88 more Palestinian homes slated to be demolished in Silwan

Nov 19, 2010


And other news from Today in Palestine:

Settlers / Land, property and resources theft and destruction / Ethnic cleansing
88 Palestinian homes to be demolished in Silwan
19 Nov – Israel has ordered demolition of around 88 Palestinian homes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, Palestinian officials warned. Israeli Attorney Yehuda Weinstein handed demolition orders in al-Bustan area claiming that the Arab houses were illegally built. Ahmed al-Rowaidhi, chief of Jerusalem Unit at the Palestinian presidency, said Israel’s move will result in 1,500 Palestinians being evicted from al-Bustan for the construction of a tourist center.
The story behind the tourist site
Once upon a time, where you’re standing right now, there was a small valley called Wadi Hilwah, part of the large Silwan village. Hilwah was the wife of the mukhtar Siyam. She was killed during armed clashes in the valley. Before her death, the valley was called Wadi Al-Nabah, Valley of Wails. They say that at nights one could hear among the hedges of cactuses the wails of the innocent girl who was viciously murdered by her brother. The Muslim village of Silwan started to develop in the 16th century. The village was famous for its quality agricultural produce, and served as a resting point on the way to the old city. Today the village counts 55,000 people. 5,500 live in Wadi Hilwah neighborhood, which lies on the Old City’s southern slopes.
Map of Wadi Hilwah
Ethnically cleansing East Jerusalem / Stephen Lendman
… Ethnically Cleaning Silwan — Silwan is an Arab village adjacent to Jerusalem’s Old City, extending along the Kidron Valley alongside the eastern slopes of Jabal al-Mukaber, another Arab community. Home to about 45,000 people, it’s one of 28 Palestinian villages incorporated into East Jerusalem. For years, settler encroachment fueled controversy and conflict. So does the area’s historical importance, archeology used for displacement to legitimize Jewish claims. Excavations have already claimed large tracts of Silwan land.
Israelis insist they have US backing to build in East Jerusalem (AP)
Israel says US has agreed to allow building in East Jerusalem but Washington has yet to produce letter showing it has agreed
3 airstrikes launched on Gaza
Six Gaza residents were injured Friday in when Israeli forces launched three air strikes on the coastal enclave, medics said. The strikes targeted sites in the southern and central Gaza Strip. Four were injured in a strike on Deir Al-Balah, where shelling targeted a two-storey home. The injured, who included two women, were transferred to hospital, Gaza medical services spokesman Adham Abu Salmiyya said. Two attacks targeted Khan Younis in southern Gaza. One strike on the southern area injured a man and a child, who were transferred to the Nasser Hospital, Abu Salmiyya said. No injuries were reported from the third strike, which hit a farmers’ field … The army said the strikes were in response to projectiles launched from the Strip into southern Israel.
IDF strikes Gaza after phosphorus bombs launched into Israel
Palestinian militant group claims responsibility for mortar fire in retaliation for Israel’s killing of two militants in Gaza on Wednesday — The Israel Defense Forces Spokesperson confirmed Friday that IDF attacked three targets in the Gaza Strip, following a barrage of mortar bombs and rockets fired at the western Negev. Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip fired a long-range Grad rocket and seven mortar shells at western Negev on Friday, following a night-long barrage of Qassam rockets fired from the coastal enclave. Police investigation showed that one of the mortar bombs fired at Hof Ashkelon council contained phosphorus. [from Israeli Cast Lead leftovers, presumably]
Activism / Solidarity / Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions
Protests against land confiscation met with riot gear
In the central West Bank tows of Bil`in, Ni`lin and An-Nabi Saleh, Israeli forces met groups of protesters with rubber-coated bullets and tear gas, with locals reporting one man struck directly by a bullet and lightly injured in Bil’in. The injured man was identified as Kamel Al-Khatib. The military said it was unaware of any injuries.
Today in Bil`in / Hamde Abu Rahme
19 Nov. Today one citizen was wounded and dozens suffered tear gas inhalation due to clashes that took place in the West Bank village of Bil`in. Peace activists and international supporters marched alongside village residents in the weekly demonstration against the wall and settlements, and in solidarity with activist Abdullah Abu Rahma, who was refused release by the Israeli military court of Ofer even after his sentence expired.
The Israeli military left it to settlers to monitor Palestinian farmers during the holive harvest
By the volunteers of the Harvesting Peace Project. On our first day in Jeb al Theeb as part of an Italian civilian peace intervention project during the olive harvest things were already hot. Four of us were accompanying two of the village farmers to their olive trees, when before even reaching their land we were stopped by two armed settlers who immediately called for reinforcements. Within minutes two jeeps with IDF soldiers as well as border police arrived, which then grew to be roughly 20 soldiers as several more jeeps arrived on the scene.
‘I am strong. We resist’: an interview in the village of Jeb al-Theeb
By the volunteers of the Harvesting Peace Project. Sitting in one of the houses of Jeb al Theeb, a small village south of Bethlehem, a Palestinian woman describes the living conditions. She is a teacher but in the darkness it is difficult to determine her age. Her home, just as the entire village, is without electricity. The only light that arrives comes from the mega-illumination of the adjacent settlements of El David, Nokdim, and Sde bar. … “Just the other day, as I walked to work early in the morning, I saw a settler turn a hundred of his goats on the olive trees belonging to a man near the village. The day before, that same man had defended his right to access his lands. The goats damaged both the trees and the olives.”
What young Israeli refused to do in Palestine she acted out on 1116th Street / Nancy Krikorian
I went to the Students for Justice in Palestine’s mock checkpoint on the Columbia campus this afternoon and handed out fliers for an hour and a half. Columbia’s LionPAC, HIllel, Just Peace, Grain Lavi and Tarbootnikim were counter-demonstrating, handing out fliers, some of them wrapped in Israeli flags, others of them attempting to get into provocative arguments, which for the most part SJP’ers were able to avoid. Maya Wind, one of the JVP/CODEPINK Shministim [Wind refused to serve in the Israeli Defense Forces] from last year who is now a freshman at Barnard, was carrying a cardboard rifle and helping to run the checkpoint. She was completely in character as a gruff and unpleasant checkpoint guard, so I didn’t even say hello, but the photo above shows her in the role that she refused to play in real life.
George Galloway kicks off controversial Canadian speaking tour
Former British parliamentarian was previously prevented from entering the country for meeting with members of Hamas — After being banned entry to the country for over a year, George Galloway, the outspoken former British Member of Parliament, is blazing his way across Canada with a speaking tour that addresses everything from freedom of speech to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Galloway is scheduled to speak in 10 cities in 11 days.
