Items 1 and 3 give you an excellent idea of the direction that Israel is headed for—ethnic cleansing on the one side, and brain washing our children on the other side.
And on top of all of this, 1000 Christians (perhaps more by now) want to convert to Judaism and settle in the West Bank (item 2).
In item 4, Uri Avnery advises Israel to recognize Hamas in Gaza. Agreed. I do find one problem, though, in Uri’s advice. He argues “We must cut ourselves off from Gaza once and for all, and this means allowing Gaza to open itself in all the other directions – opening the Gaza port, airport and border with Egypt.” I surely agree that Israel should end the blockade, give Gaza access to the sea, skies, and even an exit to Egypt (on the proviso, I presume, that Egypt will agree). But Israel cutting itself off from Gaza? Gaza, after all, is part and parcel of historic Palestine. Cutting Gaza off from the little of historic Palestine that is left, is like cutting off a limb. True, Israel sits between Gaza and the West Bank and Jerusalem. But in our modern times, surely a way can be found under ground, above ground, or other for allowing Palestinians to move freely from one part of their country to the other and back. In the long run, the best for all of us is a single country where everyone will be free, and all citizens equal.
Item 5 is a rejoinder to racist and otherwise right-wing responses to Juliano Mer-Khamis murder.
And the link in item 6 is to a report that US AWOL soldier Andre Shepherd has been denied political asylum in Germany.
1. [Forwarded by Sam B]
Even Tony Blair can’t save Palestinian bookseller to the stars
Jonathan Cook reports on the case of the famous Jerusalem-based Palestinian bookseller, Munther Fahmi, who has been told by the Israeli authorities to leave the city and country of his birth as part of its policy of ethnic cleansing.
Munther Fahmi is known as the “bookseller of Jerusalem”. Among his customers are to be found Tony Blair, Kofi Annan, Jimmy Carter and Hollywood actress Uma Thurman.
In a city riven by political and social tensions, Mr Fahmi’s bookshop has provided an oasis of dialogue between Palestinians and Israelis, with well-known writers and scholars from both sides of the divide regularly invited to give readings and talk about their work.
But despite his high-profile connections, Mr Fahmi’s days in the city of his birth look to be numbered.
“Israeli officials have told him that, after 16 years running his bookshop in the grounds of East Jerusalem’s landmark 19th-century hotel the American Colony, he is no longer welcome in either Israel or Jerusalem.”
Two months ago he exhausted his legal options when Israel’s high court refused to overturn the deportation order. His only hope now rests with a governmental committee to which he has appealed on humanitarian grounds.
Mr Fahmi, 57, is far from optimistic. “My lawyer tells me applications from Palestinians are almost never accepted.”
The holder of an American passport for many years, Mr Fahmi said he was staying on a tourist visa that expired on 3 April. “If the committee rejects my case, I will be sent packing on a plane at very short notice.”
Mr Fahmi is one of thousands of Palestinians who over the past four decades have fallen foul of an Israeli policy stripping them of their right to live in Jerusalem, said Dalia Kerstein, director of Hamoked, an Israeli human rights group.
Although Israel annexed East Jerusalem in 1967, in violation of international law, most of its Palestinian population received only Israeli residency permits, not citizenship.
According to Israeli figures, more than 13,000 Palestinians – from a current population of 260,000 in East Jerusalem – have had their residency revoked since then.
Ms Kerstein said the number of revocations had risen sharply in recent years, with more than 4,500 Palestinians losing residency in 2008 alone, the last year for which complete figures are available.
Israeli law stipulates that Palestinians in Jerusalem can be stripped of residency if they spent at least seven years abroad – defined as including the occupied Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza – or acquired a foreign passport.
Since a test case in 1988, the Israeli courts have backed revocations in cases where the authorities claim Palestinians have transferred their “centre of life” elsewhere.
“There is clearly a policy to push Palestinians out of Jerusalem and Israel to reduce what is called here the ‘Palestinian demographic threat’,” said Ms Kerstein. “It’s really a case of ethnic cleansing.”
