The story behind the images of the crying boy

Posted: August 16th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments »

Haaretz’s Gidon Levy brings the Jaberi family’s account of the events that led to the images showing Khaled Jabari, aged 4, trying to prevent his father from being taken away by the army. Israel accused the Palestinians of “staging” the scene

Khaled jabari trying to prevent his father from getting arrested

Last week I posted here the now famous clip of Khaled Jabari, a Palestinian child, desperately trying to prevent Israeli border police soldiers from arresting his Father, Fadel Jabari, on charge of water theft.

A few days later, Haaretz’s Gidon Levy met with the Jabari family and heard their account of the arrest [Hebrew]. As it turned, the soldiers actually came for Fadel’s father, 65 years old Badran Jabari, who used a local settlement’s water pipe to water his vegetables field.

As I explained in my previous post, water is a major issue in the region of South Hebron, where the Jabari family lives. The Israeli authorities construct pipes mostly for the use of the settlers, and the Palestinian Authority has limited control in the region, so it can’t build its own system.

As it turned, the pipe Badran Jabari used was a joint Israeli-Palestinian one, and according to his account, he actually had an authorization from the Palestinian Authority to connect to the water system. The IDF Civil Administration, however, did not authorize the use of the pipe, which was supposed to serve a local settlement only.

It will be wrong to understand this story in the terms of relations between a local municipality and a farmer – a perception that might lead us to believe that while the Jabari family might have suffered some injustice, ultimately, they simply stole the water. The IDF is the sole authority in the West Bank, and it gives very little attention to the Palestinians’ daily problems. The Jabaris, and many like them, have no other options. Stories like the one which happened at their field take place all the time around Hebron; the only difference this time was the presence of a crying boy and a cameraman at the scene.

This is from Gidon Levy’s report of the arrest (my translation):

Last Sunday the Jabaris went to visit the family’s grandfather, Badran Jaberi. Palestine, Khaled’s mother is a teacher. Fadel, his father, is a peddler of clothes and curtains. The couple has three small children. Khaled [the boy seen in the clip], aged four and two months, is the older. Grandfather Badran, Palestine’s mother, was a professor of sociology and active member in the Pupolar Front for the Liberation of Palestine. He spent 12 years in Israeli prison, nine of them without trial, until he became a farmer. Israel has never allowed him to leave the West Bank.

Badran, aged 65, has 11 acres east of Kiryat Arba – a vegetables garden and a vineyard. The family of his youngest daughter, who lives in the north of Hebron, went there last week to spend a few days of the summer vacation. On the first day of their visit, Khaled joined his grandfather and together they went to work in the field where the zucchini, tomatoes and cucumbers are grown. A dog the child adopted accompanied them. Grandpa is calling Khaled by his nicknames: Jabber and Abbud. The family remained awake till late, eating, drinking and playing together.

Badran talks about what happened in good Hebrew, which he learned at Damascus University in 1965.

The next day, around six in the morning, the grandfather woke up to the sound of military vehicles approaching the house. He says it was a convoy of 20 vehicles: trucks, jeeps and bulldozers, border police forces, Police, Civil Administration and IDF. An entire army has raided his fields.

He went outside to ask what this was all about, but the policemen ordered him to return home immediately. He asked to speak with the officer in charge, but an officer told him the Civil Administration’s infrastructure officer has not arrived yet. “This is my field, what are you doing here? Rome will burn before Nero arrives,” he answered the policemen and soldiers, though it is doubtful if they knew what he was talking about. Badran had already experienced such raids: the affair regarding him tapping into the water network that crosses his fields has been going on for a long time, and included many such raids by the Civil Administration, which upholds the law only when Palestinians are concerned.

The noise made the grandmother come out as well. She was pushed by the soldiers and fell on the ground. They [the soldiers and policemen] began to dismantle the plumbing and to load the pipes on the truck. In doing so, they tore the plastic sheets and hurt the crops. Badran says that whenever he tried to speak with the officer in charge, they pushed him and cursed him: “Go home, old bastard.” To his daughter, Wissam, they referred as “a slut.”