Student activism and the pro-Palestinian movement gains momentum / Samira Quraishy
The pro-Palestinian movement has been gaining steady momentum in student bodies and educational institutes in the West, especially after the most recent atrocities. According to Hasan, student activism in America on this issue has been increasing mainly due to “awareness… increasing over time [which has] recently reached a threshold where a lot of Americans either know the basics of what is going on or are interested in learning more”.
Road to Hope kidnapping statement / Ken O’Keefe
18 Nov [with videos] …It is ludicrous to even argue with someone who was not there about the circumstances to which we were taken against our will away from the port. Those who claim we were freely onboard the ship that was departing for a destination unknown, without our passports, separated from our convoy without even a change of underwear or a toothbrush or a bed are either aligned with the kidnappers, or dupes who simply were not there.
UNRWA head [John Ging]: Don’t boycott Israel
Q. Do you support Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, and how do you feel about the boycott/divestment/sanctions movement? A. The last time I was in the States I attended a celebration for Israel’s independence day with the Israelis at the UN. They know I’m pro-Israel. I celebrate Israel’s independence … It’s a concern that those representing themselves as pro-Palestinian are now linking that to anti-Israel sentiment and policies like divestment and boycott. I oppose that … The people of Israel need efforts to rebuild confidence that peace can be brought about. Talking about sanctions and boycotts is not going to bring about anything positive …
Detention / Exile
Martyr’s brother and nephew still detained; brother’s wife is released
Silwan, Jerusalem 19 Nov  — The wife of Ali Sarhan, brother of martyr Samer Sarhan, was released from Israeli custody yesterday after questioning, during which authorities probed her for information regarding her husband. Ali Sarhan and his wife, along with his nephew Sultan Halisi, the son of the martyr’s sister, were arrested earlier that morning by Israeli forces. Later in the day, Israeli troops returned to Ali’s home with a canine unit and searched the premises. Meanwhile, Ali Sarhan’s hearing was converted from public to private, and ultimately extended Ali’s detention by ten days without offering a reason, on the pretext that his file was secret.
Israeli intelligence suggests exile of a number of prisoners
Palestinian news agency, Ma’an reported on Thursday that Nizar Mahagneh, the lawyer of the Palestinian Prisoners Club was able to visit many Palestinian prisoners in interrogation centers in which they have been detained for more than a month … The lawyer highlighted a serious issue that an Israeli intelligence major has repeatedly suggested the idea of exiling those detained and their families. The State of Israel has used this policy of “exile” significantly in the past; prisoners are both internally displaced within the Occupied Palestinian Territories, as well as sent into external exile. The most recent case has been that of Akram Anteer. Anteer was imprisoned at a detention facility in the Negev, but was given permission to travel initially to Jordan, and then onto Spain for medical treatment following his diagnosis of cancer. Anteer has subsequently been informed that he has been exiled and will not be permitted to return to the Palestinian Territories.
Detained Palestinian legislator released
The Ahrar Center for Detainees Studies reported Wednesday that the Israeli Prison Authorities released, on Tuesday evening, one of the detained Palestinian Legislators, from the Tubas district in the central West Bank. Ayman Daraghma, member of Hamas’ Change and Reform Bloc, was kidnapped from his home in March 2009 and never faced charges. Last week, Israeli soldiers abducted legislators Mahmoud al-Ramahi and Hatem Qfeisha. Meanwhile, detained Legislators Bassem al-Zaarir from Hebron, and Abdul-Jabbar Foqaha from Ramallah, received renewed administrative detention orders for the fifth consecutive time. Their detention was extended by four more months; no charges were presented against them. Currently, the number of elected Palestinian legislators imprisoned by Israel stands at nine.
Siege / Restriction of movement / Humanitarian
Israel wages war against Gazan rubble collectors
28 year old Ibrahim Yousef Ghaben from Beit Lahiya in northern Gaza personifies the trials of life for Palestinians and their families, and the multitude of hardships brought by Israel’s siege and violent attacks. It would not normally have been Ibrahim’s choice to collect rubble with a donkey cart as a means of providing for his sick mother, wife and 8 young children. But in Gaza, external pressures force people to make choices that anywhere else would be deemed beyond reason and perhaps beyond imagination. The shooting on the 10th of November was the latest setback for Ibrahim, the most recent of the 10 rock collectors shot near or in the Israeli imposed ‘buffer zone’ during the last 3 weeks.
Israel’s answer for Gaza: If they haven’t bread, let them eat gravel
The eve of Eid al-Adha celebrated this week brought news of a shortage of flour in the Gaza Strip. For the past two weeks, traders and flour mill owners have warned of shortages of wheat in the Strip, claiming that the mills have been providing about half of their production capacity. The mathematical formulas, which the army used to determine the level to which they would allow the stock of flour in Gaza to be reduced, are no longer in effect. So why is there a shortage?
Soldiers block scouts from approaching Hebron mosque
HEBRON (Ma’an) — Israeli forces stopped a scout march Thursday approaching the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron, onlookers said. The group was marching toward As-Sadaka park in the Old City where an Eid event was taking place, the event coordinator said. Majed Aby Subeh said forces forbade the scouts from entering and “attacked them.” Mus’ab Abu Sneneh, 15, sustained injuries.
How one man turned Israel’s blockade into a business opportunity
Ahmed Ramlawy’s plastics company survived Israel’s Gaza blockade by buying garbage at $395 a ton and turning it into products all Gazans need, like trash bags.
War crimes/criminals
Over 100 British MPs against change to universal jurisdiction law
More than a hundred British MPs have opposed the coalition government’s plans to alter the law prosecuting Israeli leaders for alleged war crimes, Press TV claimed on Friday. A parliamentary Early Day Motion has so far been signed by 102 MPs. The MPs oppose any legislation that restrict the power by British courts to apply the universal jurisdiction law. Based on this law, arrest warrants are issued to those accused of committing war crimes.
Kai Wiedenhöfer’s ‘Gaza 1010’ causes stir in Paris
Powerful Zionist umbrella group accuses German photojournalist of propaganda — A CRIF press release called the show anti-Israeli propaganda, adding that the photographer chose to ignore the numerous Israeli victims … Wiedenhöfer’s portraits are at once unbearable and utterly compelling. One photo finds Wafa al-Raddiaa clutching her child; when she was on her way to give birth at the hospital in January 2009, she was hit by two missiles, lost a leg and was left for dead … The exhibit will travel to London’s Qattan Foundation in in early 2011. [See some of the photos here ]

