I had a truly difficult time in trying to decide on what to include, what to exclude—and not only because I ended up with some 18 items (of which 6 only are below). I also had trouble with themes. There were, for instance, 2 items on the Warsaw Ghetto that I really wanted to include, as they gave me the opportunity to say when will the Palestinians be remembered for their courageous resistance against the colonization of their land and living under a miserable military government, and when will the world commemorate their bravery and revile the injustice dealt them?
Should you read these, you might keep them in mind when you read the final item below, and especially the final comment “In conclusion, history might tell how the village of Al Walaje dealt successfully with the closing battle on the wall and if the torch first lit at “budrus” was passed along.” May it happen, and without all the suffering experienced in the Warsaw Ghetto.
The 6 items below are not really interconnected, except for the first 3. These all deal with how Israel treats non-Jews, even children. The first item is just barely a few lines, relating that three 14 year olds had been abducted by soldiers, and that their families had no idea of their whereabouts. This is not a new story. I have heard it time and again. Only the children and their families change.
Sometimes the children are returned later at night, sometimes they are dropped off on a road far from their village and have to foot it home alone, once that happened on Ramadan, when the kids were fasting, and were given neither water nor food after sundown, and did not return home till 2 in the morning. I would imagine that many (probably most) Palestinian villages have experienced a similar incident. Imagine that happening to you! Your child being dragged off to who knows where or for how long.
This also tells us about Israel’s attitude towards children who are not Jewish, as does the 2nd item, which informs us that Israel has decided to expel 400 children of foreign workers. True, Israel is allowing 800 to remain. But why is it kicking out the 400 and their parents? In one word, they are a ‘demographic threat’! So it is in a country that fears that its ethnic or religious or racial majority might some day become a minority. Perish the thought! Better to be inhumane!
Item 3 is not about children, but is about expulsion. The author argues for the right of Palestinians to live here, as if anyone should have to argue that people have a right to live where they were born and grew up.
Item 4 is on a different subject, and shows how Israel thumbs its nose at the world. A committee has agreed to build 40 more units on a colony—and this at a time when construction in the colonies was supposed to have been shelved till September.
Item 5 is on a happier note. Its title “Shooting back” is not about firearms but about cameras. It tells about the budding film industry whose beginnings were in cameras used to evidence abuses of human rights.
Item 6 is on Walaje’s non-violent battle against the wall that is stealing more of the village’s land.
I guess that the Title of this collection might be “We shall overcome.” And let’s make it come true!
At 12pm on Monday August 2nd, three children who had been walking near the wall in Bil’in village where arrested by Israeli soldiers. The three 14-year-old friends Moatasem Ali Mansor, Majde Burnat, and Mohamad Abu Rahmah often take walks near the wall. Today they were detained by soldiers behind the wall for three hours. While behind the wall their families tried to negotiate for their release to no avail. They were then arrested and taken away in an army ambulance. This happened three hours ago, and no ones knows where they have been taken yet. Soldiers claim that the boys were throwing stones.
2. Haaretz Monday, August 02, 2010
Cabinet votes to expel 400 children of foreign workers
Over 1,200 children were up for deportation earlier this year, of which 800 children met the criteria and will be granted approval to remain in Israel.
The cabinet on Sunday decided to grant legal status to some 800 children of migrant workers and deport 400 others within a month.
The vote won the approval of 13 ministers. Ten voted against the recommendations, and four abstained.
Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman had recommended the move, suggesting deporting children except those of migrant workers who have been in Israel for more than five years, and are either entering first grade or a higher school grade. The children who are allowed to stay must also speak Hebrew, and if they were not born in Israel, they must have arrived in Israel before the age of 13.
The agreement applies only to children whose parents entered Israel legally.
Whoever does not meet the criteria will be asked to leave the county within a month.
Over 1,200 children were up for deportation earlier this year, of which 800 children met the criteria and will be granted approval to remain here.
