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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: How did you decide where to go?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

haaretz ad

WE DO NOT OBEY.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Bedouin village al-Arakib destroyed again, police to sue cost of evacuation from residents

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

the ruins of al Arakiv (photo: activestills.org)

The Bedouin village al-Arakib, in the northern Negev, was destroyed again today. Hundreds of policemen blocked the access to the village, removed the residents from the temporary homes they constructed, and razed the place with bulldozers.

Al-Arakib was destroyed for the first time last week, only to be rebuilt later by residents and volunteers in the following days. According to news site Ynet, 10 temporary structures were constructed in al-Arakib in the past week. They were all destroyed today.

Arab Knesset member Taleb El-Sana (Raam-Taal) fainted after being removed by force from one of the homes. He was evacuated to a hospital in nearby Beersheba.

Al-Arakib spokesman and local resident Dr. Awad Abu-Farikh told Ynet that

“The black-clad special unit forces are the true face of (Foreign Minister Avigdor) Lieberman’s democracy. This operation is the first step in the uprooting of many villages. We shall return to our villages, build our homes and not leave this place”.

Israeli police announced that it will sue the village for the cost of its evacuation. the cost of last week’s operation alone was estimated at 2 million Shekels (500,000 USD).

The village of al-Arakib stands near the place of the historical al-Arakiv, which was built around the turn of the 19th century, when most of the Bedouin population of the Negev (Israel’s southern desert) abandoned nomadic life and settled in small villages. In this post [Hebrew] you can see the ruins of the old al-Arakib, which like many other Arab settlements, was destroyed between 1948 and 1951. Since then, the people of al-Arakib have been trying to regain access to their lands.

————————-

One of the comments to my previous post on al-Arakib referred to the fact that the Bedouin settlement was declared illegal in Israeli court, and this is the reason for its evacuation. I have a couple of points concerning this matter:

(a) The Israeli government is applying its laws in a very selective way. Just a few weeks ago, the government decided to back a law that would recognize the Jewish farms that were built illegally in the Negev during the last decade. At the same time, the state would not recognize more then 40 Bedouin villages, who are sitting on the same land for decades – many of them before the state was born. The state also refuses to evacuate the West Bank’s Jewish outposts that Israel itself views as illegal (not to be confused with the vast majority of so-called “legal” settlements). So the logic here is very simple: in all regions of “disputed” land, Jews are encouraged to settle and grab as much land as they can, while Arabs are being pushed away.

(b) Regarding the rule of law itself: Israel has introduced in the 50′s a whole set of laws that would make it impossible for many none Jews to have legal claim for lands, even if it was recognized as their own before the state of Israel was born. Any person who didn’t have legal documentation of his land and/or was temporarily displaced in the war of 1948 and the years to follow lost his rights to the land. This is part of what made the people of al-Arakib “invaders” to their own home. So it’s not only a question of government policy: the entire legal system on the issue of land ownership distorted and discriminating.

For further reading, I recommend this excellent post by Eyal Niv, explaining how Israel is pushing the Bedouin population from their lands.


In a few hours, an entire village is destroyed

Posted: July 28th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, racism, The Right, The Settlements | Tags: , , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

Residents of the unrecognised village of Al Araquib construct burning barricades

A couple of days ago, when the news cycle was dominated by the story of the IDF helicopter crash in Romania, an entire village was destroyed in the Israeli southern desert.

El-Arakib, in the northern Negev, is one of more then 40 unrecognized Bedouin villages in the south of Israel. At down, hundreds of Israeli policemen and soldiers took the entire village – men, women and children – out of their houses, and let them watch in horror as the Bulldozers crashed their homes. the whole thing took just a few hours.

“The forces met only minor protest,” the Israeli media reported in the morning.

The unrecognized villages, many of them predate the establishing of Israel, are not receiving any services from the state: no water, no electricity, no transportation and no paved roads. Their children walk miles in the heat of the desert summer or in the freezing cold of the winter to get to school.

For decades, Israel is refusing to recognize the Bedouin claim for the land. A couple of years ago, an official inquiry committee, formed by the government and headed by a retired justice of the Supreme Court, recommended recognizing many of the villages and putting an end to the problem. The government buried this report, along with many other.

