Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat decides to hold the first Jerusalem International Marathon in March 2011. He gets Adidas to sponsor the event. An Israeli runner registers and then discovers that the route runs through some of the most egregious examples of discrimination and dispossession in East Jerusalem: Sheikh Jarrah, Issawiya, the Shufat Refugee Camp, Jabel Mukaber and Sur Baher (see map on right.)
He approaches the Meretz representatives on the Jerusalem city council and they, with international human rights organizations, approach Adidas. Adidas smells a possible consumer boycott and gets cold feet. The company demands “clarifications” from the Jerusalem municipality. What does that mean? Time (and persistence) will tell.
Yosi Eli, Maariv, December 10 2010 [Hebrew original here and at the bottom of this post]
The sports giant Adidas, which is sponsoring the Jerusalem International Marathon, requested clarifications from the Jerusalem Municipality about the manner in which the event would be conducted [sic]. Sources in the company [say they] are even considering withdrawing the sponsorship because of fears of a consumer boycott, after it became clear that the route also runs through neighborhoods beyond the Green Line.
The company’s communication with the Jerusalem Municipality follows a series of protests it received from human rights organizations across the world, demanding that the company cancel its sponsorship of the marathon, which is scheduled for March 2011.
The fact that these grants will fund highly politicized and inflammatory projects is best exemplified by the NIS 2 million slated for the “City of David” project in Silwan. This East Jerusalem settlement in the guise of an “archeological park” is at the cutting edge of efforts to insert Israelis in Palestinian communities around the Old City basin.
Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov [Israel Beiteinu] provides a policy-oriented explanation for the funding:
“The Tourism Ministry attaches great importance to developing tourism in Judea and Samaria, which is the basis for [the] ‘Every Jew’s Story’ [campaign] and is located in the very heart of the State of Israel,” the minister wrote. “The historical heritage serves as a significant drawing point both for internal tourism and for tourism from abroad.”
It would be a stretch, however, to think that he actually believes this claptrap. Misezhnikov is a politician using his position to dole out pork to allies.
Last week Haaretz reported on a new domestic campaign, which aims to re-brand the West Bank settlements as pastoral tourist attractions. The settlers running it appear to actually believe that they are exposing an obscured reality, restoring the objectively positive image stolen from them. Samaria Regional Council head Gershon Masika:
Settlement’s biggest enemy is ignorance. That’s the place where prejudice takes hold, fertile ground for hatred and blood libels against us. We can change this situation through these tours.
From a narrow Israeli perspective, maybe they’re right. Within our Orwellian public debate, it’s often hard discern which perception of reality is upside-down.
Yuval Karni, Yediot, September 20 2010 [page 6; Hebrew original here and at bottom of post]
While the Americans are struggling to arrange a continued construction freeze in the territories, there are those in Israel who are already preparing vigorously for the next stage. Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov intends to transfer in the near future millions of shekels to settlements in Judea and Samaria for the purpose of developing tourist sites and attractions in the territories.
An internal Tourism Ministry document shows that in total, over NIS 9 million will be transferred to Judea and Samaria and East Jerusalem. Minister Misezhnikov, who is strongly opposed to the freeze, wishes to let the local authorities develop the tourism branch within their boundaries.
Many areas in Judea and Samaria will enjoy the benefit of the large budgets that the ministry stands to transfer. The Samaria Regional Council will receive NIS 300,000 for tourism projects within its jurisdiction (signs in the Reihan forest, paving bicycle trails in the Shaked forest), the Binyamin Regional Council will receive NIS 100,000 for putting up signs in tourist sites, the Southern Hebron Hills Regional Council will receive NIS 100,000 to develop the Susya historical site, the share of the Karnei Shomron Regional Council will be NIS 100,000 for developing bicycle trails in Nahal Kaneh, and the Kiryat Arba Local Council will receive NIS 40,000 for planning tourism projects.
