After Birthright: Hebron – 500 settlers, 2,000 soldiers and the tensest place I’ve ever been
Sep 17, 2010
In July, activist Rachel Marcuse spent 10 days in Israel as part of the Taglit-Birthright program — a fully sponsored trip for young North American Jews to learn more about the country. She went to bear witness and ask questions about the Israeli state’s treatment of Palestinians, and to learn about other complex issues in Israel today. After the program, she spent another 10 days elsewhere in Israel and the West Bank of Palestine talking to Israeli Jews, Palestinian citizens of Israel, international activists, and Palestinians in the occupied territories. This is the last post in the seven-part series on what she found. You can read the entire series here. This series first appeared in rabble.ca and this story can be found here.
After our visit to Ramallah, Hannah and I head to Hebron — or, in Arabic, Al-Khalil — to meet another member of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). We take a small, hot, local bus through a mostly desert landscape, passing some desolate Bedouin camps along the way, the bus radio providing lilting Arab music as our soundscape.
“I look up at a net hanging above the souk. It’s full of garbage and other debris. The Jewish settlers, who number about 500, have built homes above the market street. I am told the net is to protect the Palestinians below.” (Photo: Rachel Marcuse)
All of the highways in the West Bank are considered to be in Area C, which means that they are controlled entirely by Israel, or, more specifically, the military. Area A is controlled by the Palestinian Authority (Ramallah is one example) and Israelis are not allowed to enter. Area B, where many Palestinian farms are located, is under Palestinian civilian control, but Israel’s military control. While I heard many stories of Palestinians being randomly searched along the Area C highways, when we pass some well-fortified checkpoints, our bus isn’t stopped.
We arrive in Hebron in the bustling commercial area. It feels like a big place and it is — Hebron is the biggest city in the West Bank with a population of 163,000; about half a million Palestinians live in the city and the surrounding area. We meet “Ali,” who, like the other ISM members, has taken a code name. He takes us to the Old City.
As in Ramallah and Aida Camp, we are offered coffee or tea by many people, including the shopkeepers. Ali remarks that he can’t make it through the souk — the market — without leaving over-caffeinated. I’m feeling that more caffeine would increase the dis-ease I am already feeling with the place; respectfully, I decline several offers.
My discomfort increases as I begin to more fully understand the situation, a situation which is almost literally on top of me. I look up at a net hanging above the souk. It’s full of garbage and other debris. The Jewish settlers, who number about 500, have built homes above both sides of the market street. I am told that the net is to protect the Palestinians below from the garbage, urine, eggs and bleach routinely thrown at them by the settlers. I can see evidence of the refuse in the net right above me. One of the shopkeepers shows me egg stains on the scarves he is selling.
Hebron feels tense; in fact, it’s the most tense place I have ever been. There is a lot of history here and a lot of contemporary conflict. Since it is the traditional burial site of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, and Jacob and Leah, the fathers and mothers of the Jewish people, it is the second holiest place in Judaism, right after Jerusalem.
It is also holy for Muslims who worship at the Ibrahim Mosque at the Cave of the Patriarchs. It was here, on February 25, 1994, during the overlapping holidays of Purim and Ramadan, that an Israeli settler and member of the far-right Israeli Kach movement, opened fire with an automatic weapon. Twenty-nine worshippers were killed and 125 wounded that day. When Hannah and I enter the mosque, after a security screening and donning long brown robes, we can see the bullet holes in the wall. As it’s Friday, demonstration day in the West Bank, today might feel even more tense than usual. There is a rally planned for later in the afternoon to protest the closure of Shuhada Street, the main thoroughfare of Hebron, which is reserved for settlers. As a consequence, this closure shut down about 800 Palestinian stores.
In the settlers’ area, the movement of Palestinians is heavily restricted; the Jewish settlers have total freedom of movement and are protected by the IDF. And they’re really protected by the IDF. There are 2,000 soldiers in Hebron and 500 settlers — a ratio of 4:1. The settlers are primarily Orthodox (and many are American) and not obligated to serve in the military, something that seemed to bother many Israelis I talked with.