Badran was handcuffed, while the action continued. Meanwhile, the younger son Wadee woke up. Badran says he told his son to get back to the house, but one of the officers ordered: “The SOB has boys, arrest the son.”

Wadee entered the house and run away from the back door, chased by the border police soldiers. “We were afraid for the child,” says Badran. Later, Wadee was caught [picture below] and his father tried to rescue him from the soldiers (Badran says his son was beaten). Then woke the eldest son, Fadel, little Khaled’s father. He went outside barefoot, wearing only his pajamas, and was beaten as well.

Badran says his son was knocked down three or four times. “We tried to talk to the officer, but it did not help. He just said [to the soldiers]: ‘arrest all those disturbing you. The old man too.’” Badran says he tried to calm his sons. He remembered how in a previous raid on his fields, on July 6, soldiers threw stun grenades and fired rubber coated bullets.

“After that, they took my child, Fadel, and Khaled woke up and tried to rescue his father,” Badran continues. “The boy was barefoot, he wept and shouted and fell several times between the legs of soldiers and the policemen. Khaled tried to defend his father and his uncle Wadee. ‘I want my father,’ he cried. When they took Fadel to the Jeep I told them: ‘Arrest me as well. What shall we live from? You took everything.’ I couldn’t take it any more. I sat and wept and told the border police officer: ‘You are harder than the stones here. You have no heart; you have no brain, look at what you are doing. You took everything’”.

A Palestinian photographer working for Reuters captured the events and passed the images on.

Fadel and Wadee were taken to the Kiryat Arba police station. Their father immediately sent a lawyer to the station, but he wasn’t allowed to meet them. The police told the father that they were taken to the Etzion detention facility. At Etzion he was told that Fadel remained there and that Wadee was taken to Ofer facility, near Ramallah. Last Thursday the two brothers were detained for six more days, in which they will be charged with assaulting five soldiers.

The border police spokesperson told Haaretz that “during enforcement action against water thieves in the southern Hebron hills, the police and army force was attacked with stones. Two people involved in the riot were arrested. During the arrest, as can be seen in the photos, the family chose to make a cynical use of a child, which was staged and directed [by them]. Instead of acting responsibly and removing the child from the scene, they chose to engage in cheap Anti-Israeli propaganda, deliberately aimed at presenting us in a negative way in the world.”

wadee Jabari arrested by border police soldiers near Hebron

Regarding the context of the affair, Levy writes:

In 1995 a water pipeline was constructed through the fields of Badran from the town Banni Na’im to the settlement of Tkoa. Badran asked the Israeli water company to connect him the pipeline passing through his field (…) and was referred to the municipality of Banni Na’im. Badran claims he received a permit from the municipality to connect to the water line. After a few days the army came and confiscated the plumbing. Badran turned to the Palestinian Water Authority in Ramallah, where they gave him and three of his neighbors a permit to connect to the water line.

After a month, the Israeli Civil Administration came back, deemed the connection illegal, and confiscated the pipes [for the first time]. Badran says that a Civil Administration officer once told him: “I do not want to see something green on your fields. I want to see everything yellow.”

Fadel and Wadee Jabari are still in Israeli prison, awaiting trial.


Ashton Kutcher visits occupied Hebron and Nablus as Israeli guest, wearing an army hat?!

Posted: August 9th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Settlements, the US and us | Tags: , , , , , , , | 31 Comments »

Actor Ashton Kutcher, another one of Hollywood’s Kabbalah casualties, had come to visit Israel as a guest of the Kabbalah Center in Tel Aviv. On Saturday night Kutcher even partied in the birthday party of the Center’s founder, Rabbi Shraga Berg.

