Archive | June 26th, 2010



Jewish colonies are for sale but please get in line

 24 Jun 2010

Israel’s treatment of Palestinians is worsening by the day because many of them dare to challenge the Jewish state’s right to be a Jewish state, excluding Arabs and others in full, public life.

Of course, if you’re a true Zionist, however, you’ll be wanting to move to a lovely new living complex in occupied territory:

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Essay of the week: What drives Israel?

By Ilan Pappe

Probably the most bewildering aspect of the Gaza flotilla affair has been the righteous indignation expressed by the Israeli government and people.

The nature of this response is not being fully reported in the UK press, but it includes official parades celebrating the heroism of the commandos who stormed the ship and demonstrations by schoolchildren giving their unequivocal support for the government against the new wave of anti-Semitism.

As someone who was born in Israel and went enthusiastically through the socialisation and indoctrination process until my mid-20s, this reaction is all too familiar. Understanding the root of this furious defensiveness is key to comprehending the principal obstacle for peace in Israel and Palestine. One can best define this barrier as the official and popular Jewish Israeli perception of the political and cultural reality around them.

A number of factors explain this phenomenon, but three are outstanding and they are interconnected. They form the mental infrastructure on which life in Israel as a Jewish Zionist individual is based, and one from which it is almost impossible to depart – as I know too well from personal experience.

The first and most important assumption is that what used to be historical Palestine is by sacred and irrefutable right the political, cultural and religious possession of the Jewish people represented by the Zionist movement and later the state of Israel.

Most of the Israelis, politicians and citizens alike, understand that this right can’t be fully realised. But although successive governments were pragmatic enough to accept the need to enter peace negotiations and strive for some sort of territorial compromise, the dream has not been forsaken. Far more important is the conception and representation of any pragmatic policy as an act of ultimate and unprecedented international generosity.

Any Palestinian, or for that matter international, dissatisfaction with every deal offered by Israel since 1948, has therefore been seen as insulting ingratitude in the face of an accommodating and enlightened policy of the “only democracy in the Middle East”. Now, imagine that the dissatisfaction is translated into an actual, and sometimes violent, struggle and you begin to understand the righteous fury.

As schoolchildren, during military service and later as adult Israeli citizens, the only explanation we received for Arab or Palestinian responses was that our civilised behaviour was being met by barbarism and antagonism of the worst kind.

According to the hegemonic narrative in Israel there are two malicious forces at work. The first is the old familiar anti-Semitic impulse of the world at large, an infectious bug that supposedly affects everyone who comes into contact with Jews.

According to this narrative, the modern and civilised Jews were rejected by the Palestinians simply because they were Jews; not for instance because they stole land and water up to 1948, expelled half of Palestine’s population in 1948 and imposed a brutal occupation on the West Bank, and lately an inhuman siege on the Gaza Strip. This also explains why military action seems the only resort: since the Palestinians are seen as bent on destroying Israel through some atavistic impulse, the only conceivable way of confronting them is through military might.

The second force is also an old-new phenomenon: an Islamic civilisation bent on destroying the Jews as a faith and a nation. Mainstream Israeli orientalists, supported by new conservative academics in the United States, helped to articulate this phobia as a scholarly truth. These fears, of course, cannot be sustained unless they are constantly nourished and manipulated.

From this stems the second feature relevant to a better understanding of the Israeli Jewish society. Israel is in a state of denial. Even in 2010, with all the alternative and international means of communication and information, most of the Israeli Jews are still fed daily by media that hides from them the realities of occupation, stagnation or discrimination.

This is true about the ethnic cleansing that Israel committed in 1948, which made half of Palestine’s population refugees, destroyed half the Palestinian villages and towns, and left 80% of their homeland in Israeli hands. And it’s painfully clear that even before the apartheid walls and fences were built around the occupied territories, the average Israeli did not know, and could not care, about the 40 years of systematic abuses of civil and human rights of millions of people under the direct and indirect rule of their state.

Nor have they had access to honest reports about the suffering in the Gaza Strip over the past four years. In the same way, the information they received on the flotilla fits the image of a state attacked by the combined forces of the old anti-Semitism and the new Islamic Judacidal fanatics coming to destroy the state of Israel. (After all, why would they have sent the best commando elite in the world to face defenceless human rights activists?)

As a young historian in Israel during the 1980s, it was this denial that first attracted my attention. As an aspiring professional scholar I decided to study the 1948 events and what I found in the archives sent me on a journey away from Zionism.

Unconvinced by the government’s official explanation for its assault on Lebanon in 1982 and its conduct in the first Intifada in 1987, I began to realise the magnitude of the fabrication and manipulation. I could no longer subscribe to an ideology which dehumanised the native Palestinians and which propelled policies of dispossession and destruction.

The price for my intellectual dissidence was foretold: condemnation and excommunication. In 2007 I left Israel and my job at Haifa University for a teaching position in the United Kingdom, where views that in Israel would be considered at best insane, and at worst as sheer treason, are shared by almost every decent person in the country, whether or not they have any direct connection to Israel and Palestine.

That chapter in my life – too complicated to describe here – forms the basis of my forthcoming book, Out Of The Frame, to be published this autumn. But in brief, it involved the transformation of someone who had been a regular and unremarkable Israeli Zionist, and it came about because of exposure to alternative information, close relationships with several Palestinians and post-graduate studies abroad in Britain.

