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NGO Monitor warns against wave of Ultra-Orthodox “Lawfare”

June 21, 2010 3 comments

Steinberg

The headline is, of course, sarcastic. Gerald Steinberg’s interest in “Lawfare” is instrumental and limited to his campaign to suppress the Israeli human rights community.

Otherwise, why would reports on right-wing Israeli organizations whose activism is focused on legal activism be so conspicuously absent from his organization’s website? Try finding even an acknowledgement of the “Lawfare” activities of Shurat Hadin — Israel Law Center, The Legal Forum for the Land of Israel, The National Land Protection Trust or Human Rights in Yesha and you’ll come up empty handed.

Therefore, any expectation that NGO Monitor will have something to say about this remarkable reaction to the current High Court-Ultra Orthodox crisis is pure fantasy:

The large Haredi [Ultra-Orthodox] community in Strasbourg, France, where Slonim Hasidim also live, is expected to bring a lawsuit, as is the Haredi community of Antwerp, Belgium. According to Salzman, the Haredim of Antwerp are now drafting a lawsuit against the State of Israel which they intend to bring in the international court in The Hague (Maariv, June 20, full translated text at bottom.)

Steinberg’s base hypocrisy — he’s even launched his own major “Lawfare” action in a European court — would be comic if it wasn’t so dangerous. Influential publications such as The New York Jewish Week regularly turn to him as a commentator on Israeli policy. More importantly, draconian legislation he designed to severely limit the freedom of action of any NGO that does not toe government policy is set to be enacted by the Knesset.

Also planned: Lawsuits against Israel from abroad

Amihai Attali and Yuval Goren, Maariv June 20 [Hebrew original here and at bottom of post]

The Slonim Hasids intend to “export” their struggle against the State of Israel abroad by bringing lawsuits in courts throughout the world against what they term “persecution and the violation of human rights on religious grounds in Israel,” Rabbi Pinhas Salzman, a major figure in the community, has told Ma’ariv.

According to Salzman, several high-ranking figures in the Haredi community abroad recently contacted the members of the community with offers to aid their struggle. The Satmar Hasidim in New York announced that it would ask the New York municipality for permission to hold a rally in front of the United Nations to protest “the persecution of religious Jews” by the secular authorities in the State of Israel.

In addition, the large Haredi community in Strasbourg, France, where Slonim Hasidim also live, is expected to bring a lawsuit, as is the Haredi community of Antwerp, Belgium. According to Salzman, the Haredim of Antwerp are now drafting a lawsuit against the State of Israel which they intend to bring in the international court in The Hague.

“The ruling of the High Court of Justice against the Slonim Hasidim raises tough questions connected to human rights, freedom of religion and conscience and the freedom to choose a school,” Haredi attorney Mordechai Green, who represents the Slonim Hasidim, claimed last night. “We believe that the hasidic community has a strong international legal case against the State of Israel on the grounds of the Supreme Court’s ruling.”

It also turned out that until the beginning of the Sabbath two days ago, the leaders of the Hasidic community prevented officials of the Welfare Authority from going to the 22 mothers who did not show up at the prison and their children. Later on, the members of the special task force that the Welfare Authority established for this purpose, which is directed by the ministry’s deputy director general, Menahem Wagschal, recounted that some of the family members and relatives of the imprisoned parents gave misleading information regarding the whereabouts and the situation of the women and children.

Among other things, the Hasidim allowed the women and children to return to their homes only shortly before the Sabbath began, thus preventing any possibility of their arrest. “They pulled quite a few tricks on us in order to keep us from knowing where each mother and child was, and we could not visit them,” said Wagschal. “On the other hand, they conveyed a clear message that each child and mother was in good hands.”

Read more…

Fellini in Bilin

June 7, 2010 12 comments

Watch this video from the suppression Friday’s  (June 4 2010) anti-Barrier protest at the West Bank village of Bilin. From 01:40 begins a scene which could have come straight from Satyricon: A group of helmeted, visored, and armored soldiers with long rectangular shields assaults a parade float of the Mavi Marmara decked with flags from around the world. They then charge down the roads at the fleeing crowd and grab an elderly lady. A protester on a wheelchair with a gas mask drives through them. A fire breaks out.

Most imagery from the village is much more banal in its horror. Like this one, of the arrest of a twelve-year old in the olive groves of the village on the same day.

