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Sheizaf: Two more families face eviction in Sheikh Jarrah; hundreds attend protests

May 30, 2010 2 comments

Cross-posted from Promised Land.

Two more Palestinian families from East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood received this week eviction orders. According to Haaretz’s report, the families were ordered to leave their houses within 45 days. No alternative residency was offered to them.

“Failure to comply [with the order] will force my client to act against you with all means available according to the law [...] in such a way as may cause distress, anxiety and large and unnecessary expense,” the notices said.

The lawyer who served the order, Anat Paz of law firm Eitan Gabay, informed the families they would be liable to a fine of NIS 350 for each day the remained in their homes beyond the eviction deadline.

Each family was also ordered to pay  NIS 12,000 per year for each of the last seven years. The notices did not reveal names of the claimants to the properties.

The Palestinian residents of Sheikh Jarrah are refugees who fled their homes in Jaffa and West Jerusalem in 1948. They were offered a land in Jerusalem to build their homes on by the Jordanians in exchange for agreeing to give up their refugee status (ironically, that’s what Israel always demanded that Palestinians in Arab countries do). Israel conquered and annexed East Jerusalem in 1967 and, recently, the pre-1948 Jewish owners of the land in Sheikh Jarrah authorized a right-wing settlers group to have the Palestinians evacuated and the neighborhood settled with Jews.

Israeli courts have repeatedly ruled in favor of the Jews claiming land based on pre-1948 documents — while at the same time the Palestinians were forbidden from claiming back the houses they left in 1948. Unable to have their old houses, evacuated from their current homes — Jerusalem’s municipality plans on building there 200 housing units for Jews — the Palestinians have literally nowhere to go. They don’t even have refugee status.

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The injustice in East Jerusalem is so evident, that the struggle to stop the evacuation of the Palestinians became a new symbol for many Israelis. What has began as a very local grassroots effort by a handful of activist (many of them Anarchists) is now drawing a crowd of hundreds each week – and sometime more people and more than once a week. Here is a video from the protest two weeks ago, when some 30 demonstrators were arrested by police, and one had his arm broken.

Personally, I find the struggle in Sheikh Jarrah to be the best thing that has happened to the Israeli left in years. The number of the people present there doesn’t seem that impressive, but the crowd grows each week, and it is clear that the police and the municipality will find new evacuations very hard to carry out.

More importantly, this struggle is becoming an inspiration to many who all but gave up on political activism — and not just in Israel. And it’s happening without any political party or a left-wing organization supporting it, and under some very radical massages. For the first time I can remember in years, the left doesn’t try to “move to the center” in order to win the support of the more conservative public, or engage in all sorts of competitions in patriotism with the right — ones that we obviously will never win — but rather sticks to its principles without apologizing or justifying itself.

There is no common platform in Sheikh Jarrah except for this very specific struggle. Nobody asks if you support one or two states, if you are a Zionist, Post Zionist or anti-Zionist. People just come each Friday to Jerusalem and stand for what they think is right – and so far, it works well enough. Sometimes even I get the sense that if this thing wasn’t happening in here, it would have happened somewhere else. The energy feels bigger than this specific incident, as if there are finally enough Israelis who say that things have been going in the wrong direction for far too long — that a line had to be drawn, and it happened to be drawn in Sheikh Jarrah.

I took those two pics on the weekly protest last Friday, to which author Mario Vargas Llosa paid a visit.

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The best way to support the protest in Sheikh Jarrah is to simply come each Friday (more detailshere). If you don’t live in Israel, you can make a donation, as legal expenses for the defense of arrested activists and organizers are mounting.

Sheizaf: Chomsky affair demonstrates that the West Bank, not just Gaza, is under siege

May 16, 2010 5 comments

Cross posted from Promised Land.

Much has been written on Israel’s decision not to allow entry to left-wing linguist Noam Chomsky today, and I guess even more will be written. From the official Israeli response, it is not clear who made the decision in this case — a top government official or a low level bureaucrat — and it seems that Chomsky might still be permitted to enter the West Bank, once people realize the PR damage caused to what’s left of the reputation of the only democracy in the Middle East. But that’s not the important issue here.

