While Israeli listeners and watchers of news programs hear that there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza, while they are told that at least on one of the ships of the upcoming flotilla there will be terrorists, while most Israelis swallow this and worse blather (I almost wrote bull shit, but why be as gross as the news reports), the flotilla planners keep repeating that their primary purpose is to break the blockade, various UN agencies and Human Rights orgs tell us that almost half the adult population in Gaza is without jobs, many still have no homes, and on top of these and other such information, we now learn in item 1 that some 30,000 Gazans have been denied passports not by Israel but by their own. This impacts on the little freedom of movement that Gazans might have, and is particularly disastrous for the very ill.
In item 2 of the 6 + videos and pictures below, Amira Hass depicts the lawlessness occurring in areas near Jerusalem due to the lack of interest on the part of the Israeli authorities and on the prohibition by Israel of Palestinian police to act.
Item 3 reports that Israel intends to forcibly transfer more than 40,000 (yes, that’s right, 40,000) Bedouins from their lands to a cramped urban environment where there will be no jobs and no lands for them to farm. Wonderful recipe for crime! And what for? This in Israel is called democracy!
I very seldom distribute Thomas Friedman’s op-eds, simply because I don’t find them very enlightening (to say the least). But this time I feel that if I don’t comment on his recommendations for settling the Palestinian-Israeli dispute you might not notice the fallacies in his argument. And so item 4 is Friedman. My comments precede his, but you might want to read his piece first.
In item 5 Shaul Arieli says that security is not in borders. Interestingly, Arieli was active in the negotiations during the Oslo period, and was in the military at the time. Once when I heard him speak (after leaving the military) he stated that military persons should not handle negotiations, because all they know is security. He speaks with authority.
Item 6 is from the U.S. boat to Gaza, and tells those who will be going on the flotilla to prepare emergency responses.
7 is not a single item but rather a collection of videos that I have received the past 2 days. There are 3 sets of videos (all about 5 minutes, more or less) and one set of pictures that accompany a story.
In (a) there are 2 videos. The first tells artists who plan to perform in Israel to cool their heels and heed the call to bds. The 2nd is about Gaza, and combines animation with human characters (children).
(b) Is a boycott performance against Israeli apartheid. The action took place in a super market in Portland, Oregano. Enjoy.
(c) Judy Labensohn shares her impressions with us from the one year celebration of Susya’s Creative and Learning Center held in Susiya at 28.5.2011
(d) Is less pleasant. It is a video that records IOF and Border Police brutality at a protest. The video was made possible by Btselem, which hands the cameras out to Palestinians for the express purpose of documenting human rights abuses.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the cameras could be used instead to document happy occasions?
That’s it for tonight, friends.
1. Al Jazeera,
June 19, 2011
Passports for all in Gaza?
Some 30,000 Gazans have been denied passports in rift between Hamas and Fatah.
30,000 Palestinians in Gaza are on a ‘blacklist’ that prevents them from having passports. This prohibits them from traveling abroad for medical treatment when necessary [GALLO/GETTY]
In Ramallah, the Palestinian Authority recently decided to remove 141 Palestinians from the passport blacklist of 30,000 names.
The move sparked a protest held by scores of Gazans who had been denied a Palestinian passport – and consequently had their mobility in or out of the Gaza Strip prohibited.
Prior to June 2007, when Hamas routed Fatah from the Gaza Strip following internecine fighting, the majority of Palestinian passports were printed, and issued by, the Ministry of Interior in Gaza City. However, since then, the Fatah-backed government – based in the West Bank – has demanded that Palestinians who wish to renew their passports send their documents to Ramallah, where the passport administration is located.
Some believe this was a bid to undermine Hamas – regardless of the fact that it was ordinary Gazans who would suffer, not Fatah’s political rival. The decision to ban many Gazans – who have documented Palestinian nationality – has included Hamas activists and officials of the de-facto government in Gaza, as well Fatah activists and other citizens who have no known affiliations to any political parties.
The national unity deal signed in Cairo in May was expected to end the crisis, by granting a Palestinian passport to all those previously denied.
On June 14, protesters in front of United Nations office in Gaza demanded the UN take immediate action and intervention to end the impasse, especially the crisis of hospital patients and those who were chronically sick denied the passports which would allow them to travel abroad for potentially life-saving treatment.
To un-ban the banned
Those denied passports have joined together to form a lobbying committee, with the aim of providing passports to all Palestinians, regardless of their political affiliations.
They accused the passport policy of being “racist, and the granting of passports to those who are only loyalists”. It described the banning of passports as “arbitrary decisions … in violation of the law and the Constitution”, referring to Articles 28 and 111 of the Palestinian basic law (an interim constitution).
