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Israel targets landmark Palestinian estate on West Bank with ‘papers from God’
 28 May 2010

Daoud Nassar Tent of Nations
Daoud Nassar Tent of Nations

This is Daoud Nassar. His family own a beautiful piece of land to the west of Bethlehem, in the Occupied West Bank. I have had the privilege of visiting their land numerous times since I first went to Palestine/Israel in 2003, and the Nassars have become dear friends.
Their story is a both typical and unique. The land has been in the family’s hands since the Ottoman times, but beginning in the early 1990s, the Israeli military has sought to confiscate the property. Undaunted, the Nassar family have developed their land and established the ‘Tent of Nations‘ project, whose activities include “educating local children from the refugee camps about rural Palestine, hosting young people for camps and activities such as open-air theatre, and acting as a forum for internationals and Palestinians to get to know each other”. The Nassars have also grown strong links with international supporters, including in Germany, the USA and UK.
The Nassars’ land lies just above Nahalin village – and is surrounded by illegal Israeli colonies (map adapted from Jan de Jong for FMEP).

Nassars land
Nassars land

The Nassars’ land and Nahalin are located in the ‘Gush Etzion’ settlement ‘bloc’, with the nearby colonies including Betar Illit, Geva’ot, Rosh Tzurim, and Neve Daniel – not to mention the Separation Wall and Route 60.

Neve Daniel settlement from the Nassars land
Neve Daniel settlement from the Nassars land

The Nassars’ land has often been ‘visited’ over the years by soldiers and settlers, including in the following incident:

“When the intifada started the settlers wanted to confiscate the land,” Daoud told me, after a hard morning’s work clearing a cave. “Sometimes they came with machine guns. One time I showed a settler my papers showing ownership of the land, and he said that he had papers from God. They tried to open a road through the land, they uprooted our trees, pulled down fences, broke water tanks, but we just kept mending everything. Now we try and keep a permanent presence here.”

Last night, Daoud sent out an urgent message to the ‘Tent of Nations’ email list:

Today at 2.00 pm in the afternoon, 2 officers form the Israeli Civil Administration guarded by Israeli soldiers came to our farm and gave us NINE demolishing orders for nine structures we built in the last years without a building permit from the Israeli Military Authority.

The demolition orders are for tents, animal shelters, metal roofing, toilets, a water cistern, a metal container, and renovated underground caves.

One officer was writing the demolishing orders and the other was taking pictures with two cameras, Israeli soldiers were following them everywhere and pointing their guns on us.

The demolition orders were in Hebrew, and Daoud refused to sign receiving them. The papers claim that the family have three days (i.e. until Sunday) to respond – the timing, Daoud notes, makes it difficult to mount a court challenge because of the Sabbath/weekend. Nevertheless, the family’s lawyer will oppose the order to the military court on Sunday morning.
Daoud’s message concluded by asking people to be prepared and “alert for actions”. Speaking to him on the phone last night, his voice was tired – but still defiant and hopeful. It was, he said, yet another attempt “to destroy our spirit”.

Blocked access route to the Nassars land
Blocked access route to the Nassars land

While the Nassars face demolition orders for animal shelters and toilets built on their own land, around and above them, Jewish Israeli citizens live normal lives in thriving colonies. This is ‘Area C’, where Israeli colonisation policies are designed to make a continued Palestinian presence impossible through almost entirely preventing construction:

This is because the majority of this land “is earmarked for the settlements, the army, nature reserves or a buffer zone around the separation fence”, and in the rest, almost all Palestinian building permits are refused. Last year, close to 200 Palestinian structures in Area C were demolished by the Israeli military.

This is the reality in Occupied Palestine in 2010. This is the story of Daoud and his family, along with hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. This is Israeli apartheid.

With sea confrontation looming, New Yorkers say ‘break the blockade’
Posted: 27 May 2010

The following excerpt is of a report in the Indypendent, where you can read the full article and view photos of the New York action in support of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla.
Days before a probable showdown at sea between Palestine solidarity activists traveling with a nine-ship fleet and the Israeli Navy, demonstrations took place across the United States and the world today to demand that Israel allow the activists safe passage to Gaza to deliver 10,000 tons of humanitarian aid.
In New York, more than 100 people gathered outside the building of the New York Daily News to call attention to the lack of news coverage of the flotilla, walked past the Israeli Consulate and marched to Times Square chanting “Break the blockade, Gaza needs aid.” They passed out hundreds of fliers to pedestrians explaining how the “Freedom Flotilla” was attempting to break the blockade of Gaza and what the potential Israeli response could be. In Times Square, demonstrators gathered in the center and chanted “Free, free Palestine” while tourists looked on and snapped pictures.
The action was organized by a coalition of local groups, including Adalah-NY, Al-Awda NY, the Activist Response Team, Gaza Freedom March and Jews Say No.
The “Freedom Flotilla” is made up of nine ships now in the Mediterranean Sea sailing to Gaza. The ships are stocked with badly needed aid, like construction materials, medical equipment and school supplies, for Gazans; such aid has been blocked by a crippling Israeli naval, air and land blockade. Palestine solidarity activists from more than two dozen countries, including the United States, are also part of the flotilla.
The Israeli Navy has vowed to stop the ships from reaching Gaza, and has set up a makeshift detention camp at Ashdod, a port in southern Israel, for processing, detaining and deporting the activists who are part of the mission.
“Through their system of apartheid and occupation, they’re denying the Palestinians the right to live,” said Randa Wahbe, a Palestinian-American active with Students for Justice in Palestine at Columbia University and Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel.