As a result of the limitations on Palestinian movement, about half the shops in the Israel-controlled area have gone out of business since 1994, in spite of UN efforts to compensate shopkeepers in an effort to keep them in business. Palestinians cannot come close to where the settlers live without special permits from the IDF. Palestinian control of Hebron, despite it being one of the most populous cities in the West Bank, is limited to some 20 or 30 square kilometres.
We speak with Monir, a shopkeeper, whose business is adjacent to shut-down Shuhada Street. “I have the best of a bad situation,” he says, noting that all of the other shops were just closed down. But, business is bad. “There’s no tourism here anymore,” he says, “everyone thinks it’s a war zone.” I think to myself that it feels like a war zone as I note a group of young male settlers saunter by. The demo is about to start; the town has quieted.
We wander by the demo. There are a couple of hundred people there, surrounded by IDF soldiers with snipers positioned strategically on rooftops. We have been warned that there is likely to be tear gas and arrests — and this is later confirmed. As we have committed to being in Jerusalem that evening, we are unable to stay for long.
We walk out of the Old City and find a bus heading to Bethlehem. Hannah makes friends with a gorgeous girl of about 12 and takes her photo. About 45 minutes later, we get off on a busy street in the commercial area of Bethlehem. We wait with a group of families and then get on a large green and white Palestinian bus bound for Jerusalem. It’s going to take us right to our friend’s place in Jewish Jerusalem, just over the hill we can see in the distance.
The bus pulls up to a vehicle checkpoint and we all get off to have our documents inspected. One of the soldiers approaches us in Hebrew and then switches to English. “We’re not letting Internationals through today,” he tells us. “Oh,” I respond weakly, “but we’re just going to the other side of the hill.” He’s not interested. It’s Friday, demo-day, and it’s likely he thinks we’ve been at a protest. We have. He turns us around, instructing us to wait on the highway for a bus coming from the other direction. We’re about an hour’s walk out of Bethlehem and it’s getting dark.
We immediately befriend another International who was also turned away. He’s a six-foot-five African-American basketball player from New York City who has been doing basketball training with Palestinian kids. He is surprised to be turned away at the checkpoint. He’s gotten through many times before, he says, but knows that the soldiers can be inconsistent. He remarks that if it’s this hard for us, imagine how hard it is for Palestinians just trying to get to work.
This Bethlehem checkpoint was very obviously a checkpoint. At other times on the trip, though, it wasn’t clear to us whether we were inside or outside the Green Line.
For example, days later, we go back to the house of Or, one of the Israelis who traveled with us on the Taglit-Birthright tour. We’d stayed with him in his parents’ house and left a bunch of our stuff there before heading to the West Bank.
He picks us up in Jerusalem and we start driving. “Are we driving East?” I ask. “Yes,” he says. “Are we past the Green Line?” I ask. “Yes,” he says again. “So, your parents kind of live in a settlement?” “They don’t ‘kind of live’ in a settlement, they live in a settlement,” he tells me. “Ah…” I respond with dim realization. “You’re been referring to it as a village for the last couple of weeks.” “It is a village,” he says.
And for him, it is. Or grew up there and describes it as a “settlement lite,” or a non-ideological settlement, as it was one of the earlier developments where “no one,” he claims, was displaced. For him, it’s normal. For me, I’m more than a little miffed to finally learn that I’d been staying in a Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem without knowing it.
It turns out that it’s not the first time I’d stayed in a settlement during the Taglit trip. I later learn from one of the soldiers who accompanied us that one of the kibbutzim we had stayed at was across the 1967 border. Looking back, I remembered that for this portion of the trip, we’d had not just the one medic/guard, a young woman who would rock her look of skinny jeans, a blue tank top and a rifle, but a second one as well. The reason for the additional soldier wasn’t explained to us at the time. I had assumed it was because we were near Jerusalem. We were actually on a settlement outside Jerusalem. The very slippery slope of land encroachment is clear.
Bethlehem and the Canucks
But, this time, leaving Bethlehem, we had definitely arrived at a “real,” completely unambiguous checkpoint. Eventually, another bus does arrive and we make it back into Jerusalem by way of the same checkpoint through which we’d earlier entered the West Bank. Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest, has arrived and there are no public buses to be had.
