Archive | April 26th, 2010



Video footage shows Israel firing on nonviolent protest in Gaza

Posted: 25 Apr 2010 09:30 PM PDT

 Above is video that International Solidarity Movement (ISM) volunteer Bianca Zammit shot up until the time she was shot by the Israeli military during a nonviolent protest in Gaza. The demonstration opposed an Israeli-imposed buffer zone that is having a devastating effect on farmers in Gaza who are now no longer able to work their land. Protesters report that Israeli soldiers fired live ammunition at the protesters at point blank range.

In addition to Zammit, 22-year old Hind Al Akra was shot in the stomach and 18-year old Nidal Al Naji was shot in the leg. All three are now in stable condition.

More from the ISM:

The non-violent demonstrations are held in protest against the arbitrary decision by Israel to instate a 300 metre buffer zone as a no-go area for Palestinians where shoot to kill policy is implemented. Different demonstrations at the crossings of Erez in Beit Hanoun, Nahal Oz, Al Atatra and Rafah now take place weekly, and are growing in number despite at least 5 people shot over the last month, some injured and killed as far as 2 kilometres away from the border.

The Popular Campaign for the Security in the Buffer Zone, an umbrella organization that includes organizations representing farmers and Gaza residents living near the border, and also a number of political parties are present at many of these demonstrations.

Those venturing to the border regions to gather rubble and steel do so as a result of the siege on Gaza which, along with Israel’s 23 day winter war on Gaza, has decimated Gaza’s economy, including 95 percent of Gaza’s factories and businesses, according to the United Nations. Additionally, these recycled construction materials are vital in Gaza where the Israeli-led siege bans all but under 40 items from entering.

More on apartheid in Israel/Palestine

Posted: 25 Apr 2010 09:25 PM PDT

Writing in the The Brown Daily Herald, Jonathan Ben-Artzi responds to a debate on campus over the comparsion between apartheid South Africa and contemporary Israel/Palestine. From his article “Yes, apartheid“:

As an Israeli, I had to start planning for my military service during my senior year of high school. In Israel, interviews, medical checkups, examinations and forms are all a routine part of one’s 18th birthday. However, long before scheduling my first interview, I had already made up my mind:

“I will not join the military.” I decided that I had to take a stand in the face of policies of segregation and discrimination that ravaged (and still ravage) my country and the occupied Palestinian territories.

Within Israel, these acts of segregation include towns reserved for Jews only, immigration laws that allow any Jew from around the world to immigrate but simultaneously deny displaced indigenous Palestinians that same right, and national health care and school systems that receive significantly more funding in Jewish towns than in Arab towns.

Even former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert described the situation as a “deliberate discrimination,” and added that “governments have denied [Palestinian citizens of Israel] their rights to improve their quality of life.”

The situation in the Occupied Territories is even worse. Nearly 4 million Palestinians have been living under Israeli occupation for over 40 years without basic human and civil rights. Examples include roads that are for Jews only, discrimination in water supply (Israelis use as much as four times more water than Palestinians, while Palestinians are not allowed to dig their own wells and must rely on Israeli supply) and the collective punishment of Gaza, where 1.5 million Palestinians have been living in the largest open-air prison on earth for over four years.

What should one call this situation? The International Criminal Court defines the crime of apartheid as “inhumane acts […] committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.”

What South African Community Leaders Should Have Done – The Goldstone Scandal

Posted: 25 Apr 2010 09:20 PM PDT

The leadership of South African Jewish community has retreated in shame over the barring of Judge Goldstone from his grandson’s barmitzvah. In a statement released late Friday afternoon it was confirmed that Judge Goldstone would attend the event and that no protests would take place.

The international embarrassment that has followed the disgraceful ‘effective barring’ of Goldstone has no doubt contributed to this reversal. Whilst we should celebrate this victory thought should be given to the manner in which these events unfolded. The recent capitulation of the community leadership does not excuse their previous behaviour.

Following the initial media reports the Chief Rabbi, South African Zionist Federation and South African Jewish Board of Deputies released statements that were equivocal and disingenuous attempting to argue that no barring had taken place. Further they asserted that the SAZF and Chief Rabbi had merely “interacted” with the family and facilitated a “compromise” where Justice Goldstone would refrain from attending in order not to mar the occasion.

Despite the polite sounding words this should be understood as having brought enough pressure to bear on the family in order to achieve this outcome.

Subsequently Chief Rabbi Goldstein has publically voiced his support for the “the eternal principle of open synagogues” and therefore Goldstone’s ability to attend the ceremony. However Goldstein attempts to rehabilitate his image it must remember that Goldstone himself has said that the Chief Rabbi brazenly politicized the occasion and that there was a deep incongruence between his rhetoric and the manner in which the family was treated.

Equally it must be remembered from whence the threats to protest originated. Rabbi Moshe Kurtstag, the Head of the Beth Din (the highest body of religious authority in the community), was originally quoted as saying: “I heard also that the SAZF wanted to organise a protest outside the shul – (there were) all kinds of plans. But I think reason prevailed.”

This was confirmed by Harelle Isaacs, speaking on behalf of the Beth Hamedrash Hagadol, in the Cape Times (Friday 16 April 2010) who said that “there will probably be a protest by the SAZF”. Avrom Krengel, the chairperson of the SAZF, was then quoted in the Cape Times (Monday 19 April 2010) as saying they would protest should Goldstone change his mind and attend.

Numerous leaders, including Ze’ev Krengel, the chair of the SAJBOD, have defended the legitimacy of protest action as part of exercising the right of freedom of speech (Jewish Report 23 April 2010).

Defending freedom of speech, however, does not mean that leaders should sanction protest action at any opportunity. The right to freedom of speech is sacrosanct but we are entitled to decry the exercising of this right when we consider it grossly inappropriate. To choose a random example: we are entitled to protest outside the house of a dying man but this may be unnecessarily cruel and therefore legitimately discourage (not forbidden) by responsible leaders.

What the community leaders should have done:

1. Unequivocally denounced and distanced themselves publically from any people or group planning to protest at a child’s bar mitzvah. This would have isolated the protesters and turned them into a small group of unsanctioned radicals.

2. Ensured that the protesters, whilst being allowed to exercise their right to freedom of speech, where not allowed access to the synagogue grounds as it may disrupt the peaceful religious proceedings.

3. Assuming that the protesters did not seek permission from the city council and police, as is necessary to hold any legal demonstration, the security and leadership could politely insist they hold their demonstration a safe distance away from the synagogue so as not to disrupt. Legally they would be entitled to call the police but this would be unnecessarily heavy handed.

4. Supported Justice Goldstone’s religious right to get an “honour” in the synagogue.

5. Refrained from visceral personal attacks on Goldstone, for example Krengel’s reported remark, at a SAZF meeting on 14 March 2010, that Goldstone was the worst thing to happen to the Jews since the Inquisition.