Beinart rues absence of Palestinian voices– and redlining of Chas Freeman and Rob Malley
Posted: 27 May 2010

The Forward publishes some pithy comments by Peter Beinart that suggest that he has fully occupied the ground he surveyed in his groundbreaking piece, and the devil take Leon Wieseltier. (The interview, with Larry Cohler-Esses, is available in a podcast here). Notice in the second excerpt that Beinart’s embrace of a Jewish state is not full-throated, no it feels almost rote. Because the flag has a Star of David… With this sort of declaration, his kids are sure to be one-staters. Excerpts:
On the extent and limits of debate on the Middle East in America: I think we suffer from a distinct absence of Palestinian voices, particularly after the death of Edward Said. Whatever you thought about him, he was the one really high-profile Palestinian, or at least Arab thinker. I think the other weakness in our public debate is the timidity in Congress. I think there’s no question that the perceived power of AIPAC and of other pro-Israel organizations makes members of Congress more inhibited than they would otherwise be in being critical of Israel. Or if you look at the case of Chas Freeman, for instance, in his appointment to head the National Intelligence Council, or the case of Rob Malley, for instance, of not getting a position.
Beinart seeks to reconcile several contradictory remarks he has made regarding his position on equality for Arab citizens of Israel, and on reviving “liberal Zionism”. Warning, excerpt begins with some If’s: If you have a Jewish right of return in Israel, if you have the national anthem be Hatikvah, if you have the flag as it is today, it is a Jewish state and therefore, inevitably and tragically, any non-Jew in Israel will not have the same equal citizenship as he or she would have in a state that has no religious or ethnic identity.
I am not a supporter of a secular, binational state; I just don’t think it’s realistic. But that is a far cry from accepting the policies of the Israeli government that make it very difficult for Israeli Arab citizens to buy land, that lead to chronic underdevelopment, under-education in Arab areas and that, in the case of the Lieberman agenda, lead to a whole series of efforts, basically accusing Israeli Arabs of treason, of limiting their rights, and I think potentially even creating the kind of climate that leads to a more serious discussion of their expulsions.
I accept the tragic necessity of a Jewish state that can never be as fully liberal as I would like.

‘Washington Post’ readers aren’t ready yet to learn about Nakba
Posted: 27 May 2010

Janine Zacharia covers the Ameer Makhoul case in the Washington Post. Pretty good piece, except:

When Israel was created in 1948, the Palestinian Arab community was split between those who remained inside Israel’s borders — and became Israeli citizens — and those who relocated to the West Bank, Gaza or farther abroad. Today, Arab Israelis constitute one-fifth of Israel’s citizens.

Democrats afraid of Jewish donor ‘revenge’ in midterms
Posted: 27 May 2010


The niceties of America’s often straightlaced political discourse generally preclude the use of a phrase as provocative as this: Jewish revenge. One of the virtues of the Israeli press, however, is that it can be refreshingly blunt.
“Officials in the Democratic Party are afraid that the Jews will take revenge in the midterm elections, which is the reason for the vigorous courting of Israel,” reports Yedioth Ahronoth today. Some of the courting the paper refers to just came from White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, whose recent trip to Israel was ostensibly a family affair — he was there to attend his son’s Bar Mitzvah — but it turned out that he also had important and very public business to take care of: a kiss-and-make-up session with Benjamin Netanyahu.
Didi Remez provides an English translation of the Hebrew report:

According to reports that reached Jerusalem, it is no coincidence that Obama and his staff have suddenly begun to speak warmly about Israel, to compliment it for the good will gestures it extended to the Palestinians and mainly to admit that they had erred by treating Israel unfairly in Obama’s first year. It appears that the Obama administration’s attack on Netanyahu after the publication of the tender to build 1,6000 new housing units in Ramat Shlomo backfired.
Information that was received by Israeli sources would seem to indicate that the principal reason for the change in approach to Israel is pressure from Democrat lawmakers who are running for election and are finding themselves hard put to enlist Jewish donors to their campaigns. There is a great deal of anger at Obama within the Jewish community and disappointment over his policy toward Israel.
Officials in the Democratic Party are afraid that the Jews will take revenge in the midterm elections, which is the reason for the vigorous courting of Israel. In other words, the fear is that the Jewish vote will gravitate away from Democratic candidates to Republicans.

The report concludes by saying that the Obama administration is afraid of another clash with Netanyahu when the settlement “freeze” expires in September. “The hope is that Obama will be able to persuade Netanyahu to extend the construction freeze by means of a friendly request and thereby avoid a damaging confrontation.” Right!
The brief lull in West Bank colonization construction operations was surely timed to expire exactly when Obama could effectively be bound and gagged by the Israel lobby, right before the elections.
When ministers in the Israeli government triumphantly break ground on new settlement projects this fall, we shouldn’t expect to hear even a squeak of disapproval come out of Washington.
This is cross-posted at Woodward’s site, War in Context.

‘WSJ’ runs Israeli flotsam and jetsam about flotilla
Posted: 27 May 2010

Charles Levinson in the Wall Street Journal:

Some Israeli officials see a lose-lose public-relations situation. “We can’t win on this one in terms of PR,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor says. “If we let them throw egg at us, we appear stupid with egg on our face. If we try to prevent them by force, we appear as brutes.”…
“This is nothing more than media provocation and has nothing to do with actually providing aid to residents of the Gaza Strip,” said military spokeswoman Lt. Col. Avital Leibovitch. “They have everything they need.”

A quote from a participant would have been nice.

See: www.mondoweiss.net

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