The Bedouins, once the proud natives of the south, are now the poorest population in Israel. Most of them used to serve in the IDF, but after the treatment they got from the state, many refuse army service these days. Crime rate in the Bedouin towns is on the rise, illiteracy and unemployment are the highest in Israel. Under such conditions, it is no surprise that the Islamic movement is getting stronger in the south. Nobody else would provide support, comfort and political empowerment for the local population. The Israeli response is to push the Bedouins harder.

A few years ago, the Israeli minister of infrastructure ordered the tiny fields of El-Arakib – out of which the locals barely make a living – be sprayed with poisonous chemicals from the air. This was the Israeli version of Agent Orange, used against our own citizens. The minister who sent the planes was Avigdor Lieberman. Today, he is the face Israel is showing the world.

On Monday night, when word of the evacuation came, some thirty Israeli activist rushed to the Negev, trying to stand by the village’s people. But there was nothing they could do against hundreds of soldiers and policemen.

This is from a report by one of the activists, posted the following day on Facebook:

Soldiers – facers covered – run into the village. Several residents and activists who were standing in their way are beaten, pushed back, thrown to the ground. A young woman pushes her way in, trips, falls onto the rocks, and cries out in pain. A soldiers stands over her, covered in black, face veiled, and laughs a laugh that I will never forget.

(…)

Bulldozers are razing the village now. They crush the tin shanties, uproot everything that stands in their path. The villagers watch, too tired even to shout. One of them cries out in pain when the bulldozer pulls the olive trees out of the ground. “Leave the trees, at least, what have they done wrong? We’ve been growing them for ten years now.” “You shouldn’t even have shade,” murmurs one of the policemen.

Here is a sad video of the events:

How is it that a government which claims to be unable to evacuate a single “illegal” outpost in the West Bank can bulldozer an entire village overnight? Social activist Gadi Elgazi has the answer: right now, anything not Jewish in Israel is under attack.

Why bring upon the people of el-Arakib this destruction? Just the day before the demolitions, the recent remarks of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu regarding the proposed Loyalty Law were published. Netanyahu stated his position clearly:

“We are a nation state, which means that the overall sovereignty of the country is reserved for the Jewish people. [...] Today, an international campaign is being waged against the definition of Israel as a Jewish state. I do not want to leave things as is [without a revised loyalty oath, GA], because we are under attack on this matter. The significance of these attacks is that various elements are liable to demand their own national rights and the rights of a state within the state of Israel – in the Negev, for example, if it becomes a region without a Jewish majority. This happened in the Balkans and constitutes a real threat.” (My emphases; Netanyahu’s declaration was included in Haaretz Hebrew edition (26.7.2010), but not in the English one)

The words are clear: the state belongs to the Jews, not to all its citizens. Full civil equality of its citizens – individual and collective – constitutes a threat. Then the mirror effect: imagined aggression (“under attack”, “real threat”) justifies actual aggression. The Bedouin in the Negev are transformed into a “real threat,” because something might happen there; Netanyahu doesn’t say what but refers to the Balkans. There were several cases of ethnic cleansings in the Balkans. Proponents of ethnic cleansing often explain that they are merely defending themselves from a minority group, whose very existence is for them a threat.

What are the Bedouin accused of? How did their very existence become a “real threat”? The Negev, says Netanyahu, might become a “region without a Jewish majority.” This is truly a good one: you can move from region to the next throughout the country and discover that in a particular area within Israel, there isn’t a Jewish majority, for example between Kafr Qara’ and Umm el-Fahem, or between Sakhnin and ‘Arabe. Well, then don’t we have to do something against this threat? Yes, of course, and so we do! Think about the project of establishing the city of Harish in Wadi ‘Ara, not as a solution to the housing shortage with which the current residents of the area must contend, and not as part of development plans that will benefit all residents of the region, but rather as an attempt to use the housing shortage of the ultra-Orthodox as a tool against the Arab resident of the area – while at the same time preventing Arab citizens from developing and expanding their own communities. Just like the lookouts that were established in the North to surround and divide, to combat the “threat” of Arab communities in the Galilee.