Last week Hamoked and another human rights group, the Association of Civil Rights in Israel (Acri), petitoned Israel’s Supreme Court to overturn the policy, arguing that it contravenes international law.
Oded Feller, a lawyer for Acri, said Palestinians in East Jerusalem were effectively “prisoners”, punished by Israel if they took part in a more globalized world.
“There is clearly a policy to push Palestinians out of Jerusalem and Israel to reduce what is called here the ‘Palestinian demographic threat’.”
Dalia Kerstein, director of Israeli human rights group Hamoked
“The problem for people like Munther is that the Israeli government and the courts treat them as though they are immigrants, ignoring the fact as the city’s native residents they have an inalienable right to live here,” Ms Kerstein said.
Like most other Palestinians in East Jerusalem, Mr Fahmi’s family declined Israeli citizenship in 1967. “We are Palestinians and Israel is occupying us. Why would we take citizenship and give a stamp of legitimacy to our occupation?”
But that decision left him and other Palestinians in Jerusalem in a precarious position.
Mr Fahmi’s residency was revoked – without his knowledge – during a long period spent in the United States, starting in 1975 when he left to study. He gained his American passport after marrying there and raising a family.
He decided to settle back in Jerusalem in 1995, after the signing of the Oslo accords. “I had seen Yasser Arafat [the Palestinian leader] and Yitzhak Rabin [Israel’s prime minister] shake hands in front of the White House. Naively, I thought it heralded a new era of reconciliation.”
For the last 16 years, he has been forced to exit and enter the country every few months on a tourist visa.
But Mr Fahmi learnt the full significance of his loss of residency 18 months ago, when Interior Ministry officials told him that, according to a new policy, he would no longer be automatically issued tourist visas.
Now, he has been told, he can spend only three months a year in Israel, including Jerusalem. In his appeal to the humanitarian committee, he has said he needs to be in Jerusalem to care for his 76-year-old mother.
“Is there any other country where the native population is treated like this in its homeland?” he said.
The policy to withhold tourist visas to Palestinians with foreign passports has been only patchily implemented, said Ms Kerstein, following objections from US and European embassies.
Mr Fahmi appeared a surprising choice for enforcement, given his influential supporters. A petition has attracted more than 2,000 signatures, including those of the British novelist Ian McEwan, who won this year’s Jerusalem Prize for literature, the historian Eric Hobsbawn, and Simon Sebag Montefiore, whose book Jerusalem: The Biography has been a bestseller.
Mr Fahmi hopes backing from many Israelis and diaspora Jews, including Israel’s two most famous novelists, Amos Oz and David Grossman, may forestall his expulsion.
“I hope the authorities will take note that many of my supporters are people who describe themselves as friends of Israel,” he said.
Mr Grossman told Reuters news agency last week that the Israeli government’s actions were “a scandal”.
Rashid Khalidi, a professor of Middle East history at Columbia University in New York, who has also signed the petition, said Mr Fahmi’s case highlighted Israel’s determination to maintain a clear Jewish majority in Jerusalem.
A formula devised by an Israeli government committee in 1973 fixed the percentage ratio of Israeli Jews to Palestinians in the city at 73 to 27. Despite an aggressive policy of settling Jews in East Jerusalem, higher birth rates among Palestinians have seen their proportion swell to just over a third of the city’s total population.
“There isn’t a family I know in East Jerusalem that doesn’t have someone affected by this revocation policy,” said Professor Khalidi. “It’s systematic.”
Last year Israel appeared to be expanding the policy when it revoked the residency of four Hamas members of the Palestinian legislative council who live in East Jerusalem.
Earlier this year it also banned from Jerusalem Adnan Gheith, a prominent Palestinian political activist who has opposed a Jewish settlement drive in his Silwan neighbourhood of East Jerusalem. He was told to keep out of the city for four months.
Reports in the Israeli media suggest that Israel’s security services have drawn up a list of several hundred activists in Jerusalem who they want issued with expulsion orders.