The spokesman of the committee, Saleem Shurrab said: “For the past four years, we are suffering this denial for alleged security reasons. Although we are made to feel self-doubt, none of us have any particular affiliations to any party which would qualify as a danger to security. Of that there is no doubt.” Shurrab is appealing to both the international community and the Arab League to pressure the General Palestinian Intelligence department to grant passports “for all humanitarian cases”.
In 2006, the government in Gaza sent 10,000 blank passports to the West Bank office. When Gaza ran out of passports a year later, the Ramallah based Palestinian Authority received 300,000 blank passports from France, where they were printed. According to Ahed Hamada, the Ministry of Interior in Ramallah sent only 2,000 of these to Gaza, with 1,000 of these not arriving until mid-2008.
Since then, the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority has refused to include Gaza in its quota of blank passports.
Since 2007, the Hamas-backed Ministry of Interior in Gaza has given passport renewal stamps to many expired passports. Egypt occasionally allows in urgent health cases with officially expired passports. However, passengers to Schengen areas in Europe, or to Arab states other than Egypt, have been denied visas on expired passports.
Previously, Gazans in need of urgent passports would have to wait a few days. However, this is no longer the case, as the issuing process takes longer – pending the approval of the Palestinian Intelligence department.
Aiding and abetting Israel?
Ahiad Hamada, Gaza’s ministry of interior official and passport office head, has accused the Ramallah-based Fatah government of aiding and abetting Israel’s siege on Gaza. He estimates around 30,000 Palestinians are currently being denied passports.
Observers in Gaza see the denial of a passport as punishment for party affiliation, ie for being affiliated with Hamas members or their families. Whether true or not, it is a fact that relatives of Hamas activists are among those denied passports.
Dr Nabil Shaath, a member of Fatah’s Central Committee, said that there has been an agreement reached to grant 141 of 400 submitted applications for passport renewal to the Ramallah-based government.
Shaath emphasised that the applications “will be processed shortly”, and President Mahmoud Abbas has “instructed the Ramallah government to end the crisis”.
Abbas emphasised that there would be “no Palestinian citizen who does not hold a passport”. However, Gaza officials state that these promises do not translate into much on the ground, solving the problems of only a quarter of applicants.
Shawan Jabareen, director of the al-Haq human rights center in Ramallah, said: “Continuing to prevent the issuance of passports to Gaza residents means a disclaimer of the Interior Ministry and the General Intelligence in Ramallah from their promises to solve this problem.”
On June 8, President Mahmoud Abbas awarded former Norwegian Prime Minister Kare Willoch an honorary Palestinian passport, during a visit to the presidential headquarters in Ramallah. The passport was given to Willoch “for his longstanding commitment to the Palestinian cause”, said the office of President Abbas.
This attracted the attention of Gazan media. Majeda al Zebda, columnist for the Felesteen Daily, questioned the award. “Gaza citizens are in dire need of a Palestinian passport, more than a Norwegian,” wrote al Zebda. “The Norwegian who got this passport will put it in a gift cupboard for many years, while a Palestinian would use it for medicine or education.”
Zabda hopes that President Abbas “will award some of these passports to his own nationals who are on the edge of dying.” The columnist then referred to a 30-year-old neighbour denied medical treatment for a brain tumour, despite having all other necessary documentation. He cannot cross the border due to not having a passport.
Passports for all
At the demonstration, one of the protesters held a banner that read: “A passport means a cure, pilgrimage, education, Umrah.”
Other protesters chanted for the right to their national passports with a banner reading: “Enough of factionalism, we are all Palestinians,” and “President Abu Mazen, passports for all”.
Osama Abu Askar, a 37-year-old from Jabalia refugee camp is wheel-chair bound and has been denied a Palestinian passport. In 2004, he was injured during an Israeli bombing, but managed to travel abroad for medical treatment. Upon his return in 2008, he applied for a renewal of his Palestinian passport through a travel agency in Gaza. He was denied, due to “security reasons”, he says.
Abu Askar used to work as a tailor before he was injured, and he was promised $90,000 US in funding, in order to have prosthetic limbs fitted in Germany: “But without a valid passport to travel there, my funding was revoked. Who is responsible for this?”
He still has follow up treatments for injuries sustained to his abdomen and kidney. Abu Askar says he has no political affiliations and has no idea why he is denied the dream of being able to walk again, even on artificial legs.
For many protesters, the PA agreement to release 141 names from the banned list, and grant them passports is undeserving of “public opinion”. As one protester says: “Those people, who it was agreed to be granted passports, had connections through their networks.”
The protesters vowed to continue their protest until all Palestinians get their Palestinian passports issued, though many of them do not know how many more years this will take.
Mohammed Omer is a Palestinian journalist and photographer based in Rafah refugee camp.
June 19, 2011
Israel letting chaos rule in Palestinian villages near Jerusalem
Crime and murder reigns in the area around Abu Dis in the B enclave of the West Bank, Israel forbids the presence of a Palestinian police force.
