Just 3 items tonight—the first two can be classified as ‘this is Israel’—a country which on the one hand brags about its culture, and on the other hand acts like a tribal society in which the present Minister of Interior decides to close down a government internet website on Saturdays because—well, because it’s Shabbat. To hell with you if you are secular and want to pay your bills on Saturday. You live in a Jewish state! Behave like a Jew! Better think twice before you decide to immigrate to Israel, unless, of course, you are ultra orthodox. The second one speaks about how Israel treats ‘its Arabs,’ that is to say, those people to whom it is so condescending if it can exploit them, but nasty if not. About the village that Yitzhak Lior speaks in item 2, it has the sea on the west and a major north-south highway on the east. Not much room to build in.
Item 3—regarding the renewed building in Modiin Illit. according to Peace Now, the colony is 0.6 kilometers within the Green Line, that is to say, it is on the West Bank, not in Israel proper. For more on Modiin Illit see http://www.peacenow.org.il/site/en/peace.asp?pi=57&docid=250 As for the building, if the government or Prime Minister had decided to shelve the building for the time being, Modiin Illit would not be constructing. Don’t let the contractor fool you. The fact that he is constructing means that he has the green light.
And why not? This, after all, is Israel—your wonderful demographic Jewish state.
Interior minister prioritizes keeping Sabbath above needs of secular public by blocking payment services at gov.il portal
Interior Minister Eli Yishai (Shas) intends to block all of his ministry’s online payment services offered via the gov.il portal on Shabbat and religious holidays.
The portal was set up as part of the “accessible government” project to enable Israeli citizens to access a range of ministry services via the internet, thereby reducing the burden of regional centers and improving citizens’ convenience. However, it seems citizens are not completely free to enter the ministry websites when they choose – the Ministry for Internal Affairs intends to block services for the Population and Immigration Authority site on Saturdays.
Government is currently unavailable
Those who want to renew their passports, request a permit to employ a migrant worker, verify an address, renew a weapon license or pay fines will not be able to do so on Shabbat or during religious holidays.
The move will in fact contribute nothing to preventing Shabbat work because these functions require the filling of forms which are anyway not handled immediately by Ministry staff, who work during normal hours during the week.
Not on Shabbat. Israel’s “accessible government” site
What about secular internet surfers?
The Ministry told Ynet that the reason for the decision is because no trade is permitted on Shabbat. However, there are many Israelis who do not keep Shabbat and take advantage of Saturday to catch up on paperwork and bureaucracy, including business with the Internal Affairs Ministry.
These people know the website is run automatically, that there is no real person to deal with the forms on the same day. The minister’s decision, therefore, may cause resentment among the secular public. The message to secular Israelis, the Ministry said, is “the importance of the Shabbat and Jewish holidays.”
Responding to the question of whether the decision goes against government policy of promoting online services, the Ministry said, “the internal affairs minister supports the accessible government policy” – a surprising response, because Yishai’s decision prevents secular citizens from enjoying access to government services at a time of their choosing.
Minister Eitan: Time to solve problem
The “accessible government” project was intended to improve government service. Minister of Improvement of Government Services Michael Eitan (Likud) worked hard to promote the site, which is a convenient portal rich in explanations and services.
Eitan told Ynet he would hold a meeting on the issue with Shas ministers and ask them to refrain from unilateral steps.
“I believe that with the help of technology we can find a solution that will balance between the needs of a Jewish state which obliges the regime to keep Shabbat, and the democratic right of citizens to have access to services at a time convenient to them,” the minister said.
Payment services of the Internal Affairs Ministry will not be the first government online services to be blocked on Shabbat. The website for payments at the National Insurance Institute has been blocked on Saturdays since 2005. No solution has yet been reached despite many debates on the issue.
Asked about the NII site and the tension between religion and state online, Eitan said, “The time has come to discuss the whole issue, and… to solve the problem.”
Article of interest on the meaning of “a Jewish State” for its non Jewish citizens.
Israel does not want to recognize the Palestinian minority within its borders because it seeks to continue to grant privileges to Israeli Jews and to Diaspora Jews, at the expense of the cheap labor, land and water of its Palestinian citizens.
The spread of ignorance is nothing new and is not limited to those who haven’t studied the core curriculum. When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demands that the Palestinians first recognize Israel as a Jewish state, or as the nation-state of the Jewish people, he is relying on ignorance that has been widespread among Israelis for years. Even the difference between these two phrases, which he freely alternates in his statements with a kind of sacred innocence, depends not on the fine print in the insurance policy he seeks, but on ignorance about everything connected to the national character of the State of Israel.
In English, the term “nation” relates to the entirety of the citizens of a given English-speaking country. And the adjective “national” can refer to something that is nationwide, like a “national conference.” But this is the simple, semantic issue.
