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.

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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.


Internal Security violated agreement with Haaretz to get to Anat Kamm

Posted: July 22nd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News | Tags: , , , , , , | Comments Off
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Anat Kamm in court (photo: Oren Ziv/activestills)

The prosecution in Anat Kamm’s trail admitted today that the Shabak (Israel’s internal security service, formally known as Shin Beit), ignored the agreement it signed with Haaretz reporter Uri Blau in order to expose the source for a story he published.

In a research article published two years ago in Haaretz, Blau reveled that senior Israeli generals, including chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi, knowingly violated Supreme Court rulings by ordering the assassination of Palestinians militants even when they didn’t pose an immediate threat or when it was possible to capture them alive.

After the story was published, the army began an internal investigation to locate the source responsible for leaking the operative orders cited by Blau in Haaretz. At the same time, the Shabak demanded Haaretz to return the documents in order to avoid a national security breach. Haaretz and Blau agreed, on the condition that the documents will be used only for damage control, and not to locate the source for the story.

According to a reports on Israeli media (Hebrew) the state admitted today that the Shabak did use the documents to get to Kamm.

Kamm, then a soldier at the central command HQ and later a reporter for the Israeli portal walla.co.il, was arrested, and Israeli media was prevented from reporting the story. Only after details of her arrest were published abroad, the gag order was lifted.

Kamm is charged with espionage, and could face up to 20 years in prison. Uri Blau is in London, fearing that his return would lead to his arrest and prosecution.


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.


Israeli BDS activist’s account of “a friendly talk” with the Shin Beit

Posted: July 19th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Left | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Former Israeli air force pilot and conscientious objector Yonatan Shapira was summoned today to “a friendly talk” with the Shabak (formally known as “Shin Beit”, Israel’s internal security agency). This is Yonatan’s account of the event, as posted on Facebook:

Yesterday Rona from the Shabak called me and asked me to come talk to meet her in the police station on Dizengof st. (Tel Aviv). She refused to tell me what was it about, but made it clear I wasn’t going to be arrested, and that this is just an acquaintance or “a friendly talk”…

At five o’clock I got to the Dizengof police station and was sent to the second floor of the rear building, where a guy who presented himself as Rona’s security guard waited for me. I was taken to a room and subjected to a pretty intimate search to make sure I didn’t install any recording device on my testicles. After I was found clean I was let into Rona’s room. She was a nice looking girl, apparently from a Yemeni origin, in her early thirties.

Rona told me that I she knew I was active in the BDS (movement) and (calling for) an economical boycott of Israel, and she wanted to know what else do I do as part of these activities. I told her that everything (that I do) is well known and published in the internet and the media, and that I have nothing to add, and that I wasn’t going to talk to her.

Rona emphasized that there is a Knesset bill that might soon make my activities illegal. She went on and tried to get me into a political debate, asking if I know that the BDS is in fact a Palestinian organization.

Rona raised the issue of the graffiti in Warsaw and asked it was my own idea or another part of the BDS. She asked if I understood that I crossed a line and hurt many people’s feeling. Obviously the Shabak feeling’s (were hurt) as well… I offered her again to listen to interviews and read article on the issue. She said she did listen and read, but she wanted to know more. I told her I would be happy to give a public lecture to anyone who wants to hear, but not (talk about it) in a Shabak interrogation.

Apart from the BDS issue she asked me if I knew that the demonstrations in Bil’in and Ni’ilin are illegal, and that the entire area is closed for Israelis and internationals each Friday from 8.00 am to 8.00 pm. She went into length explaining how the soldiers feel in these demonstrations and that it irritates them when I talk to them and when I answer them.

Rona said she was there herself and that stones were thrown at her, and that it war really unpleasant. She said that the fact that Israelis are present there makes the Palestinians more violent, and that I have to think how the poor soldiers feel, and that all she is trying to do is for the good of the country and out of her will to defend the people living here.

I answered that all I do is out of a will to defend the people living here as well, and I asked where did she get all the information on my activities and whether they are listening to my phone. She said that she can’t answer this, but that generally speaking the Shabak has more important things to do, so I asked her whet I was doing here and why was I invited to a kind political interrogation if they have more important things to do.

I asked again if they are listening to my phone calls and Rona said she can’t answer that.

She asked me not to publish the content of our conversation because she wasn’t the type who wants publicity… I answered that as a person committed to a non-violent struggle against the occupation I would talk and publish anything I can, including the content of this conversation and future ones, if these will be such.