This is an ongoing war, a war of attrition against part of citizenry of the country, a war whose arsenal includes prohibitions of construction and orders of demolition, and whose soldiers are building inspectors and the Green Patrol.

And while all of this is going on, demands are made upon Arab citizens to perform national service and to prove their loyalty to a state that is not loyal to them. Just a few weeks ago, near Shoket Junction in the Negev, in the context of everyday home demolitions, a Bedouin Soldiers Club was demolished. So what’s the message? Clearly: No service, whether military or civilian, will guarantee equal rights. The Druze of the Galilee [who perform military service] don’t exactly enjoy equality, do they?

More photos from the evacuation here. Information on the Bedouins and the problem of the unrecognized villages can be found here.


Arab jailed for having sex with a Jewish girl while pretending to be a Jew

Posted: July 20th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, racism | Tags: , , , , , , | 18 Comments »

No less than 18 months in prison for East Jerusalem Palestinian. Judge: “the Court must protect the public interest against sophisticated criminals with a smooth tongue and sweet talking, who can lead astray innocent victims”

The main reason for which the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, founder notorious Kach party, was kicked out of the Knesset in the 80′s was the set of racist bills he tried to pass in the Israeli parliament. One of the most well known of them was intended to make sexual relations between Arab and Jews a criminal offense. In his verdict verifying the Knesset’s decision not to let Kahana run again for election, Meir Shamgar, the president of the Supreme Court, wrote that Kahane’s actions were reminding “the worst harms that were imposed upon our people.”

These are different times.

Yesterday, a Palestinian of East Jerusalem was sent to a year and a half in prison (!) for getting a Jewish girl to sleep with him after pretending to be a Jew.

Here is the report from Maariv, Translated from Hebrew by Dena Shunra:

Jail time for Arab who impersonated a Jew and raped through fraud

By Shmuel Mittelman, 19 July 2010 14:38

Sabar Kashour, a young man from East Jerusalem , was sentenced today (Monday) to 18 months in prison after having defrauded and thereby raped and committed indecent acts upon a Jewish young woman, who only yielded to him because she thought he was a Jew. Additionally, the judges – Deputy Presiding Justice Zvi Segal, Moshe Dror, and Yoram  Noam required Kashour to pay the complainant financial compensation amounting to NIS 10,000.

The prosecution representative, Adv. Daniel Vittman, argued that Kashour had indeed carried out his plot without the use of force, but that he had dissipated her ability to object to his actions by means of the false representation about his personal situation – [claiming that he was] a Jewish bachelor interested in a significant romantic relationship. In this way he abused her desire for a deep emotional relationship, which was the only reason that she agreed to have sexual relations with him.
According to the indictment, to which Kashour (30) entered a guilty plea, he presented himself to a young woman whom he met in the center of Jerusalem in 2008 as a Jewish bachelor interested in a significant romantic relationship, despite the fact that he is married.

He invited her to accompany him to a building on Hillel Street. When they came to the top floor, Kashour undressed the young woman and had intercourse with her, with her consent, that had been fraudulently achieved, as stated above. After having carried out his scheme, he departed from the building and left her naked, on the top floor of that building.

“Not a ‘classic’ act of rape”

The prosecution first claimed that the complainant actively and significantly objected to the events, but in the course of the trial the young woman testified that she had agreed to the action because she had thought that the person in question was a Jew. In light of that the indictment was amended, and the defendant was accused of rape and indecent actions by way of fraud.

Kashour accepted partial responsibility for the crimes of rape and indecent actions, but claimed that the deeds were carried out with the full consent of the complainant. The Probation Service was of the impression that in the course of his detention the defendant underwent “a process of soul-searching”, and that he was investing effort in living a normative lifestyle. For this reason the Service recommended that a short term of imprisonment, to be served in community service, be deemed sufficient.

Defense Counsel Adv. Adnan Aladin asked that the positive report by the Probation Service be taken into account. He said that this report indicated his client’s “high potential for rehabilitation.”