In English, I ask a soldier the best way is to get into town. He asks where I’m from. I tell him Canada. “Where?” he says. “Vancouver,” I answer. “Where?” he asks again. “Umm, East Van,” I respond. “Where?” I give him my intersection. “I’m from Oak and 41st,” he says. “Are you Jewish?” he asks. I nod. “You’re not really supposed to be in Bethlehem,” he tells me. I know that while parts of Bethlehem are Area A, and forbidden to Israelis, I’m not Israeli and figure my Canadian-ness supersedes my Jewishness. He doesn’t seem to think so.
The soldier takes off his yarmulke, the head covering required of observant Jews, and shows it to me. Embroidered on it is the logo of the Vancouver Canucks.
Another assumption dissipates.
Epilogue — September 14, 2010
I’ve been back in Vancouver now for about six weeks and my trip to Israel and Palestine is still sinking in. People have asked what my biggest “take aways” are from the trip. Here are just a few:
– It’s great to have one’s assumptions blown to smithereens. This is especially true for someone like me who can be a bit, shall we say, judgmental? The participants on the Taglit-Birthright trip managed to challenge nearly all the first impressions I had of them. The same can be said for many of the Israelis I spoke with — in particular, the soldiers. My only real contact with Israelis up until the trip was traveling in South America and coming across packs of post-army kids, constantly on the defensive. I found most Israelis to be more moderate than I had expected.
– Everyone wants to tell you their story. This was true for soldiers, who spoke of the immense social pressure to participate fully in army life, and of Palestinians dealing with incredible oppression. Art and storytelling has to be a fundamental way of dealing with conflict.
– The Jewish diaspora is a lot less progressive than much of the population of Israel. Diasporic Jews are pretty fast to call each other self-hating, while asking questions and engaging in dialogue is an integral part of Israeli culture.
– Taglit-Birthright is an incredibly smart program. By building social cohesion, as in my “birthright equation,” participants create bonds with each other and with the physical — and emotional — place. The program, despite its rhetoric to the contrary, makes critical thought difficult.
– The West Bank is simultaneously tiny and gigantic. Despite being filled with some of the most friendly people I’ve ever met, there is a heaviness there. While certainly not hopeless, most didn’t see an authentic peace process happening anytime soon.
– Many Israelis agree that Israel’s policies have had the (unintended?) consequence of increasing anti-Semitism around the world, but there is nonetheless an overwhelming sense of social cohesion and national unity clearly tied to military service.
– Hebron is just totally and completely screwed up. The settlers — religious fanatics from my point of view — just need to leave. Period.
People have asked if my politics have changed from the experience. Despite the unequivocal nature of my last take-away — some things are just wrong and I don’t want to be too sucked into relativism — they have. My politics are certainly more nuanced, as happens when you spend time with people from different backgrounds. I shifted my opinion on lots of specific policies and suspended my judgments about many people and how they live their lives. However, I wouldn’t say that my politics have changed on a fundamental level.
For me, it’s still about power. The IDF is one of the strongest militaries in the world. In 1967, Israel conquered a bunch of land that wasn’t its for the taking. People lived there. And those people are still coping with the occupation. Sure, anti-Semitism still exists, but, in terms of sheer power, the IDF could crush any country in the region. The once-oppressed too easily becomes the oppressor and what Israel is doing to the Palestinian people simply breeds more hatred around the world.
“With great power comes great responsibility,” as the old cliché goes, but I think it’s true. Consistently, I heard people say that the Arabs needed to take more responsibility for a peace process. I don’t necessarily disagree with that (or that Hamas isn’t a problematic part of the equation), but I feel that it’s Israel’s responsibility — and the responsibility of the Jewish diaspora as well — to be sure that responsibility is taken for moving a truly equitable peace process forward.
