Archive | February 10th, 2012

ISRAHELL: The tribulations of being an Ethiopian Jew


Ethiopian Jews participate in a human rights march in Tel Aviv

TEL AVIV, 9 February 2012 (IRIN) – Growing up in Israel, Shay Sium became accustomed to being called a “nigger”.

Sium, 32, has lived in Israel most of his life, but says he and other Ethiopian Jews are treated differently from other Israelis: factories do not want to employ them; landlords refuse them; and certain schools turn away their children.

“The word discrimination doesn’t describe what we experience. There is another word for it: racism. It is a shame that we still have to use this word today,” he told IRIN.

An estimated 125,000 Ethiopian Jews live in Israel, but while they are supposed to be full citizens with equal rights, their community has continued to face widespread discrimination and socio-economic difficulties, according to its leaders.

A recent decision – as reported by local media – by 120 homeowners not to sell or rent their apartments to Israeli-Ethiopian families has brought discrimination against Ethiopian Jews in Israel back into the spotlight.

Hundreds of Ethiopian Israelis took to the streets on 18 January to protest the move by landlords in the southern city of Kiryat Malakhi – Shay Sium’s hometown.

“This is not an isolated case,” said Yasmin Keshet, an attorney for the Israeli NGO Tebeka, which provides legal support to Ethiopian Israelis. The scale of racist offences and discrimination against Ethiopian Jews, she said, is reflected in the many legal cases Tebeka has dealt with in recent years.

“Can’t you see I am not taking black people?”

Under the Law of Return, Ethiopian Jews enjoy full rights and have a right to settle in Israel and obtain citizenship. The reality, however, is different.

In 2009, a young Ethiopian-Israeli university student named Idano tried to board a bus in Rishon LeZion city.

“She knocked, but the driver wouldn’t let her in,” Keshet said. “When he opened the door for someone else, she followed inside, whereupon the driver said: ‘Can’t you see I am not taking black people. Did you have buses in Ethiopia, or even shoes?’”

The driver eventually appeared before a disciplinary hearing and was fined 20,000 New Israeli Shekels (NIS, US$5,330) in 2010. The next year, a magistrate’s court ordered him to pay Idano 60,000 NIS ($15,980) in compensation.

In September 2011, Tebeka represented 281 children who were prevented from registering in a school in Petah Tikva town because of their Ethiopian backgrounds – “a clear breach of law,” according to Julie Wyler, director of resource development at Tebeka.

About 30 percent of all legal cases Tebeka deals with are about discrimination in the workplace.

“Ethiopians are a resilient community [but] don’t know what is legal and illegal, also because new immigrants often don’t speak proper Hebrew,” Wyler said.

Lack of awareness and skills also makes Ethiopian Israelis easy to employ on lower-than-average pay. They are often desperate to find a job and willing to work under difficult circumstances.

“Ethiopians are an easy catch for manpower agencies,” Wyler said. “They are allowed to hire employees for up to a year without providing social security under Israeli law, so they fire them after 11 months, just to re-employ them again afterwards.”


About 81,000 of Ethiopian Israelis were born in their home country, while 38,500 were born in Israel, according to official records. Between 1985 and 1991, more than 30,000 were airlifted in three rescue operations after years of civil war and famine had driven hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians into the capital, Addis Adaba, and refugee camps in Sudan.

But more than 20 years on, many Ethiopians still face economic hardship and social problems in Israel.

About 52 percent of Ethiopian-Israeli families live below the poverty line, compared to 16 percent among the general Jewish Israeli population. According to the Brookdale Institute for Applied Social Research, only 65 percent of Ethiopian Israelis were employed compared to 74 among the general Jewish population in 2010.

“In the area of employment, the gap between Ethiopians and other Jews has narrowed significantly,” institute director Jack Habib said. But about 60 percent of all Ethiopian families are still in a welfare programme, partly due to juvenile delinquency which is four times higher than the Israeli average, and domestic violence, which is estimated to be 2.5 times higher than the average.

Growing up in Israel

Partly as a result of the difficult socio-economic situation, which also triggers prejudice against the community, many young Ethiopian Israelis become disassociated from society at large.

“Growing up was an everyday struggle,” said Sium. “For those who are different, the Jewish people can be a very closed community. Simply because I am Ethiopian, life has been harder than it is for others.

“Raising a kid is tough for everyone in Israel, but it is even tougher for us,” he continued. “Once, my five-year-old kid asked me after a demonstration why the people on the street are shouting. I couldn’t tell him that it is because the white people don’t like the black people. I didn’t want to give him the feeling that he is not good enough.”