According to Chomsky, what bothered Israeli officials at the Allenby crossing was not only his views, but the fact that he intends to visit the West Bank, and not Israel. Later it was said that the IDF authority might end up granting him a visa. But whatever way this affair ends, it is clear that Chomsky made a better case against Israel today than in anything he said or wrote. He practically proved that the Palestinians are far from being autonomous, and that the West Bank is in reality under siege, with Israel dictating who and what can leave or enter.

When the Spanish clown Ivan Pedro was denied entry by the Shabak into the West Bank, some people tried to make a national security case out of it, claiming Pedro refused to submit information regarding his contacts in the West Bank. I hope nobody is planning the same line with the Chomsky. Israel simply decided not to let him in because he is pro-Palestinian, like it does every day to many others. The only difference is that in those cases nobody alerts Reuters.

There is no arguing that Israel is now viewing certain ideas, not just actions, as an existential threat, and is willing to make full use of its powers in order to suppress them. It is important to understand this point: Some people think that the state made a stupid mistake today, when it chose to deny entry to Chomsky. But that’s only true if you judge the affair in terms of actual security — then you conclude that making such a fuss over a speech in Ramallah by an aging linguist that no one would even notice is pure madness. But if you are obsessed with the persecution of “dangerous ideas” and constantly searching for ideological menaces, then Chomsky is a threat. In this context, not allowing him to enter your country might be logical and even legal — again, if you consider Israel’s control of all access to the West Bank legal — but it is also scary as hell.

Sheizaf: “Like Alan Dershowitz, but with a conscience”

May 9, 2010 1 comment

Cross-posted from Promised Land.

Dershowitz

Dershowitz

Yesterday, Alan Dershowitz, the attorney for OJ Simpson and IDF occupation, received another honorary doctorate, this time from my very own Tel Aviv University. Dershowitz took the opportunity to declare that “students shouldn’t have the Leftist views of professors imposed upon them,” proving again that The Simpsons got it right on the Harvard’s Professor in their 2006 Halloween special.

Krusty

Trying to return his Krusty the Clown Alarm Clock that squirts acid, Bart stumbles upon the Golem in Krusty’s prop room. The ersatz entertainer goes on to tell Bart of the tale of Rabbi Loew, the “legendary defender of the Jewish people,” who created the Golem to defend his Jewish community. “Like Alan Dershowitz,” says Krusty, “but with a conscience.”

I had the opportunity before to recommend Eyal Niv’s excellent “Truth from Eretz Israel” blog, but back then he only had a Hebrew version. For the past six months, Eyal is posting some of his stuff in English as well, and you should definitely check it out.  Here is what he had to say on Dershowitz’s honorary doctorate. needless to say, I join him in every word.

Categories: Hasbara

Sheizaf: A tale of two charters

May 5, 2010 4 comments

Cross posted from Promised Land as the first installment of the series “Deconstructing right-wing arguments.”

Every now and than you get to hear Israelis argue that we cannot have peace with the Palestinians or even withdraw from the West Bank because Hamas still opposes the idea of a Jewish state and more, importantly, because the Palestinian National Charter,  the PLO’s binding document, still states that the Palestinians have a right to Mandate Palestine in its entirety, and that the “Zionist occupation” of the land is illegal.

But have a look at article 1(b) of the constitution of the Likud, Israel’s ruling party. Turns out the Likud never accepted the idea of partition either and its stated goal remains to settle and annex as much territory as possible.

This is the official translation of the constitution to English, taken from PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s own website (emphasis mine):

Article 2: General purposes

1. The Likud is a national-liberal party which advocates the ingathering of the exiles, the integrity of the Jewish homeland, human freedom and social justice, and it strives to achieve these goals:

[…]

b. Safeguarding the right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel as an eternal, inalienable right, working diligently to settle and develop all parts of the land of Israel, and extending national sovereignty to them.