So, what next? The Palestinians and Israelis I spoke with didn’t think a resolution to the conflict was going to arrive soon, but there did seem to be a sense that the peace process and its ultimate terms would unfold more quickly this time. Over and over, I heard that Israelis are just tired of it all. Peace talks have begun since I returned to Canada, surely a positive sign. Netanyahu is going to have to prove that he can get his coalition together to continue the settlement expansion freeze. But the settler and conservative lobby in Israel is strong.
As Israelis repeated over and over again to me about the situation, “It’s complicated.” Of course it is. But, it’s also about power… and political will… and justice. As the young woman from the International Solidarity Movement said to me, “It’s the responsibility of all of us.”
Rachel Marcuse is a Vancouver-based activist, facilitator and apparatchick. The executive director of the Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE), a municipal political party, she also freelances, focussing on facilitation skills, youth-engagement and strategic planning. Her views do not necessarily represent the positions of any organization whatsoever.
Responding to Michael Oren, in his own words
Sep 17, 2010
The following is a response to Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren’s September 15th editorial in the Los Angeles Times:
Imagine that you are a parent who sends her children off to school in the morning worrying whether they will be arbitrarily stopped, stripped nearly naked, and in most cases returned back home from an Israeli checkpoint without any redress process.
Imagine that, instead of going off to college, your children at age 18 are stripped of their dignity and honor and continue to remain colonized until they die.
Imagine that you live under perpetual fear as have your parents and even your grandparents; that you have seen Israeli bulldozers razing your home and olive trees and you have lost family and friends to the raining of military rockets or militant settler attacks under the auspices of Israeli military.
Picture all of that and you will begin to understand what it is to be a Palestinian. And you will know why all Palestinians have desperately striven for peace for more than sixty years.
Nearly all media reports have promoted the myth that Palestinians — who are currently experiencing economic growth (as recently reported by Rabbi Ken Chasen in an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times) do not care about peace.
The truth is that what Palestinians want is to live with dignity and in safety from the American-made gunships and Apache helicopters raining white phosphorous bombs on civilians by the Israeli military. Yet they go about living their lives behind apartheid walls and checkpoints but fully determined to build a normal, fruitful society in the face of incredible adversity from the world’s sixth nuclear power.
Yes, many Palestinians are skeptical about peace, and who would not be? They continue to live under brutal occupation without food, water and medicine and instead receive thousands of missiles and bombs crashing into their homes and hospitals, mosques and playgrounds.
They continue to negotiate for decades in an attempt to live in peace side by side with their occupiers and yet their land continues to shrink and homes bulldozed.
Over the past six decades, seven million of the 11 million Palestinians are made refugees or displaced while tens of thousands are killed and maimed in their homes and fields. The world watches grieving Palestinian mothers and the “international community” keeps pleading for justice from Israel, while their rabbis and politicians praise their soldiers for killing unarmed Palestinian women and children trapped in camps and ghettos.
Given the Palestinian experience of never-ending trauma, it is astonishing that they still support the peace process at all, yet there is overt support by an overwhelming majority in the streets of Jerusalem, Bilin and Gaza.
Indeed, Palestinians have always grasped and gasped at opportunities for peace.
Whenever there was an attempt to achieve peace for Palestine and Israel, Palestinians passionately responded and even made even more painful concessions than the previous time. That most Palestinians are still willing to take incalculable risks for peace and are still willing to share their ancestral homeland with a people that has repeatedly tried to destroy them is nothing short of miraculous.
It’s true that Israel is a success story. The country has six world-class universities, more scientific papers and Nobel Prizes per capita than any other nation and the most advanced high-tech sector outside of the Silicon Valley. The economy is flourishing; tourism is at an all-time high while on the other side of the apartheid wall is some of the most egregious poverty, hunger, and unemployment on the planet. The Gaza Strip is widely believed to be the most densely populated area in the world. What good have all the Nobel Prizes and high-tech achievements done for these indigenous people?
No one should ever apologize for working for the inalienable right of self-determination. No one should ever tell the oppressed and dominated not to cry out for freedom from this apartheid occupation. Remarkably, the occupied have, over the past 60 years, deepened their commitment to peace. That yearning is expressed every day by the mother who risks her life to take her child to the hospital; by the young lady who dares to stand for hours at a military checkpoint in hopes that she will able to meet her beloved on the other side of the apartheid wall; by the young father who for the fourth time is randomly stopped by patrolling soldiers, stripped, humiliated, taunted, and held at gunpoint in front of all of his family. He knows that one day they will not release him at the end of this torturous ordeal.