Yesterday, Kutcher took his spiritual trip one step too far: he went with his Israeli hosts to visit the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron and the so-called “Joshua’s Grave” in a Palestinian village called Kafel-Hareth, near Nablus. At the grave, he was greeted by Colonel Avi Gil, commander of the Ephraim Brigade, who presented him with the brigade’s baseball hat.

The Ephraim Brigade is in charge of the Palestinian cities of Tul Karem and Kalkiliah, and the area east of them.

In the picture below, published on the Israeli news site walla.co.il [Hebrew], you can see Kutcher wearing the brigade’s hat yesterday evening, during a basketball game of the Israeli national team in Tel Aviv (more pics here). The caption at the bottom of the article says that Kutcher is “looking looks like an overly enthusiastic Birthright kid“.

Ashton kutcher with army hat (photo: berni ardov/walla.co.il)

Ashton Kutcher with army hat (photo: berni ardov/walla.co.il)

I wonder if Ashton Kutcher knows what poor judgment he demonstrated yesterday. Both Nablus and Hebron are well within the occupied territories. For more than 40 years now, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians living in these cities have no political or civil rights, can’t travel, work or study freely, and are tried in Israeli military courts under British colonial laws. The area of the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron is particularly nasty. Entire streets are forbidden to Palestinians, kept only for the use of a tiny and radical settlers’ community, which frequently harass and abuse the Arab residents.

Did anyone tell Ashton Kutcher that in 1994 a Jewish Terrorist named Baruch Goldstien (another resident of Jewish Hebron) opened fire on the Arabs praying there, killing 29 and wounding more than a hundred? Does Kutcher understand that coming to Hebron to pray with the Jewish community there is like riding into a black neighborhood in Alabama, 1950, with a KKK group? Does he realize that going to Nablus with an army hat is seen in the same way as going there on a Tank?

I don’t oppose the right of Jews to pray anywhere, just as I think Arabs should have this right (most of the Palestinian population is forbidden from entering their holy sites in Jerusalem), but context is everything, and right now the context in the West Bank is that of the occupation and the settlements.

If Ashton Kutcher wanted so badly to visit these holy places, he should have done it as a guest of the Palestinians. I’m sure they would have been happy to host him. But then he might have faced a different problem: the Israeli tendency to prevent foreigners from entering the occupied territories on the Palestinian’s invitation.

UPDATE: on Monday, Kutcher had another visit to the West bank, this time as a guest of the settlers themselves.


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.”

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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.



The New York Times visits South Mount Hebron

Posted: July 1st, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: racism, The Settlements, this is personal | Tags: , , , , | 9 Comments »

If all opinion makers visited the hills South of Hebron – like NYT’s Nicholas Kristof just did – the occupation would end in a few months.

Hebron city, with a community of extreme settlers in its heart, is bad enough, but South Mount Hebron is even worse. The Palestinians there are as poor as you can find in the West Bank, many of them leaving in caves, and the settlers – many of them from the so-called ‘illigal outposts’ – are as violent as they come. In recent years, the army started escorting the Palestinian kids on their long march to school, because the settlers threw stones at them. You can see it on this video:

10 years ago I did a one month reserve service in South Mount Hebron. Even then, before the second Intifada, the army handed these so called “illegal” settlements all the protection and help they needed in their effort to push the Palestinians out of the area. Soldiers escorted Jewish farmers when they herd their sheep on the tiny Palestinian fields; when fights or riots broke the Jews always went unpunished, while Palestinians were harassed, arrested and sometimes deported to Hebron city. Since then, the settlements grew and the situation of the Palestinians deteriorated.

I served in most areas in the West Bank and Gaza, and the settlers I talked to in South Hebron were by far the most racists I’ve ever met. Some of them were from the US and South Africa; many held an image of a biblical fight between Jewish and Palestinians shepherds, while others saw this as the new Wild West. One head of a family suggested I leave my gun at the base and treat the Palestinians with a whip. “You’ll gain more respect this way,” he said. Most Israelis will resent such statements, and the hills’ settlers have a very bad public image, yet what matter in South Mount Hebron is that the entire system is on the settlers side.