My quest for an authentic history of events in the Middle East required a personal de-militarisation of the mind. Even now, in 2010, Israel is in many ways a settler Prussian state: a combination of colonialist policies with a high level of militarisation in all aspects of life. This is the third feature of the Jewish state that has to be understood if one wants to comprehend the Israeli response. It is manifested in the dominance of the army over political, cultural and economic life within Israel.

Defence minister Ehud Barak was the commanding officer of Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, in a military unit similar to the one that assaulted the flotilla. That background was profoundly significant in terms of the state’s Zionist response to what they and all the commando officers perceived as the most formidable and dangerous enemy.

You probably have to be born in Israel, as I was, and go through the whole process of socialisation and education – including serving in the army – to grasp the power of this militarist mentality and its dire consequences. And you need such a background to understand why the whole premise on which the international community’s approach to the Middle East is based, is utterly and disastrously wrong.

The international response is based on the assumption that more forthcoming Palestinian concessions and a continued dialogue with the Israeli political elite will produce a new reality on the ground. The official discourse in the West is that a very reasonable and attainable solution – the two states solution – is just around the corner if all sides would make one final effort. Such optimism is hopelessly misguided.

The only version of this solution that is acceptable to Israel is the one that both the tamed Palestine Authority in Ramallah and the more assertive Hamas in Gaza could never accept. It is an offer to imprison the Palestinians in stateless enclaves in return for ending their struggle.

 And thus even before one discusses either an alternative solution – one democratic state for all, which I myself support – or explores a more plausible two-states settlement, one has to transform fundamentally the Israeli official and public mindset. It is this mentality which is the principal barrier to a peaceful reconciliation within the fractured terrain of Israel and Palestine.

How can one change it? That is the biggest challenge for activists within Palestine and Israel, for Palestinians and their supporters abroad and for anyone in the world who cares about peace in the Middle East. What is needed is, firstly, recognition that the analysis put forward here is valid and acceptable. Only then can one discuss the prognosis.

It is difficult to expect people to revisit a history of more than 60 years in order to comprehend better why the present international agenda on Israel and Palestine is misguided and harmful. But one can surely expect politicians, political strategists and journalists to reappraise what has been euphemistically called the “peace process” ever since 1948. They need also to be reminded that what actually happened.

Since 1948, Palestinians have been struggling against the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. During that year, they lost 80% of their homeland and half of them were expelled. In 1967, they lost the remaining 20%. They were fragmented geographically and traumatised like no other people during the second half of the 20th century. And had it not been for the steadfastness of their national movement, the fragmentation would have enabled Israel to take over historical Palestine as a whole and push the Palestinians into oblivion.

Transforming a mindset is a long process of education and enlightenment. Against all the odds, some alternative groups within Israel have begun this long and winding road to salvation. But in the meantime Israeli policies, such as the blockade on Gaza, have to be stopped.

 They will not cease in response to feeble condemnations of the kind we heard last week, nor is the movement inside Israel strong enough to produce a change in the foreseeable future. The danger is not only the continued destruction of the Palestinians but a constant Israeli brinkmanship that could lead to a regional war, with dire consequences for the stability of the world as a whole.

In the past, the free world faced dangerous situations like that by taking firm actions such as the sanctions against South Africa and Serbia. Only sustained and serious pressure by Western governments on Israel will drive the message home that the strategy of force and the policy of oppression are not accepted morally or politically by the world to which Israel wants to belong.

The continued diplomacy of negotiations and “peace talks” enables the Israelis to pursue uninterruptedly the same strategies, and the longer this continues, the more difficult it will be to undo them. Now is the time to unite with the Arab and Muslim worlds in offering Israel a ticket to normality and acceptance in return for an unconditional departure from past ideologies and practices.

Removing the army from the lives of the oppressed Palestinians in the West Bank, lifting the blockade in Gaza and stopping the racist and discriminatory legislation against the Palestinians inside Israel, could be welcome steps towards peace.

It is also vital to discuss seriously and without ethnic prejudices the return of the Palestinian refugees in a way that would respect their basic right of repatriation and the chances for reconciliation in Israel and Palestine. Any political outfit that could promise these achievements should be endorsed, welcomed and implemented by the international community and the people who live between the river Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea.

And then the only flotillas making their way to Gaza would be those of tourists and pilgrims.


Ilan Pappe is professor of history and director of the European Centre for Palestine Studies. His books include The Ethnic Cleansing Of Palestine and A History Of Modern Palestine. His forthcoming memoir, Out Of The Frame (published this October by Pluto Press), will chart his break with mainstream Israeli scholarship and its consequences.


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The Guardian, June 25, 2010

Gazans wait for Israel’s easing of the blockade to make a practical difference.  Factories are still starved of raw materials as Israel drags its heels over what will be let through

Harriet Sherwood in Dair El Balah

 Alawda, a factory in Gaza, has been forced to import ingredients for its biscuits and wafers through the tunnels since Israel’s blockade was intensified three years ago.

Manal Hassan plucks a date biscuit from an industrial tray, breaks it in half to inspect the filling, and discards it with a shrug of despair. “You see, they allow in dates, but not date paste,” she says, referring to Israel’s economic blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Alawda, the factory for which she is purchasing manager, has been forced to find an alternative source for the ingredients for its biscuits, wafers and ice-cream, which it has manufactured in dramatically reduced quantities since the siege of Gaza was intensified three years ago. Most of its raw materials are now illegally imported through the tunnels to Egypt which have become Gaza’s lifeline.

