4 Items tonight, and probably the final 4 until we (spouse and I) return to Israel towards the end of August. I will be shutting down the internet on Friday, August 6.
Tonight’s first item takes up a subject that was in yesterday’s mailing: the deportation of children of foreign workers. The present article is about the debate going on in Israel about the morality/immorality of the decision. Those who fight for expulsion do so, as is eminently clear from the report below, on demographic grounds. They are scared stiff that Israel will become a country not of Jews nor even mainly Jews but of mixed peoples. Morality be hanged, say Israel’s leaders.
Jews, Jews, Jews—that’s the song they sing. Kick the non-Jewish kids out. There are also those Israelis who put humane and moral aspects first, but their voices will not be heard, or, rather, even if heard, will have no power to stop the expulsion. Odd, that a people who itself suffered expulsion and racism now does such things to others, and especially to small children. Nice country, this Israel. But thats the way things go in countries founded on demographic grounds.
Item 2 relates what is obvious to anyone who travels in the OPT with open eyes: construction continues in the colonies.
Item 3 is about today’s incident on the Lebanese border. I decided to check out the versions in some of the foreign press to compare to the version in the local press. Not surprisingly, there are differences. The local press puts all the blame on Lebanese forces, the foreign press tends to present both sides. I have selected the AP version in the Independent, which seems to me to be the fullest and most objective of the dozen or so that I have read.
The final item is long—19 pdf pages. But if you have time and patience, you will learn a good deal not only about some of Israel’s methods of ethnic cleansing, but also how the military government ruling the OPT manages (or mismanages) the Palestinian population. Two peoples live in the OPT—Jewish and Palestinian. Israeli Jews are governed by the laws of Israel. Palestinians are governed by Israel’s military commanders and soldiers.
See you in a few weeks. Maybe something positive will happen, and upon my return will be able to write pleasant things. Well, I can dream, can’t I?
JERUSALEM — Deep divisions emerged here on Monday over the fate of about 400 children of foreign workers who have no legal status in the country and are slated for deportation. The issue has touched on sensitive nerves in Israel, which sees itself as a nation of Jewish refugees and defines itself as a Jewish and democratic state.
The public debate followed a decision by the cabinet on Sunday to approve a plan for granting status to the children of people who entered Israel with a valid visa or permit but have stayed on illegally.
Under the new guidelines, based on the length of time the children have been here and their integration in the education system, about 800 of the 1,200 in question are qualified to stay. Their parents and siblings will be entitled to temporary residence permits. The 400 who do not meet the criteria will have to leave, perhaps as soon as within 30 days.
The government decision was widely seen here as reasonable, though many said it would be more humanitarian to let the 400 remain. Others saw the decision as a bad precedent that could encourage more foreign workers to put down roots in Israel and threaten the Jewish character of the state.
“It is a no-win situation,” said Tom Segev, an Israeli author and historian. “Any way you do it is wrong.”
Nevertheless, while praising the government for taking a “humanistic decision,” he said, “We are a nation of refugees. Now we have to fight for the 400.”
The fate of children born in Israel to foreign workers has long stirred strong emotions here. It took two votes on Sunday for the cabinet to approve the new guidelines, which passed the second time by a vote of 13-10 with four abstentions.
Ministers who voted against the plan did so from contrary positions. Some, including the ministers of the ultra-Orthodox Shas Party, which controls the Interior Ministry and which critics brand as racist, opposed the plan because it was too liberal. Others, including some ministers from the conservative Likud Party, opposed it because it was not liberal enough.
The discussion around the cabinet table was “fiery,” according to an Israeli official who was in the room.
“We all feel and understand the hearts of children,” said the prime minister and leader of Likud, Benjamin Netanyahu, at the start of the cabinet meeting on Sunday. “But on the other hand, there are Zionist considerations and ensuring the Jewish character of the state of Israel. The problem is that these two components clash.”
There are 250,000 to 300,000 foreign laborers in Israel, about half them without valid documents. Israel has a population of 7.5 million, including more than 5.6 million Jews and 1.5 million Arab citizens. Out of security concerns, it began inviting foreign workers for limited periods to replace Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza to work in construction, agriculture and domestic work. Many have outstayed their visas, and their numbers have been swelled by African refugees and economic migrants who have come across the porous border with Egypt.
Mr. Netanyahu said there were reports of “close to 500,000 migrants, and perhaps close to one million, in the past decade.”