He asked that “appropriate proportions be maintained” between the actions and the mete penalty, and stressed that Kashour had no criminal record, admitted to the actions ascribed to him and took responsibility for his actions. For this reason he asked that a sentence of six months of community service be deemed sufficient.

Justice Segal stated that there was no dispute about the fact that the defendant hadn committed the crime of rape upon the complainant. He had admitted to doing so, and this was why he had been convicted, by force of law. “Indeed,” he stressed, “we do not have before us a ‘class’ case of rape – by force – and the indictment initially filed, which had indicated significant objection by the complainant to the actions by the defendant, had been amended further in the proceedings, after hearing her testimony, when it became clear that the actions were indeed carried out with her consent, but that it had been fraudulently obtained, relying on false representation. Has she not been of the opinion that he was a Jewish bachelor interested in a significant

“Basic human obtuseness”

Segal added that the rehabilitation of the defendant did indeed seem accessible and possible, but “with all possible goodwill and intention to meet him part of the way and reduce his punishment inasmuch as possible, I do not believe that this is the case where a prison term can be served in the form of community service.” Moreover, in his opinion serving a prison term does not cancel out existing rehabilitation achievements nor negate possible future achievements.

The judge stated that “the Court must protect the public interest against sophisticated criminals with a smooth tongue and sweet talking, who can lead astray innocent victims at the unbearable price of the sanctity of their bodies and souls.”

He stated that “when the foundation of trust between people falls away, especially in matters so sensitive, intimate, and fateful, the Court must stand firm on the side of the victims – actual and potential – to protect their well-being. Otherwise they will be abused, manipulated, cheated, and the cost will be a tolerable, token penalty.”

Segal further added that: “one cannot know or fully understand what the complainant felt after the defendant left the building, leaving her behind – naked, at the top floor. The realization of the truth after such a deceit cannot be easy; it requires a sturdy spirit and faith in the good things that are still in store, in the future. Having done what he did the defendant displayed basic human obtuseness toward his victim, as if she were only the means to satisfy his desires, and nothing more.”

Many men lie to get sex. Now we know which lies are forbidden in Israel.

Many men lie to get sex. Now we know which lies are forbidden in Israel.


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.


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.

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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.


Arab Israeli MK joins Facebook hate group calling to burn him, debates members

Posted: May 28th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: racism, The Right | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments »

Being an Arab in Israel is not easy these days. Racism and incitement became a legitimate political currency, the papers are full of anti-Arab articles, human right groups who fight for equal rights for none-Jewish citizens are on the run, and Knesset members are going after the Arab representatives, demanding to strip them of their immunity and press all kind of charges against them.

Half of high school students in Israel (and 81 percent of religious high school students!) thinks Arab citizens shouldn’t enjoy equal rights. 65 percent of the public believes that we should put limits on Arab MKs freedom of speech.

In this political climate, finding Facebook groups such as “Burn MK Taleb El-Sana” – created by a guy name Dor Hasson – is no surprise. “We are tired of the game you play at the Knesset,” write Hasson in the groups’ info page, “your loyalty to the enemy just makes us more and more extreme.” To this he adds a picture of MK El-Sana with red eyes and red horn.

But MK El-Sana (Ra’am-Ta’al), Instead of reporting the group and trying to have it closed, decided to join it, and engage in a debate with the group’s members. Yesterday, he posted this message on the group’s wall:

“Shalom to all the group members and to Dor Hasson. A few days ago the existence of this group was brought to my attention. At first I was furious, but after a few days, I gave it some more thought and reached the conclusion that I will be happy to start a dialogue with you. I don’t believe that people act out of evilness, but out of the faith they have in the truthfulness of their ways. That’s why I decided to join Facebook and talk with you. So, a simple question: do you really want to burn me.”

A few hours later, a group member answered something like “there is a difference between what we want and what we can do. Some would like to do that, but we live in a democracy with the highest morale standards.” (It’s a classic racist move, by the way: never take responsibility for the incitement, but show understanding to those ‘want to do something’.”).