‘War criminals’ site exposing personal details of IDF soldiers taken down
Web site called ‘Israeli war criminals’ displayed pictures, names, and details of over 200 IDF soldiers; Kadima MK says people behind site deserve to be punished — A web hosting service removed Thursday a Web site which displayed more than 200 pictures, names and personal details of Israel Defense Forces soldiers who were dubbed by the editor “war criminals” for their actions in Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in December 2008. The site, “Israeli war criminals” was published in recent days by an anonymous source in the U.K. and declared that its goal was to focus on the personal level and not on the national level of those responsible.
Grad rocket explodes near Okafim
Escalation in Gaza: For first time since July, and after assassination of two senior Army of Islam members, Palestinians fire Grad rocket into Israel. Rocket hits open area in Merhavim Regional Council; three cows injured. Two Qassam rockets fired from Strip overnight,7340,L-3986912,00.html
Racism / Discrimination
US report: Religious coercion, violence in Israel rising
State Department’s annual International Religious Freedom Report points to strict conversion policy, segregated bus lines, violent haredi protests in Jewish state … The report states that “approximately 360,000 citizens who immigrated from the former-Soviet Union under the Law of Return but are not considered Jewish by the Orthodox Rabbinate, cannot be buried in Jewish cemeteries, divorce, or marry within the country.” … Inter-religious conflicts are also mentioned: “There were reports on haredi Jews insulting and spitting at priests and nuns, and defacing with graffiti and throwing garbage and dead cats at monasteries in Jerusalem.”,7340,L-3986722,00.html
Love thy neighbor / Chaim Levinson
Following his halakhic ruling that prohibits renting to Arabs in Safed, Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu offers his proposals for coexistence — The three Arab students observed the chief rabbi of Safed, Shmuel Eliyahu, with curiosity, as he entered the courtyard of their home and knocked on the door of the landlord, Eliyahu Tzvieli. Rabbi Eliyahu wanted to show the press that in spite of the prohibition he had imposed on renting apartments to Arabs, he is on good terms with his 89-year-old neighbor. Tzvieli was not at home, and the students invited the rabbi in.
If anti-Semitism justifies ethnic cleansing, then what does anti-Palestinianism justify? / Ahmed Moor
Jerome Slater tries to make the claim that Zionism isn’t racism. Many of the commenters who responded to his post presented more eloquent and knowledgeable arguments than I can, so I’ll keep it brief. According to Slater, Zionism isn’t racism because it’s just Jewish nationalism. Likewise, White nationalism isn’t racism. It’s the legitimate expression of White people’s cultural aspirations. Furthermore, it doesn’t take land inhabited by non-whites as its geographical locus – which Zionism does.
Protesting the Hebron Fund, I remember a long afternoon at a segregated swimming hole / Seán O’Neill, CPT
Hebron Fund held its annual fundraiser in New York Tuesday night
. A report from O’Neill, a former member of Christian Peacemaker Teams in the South Hebron Hills, who attended the protest: I was just leaving Hebron’s Old City one day in August 2009 when a friend of mine, Hamzi, invited me to go swimming.
Political/Diplomatic news
US obstructs Palestinian statehood moves in UN agencies (Reuters)
Palestinians claim that even small symbolic steps have been rebuffed — Away from the headlines, Palestinians have been trying to advance their statehood agenda in small but symbolic ways in United Nations agencies that fall off the radar for most people. But even on the outer reaches of the sprawling UN system, their efforts have been blocked by a United States resolved not to display the slightest tilt toward Palestinians as it tries to act as honest broker in their halting peace talks with Israel.
Abbas: US aid to Israel must not be linked to talks
DUBAI (AFP) — President Mahmoud Abbas said he refuses to link the troubled Middle East peace process with a US offer of additional military aid to its Israeli ally, in a newspaper interview published on Friday.
Mofaz: Freeze a major strategic mistake
Kadima’s No. 2 warns that after new settlement construction moratorium, Israel will be required to accept ‘another one and another one.’ It’s time for big moves, he says, adding that ‘waiting for core issues will only lead to 20 years of conflict’ … He stressed that “we will not pull through before a decision is made on stabilizing the borders and the security arrangements.”,7340,L-3986804,00.html
Other news
Gazans shocked at how many neighbors, coworkers, officials are ‘spying’ for Israel
An intelligence source says that the number of Gazans arrested by Hamas for collaborating with Israel are in the ‘high hundreds’ [out of 1.5 million people] — Gaza City – To citizens of Gaza, the Hamas government’s campaign to uncover and uproot the network of collaborators with Israel has been shockingly effective … Gazans were astounded not only by the number or arrests, but by who was arrested. Prominent figures in society, including many doctors, were reportedly among those caught in the sweep. As the hunt for spies continues, Gazans say the revelation of the network’s reach is eroding trust between neighbors, coworkers – even family members. It’s tearing at the fabric of a close-knit society, where families, friends and neighbors often depend on each other.
Fatah officers, tribesmen clash in upper [?] Egypt
A number of Palestinian officers affiliated to Fatah movement living in the Egyptian town of El-Arish clashed with Egyptian citizens from the Al-Fawakhriyeh tribe in a northern Sinai brawl Thursday night. The severity of the clash led to a closure of the road between the city and Rafah, the border town split between Egypt and Gaza, for more than two hours overnight. Police said several cars were damaged and one man injured before police and security forces arrived on the scene.
‘Cartoons in conflict’: a new approach to Israeli-Palestinian dispute
Starting from November, the exhibition “Cartoons in Conflict”, organized by the Israeli-Palestinian association Parents Circle-Families Forum (PCFF), will visit different cities in Europe, such as Rome, Paris and Berlin, to show, in a graphic way, the pain and suffering from both sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
‘I saw Ariel Sharon murder 2 Palestinian toddlers in Lebanon’
Israel officials call report by Dutch director George Sluizer a ‘modern blood libel’ after he director claimed to have seen then Defense Minster shooting children from close range near the Sabra-Shatilla refugee camp in 1982. By Cnaan Liphshiz
Palestinian arrested on suspicion of attempting to stab woman in Jerusalem
Police say suspect said during his questioning that he did it “to prove he is not a cooperator,” as he was accused by his former prison cell mates.
After foiled assassination plot, Nablus governor tours city
Nablus Governor Jibrin Al-Bakri toured the city’s markets and congratulated shoppers and merchants on the occasion of Eid Al-Adha, days after PA forces said plot to assassinate him was foiled, and one day after Israel handed full PA security control over to the city’s police.
Israeli Jews at odds with liberal US brethren (AP)
As descendant of famed Zionist visionary, Hillary Rubin made aliyah to what she thought was her true home. Now she has second thoughts after Israel’s religious authorities refuse to recognize her marriage. ‘It’s becoming a tyrannical Jewish state’,7340,L-3977657,00.html
Analysis / Opinion / Human interest
Education at gunpoint II / Ramzy Baroud
The problems faced by the education system in Palestine were difficult enough during my childhood. Now they have compounded to unforeseen levels, with the educational sector divided between two educational ministries in Gaza and the West Bank, the former under Israeli siege and the latter under military occupation. Were it not for UNRWA, the already severe obstacles would have become completely insurmountable long ago. But today even UNRWA is struggling with depleting funds and political haggling between competing Palestinian authorities and an ever atrocious Israeli occupation.
Palestinian aid models must change / Kieron Monks
Far from offering sustainable development, the UNRWA’s Peace Starts Here aid campaign is simply life-support for Palestine … So why are the major donors happy to keep pouring money into a black hole? What have the US and Europe bought for their tens of billions since 1994? Stability, which could just as easily be called stagnation. Their money is compensation for half a century of political failure.
Are we allowed to say Lieberman is a Soviet emigre? / Yossi Gurvitzt
Stating the obvious is not racism — Shmuel Sermontea-Gertel has basically accused me of being a racist, after referring to Avigdor Lieberman as a Homo Sovieticus. I contest that claim. The term “Homo Sovieticus” has a very distinct meaning. It refers to someone who accepted basic Soviet thinking, including blind acceptance of claims made by authority and isolation from and hatred of the outside world. You could add several other symptoms of the Soviet systems – disregard of human rights, contempt for democracy and the democratic process, and rampant racism towards “uncivilized people”, such as Asians or Muslims – and you would have described Avigdor Lieberman, as well as most of his followers, to a T.
‘He shall dwell with thee’ / Naftali Rothenberg
The latitude we extended to ourselves, and which we received, as a people fighting for survival is not relevant. We can no longer ignore our moral responsibility toward Arab citizens — Halakha underscores the right of minorities to live among us peaceably and with security. It says that members of these groups have the right to choose their places of residence according to their needs, without anyone discriminating against them or injuring them with words or deeds. Indeed, halakha sets unmistakable, fundamental standards with regard to minorities’ places of residence in Eretz Israel, as in Deuteronomy 23:17, which states: “He shall dwell with thee, in the midst of thee, in the place which he shall choose within one of thy gates, where it liketh him best … ”
A bribe too good to refuse / Stephen Lendman
When all else fails, offer money, or in this case weapons for peace (a clear oxymoron) via for a three month settlement construction moratorium in name only. In fact, new building is unimpeded, Obama’s offer a facade to hide reality on the ground. More on the deal below.
New clothes, toy guns highlight of young Eid revelers
