Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘occupied palestinian territories

 

Israel loses, so far, 8 billion dollars on its genocide war on Gaza people

And Arab parties are resuscitating and joining the boycott

As the world community has been boycotting Israel arms industries and scientific cooperation

In 2012, Israel arms sale reached $7 billion, claiming that they were tested on live fields of action

Mustafa Barghouti

Mustafa Barghouti, the secretary-general of the Palestinian National Initiative movement, has estimated that Israel has incurred losses of around eight billion dollars due to the boycott campaign against illegal settlements, equivalent to 20% of their GDP.

Regarding the latest Palestinian efforts to escalate the settlement boycott, Barghouti revealed that an agreement has been made with 13 democratic Arab parties to form boycott committees in the Arab world.

In a statement to Quds Net News Agency on Thursday he said: “the European Union did not issue a decision to boycott Israel, but what is taking place is the boycott of any relationship or agreements with settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.”

Furthermore: “This experience is being circulated worldwide and not only in European countries; many areas worldwide are also ready to boycott the settlements.”

The agreement with the Arab parties to participate in the boycott campaign came after the participation of a delegation from the Palestinian National Initiative movement headed by Barghouti, along with a delegation from Fatah, headed by Nabil Shaath in the Arab Social Democratic Forum. It was held in Amman, Jordan, over two days and ended Wednesday.

The draft resolution put forward by the Palestinian National Initiative regarding Jerusalem was agreed upon unanimously, along with a mass movement of boycott and sanctions against Israel and the decision to support the Palestinian popular resistance and the struggle for justice for Palestinians against the occupation and the settlements.

The delegates called upon the people of the Arab world and its friends to adopt a strategy for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it ends its discriminatory, unjust occupation.

It is expected that the Human Rights Council of the UN in Geneva will vote on Thursday and Friday on 5 resolutions condemning Israel. These include a resolution calling to encourage boycotting Israeli settlements and cutting all investments with them.

Meanwhile, Israeli diplomacy has not taken any direct action to curb these decisions and is busy dealing with strikes in their international embassies and consulates.

A senior Israeli official said that the proposal for the resolution calling for a boycott of the settlements is creating tension and anxiety in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office.

Having realised that Israeli diplomacy is completely paralysed due to the strikes, they quickly decided to assign a special envoy to Geneva.

Meanwhile the Israeli vice-president of the National Security Council, Aaron Larmon, was expected to arrive on Wednesday but a last minute decision was taken to cancel the visit after officials in the Prime Minister’s office realised that they would not be able to influence the formulation of decisions looming in Geneva.

The draft resolution in the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva was based on the proposition made by a group of Arab states in the Human Rights Council, including the Palestinian Authority, and is entitled Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories and East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.

The proposed draft resolution, which will be voted upon, is the first of its kind to condemn Israel in UN Human Rights Council resolutions.

Israel considers the wording very dangerous as it is based on what is stated in the BDS campaign against settlements, and although the decision of the Human Rights Council does not bind any obligation upon any state, the vote in favour of such a decision will bring about more Israeli settlement boycotts and the boycott of Israeli companies that cooperate with settlements, operate there, or even open branches there.

– See more at: http://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/10590-israel-loses-eight-billion-dollars-and-arab-parties-join-the-boycott#sthash.4e8w8gEO.dpuf

 

ISRAELI AIR STRIKE DESTROYS HOME FOR THE DISABLED
More than 1,250 homes have been destroyed or severely damaged so far and more than half a million people risk losing their water supply because it is too dangerous for contractors to fix damaged pipelines.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians have already fled their homes in northern Gaza following leaflets warning of an Israeli ground offensive and 17,000 have taken refuge at UN-operated schools.

A statement released on Monday also condemned the launching of rockets by Hamas and other militant groups from densely populated residential areas.

James Rawley, the UN’s Humanitarian Co-ordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territories, warned of a looming humanitarian crisis as agencies struggle with damage to health, education, water and sanitation facilities, as well as power lines.

“Our thoughts must first be with those many civilians who have already lost their lives, and the even greater number of who have suffered physical or psychological injuries,” he added.

“While we await those much needed steps [towards peace], we must once again remind all parties that they must strictly adhere to international humanitarian law.”

Mr Rawley said precautions must be taken to avoid civilian casualties and there must be “proportionality” in operations, adding that military assets should not be kept in residential areas.

The Israeli tactic of using “knock-on-the-door” missiles to warn people to evacuate before a strike has also been criticised, with opponents saying rockets that do not explode are still a danger to life.

The recent conflict is only a part of an ongoing “cycle of violence” in the region that is compounded by poverty, unemployment and food shortages in Gaza caused by years of strict movement restrictions imposed by Israel, Mr Rawley said.

He added: “My thoughts are particularly with Gaza’s children, not only those who are already casualties of this latest conflict, but all of Gaza’s children for whom fear and insecurity are a not only a reality today but a scar that will endure for a lifetime.”

Note: The Hebrew-language daily Maariv reported Hamas and Islamic Jihad demands:
1. Remove tanks from western border
2. Allow farmers to farm
3. Allow airport to function
4. Release re-arrested prisoners
5. Open naval zone 10 nautical miles to fisherman
6. Lift the siege
As Noura Erakat said: “All these demands are life affirming.”

READ MORE:AIR STRIKE DESTROYS HOME FOR THE DISABLED
MOSQUES TARGETED BECAUSE ‘USED TO STORE ROCKETS’
THE TERRIBLE PRICE CHILDREN ARE PAYING FOR WAR WITH HAMAS

 

And why these Africans think it a good idea to seek asylum in Israel?

Didn’t these Africans learn that apartheid systems despise the black people? And other colors that do not come very close to White? The Superior race?

On an otherwise quiet Saturday evening two weeks ago, thousands of African refugees flooded the streets of Tel Aviv demanding freedom.