In 2008, a report by the Israeli state comptroller and judge Micha Lindenstrauss found that about 20 percent of Ethiopian Israeli children do not go to school. Drug abuse among the youth is widespread, and crime rates are much higher than among the overall Jewish Israeli society.

''Ethiopians are a resilient community [but] don’t know what is legal and illegal, also because new immigrants often don’t speak proper Hebrew''

These conditions have remained largely unchanged since the report was issued more than three years ago.

Shula Mola arrived in Israel when she was 12. “I was sent to a religious boarding school, where I worked very hard to become Israeli and also religious. Whenever I knew something others did not, the teachers were surprised because I am Ethiopian. I wanted to go to university. But they expected us to become nothing more than cleaners.”

Now the chairwoman of the independent Israel Association of Ethiopian Jews (IAEJ), she says growing up in Israel is hard for Ethiopian children. “Many face prejudice in school and little support. They try to connect, but often can’t cope with the study gap.”

From her perspective, Ethiopian Israeli youth have it even harder today.

“My kids are born here. They face the same problems, but don’t have the excuse of being new immigrants. Whatever the problem, people automatically see it as a distinct Ethiopian feature,” Mola explained.

Such branding, as well as poverty and a difficult family background, often contribute to the youth’s disaffection from society. “Many are hopeless. When facing difficulties at school, poor and uneducated families usually can’t support their kids,” Mola said, adding that today’s Israeli education system puts more and more responsibility on the family.

But others say integration of the generation of Ethiopian Jews born in Israel is much easier than for their parents and grandparents.

“For me, it was easy to adapt,” said 27-year-old Avi Yalou of Kiryat Malakhi. “But when my mum goes to the bank, she still doesn’t know how to deal with it in Hebrew.”

Civil society role

Upon arrival, Ethiopian Jews are usually placed in “absorption centers” – housing arrangements run by the Jewish Agency, on organization in charge of immigration and absorption of Jews into Israel. There, new immigrants receive support, including cheap housing and language classes. But many stay much longer than the usual period of six months.

“The absorption center is like a closed society where new immigrants get used to being dependent,” said Shalva Weil, an anthropologist and leading researcher on the Ethiopian community in Israel. She said Ethiopians often end up staying three, four, or even seven years. “When they finally move out, they are suddenly on their own and often face severe difficulties in Israel, which is not an easy country.”

Efrat Yerday, speaker of the IAEJ, added: “The Jewish Agency puts a lot of pressure on them to prove how Jewish they are. And this is the main thing they have in mind when they are in the absorption center, because they need to fulfil the requirements.”

Some civil society organizations are trying to empower the Ethiopian Israeli community.

“My organization is fighting against a huge monster we have no power against,” said Yerday. She cites the “Five-Year-Plan”, which was produced by a cross-ministerial committee in 2008, as one such “monster”.

With a budget of 870 million NIS ($231 million), it was meant to be a comprehensive strategy for integrating the community and tackling socio-economic problems. One of its goals was to enable young Ethiopian Israeli couples to take out mortgages under preferential conditions and move from overcrowded poor areas to better neighbourhoods.

But many of the 400 young couples included in the plan never moved, because the amounts allocated were not sufficient and banks did not provide any guarantees for the mortgage loan. In 2011, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that the key provisions of the plan had not been implemented.

Another plan was started in January 2012 by the Immigrant Absorption Ministry to tackle domestic violence through workshops and awareness-raising, after a study by Shalva Weil found that 81 percent of Ethiopian immigrant women murdered by their husbands came from new immigrant families.

“The plan will be implemented in towns where new immigrants hardly live,” she told IRIN. The cities include Ashkelon, Kiryat Malakhi, Afula, Netanyam Rehovot and Richon LeZion, where almost no immigrants from Ethiopia have settled for several years.


Despite the challenges, the Ethiopian Jewish community has done relatively well, experts say. “You can’t compare someone who recently arrived from Ethiopia to someone who lives in a villa on the north of Tel Aviv,” Weil said. “Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in the world. Many immigrants came from remote villages.”

Weil, who has studied the community for more than 30 years, added: “Given the difficult background of many immigrants, it is quite fantastic how well they have managed in Israel.”

Israeli government officials have called for mutual coexistence. “We, the state of Israel, should say thank you to immigrants from Ethiopia, and not vice-versa,” Israeli President Shimon Peres said after the protests in Kiryat Malakhi.

The younger generation also gives reason for hope.

“The generations are different in dealing with problems,” Sium said. “The old generation is quiet. We have witnessed many demonstrations, but saw hardly any older people there. It is the young people who move things forward today. The elders understand that our situation is changing.”

As Yalou, one of the organizers of the 18 January protest, put it: “My parents know that we, the young generation, are the future.”

In the meantime, activists say they will continue resisting what they see as racism.