Sheikh Jarrah: Time to act

June 1, 2010 16 comments


Louis Frankenthaler moved to Israel in 1995 and lives, with his family, in West Jerusalem. He has an MA in Jewish Education, is a doctoral student and works for the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel. His political writings have appeared in Zeek, Global Dialogue, the Electronic Intifada and in Ha’aretz. The opinions reflected in his essays are his own.

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Louis translated the activists’ statement, which was originally published in Hebrew on the Sheikh Jarrah blog, his commentary follows.

From the Sheikh Jarrah activists

Today is a difficult day for all of us, for the thousands who have stood over the months in protest in Sheikh Jarrah and to the tens of thousands who support this grave struggle, a struggle for the future of the society in which we live.

Today, adding to the physical police barriers in Sheikh Jarrah [the Jerusalem Magistrate/"Shalom" Court] Judge Ziskind added, in her decision, an additional barrier. Through its decision the Court is attempting to prevent core [Sheikh Jarrah] activists from taking part in any public event connected to Sheikh Jarrah for five months and even to issue a sweeping order preventing the activists from even appearing in the neighborhood during this period. With this the Court, in no uncertain terms, stands with the Jerusalem Police and has joined its efforts to repress and crush the struggle. We know now, like in the past, such repression will only strengthen us as we stand in resistance to injustice.

In the face of this newest challenge we will present the only response we have: solidarity. Solidarity with our Palestinian partners against the attempts purge the neighborhood of its Palestinian residents in favor of Jewish settlers; solidarity with our comrades in detention and against the attempts to repress their protests; solidarity with our fellow citizens/civilians who want only to live in a democratic society in which politically based law enforcement is inconceivable. All must be equal before the law. The law, when applied discriminatory, challenges is very legality [constitutionality].

In the name of solidarity we call on everyone to come to Sheikh Jarrah next Friday. Standing together we will deliver a loud and clear message to the Magistrate’s Court and to the settler’s police: You cannot kill popular resistance

This is the moment that demands of all of us to join the struggle, to call on our friends to join us as we stand shoulder to shoulder against the corruption of a law enforcement system infected by the Occupation.

Friday — 4pm/16:00 Sheikh Jarrah: We call on YOU to join us. More details to follow.

The Sheikh Jarrah Activists

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Commentary

There is little more that one can add to the morally just call from the Sheikh Jarrah activists. Over the past month or two I, normally cynical about demonstrations, have decided to frequent the neighborhood, to come out from behind my computer screen activism, my writing and my role as a full time human rights worker, to protest and to start visiting with the people beyond Friday afternoons.

The weekly demonstrations in Sheikh Jarrah are exciting and inspiring examples of a pure representation of democratic and human rights based activism. I have come by myself and witnessed (and was almost touched by) police brutality. I have come with my children (7 and 10) and faced their tough questions: “Why we are here? What is going on? Why are there so many police here and why do they have different uniforms on?” The simple answer I give them children reflects the relative simplicity of the struggle in Sheikh Jarrah. It is an answer that draws together a relatively large variety of people, mostly Israelis, some of them professors, authors, politicians but most of them regular people from regular homes in regular neighborhoods. The answer to my kids’ questions: we are here because what Israel is doing to the Palestinian residents of Sheikh Jarrah is wrong. Israel is hurting them and it is not fair. As for the police, to my children I am forced to answer them with a hint of sadness that says “normally we expect the police to protect us. If someone hurts you, you should call the police and they will protect you but today, they are helping the State do something bad.”

Read more…

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.

Renowned Israeli playwright compares Ameer Makhoul to Soviet “Prisoners of Zion”

May 20, 2010 2 comments

The story of the arrest and detention Ameer Makhoul is an eerie glimpse into the willingness of Israel’s security establishment to go to incredible and undemocratic lengths as it attempts to fight perceived internal “enemies.”   Makhoul, an Israeli citizen, was finally permitted to meet with his lawyers after 11 days, but only after his defense team threatened to boycott his detention extension hearing.

Shaken, Israeli playwright Yehoshua (Joshua) Sobol decided to break a taboo and equate Makhoul’s handling by the Shabak to the Soviet treatment of the “Prisoners of Zion.”

Censorship: The fate of Ameerovitch-Makhoulsky

Op-ed, Yehoshua Sobol, Israel Hayom, May 12 2010 [Hebrew original here and at bottom of post]

This week marks the 50th anniversary of the tale of the arrest of Zion Grisha Ameerovitch-Makhoulsky, who was taken in the middle of the night by the KGB.  The story made waves through the international media, yet in Soviet Russia it was prohibited to mention the event in national media outlets.  As in all dark dictatorships, the intellectuals who wanted to know where they lived, developed a network for sharing alternative information: Mouth to Ear, a network that functions at the speed of one’s voice and passes through the thick walls and fences that surround the basement interrogation centers of the KGB.