“This is a tangible threat to the Jewish and democratic character of the State of Israel,” he said. “Therefore we will make a decision that is balanced between the desire to take these children into our hearts and the desire not to create an incentive for continued illegal migration that could flood the foundation of the Zionist state.”
The mainstream news media in Israel have largely sided with the children and their advocates. The front page of the popular Yediot Aharonot newspaper on Monday featured a large picture of a boy, Eilon, age 6, and his 2-year-old sister, who are now eligible for deportation along with their mother, Rachel, 37, who came to Israel from the Philippines in 2002.
“Someone there has lost his bearings,” wrote Eitan Haber, a Yediot Aharonot columnist and a close aide to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in the 1990s, in a op-ed published on Monday. “The State of Israel bombed nuclear reactors, reached Entebbe, wasted billions on light and heavy rail systems that don’t move and paid hundreds of millions of shekels for years to people who did not contribute a single drop of sweat to the state. And now, 400 children, that is what will kill the state? Have you gone mad?”
But there were other voices, too.
“According to the report submitted to the government, there are 148,000 illegal residents in Israel,” wrote Ben-Dror Yemini, a columnist at a rival newspaper, Maariv. “According to the logic that is taking over us,” he continued, “they should have children, and this will be their insurance policy.”
2. ““The campaign we are launching says that September is the time for Israel to make a decision. You cannot say settlements and peace,” said Oppenheimer.” [below JP “295 homes begun since freeze”]
Nor can one continue colonization and land theft and ethnic cleansing and have security or peace. Justice first; then security and peace are likely to follow. [Dorothy]
Peace Now claims settlers violated freeze in West Bank.
In defiance of the moratorium on new housing construction, settlers have begun work on 295 new permanent homes in the first half of 2010, according to a report published Monday by Peace Now.
Settlers said the report was false.
“I wish it were right, but unfortunately the freeze is meticulously implemented,” said Dani Dayan, who heads the Council for Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip.
Peace Now, in turn, said its data was very solid. The nongovernment group, which monitors Jewish West Bank construction, based its numbers on data it collected through the use of aerial photographs as well as planning data and permits.
At a Tel Aviv press conference Hagit Ofran, who heads the group’s settlement watch team, compared aerial photographs taken of settlements in December 2010 with shots of the same spots from May and July.
Highlighted in the photos were construction sites that stood empty in December, but which had foundations and in some cases more substantial building by May or July.
“It’s a significant drop in new housing construction,” said Ofran, who credited the 10-month moratorium on new construction with cutting the number of new housing starts by more than half.
At the same time, she said, the moratorium has not halted new settlement construction.
In addition, she said, settlers were able to place 167 caravans in West Bank settlements, an act that also runs counter to the moratorium.
Overall, she said, Peace Now calculated that new work had begun on 603 new Jewish West Bank residential units, including the 167 caravans.
Ofran estimated 141 homes belonged to the group of 492 units exempted from the freeze, because their approvals were given so close to the deadline.
It meant, she said, that according to Peace Now’s calculation, there were 462 moratorium violations.
The Defense Ministry, she said, has not significantly moved against these homes, even though it has sworn to take down construction that violates the freeze.
Under the terms of the freeze work can continue on 3,000 apartments, out of which she estimates 2,000 are now under construction.
But according to the moratorium there should be no new housing starts or caravans, she added.
When it comes to enforcing the moratorium the Defense Ministry has focused mostly on removing modular construction, and has not significantly gone after violations of permanent housing, Ofran said.
She could not cite the exact number of illegal construction projects taken down by the Civil Administration, but said it was minimal. The most significant demolition activity was four housing starts it destroyed in the Shavei Shomron settlement, she said.
Among the list of settlements with illegal new housing starts, she said, were the communities of Modi’in Illit, Givat Ze’ev, Mitzpe Yericho, Ariel, Ma’aleh Adumim, Kfar Etzion, Kfar Adumim, Itamar, Eli, Oranit, Beitar Illit and Elkana.
Already in February, Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilna’i said that 28 settlements had violated the freeze on new housing.
Still, the Peace Now data runs counter to numbers published by the Central Bureau of Statistics at the end of May.
According to the CBS there were no new housing starts in the settlements in the first quarter of 2010.
“We think our numbers are right,” a CBS spokesperson said, adding that it compiled its data from multiple sources, such as the Ministry of Housing and Construction, planning committees, regional and local councils, contractors and realtors.
But both she and Ofran noted that the CBS did not go out into the field itself, nor did it collect aerial shots as Peace Now had.
Ofran added that there could be some discrepancies in the data, but that overall it showed new building had continued.