“Right now, groups of activists are sitting together to see what we can do to fight the current situation,” Yalou said. “Further protests are in the process of being planned… We hope to make changes.”

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Hamas’s Gaza-based leadership challenges Palestinian unity deal


Ismail Haniyeh and Mahmoud al-Zahar come out against key clause in Fatah-Hamas reconciliation deal in which Abbas would serve as both president and prime minister of future Palestinian government.

By Reuters

Hamas’s Gaza-based leadership challenged on Wednesday a Palestinian reconciliation deal signed by the Islamist group’s political chief in exile and President Mahmoud Abbas of the rival Fatah movement.

Bringing divisions within Hamas to the surface, the group’s “Change and Reform” Gaza parliamentary bloc came out against a key clause in the pact under which Abbas would serve both as president and prime minister of a future Palestinian government.

Ismail Haniyeh - Reuters - Jan. 8 , 2012

Ismail Haniyeh

Photo by: Reuters

The legislative bloc includes Hamas’s top Gaza-based leaders Ismail Haniyeh and Mahmoud al-Zahar. They did not attend the ceremony in Qatar where Hamas’s political chief in exile, Khaled Meshal, and Abbas signed the agreement on Monday.

Analysts have long spoken of a split within Hamas between those in the movement who have controlled the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip for the past five years and Meshal, who had made his base in Damascus.

“We call upon the parties who signed and those who sponsored Palestinian reconciliation to reconsider and … not to bypass Palestinian law,” the parliamentary bloc said in a statement, arguing that a dual presidential-prime ministerial role for Abbas would be illegal.

The deal was aimed at reuniting the deeply split Palestinian national movement after past accords that followed Hamas’s violent takeover of the Gaza Strip in 2007 failed to get off the ground over disagreements over who would head a new government.

Hamas is shunned by the West over its refusal to recognize Israel, renounce violence and accept existing Israeli-Palestinian interim peace accords. A unity government seems likely to stop long-faltering Middle East peace efforts in their tracks.

Khalil Shaheen, a West Bank political analyst, said Gaza-based Hamas officials viewed acceptance of Abbas as prime minister as a political embarrassment, especially since Hamas defeated Abbas’s Fatah in a Palestinian election in 2006.

He said Hamas could try to resolve its internal dispute by reorganizing power-sharing between its leaders in exile and those in the Palestinian territories.

“Otherwise, and if the dispute continues, it could undermine the implementation of the agreement,” Shaheen said.

Fatah lawmaker Abdallah Abdallah defended the Doha agreement saying there was no clause in the Palestinian law preventing Abbas from serving as both president and prime minister.

“It is clear that some people [in Hamas] have personal interests and not nationalist interests and they are trying to find a pretext to undermine such a step that paved the way towards ending the division,” Abdallah told Reuters in the West Bank.

The accord is supposed to open the way for Palestinian presidential and parliamentary election possibly later this year, and to rebuild the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip following a 2008-2009 Israeli offensive.

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Violence in Bahrain escalates ahead of February 14 anniversar


By Andrew Hammond Andrew Hammond 

The funeral march for Mohammed Yaacoub had barely ended last week when police and protesters faced off in the town of Sitra, an impoverished district of Bahrain that has borne the brunt of a year of unrest.

Teenagers using scarves to mask their faces went on a rampage wielding iron bars and petrol bombs, and riot police in their prim blue uniforms and white helmets fired off teargas rounds and stormed down alleyways in their trademark jeeps.

“People have no alternative — all we have is tires to burn and Molotovs to throw,” one activist said. “As long as the government is not ready to respond, anything is possible.”

The Bahrain government’s security tactics and offer of concessions appear to have failed in calming the streets; if anything the conflict with opposition activists pushing for democratic reforms has become more violent in recent weeks.

Thousands of pro-democracy protesters took to Bahrain’s streets last February and March, occupying a central roundabout in Manama, following revolts in Egypt and Tunisia.

As talks on political reforms stalled and some demands shifted to ditching the ruling Al Khalifa family, hardliners in the government brought in Saudi troops and imposed martial law in a bid to quash a movement that was feared to be large enough to pose a real threat to the existing order.

By the time martial law was lifted in June, 35 people had died, including four in police custody and several security personnel.

But the tensions have not gone away. Police continue to clash with disaffected youth in underdeveloped neighborhoods populated by the island state’s majority Shi’ite Muslim population, who complain of political and economic marginalization by the ruling elite of Al Khalifa and allied families.

Activists say at least 25 people have died since June, in some cases after exposure to teargas or in incidents as police in cars storm down alleyways in pursuit of teenagers.

At least ten of these deaths occurred in the last two months, after a commission of international legal scholars charged with investigating claims of widespread rights abuses during the period of martial law at the end of November delivered a damning report revealing torture of detainees and flawed military trials.