The big money will be given to the Etzion Bloc, the Jordan Valley and East Jerusalem. The Tourism Ministry will transfer NIS 1.5 million for renovation and upgrading of the Herodion site within the boundaries of the Etzion Bloc Regional Council, about NIS 2 million to the Kasr al-Yahud baptism site in the Jordan Valley, and about NIS 5 million for developing projects in East Jerusalem: NIS 2 million for the City of David, NIS 1.5 million for Zedekiah’s Cave and NIS 1.5 million for tourism infrastructure in the Old City.
Tourism Minister Misezhnikov sent letters yesterday to mayors in Judea and Samaria and explained that he considered this a Jewish-Zionist necessity. “The Tourism Ministry attaches great importance to developing tourism in Judea and Samaria, which is the basis for ‘Every Jew’s Story’ and is located in the very heart of the State of Israel,” the minister wrote. “The historical heritage serves as a significant drawing point both for internal tourism and for tourism from abroad.”
In the letter, the tourism minister notes that upon the expiration of the security cabinet’s decision to suspend construction in Judea and Samaria, “I have decided to budget infrastructure, tourism and public projects throughout Judea and Samaria.” The minister also instructed the settler leaders to turn to Tourism Ministry Deputy Director General for Infrastructure and Investments Shai Weiner in order to receive a commitment for promoting projects in the territories.
[Video] Channel Ten News: Construction starts at Shepherd Hotel settlement compound in Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem
Transcript follows video.
This comes on the day of the publication of the Jerusalem Municipality Master Plan, with plans for expansion of settlement enclaves across the city. Last night, riots broke out in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan as settlers, backed by Border Police, moved to evict Palestinians from a structure used as a mosque.
Channel Ten TV News, June 27 2010 20:31
Yaacov Elon: Very quietly Israel began construction of a new neighborhood in the Shepherd Hotel complex in East Jerusalem. Our correspondent Roi Sharon joins us directly from there. You can hear the construction sounds in the background. What’s happening there, Roi?
Roi Sharon: Work ended here this afternoon at the Shepherd Hotel in Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem. Work began this morning, the construction that has already caused several diplomatic crises between Jerusalem and Washington, materialized this morning when the construction team arrived here with a micro fine drill and began the work. The story of this hotel begins in 1985, when the American Jewish millionaire Irving Moskowitz bought the compound and asked the Jerusalem municipality for permission to build here. The city planning and construction committee held the plans up for years and exactly a year ago the committee decided to give Moskowitz a permit to build 20 housing units here plus an underground parking lot. As soon as the decision became known a diplomatic crisis broke out between Jerusalem and Washington, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asking Israel immediately to cancel the building permits. This morning the construction work began and now we shall see whether the work goes on as planned and whether we can expect a new diplomatic crisis.
Yaacov Elon: construction at Sheikh Jarrah. Thank you Roi Sharon.
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.
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.
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.
Shachar-Mario Mordechai is a poet living in Tel Aviv. He is the 2010 recipient of Tel Aviv Municipality’s nationwide “Poetry By the Way” competition. His poems, translations and reviews have been published by various magazines, literary supplements and online site. His book of poems, “History of the Future,” will be published later this year by Even Hoshen Publishing House. A second book will be published by Am Oved as part of his prize for the Poetry By the Way competition.
Shachar-Mario Mordechai, Maariv, May 12 2010 [Hebrew original here and bottom of post]
On Iyar 28, 5727 (June 7, 1967), the third day of the Six-Day War, IDF troops entered the Old City of Jerusalem. Within less than a year the Knesset established Iyar 28th as Jerusalem Day. After some three decades, while Binyamin Netanyahu was serving his first term as the prime minister of Israel, the Knesset conferred legal standing on that day: It established that this day would commemorate the connection between the city and the Jewish people and that, as such, it was incumbent upon us to celebrate it as a national holiday.
