hot day – the last weeks have been the hottest we knew this year – and a local Palestinian farmer told us of his water problem. Israel has constructed water pipes in the area, but they only serve the army and the settlers. The Palestinians are forced to drive to the closest town, and buy their water in tanks over there. They end up paying 10 times the price I pay in Tel Aviv. And the farmers in South mount Hebron are the poorest of the Palestinian population. They live in tents, some even in caves. They used to have water holes in which they stored rain waters, but access to their fields and to many of the holes in them is denied by the army and the settlers.

With no other option, some farmers were forced to use unauthorized connections to the Israeli water system, running just a few meters from their tents. The Israeli media is calling this “stealing water”. As settler from the area complained to Ynet‘s reporter:

“we don’t have water in the morning. Children want to wash their faces before they go to school, and the faucets are empty. Even a cup of coffee becomes a rare commodity”

When I got back home from South Mt. Hebron, I saw this footage, of a Palestinian farmer named Fadel Jaber, arrested for stealing water.

Read also what the New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof saw in his recent visit to south Mt. Hebron.

UPDATE: Spokesperson for the border police told Haaretz [Hebrew] that Jaber and another man were arrested for attacking and disturbing the work of the policemen and soldiers that were dealing with the water theft. The spokesperson added that “the [behavior of] the 5 years old son was planned and staged by the Palestinians. Instead of acting responsibly and taking the kid out of the scene, they chose to engage in cheap anti-Israeli propaganda.”


Maybe this remark is in poor taste, but watching the heartbreaking cries of Fadel’s son, I couldn’t help remembering the famous ending minutes Bicycle Thief, Vittorio De Sica’s classic film. Watch here from min 5:30, after the desperate father is caught stealing the bicycle.