…Parents, preparing for the celebrations, have bought new clothing for their children for years now, and for some time the most popular gift has been toy guns, which the youngest generation then takes to the streets for hours of games mimicking the ungamely realities of occupation. The traditions picked up by Palestinian children seem to gape when compared to what older generations experienced. Eid for many was a time to pray and sacrifice for the poor; donating portions of lamb to families less fortunate.
Despite Hamas-Fatah split, Gaza’s sportsmen score a truce. Game on.
Gazans from Hamas and Fatah have overcome the deep political divide to reopen sports clubs, many of which Hamas had turned into police stations and military bases.
Thursday: 1 Iraqi killed, 25 wounded
The Eid al-Adha holiday continues in Iraq, where at least one Iraqi was killed and 24 more were wounded in new violence. The numbers likely fall short of the real toll as religious observances have cut into the number of reports leaking out of the country. Meanwhile, Christian leaders are worried that a new exodus could spell the end of Christianity in Iraq. In Baghdad yesterday, a prison riot left 20 detainees wounded while 30 others escaped. Two civilians were wounded by a blast in Jisr Diyala.
The unending occupation of Iraq / Gareth Porter
A special envoy from President Barack Obama raised the possibility in a secret meeting with senior Iraqi military and civilian officials in Baghdad Sep. 23 that his administration would leave more than 15,000 combat troops in Iraq after the 2011 deadline for U.S. withdrawal, according to a senior Iraqi intelligence official familiar with the details of the meeting.
The deadly lie of democracy in Iraq / Ahmed Habib
“It has been almost a million months since Iraqis ran to the polls, to fill holes in their souls with bloodstained ballots. Hundreds of candidates dressed up as maggots colored the liberal lining in occupied skies, and perpetuated the lies that there is democracy. Hypocrisy of the highest order, politicians blaming their failure on porous borders, while blindly following American orders on everything from defense to education. The death of a nation, systematic assassination and relentless dehumanization of millions of people. The burning of mosques, schools, hospitals and steeples for crumbs of rotten bread. Iraq is dead, shot in the heart and stabbed in the head.” — Excerpt from a new spoken word piece entitled, “Unfinished Letters from Iraq.”
US urged to reveal locations of depleted uranium in Iraq
18 Nov – Despite the reports on the soaring cancer in Iraq and ever rising concern it might have been caused by the contamination with depleted uranium (DU), the United States refuse to reveal the locations the DU containing weapons were used. During the two conflicts in 1991 and 2003 in Iraq, the US has used at least 400 tonnes of the DU, the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons (ICBUW) stated.
Lebanon, other Mideast
Lebanon pressured to improve Palestinians’ lot
BEIRUT, Nov 19 (IPS) – Abu Yussif doesn’t want to talk about his work any more. “It’s not going to help and nothing will change anyway,” he says. The tall, white-haired Palestinian has just returned from work and relaxes in his little garden in the refugee camp Bourj ash-Shamali near the southern Lebanese city of Tyre. Abu Yussif is a pharmacist. But the massive discrimination against Palestinians on the Lebanese labour market has forced him to give up his profession and work as a taxi driver.
BBC delays program on Lebanese ex-premier’s murder
LONDON (AFP) — The BBC said Thursday it had delayed a documentary film series about the murder of ex-Lebanese premier Rafiq Hariri amid tensions in Lebanon over a UN-backed probe into his death. In a statement, the British broadcaster said it needed more time to check that “Murder In Beirut”, a 3-part series due to begin screening on the BBC World News channel Saturday, complied with its editorial guidelines.
Lebanon army chief: We must be wary of Israel’s military schemes
Lebanese soldiers should keep a watchful eye on the movements and “schemes” Israeli army, the commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces told troops on Thursday, adding that political disputes should be resolved through political means not through the use of force. Comments by LAF chief Jean Kahwaji came a day after a senior Israeli official told Haaretz that Israel would ask the United Nations to announce that once the Israel Defense Forces withdraws from the northern section of Ghajar, it will no longer be in violation of the international border with Lebanon.
UN welcomes Israel’s decision to withdraw from Lebanese [? Syrian] site
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon Thursday welcomed Israel’s decision to pull its troops out of Lebanon’s Ghajar region, as an “important step” in settling hostilities in the region.
US army chief pledges support to Lebanese military
BEIRUT (AFP) – General James Mattis, the US Central Command chief, on Friday pledged his country would continue to support the Lebanese army, a week after Washington lifted a freeze on military aid to Beirut.
Long awaited Egyptian minimum wage sparks discontent
CAIRO (AFP) — Egypt’s decision to raise the minimum wage for the first time since 1984 has been sharply opposed by the very activists who demanded it, because at 400 pounds ($69) a month, it skirts close to the poverty line. After a long battle, the National Council for Wages was ordered by a court in October to review the minimum wage, set in 1984 at 35 Egyptian pounds — roughly the price of a fast food meal in 2010.
Amnesty Int’l: Fresh claims of abuse of Indonesian domestic workers in Saudi Arabia
Amnesty International today called on the Saudi Arabian authorities to protect domestic workers from abuse, following the reported discovery of the mutilated body of an Indonesian woman found in a skip in the town of Abha.
U.S. and other world news
J Street: ‘Right wing activists and donors regularly intimidate Jewish communal institutions’ re Israel / Philip Weiss
The cancellation by a Reform synagogue in Newton MA of a J Street event tonight has had a salutary effect. Some folks are speaking out. J Street has started a petition for more open discussion in the Jewish community: “Know that this is not an isolated example. All across the country, week in and week out, small numbers of right-wing activists and donors regularly intimidate synagogues, Hillels, and other communal institutions out of presenting views on Israel they don’t like. We’ve had enough, and I hope you have too. It’s time to draw the line and say we simply won’t be silenced any more.”
Jewish advocate disappointed in Newton synagogue’s cancellation
BOSTON — When it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there’s no such thing as an easy conversation — not even in Boston. In Newton this week, a reform synagogue abruptly canceled a speaking appearance by Jeremy Ben-Ami, the executive director of J Street, a lobbying group known for its advocacy of a peaceful, two-state solution. In an interview Wednesday with WBUR, the rabbi at Temple Beth Avodah, Keith Stern, said he was “utterly blind-sided” by the anger from some of his congregants after he agreed to host the speaker. (Listen to interview]
The Anti-Defamation League should own up or pack up / Mohammed Talat & Tom Pessah
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), founded in 1913, was long one of the nation’s foremost civil rights organizations. Primarily established to fight anti-Semitism, it became revered for combating hate and bigotry in many forms. In its later years, however, it got mixed up in clandestine spying on American civil rights organizations, which made headlines after law enforcement seized thousands of intelligence files in its San Francisco and Los Angeles offices. Today, it is cashing in its legacy for a full-time lobbyist position on behalf of the Israeli government.
Why the TSA gets to grope us / Justin Raimondo
The Transportation Safety Administration is bringing the war home – and the American people don’t like it one bit. Stories of TSA outrages are everywhere, from the “Don’t touch my junk” guy to that photo of a nun in full robes being searched by a TSA thuglet … the real source of our troubles isn’t the TSA, or Homeland Security … the real problem, as Rep. Paul understands very well, is our foreign policy of permanent war … The Shoe Bomber compelled us to give up our shoes to the TSA. The Underwear Bomber gave the government access to our genitalia. And soon enough the Suppository Bomber will give them free entry to the very crevasses of our personhood, and what is left of our dignity will perish along with the Constitution.
The Ghailani verdict and American justice / Glenn Greenwald
…even had he been acquitted on all counts, the Obama administration had made clear that it would simply continue to imprison him anyway under what it claims is the President’s “post-acquittal detention power” — i.e., when an accused Terrorist is wholly acquitted in court, he can still be imprisoned indefinitely by the U.S. Government under the “law of war” even when the factual bases for the claim that he’s an “enemy combatant” (i.e. that he blew up the two embassies) are the same ones underlying the crimes for which he was fully acquitted after a full trial.
Guilty until proven guilty – threatening the presumption of innocence / Tom Engelhardt and Karen Greenberg
How at Risk Is the Justice System? The presumption of innocence may be slowly dying in the courtrooms where our terror trials are being held, as Karen Greenberg, executive director of the Center on Law and Security at NYU Law School and author of The Least Worst Place: Guantanamo’s First 100 Days, points out in today’s post. Here’s the curious thing, though: that presumption is stronger than ever when it comes to those who once ran or carried out the Global War on Terror. Afghanistan to Washington, Abu Ghraib to Guantanamo, they all continue to live within a bubble of official innocence.
Palestinians’ white knight blots his escutcheon / Stuart Littlewood
From champion of the vulnerable to betrayer in one bound… Nick Clegg, Britain’s new deputy prime minister, is surprisingly agile … In January 2009, at the height of Israel’s murderous blitz on Gaza, he rode to the rescue and railed against the British government … First sign [of change] was at the Liberal Democrats’ conference in September when Clegg attended a Friends of Israel fringe meeting but cold-shouldered the Friends of Palestine.
Obama arrives at NATO summit with a revised US strategy in Afghanistan: Stay past 2014
As Obama prepares for a longer commitment in Afghanistan, he must also convince allies convening at this weekend’s NATO summit in Lisbon to extend their support.
Sweden issues international arrest warrant for WikiLeaks founder Assange
Swedish authorities, stepping up their persecution of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, have issued an international arrest warrant for his detention in relation to trumped-up “rape” charges.

