(Another) Knesset Speaker endorses one-state solution

Posted: December 24th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Left, The Right | Tags: , , , , , , | Comments Off

Former Knesset Speaker Abrum Burg has an op-ed in Haaretz in which he not only endorses the one-state solution, but calls the entire left to do the same. Burg has flirted with the idea in the past, but he was never so explicit:

So enough of the illusions. There are no longer two states between the Jordan River and the sea… we [the left] must consider how we can enter into the new Israeli discourse. It has intriguing potential. The next diplomatic formula that will replace the “two states for two peoples” will be a civilian formula. All the people between the Jordan and the sea have the same right to equality, justice and freedom. In other words, there is a very reasonable chance that there will be only one state between the Jordan and the sea – neither ours nor theirs but a mutual one. It is likely to be a country with nationalist, racist and religious discrimination and one that is patently not democratic, like the one that exists today. But it could be something entirely different. An entity with a common basis for at least three players: an ideological right that is prepared to examine its feasibility; a left, part of which is starting to free itself of the illusions of “Jewish and democratic”; and a not inconsiderable part of the Palestinian intelligentsia.

The conceptual framework will be agreed upon – a democratic state that belongs to all of its citizens. The practicable substance could be fertile ground for arguments and creativity. This is an opportunity worth taking, despite our grand experience of missing every opportunity and accusing everyone else except ourselves.

The rest of the article is interesting as well; Burg writes against the habit of Jewish leftists to argue on behalf of the state and even the government abroad, thus helping the right carry out its policies undisturbed: “Let the right-wing MKs, the Katzes and the Elkins, travel around the world and show the beauty of their faces without the deceptive layer of makeup we  provided.”

A year ago, asked by +972 whether it’s time to move from a two-state vision to a one-state model, Burg said:

In Israel, there is a real fear of confrontation with the armed messianic forces living among us. Anyway our government policies are drawn from the power of the settler vision. It seems that the only way to balance this is an alternative suggestion of one state between the Jordan and the sea.  Secular, democratic, egalitarian and civilian.

It looks like recent developments and the expansionist policies of the current government have convinced Burg that it’s time to join the growing one state camp.

It’s interesting to note that the current Knesset Speaker, Reuven Rivlin (Likud), a rightwing hawk, also prefers a single state to two, arguing that “this land is not divisible.” Rivlin doesn’t support the “one person, one vote” model Burg is referring to, but mulls over what seems like a multi-national entity, possibly with two parliaments.

This is from an interview I did with Rivlin a year and a half ago:

“There is a conflict in the Middle East between two entities, and they’re both right, each in their own way. This is our only home, and therefore all kinds of solutions can be found. One could establish a system in one state in which Judea and Samaria are jointly held. The Jews would vote for a Jewish parliament and the Palestinians for an Arab parliament, and we would create a system in which life is shared. But these are things that will take time. Anyone who thinks that there are shortcuts is talking nonsense. As long as Islamic fundamentalism thinks that Jews are forbidden to settle in the Holy Land, we have a problem. It will not be resolved by an agreement, even if we obtain a promise from all the Arab states that it will be fine.

“So if people say to me: Decide − one state or division of the Land of Israel, I say that division is the bigger danger.

Who’s next in line?


Palestinians to launch “Freedom Rides” campaign on Israeli buses

Posted: November 8th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: The Settlements, unarmed protest | Tags: , , | Comments Off

Activists seek to reenact the US civil rights movement’s campaign in order to highlight Israel’s segregation policy in the West Bank

Palestinian activists are increasing their efforts to expose Israel’s segregation policy in the West Bank, as well as violations on their civil and human rights. In a message to the press, the Popular Struggle Committee announced that on November 15, Palestinian activists “will reenact the US Civil Rights Movement’s Freedom Rides to the American South by boarding segregated Israeli public buses in the West Bank to travel to occupied East Jerusalem.”

Palestinians in the West Bank have lived under Israeli military control since 1967. Among other restrictions, they can only vote in elections to the Palestinian Authority, which has very limited power on the ground. They cannot travel out of the West Bank or receive visitors without Israeli permits, and they are tried in military courts, which curtail the rights of defendants. Jews living in the West Bank enjoy full citizenship rights.