Now both government and opposition are preparing for a tense month as the February 14 anniversary of the first pro-democracy protests approaches.

The stakes could not be higher. Sunni-ruled states in the Gulf fear reforms making Bahrain the first real Gulf democracy would raise the bar in their own countries. Saudi Arabia’s Shi’ite minority is already involved in similar clashes with security forces.

They also fear that a Bahrain with empowered Shi’ites would naturally develop closer ties with Iran. The United States, whose Fifth Fleet is based in Manama, shares concerns about Iranian influence and see Bahrain as a key ally in their stand-off with Tehran over its nuclear energy program.


The government says it is dealing with hooligans whose violent behavior would not be tolerated in any country.

It says the protesters’ own political leaders have failed them by rejecting offers of dialogue over the year and making unrealistic demands such as that the government stand down over the rights report.

“We definitely see an escalation from the radical elements of the protesters. We see their use of homemade weapons that have hurt our policemen in a bad way,” said Sheikh Abdul-Aziz bin Mubarak al-Khalifa, a senior adviser at the Information Affairs Authority and former ambassador to London.

“The door is still open… but don’t give me preconditions and don’t give me that the government has to resign.”

The interior ministry says it wants legislation meting out 15-year sentences to those who attack police — a police car was destroyed in a petrol bomb attack last week, though no policeman has died in the clashes since March.

Columnists in pro-government papers go further, accusing opposition leaders and Shi’ite clerics of coordinating with Shi’ite state Iran to inflame the streets — familiar charges that make the opposition roll their eyes.

“We’ve been hearing this rhetoric for many years. Whenever there’s a movement with political demands they play this song,” said Farida Ismail, a senior member of the Waad party.

Media have also pointed to the rhetoric of the most influential cleric in Bahrain, Sheikh Issa Qassim, who recently called on worshippers to “crush” those who aggress against women — a response to reports of mistreatment of women protesters.

Qassim’s phrase — “Ishaquh!” (Crush them) — has appeared as graffiti in Shi’ite districts all over the country.

Pro-government groups, including many Sunnis, fear that Shi’ite clerics and Islamist politicians will dominate the country, as in Iraq, if the government makes any compromises.


Broadly speaking, protest organizers fall into three groups: the opposition parties led by Shi’ite Islamist party Wefaq who try to coordinate their activities with the government, street activists calling themselves the ‘February 14 Youth Coalition’ and individuals such as leading rights activist Nabeel Rajab whose marches usually end in teargas.

February 14 is a shadowy group that issues statements in the name of disaffected youth. The authorities have not identified any leaders, but as one activist at a Rajab protest in Manama’s old city said with a smirk last week: “We’re all February 14.”

Their rhetoric has become more radical.

February 14 Youth issued a “charter” this week saying the government had gone too far in its crackdown. “The aim of this revolution has become to bring down the regime and decide our own fate after it became clear that trying to live with it and reform it has become impossible,” it said.

One Western diplomat suggested protesters bore more responsibility for the recent escalation and pinned hopes on King Hamad and the Crown Prince’s promises of reform, though analysts say hardliners in government have the upper hand.

“February 14 are using increasingly lethal tactics with police, they are spoiling for a fight,” the diplomat said, estimating that police tactics had improved since the publication of the Bahrain Independent Commission on Inquiry (BICI) report.

One of the government’s responses was to hire John Timoney, a former Miami police chief with a record of handling urban protest, to help reform law enforcement procedures.

The diplomat felt that was leading to an improvement, though Timoney’s hiring was met with derision by many: “The fact that they brought in someone with his experience speaks to a level of seriousness… Police have been told to use a hands-off approach. In their view, tear gas is the least bad option. That said, it’s indiscriminate.”


Researchers and activists on the ground say these views do not reflect the reality on the ground.

Mohammed al-Maskati, head of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights, says his team of 20 researchers have documented 60 deaths since February 14 and that the hardline approach used by police has stiffened in the past two months.

He said that rather than take youths to police stations, a pattern has developed of beating them on the spot or holding them for short periods in informal detention centers where they are beaten up before release. He cited three such buildings.

“We had more than 100 testimonies concerning people taken to those three places since the end of November,” he said.

What feeds protesters’ anger further is their conviction that Pakistanis and Arab nationals have been hired by the police to man the front lines under Bahraini officers.

At least three people have died in suspicious circumstances over the past month in apparent police custody.

One case was that of Mohammed Yaacoub, a 19-year-old from Sitra who died in police custody last month from what they said were complications resulting from sickle cell disease.