Shas ministers objected, as expected, but Infrastructure Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer and Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar unexpectedly objected as well, calling for keeping all the children in Israel and granting legal status to preschool children as well.
Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog unexpectedly abstained from the vote, despite his former declarations that he refused to vote with Interior Minister Eli Yishai (Shas ).
“I didn’t vote in favor [of the proposal] because despite the improvements, which I supported, I could not accept deporting a group of 5-year-old children,” Herzog said.
Ben-Eliezer voted against his party’s position and persuaded Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon to object as well.
“This is not the Jewish state I know, if it deports children,” he shouted at the cabinet session.
Just before the vote Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Interior Minister Eli Yishai, who were against easing the conditions for staying in Israel, argued with Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar and Welfare Minister Herzog, who favored easier criteria.
Netanyahu intervened and after private conversations with the ministers, they agreed that the children who did not meet the required criteria for staying in Israel, would be allowed to appeal to a committee on the basis of exceptional status.
Families with children who meet the criteria will be asked to submit a request, attached to documentation, to the Interior Ministry within 21 days, according to an interministerial committee’s recommendations.
After aid groups claimed that 21 days is an unrealistically short period of time, the Interior Ministry added a clause giving those who meet the criteria an extra 21 days to produce documentation, if they are found to qualify for the status after their first request. At first, Netanyahu proposed appointing a special committee to deal with exceptional cases. But this proposal drew fire from all directions. Shas and Yisrael Beiteinu objected, as well as Ben-Eliezer, Sa’ar and Simhon.
Finally, the cabinet decided that Yishai would examine the borderline cases and consult with the interministerial committee that drafted the recommendations. The committee would provide a sort of supervision, the cabinet decided.
“This is a reasonable and balanced decision,” Netanyahu said yesterday after deciding to deport hundreds of migrant workers’ children. “It was influenced by two primary considerations – the humanitarian consideration and the Zionist consideration. We’re looking for a way to absorb and adopt to our hearts children who were brought up and raised here as Israelis. On the other hand, we don’t want to create an incentive that will lead to hundreds of thousands of illegal migrant workers flooding the country,” he said.
Children who will be going to compulsory kindergarten this year, due to a psychological diagnosis stipulating they are not ready for first grade, will also receive legal status, on the basis of a Justice Ministry amendment.
Documents include the children’s original birth certificates or legally notarized certificates, the passports with which the parents entered Israel, confirmations from schools they went to and others.
UNICEF Israel, the organization in charge of enforcing the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, protested the cabinet’s decision, calling it a “blatant violation” of the convention, which Israel signed with 200 other states worldwide.
“Israel must formulate a humane immigration policy and stop the senseless revolving door policy, that wants to deport migrant workers and their children, on the one hand, and bring in new ones instead, on the other hand,” UNICEF Israel said in a statement.
Haaretz Monday, August 02, 2010
3. The right to live here
The Jewish people has the right to its own state like other nations, and it has the right to its own Law of Return, as do other dispersed peoples, including the Armenians and the Palestinians in their state that is supposed to be established beside Israel.
The Interior Ministry never sleeps. According to a recent report in Haaretz, it turns out that the same despicable policy applied for many years in East Jerusalem – revoking residence rights of those who left the city for an extended period and want to come back – is also being applied to members of the small Armenian community in the Old City.
This community of 2,000 people has been living in this city for hundreds of years and includes descendents of survivors of the Armenian genocide in the early 20th century.
These are the people whom the Interior Ministry of the Jewish state has chosen to harass. Members of the community who travel abroad for a few years to study or work discover their residence has expired; this policy also hurts clerics of the Armenian Church. It’s depressing (though not really surprising ) that there’s no one in the government who can explain to the interior minister that Israel, in its current diplomatic situation, has no interest in provoking the Armenian diaspora with this ugly harassment. But, clearly, it’s not the Armenians, but the Palestinian Arabs in East Jerusalem who are the main target of the policy of revoking the identity cards of those who leave the city for an extended period. The ministry is following the letter of the law in this matter, and the law itself is not unreasonable, but its application to residents of East Jerusalem is blatantly unjust.