The occupation is often portrayed as a diplomatic problem of war and peace between two equal parties, Palestine and Israel. The Freedom Riders campaign is part of an effort to emphasize the nature of the Palestinian problem as a human rights issue.

The message from the Popular Struggle Committee states that:

Several Israeli companies, among them Egged and Veolia, operate dozens of lines that run through the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, many of them subsidized by the state. They run between different Israeli settlements, connecting them to each other and cities inside Israel. Some lines connecting Jerusalem to other cities inside Israel, such as Eilat and Beit She’an, are also routed to pass through the West Bank.

Israelis suffer almost no limitations on their freedom of movement in the occupied Palestinian territory, and are even allowed to settle in it, contrary to international law. Palestinians, in contrast, are not allowed to enter Israel without procuring a special permit from Israeli authorities. Even Palestinian movement inside the Occupied Territories is heavily restricted, with access to occupied East Jerusalem and some 8% of the West Bank in the border area also forbidden without a similar permit.

While it is not officially forbidden for Palestinians to use Israeli public transportation in the West Bank, these lines are effectively segregated, since many of them pass through Jewish-only settlements, to which Palestinian entry is prohibited by a military decree.

Last week it was also reported that international activists intend to challenge Israel’s effective blockade of the West Bank with a new “Welcome to Palestine” campaign, designed to take place next April. Over a hundred activists were arrested and deported last spring, after flying to Israel and declaring their intention to visit the West Bank.


Court fines petitioners for demanding equal praying rights

Posted: June 20th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, racism | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment »

So much for freedom of religious practice: Israel allows Christians from Gaza to travel to their holy sites, but rejects similar requests from Muslims

When demanding to maintain its control over both East and West Jerusalem—and especially, over the city’s holy sites—one of Israel’s main arguments is that it allows freedom of worship in the city to members of all religions. The Knesset’s Basic Law: Jerusalem from 1980 [Hebrew link, PDF]  states that the holy sites will be guarded by Israel from any harm that might prevent access to them (btw, a 2001 provision to this law states that a Knesset’s special majority is necessary for removing Israel’s authority from parts of the city, placing another barrier on reaching a two states solution – but that’s a different story).

The problem is that Israel itself is the one preventing access to Jerusalem’s holy sites. It takes a special permit for Palestinians from the West Bank to enter the city to pray, and this permit is given mostly to members of certain age groups (the official excuse, like always, is security concerns).

Israel seems to be less concerned when it comes to Palestinian Christians. In recent years, Israel has even allowed Christians from Gaza to travel to Nazareth and Bethlehem. The Palestinians had to be cleared by internal security and go through a search to their body and personal luggage, to which they all agreed.

Last February, seven Muslim women from Gaza have filed a petition [Hebrew, PDF] to the Beer-Sheva court, demanding to be granted the same rights as the Christians pilgrims. They agreed to go through the same security procedures, or whatever other means the authorities would find necessary. All they asked is to be allowed to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Gisha, an NGO which deals with freedom of movement, joined their appeal to court.

Recently, the court rejected [Hebrew, PDF] the petition and ordered the petitioners to pay legal fees in the unprecedented amount of 25,000 NIS (approx. 7,250 USD). Justice Eliyahu Bitan, who sat on the case, even made disdainful remarks toward Gisha, referring to it as a “human rights” organization (quotation marks in the original).

The court declared that even if Israel continued to control Gaza strip, it had no obligation to allow any Palestinians from the Occupied Territories to pray in Jerusalem.

This verdict demonstrated again how unwelcoming Israeli courts are to Palestinians. Equality in government practice has long been recognized as a guiding principal by the Supreme Court, but when it comes to Palestinians, the court allows policies which are based on ethnicity and religious affiliation. The decision also showed the hollowness of Israel’s pretension to be the protector of the holy sites in Jerusalem. The call for an international regime in the holy sites has never been more justified.

The third troubling aspect in the verdict is what seems like an attempt by the court to limit the work of non-governmental organizations by placing unprecedented legal fees on them – which look more like a form of fine (again, the Supreme Court has ordered in the past not to use legal fees to fine petitioners). It seems that the court wants to deter organizations and human rights group from trying to protect the rights of Palestinians through Israel’s court system.