DePaul University suspends sales of Sabra hummus; other campuses to follow?

Nov 19, 2010

Adam Horowitz 

Sami Kishawi reports on his blog Sixteen Minutes to Palestine:

Today marks another win for the global boycott, divestment, sanctions (BDS) movement against corporations that profit from severe human rights violations. Chicago’s very own DePaul University just announced that their dining services will be discontinuing the sale of hummus manufactured by Sabra, an Israeli brand known for its vocal and material support of Israeli Defense Forces. The administration has temporarily suspended the sale of Sabra products and will likely move towards permanently banning the brand from campus.

A little over two weeks ago, members of DePaul’s Students for Justice in Palestine expressed concern over the sale of Sabra products after discovering that Chartwells, which provides dining services to the university, had introduced the Israeli-brand hummus to food and dining facilities throughout campus. Acting on their concern, the students compiled research and revealed that the Strauss Group, co-owner of Sabra, has direct monetary ties with elite Israeli military forces currently and historically involved in the illegal occupation of Palestinian land. One week after bringing the issue to the attention of campus administrators, the university informed campaign organizers that Sabra products are set to be removed from shelves for the remainder of the school quarter and will most likely not be sold on campus in the future. (Read the email sent to administrators at the end of the post.)

The ultimate success of this modest divestment campaign isn’t that it resulted in the removal of a product from campus cafeteria shelves but, rather, that it has undoubtedly set the framework for future campaigns in college campuses throughout the United States. With exactly 156 colleges and universities using Chartwells for their campus dining needs, the BDS movement against IDF-sponsoring companies like Strauss Group and Sabra can potentially reach national heights. By discontinuing the sale of Sabra products, DePaul University has made its stance clear: Any product or company involved with flagrant human rights violations against Palestinians or any other people does not mirror the principles on which the university is founded and is therefore not welcome on campus. The administration’s quick response indicates the importance of preserving and respecting Palestinian rights by divesting from companies that do the exact opposite.

Email sent to DePaul administrators:

Hello Stephanie and Joe,

My name is Shirien and I’m part of Students for Justice in Palestine at DePaul. I’m writing you because it has recently come to our attention that Chartwells has started selling Sabra hummus products at DePaul. Many SJP members, as well as several other students, are deeply disturbed about this development. SGA President Ross R., as well as DePaul alumni Ben M. (both CC’d) recommended that we get in contact with you both in order to assist us with this matter.