It was one of the biggest mobilizations of non-Jewish asylum seekers ever to take place in Israel, as men and women, mostly from Eritrea and Sudan, marched past stunned onlookers in the upmarket cafes and bars that have made Tel Aviv a popular holiday destination.

Eritrea and South Sudan relied on arms shipment from Israel to kill their own citizens in supposedly wars of independence, and now they want to believe that Israel was indeed a true friend and not another colonial power getting ready to plunder their natural resources…

Joseph Dana, a journalist based in Ramallah, published in The National this January 2, 2014

African refugees seeking asylum in Israel met with apathy

In the cool winter air, these African refugees appealed to an entire country to recognize their refugee status and stop viewing them as enemies.

The March for Freedom, as refugee advocates dubbed the protest in Tel Aviv, was part of a month-long campaign of non-violent protest in response to new government legislation authorizing their mass detention.

The legislation is compounded, or perhaps aided, by national apathy towards their plight. The apathy, however, is not born of simple xenophobia but something much deeper in Israel’s self-definition as a Jewish and democratic country.

African refugees seeking asylum in Israel met with apathy

The new year brings no respite for non-Jews fighting to be recognised and given their rights in the state of Israel. Joseph Dana reports on the struggle of African migrants in Tel Aviv and the Bedouin in the Negev threatened with expulsion.

Several thousand African asylum seekers who entered Israel illegally via Egypt staged a peaceful protest last month in Tel Aviv denouncing the refusal of the authorities to grant them refugee status, as well as holding several hundred in detention centres. Oren Ziv / AFP

An Israeli man shouts racist slogans at a group of  Sudanese refugees from the Darfur region as they arrive at a cultural centre in southern Tel Aviv last year. Marco Longari / AFPI

African asylum seekers at a protest last month in Tel Aviv protesting the refusal of the authorities to grant them refugee status. Oren Ziv / AFP

Police enter an internet cafe owned by Eritreans in Tel Aviv where an Israeli man allegedly stabbed three refugees. Police said they were initially treating the stabbings as a racist attack. Oren Ziv / AFP

Hundreds of Bedouin and activists protested and clashed with police in the northern Israeli city of Haifa in a ‘day of rage’ across Israel and Palestine during a demonstration in November against the Prawer Plan. Ahmad Gharabli / AFP

Israeli Bedouin flee as police fire tear gas during a protest in November against the Israeli government’s Prawer Plan, a redevelopment initiative that would uproot as many as 70,000 Bedouin from their villages and move them into new urban centres in the desert. Oren Ziv / Getty Images

African refugees seeking asylum in Israel met with apathy

As 2014 opens, Israel finds itself in the throes of an internal struggle over the identity of the state. The struggle can be summed up in one question: how can a country remain democratic when it favours the rights of one ethnic or religious group above all others?

Exacerbating this tension is the presence of non-Jewish citizens such as the Bedouin in the Negev desert and the non-Jewish refugees seeking asylum from Africa.

Despite the gravity of these issues, they have failed to penetrate Israel’s mainstream discourse, due in large part to the siege mentality that predicates conversations about Israel’s national security and position in the region.

Without mainstream debate, the government has been afforded room to facilitate aggressive “solutions” to the problems of non-Jews in Israel. The Bedouin, one of the most impoverished communities in Israel, are the target of an ambitious redevelopment scheme by the Israeli government that, opponents of the scheme say, will destroy the social fabric of the community and thrust them even deeper into poverty.

At the same time, African refugees are routinely rounded up and placed in massive detention centres without being charged with crimes.

The tension between democracy and ethnocracy – the inability to be at once a Jewish and a democratic state – is a major culprit in the unfolding crisis. Zionist leaders have long claimed that Israel would serve as a beacon to other nations.

As a western-style democracy on the edge of the Middle East, this imagined path for Israel has long been used for propaganda aimed at establishing the necessity of the state.

However, the reality of a state that privileges one set of citizens on religious and ethnic grounds belies the image the government has moulded with non-Jewish citizens, including African refugees and the Bedouin, at the sharp end.

In major Israeli cities such as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, thousands of African refugees languish on the margins of society. For many, Israel was a natural choice for asylum, but the current reality is that most African refugees lead a parlous existence, working illegal jobs at exploitative wages with the ever-present threat of expulsion.

Jean-Luc, an undocumented refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo, has lived in Tel Aviv for five years. Israel, he says, was a logical country to seek refuge in because of the Jewish state’s image as a country of refugees.

At a sidewalk cafe in south Tel Aviv, he recounted his experience walking across the Sinai and the feeling that he was following in the footsteps of the ancient Israelites reaching the Promised Land.

Despite his official status as an illegal migrant, Jean-Luc and other African migrants like him have created a strong community in Israel. Churches serve as the primary meeting place for the various diasporas, allowing them to recreate community institutions and maintain bonds that extend back to the homeland.

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Migrants fleeing Africa’s various conflicts began their journey into Israel with overland travel across Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. In this lawless, inhospitable corner of Egypt, Bedouin smugglers move people from Cairo to the Israeli border. Tales of rape, torture and random shooting are not uncommon.

If they get through the Sinai, they are faced with entering Israel illegally, which is becoming increasingly more difficult due to a state-of-the-art barrier, which is nearing completion.

After cross-border violence between Israeli soldiers and Egyptian militants last summer, Israel took the questionable step of entering Sinai in order to arrest Africans suspected of entering the country on foot. The Israeli army is increasing its military presence along the Sinai border with the explicit intention of ending African migration and the strategy appears to be working as the numbers of refugees entering Israel has plummeted.

However, many Africans have already made the journey. There are an estimated 50,000 illegal migrants of African origin living in Israel, with the large majority (more than 60 per cent) from Eritrea. African asylum seekers join the roughly 180,000 mostly Asian migrant workers, who have been in Israel since the early 2000’s.