6. Should they wish to go the “extra mile” and demonstrate real support for diversity in the community, as they often say they do, they could have personally attended the ceremony.

The original position of the community leadership implied that they were powerless to prevent community members for legitimately exercising their right to freedom of speech. The recent reversal says exactly the opposite.

The fact remains that the community leadership failed in their duty to promote civil communal life and deal honestly with their constituents. Under their watch one of the most powerful community organizations (the SAZF) actively sought to protest at a child’s bar mitzvah. The initial response gave a deliberately distorted view of their role and the nature of the “interaction” with the Goldstone family. Now they have change their position but failed to apologize or take responsibility for the harm done.

What emerges is a picture of community leaders that are dishonest bullies who ignore common decency in pursuing their narrow ideological goals. They have actively fostered intolerance and conflict in the community and failed to take responsibility for their actions. Their policy reversal is not commendable but simply the only decent thing to do.
Gilad Isaacs
New York, ex-Cape Town


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Earth Day in Israel: Apartheid Showing Through the Greenwash

Posted: 24 Apr 2010 09:55 PM PDT

On April 22, as part of the global Earth Day celebrations, homes, offices and public buildings in 14 Israeli cities turned out the lights for one hour in an effort to “increase awareness of the vital need to reduce energy consumption.”

The Earth Day celebrations included scenes of green fields, wind generators and rainbows projected on the walls of the Old City in Jerusalem, the Green Globes Award ceremony recognizing “outstanding contributions to promote the environment” and a concert in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv powered by generators running on vegetable oil as well as volunteers on 48 bikes pedaling away to produce electricity.

The irony was not lost on the 1.5 million residents of Gaza who have been living with daily power outages lasting hours on end for nearly three years due to the Israeli siege on the coastal territory. The Israeli Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) reports that over 100 million liters of fuel were allowed into Gaza in 2009, however as Gisha points out, that amounts to only 57% of the need.

As summer approaches bringing peak demands, spare parts and tools for turbine repair are in dire need. There are currently over 50 truckloads of electrical equipment awaiting approval by the Israeli authorities for entry to Gaza.

The constant power outages have led many families in Gaza to rely on low quality generators running on low quality fuels, both brought in through the tunnels from Egypt, causing a sharp increase in accidents resulting in injury and death. According to the UN agency OCHA, in the first three months of 2010, 17 people died in generator related accidents, including fires and carbon monoxide poisoning.

The mayor of the central Israeli city of Ra’anana, of which 48% is reserved for city parks, vowed to plant thousands of trees as part of the city’s sustainable agenda. Palestinian farmers from the West Bank village of Qaryut near Nablus had their own tree planting ceremony in honor of Earth Day, only to find the 250 olive tree saplings uprooted by Israeli settlers from Givat Hayovel.

Another 300 were uprooted during the night of April 13 outside the Palestinian village of Mihmas by settlers from the nearby Migron outpost. The Palestinian Land Research Center estimates that over 12000 olive trees were uprooted throughout the West Bank in 2009, with Israeli authorities responsible for about 60%, clearing the land for settlements and construction of the wall, and Israeli settlers the rest.

Earth Day in Gaza brought armor plated bulldozers escorted by Israeli tanks that proceeded to rip through fields of winter wheat, rye and lentils at Al Faraheen near Khan Younis in the Israeli imposed buffer zone, destroying the livelihood of a Palestinian family because, as Max Ajl, who filmed the entire shameful episode, explained, “They could.”

But that’s not all that was being dug up in Gaza. The UN Mine Action Service uncovered and removed 345 unexploded ordnance, including 60 white phosphorus shells, left over from the Israeli assault on Gaza. Approximately half were found under the rubble of destroyed buildings.

As the Israeli Ministry of Environmental Protection was launching its “Clean Coast 2010” program for Earth Day, somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 million liters of raw or partially treated sewage was being pumped into the Mediterranean sea from Gaza’s overworked, under funded and seldom repaired sewage treatment plant. Damage from Israeli air strikes and lack of electric power and spare parts due to the siege make it impossible for the plant to meet the demands of Gaza’s 1.5 million residents, with the daily overflow creating serious health hazards.

In addition to the Green Globe awards, the Ministry of Environmental Protection had it’s own award ceremony last month recognizing Israeli Defense Force units, soldiers and commanders who “exhibited excellence in protecting the environment, environmental resources and the landscape.” The theme for this year’s annual competition was water and included projects related to the “protection of water sources” and “water savings.”

For Palestinians living in the West Bank, this “protection of water sources” was documented in Amnesty International’s October 2009 report Troubled Water: “The Israeli army’s destruction of Palestinian water facilities – rainwater harvesting and storage cisterns, agricultural pools and spring canals – on the grounds that they were constructed without permits from the army is often accompanied by other measures that aim to restrict or eliminate the presence of Palestinians from specific areas of the West Bank.”

The Amnesty International report also notes that for decades, Israeli settlers have instead “been given virtually unlimited access to water supplies to develop and irrigate the large farms which help to support unlawful Israeli settlements.” And nowhere is this more evident than the Jordan Valley where 95% of the area is occupied by Israeli settlements, plantations and military bases and where “Israeli water extraction inside the West Bank is highest.”

One such company helping to sustain the illegal settlement economy is Carmel Agrexco, Israel’s largest fresh produce exporter. By its own admission the company, which is half owned by the State of Israel, exports 70% of the produce grown in the West Bank settlements. Europe is by far its biggest market, though its produce arrives as far as North America and the Far East.

Agrexco promotes itself as a green company, with a focus eco-friendly packaging and organic produce, though one could argue that transporting organic bell peppers from Israel to the US is hardly ecological. Even the self-proclaimed “green ships” used to bring fresh produce to Europe are named Bio-Top and EcoFresh. ”

But there is nothing green about occupation and colonization, nothing ecological in violating human rights and dignity. And that’s why an international coalition supporting the Palestinian call for boycotts of Israeli products has set its sights on removing Carmel Agrexco produce from supermarkets – and ports – across Europe.

The original Earth Day was about grassroots mobilization, public protest for change and political awareness of the issues. In Israel’s Earth Day celebrations, its Apartheid system is showing through the greenwash.

Stephanie Westbrook is a U.S. citizen who has been living in Rome, Italy since 1991. She is active in the peace and social justice movements in Italy and traveled to Gaza in June 2009. She can be reached at

For more information on the boycott campaigns targeting Carmel Agrexco in Europe, see:
UK –
Italy –
France –

Israeli leftist: Join us in our war against this fatal affliction, the occupation

Posted: 24 Apr 2010 07:33 PM PDT

 Rami Elhanan, who lost his daughter Smadar to a suicide bomber in 1997, in a speech last week, picked up at Kibush

I think about the stations of my life, on the long journey that I have taken on my way to a redefinition of myself, of my Israeliness, of my Jewishness and of my humanity. About the light-years that I have travelled, from the young man who 37 years ago fought in a pulverized tank company, on the other side of the Suez Canal, from the young father who 28 years ago walked the streets of bombed Beirut, and it did not at all occur to me that things could be otherwise.

