In a tweet that was later deleted, the Jewish National Fund says Bedouins in unrecognized villages are “living on someone’s land illegally.” The JNF has been taking part in evacuations of Palestinians in East Jerusalem and in foresting actions aimed at preventing the Bedouin from accessing their lands; last month, a JNF board member resigned, citing “violation of human rights” by the organization
The Fund – originally established to buy lands in the early days of Zionism – is today a quasi-government agency that controls 13 percent of the land in Israel. Since the fund only sells lands to Jews, the government occasionally transfers real estate in disputed areas to the fund, so it can carry out discriminatory policies that the government is forbidden from exercising directly. Such are the cases in East Jerusalem.
In the south, the fund does foresting work on the lands of unrecognized Palestinian villages, aimed at preventing Bedouins from rebuilding their homes. Last week, the Abu al-Qian Bedouin clan protested plans to evacute them from their homes in the Yatir area in order to make room for another JNF forest.
Last Thursday, there was an interesting tweet from the JNF USA office, essentially admitting that the Fund sees the Bedouin citizens of Israel as illegal invaders in their own land:
After several followers re-tweeted this message, the tweet was deleted. A new tweet directed readers to a public statement by the fund, claiming that the Bedouin issue “is too complicated to debate in 140 [characters].”
“The issue” is in fact not that complicated. When Israel was established, it chose not to recognize Bedouin ownership of lands that they cultivated or lived on, making them illegal residents in their own home – even in cases where those settlements predated the state itself. More than 60 years after, the state still tries to evacuate the Bedouin, while refusing to connect them to infrastructure such as electricity and water. Yet in the world of the Jewish National Fund, its not even a disputed territory: All lands belongs to Jews by default, and people – Israeli citizens! – living there are doing so “illegally.”
The Jewish National Fund is knowingly and willingly taking an active role in taking over the lands of indigenous population in different parts of Israel and the occupied territories. Lately, JNF board member Seth Morrison resigned from the organization, calling its evacuations of Palestinians in East Jerusalem a “violation of human rights.”
Rabbis for Human Rights have launched a campaign against the Jewish National Fund’s attempts to take over Palestinian homes and evacuate Bedouins from their lands. You can read more about it here.
A recent comment by the Jewish National Fund makes it clear that previous statements by its US office were lies
The Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF), one of the most respected and well-known institutions in Zionist history, has become involved in a controversy over the attempted evacuation of an East Jerusalem family from its home. After denying its major part in the affair, the JNF has now gone back to threatening legal action against the Sumarin family, unless all family members leave their home in Silwan immediately.
Over the last two decades, Silwan, the biggest Palestinian neighborhood in Jerusalem, has been the target of major colonization efforts by Jewish settlers.
Most people know the JNF because of its tree-planting campaigns. On its site, the JNF invites donors to sponsor a tree in Israel, or plant one on their own. It also takes pride having planted 240 million trees in Israel. Yet the JNF’s primary function is keeping state land exclusively in Jewish hands. The JNF now controls 13 percent of the land in Israel. As a policy, the fund – a non-profit which is run by the Israeli government – markets its land only to Jews.
Now it turns out that the JNF also takes an active part in evacuating Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem, east of the Green Line.
The current affair began in the 1980s, when the original owner of the Sumarin home, Musa Sumarin, passed away. Israel did not recognize the family members living in the house at the time as Musa’s heirs, and instead had the Custodian of Absentee Properties take control over the home. This was and still is the most common practice in the ongoing “legal” campaign to uproot Palestinians from their homes.
The Custodian of Absentee Properties gave the asset, along with other properties in Silwan, to Himnuta, a subsidiary wholly owned by the JNF. Himnuta launched a legal battle alongside the settlers’ organization Elad to remove the Sumarin family from its home.
You can read more about Himnuta and the effort to move the Sumarins here, here and here.
Following the exposure of the story by Haaretz a couple of weeks ago, several organizations started a campaign aimed at stopping the evacuation. Rabbis for Human Rights, Solidarity and Yachad urged activists to write letters to JNF officials, demanding they let the Sumarin family continue living in the house.