Since the founding of the state of Israel seven decades ago, less than 200 non-Jews have received political asylum. Given the well-documented crimes and violence of the Eritrean regime, the global recognition rate for Eritrean asylum is 84 per cent, while for Sudanese it’s 64 per cent.

Israel’s relationship with the African continent is a complex one. In the early part of the 1950s, the Israeli state invested heavily in sub-Saharan Africa, attempting to win support at the United Nations from newly independent African countries.

The relationship was marked by Israeli export of agricultural knowledge, water technology and, in some cases, military training, in exchange for United Nations support.

But the relationship went sour when Israel threw its hat in with the apartheid regime in South Africa. By the late 1960s, Israel began an elaborate and secretive relationship with South Africa marked by military collusion. In exchange for military equipment, expertise and assistance in circumventing international boycotts of apartheid South Africa, Israel received huge amounts of raw materials and cash throughout the late 1970s and 1980s.

This secret relationship ended Israel’s warm relations with many African states, who lent diplomatic support to the Palestine Liberation Organization.

It is a relationship that Israel would prefer to forget. While the Palestinians championed Nelson Mandela as one of their own, the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and president Shimon Peres declined an invitation to Mandela’s memorial in Johannesburg.

For Israelis, the presence of Africans is, in a word, unsettling.

While the Israeli government tends to extol the virtues of Israel’s humanitarian projects around the world from Haiti to the Philippines, the humanitarian situation at home is very different.

The Israeli government labels all African refugees, regardless of their intentions, as simply “enemy infiltrators”. Curiously, the legal foundation for the classification is similar – in spirit and language – to legislation from 1954, which labelled Palestinian refugees and militants returning to their land inside of newly minted Israeli state as “enemy infiltrators”.

If the mainstream press is any guide, the perception is that African migrants have come to work, to use state services and freeload off the Israeli system. In extreme cases, Africans are spoken about in terms unheard of in contemporary western discourse.

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For example, at a rally against Africans last summer in Tel Aviv, Israeli parliamentarian Miri Regev went as far as to label Africans a “cancer” on the Israeli body. A day later, Regev apologised for her remarks, but not to Africans.

She apologised to Israeli cancer patients for comparing them to Africans. But this is not straightforward racism. The root of the problem is found in the tension of Israel’s self-definition. More than 60 years since its founding, Israel remains unsure of how its description of itself as a Jewish and democratic state can co-exist with the stated desires of Zionists and the creation of a sustainable exclusivist state in historic Palestine.

To experience this tension, all one has to do is take a stroll in southern Tel Aviv. Before it gained its image as the heartland for East Asian migrant workers – kind of like Tel Aviv’s Chinatown – the area was a low-income part of the city known for its low municipality taxes in the neighbourhoods of Hatikva and Neve Sha’anan.

Both minutes from the central bus station, the area has long been home to Mizrahi Israelis – Jews from Arab countries.

Feeling neglected by the government and pinched by the ever-increasing cost of living, these residents took to the streets last year to protest what they consider to be an African takeover of south Tel Aviv.

The city wants to turn south Tel Aviv into a kind of Chinatown,” says Tel Aviv-based journalist and urban planner Jesse Fox. “The residents in these areas are being squeezed by the government, and anti-African anger is an outlet for their anger.”

Since May of 2012, violent outbreaks of anti-African sentiment have been quietly percolating here. In July, an Israeli man entered an internet cafe and stabbed three Eritreans. The attacks have even spread to Jerusalem, where two apartments belonging to Sudanese migrants were firebombed in the dead of night over the summer.

The attacks have continued over the past year and, instead of deterring future attacks – those apprehended have been handed light sentences such as community service – Israel is busy crafting unorthodox solutions to the problem to the refugee crisis.

According to published reports in leading Israeli newspapers such as the liberal daily Haaretz, Israel is attempting to send refugees to third countries in Africa, like Uganda, in exchange for agricultural expertise and military hardware.

Some Israeli politicians are also seizing upon the frustrations of residents in Tel Aviv. Eli Yishai, a former interior minister and a member of the right-wing religious party Shas, has been a leading voice behind the new wave of xenophobia.

In an interview with the Israeli daily Maariv, Yishai noted that “most of the people [immigrants] coming here are Muslims who think the land doesn’t belong to us, to the white man … the infiltrators, along with the Palestinians, will quickly bring us to the end of the Zionist dream.”

Last year, the Israeli parliament passed the Prevention of Infiltration Law that allows the state to detain refugees for up to three years without trial, a provision which can be renewed indefinitely after the initial three-year detention.

With an eye to the legal precedent this law would entrench, Israel’s parliament amended the legislation to allow for the creation of a new “open” facility where African refugees can be held indefinitely. The parliamentary amendment shortens the period of incarceration without trial from three years to one and regulates the operation of the new facility, which will be open during the day and closed at night.

Detention can still be renewed indefinitely. Those conscripted to the detention facility will not be permitted to work and will have to register three times a day with authorities. Additionally, they will not be permitted to leave the site from 10 in the evening until the following morning.

Fundamentally, nothing but semantics changed with the amendment, as the government can still hold refugees indefinitely, but under less strict conditions. However, the pressure placed on the parliament to make these domestic changes demonstrates that not all Israelis are in support of such harsh measures to cope with the refugee issue.

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For the refugees who took to the streets of Tel Aviv two weeks ago, the effect of the law and the parliamentary amendment was one and the same: the denial of recognition of their refugee status. For Israeli liberals who want the government to find an equitable solution to the refugee crisis, the parliamentary amendment was an attempt to confirm the health of Israel’s democratic institutions.