Personally, I don’t pay much attention to such documents. We can negotiate with the PLO and even with Hamas, and Palestinians can talk to Likud Prime Ministers. Negotiations deal with the future, and those charters and constitutions are documents of the past. All arguments regarding them are no more than excuses.

Categories: Diplomacy, Hasbara

Sheizaf: Settlers and Palestinians to join in protest against the separation barrier south of Jerusalem

April 26, 2010 Leave a comment

Cross-posted from Promised Land.

An unusual protest is scheduled for Thursday in the West Bank: Settlers and Palestinians are planning to march together in protest against a section of the separation barrier Israel is constructing south of Jerusalem.

According to a report on Srugim, a national–religious news site, the protest was initiated by Eretz Shalom, a new pro-peace settlers movement. A handbill distributed by the organization (shown below), claims that the planned fence “will damage the nature in the area, hurt the residents of the [Palestinian] village of Wallaje and their fields, won’t add to the security of Jerusalem, and will be a waste of state money.”

The settlers invite all residents of the area, “Jews, Christians and Arabs”, to meet at the border police checkpoint at 4:30pm and march together in protest.

Is this more than a gimmick? It’s hard to tell. There has been some talk of peace initiatives coming from the far-right recently. Naturally, they all lead to the one state solution, with most of the settlements remaining  in place and the Palestinians becoming Israeli citizens. These ideas are yet to be developed, but I wouldn’t dismiss them altogether.

Many people on the left will find it hard to accept the idea of settlers talking about peace, but we should remember that not all the Jews living in the West Bank are like the radical and violent residents of Yitzhar. Some of them are from second and third generation in the settlements, and they really struggle to find a solution that will enable them to live in peace. According to another report on Srugim, the members of Eretz Shalom are not very involved in politics, and view themselves as a grassroots, regional, initiative. I think we should wish them luck. Read more…

Sheizaf: The persecution of Haaretz

April 20, 2010 7 comments

Cross-posted from Promised Land.

Editor’s note: A recent Coteret post bemoaned, in this context, the absence of satire. Eretz Nehederet has now come through with a skit. It can be viewed here (Hebrew only; H/T Richard Silverstein.)

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The persecution of Haaretz

Haaretz, Israel’s oldest daily paper, has a status that exceeds its limited circulation. Israel’s supporters who whishes to portray it as a thriving democracy give Haaretz as an example; Critics of Israel use Haaretz when claiming that the US media is too easy on Israel (”The NYT would have never printed Gidon Levy’s op-ed“). Even after suffering loses during the financial crisis and going through major cuts the paper remains the best source for information on human right issues and on Israeli politics. It is also the only Israeli newspaper to have an internet site and printed editions in both Hebrew and English.

These days, Haaretz is under attack. Rightwing groups, pundits, politicians and competing media organizations go after the paper. They accuse it of being “too liberal”, “too lefty”, even “anti-Israeli”. The attack was triggered because of the Kamm-Blau affair, but the case against Haaretz is far wider and deeper, and has a lot to do with the dangerous nationalistic mood in Israel right now.

Two articles on the front page of Maariv’s weekend edition took shots at Haaretz: Ben Dror Yeminiaccused the paper of aiding “the industry which demonizes and delegitimizes the State of Israel,” and Columnist Menahem Ben simply called for the paper to be shut down and its editor and publisher arrested for treason.

After the exposure of the Kamm affair, MK Michael Ben-Ari, a former student of Rabbi Kahana, cancelled his Knesset subscription for Haaretz and called interior Minister Eli Yishay to use his authority and immediately forbid the printing of Haaretz. Surprisingly enough, Ben-Ari was joined by two MK’s from Kadima: MK Israel Hason, a former Shin Beit man, called for readers to boycott Haaretz, while MK Yulia Shmuelov wrote her own letter to minister Yishay demanding Haaretz to be shut down.

Radio Host Avri Gilad said last Sunday on the IDF station that “I mourn what happened to the Left and to the Left’s journal [Haaretz]… it is making the left irrelevant in Israel… every sensible person today understand that the Left has made the state of Israel its enemy.” There wasn’t even a slight protest heard.