Concern over the damage to their image led the JNF’s American office to post this sarcastic message on their site, denying all involvement in the affair:
JNF has been the topic of a recent petition put out by Rabbis for Human Rights. In a world in which everyone is tearing each other apart it would have been nice to show a little civility and menschlichkeit, by handling their concerns in a different way. A phone call or meeting to learn the fact would have been nice.
KKL-JNF leased the land to Elad in the early ‘90’s. The reason for leasing the land was because of the ongoing City of David excavations that began in the aftermath of the ’67 war.
KKL-JNF has no rights, control, or responsibility in this issue at all. This would be as if we leased the land to someone who built a shopping center and one of the storeowners didn’t pay rent to the developer. It is strictly between the Sumarins and Elad, not KKL-JNF. Elad, as the one who has full legal rights over the entire area, has exercised the due process of the legal system of Israel.
Yet as legal documents reveal, the JNF took part in all the proceedings against the Sumarins. In fact, it is the JNF-owned Himnuta that signed the warrant for the evacuation of the Sumarin family. A lawyer for the family told Haaretz that Elad, the settler organization, is not even mentioned in the warrant.
The JNF said that “in 2006, after a legal battle, the court determined that the Sumarin are to evacuate the asset in Silwan. The family refuses to carry out the court’s order and have rebuffed efforts to engage in a dialogue that would resolve the case. Out of the company’s (JNF) responsibility and sensitivity, it was decided that the evacuation would not be carried out right now, and a new attempt for dialogue would take place; if this fails, the company would turn to the legal authorities so that they would carry out the verdict.”
(For some reason, the important sentence at the end of the comment wasn’t translated in Haaretz’s English edition.)
So, what do we have here? (a) JNF Israel lets it be known that JNF America simply lied in its public announcement and (b) JNF Israel makes it clear that if the Sumarins cannot be persuaded to leave their home, they will be kicked out – soon.
So much for the talks about excavations and leasing. The JNF is openly trying to get Palestinians out of their homes, and bring Elad’s settlers in.
The British author visited the Sheikh Jarrah protest – but also intends to receive the Jerusalem Prize for Literature from the patron of the city’s settlers, mayor Nir Barkat
Authors Ian McEwan and David Grossman at the Sheikh Jarrah protest (photo: Solidarity Sheikh Jarrah)
The celebrated British author Ian McEwan joined today the weekly protest in the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, where Palestinian families have been evacuated from their homes to make room for Jewish settlers.
Ironically, McEwan arrived to Israel to receive the Jerusalem Prize for Literature from the hands of the city’s mayor, Nir Barkat. Mayor Barkat is one of the driving forces behind recent attempts to expand Jewish settlements and housing projects into Palestinian East Jerusalem. Currently, he even refuses to carry out an Israeli court order demanding the immediate evacuation of a house in the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan, illegally built by rightwing settlers. Many grassroots activists blame Barkat for the rising tension between Jews and Arabs in the city.
Before flying to Israel, McEwan rejected calls from a group called British Writers in Support of Palestine to turn down the Jerusalem Prize. In his replay he wrote:
“There are ways in which art can have a longer reach than politics […] Your ‘line’ is not the only one. Courtesy obliges you to respect my decision, as I would yours to stay away.”
The protest in Sheikh Jarrah started a year and a half ago, following the evacuation of two Palestinian families from their homes. Since then, more eviction orders have been issued, and construction began for a new housing project for Jews at the site of the old Shepherds Hotel, also in Sheikh Jarrah. Solidarity Sheikh Jarrah, which leads the protest in the neighborhood, has recently organized demonstrations in other parts of the city where Palestinians are threatened by eviction orders and by new municipal plans, among them in Silwan.
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.
Jerusalem’s municipal planning committee ratified today the plan to built 1,600 housing units in Ramat Shlomo neighborhood in the “eastern” part of the city (Ramat Shlomo is actually in north Jerusalem, but still in the part of the city which Israel occupied and unilaterally annexed in 1967).
Three months ago, the initial decision on the project caused a major crisis between Washington and Jerusalem. According to a report in Haaretz, the committee approved today the protocol of the meeting that dealt with Ramat Shlomo. This is a procedural act, which will enable the city council to move the project to its next stage.
Committee member Yair Gabay told Haaretz that Prime Minister Netanyahu prevented the protocol from being ratified on the committee’s last meeting, due to the visit of U.S. special envoy George Mitchell.