I was a pure product of a cultural-educational and political system that brainwashed me, poisoned my consciousness and prepared me and others of my generation for sacrifice on the altar of the homeland, without any superfluous questions, in the innocent belief that if we did not do it, they would throw us – the second generation after the Holocaust – into the Mediterranean Sea.

Nearly 40 years have passed since then, and every year this armour of victimhood continues to crack. The self-righteousness and the feeling of wretchedness keep dissipating, and the wall that separates me from the other side of the story keeps crumbling.

…this evening I want to talk specifically to those who are in between, who are sitting on the fence and watching us from the sidelines, I want to talk to the satiated Israeli public that does not pay the price of the Occupation, the public that sticks its head in the sand and does not want to know, that lives within a bubble, watches television, eats in restaurants, goes on vacation, enjoys the good life and looks after their its own interests, shielded by the pandering media that help it to hide from the bitter reality that is concealed only a few metres from where they live: the Occupation, the theft of lands and houses, the daily harassment and oppression and humiliation, the checkpoints, the abomination in Gaza, the sewage on the streets of Anata …

On this evening, especially, I want to address the Left public in all its shades, those who are disillusioned and angry, those who are afflicted with apathy, with despair and weakness, those who enclose themselves in the bubble of themselves and grumble on Friday nights, but are not involved with us in this hard war against the aggressive pathogen of the Occupation that threatens to destroy the humanity of all of us. And on this evening, the evening of Remembrance Day for the dead on both sides, I want to ask them to join us in our war against this fatal affliction! I want to tell them that to be bystanders is to be complicit in crime! I want to tell them that there are many who are not willing to stand aside, who are not willing to be silent in the face of evil and stupidity and the absence of basic accountability and justice!

And I want to tell them about the true anonymous heroes of our dark age! About those who are willing to pay a high personal price for their honesty and decency, those who dare to stand in front of the bulldozers with rare and amazing courage, the refusers who say no to the omnipresent militarism, the combatants for peace who discarded their weapons in favour of non-violent resistance, the resolute demonstrators who crush against the terror of the police and the army in Bil’in, in Ni’lin, in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan every weekend, the lawyers who struggle every day in the Ofer camp military Court, and in the High Court of Justice, the heroic women of Mahsom Watch, the dedicated peace activists from abroad, like the late Rachel Corrie who gave her life, and also the those who blow the whistle on crimes and conspiracies, from Anat Kam to Gideon Levy and Akiva Eldar, and also the peace organizations of both peoples, and especially the bereaved Palestinian and Israeli families who are bringing about the miracle of reconciliation despite their tragedies.

The darker the sky gets, the more visible are these stars gleaming in the darkness!

Israelis shoot Maltese photographer as she films Gaza demonstration

Posted: 24 Apr 2010 01:09 PM PDT

zammitJust a flesh wound to the leg, I’m told: a Maltese volunteer was shot in Gaza by Israeli soldiers as she filmed a demonstration yesterday. Eva Bartlett of International Solidarity Movement (ISM) reports:

Bianca Zammit, shot in her outer thigh (leg) by armed Israeli soldiers as she filmed, unarmed, at a Palestinian demonstration against the Israeli-imposed “buffer zone”. Bianca, about 3 metres to my left, was standing stationary, filming the IOF soldiers shooting on unarmed Palestinians between us and the border fence. As she was stationary, it is very unlikely that Bianca’s shooting was an accident.

Max Ajl has more on Zammit, a member of ISM, and the shooting here.

And Robert Hand at facebook offers this account:

“We were walking towards the fence surrounding Gaza when Israeli soldiers opened fire at us,” Zammit said. “People sought cover but I kept filming. When the protestors stood up again to keep walking ahead, they shot again and hit three of us.

“All the Palestinians do in these demonstrations is to get as close as possible to the fence and plant the Palestinian flag. We posed no threat whatsoever.”…

The Maltese Ambassador in Israel, Abraham Borg, said he will be demanding explanations from the Israeli government and that he was monitoring the case.

Israel’s ‘guardian,’ Sen. Schumer says Gazans are suffering but they deserve it

Posted: 24 Apr 2010 11:48 AM PDT

Ben Smith picks up a disturbing radio interview of Chuck Schumer by Nachum Segal, who is apparently to the right of Schumer and of course has influence, in which Schumer repeatedly sides with Israel over Obama and says the collective punishment of the Palestinian people in Gaza is tough luck. Notice Schumer’s claim that all Americans share his feeling, but the contradictory statement that it’s “Jewish members” of Congress who will be meeting Obama to stand up for Israel.

Oh my. Amy Goodman, please run for Congress. Notice that Schumer has Obama’s ear and brags of spending lots of time with Netanyahu. And you thought Democrats couldn’t learn to love a rightwinger. Read the comments at Politico and you will see that people ain’t buying, the American street is enraged by Schumer’s allegiances.  

Excerpt begins with Schumer’s reference to State Department spokesman PJ Crowley’s description of Hillary Clinton’s exchange with Netanyahu: Clinton “made clear that the Israeli government needed to demonstrate not just through words but through specific actions that they are committed to this relationship and to the peace process.”

“And Crowley said something I have never heard before, which is, the relationship of Israel and the United States depends on the pace of the negotiations.”

“That is terrible. That is the dagger because the relationship is much deeper than the disagreements on negotiations, and most Americans—Democrat, Republican, Jew, non-Jew–would feel that. So I called up Rahm Emanuel and I called up the White House and I said, ‘If you don’t retract that statement you are going to hear me publicly blast you on this…'”

[Ben Smith:] Schumer said the White House had backed off that statement, but that now “many of us are pushing back, some of the Jewish members will be meeting with the President next week or the week after, and we are saying that this has to stop.”

More directly from the Segal interview, Schumer speaking:

there is some economic growth in the West Bank. It’s growing at 7-8%, Netanyahu brags that — when he came here I spent a lot of time with him – That there are multiplex theatres in places like Ramallah and Janeen.

At the same time that is happening, there is prosperity with the more moderate Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, and Hamas in Gaza is being squeezed and people there are doing very badly. Not only because Israel has blocked off the border and not let anything into Gaza, and I support Israel in doing that, and it may be tough on the Palestinian people, but when they vote for Hamas they are going to have to suffer the consequences…

Senator Schumer, the perception among New York state residents, and I’m one of them as you know, is there likely is no one closer in the Senate to the President than you.