And thus, thanks to the Mouth to Ear network, every person with some critical opinion regarding the Soviet Empire knows exactly and how and why something happened to Grisha Ameerovitch-Makholsky.  At 3:00am 16 brutes from a special unit of the KGB surrounded Grisha’s house, which is located in a suburb in the distant northern port city of Danyaprokhifovsik.  Five thugs from the special unit broke into the apartment, separated Grisha from his wife and daughters – Dina and Yehudit, refused to identify themselves when asked, and proceeded to search the entire apartment without demonstrating a search warrant.  They took the personal journals of Grisha and his daughters, as well as the girls’ math workbooks.  When they wanted to take Grisha as well, Mrs. Ameerovitch-Makhoulsky stubbornly demanded that the brutes present an arrest warrant.  So they extracted an arrest warrant dated two weeks prior to that night.

In retrospect, the Nobel Prize winner Professor Eliushkin-Sacharov, one of the directors of Man-is-Man, raised these points for consideration: if the security threat was urgent such that the Soviet security forces could wait almost two weeks from the day the warrant was signed until it was implemented, why did the search and arrest have to take place at 3:00am, violently, and in front of the children?  Furthermore, Professor Sacharov asked why the detainee was not permitted to consult with his lawyer, as his wife claims.

But this was not the end of the story.  It turns out that despite the zealous Soviet censorship and the fearful long and strong hand of the KGB, the Mouth to Ear network managed to broadcast news of the grave violation of human rights that occurred.  However, though in Soviet Russia it was prohibited to inform citizens of misdeeds committed by the secret security services, it was permissible to vilify Israel without restraint – the Mouth to Ear network broadcasted the story as if it took place in Israel instead of in Soviet Russia.  And not to a Jewish detainee named Zion but rather with an Arab detainee.  Even the name of the city Danyaprokhifovsik was replaced by the name of a northern Israeli port city, and the name of Grisha Ameerovitch-Makhoulsky was changed to an Arab name.  Further, the name of the organization of Zionist NGOs that Ameerovitch-Makhoulsky led was altered in the rumors to the name of an organization of Arab NGOs.  In this way, the story of the arrest of Ameerovitch-Makhoulsky was broadcasted to all corners of Soviet Russia.

It is difficult to believe that only 50 years have passed since the dark days in which the story of Ameerovitch-Makhoulsky took place, which seems – today – as if it took place before the days of Noah’s Great Flood.  How wonderful that such a dark and shameful event could never take place in a democratic and free country like the Jewish and democratic State of Israel.

Read more…

Maariv: ‘Senior official denied Chomsky entry because she was familiar with his extreme leftist views’

May 17, 2010 3 comments

Other Coteret posts on the Chomsky affair: Sheizaf: Chomsky affair demonstrates that the West Bank, not just Gaza, is under siege | Yediot legal editor: Chomsky affair part of trend that “could mark the end of Israel as a freedom-loving state of law” |

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For anyone who was wondering what “system” is behind the growing tide of entry denials to internationals suspected of Palestinian sympathies, Maariv provides a rather banal answer:

It has become apparent that the official in charge of border crossings in the Interior Ministry was the one who gave instructions not to let in Chomsky.  Interior Ministry sources said the official overstepped her authority and was reprimanded.  Sources in the Interior Ministry noted that the official made the decision on the basis of her familiarity with the person’s activity and the fact that he is considered an extreme leftist.

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Official decided: No entry for leftists

Amit Cohen, Maariv, May 17 2010 [page 8; Hebrew original here and at bottom of post]

Israel prevented yesterday the entry of American Jewish linguist and left wing activist Prof. Noam Chomsky, who planned to hold a several day long visit to the West Bank.

Palestinian Parliament Member Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, who invited Chomsky, said that Israeli officials had told Chomsky that his entry was being denied due to his opinions and his criticism of Israel.  Chomsky said that he was surprised by the level of Israeli stupidity.

It has become apparent that the official in charge of border crossings in the Interior Ministry was the one who gave instructions not to let in Chomsky.  Interior Ministry sources said the official overstepped her authority and was reprimanded.  Sources in the Interior Ministry noted that the official made the decision on the basis of her familiarity with the person’s activity and the fact that he is considered an extreme leftist.