After all the usual rightwing charges were thrown at his face (traitors, fanatics, lairs, “don’t serve in the army”, etc.), MK El-Sana posted a few comments – in a very empathic tone – explaining his tough position as an Arab in a Jewish state.

“Thank you for choosing to answer me,” writes El-Sana. “I know it is hard to start a dialogue with someone you see as your enemy. I wanted to tell you that I am not your enemy. I was born here, in Israel. I grew up here, and just like you, I wish to live country with high moral standards, and that values the life of a human being. I understand that you and your group has criticism on my political activities – and this is legitimate. But to call for someone to be burned, just because you don’t like his views or his ethnic origin – that’s taking it too far…”

The debate goes on – but it doesn’t seem that El-Sana is making any progress (though by now he got some support from people who came across this debate).

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"Burn El-Sana" facebook page, with El-Sana's post

Should we engage with this kind of dialogue with just about anyone, and under any circumstances? I’m not that sure.

When it comes to question of policy, I’m a great believer in negotiations. You should always try to have everyone into the political process: Hamas as well as the settlers. Without them, stabilizing this region will be much more difficult. But on a basic human level, I find the debate on the wall of “burn MK El-Sana” group infuriating. Why should an Arab, a public leader who represents hundred of thousands like him, be made to apologize and justify himself – not his actions, but his simple right to live in the place he was born in – in front of a bunch of ignorant bullies? Isn’t answering them just legitimizes their game, or could El-Sana’s approach win him new supporters, not necessarily from the group he was talking to?

As I said, I don’t have a definite answer.

UPDATE: as the blogger Tom writes [Hebrew], there is always the possibility that this is not El-Sana himself debating the group, but someone pretending to be him. Still, the fundamental question remains: is this is a debate worth having, and are those the people we should engage in a dialogue with?


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.


New Knesset bill on banning Burqas / it’s not feminism, it’s racism

Posted: April 25th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, racism, The Right | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

burqa

MK Marina Solodkin (Kadima) is proposing a new Knesset bill that will make it illegal for women in Israel to wear Burqas (the Islamic dress coveting the entire body and face) or Niqabs (a veil covering the face).

“I just came back from a visit to southern France and I was shocked to see so many Muslim women entirely covered in black, with only their eyes seen,” said MK Solodkin. “I congratulate president Sarkozy and all the European administrations who believe that in the 21st century there shouldn’t be a place for an outfit which so terribly humiliates women, and I want to initiate something similar in Israel… I am not anti-Muslim and I intent for this law to be imposed on Jewish women as well.”

This law is aimed against the Arab-Israeli minority. There isn’t but one group of a dozen or so Jewish women who cover themselves with Burqas, so it’s obvious that this law, if passed, is meant to deal with the Palestinian population.

I don’t really get MK Solodkin’s logic: if she saw all these terrible Burkas in southern France, why does she want to present her bill here? Burkas are not that common in Israel, especially not in mixed towns, so why take such extreme measures? By the way, even France didn’t ban Burkas altogether (yet), but only in schools.

But the most important thing is that Israel is not France or the Netherlands, for two reasons:

First, the Palestinians here are a native minority, meaning that they were here before the state was born. The common belief is that native minorities should be allowed to hang on to their culture and customs, even when they differ from those of the majority. There might be some logic in forcing immigrants to accept the customs of the country they came to – this is debatable as well – but there is certainly no reason to impose these ideas on a native minority, except in extreme cases.

Second, the attempts to ban Burkas in Europe are rooted in the French republican model, which is nothing like Israel’s. In short, the idea is that any immigrant can become as French as Napoleon as long as he knows and accepts the local culture, speak French, believes in individual freedoms, etc. But Israel is different: the base for citizenship and rights here is Judaism, and an Arab cannot become a Jew even if he gives up the Burka. Unlike in France, Palestinians here are not asked nor expected to be integrated. In this context, forcing them to give up their customs is nothing but another way of harassing them; showing them “who is in charge”.

And one last point: Hasidic women from eastern European origins are expected to shave their hair and wear a wig from the day they are married. Isn’t that diminishing? But don’t expect MK Solodkin to do something about it. Her feminism applies only to Arabs.