Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Palestine Liberation Organization

Ridiculous: Palestinian people have never been “Invented People”

Note: Re-edit of “Are Palestinians an “Invented People”? And how Israel was invented? 2012″

I received a developed feedback from a reader (a Jew and Israelite), probably from a collection of posts on Palestine, and I decided to publish it, with minor editing.
“The name “Palestine” has been around for a long time. “Peleset” is transliterated from Egyptian hieroglyphics “P-l-s-t”. Palestine is found in numerous Egyptian documents referring to a neighboring people or land starting from around 1150 BC.
The “Philistine” States existed on the coastal plain between Jaffa and south to Gaza. At a short period Philistine co-existed with the faked ancient Kingdoms of Judah, located above this coastal  line. This supposed Kingdom of Israel never contemplated or was able to reach the seashore.
In the 5th Century BC, Herodotus wrote of a “district of Syria, called Palestine”.
About a century later, Aristotle described the Dead Sea in Meteorology and located it in Palestine:
“Again if, as is fabled, there is a lake in Palestine, such that if you bind a man or beast and throw it in it, it floats and does not sink, this would bear out what we have said. They say that this lake is so bitter and salty that no fish live in it and that if you soak clothes in it and shake them it cleans them.”
This writer frequently engaged in debates with Zionists (a bad habit I need to kick out!) who often tend to seize on small ideas, such as “When did the Palestinians ever have their own country?”
In order to win such an argument I would have to reduce myself to their terms, and produce a map that shows a country and borders: “Palestinian Kingdom, 1587- 1702”, and then let them present their map of ancient Israel and Judah, and then get into a wrestling match, and the winner would claim the territory of their own. 
Or perhaps the issue would be better settled the way the New York colony won Staten Island from New Jersey: with a boat race.
If the goal is exclusivity, as it always has been with Zionism, then the only criterion in achieving it is winning, whether a war or a race.
 
There was no 17th century Palestinian Kingdom, or 18th or 19th. This region was dominated by the Ottoman empire. Various provinces in a larger Ottoman empire, ruled from Istanbul (previously known as Constantinople, and before that, Byzantium), much as there are today various American States governed from Washington.
Allied victory over Germany and Turkey in World War I and the League of Nations granted “mandate ”power to France and England to control the region. France over Syria and Lebanon and Mosul: France relinquished more land to Turkey than current land in Syria. England had mandated power over Palestine, Jordan and middle and southern Iraq.
Objectors will cry “Foul!”, as Americans are governed by Americans in Washington, whereas “Arabs” were governed by Turks, a different ethnic group with a different language. As if the USA is one ethnic group.
Fine. So I modify my comparison to the Spanish speaking Puerto Ricans governed from Washington, or the French speaking Quebecois governed from Ottawa. Neither the Puerto Ricans nor the French Canadians are being ethnically cleansed.
 
Prior to Zionism, there was no need for the Palestine to focus on Palestinian identity. They were citizens of the Ottoman Empire. When, during the mandate years the British made contradictory promises to the Zionists and the “Arabs” in the Arabian Peninsula.
The “Arabs” and the Palestinians expected, and had the right to expect, eventual self-rule, it was certainly not a foregone conclusion that there was going to be an independent Palestine.
Palestinians might well have been a part of a larger South Syria, or of a Greater Syria, and happily so.
They certainly would not have been ethnically cleansed under those circumstances.
The Palestinians have always had their own distinct “Arabic” dialect, and various other cultural attributes that set them apart from other regional Arabic cultures, but that was never particularly relevant.
Many various subcultures existed within the Ottoman Empire, and continued to exist within British and French mandates. Interestingly, during the years of the Yishuv, the pre-Israeli-statehood, Zionist community in Palestine and Jewish-Zionist settlers called themselves “Palestinians”.
In this way, the Zionists ironically affirmed it Palestinian identity that many of them wish now to deny.
In 1948, amid the massacres and military forced mass expulsions of the “nakba” (Arabic for catastrophe, the name commonly given to the events of 1948), as the State of “Israel” was recognized by the UN by a majority of a single vote, all of the Jews who had been calling themselves Palestinians became “Israelis”.
When the dust cleared after expelling the Palestinians from their towns and villages, the Palestinians  who remained within the green line became “Arab Israelis”, like it or not.
The designation “Palestinian” was more actively embraced beginning in 1964, with the forming of the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization), this out of necessity, because a people who had been ethnically cleansed, who were in a state of shock and humiliation, and who were desperate to recover and regain what was rightfully theirs, found it useful to rally around symbols representing themselves: A name and a flag are two of the basics.
Golda Meir famously said in 1969, during her tenure as Israeli prime minister;
“There were no such thing as Palestinians. When was there an independent Palestinian people with a Palestinian State? It was either southern Syria before the First World War, and then it was a Palestine including Jordan. It was not as though there was a Palestinian people in Palestine considering itself as a Palestinian people and we came and threw them out and took their country away from them. They did not exist.”
I would not have been able to show Golda a map that says “Kingdom of Palestine” or “Grand Duchy of Palestine” or any of dozens of designations that might have satisfied her. But this I can say for sure: There were human beings on that land, and they had been there all their lives, and their families for many generations before them down through the centuries.
And many Palestinians were actually descended from ancient Jews who later converted to Christianity and Islam, while Golda’s and the Ashkenazi Jews, were converting to Judaism in the Khazar Kingdom on the shores of the Caspian Sea.
 