Gisha has filed a petition [Hebrew, PDF] to the Supreme Court against the Beer-Sheva court’s verdict. I have asked the IDF spokesperson unit to outline the policy by which permits to pray in Jerusalem are given or refused from Palestinians. When I receive a reply, I’ll post it here.


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.

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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.


Netanyahu won’t deliver

Posted: July 12th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Right, The Settlements, the US and us | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

A year and a half into Benjamin Netanyahu’s second term, it’s clear that no matter what the Palestinians do or say, this Israeli PM will not sign a final agreement. I don’t think that even the US administration can change that. At most, it could ignite a process that the next government can carry on; much in the way President Bush forced PM Yitzhak Shamir into the Madrid conference.

Every Israeli leader is more likely to prefer the statues quo to concessions on the Palestinian issue (I explained why here). But in Netanyahu’s case, stalling the process doesn’t seem to be a tactical decision, but a strategic one.

As Akiva Eldar points in Haaretz today, in recent weeks, the Palestinians have agreed to everything Israel always asked them. They are ready for border changes that will leave the big settlements on the Israeli side; they agree to international forces in the West Bank that would monitor the situation and help protect the border; they are ready to give up the right of return into the state of Israel; and it seems that they are ready for a reasonable compromise in Jerusalem.

The Palestinian leadership explained its positions on all the core issues in details, both to the American envoy and in public – something that surly didn’t help them in their political battle against the Hamas hardliners – yet they got no response from Israel. Netanyahu refused to reveal Israel’s positions, in public or in private.

Every step Netanyahu took, from the partial settlement moratorium to allowing more goods into Gaza, was done under tremendous international pressure, and only after any other alternative failed. When felt cornered, he preferred to take the political battle to Washington, where, with the help of AIPAC, he repeatedly embarrassed the US president. By doing so, he made the support of Israel a partisan issue, divided the Jewish community and used much of the Israeli lobby’s political credit. All of this didn’t matter as long as he got what he wanted: for now, it seems that the administration is finally off his back.

Netanyahu is no fool. He knows what price this sort of maneuvering carries. Yet he prefers it to every alternative. I guess he estimates that the maximum he is willing to give is not even close to the minimum the Palestinians can settle with. So why do anything that would start a political fight with the right?

I don’t know the roots of Netanayhu’s positions: is it his upbringing, his reading of the political map in Israel or his view of the country’s long-term interests. Yet the bottom line couldn’t have been clearer: Netanyahu simply prefers the statues quo.

Read the rest of this entry »


East Jerusalem: more Palestinian families receive eviction orders, hundreds come to weekly protests

Posted: May 29th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Left, The Settlements | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Two more Palestinian families from East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood received this week eviction orders. According to Haaretz’s report, the families were requested to leave their houses within 45 days. No alternative residency was offered to them.

“Failure to comply [with the order] will force my client to act against you with all means available according to the law [...] in such a way as may cause distress, anxiety and large and unnecessary expense,” the notices said.

The lawyer who served the order, Anat Paz of law firm Eitan Gabay, informed the families they would be liable to a fine of NIS 350 for each day the remained in their homes beyond the eviction deadline.

Each family was also ordered to pay  NIS 12,000 per year for each of the last seven years. The notices did not reveal names of the claimants to the properties

The Palestinian residents of Sheikh Jarrah are refugees who fled their homes in Jaffa and West Jerusalem in 1948. They were offered a land in Jerusalem to build their homes on by the Jordanians in exchange for agreeing to give up their refugee status (ironically, that’s what Israel always demanded the Palestinians in Arab countries do). Israel conquered and annexed East Jerusalem in 1967, and recently, the pre-1948 Jewish owners of the land in Sheikh Jarrah authorized a rightwing settlers group to have the Palestinians evacuated and the neighborhood settled with Jews.