One resident, who gave her name as Umm Fadhel, told Reuters she witnessed riot police stamping on him and beating him with batons. Activists say his body showed bruising, abrasions and a cut, but there were no obvious signs of abuse.

The lawyer of one teenager from Sitra said he was molested outside the police station. “He told the prosecutor that riot police tried to sexually abuse him but the Bahraini officer in charge stopped him,” said Fatima al-Khudair. The youth remains in detention on charges of taking part in an illegal gathering.

The brother of a teenager from Dimistan said he was struck by a police car at high speed after clashes last week, but they took him to a private clinic for fear of arrest or mistreatment in a government-run hospital.

The government says it has begun prosecution so far of 48 officers over death and injuries through torture and mistreatment and that the public should be patient.

Sheikh Abdul-Aziz defended policing and said Yaacoub’s case was under investigation.

“There is an investigation… We are confident that the ministry of interior has engaged with the best people,” he said. “There are many untruths of what is happening but if there are any ethical or unethical conduct by police force by all means we ask them to bring it forward.”

(Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

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Bahrain Protesters Attacked, “US Assisting Regime Forces”




Bahraini regime forces attacked peaceful protesters amid a 10-day sit-in protest held near the capital. Meanwhile, activists accused the United States of assisting regime forces in their crackdown.

Government forces on Thursday raided protesters demanding the downfall of the ruling Al Khalifa family in Manama, and several nearby villages.

The latest crackdown comes amid a 10-day sit-in protest held in Moqsha, near Manama, by anti-regime protesters who aim to press ahead with their demands.

The protests are planned to continue until February 14, the day marking the start of the popular revolution in the kingdom in 2011.

The protesters are also demanding the release of political prisoners.


In the meantime, activists have accused the United States of assisting the Manama regime in its violent crackdown.
The activists have published photos that apparently show the US troops training Bahraini regime forces in their crackdown on protests.

Bahrain hosts the US Fifth Fleet, and is among the Gulf countries such as Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) that receive military equipment from the United States.

On January 27, the US State Department issued a statement saying that Washington intended to go forward with the sale of approximately USD 1 million of military equipment to Bahrain.

The statement, however, maintained “a pause on most security assistance for Bahrain pending further progress on reform.”

Since the beginning of the popular uprising last year, Dozens of people have been martyred and thousands more have been arrested and put in jail or fired from their jobs in the country.

In addition, many health workers, teachers, opposition figures and human rights activists in Bahrain are still facing trial or serving prison terms over participation in anti-government demonstrations.

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Last chance appeal for near-death Palestinian hunger striker


Palestinians hold images of prisoner Khader Adnan, who has been on hunger strike since December 18 while being held in an Israeli jail, during a protest in the West Bank city of Ramallah on 6 February 2012. (Photo: AFP – Abbas Momani)


The family of 52-day Palestinian hunger striker Khader Adnan have appealed for an Israeli court to release him before he dies, with his wife describing his condition as “horrifying.”

Adnan is due in court on Thursday to appeal a decision to uphold his four-month sentence amid increasing fears about his safety.

Rights groups have criticized the decision to keep him in jail as Adnan, who is seriously ill and refusing minerals, is in serious danger of organ failure.

Adnan has been on hunger strike since his detention on 17 December in protest against Israel’s consistent violations of human rights, according to Jerusalem-based NGO Addameer.

He has been detained without being charged for a crime, with the Israeli military claiming he was involved with Islamic Jihad.

Such accusations are common to justify continued Israeli detention of Palestinians, including women and children, but evidence is rarely produced to support the claim.

Adnan is being held under an administrative detention order that allows Israel to detain those considered a threat to the country’s security for up to six months without charge.

His lawyers are asking for the administrative detention order to be cancelled and for him to be released.

Earlier this week an Israeli court confirmed the original four-month detention given, despite hearing of Adnan’s rapidly deteriorating health conditions.

Outraging family and activists, Judge Dalya Kaufman claimed Adnan’s medical condition was “acceptable” and provides no grounds for shortening or canceling the order.

Adnan will appeal the ruling on Thursday at a military court in Ofer. This is his final appeal within the military system, but if it is denied he has the right to go to the Israeli High Court.

The last medical examination that Adnan received was on 29 January, when Physicians for Human Rights doctors examined him. The doctors stated that in the event of organ failure, his condition could become life-threatening.

A representative for Addameer, which advocates prisoner’s rights, confirmed to Al-Akhbar that his wife had visited Adnan on Tuesday.

“We just spoke to his wife who was able to visit him yesterday with two of his daughters. She said his physical condition was horrifying,” the spokesman said.

“He is incredibly small and his clothes haven’t been changed and he hasn’t showered since being arrested. His nails haven’t been cut and there were blotch marks on his face and his teeth.”