I documented the entire conversation on a piece of paper until Rona started discussing this paper and what I was writing down. Eventually she confiscated the dangerous piece of paper, claiming that I was not allowed to have any recording device in, and that what I was doing was illegal.

Luckily I remembered most of the conversation and Rona hasn’t confiscated my memory yet. Maybe (it will happen) in our next meeting.

That’s it. There might have been more details but from what I get these were the main issues. I understood that what they were after was our involvement in the BDS, and that they might even be preparing files for the moment the new law is passed.

Yonatan.

I find this account of the conversation very reliable, and similar to other accounts of political interrogations of Jewish activists I heard of. We should remember that political interrogations of Palestinians are not that friendly or polite.

I also think that Yonatan could be right in assuming the police or the Shabak is putting together files on Israelis involved in the BDS. One of the many anti-democratic aspects of the new Knesset bill [Hebrew document] is that it will be possible to enforce it on past actions as well.

Personally I found Yonatan’s graffiti in Warsaw to be of poor taste, but this is none of the Shabak’s business.


Policeman answers an activist: Police is hard on Arabs and lefties, easy on settlers

Posted: July 14th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Left, The Right | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment »
Friday in Sheik Jarrah (photo: Yossi Gurevitz)

Friday in Sheik Jarrah (photo: Yossi Gurvitz)

For some time now, demonstrators in Sheikh Jarrah have been complaining that the Jerusalem police is upholding the law in a discriminating and politically biased way. The police allows rightwing groups to march, demonstrate and carry out all sort of events in the neighborhood – even when they harass local Palestinian residents – while at the same time, it limits the left’s protest to a garden outside the neighborhood.

Since the protest against the colonization of Sheikh Jarrah started, more than 140 protestors have been arrested.

Last week, a group of legal scholars – among them former government attorney Michael Ben-Yair – sent the current government attorney a letter protesting police’s behavior in Sheikh Jarrah. Not that it helped. After last Friday’s rally, which was dispersed by police (video), activist Haggai Matar wrote a post on Mysay.co.il (Hebrew), protesting police discrimination. “Is the law really a law, or is it just what the policeman feels like doing?” asked Matar.

Moshe Strol, a retired cop, answered Matar (Hebrew). He wrote about his own experiences as a policeman in the north, describing a demonstration in a Druse village in which himself and two other policemen were charged with opening fire and causing the death of a local woman.

As a policeman, I was in thousands of demonstrations. I want to tell you, not in a politically correct way: in demonstrations of Arabs the finger on the trigger is very easy. Demonstrations of Haredim (Ultra-Orthodox Jews) are treated with kid gloves. Demonstrations of left-wing activists on Friday also means trigger-happy cops. Rightwing activists in the settlements which break olive trees and beat the Border Police are also treated with kid gloves.

These are orders from above. Don’t believe what police officers and the Police Minister say.

Friday in Sheikh Jarrah (Photo: Yossi Gurevitz)

Friday in Sheikh Jarrah (Photo: Yossi Gurvitz)

UPDATE: the following article, protesting Jeruslem’s police “illegal actions and discriminatory behavior”, was published this week on Haaretz‘s online Hebrew edition (Translation courtesy of Coteret).

There is no police in Jerusalem

By Avner Inbar and Asaf Sharon, Haaretz, July 12

More than 40 public figures, academics and intellectuals sent a strong letter last week to the attorney general, asking him to check suspicions of illegitimate and politically tendentious behavior by the Jerusalem police toward the popular protest in the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. The signatories included a former attorney general, three former ministers of education, a former Knesset speaker, a retired district judge, a former civil service commissioner, Israel Prize winners and university presidents. That such a distinguished group of senior public figures would confront the police attests to the depth of the crisis created by the senior command in Jerusalem.

Since demonstrations against the settlement in Sheikh Jarrah began about seven months ago, more than 120 demonstrators have been arrested, the large majority of whom were detained for 36 hours or more. After the courts ruled that dispersing the demonstrations was illegal, the district police changed tactics: since December the area of the disputed houses has been surrounded with police barriers. But the barriers are used selectively: anyone with a religious-right wing appearance is allowed to pass through them with ease whereas others are forbidden entry.

In March the protesters petitioned the Supreme Court against the refusal of the Jerusalem police to allow them to hold a protest rally in the neighborhood. The district commander argued at the hearing that Sheikh Jarrah is one of the most explosive places in Jerusalem and therefore he could not allow political events to be held there.