Israeli courts repeatedly ruled in favor of the Jews claiming the land based on the pre-1948 documents – while at the same time the Palestinians were forbidden from claiming back the houses they left in 1948. Unable to have their old houses, evacuated from their current homes – Jerusalem’s municipality plans on building there 200 housing units for Jews – the Palestinians have literally nowhere to go. They don’t even hold a refugee status.

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The injustice in East Jerusalem is so evident, that the struggle to stop the evacuation of the Palestinians became a new symbol for many Israelis. What has began as a very local grassroots effort by a handful of activist (many of them Anarchists) is now drawing a crowd of hundreds each week – and sometime more people and more than once a week. Here is a video from the protest two weeks ago, when some 30 demonstrators were arrested by police, and one had his arm broken.

Personally, I find the struggle in Sheikh Jarrah to be the best thing that happened to the Israeli left in years. The number of the people present there doesn’t seem that impressive, but the crowd grows each week, and it is clear that the police and the municipality will find new evacuations very hard to carry out.

More important, this struggle is becoming an inspiration to many who all but gave up on political activism – and not just in Israel. And it’s happening without any political party or a leftwing organization supporting it, and under some very radical messages. For the first time I can remember in years, the left doesn’t try to “move to the center” in order to win the support of the more conservative public, or engage in all sort of competitions in patriotism with the rightwing – ones that we obviously will never win – but rather sticks to its principles without apologizing or justifying itself.

There is no common platform in Sheikh Jarrah except for this very specific struggle. Nobody asks if you support one or two states, if you are a Zionist, Post Zionist or anti-Zionist. People just come each Friday to Jerusalem and stand for what they think is right – and so far, it works well enough. Sometimes I even get the sense that if this thing wasn’t happening here, it would have happened somewhere else. The energy feels bigger than this specific incident, as if there are finally enough Israelis who say that things have been going in the wrong direction for far too long – that a line had to be drawn, and it happened to be drawn in Sheikh Jarrah.

I took those two pics on the weekly protest last Friday, to which author Mario Vargas Llosa paid a visit.

28052010157

28052010159

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The best way to support the protest in Sheikh Jarrah is to simply come each Friday (more details here). If you don’t live in Israel, you can make a donation, as legal expenses for the defense of arrested activists and organizers are mounting.


Injuries, tear gas in Nabi Saleh, record crowd in Sheikh Jarrah / Personal notes from Friday’s demonstrations

Posted: May 21st, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: elections, media, The Left, The Settlements, this is personal | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »
soldiers at Nabi Saleh

soldiers at Nabi Saleh

“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

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

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.


PM Shamir on terrorism: it’s ok, if you are a Jew

Posted: May 10th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: The Right, The Settlements | Tags: , , , , | 7 Comments »

Here is something funny a friend posted on Facebook:

shamir

Now, it’s not that I support Palestinian terrorism, and I do think Jews were right to fight the British occupation – though Shamir doesn’t mention the fact that many of the Lehi and Irgun attacks were against Arab civilians, not foreign soldiers – it’s just that this quote offers a glimpse into the twisted, double-standards, thinking that got us to where we are. This interview was published in 91′, and I believe that by now most Israeli understand that the Palestinian problem won’t just go away, but they clearly haven’t reached the point where they are willing to do something serious about it.


The litmus test for Israel’s intentions

Posted: May 3rd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Settlements, the US and us | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off

Every now and then I get to hear the argument that Israel never claimed the West Bank for itself (therefore it’s not Apartheid nor occupation, etc.). After all, Barak offered almost the entire West Bank to the Palestinians in Camp David, and in 2008 Ehud Olmert had gone even further, so basically it’s the Palestinians fault that we are still there.

But even of you subscribe to the “generous offers” idea – and I don’t – actions speak louder than words, and Israel never stopped colonizing the West Bank. Even while talking to the Palestinians about evacuation, we kept sending our settlers to the occupied territories, thus making it practically impossible to carry out a full withdrawal. The greatest trick Israel was ever able to pull out was the spreading the notion that the settlers “hijacked” the state. The settlements are, and have always been, a government project, financed by taxpayer money and carried out by state agencies, from the justice and housing departments to defense ministry.

Read Akiva Eldar’s report in today’s Haaretz. Israel wouldn’t even evacuate the outpost that the state itself has declared illegal, and it states so publicly!