Despite the terrible state, Adnan remains conscience and is able to communicate.

“She said his mental state is still fine. He was very aware and he was able to speak to them,” the spokesman added.

“His daughter, aged four, was asking why her father looked like that and why can’t they take him home,” he added.

Adnan is currently in Safed in northern Israel, but it is believed the military plans to to take him back to Ofer Prison in the coming days.

His personal lawyer is currently prevented from visiting him, contrary to international law, though a lawyer from Addameer has been permitted to visit.

A Physician for Human Rights doctor was due to inspect Adnan in jail on Wednesday to report on his conditions.

Beyond 50 days hunger strikers are in serious danger of death due to organ failure. Infamous Irish hunger striker Bobby Sands died in 1981 after 66 days of refusing food in a protest at British rule over the country.

Human rights group Amnesty International has called on Israel to either charge or release Adnan.

“For years Israel has been using administrative detention to lock up Palestinian activists without charge or trial, said Ann Harrison, Amnesty’s Deputy Director for the Middle East.

“Military commanders can renew the detention orders repeatedly, so in effect detainees can be held indefinitely. The process violates their right to a fair trial which is guaranteed by international law Israel is obliged to uphold.”


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Palestinian hunger striker nearing death


A Palestinian prisoner on a hunger strike for 55 days to protest against his detention without trial by Israel is refusing medical treatment and his life is in danger, a hospital spokeswoman said on Thursday.

Khader Adnan, 33, has been refusing to eat since mid-December, shortly after his arrest in the occupied West Bank, and has only drunk liquids since then.

“He is not in good shape. People on a hunger strike for more than 50 days are in real danger. The doctors are extremely concerned,” said Yael Shavit, spokeswoman for Sieff Hospital in the northern Israeli town of Safed, where Adnan has been taken.

“He refuses to accept any treatment. He has not agreed to be hooked up to an IV,” she said, referring to intravenous infusion.

Palestinian officials say it is the longest hunger strike yet undertaken by a Palestinian prisoner and if Adnan dies, they expect major protests in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Adnan’s wife, Randa, denies Israeli accusations that he is a leader of Islamic Jihad.

He is being held under so-called “administrative detention” that enables Israeli authorities to detain suspects without trial or charge indefinitely. A local rights group, al Haq, said 315 Palestinians were being held under the edict.

Israel frequently accuses detainees of militant activity to justify detention of Palestinians, but rarely produces evidence to support its claim.

Randa told Reuters she had visited her husband on Tuesday and that he was shackled to his hospital bed and had lost 35kg. She said his skin was discolored, his hair had fallen out and he had sores around his mouth.

“He couldn’t pick up our daughter. He has no strength in his arms,” she said, adding that he had started to vomit blood.

The Israeli Prisons Authority said in a statement that Adnan was being “carefully treated in accordance with the law.”

The Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) said Adnan was on a hunger strike to protest against his detention and “the humiliating and cruel conditions of interrogation.” It added that he was in an “precarious” condition and had been denied access to an independent doctor.

“He has guards in his room at all times and this is a huge problem,” said PHR activist Anat Litvin.

Litvin said Adnan has asked that he be examined by their doctors in private, but that guards refused to leave and the doctors could not examine him while he was shackled. “There is no justification for this,” she said.

The Israeli army said in a statement on Thursday that Adnan was arrested “for activities that threaten regional security. This warrant was authorized by a judicial review.” It gave no further details, but said Adnan’s appeal was under review.

A few dozen Palestinians staged a small protest outside Israel’s Ofer prison in the West Bank on Thursday to demand Adnan’s release.

“My son is not hungry for food or thirsty for water, but loves his freedom and the freedom of his people and all the detainees,” said his father, Musa Adnan.

Israel maintains a military occupation of the West Bank, and imposes harsh restrictions on indigenous Palestinians, while expanding illegal Jewish settlements.

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Britain helps IsraHell water thieves


By Stuart Littlewood

Stuart Littlewood exposes British Water’s complicity with the Israeli occupation authorities who are not only stealing Palestinian water, but also overseeing the flooding of Palestinian fields and villages with untreated sewage from hilltop Jewish settlements.

There are few crimes more despicable then stealing your neighbour’s water.and polluting what’s left, then watching him and his children suffer thirst, disease and ruin.

Most of us would want nothing to do with the perpetrators of such evil.

British Water describes itself as the voice of the water industry. It talks about best practice and corporate responsibility, and lobbies governments and regulators on behalf of its members. No doubt it does a good job.

It also has international ambitions, including in the Middle East. So, presumably it knows what’s going on water-wise in the Holy Land.