Far from the concrete of Tel Aviv, Israel’s Bedouin community is the target of an Israeli government plan to redevelop their land in the name of progress. Under the Prawer Plan, the redevelopment plan named after one of its primary architects, Ehud Prawer, as many as 70,000 Bedouins would be uprooted from their villages and moved into new urban centres in the desert.

The stated goal of the plan is development of Israel’s Negev desert, which has long occupied a special place in the Zionist vision for Israel as the undeveloped land that should be conquered, modernised and used as the foundation of the Jewish state.

The Bedouin villages slated for demolition are currently unrecognised by the state and thus have no legal recourse to the electricity and water infrastructure. While Bedouins claim to have lived on the land they occupy for at least 1,000  years, the nascent Israeli state in the 1950s was slow to recognise their land claims.

The result was a set of legal loopholes resulting from Israel’s selective application of Ottoman land law that allows the government to expropriate land without recognised titles for state use.

In practice, both in Israel and in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, land has been expropriated from non-Jewish Israeli citizens and subjects of Israel’s military regime for state, or exclusively Jewish Israeli, use.

For those Palestinian citizens of Israel and hard-left Israelis against the Prawer Plan, it is seen in the same light as the creation of Indian reservations in the United States. Last month, Israeli parliamentarian Miri Regev confirmed the comparison.

When asked by left-leaning MP Hanna Swaid in a parliamentary debate if she wanted to transfer the entire population of Bedouin in the Negev, Regev replied, “yes, as the Americans did to the Indians.”

“95% of the land in the Negev is Israeli-owned state land,” says Thabet Abu Rass of Adalah, a Palestinian legal NGO operating in Israel. “We are supporting development, but we are against unwanted development. Bedouins occupy less than one per cent of the total land in the Negev. The Bedouin should be treated as equal citizens, as individuals with rights.”

The Prawer Plan sparked mass protests by Palestinian citizens of Israel as well as Bedouin and Israeli Jewish leftists throughout Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, prompting some commentators to forecast a new internal intifada on the horizon.

Photographs from the most recent mass mobilisation in late November, dubbed “the day of rage”, show heavily armed Israeli security forces firing tear gas at stone-throwing Bedouin protesters in the biggest clashes since the Second Intifada more than 13 years ago.

Mainstream Israeli media outlets carried the images, which looked as though they came from West Bank demonstrations against Israeli occupation. The message and how it was interpreted seems clear: a new front in Israel’s battle over what it means to be a Jewish and democratic state has opened.

Israeli officials have been quick to complain that Palestinians and segments of the Israeli left have tried to turn the Prawer Plan into a Palestinian issue and draw specific connections with the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. While there might be a morsel of truth to this, one cannot deny that the Bedouin, who are citizens of Israel, are protesting the Prawer Plan using rights-based language.

For them, like the Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation, the issue is not about facile distinctions such as land or development.

“This is a continuation of the legal system that was designed in the 1950s to handle non-Jewish citizens of Israel,” said Suhad Bishara, the director of the Bedouin unit at Adalah.

“But to imagine that, in 2013, the government can relocate and uproot people in this manner is breathtaking. I am afraid to say that this will set a dangerous new legal precedent in the state of Israel.”

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In the middle of December, members of the Israeli parliament were shocked to learn that Bedouins had not been consulted about the Prawer Plan. In a letter to the Israeli parliament regarding the plan, its co-architect Benny Begin wrote: “I have never said to anyone that the Bedouin accept my plan.”

He couldn’t have made such a claim, he explained, because he never even presented the Bedouin community with his plan, “and therefore I could not have heard their reactions to it.”

In light of Begin’s remarks, some of Israel’s liberal elite voiced strong opposition to the plan in the country’s newspapers. It was simply unacceptable, some argued in Israeli dailies, that Bedouins were not consulted about a plan that would drastically change their life. Far from demonstrating concern for the rights of the Bedouin, the debate appeared to assuage the uncomfortable reality that Israel’s democratic institutions were not serving all of the country’s citizens.

For David Sheen, an Israeli filmmaker and writer who focuses on the situation of African refugees, the rare soul-searching that came from Begin’s Prawer Plan remarks underlines another crucial dichotomy in Israeli society.

“The main difference that I see in Israeli society concerning the situation of non-Jewish residents is one between liberals and humanists,” Sheen said from his home in the southern Israeli city of Dimona.

Israeli liberals, [who] occupy an oversized role in the public posturing of the country, don’t actually want to do the right thing when it comes to non-Jews in Israel. They don’t actually want Israel to be full-fledged democracy; they want to feel like they are doing the right thing.

“They don’t want scapegoats for our problems, but they are perfectly happy to have Africans carted off to desert ghettos.

While the current Prawer Plan is no longer, a new one will almost inevitably take its place. When the law allowing the indefinite detention of African asylum seekers failed, the Israeli parliament simply amended it, with the same effect.

Founded on a system of discriminatory laws, Israel has perfected a form of military government that completely deprives the rights of non-Jews.

While this once affected native Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and Israel, today the legal foundations of the state are designed to ensure the privileges of Jewish Israelis above all others – even in Tel Aviv and its southern edge, where African migrants, most legitimately seeking asylum, reveal the lie of a country neither ready – nor interested – to be a fully democratic state.

Joseph Dana is a journalist based in Ramallah.

 

 

Ten Years to grow an Olive Tree: Israel destroyed 500,000 Palestinian trees since 2001…

Some 80,000 Palestinians families depend on the annual olive harvest for their livelihoods. This year alone, settlers, with the backing of the army, have destroyed or damaged thousands of olive trees, threatening both a major source of income and an age-old agricultural custom.

Dry shrubs and a mishmash of makeshift tarpaulin shelters cover parts of this parched valley in the South Hebron Hills.

The carcass of a car rests in the bottom of a cistern. According to Breaking the Silence, (an organization of veteran combatants that works to expose to the Israeli public to the realities of the occupation), the rusty car had been placed there by local settlers in order to contaminate collected rainwater with rust.