The more disturbing matter of Israeli ignorance – consistently disseminated in all media outlets and the school system, and also reflected in the tendency to feel good (even when doing so is accompanied by mild guilt feelings ) – is connected to the images we don’t see when we travel around the country. Forget about the ruins, the fig trees that appear out of nowhere (there are no fig trees, or olive or almond trees, for that matter, that grow on their own ). Instead, take a look at the proximity between Jisr al-Zarqa, the poorest village in Israel, and Kibbutz Ma’agan Michael, one of the richest kibbutzim in the country (if not the richest ). And that’s just one example.
Jisr al-Zarqa is a remnant of Kabara, a village that was destroyed in 1948 and its inhabitants expelled. It is the only Palestinian community left on the Mediterranean shore from Gaza to Acre (in Jaffa, the Palestinians were moved off the beach to Ajami ). It was said that the Jisr al-Zarqa residents were immune to malaria, and to their good fortune, like that of the residents of Fureidis, the farmers of Zichron Yaakov needed their cheap labor for draining the swamps, and so they were not expelled.
Most of the land went to kibbutzim in the area, mainly to Ma’agan Michael. Therein lies the importance of this example, even if one looks not at the past and its wounds, but at the increasingly ugly present that gives rise to the boast that might makes right. After all, a bus filled with cleaning ladies sets out from Jisr al-Zarqa every morning, headed for Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center.
This is not about the injustices of the past, like the missing inhabitants of neighboring Tantura, where Haifa University geographers have managed to erase what happened there and in many nearby villages. It’s not about the past but about the present: Jisr al-Zarqa is trapped, without land and between fences. Its children cannot even run to retrieve a ball that flies over the fence dividing the village from the nature reserve that was once part of the village; they would have to go a very long way, to the other side of the separation fence via the beach and back.
And on its other side, the village is shut off by Israel’s richest suburb, Caesarea. Poverty and overcrowding beget violence, which is mounting in Jisr al-Zarqa, a ghetto without hope that no one notices except as a foreign Arab entity amid the surrounding wealth, beauty, landscape and sea.
Recognition of an exclusive Jewish nationality for our country, which Netanyahu is demanding from the Palestinians now, is nothing but a demand to recognize the legitimacy of racist discrimination against the Arab minority in Israel. If this minority had been awarded equal rights, including water rights for agriculture, equality in education and health care, and equal employment opportunities, there would be no need to go back to the Nakba. It would become a wound like other past wounds, like the partial extinction of other national minorities (and after all, there is room to provide compensation for disasters, as per tort law. )
But the State of Israel does not want to recognize the Palestinian minority within its borders because it seeks to continue to grant privileges to Israeli Jews and to Diaspora Jews, at the expense of the cheap labor, land and water of its Palestinian citizens. All this is in order to say that recognition of Israel will come only if we recognize the equality of the minority in our midst. They are not settlers. They were living here before we were.
September 14, 2010
Settlement freeze ‘ends’ for Modiin Illit
Construction company whose damages claim over suspended project was rejected resumes planned building outside Green Line despite lack of conclusive government decision on settlement activity. ‘This was a business decision,’ says CEO
Washington may be pressing the issue and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has yet to have the final word on the settlement freeze, but the Neot Hapisga construction company does not seem to care, as it resumed its project in the town of Modiin Illit Tuesday – exactly where it was left off nearly a year ago.
Modiin Illit is a designated haredi city, located beyond the Green Line. Construction on the project was suspended when the government agreed to a settlement freeze in late 2009.
Neot Hapisga CEO Amir Zaken told Ynet that the decision does not stem from any ideological motive, but rather that the company “has to meet its obligations to bond holders, banks and clients. The only way for us to recoup the investment is to resume the project, and since there is no freeze right now, we’re back on the site.
“This was a business decision, not an ideological one. We are law-abiding people. We plan to build according to the legal building permits we were given by state zoning administrations. We have millions invested here.
“We accepted the government’s decision to halt settlement construction. We suspended the project, fired everyone. The government is responsible for compensating all the people and bodies harmed by its decision,” he said.
Zaken’s company was the first to file a damages claim with the State’s Claims Committee, for damages suffered due to the settlement freeze. The NIS 171 million ($45.4 million) claim was rejected on Monday, and the company decided not to pursue further legal options at this time.
In stead, Neot Hapisga – assuming the settlement freeze’s end is pending – simply resumed construction.
Modiin Illit’s project outline includes the construction of 2,300 housing units, on land purchased by the company in 2006. So far, only 500 units were built.
October will see a meeting of Jerusalem’s sub-committee for appeals on the city’s Zoning Committee decisions, with aim of approving 1,362 new housing units in the south-Jerusalem neighborhood of Givat HaMatos. The planned project is meant to take shape in an area outside the Green Line.
Ir Amim (“City of Nations”), an Israeli non-profit organization dedicated that focuses on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Jerusalem, said that “unfortunately, east Jerusalem is once again used in provocative and irresponsible moves, especially at this sensitive time.
“Going forward with these plans at this time, parallel to the peace talks, is irresponsible and may have rueful ramifications.”