Apartheid Wall and water theft

British Water should know, for example, that the 400-miles long structure known worldwide as Israel’s Apartheid Wall bites deep into the Palestinian West Bank, dividing and isolating communities and stealing their lands and water.

If the wall was simply for security, as Israel claims, it would have been built along the internationally-recognized 1949 Armistice “Green Line”, although not even this is an official border. The wall’s purpose is plainly to annex plum Palestinian land and water resources for illegal Israeli settlements, and to that end it closely follows the line of the Western Aquifer.

In 2004 the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague ruled that the construction of the wall is “contrary to international law” and Israel must dismantle it and make reparation for damage caused. The ICJ also ruled that “all states are under an obligation not to recognize the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the wall and not to render aid or assistance in maintaining the situation created by such construction”.

But the wall marches on, aided by American tax dollars and America’s protective veto, so that Israel can wield complete control over the water resources it sees as necessary to the regime’s present and future needs. This makes the Palestinians, who sit on top of enough water to be self-sufficient, entirely dependent on Israel for God’s life-giver. Israel also consumes most of the water from the Jordan River despite only 3 per cent of the river falling within its pre-1967 borders. Palestinians now have no access to it whatsoever due to Israeli closures.

Most of the Coastal Aquifer, on which Gaza’s inhabitants rely for water, is contaminated by sewage and nitrates, and is unfit for human consumption. Children particularly are at great risk .The aquifer is depleted and in danger of collapse. The damage could take generations to reverse, say experts.

During Israel’s deadly assault on Gaza (Operation Cast Lead) in 2008/09 over 30 kilometres of water networks were damaged or destroyed, in addition to 11 wells. A UN Fact Finding Mission (the Goldstone report) considered the destruction “deliberate and systematic”. Proper repairs have been impossible these last three years because Israel blocks the import of spare parts.

Palestinians must buy their own water from Israel at inflated prices

Thirsting for Justice is an aptly-named campaign by the Emergency Water Sanitation and Hygiene group (EWASH), a coalition of 30 Palestinian and European humanitarian organizations, including Oxfam. It calls on European governments to put pressure on Israel to respect international law and the Palestinians’ basic rights to water and sanitation.

Under the warped arrangements of the Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (1995) Palestinians are allowed only to abstract 20 per cent of the “estimated potential” of the mountain aquifer beneath the West Bank. Israel not only takes the balance (80 per cent), but overdraws its sustainable yield often by more than 50 per cent. A Joint Water Committee (JWC) was set up to implement the agreement but Israel was given veto power and the final say on decisions. As a result, a number of essential projects for Palestinians have been denied or delayed. To make up for part of the supply shortfall, Palestinians are forced to buy water from the Israeli national water company Mekorot, some of which is extracted from wells within the Palestinian West Bank. In other words, they are having to buy their own water, and at inflated prices.

Oxfam, which is very active on the ground in Gaza, confirms that 90-95 per cent of water from Gaza’s only source, the Coastal Aquifer, is undrinkable. At the current rate the aquifer will be unusable by 2016 and the damage irreversible by 2020.

Gaza residents are restricted to an average of 91 litres of water per day compared to 280 litres used by Israelis. Some 100-150 litres a day are required to meet health needs, says the World Health Organization. Marginalized Palestinian communities in the West Bank survive on less than 20 litres per capita per day, the minimum amount recommended by the World Health Organization to sustain life in an emergency.

Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank are said to have full legal rights to nearly 750 million cubic metres of water but they have to make do with a trickle, or go without, while Israelis fill their swimming pools, sprinkle their lawns and wash their cars. In Bethlehem’s Aida refugee camp the water is turned off for days. When the street taps come on again, usually for a few hours, there is a desperate scramble to refill domestic tanks and other containers before the next cut.

Water an apartheid weapon in a brutal occupation

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz last month reportedon the French parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee findings on the geopolitical impact of water in confrontation zones like Israel-Palestine.

According to the report, water has become “a weapon serving the new apartheid… Some 450,000 Israeli settlers on the West Bank use more water than the 2.3 million Palestinians that live there. In times of drought, in contravention of international law, the [illegal] settlers get priority for water.”

Israeli sewage-dumping affects Palestinian villages

Israel is waging a “water occupation” against the Palestinians, says the report, which accuses the Israelis of “systematically destroying wells that were dug by Palestinians on the West Bank” as well as deliberately bombing reservoirs in the Gaza Strip in 2008-09. Furthermore, “many water purification facilities planned by the Palestinian Water Ministry are being blocked by the Israeli administration.”

The head of the Palestinian Water Authority, Dr Shaddad Attili, observed: “Palestinians need to be able to access and control our rightful share of water in accordance with international law. The Oslo Accords did not achieve this… Without water, and without ensuring Palestinian water rights, there can be no viable or sovereign Palestinian state.”