“Each Friday, there are at least 10 demonstrations involving Israelis and internationals in the West Bank,” tells me Didi Remez, as we drive to Nabi Saleh, the tiny village that has been fighting for months to regain access to a small spring that was taken over by settlers from nearby Halamish. Dozens of Israelis come to these protests, not counting the hundreds who arrive each Friday to Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem.
Not much is going on when we arrive at Nabi Saleh. As we wait for the protesters to gather, we are offered lunch and cold water in a local house. Around 1.00 pm we join a small march down the village’s main street. Suddenly, three army jeeps appear and block the street, and about a dozen soldiers come out. About 25 protesters, most of them children and young girls, go all the way down to the soldiers, singing and shouting, accompanied by the photographers and the internationals. This goes on for about half an hour.
Then someone throws a stone. The soldiers respond with tear gas, lots of it. Together with a few other Israelis, I find shelter behind a local house. The wind carried the gas into the house and the old woman who lived there is now seating outside, tears running down her face. She signals me not to try and wash my face and instead just wait for the effect of the gas to fade.
The soldiers are chasing protesters into the village. Some of them occupy one of the houses, while the others fire tear gas from the street. Some of the nearby houses fill with gas, as their windows are broken from previous demonstrations. The Palestinians move to the upper part of the village, while the Israelis and internationals – who don’t take part in the stone throwing – are looking for safe corners, trying to avoid both the gas and the (very few) flying stones. Every now and then, the wind carries another cloud of gas towards our way.
The soldiers are shooting the gas cans directly at the protesters, and not in an arch, like I remember we were taught to do it in the army (you can see this in a these videos from a previous demonstration). Later, a Palestinian is injured after suffering a direct hit in his face.
After a couple of hours, we decide to leave the village (though the protest will go on almost till dusk). On the way back to the car, I see several boys, around the age of ten, falling to the ground, gasping for air after inhaling too much gas. Their faces are red and one of them is hardly breathing, but in a few minutes he recovers and rejoins the protesters.
A woman whose house was hit by tear gas (p: Didi Remez)
By the time we get to Jerusalem, the protest on Shikh Jarrah is already on its way. The turnout is the best I’ve seen here: between 300 to 400 people. Without PR or money for busing, and after no less 30 protesters were arrested last week – somehow, it seemed that the protest is just getting bigger and bigger.
As Lisa Goldman notes, after Nabi Saleh, Jerusalem seems like a peaceful afternoon get-together. But for me it’s just as important, and I feel more at home here. Supporting the protest in the West Bank villages is crucial, but I find it emotionally hard to bear. After the last time I took part in it, it took me a full month to mount the strength to come again. To have soldiers point guns at me and fire tear gas is not only scary, but extremely strange. There is something in this experience that shakes my world. After all, I’m still an Israeli, and a reserve captain in the IDF for that matter!
I don’t take part in the stone throwing, but I definitely understand it and support the villagers in their struggle. Yet today in Nabi Saleh I asked myself from time to time what happens if the demonstration becomes more violent. What would I do – or feel – if a Molotov Cocktail is thrown?
I don’t have a good answer.
The protests in Jerusalem don’t carry such ideological and emotional problems. Ironically, the political message here is much more radical, since many Israelis who think we have nothing to do in Bilin or Nabi Saleh won’t like the idea of handing Sheikh Jarrah to the Palestinians, but the difference between the two events is unmistakable. Shikh Jarrah is an Israeli demonstration (with some Palestinians present); in the West Bank’s villages it’s the Palestinians who lead the action, and we are just guests. I find it fitting. I don’t expect many Israelis to come to Nabi Saleh to protest, but I do hope many will continue to take part in the demonstrations in Jerusalem, and that many others would join them.
Driving back from Jerusalem, this time with my mother, I was a bit encouraged. Recently, I’ve come to realize that Fridays in Sheikh Jarrah don’t feel like any other leftist event I’ve been to – and I had my share of them. Over the years, we had much bigger demonstrations, on much bigger issues – but something feels more real here, something even feels better. As if for the first time in years we are really doing exactly the right thing, and for the right reasons.