These everyday Palestinians’ commitment to peace is different than that of those dignitaries who meet in ceremonies of and for the sake of peace and have their pictures taken while sipping fine wine in palaces and mansions. For everyday Palestinians who know all too well the life of perpetual apartheid occupation, that vision of peace is remains just out of reach. How long can they indulge in the luxury of hopefulness?
Shakeel Syed is the Executive Director at Islamic Shura Council of Southern California.
Why we are boycotting the Batsheva Dance Company
Sep 17, 2010
The following is an open letter to the Batsheva Dance Company from two groups organizing a boycott of its upcoming shows in New York City:
Dear Batsheva Dance Company,
We are a group of New York-based human rights activists and artists calling for a boycott of your performances at the Joyce Theater in New York City due to your collaboration with the Israeli state and its Brand Israel campaign. Launched in 2005, Brand Israel is a government public relations initiative which uses cultural productions to distract from Israel’s daily human rights violations. In 2009 Arye Mekel of Israel’s Foreign Ministry stated, “We will send well-known novelists and writers overseas, theater companies, exhibits… This way you show Israel’s prettier face, so we are not thought of purely in the context of war.” While efforts to promote a positive image of Israel abroad persist, Palestinians continue to suffer from Israeli state policies.
Here are some of the realities the Brand Israel campaign would like to distract us from: Israel’s ongoing occupation of Palestinian lands is the longest in modern history. 223 Jewish-only settlements and “outposts” on Palestinian land have been built in violation of International Law. Israel has built an “Apartheid” wall in the West Bank that further appropriates Palestinian land and separates Palestinian farmers from their land. The Israel Defense Forces have demolished over 24,000 Palestinian homes since 1967 and continue to do so. The 2009 invasion of Gaza killed over 1400 Palestinians, prompting allegations of War Crimes by UN Fact Finding Mission Justice Richard Goldstone.
Even Batsheva artist director Ohad Naharin said in a 2005 interview: “I continue to do my work, while 20 km from me people are participating in war crimes….” Batsheva continues to affirm its relationship with the Brand Israel campaign, as evidenced by the funding you receive from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the co-sponsorship of your New York performances by the Office of Cultural Affairs, Consulate General of Israel in New York. The Joyce Theatre website describes Batsheva as “Israel’s national dance company.”
Because of your ties to Brand Israel and in response to the Palestinian civil society call for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, we are calling for a local boycott of your performances at the Joyce Theater in New York (Sept. 21st-Oct. 3rd 2010). The cultural boycott is part of the growingBoycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement which calls for a boycott of complicit institutions and companies until demands for equality are met, including the end to the military occupation of Palestinian land, equal rights for Palestinian citizens of Israel, and the right of return for refugees, which is guaranteed by UN resolution 194.
Given the continued violation of human rights faced by Palestinians at the state’s hands, it is an immediate imperative that we stand in solidarity with Palestinians. As artists and cultural workers we must take steps to resist our complicity in the crimes being committed, and to publicly renounce the state violence and repression that Palestinians continue to be subjected to every day. While some may hide behind the excuse that art is somehow apolitical, many artists of conscience are taking a stand. This includes a growing number of musicians, such as Elvis Costello, Carlos Santana, the Pixies, and Gil Scott-Heron who have refused to play concerts in Israel, as well as a group of Israeli actors who recently refused to perform in illegal Jewish-only West Bank settlements.
We hope that one day soon Batsheva will take a strong, unequivocal stance against Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and in support of justice and equality for all. Until then, we will continue to urge a popular boycott of your performances in New York City and elsewhere.