SCHUMER: That’s not quite true, but I have an ear and frankly I spent time on the phone just yesterday talking to him about this, and telling him that I didn’t quite understand the United States policy, because even if the goal is to bring about talks of peace, it was counter-productive because it’s encouraging the Palestinians not to sit down.

SEGAL: More than ¾ of the Senate, including a lot of democrats, signed the letter to Sec. of State Clinton rebuking the administration for these confrontational stances toward Israel. Were you surprised that names like Kerry, Dodd, Durbin, Leahy and Reid were not included in that letter?

SCHUMER: well I think Senator Reid signed the letter, some didn’t sign but the majority of both parties signed. And we’ll have other letters and other meetings to keep pushing that. I think you can say there are a handful of people who are not sympathetic to Israel in the Senate of each party, but 90% of the Senate is overwhelmingly in support of Israel.

And one of my jobs, as you know is to rally those forces to do strong poll work for this year (couldn’t hear this part perfectly). Believe me I think the policy has to change, and I’m working hard to make it change and I think it will. Every administration at the beginning has this view even Ronald Reagan, the best friend Israel ever had, do you remember his first 2 years?

When George Schultz wanted to sell AWACs to Saudi Arabia? Every administration has this idea to talk tough to Israel and make nice to the Arabs and the Palestinians and that’s the way to bring about peace. It’s counter-productive, it’s actually the

Luckily in terms of Jewish people we have good representation in terms of the Supreme Court. That will continue. One thing I want to assure your listeners

Nachum, my name as you know comes from a Hebrew word. It comes from the word shomer, which mean guardian. My ancestors were guardians of the ghetto wall in Chortkov and I believe Hashem, actually, gave me name as one of my roles that is very important in the

United States Senate to be a shomer to be A. a shomer for Israel and I will continue to be that with every bone in my body for of the other is against me.

Haber: BDS is about justice and self-determination, not one-state/two-state

Posted: 24 Apr 2010 10:58 AM PDT

Jerry Haber (Magnes Zionist) responds to Ahmed Moor in their dialogue about liberal Zionists and BDS. 

Since Ahmed Moor and I agree on many fundamental goals — transforming Israel from an ethnic Jewish state to a state of all its citizens, dispensing justice to those who have been wronged, enabling the Palestinian people to exercise their inalienable rights – and since we also agree on the stated goals of the global BDS movement, let me reiterate briefly where we disagree.

We disagree over the tactics of the global BDS campaign, or to be more precise, Moor disagrees with the tactics of the global BDS campaign. I argued, and he did not challenge this, that the global BDS movement takes no position on regime change in Israel, and it certainly does not take a position on the one-state issue. It bases itself on international resolutions and international human rights law.

That allows for a pretty broad coalition, and so it is not surprising that prominent Jews and Israelis who supported the Berkeley divestment resolution included two-staters like Noam Chomsky and self-described Zionists like Prof. Lev Grinberg of Ben-Gurion University. In many battles the global BDS movement has faced, it has been aided by two-staters, and those people are essential and valued allies (Neither Chomsky nor Grinberg would qualify for Moor’s “racist neighbor” example.)

I don’t know whether Moor realizes that one can be a two-stater and not a statist Zionist, or for that matter, a Zionist who is opposed to a Jewish ethnic state. One can hold, for example, that alongside a state of Palestine will be an Israeli state of all its citizens, one that can have an Arab prime minister, grants full civil equality to all its citizens, and fosters the culture and heritage of its principle ethnic and religious groups.

Such a state would abolish the current Israeli Law of Return and Naturalization laws, which privilege one group and does not provide for naturalization (except by ministerial fiat). It would look a bit like what Bernard Avishai calls “a Hebrew republic. “ Unless I am mistaken, Moor confuses the call for the transformation of Israel into a liberal democracy with the call for its replacement by one state. In fact the one-state, two-state debate at this point is not the issue – what is at issue is how to provide justice and self-determination for the Israeli and Palestinian peoples. 

My point about Palestinian Israelis not opposing Israel as a Jewish ethnic state was not with respect to their ideology or their wishes. It is a no-brainer that Israeli Palestinians, like any people, want to live in a society in which they are not foundationally discriminated against, and the Jewish ethnic state does just that.

What I meant to say is that many of these Palestinians want very much to live in an *Israel* that does not so discriminate. They are, despite everything, Israeli Palestinians with an Israeli Palestinian identity. And that certainly is true of intellectuals like Azmi Bishara and politicians like Ahmed Tibi, who know Hebrew and Jewish culture better than most Jews outside Israel (and many within Israel.) 

Moor and I find the compromises offered by the liberal Zionists at best inadequate and at worst deeply offensive. He and I are rightfully annoyed with the many attempts to give the Palestinians crumbs. Since I am not a statist Zionist but a cultural one none of his arguments against liberal Zionism affects me. He mistakes my call to liberal Zionists to support BDS, despite some misgivings, with the call for Palestinians to hold hands with liberal Zionists. Did I say anything about dialogue in my post?

The anti-apartheid movement brought together different groups with different ideologies. Even so, it was not enough to bring down apartheid by itself; historians still debate about the efficacy of the movement. Moor says that he would rather see the Berkeley student senate vote down partial divestment than for some of its members to support it for the wrong reasons.

His and my disagreement on this point may stem, in part, from the stages in life in which we find ourselves. Moor is a young man and has a lot of time. He can wait for the world to grow up and see the light. Neither I nor, apparently, the global BDS movement can.


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Neturei Karta on supporting a Palestinian state

Posted: 25 Apr 2010 06:21 PM PDT

Let nobody say that the Jews don’t have a wider variety of practitioners:

Members of the anti-Zionist, ultra-Orthodox sect Neturei Karta never miss an opportunity to express their antagonism to the State and its symbols. Just last week they burned Israeli flags and disrupted the minute’s silence to honor Israel’s fallen, and now, on Sunday, they decided to take advantage of the tension in the Silwan neighborhood of east Jerusalem following the march by right-wing Israelis, to contribute to the tension too.

Between cries of “death to Jews”, flying stones and improvised firebombs hurled at security forces, the members of the haredi group stood out. Some were seen holding stones and others held signs calling for the establishment of a Palestinian state from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River.

The right-wing march that sparked the clashes in the neighborhood was organized by members of a group calling themselves “Eretz Israel Shelanu” (“Our land of Israel”).

The march was held in spite of protest from many political figures including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself. The event ended relatively calmly, though some policemen were injured.

Why is Australia really moving forward with net filtering?

Posted: 25 Apr 2010 06:10 PM PDT

A strong editorial in today’s Sydney Morning Herald on the Australian government’s proposed internet censorship regime (destined to both fail and embarrass):

Stephen Conroy, the Communications Minister, is feeling the heat over his attempt to censor the internet for Australians. The latest critic is the US government. Conroy, of course, is used to criticism. Internet polls overwhelmingly oppose his measure. He was 2009’s villain of the year at international internet industry awards for his singleminded doggedness in his self-appointed task.

