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.


The New York Times visits South Mount Hebron

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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.


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).

a-sana1

"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?


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.


Arrested for Post Zionism

Posted: March 24th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, racism, The Left, The Right | Tags: , , , , , , | 18 Comments »
Chappell and Mrti after their release from prison (AP)

Chappell and Mrti after their release from prison (AP)

Pay close attention to this item. It doesn’t seem like much, but it’s an important one:

Two international activists, Ariadna Jove Marti (from Spain) and Bridgette Chappell (Australia), who are living in Bir Zeit in the West Bank (it’s near Ramallah, and well within the Palestinian Autonomy), were arrested by the IDF last month. The two were about to be expelled from Israel, and as it happens in most cases, they appealed against the decision to the Israel Supreme Court.

As Chaim Levinson reports in Haaretz, while trying to defend the arrests and deportation, the state argued before the court that the two activists

…belong to the International Solidarity Movement, an organization “that supports an ideology that is anti-Zionist, pro-Palestinian and universally revolutionary.”

There are two precedents here, and I can’t overstate their importance:

A. The main charge against the activists had nothing to do with national security, but with the ideas they expressed (the state even presented before the court quotes taken from an internet site!). The “crime” involved words, not actions.

It is, to the best of my knowledge, the first (but certainly not last) attempt to present critic of Zionism or support for the Palestinian cause as illegal, and what’s even worse is that the actual arrest was carried out not by police and under orders from the state attorney, but by the army.

It takes a very flexible definition of democracy to describe a regime which makes questioning the dominant ideology a criminal offense.

B. The arrest of the two activists took place in the Palestinian Autonomy’s territory (area A according to the Oslo agreement). Israel often claims that the situation in the West Bank cannot be labeled as Apartheid, since the Palestinians have their own state-like entity. But as we saw in this case (as well as in others), Israel does not respect this autonomy, and its security forces are acting freely within the Palestinian towns and villages, even in cases which have nothing to do with Israeli national security.

——————————–

This time, the court was very critical of the “evidence” presented by the state, and it ruled that it will hear the two activists’ plea. However, as we have come to know in the past, courts cannot hold for a long time against government or security forces’ policies. If the current trends continue, we are not that far from a day in which questioning Zionism might lead to imprisonment – something which was unthinkable not that long ago.

I really don’t think people are aware enough of what’s going on in Israel right now. The rise of racism, the rapid escalation in human rights, the attacks on freedom of speech, the campaign against human rights activists – this is a country on a very dangerous path. As Taayush’s Amos Goldberg wrote in Haaretz a few days ago, It is happening here and now.


So much for freedom of speech: Nakba Law passes first Knesset vote

Posted: March 17th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, racism, The Right | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

(Back to Israel, and to blogging as usual)

The Knesset voted yesterday in favor of Israel Beitenu’s “Nakba Bill”, which authorizes the finance minister to hold funds from institutions or groups who question the nature of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, or who mark the Palestinian Nakba on Israel’s Independence Day.

The goal of this bill – as stated by MK Alex Miller, who initiated it – is to prevent Palestinians from commemorating the national disaster they suffered in 1948, when most of the Arabs in (then) Palestine were expelled or fled from their homes. The original version of MK Miller’s bill made marking the Nakba a criminal offense, liable to up to three years in prison. Political pressure from Labor forced him to introduce the” softer” version, which was approved yesterday.

The bill still needs to pass two votes in the parliament for it to become a state law.

I hope all those praising “The only democracy in the middle East” pay close attention to what’s going on in Israel right now, and most notably to this law. This is no less than an organized attack – and a very successful one – on freedom of speech in this country, just like the effort to ban movies and books which are considered unpatriotic. The new bill’s mandate is so broad, that it actually gives the government authority to withdrawal funds and ultimately close universities and colleges who would teach what might be viewed as “anti-Zionist” classes.

From a morale point of view, this law is even more despicable: not only that Israel refuses to recognize its part in the national catastrophe that the Palestinian people suffered – this is not new – now it doesn’t even allow them to mention it. If an Arab school teaches Palestinian history to its kids, it risks being closed. In the tradition of totalitarian regimes across the globe, instead of making minorities part of our broad national narrative, we try to erase their history and than demand they celebrate on our Independence Day.

I wonder what Allan Dershowitz, who still views himself as a liberal and a defender of freedom of speech, would have to say about this law.

———————————-

And this also happened this week: the office of the minister of education forbade distributing a booklet for kids about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, because it didn’t like two articles in the declaration, as well as some of the illustration in the booklet.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

—————————

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

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

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

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