Artists Against Apartheid, New York City Chapter
Jewish groups denounce ‘Museum of Tolerance’ builder Simon Wiesenthal Center for support of Islamophobia
Sep 17, 2010
New Yorkers protest Islamophobia (Photo: Bud Korotzer)
A coalition of four Jewish groups, backed by a wide array of peace and justice organizations, held a demonstration Sept. 16 outside the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance in New York, denouncing the organization’s opposition to the Islamic community center in lower Manhattan.
Organized by Jews Say No!, American Jews for a Just Peace, Jewish Voice for Peace and Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, about 100 demonstrators walked in front of the museum on East 42nd Street in midtown Manhattan, chanting “Islamophobia isn’t pretty, it has no place in New York City” and “Islamophobia is a shame, New Yorkers say not in our name.”
“If you’re going to put tolerance in your name, you got to put it in your game, and the Museum of Tolerance has not done that,” Jon Moscow, an activist with Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, told members of the press. “Statements that its leaders have been making have been feeding this frenzy of Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism.”
As the Cordoba House controversy, manufactured and fueled by far-right blogs and the right-wing press, heated up, Rabbi Marvin Hier, the dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, appeared on Fox News in early August and criticized the proposed Muslim community center.
“Having a 15-story mosque within 1600 feet of the site is at the very least insensitive,” Hier said.
The Park 51 Muslim community center, of which the Cordoba House interfaith center will be a part, has sparked an acrimonious national debate over Islam and religious freedom, setting the stage for an upsurge in anti-Muslim sentiment across the United States.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center describes itself as an “international Jewish human rights organization” that promotes “human rights and dignity.”
The Wiesenthal Center’s executive director, Rabbi Meyer May, told Crain’s New York that “religious freedom does not mean being insensitive … or an idiot.”
“The museum says its aim is ‘to challenge people of all backgrounds to confront their most closely held assumptions and assume responsibility for change.’ That’s a beautiful vision. But it’s one that is wholly inconsistent with the actions of the museum’s leadership,” said Hannah Schwarzschild of American Jews for a Just Peace.
Demonstrators also harshly criticized the center’s decision to build a Jerusalem branch of the Museum of Tolerance on top of a centuries-old Muslim cemetery, known as the Mamilla cemetery. They said that the center’s project, which has resulted in the “disinterment of hundreds of graves,” according to the Center for Constitutional Rights, is another example of the center disregarding the rights of Muslims.
“I’m just going to take a minute to tell you a new definition of a Yiddish word called ‘chutzpah.’ … It refers to brazen nerve,” said Richard Levy, a lawyer working with the Center for Constitutional Rights on a petition filed with several international bodies to halt the construction of the museum in Jerusalem. “This cemetery, which stands in West Jerusalem for a thousand years, is now subject to the bulldozer of this organization. So that’s the meaning of the word chutzpah: to say you stand for tolerance, and perform that kind of an act, is the most despicable kind of hypocrisy.”
Also speaking at the demonstration was Debbie Almontaser, herself the victim of a anti-Muslim, anti-Arab smear campaign reminiscent of the controversy over the Park 51 project that ultimately forced her to resign as the founding principal of the Khalil Gibran International Academy, a dual-language Arabic public school in Brooklyn.
“Why are the museum and Simon Wiesenthal leaders not taking a principled stand against the hatred of Islam and Muslims?” Almontaser asked. “I say to them: Be just. Speak to your mission.”
This report originally appeared in the Indypendent.
Bil’in holds weekly protest as Abdallah Abu Rahmah faces two-year sentence
Sep 17, 2010
Here’s an update from the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee on the case of Abdallah Abu Rahmah, a leader in the Bil’in protests against the Wall:
The sentencing phase in the trial of Abdallah Abu Rahmah, the coordinator of the Bil’in Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements, began Wednesday at the Ofer Military Court. Abu Rahmah was convicted of organizing illegal marches and of incitement last month, but cleared of the violence charges he was indicted for – stone-throwing and a vindictive arms-possession charge for collecting used tear-gas projectiles and displaying them.