Reporters Without Borders has placed Australia on its list of countries under surveillance as a possible ”internet enemy”. He has shrugged it all off. We do not doubt he has the self-belief similarly to shrug off criticism by the US State Department as just more carping from an ungrateful world.

Yet the minister should listen more closely. His explanations for what he proposes have been inadequate, and his justifications are equally so. He lists sites dealing with child pornography and bestiality as among those that would be banned as having been refused classification – just as publications would be in other media. He asks:

what’s so special about the internet? The answer is: nothing. But Conroy compares the internet with means of publishing – books, films – and assumes it should be subject to the same classification controls as they are. In fact it should be compared with free means of communication – speech, telephones, newspapers – which it more closely resembles, and in which governments intervene less because intervention is less likely to be effective.

Technology, in effect, makes his arguments about child pornography and terrorist communications into red herrings. As information technology experts attest, a filter will not work. Child pornography and other horrors will still be available to those internet users who pursue the (not particularly sophisticated) ways to circumvent it. The great majority of internet users, needless to say, will steer well clear unprompted.

But by trying to control the net, Conroy raises expectations that such a thing can be done. When the measure fails, as it will, there will be pressure to crack down harder, to restrict freedoms further. And what happens when various pressure groups – well intended, no doubt, every one of them – decide that they would like views opposing theirs censored, and start to pressure governments to limit net access further? Can we be confident that Conroy would defend freedom of speech in particular instances, now that he has so easily given away the general principle?

By trying to sanitise the net, he is limiting what is becoming a basic medium of information exchange, and gagging freedom of speech. He should stop now.

The day Obama allowed Israel to bomb Iran

Posted: 25 Apr 2010 07:03 AM PDT

For anybody who thinks that Obama’s America would never allow Israel to go crazy, here’s a cold shower:

The Barack Obama administration’s declaration in its Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) that it is reserving the right to use nuclear weapons against Iran represents a new element in a strategy of persuading Tehran that an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear sites is a serious possibility if Iran does not bow to the demand that it cease uranium enrichment.

Although administration officials have carefully refrained from drawing any direct connection between the new nuclear option and the Israeli threat, the NPR broadens the range of contingencies in which nuclear weapons might play a role so as to include an Iranian military response to an Israeli attack.

A war involving Iran that begins with an Israeli attack is the only plausible scenario that would fit the category of contingencies in the document.

The role of Palestine in global peace (through New Zealand)

Posted: 25 Apr 2010 06:22 AM PDT

I’m soon to visit New Zealand for the Auckland Writer’s Festival and a nationwide tour to various cities to speak about the Middle East.

For any New Zealand readers, here’s another major event:

Obama is like Hitler for some West Bank settlers

Posted: 25 Apr 2010 06:16 AM PDT

Crazy rightist Jews burn effigies of Barack Obama in the West Bank.

The interview between a reporter and a settler is instructive:

Rino Tzror: Hello to Guy Varon, our correspondent in the territories. So they started to distribute effigies and pictures of Obama?

Guy Varon: After we have seen right-wing activists burning pictures of Saddam, Nasrallah and Arafat in recent years on Lag B’Omer, this year there is a new star, US Pres. Barack Obama.

Rino Tzror: Did you see an effigy of Obama?Guy Varon: We saw the effigies and the pictures. I also want to add that we say Barack Obama. These right wing people really like to say Hussein Obama.

Rino Tzror: Right.

Guy Varon: Pictures and effigies of the superpower leader will be distributed this year ahead of Lag B’Omer by rightwing activists. They explained that as far as they are concerned he is an enemy of Israel. His behavior harms Israel more than anything. For them the message is that Obama is bad for the Jews.

Rino Tzror: And they’re going to burn him on bonfires, like they used to burn pictures of Hitler, of all kinds of enemies of Israel. Is that the way Obama is going to be treated this Lag B’Omer?

Guy Varon: That is definitely the intention of the people who are giving out the pictures and the effigies.

Rino Tzror: Stay with us. Now we are going to talk to Bentzy Gopstein. Good morning.

Bentzy Gopstein: Good morning Rino.

Rino Tzror: You are a follower of Kahane, right?

Bentzy Gopstein: Right.

Rino Tzror: Who started this project of Obama effigies?

Bentzy Gopstein: There are a few friends together. They decided that today the enemy of Israel, even though he does not pretend to be an enemy of Israel, is Barack Hussein Obama. Just like you said that you used to burn pictures of Israel’s enemies. That is how I remember that I too used to burn pictures of Arafat, Sheikh Yassin, Hussein. Today our enemy is Obama.

Rino Tzror: No, I never burned Hussein. We used to burn Hitler. We used to go for the real villains, not the ones who maybe were and maybe weren’t.

Bentzy Gopstein: I don’t think maybe he is and maybe he isn’t. I think that Hussein Obama who wants to freeze construction in Jerusalem every minute, he would even like to just freeze Israel over. He pretends to be a friend but actually he loves Islam. He is an anti-Semite, nothing less.

Rino Tzror: So who is responsible for the actual industry, who produces them, how many, do you have any idea?

Bentzy Gopstein: There are printing presses that print it and then stick it on.

Rino Tzror: What picture of Obama did you choose?

Bentzy Gopstein: A nice one.

Rino Tzror: A nice one. With or without a keffiyeh? Did you add one? Did you touch it up?

Bentzy Gopstein: No keffiyeh. A real picture of him conveys a keffiyeh, even if you don’t put one on him.

Rino Tzror: It conveys it to you. How many effigies did you make?

Bentzy Gopstein: A few hundreds. We are in production now. Some have been made. We distribute through Facebook. We opened the group “Hussein Obama comes to the bonfire.” That is where people will join and receive the effigies.

Rino Tzror: And who are the people who take the effigies or the pictures that they want to burn?

Bentzy Gopstein: A lot of people. We have inquiries from children all over the country.

Rino Tzror: Children. That’s the problem. Maybe you are ruining them.

Bentzy Gopstein: We want to educate children while they are small. When you burn it, when you have a Lag B’Omer bonfire with children, education begins with children. We want to teach them that we have to trust God, not Obama.

Rino Tzror: Thank you, Bentzy Gopstein.

Bentzy Gopstein: You’re welcome.

And not a word from the Zionist Diaspora in condemnation.

The grinding familiarity of Israeli attitudes towards Gaza

Posted: 25 Apr 2010 06:07 AM PDT

Just a day in the occupied Gaza Strip.

Jewish blogger Max Ajl is currently living and working in Gaza and writing about a world most people never see (like this).