But not everywhere, she said.
The Barkan settlement halted a project of 62 apartment units, Neria stopped a project of 100 and Sha’are Tikva halted work on 60 homes.
Separately on Monday, Peace Now announced that it planned to launch an aggressive campaign in favor of extending the moratorium, which is due to expire on September 26.
Peace Now is treating that date like an election, said the group’s executive director, Yariv Oppenheimer.
“This isn’t a technical issue, it’s a political decision,” said Oppenheimer.
“The campaign we are launching says that September is the time for Israel to make a decision. You cannot say settlements and peace,” said Oppenheimer.
Israel has to end the occupation and enter a political process with the Palestinians or go the path of settler leaders and more right-wing Likud members, such as Danny Danon and Tzipi Hotovely, said Oppenheimer.
The Civil Administration and the Prime Minister’s Office declined to comment.
[Interestingly, on a video of the incident shown on Israeli channel 1 TV news this evening, one could clearly hear the UN forces shouting to Israeli troops before any firing began, “stop, stop”—something that the Israeli newspaper reports neglect to say.]
Toops exchanged fire on the border today in a battle which started over the trimming of a tree
Four people died when Lebanese and Israeli troops exchanged fire on the border today in a battle which started over the trimming of a tree.
It was the most serious clashes in four years, the victims included two Lebanese soldiers and an Israeli army officer.
The UN urged “maximum restraint” and said it was working with both sides to restore calm. After an initial clash of about five minutes, intermittent shelling and gunfire went on for several hours until the fighting stopped by mid-afternoon.
A Lebanese army officer said the battle started when Israeli troops tried to remove a tree from the Lebanese side of the border.
“It was over the fence but still within Israeli territory,” a military spokesman said. [my emphasis, D]
Ronith Daher, 32, a Lebanese journalist who was at the scene, said she saw a UN peacekeeper ask Israel not to allow the Israeli soldier to cross the fence and warned them the Lebanese troops would open fire. The Israelis proceeded, however, and Lebanese soldiers fired into the air. She said the Israelis fired back directly at the Lebanese soldiers.
The Israeli military’s northern commander, Maj. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, however, accused Lebanese forces of shooting toward forces inside Israeli territory without any provocation.” He said that while soldiers were removing bushes by the fence, Lebanese military snipers shot two officers who were more than 300 yards away from the fence.
The military announced that a 45-year-old battalion commander was killed and a captain was critically wounded.
A spokesman said Israel responded with infantry, tanks and artillery fire, and later sent helicopters and artillery fire at a Lebanese army base and command centre.
Residents near the Fatima Gate, a one-time border crossing with Israel, briefly blocked a road as UN peacekeepers tried to pass, shouting: “Are you here to protect us or are you here to run away?”
Many in the area view the international force with mistrust, and there have been skirmishes between residents and the peacekeepers in the past.
Lebanese President Michel Suleiman denounced the fighting and urged the army commander to “confront any Israeli aggression whatever the sacrifices.”
A Lebanese officer said one of the Israeli shells hit a house in the Lebanese border town of Adeisseh. One civilian was wounded in the shelling, he said. A security official also said a Lebanese journalist working for the daily Al-Akhbar newspaper, Assaf Abu Rahhal, was killed when an Israeli shell landed next to him in Adeisseh.
The border has been relatively quiet since the summer 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war that left 1,200 Lebanese and about 160 Israelis dead.
[Forwarded by Lora Gordon to Myrtoe]
This report just out from the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies
“A new Israeli military Order no. 1650 regarding the Prevention of Infiltration took effect on April 2010. Human-rights organizations expressed alarm at the new powers Israeli military forces will have in dealing with Palestinians who do not hold ‘lawful documents’ of stay in the occupied Palestinian territory.
The objective of this paper is to investigate how this new order fits within a legal system Israel has set up in the West Bank and Gaza Strip through hundreds of military declarations and orders. Three aspects will be analyzed: first, the way residency status is regulated determining which residents are legal and which illegal; second, the regulation for border crossings and the movement of Palestinians within the occupied Palestinian territory and abroad; third, family unification of Palestinians in the occupied territory.
These examples will show how this new order is part of an overarching policy that has been in crescendo since 1967: maximizing Israeli control of (Palestinian) land and minimizing the number of (Palestinian) people. The fact that this policy is targeting a specific national group and the fact that it is accompanied by a persistent settlement policy in the occupied Palestinian territories renders these policies, not only discriminatory, but also racist and colonial.”