Hopes that Israel’s announcement last weekend of a relaxation of its blockade might lead to a recovery of Gaza’s shrivelled economy are rapidly evaporating among local businessmen and women – if, indeed, they ever rose.

The practical consequences of the new policy are still opaque, but few in Gaza realistically expect even a trickle of the raw materials essential to revitalise factories like Alawda, let alone a resumption of anything approaching normal import-export trade.

Hailed as a significant breakthrough by President Barack Obama, Middle East envoy Tony Blair and British foreign secretary William Hague, the loosening of the embargo so far applies only to finished products for individual consumption. Gazans are making ironic jokes about dining on mayonnaise and ketchup – now allowed in after three years of prohibition. Factory-owners and economic analysts are sinking further into gloom over the prospects for recovery.

As Hassan tours her half-idle factory in Dair El Balah, she recites a list of banned materials, among them cocoa powder, food chemicals, milk powder, packaging materials and spare parts for machines. “They don’t give any explanation. Can cocoa powder be used to make weapons or rockets?” she asks.

Human rights organisations say the express purpose for banning such items is to stifle economic activity as a way of pressuring the de facto Hamas government and punishing the civilian population for electing it. But the siege has failed to diminish Hamas’s authority while unquestionably worsening living and working conditions for Gazans.

Alawda is down to around 10 days’ production each month, massively reducing its 300 employees’ incomes. “They are suffering, they all have big families and there is no other work,” says Hassan.

The factory used to export 60% of its produce to the West Bank. That is now down to zero. Local supermarkets refuse to stock its ice-cream because the power cuts of eight hours a day make it impractical to run freezers.

The tunnel imports are expensive, says Hassan – “the Egyptian traders can ask any price they want” – and the quality varies. Nor can the factory access the raw materials, imported from abroad, that have been languishing in Israeli warehouses for three years. Much of it is now ruined.

“It is very difficult to know if we can keep going,” she says.

Alawda’s experience is not an isolated one. Gaza used to have around 3,800 functioning legitimate businesses, trading with the West Bank, Israel and beyond. Fewer than one in six have survived the blockade and the war in 2008-9, according to the UN.

“Soon there won’t be an economy in Gaza,” says Ali El-Heik of the Palestinian Businessmen Association. “What remains will be destroyed.”

Raed Fatouh, a Gazan official who deals with Israel on the crossing points, says the Israelis have told him that all consumer food items will be allowed in following last weekend’s announcement, but no mention has been made of raw materials or exports.

“It’s a positive step, we can’t deny that, but all the stuff now allowed in is available through the tunnels anyway,” he says. “There won’t be a big change unless Israel allows raw materials for industry.”

Over the past few weeks, Israel has gradually increased the number of permitted items from around 120 to between 400 and 450 – and has promised to boost that further in the coming days, he adds.

Israeli officials say that decisions on raw materials are still pending. Both the White House and Blair’s office are quietly optimistic that the loosening of the blockade may lead to a broader effort to revitalise Gaza’s economy.

Some in Gaza have mixed feelings about Israel’s change of policy. In the baking sands of Rafah, butting up to the border with Egypt, where the usual industrious activity was largely absent this week, tunnel owner Hosaim Shaer fears the good times are over.

“There is already less work because Palestinian shop-owners are now making deals with Israelis rather than us. At the same time, there is an overload of goods in Gaza and people are buying less because they have less money.

“The point is not just to ease the blockade. There is no economy in Gaza, no money, no employment. What’s the difference between goods coming through the tunnels and through the crossings if no one can afford to buy them?”

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Haaretz , June 25, 2010

A typical Israeli stunt

With pressure from the right, the prime minister will have trouble extending the West Bank building. freeze, which doesn’t seem to be very effective, judging by facts on the ground this week

By Amos Harel

The following sign was recently placed on the descent – which is blocked with boulders – from Highway 443 to a Palestinian village: “Israeli, take note – if you have reached this point, you made a mistake!”

But the highway that connects Jerusalem and Modi’in – and where Palestinian vehicles are still as scarce as water in the desert, even after the Israel Defense Forces allowed them to use part of it – is only a symptom. The combination of zero diplomatic activity and ideological radicalization in several neighboring countries has heightened the potential for a military escalation. Military Intelligence does not believe Syria, Hezbollah or Hamas has a salient interest in launching a war against Israel.

In this sense, the deterrence Israel achieved via its fierce attacks in Lebanon in 2006 and in Gaza at the end of 2008 is still felt. However, the danger has increased that misunderstandings in this volatile region will eventually spark a conflagration.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who is aware of this danger, this week paid another visit to the United States in an effort to improve the strained relations between the Netanyahu government and the Obama administration.

As Haaretz reported last week, Barak is now pressuring Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to advance a new diplomatic initiative regarding the Palestinians. At the same time, there are additional reports about attempts to bring Kadima into the coalition.

In midweek, Netanyahu’s adviser Uzi Arad urged caution and warned against political adventurism. The prime minister himself explained that Israel is under attack by people seeking to delegitimize it and argued, with some justification, that a new political initiative will not be enough to stymie this.

The Netanyahu-Barak government has not been able to garner much patience or empathy in the international arena, although the Americans have at least been polite. And the sharp reaction in Europe to the interception of the Gaza flotilla is more than a function of the event itself: Israel’s isolation in the world, just like its severe crisis with Turkey, predates the flotilla.