Tags: Palestinians West Bank Middle East peace 1967 borders Israel occupation
Palestinian police are unable to operate in the area around Abu Dis, but Israeli forces don’t appear interested in stopping the villages from becoming a breeding ground for drug dealers and crime
It’s a conflict over a piece of land that has spun out of control, between two families, in two villages east of Jerusalem. It began with words and shouts, and continued when Saher Mashahera of Sawahera stabbed Samer Muhsen of Abu Dis.
For that he was beaten up by a gang of men in broad daylight, in front of many witnesses and a store’s security camera. While he was still in the hospital, in early March this year, a gang of armed men came to Abu Dis to avenge his injury. They set fire to cars, stores and a home and went on a shooting spree with types and quantities of firearms “that even the Palestinian Authority doesn’t have.” Stores were closed, the streets emptied out, and the authorities of Al-Quds University in Abu Dis hastened to evacuate the thousands of students on the campus. The masked armed men also stormed the campus and fired in all directions. Several students were wounded.
When the death of Mashahera, on March 26, was reported, classes were canceled as a cautionary measure. Samer Muhsen was shot to death in his Ford transit, also in broad daylight, on May 8. All the residents of Abu Dis and Al Eizariya knew that armed men were approaching to avenge Mashahera’s death. The campus and the streets emptied out quickly.
Where were the Palestinian police, who is so highly praised for imposing law and order in Ramallah, Jenin and Nablus? After all, everything happened in broad daylight, in crowded areas, due to a conflict over land that everyone knew about?
But in Abu Dis there is no Palestinian police force. There are a handful of police dressed in civilian clothes, without any weapons, who – together with a flag and the picture of the president – honor an ordinary apartment in the middle of Abu Dis with their presence. The second Oslo Accords, from 1995, state that in Area B the Palestinian police “will assume responsibility for public order for Palestinians,” but “Israel shall have the overriding responsibility for security for the purpose of protecting Israelis and confronting the threat of terrorism.” The agreement stated that there would be 25 police stations and points in Area B. “The Palestinian Police shall operate freely in populated places where police stations and posts are located.” Abu Dis was not included in Area B at the time. The entry of armed policemen into places where there is no police station requires coordination in advance and approval by the Israeli side.
The artificial division of the West Bank into Areas A, B and C, and to areas of authority and responsibility that are divided between the PA on the one hand and the Israel Defense Forces and the Civil Administration on the other, was supposed to come to an end in December 1999. Years later, Israel is very meticulous about fulfilling this paragraph of the second Oslo Accords, which limits the activity of the Palestinian police to a minimum – in Area B in general and Abu Dis area in particular – and requires the granting of advance Israeli permission to deploy armed police forces, for a limited time and under special circumstances.
The IDF does not even allow the handful of frustrated policemen in Abu Dis to move to a designated police station (two detention cells with iron bars on the doors, a tiny aperture for air and light, a waiting room, a reception counter and offices ) whose construction was completed less than a year ago, in a new building whose other parts host some other PA offices.
On the day of Mashahera’s death, March 26, the IDF allowed about 300 armed and uniformed Palestinian policemen to deploy in the area. They stayed in the police station, and at night spread blankets on the empty floors and slept.
The two murders continue to shock the residents of the area. There was another murder about a year and a half ago. But in an area of about 60,000 people (including the northern village of Al Za’im ), and an additional 11,000 students, with almost no police force it can be viewed as a rather low figure. We can reasonably assume that what protects the society from the bloody escalation of conflicts, in the absence of law-enforcement authorities, is the fact that it is composed of hamulas (extended families ), the fear of blood revenge, the umbrella that every family offers its children, and the traditional bridging practices.
And yet, the residents of this area and PA officials don’t shy at describing it as “security chaos,” “an absence of law,” and “an absence of stability for the citizen.” Garbage along the sides of the streets, illegal building additions, double and triple parking, and driving against the direction of traffic are all typical.
In Al Eizariya, Abu Dis and Sawahera there are 700 or 800 old Ford transits with yellow Israeli license plates, which move in fits and starts and are almost falling apart. They were purchased in the past five or six years directly from their Israeli owners, for the funny sum of about NIS 1,500, and are at least 10 years old. They constitute the main internal public transportation. Licensed minibuses operate on the Ramallah-Abu Dis or the Bethlehem-Abu Dis line.
According to the law in the PA (which accords with and is inspired by an Israeli military order ), the Palestinians who live in the occupied territories are not allowed to drive Israeli cars – unless they belong to a spouse and the Palestinian Transportation Ministry has provided all the necessary permits for driving them in Areas A and B. It is also forbidden to buy used cars from Israel which are older than four years. Therefore, those Fords in Abu Dis and its surroundings cannot pass an annual licensing test, and are not insured.