The reason why we are concerned is because the company which manufactures Sabra hummus, the Strauss Group, has been a voice of support for the ongoing Israeli occupation through its ties with Israel’s military. This is apparent in their vocal support and material sustenance of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), namely the Golani Brigade. The Golani Brigade, Israel’s elite force, is known for its history of severe human rights violations. Many instances of these violations are well documented, from the assassination of Israeli PM Yitzhak Rabin to the torture and humiliation of Palestinian detainees. Because of this, a boycott campaign against Sabra is happening at many universities in cities across the nation.

Many of us students are concerned about DePaul affiliating with a company with such strong military and political ties. We feel that continuing the sale of Sabra products at DePaul is in violation of our Vincentian values, which require us to stand against injustice. This goes for any other companies affiliated with human suffering.

We would like to meet with you both so that we can discuss this matter more in-depth. CC’d to this email are key board members from SJP, as well as Erez, who is on the Fair Business Practices Committee. We want to voice our concerns and perhaps present alternative hummus brands that are more socially conscious. We hope that you can hear us out and help steer us in the right direction of how to go about addressing this.

Would it be possible to set up a meeting some time next week? I included everyone in one email thread so we can all be in the loop. Please let us know what you think. Thank you for your time and consideration!



The Israeli military left it to settlers to monitor Palestinian farmers during the olive harvest

Nov 19, 2010

The volunteers of the Harvesting Peace Project



Avigdor Lieberman’s home settlement of Nokdim.

Jeb al Theeb, a small West Bank village south of Bethlehem, is under constant threat by the illegal Israeli settlements surrounding it. The small house we called home for a month had a view of the so-called Lieberman Road, which connects Jerusalem with the settlement of Nokdim, where Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman lives, and the settlement of Tekoa. Construction in these two settlements continued during the partial settlement freeze, while the Palestinians in the area, as in many other cases throughout the West Bank, were not permitted to build houses or roads allowing access to their land.

On our first day in Jeb al Theeb as part of an Italian civilian peace intervention project during the olive harvest things were already hot.

The IDF and settlers appear on the scene.

Four of us were accompanying two of the village farmers to their olive trees, when before even reaching their land we were stopped by two armed settlers who immediately called for reinforcements. Within minutes two jeeps with IDF soldiers as well as border police arrived, which then grew to be roughly 20 soldiers as several more jeeps arrived on the scene.

The soldiers presented us with a document written in Hebrew, including a map of the area. They informed us that, from 7:00 that morning until 7:00 the following morning, the area had been declared a closed military zone, preventing the Palestinians who were with us from picking olives on their own land. They repeatedly refused to provide further explanations or copies of the document, specifying they don’t deal with “leftists.” When we asked, “Can you show us where we are on the map?” the commanding officer solicited help from none other than the settlers! “Shouldn’t you know where we are?!”

We were told to leave the area within 5 minutes or face arrest. But one of the farmers insisted, asserting his right to access his land. After lengthy discussions with the soldiers, interspersed with endless phone calls to their commanders as well as our demands for explanations, the officer in command finally allowed the Palestinians access to their land to harvest their olives.

We were not permitted to accompany the Palestinians because, as the soldiers explained to us, our presence would “irritate the settlers, causing clashes.” The IDF therefore blatantly demonstrated that they respond directly to the settlers and not the law. As further proof, it should be noted that while the area was off limits to us as closed military zone, the settlers, with machine guns slung over their shoulders, circulated freely. In fact, these same settlers followed the soldiers who went along to monitor the Palestinians.

We waited under the sun until the farmers returned, and after all the commotion above, their “harvest” was nothing more than a handful of olives, five uprooted trees and two iron fence poles found on their land.

As we started making our way back to the village, the settlers, unhappy that the Palestinians had been allowed to access their land, decided to have the last word. They claimed the fence poles the Palestinians were carrying belonged to them! After yet another round of discussions, the farmers were forced to carry the fence poles back to the exact place where they were found, escorted once again by the soldiers.

While we were at least successful in obtaining “permission” for the Palestinian farmers to access their own land, we immediately made plans to go back to the same spot the following day at 7:00am when the order for the closed military zone was set to expire.

However, the next day got off to an earlier start than we had anticipated. We were awakened by the shouts of two children of the village who were banging on the door to our house screaming the few words we knew in Arabic: “zeitun, mustauten, YALLA YALLA!” (“olive trees, settlers, let’s go!”).

We threw on some clothes and followed the children as they charged up the hill near our house, dreading what we were to find. As we arrived at the scene of the crime, one of the two Palestinian farmers we had accompanied the day before told us what had happened: at dawn a settler had set loose his goats among the olive trees belonging to the Palestinians, destroying the olives as well as the trees.

By the time we arrived, the settler had already fled, most probably because the Palestinian owner of the land was armed with a video camera from B’Tselem, whose camera distribution project provides Palestinians with a way of recording the realities of the occupation. We watched the video and recognized the settler from the previous day’s encounter. He would become a recurring theme during our stay in Jeb al Theeb.

The Volunteers of the Harvesting Peace Project

Harvesting Peace is an Italian civilian peace intervention project in Palestine to support the olive harvest and the work of Popular Struggle Coordination Committee ( The project is promoted by Service Civil International – Italy, Association for Peace and Un Ponte Per. Volunteers will be providing international accompaniment for four weeks in the village of Jeb al Theeb near Bethlehem, under threat by the nearby illegal settlements and settlers.

Helen Thomas get standing 0 from 500 as Sam Donaldson declares her the ‘best ever’

Nov 19, 2010

Jefferson Morley 

From Jeff Morley at World Opinion Search:

The American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee honored Helen Thomas at a dinner in northwest Washington last night. The evening was all Helen, all the time, featuring accolades from the (still!) irrepressible Sam Donaldson(!), sweet Rosemary Oakar, and the pungent James Abourezk.

Donaldson called Thomas “the best White House correspondent ever!”  Abourezk gibed Thomas was not fired because of comments she made about Jews. Her “fatal sin,” he said, was asking President Obama if any countries in the Middle East currently possessed nuclear weapons. The always-self-righteous Ralph Nader said, “If ten reporters had acted the way Helen acted there never would have been an Iraq war.”

He’s probably wrong about that but it is an inspirational thought for ill-paid scribes. In the course of the evening there were a couple of references to Arab dictatorships but with the superb Seared Filet of Wild Salmon with Pinot Noir Sauce paid for by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (”Ultimate Underwriter”) the focus wisely remained on the 90-year old honoree.

The crowd of well-dressed crowd five hundred welcomed Thomas to the podium with a standing ovation.

“U.S. policy is supporting man’s inhumanity to man,” Thomas  said in brief remarks accepting the ADC’s award. ”I pray that my country will return to the morals and ideals that made it so great.”

A personal aside: At one point, Abourezk said “Israel doesn’t have a lot to do with Judaism. It has a lot to do with fascism.”  Without passing judgment on the latter proposition, I paused over the former. “Israel doesn’t have a lot to do with Judaism.”