When we finished our term in the area, I told my CO that I would not serve in the occupied territory anymore (as readers of the blog know, I broke this promise last year).

As for the Time’s Nicolas Kristof, his visit to South Hebron lead him to a conclusion that is not often heard on American MSM (my Italic):

The Israeli occupation of the West Bank is widely acknowledged to be unsustainable and costly to the country’s image. But one more blunt truth must be acknowledged: the occupation is morally repugnant.

On one side of a barbed-wire fence here in the southern Hebron hills is the Bedouin village of Umm al-Kheir, where Palestinians live in ramshackle tents and huts. They aren’t allowed to connect to the electrical grid, and Israel won’t permit them to build homes, barns for their animals or even toilets. When the villagers build permanent structures, the Israeli authorities come and demolish them, according to villagers and Israeli human rights organizations.

On the other side of the barbed wire is the Jewish settlement of Karmel, a lovely green oasis that looks like an American suburb. It has lush gardens, kids riding bikes and air-conditioned homes. It also has a gleaming, electrified poultry barn that it runs as a business.

Elad Orian, an Israeli human rights activist, nodded toward the poultry barn and noted: “Those chickens get more electricity and water than all the Palestinians around here.”

It’s fair to acknowledge that there are double standards in the Middle East, with particular scrutiny on Israeli abuses. After all, the biggest theft of Arab land in the Middle East has nothing to do with Palestinians: It is Morocco’s robbery of the resource-rich Western Sahara from the people who live there.

None of that changes the ugly truth that our ally, Israel, is using American military support to maintain an occupation that is both oppressive and unjust.

You can read regular reports on the situation in South Hebron on Jeseph Dana’s blog.


Smoke grenade thrown at Tel Aviv peace rally, well known activist attacked

Posted: June 5th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Left, The Right | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Political tension in Israel grows, as Left and Right protesters clash

Uri avneri (left), befor he was attacked by rightwing people today in Tel Aviv

Former MK and peace activist Uri avneri (left), befor he was attacked by rightwing people today in Tel Aviv

Between 7,000 and 15,000 people (depending on who you ask) marched this evening in Tel Aviv to mark 43 years of occupation and to protest Israeli government policy. Following recent events, the demonstration, which was scheduled weeks in advance, turned into a protest against the attack on the Gaza flotilla.

While the march itself was relaxed for most parts, a few dozens of right-wing people held a counter-protest, and several of them tried to break into the Left’s rally. During the speech of a Hadash representative, a smoke grenade was thrown (There are conflicting reports as to who threw the grenade – the right or the left protesters). Later, Uri Avneri, the 87 years old former MK and peace activist, was attacked. Ynet reports that Avneri was rescued from the area in a car, with police escort. Right-wing activists also clashed with coffee shop goers in Tel aviv and shouted insults at locals.

Here is a video of the moment the smoke grenade was thrown into the crowd. it was taken by a friend who was standing next to me. You can see the speaker cuts his speech and join the crown in calls “no to fascism”.

Earlier this week, Israeli right-wing protesters threw stones and a smoke grenade at the Turkish Embassy in Tel Aviv. Later, a Turkish memorial site in Beer Sheva was vandalized, and the Turkish flag at the place burned.

More Flotilla news:

The Turkish autopsy of the nine victims of the IDF raid revealed that they were shot a total of 30 times. 19 years old Furkan Dogan, the American casualty, was shot four times in the head and one in the chest, all at close range.

IDF admits editing an audio tape of radio communication with the Mavi Marmara released earlier this week.

Finally, here is a video from Friday’s demo in Bil’in: IDF soldiers are attacking a model of the Mavi Marmara. Surreal.