The IDF is gradually coming around to the recognition that it blundered in the flotilla operation, despite the general citation that the chief of staff, Gabi Ashkenazi, awarded the naval commandos this week for earlier secret operations. (A modicum of sensitivity would have postponed the ceremony until the committee headed by Maj. Gen. (ret.) Giora Eiland submits its findings about the flotilla incident. ) The Eiland panel, which this week began hearing testimony from people involved in planning the operation, also knows this.

Indeed, even Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, which left hundreds of civilians dead, did not generate such intense hostility. Immediately after that operation, a number of foreign leaders visited Israel to demonstrate support for the prime minister, Ehud Olmert (by the time of the Goldstone report, the Netanyahu government was already in office ).

 Olmert had one advantage over his successor: His talks involving both Syria and the Palestinians created a semblance of diplomatic movement, even if in practice his unpopularity meant he had no public mandate to make concrete progress.

Under Netanyahu, the proximity talks with the Palestinians will lead nowhere. Indeed, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Wednesday that construction in the territories will resume as soon as the freeze expires, at the end of September. In the face of pressure from Lieberman, the settlers and above all Likud’s far right wing, the prime minister will have trouble announcing an extension of the construction moratorium. On the other hand, ending it will get him in trouble with the White House.

In the absence of a solution, a compromise is being sought to enable Netanyahu to have it both ways. This may even entail changing the coalition – though Jerusalem is still carefully keeping an eye on political developments in Washington.

The hope in the Prime Minister’s Bureau is that the Republicans will foment a small miracle in the midterm elections this November, after which President Obama will lose his appetite for another public clash with Israel. Even now, Obama has plenty of problems, the latest of which is his dismissal of the commander of the NATO forces in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal.

Until it becomes clear which way the wind is blowing, Netanyahu will probably not make a decision: He only does so when a pistol is pointed at his forehead, which is the way he likes it – as he showed again this week when he was forced to ease the Gaza blockade in the wake of the botched flotilla raid.

Melting freeze

This month, the forum of former Golani infantry brigade commanders (without Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, who is still in active service ) toured the settlements. The group was surprised to discover that the West Bank construction freeze looks different on the ground than it does in the media.

At a site in one big settlement bloc, the retired officers saw massive construction. The local council head explained that the freeze had indeed stalled many projects in the planning stages, but that anyone who had laid foundations before the moratorium took effect was continuing to build intensely. “We haven’t had such a building boom for years,” he admitted.

Netanyahu’s announcement of the construction freeze was declarative. And one also can’t ignore the immense difficulty the decision caused for hundreds of families, who found themselves paying for homes on paper. But a tour of a dozen settlements and outposts this week, as well as data from other settlements, shows the freeze is a typical Israeli stunt.

Benny Begin, a member of the ministerial forum of seven and a man of integrity, was the only one who promised a few months ago in public that “at the end of the freeze there will be more than 10,000 additional Jews in Judea and Samaria.” He was not referring to natural population growth.

The enforcement of the freeze is orderly. The GOC Central Command, Avi Mizrahi, and the head of the Civil Administration, Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, have the area regularly photographed from the air. So far, more than 400 stop-work orders have been issued, and in some cases equipment has been confiscated.

It’s also true that no new outposts have been established in recent years, because the IDF has been quick to abort every such attempt. The members of the Civil Administration inspection unit, most of whom are settlers, suffer incessant harassment from their neighbors for helping to enforce the freeze. But the full picture is more complex, and is still a function of what happened in the months that preceded the construction freeze.

The decision on the freeze was delayed for a few months, during which Netanyahu’s aides intimated to the settlers that time was running out and they should take advantage of it. Work on buildings that had foundations when the construction freeze took effect last November was allowed to continue. There are about 2,500 such buildings. The Civil Administration also does not intervene in cases where homes were built illegally, without master plans.

There was also a technical delay that helped the settlers: An effort to document the situation on the ground with photographs, scheduled for the day the order went into effect, was unsuccessful. It took two weeks to reorganize the mission, a period that was exploited well.

 On the eve of the freeze, Barak, in an unusual step, approved the construction of 490 homes in a few settlements as well as some work on public buildings. Furthermore, because the focus is on the established settlements, the Civil Administration is paying less attention to the outposts – where construction has continued during the freeze.

Last December, in a significant move, the defense establishment lifted the ban on planning during the freeze; the earlier interpretation had been too strict, it was argued. The West Bank local councils are hard at work, and as soon as the freeze is over, they will have plans ready to allow construction of thousands of new homes.

According to Brig. Gen. (res. ) Ilan Paz, a member of the Council for Peace and Security and a former head of the Civil Administration, “Netanyahu hurt the settlers in the short term, but in return gave them some real assets for the longer term. The practical result is that construction is continuing despite the freeze and preparations have been made for even more massive construction as soon as it ends.”

A random sampling of construction this week, most of it done on pre-freeze foundations, revealed building in sites in Har Bracha, Yitzhar, Tapuah and Itamar, all in the Nablus area; dozens of homes in Yakir, near Qalqilyah; in about 20 homes in Ma’aleh Mikhmash, east of Ramallah; in Dolev, Nili and Na’aleh, west of Ramallah; dozens of homes in Kedar, near Ma’aleh Adumim; and also in Modi’in Ilit, Betar Ilit, Kfar Etzion, Rosh Tzurim and Elazar in the Etzion Bloc south of Bethlehem.