Nonetheless, right-wing activists were allowed to hold clearly political events in the neighborhood. The peak of those events was on the last Jerusalem Day, when police allowed hundreds of extreme right-wingers into the area of the disputed houses. All day and all night young religious people danced to songs calling for revenge against the Gentiles in the middle of the street and in the yards of the Palestinian homes, with full police escort. Left-wing activists called to the site by the Arab residents were removed and some were even arrested.

Two days later the left-wing demonstrators wanted to hold their protest in the same place where the right-wing people had demonstrated. When the police officers refused and ordered the demonstrators to move away, hundreds of them sat down on the street in protest. The police responded with severe violence, injured many of the activists and arrested 14 of them, even though the protesters’ demonstration was completely nonviolent and was supported by most of the residents of the neighborhood. During the court hearing the police demanded to remove the activists from Sheikh Jarrah and did not stop short of digressing from the truth, such as imputing baseless charges of assault even after the court rebuked them for doing so.

Even those who were not convinced by the profusion of evidence accumulated over the last months as to the political tendency of the officers of the Jerusalem police would be hard-pressed to ignore the latest decision by the head of the district prosecution unit. He decided to retract the indictments against five extreme right-wing activists who participated in a pogrom in the neighborhood of Jabel Mukabbar two years ago, considering “the fact that it was a gathering that did not rise to the level of a riot and considering the public atmosphere after the criminal attack at the Merkaz Harav yeshiva.”

Footage of the event broadcast by the media clearly shows right-wing demonstrators, some armed with knives and clubs, beating police and pelting Palestinian cars and homes with stones. Following the event senior police officers said they were surprised by “the severity of the riots. It was a very harsh and very violent entry… they used stones, firecrackers, anything.” A senior police officer was quoted as saying “it is not clear how the Jerusalem district command allowed an illegal event to deteriorate to such a level. It is an assault against an innocent population.”

Whereas the Jerusalem police does not see fit to exhaust the proceedings against the Kahanist rioters, dozens of Sheikh Jarrah demonstrators are being charged with rioting because they sat on a dead-end street in front of a police barrier preventing them from holding a legal protest. It is evident, therefore, that according to the district officers the offense of rioting does not depend on the actions of the demonstrators but on the message they are carrying.

With its illegal actions and discriminatory behavior, the Jerusalem police under the command of Cmdr. Aharon Franco has become an armed militia in the service of a nationalist ideology. The Franco police is single-handedly undermining the moral and political legitimacy on which it relies as a policing force. As residents of Jerusalem and citizens of Israel we can no longer recognize the authority of the district police that acts as a political party and not as an arm of law enforcement; at least not until there is a thorough examination of its behavior and the fundamental distortions in the district are corrected.

The authors are activists in the “Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity” movement and doctoral candidates in political philosophy at the University of Chicago (Inbar) and Stanford University (Sharon)


English translation of the new anti human rights organizations Knesset bill

Posted: June 17th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Left, The Right | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Israeli legislators increase their efforts to put limits the work of human rights organizations, and even ban them altogether. Last month I reported here on a new Knesset bill which, if passes, will enable the state to shut down any association or organization which provides information that is used in prosecutions outside Israel against IDF officers. In other words, all watchdog groups which deal with Israel’s security forces – from Amnesty to The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel -  are in danger.

The bill was introduced after the extreme right-wing group Im Tirzu launched a smear campaign against the New Israel Fund, falsely claiming that the NIF is responsible for most of the anti-Israeli evidences in the Goldstone report.

Ironically, it was announced this week that a former IDF infantry soldier might be charged with manslaughter during operation Cast Lead. The soldier shot at a group of Palestinian civilians carrying white flags, killing two women. B’Tselem, an NIF sponsored human rights organization, conducted an independent investigation that led to the charges in this case, which was also cited on the Goldstone report. The Israeli army ceased to conduct its own investigations into the killing of Palestinian civilians, unless a clear evidence of wrongdoing is brought before it.

If the new bill is passed, B’Tselem won’t be able to investigate such cases anymore, as the evidences it collects might be used to prosecute Israeli generals and government ministers.

Here are the two changes that will be put into the law concerning associations in Israel if the new bill is passed, followed by the introduction to the bill, as it was submitted to the Knesset not long ago.

I thank Dena Shunra of Shunra Media, Inc. for translating the bill from Hebrew.

First: “No association will be formed if the Registrar has been persuaded that the association will be involved with or will convey to foreign elements information on the subject of law suits proceeding in instances operating outside of the Stated of Israel, against senior persosn in Israel or military officers, due to war crimes.”