Here’s a recent post about Israel’s ever-increasing destruction of Palestinian farm-land:

What are you seeing here? After an hour’s time to correctly set up this horrible act, Israeli military bulldozers and tanks entered Palestinian land and churned up winter wheat, rye, and lentils, because they could, because that’s how they punish the Palestinians living in Abasan Kabeer, Farraheen, and because Israeli strategy is to shrink the Gaza prison and force the people living there to rely solely on a feeding tube called UNRWA for survival.

What fascists do to defenders of justice

Posted: 25 Apr 2010 05:57 AM PDT

A warning to any international lawyers who try and address history’s wrongs. You will pay a price, usually by those most closely associated with the original sin:

The crowd gathered outside Madrid’s national court was loud and angry. “The world has been turned upside down,” they cried. “The fascists are judging the judge!” Some carried photographs of long-dead relatives, killed by rightwing death squads in Spain’s brutal civil war in the 1930s. Others bore placards bearing the name of the hero they wanted to save, the controversial “superjudge” Baltasar Garzón.

Pedro Romero de Castilla carried a picture of his grandfather, Wenceslao – a former stationmaster taken away from his home in the western city of Mérida and shot by a death squad at the service of Generalísimo Francisco Franco’s rightwing military rebels 74 years ago. The family have never found his body.

Garzón, he explained, had dared to investigate the atrocities of 36 years of Franco’s dictatorship and now, as a result, he faces trial for allegedly abusing his powers. “My grandfather’s case is one that Garzón wanted to investigate,” he said. “He’s a brave and intelligent judge, but now the right are out to get him.”

Police tried to herd Romero and his fellow protesters away, but 400 of them marched to nearby Calle de Génova and brought traffic to a standstill. It was a taste of the anger being expressed daily across Spain, with tens of thousands of people due to march in the country last night.

Garzón still works at the national court, stepping out of his bomb-proof car every morning and climbing the courthouse steps to deal with cases involving terrorism, political corruption, international drug-trafficking and human rights cases. Soon, however, the hyperactive investigating magistrate who shot to global fame by ordering the 1998 arrest of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in London will have his cases taken away from him.

Just a hundred yards across a square, stern-faced judges at the supreme court plan to suspend Garzón next month. The temporary suspension will last while they decide whether he deliberately ran roughshod over Spain’s laws by opening an investigation into the deaths of 113,000 Spaniards executed by Franco’s men during and after the civil war. If they find him guilty – and there are signs that they intend to – his career will be over.

The real fighters, cooks and trainers in Afghanistan

Posted: 25 Apr 2010 05:46 AM PDT

Who is really fighting the war in Afghanistan?

The message, very often, is sent with bloodshed.

There was the suicide bombing last week on a fortified Kandahar guesthouse shared by Western contracting companies, killing four Afghans and injuring several Americans. There was the Afghan engineer, shot dead in March as he helped inspect a school not far from the Pakistan border. Or the Afghan woman, an employee for a U.S.-based consulting firm, shot by motorbike-riding gunmen as she returned home from work in this southern city.

As the United States presses ahead with an Afghan counterinsurgency strategy that depends on speeding up development of one of the world’s poorest countries, the U.S. contractors, construction companies and aid organizations needed to rebuild Afghanistan have faced a surge in attacks that puts the plan in jeopardy.

Overall figures for contractor attacks remain elusive, since the employees come from dozens of nations and work for hundreds of different organizations.

But the death toll has jumped precipitously in the months since President Barack Obama launched a massive troop surge last December.

Of the 289 civilians working for U.S. contractors killed between the start of the Afghanistan war in late 2001 and the end of last year, 100 died in just the last six months of 2009, according to a report by the Congressional Research Service.



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 by Jeff Gates

Americans can now see the light at the end of a long dark tunnel—if only they will look.

We entered this tunnel in 1948 when an enclave of religious fanatics induced President Harry Truman to portray them as a “state” meriting recognition, aid and protection.

We were warned not to do so.

These extremists had just inflicted on the Palestinians an ethnic cleansing that rivaled in its savagery the fascist abuse of ethnic groups during WWII. In December 1948, Albert Einstein and 27 other concerned Jews urged us “not to support this latest manifestation of fascism.”

Our failure to heed that warning led to the current morass in which we find ourselves.

Einstein and his colleagues foresaw that a “Leader State” was the goal of the “terrorist party” that has led Israel over all but a few of the 62 years since Truman’s fateful decision.

The latest Likud Party coalition ranks among the worst in the consistency of its duplicity and the blatant manipulation of its loyal ally, the American people. By our unbreakable bond with this abusive enclave, the U.S. appears guilty by association, making us a target of those abused.

From the outset, deceit was the foundation on which this ill-fated alliance was built. To betray, one must befriend. To defraud, one must first create a relationship of trust. Therein lies the basis of the “special relationship” through which Tel Aviv pursued, though us, its expansionist agenda.

To deceive in plain sight requires a capacity for what national security specialists know as game theory. In 2005, Israeli mathematician and game theory specialist Robert J. Aumann received the Nobel Prize in Economic Science. Co-founder of the Center for Rationality at Hebrew University, this Jerusalem resident candidly concedes “the entire school of thought that we have developed here in Israel” has turned “Israel into the leading authority in this field.” He’s correct.

Israeli strategists deploy mathematical models to anticipate reactions to staged provocations and manipulated crises. By applying game theory algorithms, those reactions (and reactions to those reactions), behavior becomes foreseeable—within an acceptable range of probabilities.

While the future is never certain, the effects of a well-planned provocation become “probabilistic.” This blend of duplicity and game theory expertise makes Israel a perilous partner and an outright imposter when portrayed as a credible partner for peace in the Middle East.

For game theory war-planners, peace is not the point. For the agent provocateur in pursuit of an undisclosed agenda, the anticipated reaction is the goal. Aumann practices his craft not at the Center for Morality, Justice or Fairness but at the Center for Rationality. Peace would preclude the expansion of Greater Israel, an irrational outcome to be avoided—at any cost.

Waging War by Way of Deception

From a game theory perspective, Palestinian abuse has little to do with the Palestinians. From the Israeli point of view, their mistreatment is all about how best to provoke reactions that can be foreseen—within a acceptable range of probabilities. For those who view themselves as Chosen and above the law, such abuse is their God-given right. To behave otherwise would be irrational.

Well-planned provocations have long been Tel Aviv’s core competence. For a skilled agent provocateur, an anticipated reaction can become a powerful weapon in the arsenal of the provocateur. In response to a mass murder on American soil, even a moderately competent game theorist could foresee that the U.S. would dispatch its military to avenge that attack.

With phony intelligence “fixed” around a preset goal, a game-theory algorithm could predict that our military could be redirected to invade Iraq, a nation that played no role in the attack. Therein lies the game theory-enabled treachery imbedded at the core of this duplicitous relationship.