They are patently unsafe. They can be seen climbing in a long convoy along the narrow paths of Abu Dis, overloaded with schoolchildren and students, with thick plumes of suffocating smoke trailing behind them.
In one of those broken-down minibuses, which drove us from Al Eizariya to Al-Quds University, the young driver promised: “Tomorrow I’ll get a license for the car, trust me.” When asked if he has a driver’s license, he replied, “Inshallah [If Allah wills], I’ll have one.” The residents and the police have the impression that there are more accidents in their district than in other places.
Until the construction of the separation wall that enclosed Sawahera, Abu Dis and Al Eizariya in 2005, the minibuses of a Jerusalem company served the residents of the villages. The wall did not cut this service alone. It also cut the residents’ decades-long natural access to their schools, clinics and hospitals, shops, friends, family, property, cultural institutions and jobs in East Jerusalem – a cut that never ceases to hurt. The vacuum created in public transportation was quickly filled by forbidden Fords. Even private individuals purchase old, cheap cars from Israelis which cannot be registered and insured. That is why there is an atmosphere of tolerance toward cars with yellow license plates.
There is no tolerance for the drugs that have begun to spread in this artificial, impoverished border area, but there are no means for dealing with the phenomenon. The employees of Abu Dis’s local council point to the drainage openings in the wall. At night people appear next to the wall and wait for some small package to emerge from the Jerusalem side. PA employees in the Abu Dis area talk about the connection between the drug dealers from Israel and East Jerusalem, and the drug problem that has spread among them in the past five years.
The PA has information about the drug dealers and distributors. But the assumption is they are also armed. At best, if unarmed policemen in civilian clothing try to prevent a transaction, the dealers will flee. At worst, they will open fire. When the criminals possess an Israel ID, there is no chance of deterring them. If they are handed in to Israeli authorities – as required by the Oslo Accords – shortly afterward they can be seen in Abu Dis and its surrounds.
“Our communities are drowning in weapons,” say PA employees who serve in the area. As part of the vendetta for the beating of Mashahera, M16 rifles (which the PA does not have ) were used. In the event of an armed robbery, “when civilians inform us there is no point us coming [to the crime scene] empty-handed,” says a Palestinian policeman. By the time there is coordination with the Israeli side, the robbery will be over. The reputation of the adjacent villages as an area protected from Palestinian law has reached criminals on the West Bank, who now reside there safely. In the three villages there are now gangs connected to drugs, arms, protection money from stores, and parking fees in territory that is not theirs.
No interest in personal safety
This B enclave B is surrounded by Israeli security forces: A southern, permanent military checkpoint in Sawahera, which separates the southern and northern West Bank; the northern one is at the exit from Al Eizariya, 20 meters from the well-kept entrance to the settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim. Occasionally Israeli police cars are placed there to perform spot checks of cars that enter and leave. Cars belonging to the Israeli Border Police and the IDF also enter the villages.
Raed Barghouti, the appointed chairman of the Abu Dis local council says: “The Israelis are well aware of what is happening and where, and of the consequences and results of the lawlessness. The Israelis have never been interested in the personal safety of the Palestinian residents. But prior to the Oslo Accords, the leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization and of the [first] intifada knew how to maintain security and order among our population. The power of the organizations has declined since Oslo in favor of the PA, which is not permitted to operate here.”
PA representatives claim that criminals dealing in arms and drugs can walk around freely in sight of IDF and Border Police lookouts and patrols, because they collaborate with the Shin Bet and the police, or have the potential of becoming collaborators with Israel.
After Mashahera was beaten up, suspected attackers – who were residents of Abu Dis – were found, thanks to an in-store security camera. One of them was Samer Muhsen. The Palestinian police arrested the suspects about 20 days later but subsequently released several of them, including Muhsen, who turned out not to be involved. The detainees are awaiting trial in Area A prisons.
On the day of Muhsen’s murder on May 8, the police received “open” permission (without a time limitation ) to enter the Abu Dis-Sawahera area, reinforced and armed. They were unable to catch the suspects in Muhsen’s murder after they had fled to East Jerusalem, to an address which is known, also to the Israeli authorities.
The police thought they would be able to operate in the area for several days, as was the case on March 26, when Mashahera died. However, at midnight, according to a member of the Palestinian police, they were informed by the military liaison committee that all the forces had to evacuate the area immediately.
Based on their intelligence information, the Palestinian police also tried to carry out operations to find drugs and weapons – as on previous occasions when a permit for the entry of armed policemen was given. Miraculously, the IDF knew about that immediately.
It’s true, admit the commanders of the Palestinian police, that such behavior contradicts the outdated agreements written in the Oslo Accords: “We are obliged to carry out only the activity for which we received the permit. But why should it bother Israel if we take action against dealers in drugs and weapons?”