In an indication of the fear among Palestinians in East Jerusalem that their residency rights are under threat, Israeli officials have noted a marked increase in Palestinians applying for Israeli citizenship over the past five years.
Figures this year from the Israeli interior ministry revealed that about 13,000 Jerusalem Palestinians, or 5 per cent of the population, are now Israeli citizens.
Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is www.jkcook.net.
A version of this article originally appeared in The National (www.thenational.ae ), published in Abu Dhabi.
April 14, 2011
Homes in Samaria – the new American dream? Photo: Zvika Tishler
The new Christian settlers
A thousand US Christians want to join IDF, set up communities beyond Green Line
Will US Christians settle in Samaria? About 1,000 Americans have signed a document requesting to convert to Judaism, move to Israel, and settle in Samaria.
The group members are seeking to serve in the IDF and later establish communities based on the Kibbutz movement model.
The document was presented to Yisrael Beiteinu Knesset Member Lia Shemtov, who met with the group’s representative last week and promised to offer her help in facilitating the initiative.
Destination: Samaria (Photo: AP)
The Christian group’s representative, Baruch Abramovich, said he was hopeful that MK Shemtov would be able to elicit the government’s support for the initiative.
Ironically, the venture received a boost through the help of priests at some 70 different churches in the US, who last summer urged their followers to boycott Abramovich and his new community. The broad media coverage attracted many new participants to the initiative.
The Christian group seeks to purchase land in Samaria, and Abramovich says that in Missouri alone a community of some 400 people is already keeping the Shabbat.
“They manage collective kibbutz life and aspire to create such community in Samaria, or in any area that would like to absorb people who truly love Israel and the Jewish religion,” he said.
MK Shemtov expressed her support for the idea, noting that “bringing hundreds of educated, established people to Israel will help in developing Samaria and reinforcing it as an inseparable part of the State of Israel. We are dealing with people who wish to undergo Orthodox conversion, contribute to the economy, and even to serve in the IDF.”
Officials at the Samaria Regional council confirmed that they were approached about the initiative, but noted that according to the Law of Return, only Jews can move to Israel and receive citizenship.
“If families from this group undergo proper conversion and move to Israel in line with the Law of Return, we’ll of course be happy to welcome them in Samaria,” one official said.
April 14, 2011
Israel’s plan for next year’s school curriculum: Reinforcing Jewish and Zionist values
Education Ministry’s plan for the coming school year does not include civics, democratic values or Jewish-Arab coexistence
The Education Ministry’s plan for the coming school year does not include civics, democratic values or Jewish-Arab coexistence, according to copies circulated among principals.
It states schools’ two main objectives are to reinforce Jewish and Zionist values, and to improve scholastic achievements, and instructs principals how to fulfill these goals.
“This is education for Zionism and Judaism without education for democracy and peace, and it promotes ultra-nationalism,” said University of Haifa Prof. Gavriel Solomon, an Israel Prize winner in the field of education.
Although the booklet was sent to school principals about two weeks ago, the Education Ministry said the plan was “preliminary, and the process of combining all the system’s programs is not yet complete. The final edition and the schedule for implementation will be published after the Passover holiday.”
The authors of the plan say it provides tools needed “to build a work plan, while also putting all of us on the same page,” and set 11 goals. The first is to “deepen education for values,” which includes a new middle-school program called “the culture and heritage of Israel,” as well as classes and field trips aimed at encouraging army service.
Other goals include limiting student violence, improving academic performance, maximizing study time at school, improving the status of teachers and principals, increasing the number of pupils in technological-vocational programs, and promoting a new school computerization plan.
Some school principals expressed consternation over the fact that the plan does not mention educating for democracy or Arab-Jewish coexistence.
“The plan expresses the Education Ministry’s agenda, and principals understand that they don’t need to invest any effort in spheres not covered by the plan,” stated the principal of one Tel Aviv high school. Polls of Israeli youth from the past few years show an increase in racism and anti-democratic attitudes, the principal said. With this in mind, “one might have expected the Education Ministry to set a clear policy of teaching civics and democracy. These subjects’ absence from the work plan is very conspicuous, and it’s hard to imagine that it is a coincidence.”