When a person requests to enter Judea and Samaria directly, his request is not handled by the Interior Ministry, but rather by the army.  Therefore, the instructions not to let him in were given mistakenly.  The Interior Ministry, for its part, intends to lift the restriction on Chomsky’s entry.

Barghouti told Ma’ariv that the arrangements to coordinate Prof. Chomsky’s arrival in the territories had begun four months ago.  Chomsky was invited by Bir Zeit University and by the Palestinian National Initiative, which is headed by Barghouti.  He was supposed to spend four days in the territories and tour a number of sites.  Chomsky was also scheduled to lecture at Bir Zeit University about US policy.

However, when Chomsky arrived yesterday at Allenby Bridge, en route from Amman, he was delayed for many hours.  “He arrived at 11:00 AM along with his daughter and a number of escorts,” Barghouti related.  “To his surprise, he was delayed for five hours, at the end of which he was told that his entry had been denied by the Israeli Interior Ministry.  He was told that the reason for the denial was his opinions, statements he had made and his intention of lecturing here.”  Barghouti added that Chomsky was told that an official statement would be sent to the US embassy.

A security source explained that “his request to enter Bir Zeit University for the purpose of a lecture that could agitate the atmosphere apparently reached the ears of the Interior Ministry personnel.  Someone there apparently decided arbitrarily that his entry was unnecessary, and therefore decided to ban him from entering.  As it appears now, this decision caused more harm than good, and it looks like he will ultimately enter.”

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel sharply denounced the decision to prevent Chomsky’s entry.  “The decision to prevent a person from expressing his opinions by his arrest and expulsion is a characteristic of a totalitarian regime,” it said in its statement.  “A democratic state, which holds freedom of speech dear, does not shut itself away from criticism or inconvenient ideas, and does not bar guests from entering just because their opinions are unacceptable to it— rather it copes with them by means of a public discussion.”

Read more…

Yediot legal editor: Chomsky affair part of trend that “could mark the end of Israel as a freedom-loving state of law”

May 17, 2010 20 comments

In the generally sensationalist tabloid Yediot, Israel’s most popular newspaper, the legal affairs editor, Judge (ret.) Boaz Okon, is a breath of fresh air. He is one of the few mainstream Israeli journalists who dare use the “A word” to describe segregation policies.

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Afraid of the other

Commentary, Boaz Okon [legal affairs editor], Yediot, May 17 2010 [page 3; Hebrew original here and at bottom of post]

The decision to expel Prof. Noam Chomsky from the border terminal in order to prevent him from lecturing at Bir Zeit University is an act of folly, part of a large series of follies in the recent period, which together could mark the end of Israel as a freedom-loving state of law, or at least pose a large question mark over this.

This decision is first of all patently illegal, since it stands in stark contrast to the most important ruling of the Supreme Court in the Kol Haam affair, in which it was determined that restricting freedom of speech is only legal if the statement is of a kind that could pose a clear and immediate danger to state security.  Truth is not dictated from on high and opinions and ideas cannot be supervised.  The best “test of truth” is the power of an idea to be accepted in the marketplace of ideas.

But in Israel, the government has already started to threaten freedom, at least the freedom of those who are perceived as “others.”  We have ceased to take an interest in what the “others” have to say, not to mention their rights to live here in a normal fashion.  We want them to get out of our sight.  We hound the “others” on the basis of generalizations, suspicions, prejudice or just because they are annoying.

The police detain the demonstrators in Sheikh Jarrah on false grounds.  A custody affairs court expels a foreign worker who is pregnant, so that she does not give birth to a foreign child in Israel.  A family court prevents infants from being brought into Israel from India on the basis of groundless excuses, possibly due to distaste for their father’s sexual orientation. Courts issue gag orders easily and as a routine matter, perhaps to cover up the shame.  We even expel clowns who want to attend a festival in Ramallah, because we are afraid.

There is a worrying common denominator here.  When freedom disappears — it comes first of all at the expense of the weak, the marginal groups or the minorities.  But it does not end there.  Now it is also reaching intellectuals with a worldwide reputation.  Therefore, it would not be an exaggeration to say that the decision to shut up Prof. Chomsky is an attempt to put an end to freedom in the State of Israel.  I am not talking about the stupidity of supplying ammunition to those who say that Israel is fascist, but rather about our concern that we may be becoming fascists.

Read more…

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