The response of the authorities
Last Tuesday Haaretz asked the IDF spokespersons, the office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, the Shin Bet and the police whether they are aware of the situation, and what their reactions are to the claims of the Palestinian police that they are prevented from combating crime in the Abu Dis area because of the connection between the criminals and collaboration with Israel.
The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories replied orally that the area is not in its area of jurisdiction. The Judea and Samaria police district said: “By dint of agreements there are no routine enforcement activities of the Israel Police in the village of Abu Dis, except in cases where Israeli citizens are involved in the crimes.” As of two days ago, there was no reply from the Shin Bet and the IDF spokespersons.
3.-[forwarded by Ofer]
June 16, 2011 Israel plans to forcibly transfer 40,000 Bedouin citizens
Jillian Kestler-D’AmoursThe Electronic Intifada16 June 2011
Israeli forces have razed the unrecognized village al-Araqib almost two dozen times.
(ActiveStills)A new Israeli proposal that would forcibly transfer more than 40,000 Bedouin citizens into government-planned townships in the Negev (Naqab) desert has raised the ire of Bedouin communities and their supporters, who say that the plan is both discriminatory and ignores the Bedouins’ historic connection to the land.
“[The Israeli government thinks] that the Bedouin are now like enemies, not like citizens or humans. We feel really like criminals,” said Dr. Awad Abu Freih, the spokesperson and resident of al-Araqib, one of approximately 45 so-called unrecognized villages in the Negev.
“Now we are very angry and we reject this plan. We will not accept it. We are working all the time to explain to our communities that this plan is very dangerous, it’s not good for us and not good for the Jews, not good for the state, not good for anybody. It’s very, very stupid; [it’s] a stupid plan,” Abu Freih told The Electronic Intifada.
Prawer Report a continuation of previous displacement schemes
The Prawer Report — named after Ehud Prawer, the Director of Planning Policy in Israeli Prime Minister’s Benjamin Netanyahu’s office, who headed the committee that wrote it — is an implementation plan of the findings of another Israeli governmental report released in 2008.
Known as the Goldberg Commission, the 2008 report examined the issue of so-called “Bedouin settlement” issues in the Negev. It found that “there is no justification for the state to treat the Bedouin residents in these communities differently from the way it treats the rest of the citizens of the state” and suggested legalizing most the unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Negev so long as the location of these villages didn’t overlap with existing land settlement plans for the benefit of the Jewish population.
Unrecognized Bedouin villages don’t receive basic services from the state, including access to water, electricity, paved roads, education and health care. It is estimated that 90,000 persons — nearly half of the total Bedouin population of the Negev — currently live in unrecognized villages.
Despite its mandate, the Prawer Report veers away from the recommendations of the Goldberg Commission. Instead of promoting recognition, it suggests relocating 40 percent of the Bedouin population presently living in unrecognized villages and moving them into expanded areas of the seven Israeli government-planned Bedouin townships.
These townships, built by the Israeli government in an attempt to concentrate the Bedouin population into specific areas of the Negev, suffer from a serious lack of services and employment opportunities. They are largely viewed as dormitory towns: residents only sleep there and are forced to go outside of the town for nearly everything else they need.
The report states that the Israeli government would offer compensation for only 50 percent of the land the Bedouin currently control and have settled on. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on 2 June that the cost of their displacement is estimated at between six to eight billion Israeli shekels ($1.7 to $2.4 billion USD), including 1.2 billion shekels ($356 million) for economic development in “recognized” Bedouin communities (“Netanyahu’s office promoting plan to relocate 30,000 Bedouin,” 2 June 2011).
“I think that they will go with all their force to implement it. We [will] have to accept it by power. It will be a lot of demolitions and very violent. [There will be] policemen and a lot of actions that the government will do against us. They will attack us,” Abu Freih said.
According to the same report in Haaretz, the amount of compensation Bedouin citizens will receive in exchange for their lands will be reduced as time passes, and “after a five-year period, land which has not been the subject of the claim process will be registered as belonging to the state.”
While Bedouin citizens make up 30 percent of the population in the Negev, they only take up 2 percent of the area’s total land. Further, should all the Bedouins’ land claims be accepted by the state — including the legalization of the currently unrecognized villages and counting the government-planned townships — the Bedouins would control only 5.4 percent of the total land.
An Israeli government vote on the Prawer Report was scheduled for early June yet was postponed due to political pressure from right-wing parties, who argued that the plan gives too much land to the Bedouin. If approved, Israel hopes to implement the Prawer Report within a five-year period.
No consultation with Bedouin citizens
Dr. Thabet Abu Ras is a Professor of Political Geography at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and the Director of the Naqab Project for Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel. He explained that the Prawer Report cannot be implemented for a variety of reasons, including most notably the fact that Bedouin citizens were never consulted.