Second [an addition to the close on shutting down associations]: “The association was involved in or will convey to foreign elements information in the subject of law suits being heard in instances operating outside of the State of Israel, against senior persons in Israel or military officers, due to war crimes.”

“Explanation:

As it stands today, the act prohibits the registration and activity of an association which denies the existence of the State of Israel or its democratic nature. Additionally, the association cannot be registered or would be stricken by force of an order by a District Court to the extent that its activity is unlawful.

In recent years the State of Israel has undergone upheaval which has not been easy, neither in terms of security nor in terms of statesmanship. Israel’s propaganda [hasbara] ability has been gravely damaged in light of the fierce and anti-Zionist opposition abroad to the defense actions by the state.

Palestinian propaganda has been influential in the public at large, and especially with youngsters and students at many academic institutes throughout Europe and the United States. Israel’s activity in the [occupied] territories, even if it is within the framework of a defensive military operation following attack and firing of missiles toward our state is perceived as not being legitimate.

The controversial and uni-dimensional United Nations report by Justice Goldstone about the actions of the Israel Defense Forces in Gaza in the course of Operation Cast Lead has brought Israel to an unprecedented nadir, in terms of propaganda.
In many countries, such as Britain, calls are growing stronger for the arrest of senior figures in the Israeli government and officers of the Israel Defense Forces, due to war crimes carried out against Palestinians.

The best leaders and officers find themselves anxious lest they be arrested in a foreign country, for crimes that did not occur and which are ascribed to them.

It is most regretful that especially in this era, when we ought to be united against those groundless accusations, we witness Israeli associations and organizations which act against Israel, below the surface.

These organizations provide assistance of one form or another to foreign organizations which wish to issue arrest warrants and indictments against senior Israeli figures. [punctuation sic] Be it by conveying information (which is mostly erroneous and also untruthful) to foreign elements who are our enemies, or be it by publicly agreeing or affirming that Israel is guilty of war crimes. They sometimes even provide substantial legal assistance in establishing the arguments.

The foundation for this proposed law is that this activity or any hint thereof must be outlawed (especially with regard to associations which receive much funding and some of which are also supported by the State), as they are in fact undermining the State and harming it, as though they had denied its existence.

For this reason, the proposed legislation proposes that the registration of an association about which there are reasonable grounds to suspect that it will act in a judiciary manner against senior figures in the government or in the Israel Defense Forces, in cooperation with foreign elements.

Additionally, it is proposed that any association whose activity is directed against senior figures in the government or in the Israel Defense Forces be dissolved. The dissolution will be in the manner set forth in the Associations Act 5740-1980, by way of expanding the causes of dissolving an association by court order, which would be filed by the Registrar of Associations or by the Attorney General.”

Last week, 20 lawmakers introduced another bill, that would  make it illegal for Israelis to take part in calls to boycott Israeli products or institutions. Both bills, whose intention is to limit the possibility to protest or fight government policy, received support from most Knesset parties, including members of dovish opposition party Kadima.


Israelis find who to blame for Flotilla fiasco: Arab Knesset Members

Posted: June 7th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: racism, The Right, the US and us, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

House Committee recommended revoking special privileges from Arab MK Hanin Zoabi. Other Arab MKs received threats from public and house members alike

Today, Israelis took their anger and frustration over the disastrous raid on the Gaza-bound flotilla on Arab Members of Knesset.

The Knesset’s House Committee recommended revoking special privileges from Arab MK Hanin Zoabi, who was on the Mavi Marmara. Though it was never claimed that MK Zoabi had anything to do with the attack on the soldiers, and she definitely didn’t break any law by boarding the ship in Turkey, the decision against her was passed by a majority of seven to one, with only MK Ilan Gilon of Meretz opposing it.

During the debate, Committee Chairman Yariv Levin from Netanyahu’s Likud party expelled from the room Both MK Gilon and Hadash Jewish MK Dov Khenin who tried to defend Zoabi. Gilon later returned to take part in the vote (Khenin is not a committee member).

Haaretz reports:

The Knesset committee recommended rescinding from Zuabi three key privileges usually granted to Knesset Members. One is the privilege to exit the country – which is supposed to prevent Zoabi from fleeing Israel if she commits a felony or has debts in Israel.

Another privilege is carrying a diplomatic passport, which according to the Knesset’s legal adviser, is a privilege that does not grant diplomatic immunity so revoking it would not make it more difficult for Zuabi to fulfill her duties.