Happily, our national security apparatus now comprehends the “how” of this non-transparent treason. Concern at its common source is rampant in senior military ranks. Israel and pro-Israelis have been confirmed as those who fixed the intelligence that took us to war on false pretenses.

Those “in the know” now grasp that Truman’s recognition of this enclave was part of a multi-decade fraud that remains ongoing as Israel seeks to induce us into Iran and even Pakistan.

No one likes to be played for the fool. Yet that’s how Israel treated all those it befriended. That includes not only other nations but also those in the broader faith communities deceived to believe they share an identity of interest with this “latest manifestation of fascism.”

Intelligence agencies are fast coming to recognize the shared mindset of those who prey on the goodwill and trust of others. Their distrust of the U.S. is now morphing into sympathy and pity.

Misplaced Sympathy

Those adept at marketing serial Evil Doers are the agent provocateur source of the very terror from which they claim a need for protection. What now needs protection are those who continue to believe—despite the facts—that this “state” is owed the status granted to other nations.

Light is now seeping into the geopolitical crevices where this deception has long operated in the dark. The consistency of Israeli behavior over six decades has left the rule of law with but one choice: acknowledge the fraud and withdraw Israel’s standing as a legitimate nation state.

Just prior to extending recognition, Harry Truman was assured by Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann that Israel would become a democracy and not what he feared: a theocratic and racist state. We now know that even its very founding was a fraud on America’s leaders.

Given every opportunity to conduct its affairs consistent with international law and standards of human decency, this extremist enclave chose another course. As both an enabler and a target of these religious extremists, the U.S. has a special obligation to take the lead in withdrawing recognition and securing the nuclear arsenal now under Israeli control.

Further delay only heightens the probability of another agent provocateur operation on a scale of 911—doubtless featuring yet another evidentiary trail that points to “Islamo” fascists. With more than 80% of the U.S. Congress declaring an “unbreakable bond” with Israel, Americans face a perilous future in which we need help from other nations to pressure our leaders to act promptly.

We were warned more than six decades ago. Now is the time to heed that warning.

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 Michael Leon
East Jerusalem Map – from Kos

The mainstream media is picking up the meme that career U.S. government officials are more than irked at  Benjamin Netanyahu and a coddled, outlaw band of Israeli citizens who continue to talk peace, while their words strain the credulity of essentially the world community.


JERUSALEM — A small group of ultra-right-wing Israelis marched through a volatile neighborhood of East Jerusalem on Sunday, arousing passions over the future of the contested city as an American envoy wrapped up an inconclusive three-day visit aimed at getting peace talks under way.

The Obama administration’s Middle East envoy, George J. Mitchell, met with Israeli and Palestinian leaders over the weekend in an effort to reach understandings that will allow the start of indirect, American-brokered negotiations.

Officials revealed few details about the discussions, but Mr. Mitchell described them as “positive and productive” and said he would return to the region next week.

Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said that Israel and the United States wanted to begin the peace process “immediately” and that its prospects would become clear “in the coming days.”

An Israeli official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that “the feeling is that we are back on track.”

But the Palestinians’ agreement to join the talks still depends on backing from the Arab League. After meeting Mr. Mitchell on Saturday, Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, suggested that any announcement of talks might take another week or two.

The peace efforts were derailed last month after the Israeli announcement of plans for 1,600 new apartments in a Jewish neighborhood of East Jerusalem. The Palestinians have demanded an end to all Israeli settlement building, including in East Jerusalem, which they claim as their future capital, as a precondition to direct talks.

Mr. Netanyahu has rejected any building freeze in East Jerusalem, and the announcement, during a visit here by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., strained Israel’s relations with the United States.

But on Sunday it was another neighborhood of East Jerusalem that illustrated the complexities and conflicting interests that define the city. About 40 far-right nationalists marched through the Wadi Hilwe section of Silwan, a predominantly Arab neighborhood, waving Israeli flags in a demonstration of Israeli sovereignty.

Wadi Hilwe sits on what Jews believe to be the ruins of the biblical City of David, in the shadow of the Temple Mount, or the Noble Sanctuary, a site holy to both Muslims and Jews. In recent years a Jewish settler group has sponsored excavations in the area and acquired property that is now populated by hundreds of Jews.

Itamar Ben-Gvir, one of the rally’s organizers, said it was a chance to show Mr. Mitchell “who is the boss in Jerusalem.”

“The Americans think they have a puppet in the Israeli prime minister’s office,” he said. “We are not puppets. Jerusalem is ours.”

But opposition to the march came from some unexpected quarters. Although the Israeli authorities permitted the march, for up to 70 people, those opposing it on grounds that it was a provocation included the Israeli prime minister’s office and the City of David settlement group. They failed in their efforts to have it postponed.

Hundreds of armed police officers secured the route and the surrounding area, both to protect the demonstrators and to contain them.

Israeli leftists and international activists joined Palestinian counterdemonstrations along the way. Palestinian families came out onto balconies and rooftops, beating on drums, banging metal saucepans and lids together, and chanting “God is great,” trying to drown out the rightists’ songs. Elsewhere in Silwan, clashes broke out between stone-throwing Palestinians and the police.

Dimitri Diliani, a Jerusalem representative of Fatah, the mainstream Palestinian movement, said the march proved that despite Israel’s claim on the area, it did not have sovereignty there.

“Where else in the world would you need 2,000 armed, fully equipped police officers to secure a failed march of 70 of your own citizens in an area that you claim as your capital?” he asked.




Didi Remez | April 26, 2010 at 07:49 | Categories: Diplomacy, Jerusalem | URL:

Secret agreement on construction in capital

Ben Caspit, Maariv, April 26 2010 [Hebrew original here]

Israel and the US have reached secret agreements about construction in Jerusalem. Both sides agreed to leave the agreements between themselves and not make them public, and if they should be leaked nevertheless, deny them vigorously. The purpose is in order not to create difficulties for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in the coalition, and particularly in the Likud party.

The agreements indicate that contrary to Israeli boasting, Netanyahu’s answer to Obama regarding Jerusalem was not “No.” It was something in the middle, a little closer to the far end (a freeze) than the close one (continued construction at full tilt). The most accurate translation for this agreement is “Yes, but.”

It is possible that Netanyahu has learned something from the bad old days of Shimon Peres, during which he got the nickname “Yes and no.” Now it is Netanyahu’s turn.

The agreements were made in a very long series of meetings and discussions between the parties. Attorney Yitzhak Molcho worked for Netanyahu. Working on the American side was mostly Dan Shapiro, the director of the Middle East department at the National Security Council.

As far as anyone knows, the parties agreed that no construction freeze would be announced. On the contrary, Netanyahu may continue to announce that he did not agree to a freeze. But in reality, Netanyahu agreed to delay the Ramat Shlomo project by at least several years and not to issue any new construction tenders in Jerusalem.