A senior Defense Ministry source responded that the freeze has been properly enforced. “The majority of the settlements respect the law and are implementing it,” he said. “We are engaged in an ongoing dialogue with the heads of the local authorities and we are trying to show consideration for community needs.

We approved a few dozen homes during the freeze in exceptional cases that required consideration for buyers’ distress. Other than that, what you see on the ground is construction on foundations that were laid earlier, and I don’t think there is a large or unusual number of those.”

The temperature in the West Bank reached 40 degrees Celsius this week. Maybe it’s only the weather, but it looks like the freeze is slowly melting.

This story is by:

 Amos Harel

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Haaretz, June 25, 2010

Israel should be thankful it didn’t make it to the World Cup

An Israeli presence at this greatest of global sporting spectacles would have been guaranteed to attract an unrelenting wave of protests, PR stunts and bad publicity.

By Daniel Levy 

As the World Cup progresses, Israelis might consider sending thank-you bouquets to the national soccer teams of Switzerland and Greece, who knocked Israel out at the qualifying stage.

Of course, it would be nice to wrap ourselves in blue and white, and cheer on the likes of Yossi, Guy and Ben. But on this occasion, one should probably be thankful that we didn’t make it.

There were large demonstrations in Cape Town last week following the Mavi Marmara incident. An Israeli presence at this greatest of global sporting spectacles would have been guaranteed to attract an unrelenting wave of protests, PR stunts and bad publicity.

In the days since Operation Sky Winds, Israel has been able to get a glimpse of the future and into the abyss that awaits if we continue on our current course. It is a future replete with both insecurity and the indignity of global opprobrium and sanctions.

Palestine has now irrefutably become a global cause. That is certainly inconvenient for Israel and maybe unfair.

Popular consumer, labor union, and cultural boycotts are gathering new momentum. Israel’s predicament will not be rectified by better PR or a new foreign minister; it has become structural and therefore far more worrying.

The logic of the kind of unarmed resistance represented by flotillas to Gaza is to shine a light on the wrongdoings of an offending party. Ideally, one will succeed in appealing to the better nature, to the humanity, of the offending party (Israel), and its behavior (in this case, the blockade on Gaza) will be corrected. If not, then one may seek to shame that party in the court of global public opinion. Any over-reaction or additional offensive behavior will only serve to strengthen the case of the light-shiner and “prove” the original premise of wrongdoing.

In this instance, Israel’s leadership played its role with Lionel Messi-like perfection.

In short, the game is up. This is not defeatism – it’s an acknowledgment of a reality that, by ignoring, causes Israel to imperil itself. It cannot be reversed by a good YouTube video or by cloning President Peres. An occupation that just entered its 44th year and entails denying basic rights to millions of Palestinians can no longer be sanitized. As long as Israel maintains that occupation, the costs will become increasingly burdensome.

Having lost the world, Israel’s focus turns in on itself. The country’s leadership has to work harder to keep its own public on board for the occupation project. This requires a growing suppression of dissent, further ostracizing Israel’s Palestinian minority, and ever-more aggressive appeals to Jewish national pride. Democratic norms are thereby eroded, further feeding the tarnishing of Israel’s image. This is the vicious cycle in which Israel is embroiled.

It is true that there will almost certainly always be unjustified prejudice toward Israel. Whatever it does, some people will always be out to get us. But prejudice is not what motivates the vast majority of those mobilizing in solidarity with the Palestinians. The occupation is the oxygen of their campaign, and the vast majority seek an end to it – not to Israel itself. An Israel that fails to appreciate this and which sustains the occupation is the single most proximate cause of its own delegitimization.

It is still in our power, however, to change all of this. We can genuinely end the 1967 occupation and live up to our declared democratic ideals.

But if Israel does not take the lead, then let us at least hope that our remaining friends in the world will step forward with their own proposals and that we in turn will have the wisdom to say yes to them.

Enjoy the World Cup, and let’s look forward to Israel’s qualification in 2014 being all about soccer and blissfully devoid of politics.

 This story is by:

Daniel Levy

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Ynet, June 26, 2010

    Abbas: Expulsion of Hamas MPs from Jerusalem criminal

Palestinian president meets top Hamas figures in Ramallah, says ‘we cannot stand idly by while people are expelled from their homeland’,7340,L-3910759,00.html


Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday met in Ramallah with four senior Hamas figures who are facing expulsion from Jerusalem, the Ma’an News Agency reported.

“We are following up on this issue with sincerity and sensitivity considering its significance,” Abbas told Hamas legislators Ahmed Attoun, Mohammed Totah and Muhammad Abu Tir, as well as former Hamas Minister for Jerusalem Affairs, Khaled Abu Arafeh. “We cannot stand idly by while people are expelled from their homeland, which we consider a crime.”

The Palestinian leader told the Hamas figures that the Palestinian Authority has contacted several countries including Israel and the US, in an effort to thwart Israel’s plan to strip four elected members of the Legislative Council of their Jerusalem residency.

Addressing the proximity talks with Israel, Abbas reiterated the PA’s position that “the moment progress is achieved on the two issues we brought up with the Americans, borders and security, we will not object to returning to direct talks.”

 Speaking on behalf of the lawmakers, Ahmad A’toun praised “the president’s efforts and his deep concern on the issue of our deportations from Jerusalem. We want to thank the Palestinian leadership for its great efforts.” 