Protesters in Sheikh Jarrah
I forgot my camera today, so excuse the crappy photos taken on my phone. When I get better ones from one of the photographers who were with us, I will post them.
UPDATE: read Amitai Sandy’s account of the day’s protest in village of Maasra on comment #2.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote a response to a post on Jewlicious.com which dealt with the renovations of the Hurva synagogue in Jerusalem’s old city. This was a unilateral move by Israel, which brought some protest from the Palestinian side, and I’ve used this opportunity to criticize Israeli policies in the occupied parts of the city.
Last week, the author of the original post, which uses the nick “TheMiddle”, posted his reply. It’s worth reading, also because TM sums up pretty well the “pragmatic” Israeli view of city and its future: a unified capitol now, which will probably be divided later.
TM objects to expelling Palestinians from their houses (on the condition that they settled there before 1967), but supports Israel’s actions in the Old City and on the nearby neighborhood of Silwan. Though he doesn’t say it in so many words, I conclude that he also supports the construction of new neighborhoods for Jews on the eastern (occupied) parts of the city. I gather this from article 9 in his post, where he states that building houses for Jews on purchased land is OK.
I’d like to use this post to argue that Jerusalem is not a unified city, that its Arab residents are discriminated both de-facto and de-jure, that Israel is doing almost everything in its power to colonize the city and to push Palestinians out of it, and that from a legal perspective, there is not such a big difference between building in the Old City of Jerusalem to having Jews enter houses in Sheikh Jerrah (which TM opposes). The international community is right in not recognizing Israeli control over the so-called unified city.
If one wants to understand the nature of Israeli occupation, its pseudo-legal system and all its absurdities, all you have to do is look closely at what’s going on in Jerusalem.
The Israeli government decided to annex the eastern parts of the Jerusalem two weeks after the Six Days war, on June 26 1967. Seven years ago, Haaretz published some parts of this cabinet meeting’s protocol. The ministers took great effort to portray this as an administrative order, and to avoid public attention as much as they could. They even contacted the Israeli Censor involved for this purpose.
After the war, the government also formed a secret administrative unit called Igum who was in charge of purchasing land from Arab citizens of Jerusalem and turning it over to Jews. This unit was also involved in “encouraging” Arabs to leave the city. Israel also took immediate unilateral moves to evacuate the Jewish part of the Old City from its Arab residents. Luckily, an offer by IDF chief Rabbi to blow up the mosques on Temple Mountain was rejected.
There are two very important issues that must be understood and considered when discussing Jerusalem:
1. Israel annexed in East Jerusalem an area more than 10 times bigger than the original Jordanian city – 71,000 dunams (71 sq. km.) as opposed to 6,000 dunams of Jordanian Jerusalem (see map above). This area includes 28 Palestinian towns and villages which were never part of historic Jerusalem. Since than, more than one third of the annexed land was confiscated by the state and used for the construction of Jewish neighborhoods. They house now around 250,000 Jews. Israel also confiscated land to build its government offices in the east side of town, including in the controversial Sheikh Jerrah neighborhood.
2. When Israel annexed East Jerusalem and the towns and villages surrounding it, it gave Palestinians living there a status of “residents” and not citizens. This is a major point. Residents cannot vote in the general elections, they are not issued Israeli Passports; they cannot buy apartments or houses on state land (which makes most of the land in Israel and almost all the land in Jerusalem). If they leave Jerusalem for more than 7 years they lose their residency permit, and are left without any civil status; and because of the new citizenship order, they cannot live in East Jerusalem with partners who are not residents as well. If a Jerusalem Palestinian marries a woman from nearby Ramallah or Bethlehem, he can’t bring his wife to live at his home. Read the rest of this entry »
Jerusalem – about 200 people took part in the weekly protest against the Jewish colonization of Sheikh Jerrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem. Among them were chairmen of NIF Naomi Hazan, former Knesset speaker Avrum Burg and author David Grossman.
During the protest, several activists, among them Grossman, marched near the area of the four houses already occupied by settlers. Four protesters were arrested. Throughout the rest of the demonstration activists occasionally tried to break into the closed area and were pushed back, somewhat violently, by police and border police forces.