Israel | 43 years of occupation

Posted: June 4th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Left, The Settlements, the US and us | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

Flotilla dominating the protest as Palestinians and Israelis mark 43 years of Israeli control over the West Bank and Gaza. Plus, one clip Israel wants the world to see, and one it doesn’t

Palestinians and Israelis marked today 43 years of occupation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The main rally today was near road 443, the Jerusalem-bound highway which goes through the West Bank and only a few Palestinians are allowed to travel on. Protesters wore T-shirts supporting the Gaza flotilla; the army used tear gas against them.

I was in Nebi Saleh, where the army arrested Ben Gurion University  professor of Chemistry Eyal Nir (pictures below), and shot tear gas at protesters. Nir was taken into an army jeep for insulting a soldier.

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The Palestinians of Nebi Saleh try to regain access to a tiny pond that was taken over by settlers from the nearby Halamish settlement. As usual, the weekly demonstration started with a march toward the pond, which was stopped on the village’s main street by the Army. Then came some stone-throwing by several of the Palestinians, to which the soldiers responded with tear gas.

One thing that is worth noting is that the soldiers in Nabi Saleh fire the tear gas directly at the protesters (as can be seen here), and not in an arch, like army orders’ demand. Earlier this week, in a small demonstration against the raid on the Mavi Marmara, an American named Emily Henochowicz was hit in her eye from such a shot.

Here is a video of Emily being shot. I don’t often post such graphic images, but this week the IDF used every clip they could put their hands on to portray the soldiers who took over the Mavi Marmara as victims, so I think we need to put some things in perspective (shooting at 1:10 min. h/t: The Lede).

Later in the afternoon some 300 Israelis gathered in Sheikh Jarrah for the weekly protest. A coalition of leftwing organizations is planning an anti-occupation march tomorrow in Tel Aviv, and there are rumors that rightwing activist will try to confront it.

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Flotilla news:

●    It seems that the Rachel Corrie will be coming after all. Israel is warning that it “does not want to board the ship.” UPDATE: Israeli soldiers have boarded and taken over the Rachel Corrie today around noon, with no physical confrontation involved. The soldier led the ship to the Israeli port of Ashdod. Netanyhu: “This shows the difference between a Peace flotilla and that of Islamic radicals.” [Hebrew]

●    This bizarre “satiric” video was sent to all foreign correspondent by no other than Government Press Office head Daniel Seaman. After a few minutes came another e-mail, claiming the video was sent “due to a misunderstanding”, and that “contents of the video in no way represent the official policy of either the GPO or of the State of Israel”

It’s not the first time Seaman is trying to crack these kind of jokes. As the flotilla was heading to Israel, he sent an E-mail to all foreign correspondents offering them recommendations on Gaza’s restaurants [Hebrew].

●    British Rock group Klaxons canceled its planned performance in Tel Aviv, and so did Gorillaz Sound System. The gig’s organizers promised tickets holders a refund. Read the rest of this entry »


Flotilla | news round-up: Israel to partly lift siege?

Posted: June 3rd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

During the night: Israelis burning Turkish flags, vandalizing Turkish memorial site.

Is Israel ready to partly lift the Gaza siege? Earlier tonight Benjamin Netanyahu indicated that Israel will be willing to allow non-military goods into the strip, after inspection. At the same time, officials said that Israel would not allow the Rachel Corrie arrive at Gaza, and the ship will be led to the port of Ashdod, if necessary by force.

Right now, Israel is not letting most civilian items, including most food items and construction material, into or from Gaza. If a policy change will happen, it will be a tremendous victory for the organizers of the flotilla, after they had their first achievement when Egypt opened the Rafah crossing at the south of the strip.

UPDATE: There are reports the Rachel Corrie is turning back, and will not try to reach Gaza.

Casualties: Furkan Dogan, 19 years old, was the American who died on the Mavi Marmara. Reports in Turkey indicate that the NY born Furkan was shot four times in his head and one in the chest, all at close range. Here is the full casualties list. It doesn’t tell us much, but judging from their ages and family status, most of them don’t seem to fit the Shaheed profile (for a different opinion on this issue, see comments).