And not content with robbing the Palestinians of their water, the Israelis are in the habit of flooding Palestinian fields and villages with untreated sewage from their hilltop settlements.

Under the radar

Against this background, British Water has decided to cooperate with MATIMOP, an Israeli government agency that has been ordered to enter into international agreements and “aggressively expand opportunities for Israel’s industry”.

Always eager to oblige, the UK Trade and Investment Department’s briefing on Environment Opportunities in Israel contains this advice:

Israeli companies are keen to form alliances with companies abroad, and this is where the UK can benefit. In addition, growing development and marketing costs compel Israeli environmental companies to seek cooperation with foreign partners…

The UK are world leaders in many aspects of the environment and so the UK and Israel complement each other and have much to offer each other in this sector. Teaming up with Israeli environment companies will give UK companies access to innovation and entrepreneurial spirit. UK companies can also benefit by providing their experience in marketing and management for Israeli companies.” [my italics]

So, British Water signed a Memorandum of Understanding with MATIMOP on 21 December, so close to the Christmas holidays that it went unnoticed here. The event was not even recorded on British Water’s website but it was proudly featuredon the Israeli embassy’s website and treated by the Israeli press as a triumph.

MATIMOP calls it “a strategic cooperation agreement”. Its executive director, Israel Shamay, said:

We are pleased to be working closer with British Water than we have worked with any foreign trade organization before. The UK water sector is well respected internationally for its world-leading capabilities, solutions and services, making it the perfect partner to help commercialize and market Israeli innovation and R&D in this sector.

British Water agreed the text for an announcement by the Israeli embassy but didn’t release it, apparently happy for Tel Aviv’s propaganda boys to take care of it. In the press release MATIMOP says: “Israel has been coping with water scarcity since its founding.”

Yes, coping by thieving.

The Palestinians have been subjected to the longest and most brutal military occupation in modern times and are held prisoner within the fragmented remnants of their own country, unable to develop its resources or travel freely within it to find work, attend university, visit family or worship at their holy places in Jerusalem. Is helping Israel to become a water superpower really the right thing for British Water to be doing?

Question: “EU agreements require Israel to show ‘respect for human rights and democratic principles’ and provide for the agreement to be suspended otherwise. Does the MATIMOP agreement include similar good behaviour conditions?”

British Water: “The agreement with MATIMOP is a Memorandum of Understanding. Both parties are professional organizations with admirable aims and objectives.”

Question: “British Water will be aware that Israel illegally occupies its neighbour Palestine and has seized control of its water resources. The path of Israel’s 400-mile Separation Wall closely follows the line of the Western Aquifer and encloses key supplies. In 2004 the International Court of Justice ruled that the construction of the wall in the occupied territories, including East Jerusalem, is ‘contrary to international law’ and ‘all States are under an obligation not to recognize the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the wall and not to render aid or assistance in maintaining the situation created by such construction’. In the circumstances, should ethically-minded British companies allow themselves to become embroiled?”

British Water: “I’m not sure what you mean by ‘embroiled’ or ‘ethically-minded’. The aim of the MoU is for businesses to work together for the good of the global water industry… It’s no part of our role to exchange philosophical concepts with you. The arrangement with MATIMOP is one of commercial intent for the benefit of UK and Israeli companies…”

Question: “Is British Water being evenhanded in this Holy Land confrontation zone? Are you offering help to the Palestinian Water Authority? Have you responded positively to the sea-water desalination project for Gaza and other programmes for West Bank towns and villages?”

British Water: “We notify our member companies of potential commercial opportunities wherever they may arise, leaving them – as they’re best-qualified – to weigh the relative attractiveness of different markets.”

David Neil-Gallacher is British Water’s chief executive and also director-general of Aqua Europa, which does the same sort of job on a Europe-wide basis. This was his parting shot:

Regions of tension are bound to engender strong views and conflicting principles, and it’s usually notoriously difficult to discern unequivocal moral ascendancy on the part of any of those involved… In my dealings with our companies active in the region, however, I’ve never seen any evidence that they are lacking in principle or moral locus… British Water’s perspective has to be a commercial one… We do our best to conduct our activities in the best interests of our part of British industry and strictly within the requirements of the law…

How will British Water avoid complicity with Israel’s endless oppression of the Palestinians and the deadly strife with its other neighbours in the region? Perhaps Mr Neil-Gallacher should ask one of his own member companies, Veolia, what can happen if caught up in Israeli projects that violate international law. Veolia dumps Israeli waste on Palestinian land and is helping to build and run a tramway connecting Jerusalem with illegal Israeli settlements. The company must rue the day it “crossed the line” to fall foul of those nice folks at the Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions Movement (BDS).

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