Alon Aviram published under “The war on the Palestinian olive harvest“:

This is the village of Susya al-Qadima. There is an absence of local infrastructure, as Israeli civil authorities repeatedly deny building permits, and the entire village has been issued pending demolition orders. Unlike the much younger neighboring Jewish settlement of Susya, it doesn’t get much more arid and inaccessible in the West Bank than here.

Last Saturday, Israeli Border Police declared an area belonging to Susya al-Qadima a closed military zone, effective immediately. An officer waved papers at us and stated that he was legally warranted to force everyone out of the valley. We noticed that the orders were outdated, unsigned, and dictated that only Israelis were prohibited from entering the specified site. This did not stop the temporary expulsion of Palestinian locals.

An activist beside me from Taayush, (an Israeli and Palestinian organization which uses non-violent direct action to try to end the occupation), was detained as he argued against the authority’s actions. He was handcuffed and marched to the army pillbox overlooking the valley.

The Border Police prohibited locals from farming their own land, manhandled us, and threatened anyone who remained in the area with arrest. Instead of harvesting, the families gathered outside the closed military zone, overlooking their unpicked olive grove from a distance. Just another day in the South Hebron Hills.

Year after year, West Bank farmers experience multiple types of restrictions and physical attacks.

In the first week of this year’s olive harvest, more than 870 olive trees were vandalized or destroyed by settlers, according to the United Nations. Hundreds more are reported to have since been damaged or destroyed across the West Bank.

A total of some 7,500 olive trees belonging to Palestinians were destroyed or damaged by settlers between January and mid October 2012, according to a recent report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Since 2001, half a million olive trees have reportedly been uprooted in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (West Bank). It takes an average of ten years before newly planted olive trees can begin producing fruit. Consequently, the ramifications of this widespread vandalism are felt long-term.

The olive industry in the Occupied Palestinian Territories supports 80,000 families, and accounts for 14% of the OPT economy’s agricultural income. The inability of farmers to cultivate or harvest their crops due to security-related pretexts or the physical destruction of trees undermines the fragile Palestinian economy and makes arable subsistence for communities less feasible.

With water shortages, restrictions to land access, and the expropriation of land by settlements and the separation barrier, total agricultural output has been seriously damaged. The proportion of GDP earned from agriculture fell from 28 percent to 5.6 percent in the past 20 years.

The Israeli army has rejected claims that it has neglected its legal obligation under international law as the occupying power to protect Palestinian civilians and property. It has repeatedly stated that it works to protect Palestinians and their crops during harvest.

“The army, the Civil Administration and other relevant organizations are taking every possible effort to secure the olive harvest,” Israeli army spokesman Eytan Buchman told The Media Line. Facts on the ground and in the courts suggest otherwise.

The Israeli NGO Yesh Din has reported that out of the 162 complaints they have lodged about settler attacks on Palestinian trees since 2005, only one suspect has been indicted. The recurrent high levels of violence directed at both Palestinian farmers and their crops is indicative of a pervasive culture of impunity; perpetrators have reason to believe that the Israeli state will not charge them.

The destruction of olive trees is not only economically burdensome for the West Bank economy and its people, but also represents an affront symbolically and culturally. The age-old Palestinian family tradition of harvesting olives and maintaining the trees for the next generations is desecrated annually.

While the olive tree has become a symbol of Palestinian steadfastness, the Israeli occupation has in turn become characterized by its destruction.

Later that same day, a Jeep full of soldiers waited alongside us as we picked olives in another grove not too far from Susya. Under the tree, a middle-aged man shook his head as he looked at the soldiers. He pointed at the olive trees and explained which ones are owned by and depended on by which families. “They planted so we can eat, and we must plant so they can eat,” he explained.

This old way of life is alien to the average city dweller but it is a vital lifeline for many people in the West Bank. Due to Israeli political policy, which seems intent on unofficially annexing Area C of the West Bank, in which Susya is located, this means of subsistence is fast disappearing.

Alon Aviram is graduate of Sussex University with a degree in international relations, and is currently an intern with +972 Magazine.

Related:
WATCH: Olive trees destroyed by settlers in South Hebron Hills
Photos: Three arrested as settlers, soldiers disrupt Hebron olive harvest

 

Israel vs. No. 2 Pencils

As countless students around the world took the SAT a week ago, Palestinians from the West Bank could not join their ranks. The October SAT exam was cancelled for students in the West Bank: The Israeli authorities held the exams sent by the College Board for weeks, not releasing the tests to AMIDEAST’s office in Ramallah.

AMIDEAST is the only testing agency in the West Bank, serving over three hundred thousand Palestinian students. Yet Israel controls the flow of goods and people in and out of the ever-shrinking Occupied Palestinian Territories. The Israeli occupation impacts nearly every aspect of Palestinian life. In particular, the military occupation, illegal under international law, violates the basic right to education for Palestinian youth.

This SAT cancellation has been devastating for high school seniors across the West Bank who were planning to apply to college in the United States—including those from the Ramallah Friends School. As alumni of the school, we are proud of its emphasis on global citizenship. RFS has a rich history in Palestine. It was established in 1869 by American Quakers and has since been certified by the International Baccalaureate Organization in Switzerland. About half of RFS students are Palestinian Muslims and the other half are Palestinian Christians—the latter are descendants of the very first Christian community. We have been nurtured by values of peace, nonviolence, social justice, and equality—principles to which many Palestinian families are deeply committed.

Many Palestinians go on to the best universities across the United States each year, including Harvard. Recently, Harvard College admitted three individuals from RFS alone in one year. After graduating from college, many RFS graduates and their peers from other Palestinian schools return to Palestine because of the strong connection we feel to our homeland. We are eager to use the knowledge and skills we have gained abroad to help build a brighter future for the coming generations.