Nationalistic mood in Israel: Around 1,000 Israelis demonstrated in front of the Turkish embassy in Tel Aviv (after the rally I saw some of them marching and singing football fans’ nationalistic songs on Ben-Yehuda Street). Protesters burned a Turkish flag, threw stones and even one smoke grenade at the embassy. Three of them were arrested. UPDATE: it seems that many of the protesters were fans of Beitar Jerusalem football team, know for there racism and nationalism.

Update II: Israelis sprayed pro-IDF slogans and tried to burn the Turkish flag in a Turkish memorial site in the town of Beer Sheva (Hebrew report and picture here).

Interior Minister Eli Yishy is asking to revoke not only the immunity but also Israeli citizenship (!) from Knesset Member Hanin Zoabi (Balad) who was on board the Mavi Marmara. In a letter to the government attorney, Yishay has accused Zoabi with treason. Yesterday Knesset Members tried to prevent from MK Zoabi from speaking at the Israeli parliament; 12 of them – an all-time record – were expelled by the speaker during the heated debate (video).

Palestinians and Israelis will mark tomorrow (Friday) 43 years of Occupation in protests and rallies in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. A march is planned for Saturday night in Tel Aviv (I’ll be going to some of the events, so I probably won’t be blogging until the evening).

Check this out also:

- Israeli soldier who killed six of passengers might receive medal of honor [link in Hebrew].

-    IDF Retracts claims about flotilla’s Al Qaeda links.

-    Former US Ambassador Edward Peck: “I was deported for having violated Israeli law. And I said to the gentleman, “What law have I violated?” He said, “You have illegally entered Israel.” I said, “Well, now, wait. Our ship was taken over by armed commandos. I was brought here at gunpoint against my will, and you call that illegally entering Israel? You and I went to different law schools, guy.” (video here)

- The Mavi Marmara’s passengers’ accounts tell a different story from Israel’s, including claims that Israeli soldiers fired live bullets from the air on the people in the upper deck. As Israel confiscated all recorded material, these accusations cannot be confirmed nor denied right now.

-    Daniel Luban has an interesting article in Tablet, a middle-of-the-road Jewish magazine, on the nature of the debate regarding Israel in the American Jewish community, and how it avoids moral and political issues.


Jerusalem day | remember the words of Mayor Kollek: Arabs are second and third class citizens here

Posted: May 13th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: The Right, The Settlements, the US and us | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Jews on "heritage tour" in Shikh Jerrah

Yesterday Israel marked “Jerusalem Day”. Established by the government in 1968, this was supposed to become a national holiday, celebrating out return to the most sacred city for Jews and the unification of the Israeli capital. But Jerusalem is anything but unified, and Jerusalem Day is a partisan rightwing celebration, marked through provocative “heritage tours” by ultra-nationalists groups in the Arab neighborhoods, and met with indifference with the rest of the public.

Though Jerusalem’s Mayor Nir Barkat, government officials and Jewish bloggers continue to speak of a united city were all citizens are equal, the truth is that Arabs in Jerusalem are not citizens not equal, and most none religious Jews who adore Jerusalem and celebrate its holiday live on the other side of the Atlantic.

While PM Netnayhu chose to carry a hard line political speech at Merkaz Harav” Yeshiva – the birthplace of the settler movement – It was Likud’s Knesset speaker Rubi Rivlin, of all people, who told it like it is, acknowledging that Jerusalem’s Arabs are greatly discriminated, and that the oaths to the “eternal capitol” are no more than empty words:

“We ill-treated Jerusalem. We ill-treated it by becoming addicted to poeticizing it. We ill-treated it by endlessly longing for a distant ‘Zion’ while Zion is alive here and now. We ill-treated it by endlessly debating its borders and outlines and not debating enough current substance and vision.

“We ill-treated it by writing checks we never cashed in. Checks such as ‘The Reunited Town,’ which, 43 years on, is hardly united.”