I am a Jew, and I do not forget Jerusalem (nor do I forget my right hand, and certainly not my left), and I recognize the undeniable connection between my people and the holy city. However, it is beyond me why I am obliged to celebrate (or lament) Jerusalem specifically in the context of 1967. I won’t, as Elie Wiesel put it, say that Jerusalem is above politics, since everything that is connected to Jerusalem — and perhaps to every issue in our world — is political. And it is not inconceivable that any day chosen to celebrate Jerusalem Day should be imbued with political significance (even our distant neighbours to the east, the Iranians, celebrate Jerusalem Day — though it is a shame that they do not do so in the tradition of Cyrus). But in my opinion it is more than a tad unfair to mark Jerusalem Day — by law — in keeping with the whims of former MK Hanan Porat and the signature of Binyamin Netanyahu.
Where does that legislation put me? I, like many others in Israel today, believe that 1967 sowed the destructive seeds that have the potential capacity to derail Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state. I believe that the occupation of another people undermines Israel’s security, its standing among the nations, its character as a just society, the Zionist vision of a national home for the Jewish people in the Land of Israel (and not the entire Land of Israel), and that it also undermines our hold on Jerusalem.
In order to maintain Israel’s character as a Jewish and democratic state and in order to have Israel be — even if only partially so — a just society, there is no choice but to disengage from East Jerusalem. When I say East Jerusalem, my intention is a disengagement from the Shuafat refugee camp, Abu Dis, Sur Baher, el-Azariyeh. Certainly not from the Old City. Not from the holy basin. The Old City will be administered jointly so as to ensure that religious freedoms are not infringed upon and so that we will be able to visit the Western Wall whenever we want. And when I say joint administration I am not contradicting the words of the Prophet Micha, who said: “But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the House of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it…for the Law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”
That is why I am hard put to celebrate Jerusalem Day on Iyar 28th. Why am I denied the right to celebrate wholeheartedly my connection — as a Jew and an Israeli — to the city? Why Iyar 28th? Why shouldn’t Jerusalem Day be established immediately after the mourning period leading up to Tisha B’Av, so as to commemorate the emergence from mourning over the city’s destruction to celebration over its rebuilding? And when I say rebuilding I am not referring to Sheikh Jarrah. Just as we make the impossible transition from Memorial Day to Independence Day, why shouldn’t we celebrate Jerusalem Day immediately after Tisha B’Av? I know that Binyamin Netanyahu won’t pick up the gauntlet. But you there, you MKs who are worried about the fate of Jerusalem and the fate of Israel, can anyone hear me?!
Photo: Mati Milstein
Makor Rishon: US Ambassador and other officials regularly review details of J’lem construction plans
Ariel Kahane, Makor Rishon, May 7 2010 [front-page; Hebrew original here and at bottom of post]
The prime minister and senior ministers have vehemently denied over the past two weeks all reports of a de-facto Israeli agreement to freeze construction in East Jerusalem, but this appears to be the reality on the ground. No construction is being seen in East Jerusalem, and neither is such construction planned for the foreseeable future.
The main reason for this: fear of American wrath shared by the ministers as well senior public officials. A Makor Rishon-Hatzofe inquiry reveals that American officials in Israel have consistently “shown interest” — as this is formally defined — in Israeli construction plans in Jerusalem. The US ambassador, the Jerusalem consul, and other American officials meet frequently with the relevant ministers and have been extracting from them detailed information on construction plans in the capital.
“This interest is not very pleasant,” says a source familiar with the matter, “each minister understands the significance when an American official asks him about the nature of the next project, how many housing units it will include, when it will occur and so forth. Some ministers are also calculating their next step.
“They understand that a refusal on their part to meet American expectations could prove detrimental later on, especially if they are seeking major appointments. It would not be clever for a minister to get branded as the guy who said no to the US.”
And the result: on the eve of Passover, tenders for some 1,000 housing units in Ramot were expected to be released. These were halted by a command from high up. This was also the case with 130 housing units in Har Homa. These are the projects available for immediate advancement if only the political echelon would approve them, and it has not.