The prosecution demanded Abu Rahmah will be sent to prison for a period exceeding two years, saying that as an organizer, a harsh sentence is required to serve as a deterrence not only for Abu Rahmah himself, but to others who may follow in his footsteps as well. This statement by the prosecution affirms the political motivation behind the indictment, and the concern raised by EU foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, that “the possible imprisonment of Mr Abu Rahma is intended to prevent him and other Palestinians from exercising their legitimate right to protest against the existence of the separation barriers in a non violent manner.”
Another argument made by the prosecution in their demand of a harsh sentence, were the repercussions and expenses caused to the army by anti-Wall demonstrations. These which were presented in detail in a report by what the prosecution called an “expert witness”, who, in fact, is the Army’s Binyamin Brigade’s operations officer, Major Igor Mussayev.
The document includes many factual errors, such as mentioning seven Palestinian fatalities in Bil’in and Ni’ilin demonstrations, while in fact there were only six. In a ridiculous attempt to show that the military has no superiority over demonstrators, the “expert opinion” also claims that the effective range of rubber-coated bullets or 0.22″-caliber live ammunition is significantly lower than that of a slingshot. The report, in fact, claims that the effective range of a rubber-coated bullet is 50 meters – the minimal range of use according to army open fire regulations.
During the hearing, Major Mussayev claimed that all the weapons mentioned in the document are non-lethal crowd control measures. When asked specifically about the 0.22″ caliber bullets, which were explicitly classified as live ammunition by the military’s Judge Advocate General and banned for crowd control use, he replied that they too are crowd control measures. Such a reply from the officer in charge of operations in the brigade that deals with most West Bank demonstrations points to the army’s policy of negligent use of arms in the attempt to quash the Palestinian popular struggle.
The highly biased document presented to the court also detailed the expenses on ammunition shot at demonstrators (almost 6.5 million NIS between August 2008 to December 2009). It also mentioned the costs of erecting a concrete wall in Ni’ilin in order to prevent damage to the barrier (8.5 million NIS), but failed to mention the costs of rerouting the Wall in Bil’in due to the original path’s illegality, or the fact that even now, three years after the Supreme Court decision to reroute the Wall, it is still standing on its original path.
The hearing, which lasted more than three hours, saw a court-room packed with diplomats, representatives of international and Israeli human rights organizations, as well as friends and family members.
For the hearing’s protocol (in Hebrew) see here.
Ahmed Moor in the LA Times – ‘Rather than lecture on Israel’s desire for a lopsided ‘peace,’ Oren should begin to imagine a state in which each person is equal under the law’
Sep 17, 2010
Mondoweiss’s very own Ahmed Moor hits the Los Angles Times Op-Ed page to respond to Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren’s recent Times editorial.
Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., Michael B. Oren, argues in his Sept. 15 Times Op-Ed article that Israelis want peace, and I believe him. They’ve said so often enough. But the Israelis want lots of other things too.
For instance, they want the West Bank and East Jerusalem. In addition, they want the Palestinian aquifers situated beneath the West Bank, and they want to preserve their racial privilege in the Jewish state. They also want to shear the Gaza Strip from Palestine.
Most of all, the Israelis want Palestinian quiescence in the face of Israeli wants. Those wants have made the two-state solution impossible to implement.
For decades, the Israelis have taken what they want from the Palestinians. Consequently, there are about 500,000 settlers in Jewish-only colonies in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Today, the Israelis are discovering that what one wants and what one can afford sometimes diverge.
Some Israelis — but apparently not Oren — are beginning to realize that the deep, irreversible colonization of territory comes with a price: the end of the Jewish state as it is. It’s a painful lesson to learn, especially after decades of superpower indulgence. America’s obsequious coddling turns out to have been a curse for the Jewish state. Serious cost-benefit analyses around occupation policies — collectively, apartheid — were evidently never conducted.
You really need to go read the entire masterful piece, but the ends bears posting as well:
To be fair, we Palestinians also want a lot. We want what people everywhere else do: to live as free human beings in our country, in the absence of a foreign military occupation. We want to return to our towns and cities that were ethnically cleansed of us in 1948. We want to vote for our government, the one that controls every aspect of our lives. We want a united Jerusalem. And, when the state is united, we want an ambassador who speaks for all of us, not just the Jewish half of the country.
Put differently, we want equality and justice.