But you don’t really need Rivlin to know that. Some twenty years ago, Teddy Kollek, legendary mayor of Jerusalem, admitted – while still serving! – that the city never cared for it’s Arab citizens [PDF, the quote is on page 39 of the document]. His words are worth repeating, since the only thing that changed from his days is that now Israel is kicking Palestinians from their homes and constructing new neighborhoods for Jews in East Jerusalem, so that a territorial compromise would never be possible:

“We said things half-mindedly and never fulfilled them. We’ve said again and again that we will make Arabs’ rights equal those of the Jews – empty words… both [PM] Eshkol and [PM] Begin promised equal rights – both broke their promises… they [Palestinians] were and remain second and third class citizens.”

Q: And this is being said by the mayor of Jerusalem, who labored for the city’s Arab citizens, built and developed their neighborhoods?

“Nonsense! Fables! Never built nor developed! I did do something for Jewish Jerusalem in the last 25 years. But for eastern Jerusalem, what did we do? Nothing! What did I do? Schools? Nothing! Pavements? Nothing! Culture centers? Not one! We did give them sewage and improved the water supply. You know why? You think [we did it] for their own good? For their quality of life? no way! There were a few cases of Cholera and the Jews were scared that it might reach them, so we installed sewage and water.”

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We also got yesterday another absurd moment regarding Jerusalem, this time from the Israeli authorities. Mordechi Vanunu, the nuclear whistleblower, was sentenced to for community work for violating his outrageous release terms (last time he was put on trail for “contacting a foreign citizens” – it happened to be his girlfriend). Vanunu asked the court to be permitted to carry out this work in East Jerusalem. The state argued that he must work “inside Israel” – ignoring the fact that we declare on a daily basis that East Jerusalem is Israel. The state won. Vanunu was sent to prison. So much for the “united city”, or for Israeli justice.

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We also had this: two protesters arrested in Sheik Jerrah, for attempting to carry out a small protest against a settlers’ march in the Jerusalem neighborhood, whose residents are mostly Palestinian refugees.

And to end the day in a positive note, Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon spoke at the Irvin Moskowitz awards ceremony (honoring the US rightwing billionaire, who finance the most radical colonization attempts in Jerusalem and Hebron), and said that the city will remain under Jewish sovereignty forever, and all the talk about dividing the city are no more than “dust in the wind”. But remember, it’s the Palestinians who refuse any compromise.


Out of the office

Posted: February 23rd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: this is personal | Tags: , , | 3 Comments »

For the first time since I started writing this blog, I haven’t written a post in almost two weeks. I have an excuse: I’ve been out of the country for more than a month now, some of the time on the road, so I don’t follow the news as closely as I usually do. But there is more to it. More often than not, I simply can’t bring myself to check what’s going on back home, and when I do, I usually regret it. The Foreign Ministry snubbing the house delegation; the ridiculous campaign the government had launched in order to improve Israel’s image in the world – accompanied by a TV spot that can literally make you sick – the chief scientist for the Minister of Education denies global warming because “god will not let this happen”; my city, Tel Aviv, co-funding a project that deals with preventing Jewish girls from dating none-Jews, and so on, one absurd story follows the other.

When you are in Israel, there is some strange logic to the news cycle. Even if you don’t agree to most of what’s going on, things somehow make sense. I think you simply get used to the craziness. But when you step outside for a minute, everything looks so grotesque, to the point where it seems that whatever you might say or write won’t really make a difference.

This is getting worse lately. I got to meet some friends in the US who care about Israel and follow Israeli politics. Most of them had only one question: what the hell is going on over there?

My answer is so boring, I have troubles repeating it myself: It all goes down to the occupation, and what it did to this country. For sometime now, I am not so sure there is a way back. One way or the other, I think Israel will go through major changes in the next decade or so. Maybe it’s for the best.