“Nobody asked the Bedouin what they want, and really the whole Prawer Report is against the desires of the Bedouins. It treats the Bedouins as unequal citizens,” Abu Ras told The Electronic Intifada. “I think the Bedouins have been invisible people in the last sixty years. Unfortunately, they continue to be invisible citizens of the State of Israel after 63 years.”
Abu Ras said that the Prawer Report only is a continuation of existing Israeli policies of forcibly displacing the Bedouins from their lands and moving them into an urban setting. This plan to urbanize the Bedouins began in the early 1960s, and built on the previous transfer of Bedouin populations after the founding of the State of Israel in 1948.
“Let us remember that the Bedouins are citizens of the State of Israel and they are supposed to be equal citizens in the State of Israel. I am asking, who can [gain] anything from the frustration of the Bedouins? The Bedouins are very frustrated. There is an issue of mistrust and at the same time, they are saying, ‘We are willing to talk with you. There is enough room for everybody in the Naqab, for Jews as well as Bedouins. The development of the Naqab should not be at our expense,’” he said.
“The way I read Prawer Report,” Abu Ras added, “is that they [will] uproot people from 25 villages, 40,000 to 45,000 people, and push them to the townships.”
Bedouin communities forced into underserved townships
In his book The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, Israeli historian Ilan Pappe found that an Israeli ethnic cleansing operation against Bedouin tribes in the Naqab began in the summer of 1948 under then Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion.
“The Negev Bedouin had inhabited the region since the Byzantine period, and had been following their semi-nomadic way of life since at least 1500. There were 90,000 Bedouin in 1948, divided between 96 tribes, already in the process of establishing a land-ownership system, grazing rights and water access,” Pappe writes.
“Jewish troops immediately expelled eleven tribes, while they forced another nineteen into reservations that Israel defined as closed military areas, which meant they were allowed to leave only with a special permit.”
Known as the siyag — literally the “fenced area” — this largely barren, restricted area sat south and east of the town of Beir al-Sabe (now known as Be’er Sheva), and accounted for only 1.5 million dunams of the total area of the Negev region (a dunam is the equivalent of 1,000 square meters). In the early 1960s, the Israeli government attempted to urbanize the Bedouin population in the Naqab by building three towns, Tel al-Sabe (Tel Sheva), Rahat and Kseife, in which to concentrate them.
Today, nearly half the Bedouin population in the Negev lives in seven government-planned townships in the northern Negev. These towns lack basic infrastructure, including transportation, schools and employment opportunities, and are the poorest towns in the country.
By comparison, the Israeli government allocated 17 billion shekels ($5 billion) into its “Negev 2015” development plan, which was launched in 2005 and primarily benefits the area’s Jewish residents. The ten-year project, among other things, aims to “strengthen [Jewish] settlement in the Negev” and increase the area’s population by 70 percent, up to 900,000 residents (“Government Launches Negev 2015 Plan Website,” Israeli Prime Minister’s Office website).
According to Dr. Awad Abu Freih, the fact that Bedouin citizens are only offered the option of urbanization — while Jewish citizens can live in many different types of communities — highlights the system of inequality and discrimination that exists in the Negev.
“We feel that this plan will make it very obvious that there [are] two peoples in the Negev. The Jews have recognized villages and they have agricultural villages and kibbutzim, [but the state wants to] take the Bedouin and concentrate them in very, very small cities, closed cities, very poor cities,” Abu Freih said.
“When they destroy our village, they will put Jews in the same place and they will have water, education and everything. This is apartheid. [It’s] very obvious it’s apartheid. It’s a new racism.”
Fighting the Prawer Report
A new umbrella organization called “Recognition Now” has been recently formed to fight for Bedouin land and civil rights in the Negev and coordinate between the various human rights groups and activists working on these issues.
Abu Freih, who acts as the coordinator of this new campaign, explained that Recognition Now’s first priority is educating the various Bedouin tribes and communities about what the Prawer Report really means, and convincing them not to accept it.
“We will be in all the tribes, all the villages and we will call all the world to help us. Maybe we will call the [United Nations] to defend us from the government actions,” said Abu Freih, adding that the international community must get involved to protect Bedouin citizens from the actions and future plans of the Israeli government.
“I want [people] to know that Israel is not a democratic state. It’s very far from that. It’s a very racist state and we know that there’s ethnic cleansing. It’s happening now, it’s not in the history only,” he said. “We want help to defend [ourselves] from the actions of the military and police.”
Jillian Kestler-D’Amours is a reporter and documentary filmmaker based in Jerusalem. More of her work can be found at http://jkdamours.com.
4, Thomas Friedman’s recommendations below are Interesting, but at least two things are wrong with his suggestion.
1. He assumes that Israel wants a resolution to the ‘conflict.’ But Israel’s leaders want even more to continue colonization and ethic cleansing.