And this is what rightwing columnist and editor for Jerusalem Post (who is rapidly becoming the Israeli Pravda), Caroline Glick, had to say:

By collaborating with Kamm first by publishing her stolen documents and hiring her as a reporter, and finally by covering up her crimes while suborning Blau’s perjury, Haaretz has demonstrated that leftist traitors have a powerful sponsor capable of exacting painful revenge on the State of Israel for daring to prosecute them.

In facilitating and supporting treason, Haaretz itself can depend on a massive network of supporters in Israel and internationally. Reporters, self-proclaimed human rights groups, and the leftist blogosphere in Israel and throughout the world as well as foreign governments happily swallow whole Haaretz’s manufactured stories about Israel’s purported venality.

I agree with Hanoch Maramri, Haaretz’s former editor, who wrote in The 7th Eye that Haaretz will survive this attack. The paper suffered boycott attempts during the first and second Intifada, when its editors insisted on reporting cases of abuse and illegal actions by IDF soldiers. But these were different times for journalism, and the real danger is that the delicate financial situation affecting all newspapers will make Haaretz change its line a bit so it wouldn’t bleed too many readers.

Even more important is what these events teach on the current moment in Israel. Most people outside this country fail to notice it, but we are at the dangerous turning point in which words and ideas, and not just acts, are becoming illegitimate in this country, even criminal. Haaretz won’t be the last victim.

Arrested for Post Zionism

March 25, 2010 3 comments

Cross posted from Promised Land.

Editors note: Note how the charge resembles Yuval Diskin’s definition of the Shabak’s mandate.

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Chappell and Marti after their release from prison (AP)

Pay close attention to this item. It doesn’t seem like much, but it’s an important one:

Two international activists, Ariadna Jove Marti (Spain) and Bridgette Chappell (Australia), who are living in Bir Zeit in the West Bank (it’s near Ramallah, and well within the Palestinian Autonomy), were arrested by the IDF last month. The two were about to be expelled from Israel, and as it happens in most cases, they appealed against the decision to the Israel Supreme Court.

As Chaim Levinson reports in Haaretz, while trying to defend the arrests and deportation, the state argued before the court that the two activists

…belong to the International Solidarity Movement, an organization “that supports an ideology that is anti-Zionist, pro-Palestinian and universally revolutionary.”

There are two precedents here, and I can’t overstate their importance:

A. The main charge against the activists had nothing to do with national security, but with the ideas they expressed (the state even presented before the court quotes taken from an internet site!). The “crime” involved words, not actions.

It is, to the best of my knowledge, the first (but certainly not last) attempt to present critic of Zionism or support for the Palestinian cause as illegal, and what’s even worse is that the actual arrest was carried out not by police and under orders from the state attorney, but by the army.

It takes a very flexible definition of democracy to describe a regime which makes questioning the dominant ideology a criminal offense.

B. The arrest of the two activists took place in the Palestinian Autonomy’s territory (area A according to the Oslo agreement). Israel often claims that the situation in the West Bank cannot be labeled as Apartheid, since the Palestinians have their own state-like entity. But as we saw in this case (as well as in others), Israel does not respect this autonomy, and its security forces are acting freely within the Palestinian towns and villages, even in cases which have nothing to do with Israeli national security.

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This time, the court was very critical of the “evidence” presented by the state, and it ruled that it will hear the two activists’ plea. However, as we have come to know in the past, courts cannot hold for a long time against government or security forces’ policies. If the current trends continue, we are not that far from a day in which questioning Zionism might lead to imprisonment – something which was unthinkable not that long ago.

I really don’t think people are aware enough of what’s going on in Israel right now. The rise of racism, the rapid escalation in human rights, the attacks on freedom of speech, the campaign against human rights activists – this is a country on a very dangerous path. As Taayush’s Amos Goldberg wrote in Haaretz a few days ago, It is happening here and now.

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