A statement that prosecutors sent the High Court at the end of last week on behalf of the defense minister, the army’s commander in the West Bank, the head of the Civil Administration and the commander of the Samaria and Judea Police District needs to be read at least twice in order to believe it is a document from a supreme law enforcement authority.

The statement relates to a petition by Palestinians via human rights organization Yesh Din, asking to enforce a High Court decision to evacuate the illegal outpost Amona, established about 10 years ago. Petitioners have also asked for the removal of fences that prevent access to their lands. The petitioners’ attorney, Michael Sfard, noted that during the four years since the demolition of nine structures at the outpost (which took place only after a previous petition by Yesh Din), Amona settlers have built new buildings to replace them.

In the statement to the High Court, the State Prosecutor’s Office confirms Amona is an illegal outpost. It stresses that the defense minister, the Civil Administration and the police take a grave view of the improper conduct of the Mateh Binyamin local council (which receives its budget from the state!), “and most certainly when it comes to construction on private lands belonging to Palestinians”. The prosecution saw fit to boast that “for many years now the state has been strict about not building any settlement on private land”. Really, bully for the state. It would be interesting to note, incidentally, what it intends to do with the property it handed out to settlers before it stopped stealing private land.

And here comes the line that could go down in a book of records for insolence: The prosecution asks to reject the demand to evacuate the illegal settlement, since diverting the limited means of enforcement to old illegal construction “is not high on the respondents’ agenda.” And why not? “Means of enforcement” are needed to implement the temporary building freeze in the settlements.

In other words, the government’s decision in the matter of the temporary moratorium on construction in the settlements has become the illegal settlements’ insurance policy. All that remains is for them to ask the government to extend the freeze.

President Obama was right to insist on the settlements issue. It is the litmus text for Israel’s intentions. And right now, it doesn’t show any sign of a policy change.


Gil Scott-Heron boycotts Tel Aviv, sends powerful message to Israelis

Posted: April 29th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, media, The Left, The Settlements | Tags: , , , , , , , | 33 Comments »

This is a translation of my article regarding the cancellation of spoken words artist Gil-Scott Heron‘s gig in Tel Aviv. His show was scheduled for late May, but it was later removed from Scot-Heron’s site and though there was no official statement yet, it seems to have been canceled for political reasons.

The original Hebrew version of the article was posted Wednesday on the web magazine The Other.

scott heron

A small commotion erupted this week among the public that appreciates black music in Israel upon learning that ground-breaking artist, poet and musician, Gil Scott-Heron apparently canceled his Tel Aviv show for political reasons. There was no official statement; However, following protests of some of his pro-Palestinian fans during a show in London on the weekend, Scott-Heron announced from the stage that he would not be coming to Israel. The show, planed for May 25, was removed from the line up on his site.

Scott-Heron is a political man. He came out against US presidents, preached against nuclear energy, and asked the new generation of Hip-Hop artists to write meaningful lyrics rather than merely attach words to music. His most famous piece, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, is considered the anthem of alternative culture. I assume these and similar reasons made Scott-Heron appeal to a couple of hundred Israelis. The only surprise is their ability to make a U-turn the moment that protest was directed at us.

In the last few days, Israelis who awaited the show in Tel Aviv filled Scott Heron’s website and Facebook pages dedicated to the issue with angry comments. The arguments were of the type common to such occurrences: one shouldn’t mix music and politics (“music brings people together; politics pulls them apart”); one must distinguish between the government of Israel and the citizens; it is hypocrisy and double standards to boycott Israel when there are so many more horrible governments and deadlier regimes in the world.

But beyond the usual arguments, an offended tone sneaked in: “Why should we, music lovers, who love GSH also because of the place we live in, should be blamed for the occupation or apartheid?” writes one Israeli on Facebook, and added elsewhere, “to cancel the show, it is to spit in the face of the leftists in the crowd.”

“In Israel there is a true music scene,” comments another Israeli on Scott Heron’s site. “For me, music represents peace and love, not war and hate. If you come to Israel you will see it with your own eyes”. Avi Pitshon wrote in Haaretz in relation to a similar incident, in which a few Israelis joined a call to the Pixies and Metallica to skip playing in Israel, “the radical left cannot hurt the powerful, those who shape policy, and is therefore trying to hit whoever is under the spotlight: music loving citizens.”