The College Board has announced that it will attempt to schedule a make-up test for those students who were supposed to take the October SAT. AMIDEAST suggested in an email that the tests were held because of an “administrative delay.” According to Michael Madormo, English teacher and Director of the College Preparatory Academy at RFS, “the SAT cancellation has been disheartening since it seems that the Israelis had the exams for weeks and despite efforts by UPS, ETS [Educational Testing Service], and AMIDEAST, the tests were not passed through customs.”

Palestinians have suffered from such profound lack of sovereignty for decades now. This latest SAT episode is merely a symptom of systematic attacks on Palestinian education.  During the first Intifada, Palestinian educational institutions were deemed illegal by the Israeli occupation forces, and our parents were forced to hold clandestine classrooms in churches, mosques, and private homes. During the second Intifada, RFS was directly affected by the bombing of a next door police station by the Israeli military and students were unable to attend school due to Israeli blockades and curfews. One of the authors of this article, Lena Awwad, could not attend RFS for three years due to extensive Israeli checkpoints, which prevented her from reaching school. By depriving this year’s RFS seniors the ability to take the SAT, and more broadly hurting Palestinian education, Israel is jeopardizing the academic trajectories of future leaders.

The Israeli policy of bulldozing and destroying Palestinian schools continues unabated. Israeli settlers in the West Bank harass and violently abuse Palestinian schoolchildren—and the hundreds of humiliating checkpoints, Israeli settler-only roads, and the apartheid wall significantly impede freedom of movement for Palestinians and the right to access school. Additionally, Palestinian academic institutions such as Birzeit University find it tremendously difficult to secure basic resources and supplies for their students such as books from abroad. Yet Palestinians are an incredibly resilient people. Despite the assault we face on our right to education and on our livelihoods in general, Palestinians have among the highest literacy ratesin the Arab world and the region’s highest doctorates per capita.

It is daunting for us to explain the struggle of our families and nation under Israeli military occupation. It is difficult for others to imagine being prevented from taking an exam or, more importantly, to imagine having one’s right to education severely impinged upon because of a foreign occupying power. Palestinian voices are missing from mainstream discourse in the U.S. because of unconditional and blind support for Israel. Many Americans are conditioned to believe that Israeli policies are justified responses to security concerns. This raises the question, then, of what the SAT has to do with Israeli security. And this begs the additional question of when the right to basic human security will be recognized for Palestinians—a people that has been defenseless and stateless for far too long.

We hope that relentless Israeli policies enforced on our peers leading to the SAT cancellation will not impede their college application processes, and look forward to welcoming yet another group of Palestinians to Harvard in the fall.

Lena K. Awwad ’13 is a neurobiology concentrator in Winthrop House. Shatha I. Hussein ’14 is a government concentrator in Eliot House.

Israel soldiers break silence over army abuses of Palestinian children for decades

For the past eight years, Israel organization Breaking the Silence has been taking testimonies from former soldiers who witnessed or participated in human rights abuses in the occupied territories. Most of these accounts deal with “rough justice” administered to minors by soldiers on the ground, often without specific authorisation and without recourse to the military courts.

First Sergeant in Kfir Brigade, First Sergeant in Combat Engineering Corps, and many other Israeli soldiers gave 50 testimonies of how they maltreated and lynched Palestinian kids in Salfit, Ramallah, Hebron and many other towns in the occupied Palestinian territories, and for decades.

Donald MacIntyre from The Independent published on August 26, 2012 under “Ex-Israeli soldiers admit to appalling violence against Palestinian children…”

Hafez Rajabi was marked for life by his encounter with the men of the Israeli army’s Kfir Brigade five years ago this week. Sitting beneath the photograph of his late father, the slightly built 21-year-old, in jeans and trainers, points to the scar above his right eye where he was hit with the magazine of a soldier’s assault rifle after the patrol came for him at his grandmother’s house before 6am on 28 August 2007.

Rajabi lifts his black Boss T-shirt to show another scar running some three inches down his back from the left shoulder when he says he was violently pushed – twice – against a sharp point of the cast-iron balustrade beside the steps leading up to the front door.

And all that before he says he was dragged 300m to another house by a unit commander who threatened to kill him if he did not confess to throwing stones at troops, had started to beat him again, and at one point held a gun to his head. “He was so angry,” says Hafez. “I was certain that he was going to kill me.”

This is just one young man’s story, of course. Except that it is corroborated by one of the soldiers who came looking for him that morning.

One of 50 testimonies on the military’s treatment of children – published today by the veterans’ organisation Breaking the Silence – describes the same episode, if anything more luridly than Hafez does.

 A first sergeant testifies: “We had a commander, never mind his name, who was a bit on the edge. He beat the boy to a pulp, really knocked him around. This commander said: ‘Just wait, now we’re taking you.’ Showed him all kinds of potholes on the way, asked him: ‘Want to die? Want to die right here?’ and the kid goes: ‘No, no…’ He was taken into a building under construction. The commander took a stick, broke it on him, boom, boom, boom.

That commander had no mercy. Anyway the kid could no longer stand on his feet and was already crying. He couldn’t take it any more. He cried. The commander shouted: ‘Stand up!’ Tried to make him stand, but from so much beating he just couldn’t. The commander goes: ‘Don’t put on a show,’ and kicks him some more.”

Two months ago, a report from a team of British lawyers, headed by Sir Stephen Sedley and funded by the UK Foreign Office, accused Israel of serial breaches of international law in its military’s handling of children in custody. The report focused on the interrogation and formal detention of children brought before military courts – mainly for allegedly throwing stones.

Reading the testimonials, however, it’s hard not to recall the Sedley report’s shocked reference to the “belief, which was advanced to us by a military prosecutor, that every Palestinian child is a ‘potential terrorist'”.