After East Jerusalem was annexed by Israel in 1967, most of its residents did not ask for Israeli citizenship for political reasons, and they are living in the city with the status of permanent residents. In the original sense of the term, a permanent resident is someone who came from another country and settled in Israel without taking its citizenship or losing his original citizenship. Permanent resident status is like an Israeli Green Card.
When such a person leaves the country for years, it’s legitimate in principle (though not in every case ) to decide that his connection to Israel has expired; this person naturally has a country to which he can return.
But the residents of East Jerusalem are not foreigners who came here from abroad. They are natives of this country and city, who have the right to live here. Israel has recognized this right since 1967, and the status of permanent resident provides a solution to most of the legal problems that could arise in this situation.
But the right of a person to live in his country and city includes – especially in the current global reality – the right to travel abroad to study or work, or for any other purpose, and return home, even after many years, without being dependent on anyone’s good will.
I was born abroad and came here under the Law of Return. The right of East Jerusalem residents to live here is no less than mine. There are those who claim that my right is less than theirs. I don’t accept that. The Jewish people has the right to its own state like other peoples, and it has the right to its own Law of Return, as do other dispersed peoples, including the Armenians and the Palestinians in their state that is supposed to be established beside Israel.
Whoever denies this, denies the principle of equality even as he claims to defend it. But this does not mean that the Jewish state is allowed to violate the right of residence of those who were born here. The Supreme Court should not have given a hand to this injustice, even if it has a formal pretext. The court should set thing straight. The phrase: “To provide a remedy for the sake of justice” was coined for such cases.
4. Ynet Monday, August 02, 2010
Jerusalem okays additional construction
Committee allows 40 more units in Pisgat Ze’ev, beyond 1967 borders, despite controversy
Jerusalem Municipality approved on Monday the construction of 40 additional housing units in eastern Pisgat Ze’ev, which is located on land captured by Israel in 1967.
The district planning and building committee gave the green light for four buildings in the neighborhood, each of which will contain 10 apartments.
The units are part of a controversial plan entailing the construction of 220 apartments in all, which has been criticized by the Palestinians and the US as well as left-wing politicians. Recently 32 units were approved as part of the same plan.
The construction is considered a violation of the status-quo because it will take place beyond the 1967 borders. The timing has also been criticized, as it comes just as Israel and the Palestinians have agreed to hold peace talks.
The chairman of the committee and deputy mayor of Jerusalem, Kobi Kahlon, said before the vote on the 40 units that Pisgat Ze’ev should be considered the same as any other neighborhood in the city.
“We don’t have the authority to deprive any man of the rights he deserves. People don’t understand the rules of this system. This respected committee hasn’t the option to behave differently. Its considerations are limited, as is its range of action,” Kahlon added.
But Councilman Meir Turgeman, who heads the opposition faction in the municipal council, said that “the municipality’s conduct on the issue of Pisgat Ze’ev and the construction in Jerusalem is atrocious”.
“Everything is done in the dark, like thieves, and derives from hypocrisy and double standards upheld by the mayor,” Turgeman said. “We can’t keep lying to the entire world like this.”
Former deputy mayor, Yosef (Pepe) Alalo, said the timing was wrong for such decisions. “I’ve always said there was no problem with Pisgat Ze’ev, but the trouble is the timing,” he said.
“We are now at the most critical moment for the negotiations, and such an approval is harmful. They wanted to do this in a disorderly manner, without anyone noticing, but it’s outrageous. We should consider the reality.”
5. Shooting back
Young Palestinians were given cameras and training to capture documentary evidence of Israeli abuses. That was just the start. Now they’re making their own movies
Every Friday, the slingshot-wielding boys, or shabab, of the West Bank village of Ni’lin protest at Israel’s separation wall, which has deprived the village of 750 acres of farmland. But among the shabab are other youngsters with a different weapon – video cameras.