It seems that what hurts Pitshon and the other Israelis most is not the anti-Israeli stance of Scott Heron and others like him, but the choice to specifically boycott them, the public who is for peace, loves Soul and Hip-Hop, and sees itself more in touch with Detroit and Chicago than the Tomb of Rachel and Elkana. After all, the voice of these embittered music lovers didn’t rise when a pretty effective boycott was organized in the EU against produce from the settlements: the settlers are the bad guys in this story. But to boycott us, us who took part in three Peace Now demonstrations and two events commemorating Rabin? What is the world coming to?

The Israeli left (and yours truly included) is deeply longing to be part of some global communion. People here imagine themselves through American culture, Italian cuisine and French novels, as if we were born to a bourgeois family on Paris’ Left Bank and our life project is to confront the feelings of alienation inherent in human existence. Tel Aviv and its suburbs are arranged with their face towards the West and a wall separating their back from all the turmoil in the East: the settlers in the territories, the Ultra-Orthodox in Jerusalem, and also these Palestinians. The occupation is such a boring and tedious story, the making of a stupid government and wicked right-wingers. Clearly, we are not part of this madness.

A worldview so detached leads to many disappointments. So we are shocked to discover that the Palestinians hate us just as much as the hate the right-wingers, we are insulted when the reception clerk in a Spanish hotel lets a curse out behind our back, and cannot understand why an old rapper, who has seen a few things in his life, would tell us that, on second thought, Tel Aviv doesn’t suit him right now. What the hell? We blow a fuse. What’s the connection between the Barbie Club and the territories? After all, they are at least a 20 minutes car ride away!

To the credit of the Israeli Right one should say that it is much more consistent and well argued. From the Right’s perspective, these conflicts with the world are the price for our clinging to parts of our historical homeland and our survival in a hostile region. The Right doesn’t try to evade taking responsibility for sitting on top of Palestinians, and if someone, whether Obama or Scott Heron, doesn’t like it, there is no choice but to bite the bullet.

In contrast, “the enlightened camp” is busy with the endless theatrical performance of their moral difficulties, whose real purpose is to create a barrier between them and all those action for which they refuse to take responsibility. Thus, when the order arrives, the leftist climbs into the tank without a second thought, but later he will do an anguished film about it for the Cannes festival. Thus the obsessive persecution of settlers. Thus Tel Aviv behaves as if it were a Mediterranean suburb of London while in a spitting distance from it eastward and southward lies an immense jail holding millions of people without rights for over half a century.

The self-pity tops itself with the absurd claim that such cancellations will benefit the occupation, because they would discourage those most in favor of two states solution. As if the role the world is to caress Tel Aviv’s residents’ back until they draw the courage and convince the right, to please stop building villas on the hills of Samaria and abstain from kicking Palestinians out of their houses in East Jerusalem. Beyond the fact that this method has been completely discredited by history–the Israeli Left doesn’t even convince itself anymore–the theory doesn’t hold water: excited or depressed, these thousands of peace and love and music lovers do not show up in Bil’in or Sheikh Jarrah, whereas the few dozens of human rights activists who do go there are begging the world for a little international pressure to save Israel from itself.

A few years ago, the dynamics surrounding Roger Waters (ex Pink Floyd) visit’s to Israel recalls somewhat the current case. Waters didn’t boycott, but he said a few words about peace and ending the occupation. Immediately, a few of the “enlightened camp” ordered him to focus on the guitar and stop lecturing us. There is something really bizarre with our ability to sing about another brick in the wall while forgetting about the miserable Farmers whose fields are behind our wall. (As it is hard to understand Israelis who return from Berlin with “an original stone from the wall” when the improved local version stands for free in our living room.) Considering the deep disconnect between the Israelis and the protest anthems that they are humming, it seems that Scott-Heron did us a favor by reminding us that in a place where pregnant women give birth at checkpoints and people are locked in their houses, even music doesn’t cross borders.