The soldier puts it differently: “We were sort of indifferent. It becomes a kind of habit. Patrols with beatings happened on a daily basis. We were really going at it. It was enough for you to give us a look that we didn’t like, straight in the eye, and you’d be hit on the spot. We got to such a state and were so sick of being there.”

Some time ago, after he had testified to Breaking the Silence, we had interviewed this soldier. As he sat nervously one morning in a quiet Israeli beauty spot, an incongruous location he had chosen to ensure no one knew he was talking, he went through his recollections about the incident – and several others – once again.

His account does not match the Palestinian’s in every detail. (Hafez remembers a gun being pressed to his temple, for example, while the soldier recalls that the commander “actually stuck the gun barrel in the kid’s mouth. Literally”.)

But in every salient respect, the two accounts match. Both agree that Hafez, on the run after hearing that he was wanted, had slipped into his grandmother’s house before dawn. Hafez showed us the room in his grandmother’s house, the last on the left in the corridor leading to her room, where he had been hiding when the soldiers arrived. Sure enough, the soldier says: “We entered, began to trash the place. We found the boy behind the last door on the left. He was totally scared.”

Both Hafez – who has never read or heard the soldier’s account – and the soldier recall the commander forcing him at one point during his ordeal to throw a stone at them, and that the boy did so as feebly as possible. Then, in the soldier’s words “the commander said: ‘Of course you throw stones at a soldier.’ Boom, banged him up even more”.

Perhaps luckily for Hafez, the second uncompleted house is of his aunt, Fathia is within sight. Fathia Rajabi, 57, who told us how she had gone there after seeing the soldiers dragging a young man behind a wall, unaware that he was her nephew. “I was crying, ‘God forbids to beat him.’ He recognised my voice and yelled: ‘My aunt, my aunt.’ I tried to enter but the two soldiers pointed their guns at me and yelled rouh min houn (Arabic for ‘go away’).

Fathia resumed: “I began slapping my face and shouting at passers-by to come and help. Ten minutes later the soldiers left. I and my mother, my brother and neighbours went to the room. He was bleeding from his nose and head, and his back.”

The soldier, who like his comrades mistook Ms Rajabi for the boy’s mother, recalls: “The commander said to [her]: ‘Keep away!’ Came close, cocked his gun. She got scared. [He shouted:] ‘Anyone gets close, I kill him. Don’t annoy me. I’ll kill him. I have no mercy.’ He was really on the edge. Obviously [the boy] had been beaten up. Anyway, he told them: ‘Get the hell out of here!’ and all hell broke loose. His nose was bleeding. He had really been beaten to a pulp.”

Finally, Hafez’s brother Mousa, 23, a stone cutter who joined his aunt at the second house, recalls a second army jeep arriving and one soldier taking Hafez’s pulse, giving Mousa a bottle of water which he then poured over Hafez’s face and speaking to the commander in Hebrew.

“I understood he was protesting,” says Mousa. This was almost certainly the ‘sensitive’ medic whom the soldier describes as having “caught the commander and said: ‘Don’t touch him any more. That’s it.'” The commander goes: ‘What’s with you, gone leftie?’ And he said: ‘No, I don’t want to see such things being done. All you’re doing to this family is making them produce another suicide bomber. If I were a father and saw you doing this to my kid, I’d seek revenge that very moment.'”

In fact Hafez, did not turn into a “suicide bomber”. He has never even been in prison. Instead, the outcome has been more prosaic. He no longer has nightmares about his experience as he did in the first two months. But as a former mechanic, he is currently unemployed partly because there are few jobs outside construction sites and the Hebron quarries, where he says his injuries still prevent him from carrying heavy loads, and partly because he often does “not feel I want to work again”.

And Hafiz has not – so far – received any compensation, including the more than £1,100 he and Mousa had to spend on his medical treatment in the two years after he was taken.

The report by Sir Stephen Sedley’s team remarks that “as the United Kingdom has itself learned by recent experience in Iraq, the risk of abuse is inherent in any system of justice which depends on military force”. Moreover, Britain, unlike Israel, has no organisation like Breaking the Silence that can document, from the inside, the abuse of victims like Hafez Rajabi who never even make it to court.

But as the Sedley report also says, after drawing attention to the argument that every Palestinian is a “potential terrorist”: “Such a stance seems to us to be the starting point of a spiral of injustice, and one which only Israel, as the occupying power in the West Bank, can reverse.”

Breaking the silence: soldiers’ testimonies

First Sergeant, Kfir Brigade

Salfit 2009

“We took over a school and had to arrest anyone in the village who was between the ages of 17 and 50. When these detainees asked to go to the bathroom, and the soldiers took them there, they beat them to a pulp and cursed them for no reason, and there was nothing that would legitimise hitting them. An Arab was taken to the bathroom to piss, and a soldier slapped him, took him down to the ground while he was shackled and blindfolded. The guy wasn’t rude and did nothing to provoke any hatred or nerves. Just like that, because he is an Arab. He was about 15, hadn’t done a thing.

“In general people at the school were sitting for hours in the sun. They could get water once in a while, but let’s say someone asked for water five times, a soldier could come to him and slap him just like that. I saw many soldiers using their knees to hit them, just out of boredom. Because you’re standing around for 10 hours doing nothing, you’re bored, so you hit them. I know that at the bathroom, there was this ‘demons’ dance’ as it was called. Anyone who brought a Palestinian there – it was catastrophic. Not bleeding beatings – they stayed dry – but still beatings.”

First Sergeant, Combat Engineering Corps

Ramallah 2006-07

“There was this incident where a ‘straw widow’ was put up following a riot at Qalandiya on a Friday, in an abandoned house near the square. Soldiers got out with army clubs and beat people to a pulp. Finally the children who remained on the ground were arrested. The order was to run, make people fall to the ground. There was a dozen-man team, four soldiers lighting up the area. People were made to fall to the ground, and then the soldiers with the clubs would go over to them and beat them. A slow runner was beaten – that was the rule.