He also promised “to do as much as the law allows and use his full authority as prime minister to prevent unnecessary Israeli activity in the Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. These agreements do not include the procedures that are already being carried out, such as, for example, the Shepherd Hotel in East Jerusalem.

Another agreement between the parties is that if Netanyahu should encounter a particularly severe crisis or heavy pressure, or if these agreements should be leaked, there will be a tendency to let him approve a small number of symbolic construction projects in secret coordination with the Americans so that it will continue to look as though he did not give in.

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Note that this development follows a recent report that Shas spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, had stated that US-Israeli relations were more important than continued construction in East Jerusalem.

Yishai to Washington: I apologize for construction permits

Eli Bardenstein, Maariv, April 26 2010 [Hebrew original here and at bottom of post]

Interior Minister Eli Yishai met last night in Jerusalem with Director of the Middle East department at the National Security Council Dan Shapiro.  In the meeting, Yishai made it clear to Shapiro, a high-ranking administration official, that he regretted the insensitivity displayed during the visit of Vice President Joe Biden to Israel.

The permits in question were issued at the beginning of March, during the US vice president’s visit to Israel.  The Jerusalem District Planning and Construction Committee, which is under the responsibility of the Interior Ministry, approved a plan for the construction of 1,600 housing units in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo, sparking a crisis with the Americans.

In the course of the meeting, which was held at Shapiro’s initiative, Yishai made it clear to Shapiro that he attributed supreme importance to the Israeli alliance with the US administration, and promised that in future the Interior Ministry would know how to act with greater sensitivity during important visits. 

 However, Yishai emphasized that the Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem were the only neighborhoods in which construction could be carried out in East Jerusalem, and said that construction there would continue.

Shapiro—a key figure with regard to Israel-US relations and a personal appointment of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel—conducted the entire meeting in fluent Hebrew, to Yishai’s surprise and joy.  Shapiro always accompanies special US envoy George Mitchell in all his visits to Israel and Ramallah. Read more of this post

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Cross-posted from Promised Land.

An unusual protest is scheduled for Thursday in the West Bank: Settlers and Palestinians are planning to march together in protest against a section of the separation barrier Israel is constructing south of Jerusalem.

According to a report on Srugim, a national–religious news site, the protest was initiated by Eretz Shalom, a new pro-peace settlers movement. A handbill distributed by the organization (shown below), claims that the planned fence “will damage the nature in the area, hurt the residents of the [Palestinian] village of Wallaje and their fields, won’t add to the security of Jerusalem, and will be a waste of state money.”

The settlers invite all residents of the area, “Jews, Christians and Arabs”, to meet at the border police checkpoint at 4:30pm and march together in protest.

Is this more than a gimmick? It’s hard to tell. There has been some talk of peace initiatives coming from the far-right recently. Naturally, they all lead to the one state solution, with most of the settlements remaining  in place and the Palestinians becoming Israeli citizens. These ideas are yet to be developed, but I wouldn’t dismiss them altogether.

Many people on the left will find it hard to accept the idea of settlers talking about peace, but we should remember that not all the Jews living in the West Bank are like the radical and violent residents of Yitzhar.

Some of them are from second and third generation in the settlements, and they really struggle to find a solution that will enable them to live in peace. According to another report on Srugim, the members of Eretz Shalom are not very involved in politics, and view themselves as a grassroots, regional, initiative.

I think we should wish them luck. Read more of this post

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From the onset, in addition to protesting the injustice of the evictions, the activists at Sheikh Jarrah sought to leverage the demonstrations into direct action: Protecting the evicted Palestinian families, camped on the street outside their homes, from settlers using Friday afternoon “prayer meetings” as a launch point for attacks.

The presence of Israelis at the family tents during this crucial time slot deterred some of the attacks and, in a few cases, even embarrassed the police into doing its job.

The Jerusalem police was having none of it. At some point in the fall 0f 2009 a decision was made: The protests would be suppressed. Over one hundred arrests ensued over the following months. The highhandedness of the police backfired.

It brought media attention and, with it, local and international support. The courts also consistently sided with the activists and police disrespect for the rule of law became increasingly unsustainable. In February, commanders ceased dispersing the Friday protests.

Police still blocked the activists —  now organized as a movement called “Just Jerusalem” — from actually standing with the families, corralling them in a playground a few hundred yards away. Instead of declaring victory and moving on, the youngsters redoubled their efforts to reach the tents.

Arrests resumed. One activist was taken from the Friday night family dinner table. In mid April, a group of intellectuals led by author David Grossman witnessed a police assault and spoke out. More Israelis joined the protests.

Maya Wind standing down the police Friday (Photo: Philip Touito)

On Friday (April 23 2010) the police broke. At 4:00pm most of the demonstrators gathered in the playground, a few dozen activists appeared out of nowhere outside the Hanoun family home. The new local commander (the top brass had apparently had enough of his predecessor) approached the group and ordered them to disperse. Their response: This is a legal vigil and we’re not moving. The police force stood down.

Later, as the group joined the main body, Sara Beninnga, the indefatigable cheer leader of the protests, announced on her megaphone that the action would be repeated every week and replicated at other Jerusalem hot spots. On Sunday, as settler extremists marched through Silwan, the Sheikh Jarrah activists were there to lead the counter-demonstration.

Just Jerusalem’s has become a symbol for Israel’s anti-Occupation activists. Against all odds, lacking resources and organizational backing, the movement demonstrated the power of conviction and tenacity. Writing in this Saturday’s edition of the Financial Times, Tobias Buck, allowed recognition of this achievement to seep through his skepticism:

Six months, dozens of arrests and hundreds of newspaper headlines later, the small band of Israeli peace activists has surprised itself by taking on the appearance of a full-blown political movement.

The regular demonstrations have broadened into protests against the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land in general. Some Israelis also come to register their disapproval of police action against the gatherings, adding freedom of speech to the other grievances.

As a result, the protesters’ ranks are now studded with some of Israel’s most prominent intellectuals and writers. 

The signatures of many of these intellectuals, including Israel Prize laureates Avishai Margalit and Zeev Sternhell, are among the ninety-nine at the bottom of an open letter taking Elie Wiesel to task for his sheer chutzpah in presuming to speak for those who actually live Jerusalem in his controversial full-page Washington Post ad calling for a halt to US diplomatic action on the city (full letter here and bottom of post; Haaretz report here.)

For more than a generation now the earthly city we call home has been crumbling under the weight of its own idealization. Your letter troubles us, not simply because it is replete with factual errors and false representations, but because it upholds an attachment to some other-worldly city which purports to supersede the interests of those who live in the this-worldly one.

For every Jew, you say, a visit to Jerusalem is a homecoming, yet it is our commitment that makes your homecoming possible. We prefer the hardship of realizing citizenship in this city to the convenience of merely yearning for it.



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