That struck me (a secular, non-practicing Judeo-Christian by culture and marriage) as true as a matter of theology but not of practical politics. The most public sign of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory in Washington D.C., I realized, are the signs on the lawns of the synagogues where I used to attend bar mitvah’s when my kids were younger.  These expressions of concern for Israel’s security are  worth respecting  but they do amount to code words for occupation. So I would have to say that in northwest Washington  Judaism does have something to do with Israel. An irritating thought with uncertain implications. Maybe it was Helen Thomas that made me think it


Today in Bil’in

Nov 19, 2010

Hamde Abu Rahme


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Today one citizen was wounded and dozens suffered tear gas inhalation due to clashes that took place in the West Bank village of Bil’in. Peace activists and international supporters marched alongside village residents in the weekly demonstration against the wall and settlements, and in solidarity with activist Abdullah Abu Rahma, who was refused release by the Israeli military court of Ofer even after his sentence expired.

The march participants carried Palestinian flags and pictures of Abu Rahma, coordinator of the Popular Committee Against the Wall in Bil’in, and chanted slogans condemning the policy of occupation, settlement expansion, and repression against the Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. They also chanted slogans condemning the attacks on the houses of Jerusalem, plus calls to stop the policy of deportation and exclusionand to release all detainees and political prisoners, particularly those involved in the non-violent resistance.

The demonstrators marched from the village while calling for unity and rejection of differences, and confirmed the need for a resounding Palestinian resistance to occupation and freedom for Palestine.

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A burning tear gas canister in Bil’in. (All photos: Hamde Abu Rahme)

The march headed toward the wall, where the military force of the Israeli occupation army was waiting behind concrete blocks. They had closed the gate of the wall with barbed wire. The army fired sound bombs and rubber-coated metal bullets and tear gas at them from all directions, resulting in injury to 18-year-old Kamel Khatib, who was shot in the hip by a rubber-coated metal bullet. Dozens of participants experienced suffocation and the effects of tear gas inhalation.

The Popular Committee Against the Wall in Bil’in calls for condemnation of the military court’s refusal to release Abdullah Abu Rahma, and appeals to the international community and international human rights organizations to stand with Abu Rahma, whose prison term has expired yet still remains in jail.


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Khalidi and Mearsheimer offer qualified endorsements of Boycott/Divestment/Sanctions

Nov 19, 2010

Philip Weiss 

Yesterday the Institute for Middle East Understanding had a conference call with Rashid Khalidi and John Mearsheimer to talk about the latest offer in the peace process. Both men used the word “charade.” It’s an entertaining conversation, go to that link. Some of my notes:

Mearsheimer is a two-stater, but he says that Palestinians ought to declare for one state. “I think this whole process is a charade…This demonstrates clearly that you’re not going to get a viable Palestinian state.” Palestinians should accept that reality and say that Israel can have one state, “and we insist that it be a democratic state.”

The men were asked (at 34 or so) if they support boycott, divestment and sanctions as a means of changing the balance of power between Israelis and Palestinians. Qualified yes from both. Khalidi said that “anything that can change the political climate in this country… is much to be supported,” though he is not for a blanket, cookie cutter approach to boycotting Israel, out of deference to public opinion, which is so far from understanding anything about Israel. A campaign has to be aimed at giving people the “lineaments” of the issue.

Mearsheimer said, “I would support the U.S. cutting off all aid to Israel, boycotting Israel and putting sanctions on Israel, and that would all be done in support of the two-state solution. … I believe American pressure if it were possible to execute it could be employed to get a two-state solution.”

Khalidi told a funny story. Funny/horrifying.

He had a “little encounter” at the State Department a few months ago, some colleagues and he were talking to the State Department about Jerusalem. “Our interlocutor said to us, Well, I hope this doesn’t develop into Israel bashing and the delegitimization of Israel at the General Assembly. My response was, you know it’s sort of funny, when Palestinians resist what’s being done to them militarily you call it terrorism, and when they resist in a peaceful way you call it delegitimization. What do you expect them to do, roll over like sheep to have their throats cut and just shut up?”


Mearsheimer said a couple of other startling things. Israel is slipping right so fast that Netanyahu will be seen as a centrist before long. “I would not be surprised if within 20 years, Avigdor Lieberman becomes prime minister… that’s where this country is headed.”

And he said that American Jews don’t have a clue because of the media sugarcoating they get over the fact that Israel is committing suicide. “One of the reasons that American Jewish community are not more mobilized in favor of the two state solution is that they have no idea what’s going on.” If America wanted two states, they could get em, no problem, but it would require real pressure.

But as to the lobby: “The United States has a relationship with Israel that has no parallel in recorded history.”

Mearsheimer called Dennis Ross an “agent” for the Israeli government, a delectable phrase, operating inside the American government, though Khalidi demurred on that one. “I don’t know that I would call him an Israeli agent, but he has played a tremendously destructive role since the Reagan administration.”

Then Khalidi said that Obama’s reported offer of F-35s to Israel, and the offer of a security zone in the Jordan Valley to the Israelis, comprising 40 percent of the territory of the West Bank, recall the Balfour Declaration– a third party gives a second party something that belongs to a first party. Straight out of Night at the Opera. By the way, they played the contract scene from Night at the Opera at Tony Judt’s memorial service at NYU Law School. Beautiful. Khalidi was there. You have to channel Groucho to explain the peace process.

Military industrial complex replaces Oedipus complex in psyche of proud Jew

Nov 19, 2010

Philip Weiss 

I’m catching up a week or two late to this: Israel recently hosted the first international homeland security conference, bristling with high tech weaponry.

Israel will share its experience and knowledge in counterterrorist activities and homeland security with 700 delegates from around the world. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs welcomes the initiative to hold the first international conference on Homeland Security in Israel. The conference was organized by the Export Institute, in cooperation with the Ministry of Industry.

What did it look like inside? Well it was all in English. This blogger-attendee calls himself “Proud Jew,” but his handle is Double tapper, he’s into guns; check out all his pictures from the convention floor, and captions:

WeCU Technologies Ltd develops an automated system for the detection of a person’s intent…

Reps from North Carolina, Ohio and Fairfax County Virgina were here to try and entice Israeli HLS Companies to open shop in their regions. The Israeli Export Agency was on hand to assist in the export process.

Jeff Halper likes to point out that Israel is now selling more arms than all but four countries in the world. Big business. (60 percent of the Israeli economy, according to commenter at that link, citing Halper.) Here’s the frightening speakers’ list from the conference. Many high-tech weaponsmakers in Israel, and the police chief of Memphis, and two other public officials:

Timothy W. Manning, Deputy Administrator for Protection and National Preparedness at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), USA.

Jan E. Mul – International Marketing Director at the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority (FCEDA). Jan joined the FCEDA in March of 2004 and his primary role is to assist foreign firms with their market entry into the U.S. and Fairfax County.