“We were told not to use it on people’s heads. I don’t remember where we were told to hit, but as soon as a person on the ground is beaten with such a club, it’s difficult to be particular.”

First Sergeant, Kfir Brigade

Hebron 2006-07

“We’d often provoke riots there. We’d be on patrol, walking in the village, bored, so we’d trash shops, find a detonator, beat someone to a pulp, you know how it is. Search, mess it all up. Say we’d want a riot? We’d go up to the windows of a mosque, smash the panes, throw in a stun grenade, make a big boom, then we’d get a riot.

“Every time we’d catch Arab kids.You catch him, push the gun against his body. He can’t make a move – he’s totally petrified. He only goes: ‘No, no, army.’ You can tell he’s petrified. He sees you’re mad, that you couldn’t care less about him and you’re hitting him really hard the whole time. And all those stones flying around. You grab him like this, you see? We were really mean and brutal. Only later did I begin to think about these things, that we’d lost all sense of mercy.”

Rank and unit unidentified in report

Hebron 2007-08

“One night, things were hopping in Idna village [a small town of 20,000 people, about 13km west of Hebron], so we were told there’s this wild riot, and we should get there fast. Suddenly we were showered with stones and didn’t know what was going on. Everyone stopped suddenly; the sergeant sees the company commander get out of the vehicle and joins him. We jump out without knowing what was going on – I was last.

Suddenly I see a shackled and blindfolded boy. The stoning stopped as soon as the company commander gets out of the car. He fired rubber ammo at the stone-throwers and hit this boy.

“At some point they talked about hitting his face with their knees. At that point I argued with them and said: ‘I swear to you, if a drop of his blood or a hair falls off his head, you won’t sleep for three nights. I’ll make you miserable.’

“They laughed at me for being a leftie. ‘If we don’t show them what’s what, they go back to doing this.’ I argued with them that the guy was shackled and couldn’t do anything. That he was being taken to the Shabak [security service] and we’d finished our job.”

Note: More on Breaking the Silence https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2011/09/05/israel-breaking-the-silence-movement-soldiers-serving-in-occupied-palestinian-territories/

Israel “Breaking the Silence” movement: Soldiers serving in occupied Palestinian territories

The collectivity Shovrim Shtika (Breaking the silence) was founded in 2004 by Israeli soldiers who were serving in Hebron and needed to expose the reality of occupation from a different point of view.

Testimonies of Israeli soldiers who served in the occupied Palestinian territories between 2000-2010 were gathered in the book “Occupation of the Territories” (of the West Bank and Gaza).  It is estimated that around 60,000 Israeli soldiers served in the occupied territories since the second Intifada of 2000; 750 soldiers were interviewed.

A soldier returned from the front, during the Gaza preemptive war of 2008, and told his family his story: “I was in my dug out and a few Palestinian kids, of no more than 12 year-old, threw stones on us. We had order to shoot if the distance is close to a stone throw: Kids might throw hand grenades for example.  I want to believe that I aimed at his feet, so that I could sleep at night.  My parents considered my actions as emanating from a hero and told my story at the synagogue.  I flipped since I was still in state of chock.

“Occupation of the Territories” is the most complete testimony of Israel modus operandi in the occupied territories.

Soldiers revealed that they shot on civilian Palestinians out of peer pressure; they executed Palestinian police officers in retaliation for an activity in a nearby checkpoint; orders were to approach a dying Palestinian and shoot through his mouth; scenes of rapes, vandalism, and stealing were common behaviors...

Avihai Stoler said: “It was not a casual horror show acted by Tsahal: It is the story of a generation of Israelis of our own generation.  The last three decades after the preemptive war of 1967, most of the debates focused on whether it was necessary to occupy or occupation was a monstrosity to avoid like the plague.

The irony is that nobody in Israel mention the word “occupation” anymore.  The State preferred to substitute the terms of Judea and Samaria, but never occupied territories.

For example, during a television emission someone said: “I can confirm that the increase of crime and violence in Israel is the cause of our occupation“.  Orders came to demand from the invited person to apologize for mentioning the term “occupation” and recant.

Since the second Intifada, control exercised over Palestinians is methodical, systematic, and “scientifically” applied:  It is as if all the ancient and modern control and humiliation tactics and methods have been synthesized and tried for efficiency rating.

For example, the military institution uses jargon such as:

1. “Prevention measures against terrorism” to mean propagating fear and terror amid the civilian population;

2. “separation zones” to mean appropriation and annexation;

3. “life fabric” of constructing special routes for the colonies to mean controlling all the aspect of Palestinian life.

Our mission was to perturb and harass the life of citizens. I think the formula is still applicable even today.  Destabilization activities in the occupied land were not due to negligence, but the main tool to administer the occupied land.  If a village produces activities, then it is time to creating insomnia in the village.

For example, Stoler stayed in the Hebron district for three years and witnessed events such as soldiers coming in mass to the center of the city and detonating bombs so that the “Palestinians remember that we are here“.

Loud manifestations of soldiers and colons accompanied with random ransacking of houses, installing checkpoints for several hours… “We were ordered to instill a feeling of persecution so that Palestinians never fell at ease...”

Note 1: Article inspired from a piece published in the French monthly “Le Monde Diplomatic” by Meron Rapoport

Note 2: In June 2014, 3 Israeli soldiers disappeared in Hebron. Nobody claimed anything, and nobody know if they were kidnapped.

And yet, Israel has been ransacking villages, detaining administratively over 300 Palestinians (many of them who have been released recently after a brokered deal) and many Palestinian youth killed by live bullet and many injured.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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