A’toun added that even though the four parliament members belong to the same party, they do not represent any faction but rather “the interests of the holy city as elected lawmakers under the law.”

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Haaretz, June 26, 2010

Report: Israel seizes oxygen machines donated to PA

Seven machines donated by Norwegian agency confiscated en route to PA over chance generators attached could be used for purposes other than medical treatment, Ma’an reports.

By Haaretz Service

Israel confiscated seven oxygen machines en route to hospitals in the West Bank and Gaza based on the claim that there was a chance the generators attached to the machines would not be used for medical purposes, Palestinian news agency Ma’an reported Saturday.

According to Ma’an, the Ramallah-based health ministry said that the generators, which were donated to the Palestinian Authority by a Norwegian development agency, were seized by Israeli officials despite the fact that only one machine was bound for Gaza.

The generators “came under the category of possible use for non-medical purposes” if they were delivered to southern Gaza, the Palestinian health ministry said in a statement, adding that the six other machines were bound for government hospitals in the northern Gaza, inducing the European Hospital in Gaza City, the Rafdieyah hospital in Nablus, and other facilities in Ramallah and Hebron.

The Ministry of Health appealed to the Norwegian Development Agency, which supplied the machines, and asked that they intervene and demand the release of the equipment at the soonest possible date, Ma’an reported.

“Any delay in obtaining the medical equipment will negatively affect the health of patients,” the statement concluded.

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British largest public trade union UNISON calls for boycott of Israel


Photo by: AP

British trade union calls for boycott



One of UK’s largest unions votes for boycott, expelling Israeli envoy.

One of Britain’s largest trade unions passed a motion at its annual conference in Bournemouth last week accusing Israel of lying over the Gaza flotilla incident and has called for a complete boycott of Israel and for the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador, it was confirmed on Thursday.

The emergency motion was introduced on the third day of the annual conference of UNISON, the largest public sector union with around 1.4 million members. It said Israel was “brazenly lying” over the flotilla incident, as it “attempted to define it as an attempted lynch mob of its troops by passengers on the boats.  This is a further sign that Israel does not respond to words of condemnation, only action will have any effect,” the motion states.

One attendee said that the few Unison members who spoke against the motion were heckled.

UNISON member Lilach Head, a care worker from Devon, spoke against the motion and was heckled. She said the atmosphere was intimidating and the vote was called before more people could speak against it.

 “Only three people were able to speak against the motion, there were six others waiting but then the vote was called. There was no hope,” she said.

The union will now support a full boycott of Israel � economic, cultural and sporting; it has joined the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign and will suspend ties with the Histadrut.

In addition to these measures, UNISON is calling for Britain to expel the Israeli ambassador.

“Conference reaffirms the support for an economic, cultural and sporting boycott of Israel and call on Unison to join the scores of unions around the world who have endorsed the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel. Further to that as an immediate sanction for the illegal attack on the flotilla, we call on the government to expel the Israeli ambassador,” the motion states.

The union had already banned a organization that promotes Israeli-Palestinian trade union cooperation from having a stall at its conference.

UNISON’s deputy general secretary, Keith Sonnet, a pro-Palestinian activist and patron of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign “a fringe group that advocates a one-state solution and major player in the boycott and delegitimization campaign against Israel” wrote to Trade Union Friends of Israel (TUFI) saying the union was unable to offer the organization a stall because “we have no ongoing work with the TUFI, nor are we affiliated to the organization.”

“More than 2,000 delegates to UNISON�s national conference, representing our 1.4 million members, did indeed carry a motion condemning the Israeli attack on the Gaza freedom flotilla, in which nine people were reportedly killed,” a union spokesperson toldThe Jerusalem Post on Thursday.

“The motion noted that the boats were carrying much needed humanitarian aid for the people of Gaza [and that] the passengers on the boats were civilians.”

Asked if the wording and the sentiments expressed in the motion were a fair and honest reflection of the views of the members, the spokesperson said: “Our 2,000 delegates were well aware of the words in the motion before it was carried. We have constantly called for an end to the Israeli blockade of Gaza and have pushed the case for a peaceful settlement including an end to the bombings, on both sides.”

Asked how the motion would be implemented, the spokesperson said: “Our international committee will be taking forward the actions called for in the motion when it meets in the next couple of weeks.”

“Again, this is making accusations before the facts have been established and an investigation into this tragic incident have been completed,” said Stephen Scott, director of TUFI. �The outrageous attack on their fellow trade unionists in the Histadrut, who have called for a lifting of the blockade restrictions and the resumption of final-status peace talks, is counterproductive.

The Israeli embassy in London said the motion was “misleading” and “dishonest” and an “outrageous attempt” by anti-Israel activists to manipulate the union to serve their agenda.

“We categorically reject this misleading and dishonest motion. This is yet another outrageous attempt by anti-Israel elements to manipulate a union into serving their agenda.

“At a time when public sector workers face unprecedented challenges to their jobs and conditions, it is bizarre that the union’s leadership is focusing an emergency meeting on an overseas situation of which they are so clearly ignorant and prejudiced,” the spokesman said.

The Trade Unions Linking Israel and Palestine (TULIP), a movement working to unite trade unions and non-governmental organizations to counter boycott calls of Israel, said the motion presented an “utterly one-sided view” and could have easily been written in Iran.