A survey released two weeks ago found that 60% of Jewish youths aged 15-18 believe “strong” leaders are more important than the rule of law, and 70% believe that when the state’s security needs and democratic values conflict, security should win out. In addition, 46% said Arabs should not be allowed to serve in the Knesset, and 50% said they opposed having Arabs live in their neighborhood. The main trend is that Jewish nationalist values were growing stronger, and respect for democratic-liberal values were weakening, concluded the survey-makers.
“If priorities are to be set in education today, they should involve democracy education, and education for cooperation between Jewish and Arabs,” said Solomon.
April 14, 2011
Israel must recognize Hamas’ government in Gaza
Who started the deadly tit for tat? To the Israelis it is clear − it started with the abominable fire on the school bus. To the Palestinians it is clear − it started with killing a senior Hamas official. And before that it was … and before that it was … and before that it was…
In his old age a man returns to second childishness, Shakespeare said. Something similar is happening to the State of Israel.
The new round of hostilities along the Gaza Strip was terrible. A missile was fired at a school bus, critically injuring a teenage boy. At least 15 Palestinians were killed in the retaliation, including civilians, women and children. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis had to hunker down in bomb shelters in constant fear. And all as a result of a childish policy.
Who started? To the Israelis it is clear – it started with the abominable fire on the school bus. We had to retaliate to that. To the Palestinians it is clear – it started with killing a senior Hamas official. We had to retaliate to that. And before that it was … and before that it was … and before that it was…
And how will it end? Today there seems no end to it. Each side insists on not letting the other side fire the last shot.
The first childish decision was ours – Israel must on no account recognize the Hamas government because Hamas is a terror organization, which does not recognize the Jewish democratic state. Because Hamas is this and that.
This is complete – and fatal – nonsense. Hamas really is this and that, but it is the only government in Gaza. We tried to bring it down and as a result it grew stronger. Moreover, secret WikiLeaks documents recently published reveal that a senior Israeli defense official told an American diplomat Israel is interested in maintaining Hamas’ rule in Gaza in the short term, because any alternative reign would be worse.
If so, what is this bloody game for? Why continue bluffing the Israeli public when the solution is simple? Israel must recognize Hamas’ government in Gaza de facto, as an existing reality. Israel must negotiate with the existing government over practical matters that require an arrangement.
There is no point in achieving another fuzzy tahadia (calm ), with the help of another shadowy third party, with no details and no official agreement. We need an official cease fire, fixed in a written document, setting procedures to sort out complaints. We need an agreed, manifest, reliable third party to supervise this process.
Israel’s entire approach to the Gaza Strip is anachronistic. The blockade, intended to persuade the population to topple the Hamas government, failed and has turned into a stumbling-block. We must cut ourselves off from Gaza once and for all, and this means allowing Gaza to open itself in all the other directions – opening the Gaza port, airport and border with Egypt.
Israel has proved it can prevent bringing in weapons in other more effective ways. This also pertains to the next flotilla barreling our way. Let it sail in peace wheresoever it may.
This is common sense. Former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy also hinted as much. Anything else is stupid, childish, one-upmanship games – he started, let him stop first, and the like. To put it simply – fatal stupidity.
Benjamin Netanyahu was also gripped by second childishness when he began his campaign to avert the oncoming “diplomatic tsunami” – world recognition of a Palestinian state on lands captured by Israel in 1967, with East Jerusalem as the capital.
Netanyahu, who believes one word is worth a thousand acts, is planning to turn a few more villages over to Palestinian rule, convene another Madrid-style international conference and persuade one more state to vote against recognition of the state in the UN.
How many times can we repeat these childish tricks, especially when the world’s answer is expected to be a simple cry: “Israelis, we’re fed up with you!”
5. “Daniel Breslau has written an important article on the right-wing Israeli press’ reaction to the murder of Juliano Mer-Khamis.” [Mark]
titled “A leftist has been murdered: attack the left”