2. He assumes that Palestinians will agree to recognizing Israel as a Jewish state. Highly unlikely, as that would (a) undermine present Muslim and Christian citizens of Israel, and (b) would close the door to solving the Palestinian refugee problem. There will never be peace without the ROR!
While President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have gotten a lot of things right on foreign policy, they’ve made quite a mess in Israeli-Palestinian relations, where they’ve alienated all sides and generated zero progress. They’ve been inconsistent — demanding a settlements freeze then backing down — unimaginative and politically wimpy. Then again, the actors they’ve had to work with were both lemons — a Palestinian government that was too divided to make any big decisions and an elusive right-wing Israeli government that was strong enough to make big decisions but had no will to do so.
But you know what they say to do with lemons? Make lemonade.
The Obama team is in a fix. The Palestinian Authority, having lost faith in both Israel and the U.S., is pushing for the United Nations to recognize an independent Palestinian state, within the 1967 lines in the West Bank and Gaza. Once that is in hand, the Palestinian Authority could then start a global push to pressure Israel into withdrawing its settlers and security forces, or face sanctions and delegitimization. Israel is obviously opposed to this move. The U.S. has no desire to support such a one-sided resolution, which would alienate Israel and American Jews. But it also has no desire to veto such a resolution, which would only complicate America’s standing in the Arab-Muslim world.
As an alternative, the U.S. is trying to get the parties to resume peace talks on a comprehensive agreement based on terms laid out by the president in mid-May — two states for two peoples, with the 1967 lines as the starting point, and then whatever land swaps Israelis and Palestinians mutually agree to beyond that. But if the parties won’t accept this — and for now they are resisting — then we’re headed for a real train wreck at the U.N. in September.
How about a different approach?
If the Palestinians want to take this whole problem back to where it started — the U.N. — I say let’s do it. But let’s think much bigger and with more imagination.
On Nov. 29, 1947, the U.N. passed General Assembly Resolution 181, partitioning Palestine into two homes for two peoples — described as “Independent Arab and Jewish States.” This is important. That is exactly how Resolution 181 described the desired outcome of partition: an “Arab” state next to a “Jewish” state.
So why don’t we just update Resolution 181 and take it through the more prestigious Security Council? It could be a simple new U.N. resolution: “This body reaffirms that the area of historic Palestine should be divided into two homes for two peoples — a Palestinian Arab state and a Jewish state. The dividing line should be based on the 1967 borders — with mutually agreed border adjustments and security arrangements for both sides. This body recognizes the Palestinian state as a member of the General Assembly and urges both sides to enter into negotiations to resolve all the other outstanding issues.” Very simple.
Each side would get something vital provided it gives the other what it wants. The Palestinians would gain recognition of statehood and U.N. membership, within provisional boundaries, with Israel and America voting in favor. And the Israelis would get formal U.N. recognition as a Jewish state — with the Palestinians and Arabs voting in favor.
Moreover, the Palestinians would get negotiations based on the 1967 borders and Israel would get a U.N.-U.S. assurance that the final border would be shaped in negotiations between the parties, with land swaps, so theoretically the 5 percent of the West Bank where 80 percent of the settlers live could be traded for parts of pre-1967 Israel.
Both sides would have the framework for resuming negotiations they can live with. Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu of Israel told the U.S. Congress that he was prepared for a two-state solution and painful compromises, but wants Israel accepted as a Jewish state with defensible borders. The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, has insisted that the 1967 border be the basis for any negotiations, and he wants to negotiate with Israel as a sovereign equal.
Meanwhile, the U.S., rather than being isolated in a corner with Israel, can get credit for restarting talks — without remaining stuck on the settlements issue.
“September can be a confrontational zero-sum moment with potentially disastrous consequences or a transformative breakthrough, if it is done right,” argues Gidi Grinstein, the president of the Reut Institute, one of Israel’s top strategy groups. “Israelis and Palestinians are playing chicken. The Palestinian leadership in the West Bank doesn’t really want this U.N. resolution, which could unleash populist forces that might overwhelm them. The Israelis know that going all-out to block the Palestinians at the U.N., without any counterproposal, could have enormously damaging consequences in a Middle East already in turmoil. A deal that recognizes the Palestinian state in terms that address Israel’s concerns could not only help both sides walk back from the abyss but also pin down a historic two-state solution in 2011.”
June 19, 2011
The real meaning of defensible borders
A regional peace deal, including normalization, as promised by the Arab peace initiative, would confer more security than a few thousand dunams in the Jordan Valley.
History teaches that the country, or the nation, has no “historical borders.” Borders, after all, “changed several times according to circumstances,” Yitzhak Ben-Zvi and David Ben-Gurion wrote in 1918.
Borders and their definition are a product of human interests. In response to the Peel Commission’s proposals in 1937, the Jewish Agency, headed by Ben-Gurion, took into account long-term interests. It asked that the Jewish state receive defensible borders – borders that could be defended against rifles and machine guns, but also against “sophisticated weaponry, heavy artillery and airplanes.” Though the agency wanted to give the country “strategic depth,” its proposal envisioned about 10,000 square kilometers, just 40 percent of Israel’s territory under the 1967 borders.