There have been numerous arrests of protesters in recent weeks in Sheikh Jerrah. Two weeks ago the police arrested one of the protest organizers on Friday evening at his home. He was later released without charges, after the police failed to present any evidence against him. In a different incident the head of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Hagai El-Ad, was also arrested, only to be released without charges as well.
I just ran across this post on Jewlicious.com site, which demonstrates so much of what is so absurd about the Israeli policy in East Jerusalem. It also teaches something about the people defending these policies.
The article deals with a Synagogue in occupied old Jerusalem and how Jews finally managed to reconstruct it in spite of Palestinian protest. The anonymous author praises the synagogue as “a symbol of return for the Jewish people to Jerusalem”.
Read the core of his argument:
The Hurva Synagogue has been rebuilt in the Old City of Jerusalem. The Old City is part of what is meant by “east Jerusalem” when people claim it belongs to the Palestinians. The Old City was all of Jerusalem until the mid-1800s and it had a Jewish majority at the time. As the population grew and Zionists from Europe funded growth of other neighborhoods, Jerusalem expanded beyond the Old City. However, a Jewish population remained there until 1948, when, in Israel’s War of Independence all of the Jews were evicted by the Jordanians and their allies, the local Arab forces (nee, Palestinians). In that war, Jordan, with its British trained forces, conquered east Jerusalem as well as the area west of the Jordan River which they promptly renamed “West Bank.”
When signing a cease fire agreement with Israel, the Jordanians refused to consider the cease fire lines as borders. Indeed, those borders have never been drawn and in a complex dance, when peace was signed with Jordan, the question of the “West Bank” was still incomplete because in 1988 the Jordanians renounced all rights to the territory. When people demand that Israel go back to 1967 lines, what they mean is that Israel should return to 1949 armistice lines. The problem with those lines, however, is that the Old City, with its Jewish Quarter and the Temple Mount and its Western Wall are on the non-Israel side because they fell into Jordanian hands.
Rebuilding the Hurva Synagogue is a symbol of return for the Jewish people to Jerusalem.
Now, this is the same logic that the supporters of the Jewish settlements in Sheikh Jerrah and Silwan follow: that this land belonged to Jews before 1948, and that by building there unilaterally and ignoring all Palestinian claims, Jews are not colonizing the land, but rather returning to it.
But this is actually the worst arguments Israelis can raise! If it’s in someone’s interest to recognize ownership of land according to the situation prior to 1948, it’s obviously the Palestinians. Palestinians have legitimate claims to houses and land inside Israel, most of them well documented by the British and the Ottomanians. Some families even hold the keys to the houses they abandoned (and in many cases, expelled from) in 1948. And If Israel was to return to the 1947 partition lines rather than the armistice lines, it would actually lose much more land that it would gain. This is the reason Israel’s first condition is to base all negotiations on the situation in 1949, not 1947.
In their typical rush to defend everything Israel is doing, the Jewish hipsters of Jewlicious are actually backing the most radical Palestinian claim – the one for a full right of return. Read the rest of this entry »
JERUSALEM – Around 300 people gathered in an unusually cold and rainy afternoon today for the weekly protest in Sheikh Jarrah, the Arab neighborhood in Jerusalem which is the recent target of Jewish colonization. Four Arab families in Sheikh Jarrah have been already evicted to the street with settlers moving to their homes. This week it was announced that 20 more housing unites for Jews are about to be built at the site of the old Shepherds Hotel in the neighborhood.
The attempts to colonize the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem are backed by the city mayor, Nir Barkat, and by the Israeli government. Earlier this week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused president Obama’s demand to halt construction in East Jerusalem until the city’s final statues is decided.
It is important to note that while Israelis are claiming that both Jews and Arabs can live anywhere they like in the so-called unified city, Jerusalem’s Arabs are in fact forbidden from buying houses in most Jewish neighborhoods of the city, due to legal matters concerning their statues is residents, rather than citizens of Israel. You can read a full explanation for this here, and see an extremely well-prepared Sky interviewer pushing Mayor Barkat on this issue in this video:
Among the protesters today were MK Dov Khenin of left wing party Hadash, former Knesset speaker Avrum Burg, and author David Grossman. “[Political] reality has changed dramatically after Netanyahu’s meeting with Obama,” Grossman told Ynet today. “Obama has done at last what he and the US should have done a long time ago.” Read the rest of this entry »