The question for me is what makes an effective political action in this climate, and I’m not sure I have the answer. Perhaps it takes more than writing. Anyway, I just think I’ll take a few more days off, at least until I come back to Israel.


Following Im Tirzu’s campaign: first Knesset steps against NIF

Posted: February 3rd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, media, Polls, racism, The Left, The Right, the US and us | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments »

We should see the attack on the New Israel Fund in context: this was no isolated event, but part of a widespread campaign against human rights and peace activists

The Knesset committee for legislation has decided today to look into foreign donations to non-profit organizations operating in Israel, and among them, those received and handed by the New Israel Fund. The investigation will be led by the head of the legislation committee, MK David Rotem (Israel Beitenu) and a special subcommittee, to be formed immediately. Meanwhile, MK Otniel Schneller (Kadima) is pushing for a special Knesset investigation aimed against all Israeli human rights organizations which testified before the Goldstone committee.

Maariv reports that in a heated debate at the Knesset legislation committee, MK Zevulun Orlev (NRP) accused the NIF, Meretz party and the Israeli left of no less than treason:

“…NIF sponsors elements which are hostile to the state, and [by doing so] it causes us an unimaginable damage, not unlike our worse enemies… Meretz party has crossed the lines… former MK Naomi Hazan, which heads the NIF, has also crossed the lines.”

MK Yulia Shamalov-Berkovich from opposition party Kadima joined the attack on the NIF in saying that:

“We must say to all Israel-haters that enough is enough. We won’t sit quietly when our enemies from home try to lead an undemocratic revolution here, encouraging boycott, desertion and pacifistic refusal to serve in the IDF, based on lies and distortions. We must draw our lines and tell the traitors to our people that this is enough.”

Im Tirzu, a right-wing nonprofit organization, has launched last week a campaign against the NIF, claiming it sponsors organizations that support Hamas. In a front page story in Maariv, senior political correspondent Ben Caspit quoted a “research” by Im Tirzu, which supposedly showed how the NIF was responsible for 92 percent of the anti-Israeli evidence in the Goldstone report. Caspit went even further, and raised the notion the all the NIF activities in Israel – the fund aids more than 300 grassroots and social justice organizations – are a cover for anti-Israeli subversion.

Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) which represented the government in the Knesset debate, praised Im Tirzu: “it is a Zionist organization, which is doing a very important and positive work.” During the debate, minister Erdan referred to judge Goldstone as “this liar”.

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One of the contributors to the progressive Jewschool blog asked yesterday how this campaign against the NIF and other nonprofits different from the smear campaigns we have seen against the left in the past.

While it is true that the Right has been attacking human rights organizations for as long as they existed in Israel, things have changed in the last few months, and those who care about Israeli politics should be aware of those changes.

For start, the nature and the intensity of the attack changed. The Im Tirzu ads against the NIF shocked many American Jews – they reminded almost everyone of anti-Semitic cartoons – but in Israel they were considered legitimate. The tabloids had no problem publishing them, and you can still catch them as banners on popular news sites as Ynet.co.il and nrg.co.il. In fact, I don’t know of a paper or site that refused to run this ad. What’s even more important is the personalized nature of the attack – specifically targeting the head of the NIF, Naomi Hazan. We haven’t seen such viscous personal attacks since the assassination of PM Yitzhak Rabin.

Second, and unlike the attack on left wing politicians during the Oslo days, this time it is not only the political right that goes after human rights activists. And it’s not just smears. We are talking official government and Knesset policies, and real measures being taken. When minister Erdan praised Im Tirzu in the Knesset, he did so as the official representative of the government to the committee. This government includes even the labor party (though some labor MK’s came out in the NIF’s defense). In fact, some of the dominant figures in the campaign against the NIF are MK’s from opposition party Kadima, which under Tzipi Livni claim to represent the pro-peace alternative to Netanyahu’s Likud! Kadima’s official website even posted Im Tirzu’s accusations against the NIF. Read the rest of this entry »