The expansion of Israel’s size by a factor of three after the Six-Day War did not deter the Egyptians from attacking Israel and exacting a steep price in terms of human life, as part of the concept “better Sharm el-Sheikh without peace than peace without Sharm el-Sheikh.” Saddam Hussein sent us all into sealed rooms in 1991, without moving a single tank westward. Over the past decade, Hamas and Hezbollah have regularly sent Israelis into secure rooms, and everyone knows that during the next war, more civilians than soldiers will be wounded, despite the Iron Dome and Arrow anti-missile systems.
The 21st century is different than the 20th, regarding limits on the use of force, as well as threats, technology and the legitimacy accorded to liberation struggles. As a result, the importance of technological capabilities and controlling territory, as parameters under the concept “defensible borders,” has lessened. Or, as U.S. President Barack Obama put it, with technology alone, Israel will find it hard to defend itself in the absence of real peace. Thus the meaning of “defensible borders” should be expanded to include nonmilitary considerations.
Relying on UN Resolution 242, Israel has maintained a defensible border with Egypt based on a peace accord that mandated the demilitarization of the Sinai Peninsula and the deployment of American troops there. Benjamin Netanyahu, like Ehud Olmert, Ehud Barak and Yitzhak Rabin before him, proposed withdrawing from the entire Golan Heights in exchange for a peace agreement with Syria that would include demilitarization. The “open bridges” policy between Israel and Jordan stabilized relations between the two countries, long before they forged a peace agreement. A regional peace deal, including normalization, as promised by the Arab peace initiative, would confer more security than a few thousand dunams in the Jordan Valley.
The fact that the threats have changed, transforming from the threat of a ground attack in the 1970s and terror in the 1980s to missiles and nonconventional weapons in the 21st century, means little to Netanyahu. This is also true despite the peace accords with Egypt and Jordan. All these transformations and developments disappear when he considers the Palestinians.
The Palestinians agreed that their state would lack an army and heavy weapons, while NATO would deploy troops on their territory and Israel would use their air space. But Netanyahu keeps trying to obscure his basic opposition to a Palestinian state and continues to claim that only Israeli control of territory equivalent to at least 20 percent of the West Bank will give Israel security.
In late June, a U.S. flagged ship called The Audacity of Hope will join the 2nd Freedom Flotilla – Stay Human as people from 22 nations set sail to Gaza challenging the Israeli naval blockade. Though the flotilla has the right under international law to do exactly what it is doing and has made abundantly clear its commitment to nonviolence, the government of Israel has publicly stated that they are prepared to act illegally and violently and take severe, even potentially life-threatening, action against the boats and their passengers.
The U.S. Boat to Gaza organizing committee urges people throughout this country to plan now for Emergency Response actions. The power of such actions will be the number of cities they are held in and the numbers of people who participate. Now is the time to start planning.
Once you have your local plans in place be sure to contact the U.S. Boat to Gaza organizing committee. We will add your information to our website, and provide a link to your site. Send your information to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
First step: Now is the time to encourage people to sign onto the U.S. Boat to Gaza email alert list, as well as our Twitter and Facebook accounts, so they can receive the most up-to-date information directly.
Elements of your emergency response plans
1) Public protest activities
The goal is to be as visible as possible – both to the public generally and to the media.
As a local organizer you will know the best place to ask people to gather. Possible places include:
– Israeli consulate or other agencyU.S. federal building
– well-trafficked, major intersection
– major transportation hub
Think about what time of day will be easiest for large numbers of people to come out, to get media coverage and for the largest number of people to see your activity.
2) Media work
Be sure to have a list of media outlets and reporters in your area ready ahead of time.
Inform the media of any public activities and protests you are planning.
Monitor your local media to see if they are covering the story, and if so how. If they are not covering it, or not covering it well, call them!
Ask people to write letters to the editor and to call into radio talk shows.
The aim is to make sure the story is being covered, and being covered accurately.
3) Pressure on the Israeli and U.S. government
It will be important that both the Israeli government and the U.S. government hear from as many people as possible, as quickly as possible.
Calls, email messages and faxes should go to the U.S. government: the State Department, the White and to your own Senators and House Representatives.
Calls, email messages and faxes should also go directly to the Israeli government.
Check often for more detailed contact information posted on our website.
Letter to President Obama
On June 14, the passengers on The Audacity of Hope sent this letter to Pres. Obama. Copies went to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and 12 members of the Administration and Congressional leadership. Call the White House – 202-456-1111 – and tell them you agree with the letter and expect the U.S. to take action to uphold the rights of peaceful citizens to safe passage on the seas.