“UNISON continues to speak with two voices,” said TULIP spokesman Eric Lee. “On the one hand, the union’s official policy remains support for a two-state solution, which was reaffirmed by the union leadership” and the union has actually done some good work on the ground, promoting Jewish-Arab peace and reconciliation.

“However, this resolution was hastily drafted and even more hastily adopted; it contradicts the union’s own long-standing position and instead presents an utterly one-sided view of the conflict. It fact, it so demonizes Israel that it could easily have been written in Teheran,” Lee added.

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Ynet Friday, June 25, 2010

Another Flotilla

Women prepare for Gaza sail: We won’t fight Israel

One of hundreds of female volunteers planning to sail to Hamas-ruled territory with diapers, milk, medical supplies and clothes says, ‘Our only weapons are faith in the Virgin Mary and in humanity’,7340,L-3910691,00.html

“Be sure we will never give Israel such a gift as to fight them or to have Hezbollah with us or to have any political party with us,’ the spokeswoman for the organizers of an aid flotilla from Lebanon to Gaza told The Times in an interview published Friday.

“We have diapers, a lot of diapers, we have milk, we have treatments for cancer in children and medical supplies and clothes. If they fight we will not defend ourselves,” Semir El-Hajj said.

The hundreds of female volunteers planning to set sail to the Hamas-ruled territory aboard the ship “Mariam” deny allegations that the flotilla organizers are connected to Hezbollah, the Lebanese terror group linked to Iran.

“Our only weapons are faith in the Virgin Mary and in humanity,” said Rima Farah, one of the activists.

The organizers told The Times that the women “all represent themselves”, are without political affiliations and include adherents to all the world’s big religions, including Judaism.

It remains unclear when the convoy will depart. Egyptian newspaper Al-Shorouk quoted a member of the International Movement Against Globalization and the American-Zionist Hegemony as saying that the “Freedom Flotilla 2” will consist of five ships from France, six from Germany and one from Lebanon.

According to movement, which is based in Egypt, the vessels are expected to begin the journey to Gaza on July 15 under the banner “The Shahid Mohammad al-Dura,” referring to the 12-year-old Palestinian boy who the Palestinians claim was killed by the IDF during a furious exchange of fire with Palestinian gunmen in Gaza in 2000.

The movement’s representative added that activists from several countries, including Egypt, Ireland, Alegrira and some Gulf states will take part in the sail.

He said Israeli Knesset Member Hanin Zoabi (National Democratic Assembly), and Raed Salah, the leader of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, have already confirmed their participation.

The two Arab Israelis took part in the first sail to Gaza, during which Israeli commandos raided a Turkish ship, leaving nine people dead.

The movement’s representative said former South African President Nelson Mandela (92) will announce whether he will be taking part in the flotilla in the coming days.

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 By Mya Guarnieri

Jaffa, now called Yafo by the Israelis, was once the cultural and economic hub of Palestine [GETTY]

Jewish settlers storming the garden of an elderly Palestinian woman may seem like something you would expect to happen in Hebron, not cosmopolitan Tel Aviv. But that is exactly what happened to Zeinab Rachayel, an Arab resident of Tel Aviv’s mixed suburb, Yafo.

Rachayel was in her courtyard on a Sunday afternoon when several buses full of settlers from the West Bank arrived, parking nearby. Armed with Israeli flags, young men lined the sidewalk outside her home chanting “this is our land”. One by one, they entered her garden, until Rachayel was confronted by dozens of settlers in their late teens and early twenties.

“Another one entered and he said, ‘Listen, you’re not staying here. Yafo is just for Jews. Get out of Yafo,'” Rachayel says. The men continued to threaten and intimidate her, repeatedly saying that the Arab presence in Yafo is only temporary.

A cultural hub

Yafo was once Jaffa – the cultural and economic hub of Palestine. Battered during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, the conflict that surrounded the creation of the Jewish state, Jaffa’s population plummeted as residents fled or were expelled from their homes.

Jewish immigrants quickly took their places and in 1950, the Tel Aviv municipality swallowed Jaffa, renaming it Yafo.

Today, some 60 years later, the twin forces of settlers and gentrification means the area’s Palestinian community are again facing an existential threat.

On that Sunday afternoon, one of Rachayel’s sons arrived. He used his belt, waving the buckle, to chase the settlers out of the garden. Eventually, the police arrived, but no arrests were made.

Rachayel asks: “If this had happened the other way around, to a Jewish family, what would they have done?”

She stresses that, as is the case in other mixed areas of Israel, Jews and Arabs have long enjoyed close relationships in Yafo. Rachayel grew up next to a Jewish family and recalls how the children were like brothers and sisters to her.

But, she says, ties grew tense during the first Intifada. And now, with settlers trickling into Yafo, Rachayel feels the mood darkening again. “It’s sad,” she tells me.

Going mainstream

Sami Abu Shehadeh, the head of Yafo’s Popular Committee Against Home Demolitions, estimates that approximately 50 settler families are scattered throughout Yafo.

They began moving to mixed cities in the wake of Israel’s 2005 withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in a bid to make themselves more familiar to Jewish Israelis and to garner mainstream support.

It is also an attempt to stay on the political radar, Abu Shehadeh says.

“If any of the Israeli prime ministers will have the guts to take a settler out of the West Bank, they will set Israel on fire from the inside. It’s not that they’re going to demonstrate in the settlements. Now they’re here, in the heart.”