For the past three years, Btselem, the Israeli human rights NGO, has provided cameras and training to young Palestinians as part of its camera distribution project, to collect video evidence of abuses and misconduct by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) and Israeli settlers in the West Bank. There are 150 such cameras all over the West Bank and Gaza, and most of the footage captured – 1,500 hours so far – ends on the floor-to-ceiling archive shelves of the Jerusalem office of Yoav Gross, who directs the NGO’s video project.
Footage captured by Btselem’s volunteers has been key evidence in Israeli court rulings in favour of Palestinian plaintiffs. The presence of cameras, now on both Palestinian and Israeli sides, has deterred violence and abuse. But three years after launching the project, Btselem has seen another, unintended consequence. “People started to take this tool, the video camera, and use it as a way to express themselves, to tell stories,” said Gross. “We didn’t train them to do that. We trained them to document human rights violations. But pretty soon we got the sense that this can be a powerful tool for them to empower themselves.”
What has emerged is a generation of young Palestinian filmmakers, at ease with the camera and fluent in editing and the language of visual storytelling. Arafat Kanaan, 17, stood back at the Ni’lin protest one recent Friday afternoon. He had been detained by the IDF the previous week and decided to leave his camera at home and sit this one out, obscuring half of his face with a piece of cardboard. Though he has to worry about IDF cameras, he says: “The camera is like a weapon for us. It can show everyone in the world what the truth is.”
Arafat’s sister Salam, 19, was a volunteer who captured IDF misconduct – shooting a handcuffed Palestinian detainee in Ni’lin – that led to the successful prosecution of an Israeli soldier. Together with Salam and Rasheed Amira, 17, Arafat has set up Ni’lin Media Group, which produces weekly video packages of each protest and longer-form documentary videos on life under occupation. He posts them to the group’s YouTube channel (1) and screens the films for the community on Ni’lin’s central square. “We collect ourselves into a group because it gives us the power to continue the work and to train others,” said Arafat.
The evolution from documentation to storytelling is evident elsewhere. Diaa Hadad, 17, a Palestinian who lives in the Jewish-settled H2 sector of Hebron, wanted to show the effects of settlement and IDF sanctions on Palestinian movement, and did so through a one-minute film called H1H2. The film is a split screen. On the right is the bustling market street of Bab al-Zawiya, in the Palestinian-dominated H1 sector of the town. On the left is al-Shuhada street in H2, once also a busy market for Palestinians but now empty due to Israeli restrictions and settler violence. “I made this film to show the people outside what is happening here,” Diaa said, outside HEB2, a community media centre for Palestinians. “We are living here and a lot of incidents occur here and nobody knows what is happening, even people from Bab al-Zawiya, two kilometres away, in H1.”
Behind him lay the landscape of occupation he tries to document: army CCTV cameras that silently monitor the contested territory, IDF watchtowers and the barbed wires of settlement demarcation. “We give the audience the full picture of what is happening here in the West Bank – violations, normal life, occupation, normal life – and what is the connection between the occupation and normal life. This is very important,” said Issa Amro, 30, director of HEB2, which, using Hebron’s new video-adept youth, has launched a community television service live on www.heb2.tv.
“If you keep showing settlers throwing stones at a certain family, then you don’t know how this family is living,” said Amro. “If you show how this family is living, you become connected to them in another way and you care about them personally.” This philosophy is driving grassroots filmmaking in Gaza, a territory with no Israeli army or settler presence but challenged by the siege that prevents information from leaving the territory.
“The films we are making in Gaza are so important because the world media is not focused on the details on the ground, the real life here,” said Mohammed al-Majdalawi, 22, by telephone from Gaza. He recently made a short documentary about the Gazan hip-hop scene.