Housing Minister Ariel Attias confirmed to the Knesset two days ago, that there was in fact an all-out construction freeze in the capital. In response to a question from MK Uri Ariel from the National Union concerning the report that the government was refraining from releasing 1,000 housing units, which have already been approved, Attias confirmed that such information was correct.
These are apartments in Har Homa, Gilo, Pisgat Zeev and Neve Yaakov. “The last time apartments were put on the market was in December 2009,” the housing minister said, “and since then no housing units have been put on the market.”
Ariel, chairman of the parliamentary lobbying group for Jerusalem, sent a letter to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in which he asked him to allow construction and approve the sale of apartments in Jerusalem. Ariel claims that the vast majority of Likud ministers are aware of this but do not dare to speak.
From the onset, in addition to protesting the injustice of the evictions, the activists at Sheikh Jarrah sought to leverage the demonstrations into direct action: Protecting the evicted Palestinian families, camped on the street outside their homes, from settlers using Friday afternoon “prayer meetings” as a launch point for attacks. The presence of Israelis at the family tents during this crucial time slot deterred some of the attacks and, in a few cases, even embarrassed the police into doing its job.
The Jerusalem police was having none of it. At some point in the fall of 2009 a decision was made: The protests would be suppressed. Over one hundred arrests ensued over the following months. The highhandedness of the police backfired. It brought media attention and, with it, local and international support. The courts also consistently sided with the activists and police disrespect for the rule of law became increasingly unsustainable. In February, commanders ceased dispersing the Friday protests.
Police still blocked the activists — now organized as a movement called “Just Jerusalem” — from actually standing with the families, corralling them in a playground a few hundred yards away. Instead of declaring victory and moving on, the youngsters redoubled their efforts to reach the tents. Arrests resumed. One activist was taken from the Friday night family dinner table. In mid April, a group of intellectuals led by author David Grossman witnessed a police assault and spoke out. More Israelis joined the protests.On Friday (April 23 2010) the police broke. At 4:00pm most of the demonstrators gathered in the playground, a few dozen activists appeared out of nowhere outside the Hanoun family home. The new local commander (the top brass had apparently had enough of his predecessor) approached the group and ordered them to disperse. Their response: This is a legal vigil and we’re not moving. The police force stood down. Later, as the group joined the main body, Sara Beninnga, the indefatigable cheer leader of the protests, announced on her megaphone that the action would be repeated every week and replicated at other Jerusalem hot spots. On Sunday, as settler extremists marched through Silwan, the Sheikh Jarrah activists were there to lead the counter-demonstration.
Just Jerusalem’s has become a symbol for Israel’s anti-Occupation activists. Against all odds, lacking resources and organizational backing, the movement demonstrated the power of conviction and tenacity. Writing in this Saturday’s edition of the Financial Times, Tobias Buck, allowed recognition of this achievement to seep through his skepticism:
The regular demonstrations have broadened into protests against the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land in general. Some Israelis also come to register their disapproval of police action against the gatherings, adding freedom of speech to the other grievances.
As a result, the protesters’ ranks are now studded with some of Israel’s most prominent intellectuals and writers.
The signatures of many of these intellectuals, including Israel Prize laureates Avishai Margalit and Zeev Sternhell, are among the ninety-nine at the bottom of an open letter taking Elie Wiesel to task for his sheer chutzpah in presuming to speak for those who actually live Jerusalem in his controversial full-page Washington Post ad, calling for a halt to US diplomatic action on the city (full letter here and at bottom of post; Haaretz report here.)
For more than a generation now the earthly city we call home has been crumbling under the weight of its own idealization. Your letter troubles us, not simply because it is replete with factual errors and false representations, but because it upholds an attachment to some other-worldly city which purports to supersede the interests of those who live in the this-worldly one. For every Jew, you say, a visit to Jerusalem is a homecoming, yet it is our commitment that makes your homecoming possible. We prefer the hardship of realizing citizenship in this city to the convenience of merely yearning for it.