The third privilege is the right to have the Knesset cover litigation fees of an MK if he or she is put on trial.

The revocation of Zuabi’s privileges is conditional on the approval of the Knesset plenum.

Zuabi has been receiving death threats in recent days, and there was even a Facebook group calling to execute her. She became the first MK to have bodyguards escorting her even inside the Knesset, after last week several Knesset members tried to prevent her from speaking, and came near to physically attacking her, as can be seen in this video:

UPDATE: Here the rest of MK Zoabi’s speech at the Knesset, this time with English subtitles. Notice the way Knesset chairman Rubi Rivlin (Likud) defended Zoabi (for most part); too bad he stood almost alone against so many house members. Rivlin also said today that the Knesset has reached an “intolerable low” this week.

Arab MK Ahmed Tibi also received death threats today. An anonymous called told his that “your days are numbered. If a beloved Prime Minister was murdered, what’s killing you compared to that?”. You can here the threats (in Hebrew) on the audio player in this report. Notice the comments to the article, many of them claiming Tibi “deserves it”. Arab MK Taleb el-Sana received today death threats by fax. There was also a Facebook group calling to burn him.

UPDATE: MK Tibi received another letter today, saying he has six more months to live.

You don’t have to look far in order to find the people inciting the public against the Arab MKs. This morning, all Arab Knesset members received a letter from their colleague MK Michael Ben-Ari – a known racist and the student of the late Rabi Meir Kahana, whose movement, Kach, was outlawed both in Israel and in the US – informing them that:

“Tomorrow the Knesset committee will decide on revoking the immunity of the Knesset Members who are collaborating with the enemy. The first debate will be regarding your friend MK Zoabi, who led the terror flotilla to Gaza.

“After we deal with her your turn will come! The people had enough with the use of Israeli democracy to destroy the state. Tomorrow it will be Zoabi, and next week yourselves!”

—————————–

More flotilla news:

●  The IDF had formed its own internal investigating committee to the raid, led by General (res.) Giora Eiland.

●  It seems that Israel will also appoint a legal inquiry committee into the flotilla, with international experts as observers. The panel won’t be able to collect testimonies from soldiers and officers, and will deal mainly with the legal aspects of the attack. Clearly, this is not the investigation the UN and European community demanded, and the question is whether the White House will accept it (I wrote here why it shouldn’t).

●  Egypt authorities informed today that Gaza border will stay open indefinitely. This is a great victory for the flotilla, but Israel might benefit from this move as well, as it makes Gaza more of Cairo’s problem, something Egypt has been trying to avoid.


Hasbara talking points won’t work here

Posted: May 30th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: the US and us | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

This letters exchange between ADL’s Abe Foxman and Peter Beinart following Beinart’s much discussed NYRB article on the failure of the American Jewish establishment, is definitely worth reading.

Foxman works along the talking points of Israeli Hasbara: Camp David, Barak and Olmert’s generous offers, Arab rejectionism, etc. (sometimes I feel that I can recite those lines from my sleep, and so can probably Foxman). What I like about Beinart’s answer – as well as on his original article – is his sensitivity to the tones coming out of Israel – and how they sound to the ears young and liberal people (my Italic):

…Palestinian rejectionism cannot explain Avigdor Lieberman’s crusade to humiliate, disenfranchise, and perhaps even eventually expel Arab Israelis, the vast majority of whom want nothing more than to be accepted as equal citizens in the country of their birth… When do American Jewish organizations plan to start forcefully opposing Lieberman and the forces he represents? When he becomes prime minister?

(…)

In the real Israel, as opposed to the imaginary one that American Jewish leaders conjure, there is no consensus on a Palestinian state. There are Israelis who believe that such a state is a demographic and moral necessity. And there are Israelis—like Lieberman, Effi Eitam, and the leaders of Shas—who are doing their best to make a Palestinian state impossible, for instance by ringing East Jerusalem with settlements. American Jewish leaders cannot profess solidarity with the first group while serving as intellectual bodyguards for the second.

After the NYRB published Beinart’s article, he was attacked for supposedly misrepresenting some issues or being inaccurate on a certain topic. While even this criticism is debatable, it simply misses the point: Beinart captured the spirit of the moment in Israel – and the way it reflects on his own community. The usual answer – “it’s the Palestinians’ fault” – simply won’t work here, because he wasn’t talking about the Palestinians, but about what Israel has become.


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?