“There are no Israeli journalists allowed to go inside [the Strip],” said Yoav Gross, “which basically leaves the Israeli public with a very shallow image of what goes on inside Gaza. This sense of a very human existence in Gaza has kind of disappeared from Israeli discourse.” That’s starting to change. Al-Majdalawi’s work was one of five films from Gaza made available recently by Israel’s number one news site Ynet.com, used by a million Israelis every day. Other films on the site showed the child workers of Gaza’s supply tunnels, the video game craze that has gripped the strip, and a play camp for children.
Back at the wall in Ni’lin, the protest was as expected. Like every Friday, the shabab poised themselves behind the wall while the protestors made their way through an opening in it to yell and wave banners at the IDF stationed behind jeeps on the other side of a barbed wire fence. Then the shabab launched their barrage of rocks, whirring and whizzing over the seven-metre high wall.
During the first and second intifadas, the shabab became a dramatic manifestation of the Samson and Goliath proportions of the wider struggle. Today, the “video shabab” compete for attention and status.
After a few minutes of orders in Hebrew, delivered from the other side of the wall, the IDF sent over round after round of tear gas, scattering the shabab and the activists gathered up the rocky hills. The video volunteers put on their gas masks and kept operating their cameras, despite the haze.
6. New hope in closing battle of the wall; a week in the west bank village of Al Wallaje
Yotam wolfe and joseph dana
In the cool summer evening air of the Jerusalem hills last Tuesday evening, hundreds of Palestinians and Israelis descended on the small village of al-Walaja for a screening of the critically acclaimed documentary Budrus. The screening was jointly organized by Israelis and Palestinians who are working to non-violently resist the construction of Israel’s separation barrier on the village’s land. The screening bore special significance for the people of al-Walaja as the film follows the story of a West Bank village’s unarmed struggle against the construction of Israel’s separation barrier on its farmland and its subsequent success in having the route of the wall changed.
The village of al-Walaja sits between Beit Jala and Jerusalem next to the settlements of Gilo and Har Gilo, both built on historic al-Walaja land. The village, which originally held 17,793 dunums on both sides of the green line, lost 70% of its land on 1948-on which the Israeli villages Ora and Aminadav were built- and after further annexations now consists of only 4,400.
The village itself was originally located on the what is now Israeli territory, and upon Israeli attack on 1948 and hearing about the Deir Yassin massacre completely deserted with 5%-10% percent of the refugees settling on the village lands that where then in Jordanian territory.
In 1968 about half of the village was included in the land illegally annexed by Israel as part of Jerusalem without the villagers’ knowledge, providing them none of the services residents of Israel are entitled to. Recently, Israel has started to construct a portion of its separation wall on al-Walaja’s land; it is currently the only part of the nearly finished wall under construction.
The wall will completely surround the village leaving only one entrance to be controlled by an Israeli military checkpoint which will isolate the village from Jerusalem, a main area of employment and services for many villagers. In some portions, the wall will be as close as five meters from houses of al-Walaja residents cutting them off from their fields and building reserves. Last Sunday, the Israeli High Court, on appeal from the residents of al-Walaja, decided to request a ‘full explanation’ from the state about the route of the wall. The state has forty five days to explain itself to the court although work is allowed to continue during this time.
“Budrus” Screening in al-Walaja
The villagers appeal was joined by the Nature Preservation Society which argued that the wall and adjacent security road composing of a strip 50-100m wide will harm both nature and the traditional agriculture found in the area.
On the heels of this important decision, the resemblance between the situation the people of Budrus faced during the time of the film and the threat al-Walaje is facing now made for an emotional screening. Budrus was one of the first Palestinian villages to embrace a model of unarmed resistance to the creation of Israel’s separation barrier on its land. Due to the success of this model of resistance other villages such as Bi’lin and Ni’lin have adapted similar tactics in confronting the theft of their valuable land.
During the screening, many in the audience were emotional as images of demonstrations in Budrus flashed before their eyes. Packed in a room of Israelis and Palestinians working together to protect a small village’s land from confiscation by Israel’s separation wall while watching the uplifting story of Budrus, it was hard not to be emotional.