Writing for Haaretz, right-wing journalist Nadav Shragai has aligned the settlements inside mixed cities as a battlefront in the so-called demographic war between Arabs and Jews.

“Israel, as the state of the Jewish people, is losing its grip on these cities,” he wrote, adding “settlers in Judea and Samaria have dispatched their best people and rabbis to [Yafo], Acre, Lod and Ramle”.

Forcing Arabs out.

The area was battered during the Arab-Israeli war in 1948 [GETTY]

Bemuna, a construction company whose name means “in faith”, aims to bring another 20 such families to Ajami, a predominantly Palestinian area considered the heart of Yafo’s fragile Arab community. Bemuna is planning an apartment complex that will be exclusive to national-religious Jews.

“They started in East Jerusalem,” Abu Shehadeh says. “Then they had a big project in Lod. Then they went to Akko. Now, they are coming to Yafo.”

The move, Bemuna claims, is intended to strengthen the Jewish community. But critics point out that rather than building in one of Yafo’s underprivileged Jewish areas, Bemuna purchased land where very few Jews live. The plans to build in Ajami, critics say, are a provocation at best; at worst, it is an attempt to push Arabs from the area. 

Abu Shehadeh and other members of the local leadership are concerned with the closed nature of the development. “We felt it is racism, so we went to court.” 

Tel Aviv District Judge Yehuda Zaft ruled against the petition, which contested the project’s discriminatory selection of residents and was filed by over a dozen organisations, including the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI). The group is appealing the decision and on June 21, the Israeli supreme court will hear the case.

Creating new realities

But no matter what the supreme court rules, Yafo will remain embroiled in problems.

Residents are deeply troubled by a recently opened yeshiva, or Jewish institution for religious studies. Like many found in the West Bank, Yafo’s yeshiva is an ideological training ground for national-religious men who intend to join the army. And it is led by Rabbi Eliyahi Mali, who hails from the settlement Bet El.

Speaking to Israeli Channel Seven, Rabbi Mali called his work in Yafo “an important mission like no other,” adding that if West Bank settlements “would send one tenth of their residents to large cities … this one tenth of people imbued with faith will establish a community, a yeshiva, and a centre amidst the Jewish populace, which will create a different reality than we know today”.

Abu Shehadeh says: “In their vision, this [Palestinian] neighbourhood does not exist in the next 10 years.”

It is a common sentiment amongst Arab residents – the yeshiva is a sign of a takeover, an attempt to turn Yafo into a West Bank settlement.

Palestinian residents report that they have been verbally harassed by yeshiva students. Now, they avoid both the building and the street it is on, out of fear of further altercations.

Ihlas Yateen, a Palestinian resident of Yafo, calls the yeshiva and settlers “dangerous”.

“What are they doing here?” she asks.

“I don’t know why the state lets them do it. They can’t forbid them from entering here? What, they’d let [Arabs] enter Bnei Brak?” she adds, referring to the Orthodox Jewish city near Tel Aviv.

Highest bidders.

The suburb is prime real estate that can be sold to the highest bidder [Mya Guarnieri]

Her comment points towards gentrification’s role in Yafo’s problems.

The government-controlled Israel land authority sells to the highest bidder. In the case of the lot slated for the 20-unit settlement that was Bemuna. Money dictates who can buy where.

Yafo’s Palestinian residents point out that, for the most part, their community is poor. And Ajami is the weakest link. Perched on a hill close to the sea, Ajami is also prime real estate.

Yehudit Ilani, a Jewish Israeli resident of Ajami and an advocate for Palestinian home and land allocation rights, explains that the Israeli government has strict codes regarding houses in Yafo.

If a growing family adds a room to their home or fails to maintain a building’s appearance in accordance with the state’s standards, they face astronomical fines, eviction or demolition.

Once a home has been emptied or destroyed, the land authority can sell the plot.

“There are 498 court cases to kick people out of their homes,” Ilani explains. Of these, all but one are against Arab families. The only Jewish family facing eviction are an impoverished Mizrahi (Arab Jewish) family.

Ilani says there are other residents facing eviction as the land authority seeks to cash in on a hot market. These families receive some compensation, she explains, “but it’s not enough money to get back in the market”.

Ilani points out that, as the Palestinian community is “being torn apart,” the state can make the choice not to sell the property. “They’re hiding behind the market, denying that a nationalist principle is involved,” she says.

“Gentrification is being used as a method of ethnic cleansing, in effect.”

From sharing to segregation

Ilani says the Jewish Israelis who decide to live in Yafo are not the problem. Rather it is the state policies that are “part of a much larger picture” threatening the area.

This has dangerous implications for the state, Ilani says. “It’s a completely segregated society. Only in the shared cities is there some sort of a discourse, a dialogue, knowing each other. The shared cities could be the basis of a way of living together.”

But gentrification and settlers are chipping away at this hope, little by little.

Esther Saba is a Palestinian resident of Yafo who faced demolition due to an unauthorised addition to her family home. She points out that when the bulldozers arrived, Jewish Israeli activists paid a pivotal role in saving her home, standing in the front yard and on the roof to guard it.

“There is no problem with regular Jews,” Saba says. “We have a very good connection.”

But the growing presence of settlers is worrisome, Saba says. “They don’t want [Arabs] here in Yafo.”

Neither Bemuna nor Yeshivat Yafo responded to multiple requests for comment.

 Source: Al Jazeera 


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