This guy’s right about ‘chosen people’ hocus pocus

Nov 19, 2010

Philip Weiss 

I think Baruch Spinoza said similar things in Amsterdam and got excommunicated. Matt Miller in the Washington Post. Miller, come to Israel and then talk about chosenness.

As a Jew I’m familiar with this issue in another context. According to the Torah, Jews are said to be “the chosen people.” Though this was a relatively affirming thing to be when you’re a kid in Sunday school – who wouldn’t want to be part of the club chosen by the Man Upstairs, after all? – as an adult, I’ve never taken it seriously. With all due respect to Jews who take this notion literally, it’s always struck me as presumptuous, if not offensive.

As it happens, the congregation we belong to in Los Angeles is “reconstructionist,” meaning it adapts Jewish thinking to modern life. One of Reconstructionism’s chief tweaks has been to reject the idea of “chosenness” altogether. I’m sure some Jews frown on this edit, preferring to retain the idea of Jewish exceptionalism. But to many of us it’s only common sense to affirm that other religions and groups can be terrific, too.

Quotation of the day

Nov 19, 2010

Philip Weiss 

I have to get Timothy Snyder’s book Bloodlands. Snyder is an important thinker on Europe, in the pathways of the late great Judt, and his book got a spectacularly bad review in the LRB, one of those reviews that makes you take the victim’s side completely. And on that note, a quote from the book, passed along by a friend. A passage about Hitler’s response to any criticism of his regime:  

“Hitler used unfavorable attention in the foreign press to build up a rationale for the more radical policies to come. The Nazis presented European and American newspapers as controlled by Jews and any foreign criticism as part of the international Jewish conspiracy against the German people.  

An important legacy of the March 1933 boycotts was thus rhetorical.  Hitler introduced an argument that he would never cease to use even much later, when his armies had conquered much of Europe and his institutions were killing millions of Jews.  No matter what Germany or Germans did, it was because they were defending themselves from international Jewry.  The Jews were always the aggressors, the Germans always the victims.”

Video disproves settler hasbara and demonstrates how the settlements expand through intimidation

Nov 19, 2010

Adam Horowitz 

Ma’an news is reporting on the video above which disproves a widespread report quoting Israeli settlers that Palestinian farmers and Israeli leftists have been destroying Palestinians olive trees in an attempt to frame the settlers.

Ma’an reports:

Ynet news and Arutz Sheva, two Israeli media outlets, reported Sunday that “leftists” and “foreign anarchists” were caught in an arson attempt near an illegal settlement between Bethlehem and Hebron.

“Residents who witnessed the incident said they [believed] the group was planning to blame the arson attack on the Jews,” Arutz Sheva reported alongside video footage it and Ynet broadcast as evidence.

A dozen people “can be seen wandering around the field, stopping occasionally to bend over and set new fires. The group does not appear anxious, and does nothing to extinguish the flames,” the report continued.

Those present, however, have dismissed the reports as nonsensical and point to new footage, filmed on the ground rather than the hillside where settlers taped and later edited their “arson” evidence.

In reality, the farmers were just conducting a controlled burn of brush that is a typical part of maintaining the olive groves. Here is a first hand account from one of the activists who witnessed the events shown in the video above:

On Sunday (November 7th, 2010), we joined several Palestinian farmers who own land in the Saffa area of Beit Ummar as they headed to clear all of the weeds on the land and prepare it for replanting. We were 8 internationals from around the world and aged 18 to 82. Folks brought gloves and shovels/picks so that we could chop away at and gather the weeds (brush) and make way for the farmers to plant new trees.

The farmers’ land was located in a valley just below the Israeli settlement of Bat Ayin, labeled by Israelis as part of the “Gush Etzion bloc” (another larger settlement). We gathered and began chopping away at the roots of the various weeds or brush, piling them atop one another, and then having the farmers set them ablaze to burn them away (this is presumably how Palestinian farmers get rid of weeds/brush to prepare the land for replanting). After working for an hour or more, I began noticing activity up in the settlement… Earlier I had heard a settler yell something at us but it was brief and wasn’t repeated. We all generally ignored the settlers as they were a higher up and a good (read: safe) distance from us. However one of the farmers who knew there might be problems began zooming in and caught footage of exactly what was taking place up above the valley we were in.

As we finished up about an hour and a half of work, all of us reasonably exhausted, we began heading back up the hill toward the village. As we did this, we spotted Israeli soldiers popping out of jeeps above and heading our way. We all sort of walked in the same direction, continuing as they approached us. At the point that our paths crossed, we put down our farming equipment and soldiers threatened us “not to leave.” We began asking what the problem was, but all they said was “Do not leave. The police will tell you what the problem is.” At one point, a soldier repeatedly stated “you was definitely doing something wrong.” A lot of these exchanges are in the video above. Eventually we were led, as a group (Palestinian farmers & internationals together), to another area as they told us the Israeli police could not come onto the land.

When pushed for explanations, you will see in the video, soldiers could not provide any. Presumably the reason has to do with their lack of a mandate to govern the area we were in, and so in typical sly fashion, the Israeli army was taking us up to an area the Israeli police (as an occupational authority inside the Palestinian West Bank) is supposed to have authority inside of. In the video, you might not be able to differentiate between Israeli police & the Israeli army as they both dress in similar uniforms.

Eventually, back toward the village, individuals who had been communicating with settlers up in the hills, presumably military or other intelligence individuals (as identified by individuals in the village), showed up with a camera and photos they had taken. They called for all of the land owners to come and, in the photos on the digital camera LCD, point out what they owned. The farmers (land owners) also had their ownership deeds with them. What ensued was the arrest (what Israelis call “detainment” – being held for several hours) of 6 of the 8 internationals. Despite earlier comments by the lead soldier, none of us was provided an explanation of why we were arrested, but rather just told to get in the jeeps by aggressive soldiers.

At one point, in a jeep, an international (still recording) can be heard asking a soldier why he’s detained (yes, we were still with soldiers, not police when taken away it seems). The exchange that ensues is telling. We were taken to a police station inside of the same “settlement bloc” (Gush Etzion) that the Bat Ayin settlers are from, later learning that Bat Ayin is trying to annex the farmland we had been working (this would be the “natural growth” that they speak of in terms of settlements).

After nearly 3 hours of detention, where various police officers (some seemingly high ranking) entered and asked us why we were there, to which we said “We don’t know – can you please tell us?” Nearing the end, no charges were pressed against us and we were told we were being “warned” for being on “unregistered” land and threatened not to return. We asked maybe 10 minutes after first being told, for the allegation to be repeated, and the same police officer couldn’t remember it to which one of the internationals said “unregistered land” and he said “oh yes, yes, unregistered land.” We were released, but not before copies of our passports were made. Thankfully in all of this, none of the Palestinians were arrested.


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