The crowd was made up of veteran activists, inquisitive young Israelis, tourists with a political interest and people from the village of all ages including a group of 30 kids from the village’s summer camp.
A key plot line of the film is the cooperation between Palestinians, Israelis and internationals in organizing and demonstrating against the wall. These demonstrations, which are documented in the film, often involved harsh Israeli repression in the form tear gas, sound bombs and the use of live fire against unarmed demonstrators. The residents of al-Walaja are accustomed to seeing the same type of violence from the Israeli army during their non-violent demonstrations.
In what could be described as a passing of the torch, Ayed Morrar, the Palestinian community organizer of Budrus and one of the film’s protagonists, was on hand in al-Walaja for questions after the screening. He appealed for Palestinians to ‘free themselves of traditional thinking’ in adopting new models of non-violent resistance to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. He argued that Palestinian woman should play a greater role in participation and organization of non-violent demonstrations. He noted the similarities between Budrus and al-Walaja in their struggle against the wall and occupation.
Israeli activist, Yotam Wolfe, appealed to the Israeli members of the audience to keep attending the demonstrations in al-Walaja just as Israelis had done in Budrus. He reminded everyone that as Israelis with extreme privilege in society, it is a moral responsibility to help the people of al-Walaja in their struggle. One Israeli, writing on his blog in Hebrew, wrote about returning to Jerusalem after the screening; ‘I returned full of hope and anger, full of anger and pain, full of love…” I believe his statement captures the feeling that all of us had after viewing this incredible film in al-Walaja.
Three days after the screening the village held its regular Friday demonstration against the wall- as many villages across the west bank do for years.
This was not an ordinary demonstration though as the hope and conviction from Tuesday clearly resonated, it seemed like a new beginning after recent demo’s that were small and lethargic.
About 80 villagers including a crowd of children was joined by 20 israeli and international sympathizers, a much more inspiring sight than the group of 10 men joined by an activist or two which was the trend before.
The crowd advanced from the village in a procession carrying Palestinian flags and responding to chants from a megaphone such as “no to the theft wall, no to house demolitions” (rhymes in Arabic).
We walked towards the new wall between the village and the settlement Har-Gilo, I noticed it was bare concrete on the Palestinian side and clad with the local lime stone on the settlers’ side so it won’t be an eyesore for the jewish citizens.
It was clear to me that the presence of the new concrete monster was charging the demonstration with more energy and anger than I have ever seen there.
We then walked along the route of the wall on a dirt path by the fence of “Har Gilo”, it’s houses within 15 meters from us. Two Israeli border police propped up on one of the settlements roofs and were keeping a nervous eye on us, two army jeeps hovered by us on the village side stopping close for intimidation.
Nevertheless, none of the villagers were deterred or frightened; neither did their anger revert to engaging the soldiers by throwing stones. They simply continued with their calls for justice.
On Saturday I returned once again to the village, this time for a different kind of event.
It was the closing event of the summer camp and village gathered to watch the kids perform the Debka -a traditional Palestinian dance- and drama they learned in the previous month.
That evening wasn’t devoid of political sentiment either as half of the performances were in reference to the village plight and that of the Palestinian people.
There was a play in which kids sat in two rows of chairs on the stage with one girl that playing the narrator, passing the mike between the children that each represented an element of oppression hurting the Palestinian public and gave a short monologue about its “character”. It looked like a session of psychodrama for post-traumatic kids.
There was also a dance performance that combined basic western modern and Arab dance.
It was slow movement that looked like some lament dance.
The closing act was a play about a village demonstration, complete with a group of armed Israeli soldiers battering the participants.
One of the organizers gave a speech, he talked about how there are “bad” Israelis -soldiers and settlers- and good Israelis who are their allies for fighting for peace. When he said that my friend Adel sitting next to me said: “that’s for you”.
In conclusion, history might tell how the village of Al Walaje dealt successfully with the closing battle on the wall and if the torch first lit at “budrus” was passed along.