Golda actually knew and the information, which has become available to the general public in the decades since, that: We Jews did come and throw them out and take their country away from them. It’s been thoroughly documented. It wasn’t when she made this statement in 1969.  
Golda was able to get away with it then.
But since an entire generation of Jewish-Israeli scholars, (and many others, but we Jews need to hear it from Jews first!) has carefully documented the ethnic cleansing of Palestine and presented the history that she personally knew, but actively hid and denied.
Golda and her colleagues concealed the truth from Jewish supporters of Israel all over the world, including my family, who taught me lies quite innocently, because they didn’t know any better.
 
In 1984 a book written by Joan Peters, entitled From Time Immemorial: The Origins of the Arab-Jewish Conflict over Palestine, was released to the world. The book claimed that the Palestinians were not resident in Palestine long-term, but were recent arrivals, having come to take advantage of economic opportunities in Palestine which were largely the result of Zionist Jewish settlement.
What a perfect way for us Zionist Jews to massage ourselves (I was one at the time!) and drive a wedge between ourselves and the growing awareness about Palestine in the world around us! So it really was a “land without people for a people without a land”?  And all those “Arabs” were immigrants!
And how ungrateful that the Palestinians hate us after all the opportunity we gave them! A wave of related claims surfaced among the Zionist community. An essay by Mark Twain describing his touring of a sparsely populated 19th century Palestine, was offered up into the mix of “Palestinian-denier” evidence.
Twain, whose writing was full of humorous and ironic opposition to human bullshit, was no doubt rolling in his grave over this. And claims were often heard that prominent Palestinians, from Edward Said to Yassir Arafat, were “not really Palestinian”.
 
Enter another book, in 2003, The Case for Israel by Alan Dershowitz. After 19 intervening years, Dershowitz borrowed heavily from same, Joan Peters’ book, giving the same statistics and making the same conclusions.
 
Enter yet another book, but this one very different: In Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History, published in 2005, Norman G. Finkelstein exposed Peters’s statistics as fraudulent, and with that revelation both her argument and that of Dershowitz, collapsed.
However, the damage is done among those who wish to ignore Finkelstein, and there are many! “Isn’t Finkelstein a holocaust denier?”, I’ve been asked. I respond: “No. His parents were holocaust survivors.”
Zionists have long used a familiar tactic against those who challenge their propaganda: Defamation. And so the lies persist.
This writer still has people putting From Time Immemorial in his face to prove their argument. They refuse to be embarrassed.
At the time of this writing (January 2012), the American public is being treated to an entertainment we get every four years: the run up to our presidential election. As the Democratic candidate will obviously be the incumbent, we are witnessing the Republican candidates claw at each other in their striving to win support for the Republican nomination.
Enter a billionaire Jewish American Zionist named Sheldon Adelson, casino magnate and the 8th wealthiest American alive, who along with his wife has donated $10 million to candidate Newt Gingrich. Adelson, whose holdings include the Israeli newspaper Israel HaYom (Israel Today) made some interesting statements while in Israel at an Israel Media Watch event in 2010:
“I am not Israeli. The uniform that I wore in the military, unfortunately, was not an Israeli uniform. It was an American uniform, although my wife was in the IDF and one of my daughters was in the IDF … our two little boys, one of whom will be bar mitzvahed tomorrow, hopefully he’ll come back– his hobby is shooting – and he’ll come back and be a sniper for the IDF.
 And:
“All we (the Adelson family) care about is being good Zionists, being good citizens of Israel, because even though I am not Israeli born, Israel is in my heart.
Does it sound like this guy has “divided loyalties?” Maybe like the Jewish/Evangelicals neocons in the Bush administration who got us to fight a proxy war for Israel in Iraq? No- you can’t say that! It would be “anti-Semitic”!
So is it any wonder that Newt Gingrich has made the utterly incorrect and profoundly idiotic statement that he has made about the Palestinians being an “invented” people? It has nothing to do with any education on the subject of the history, or any awareness of the current situation. 
It’s simply a question of wanting to win, and of reiterating nonsense he has heard in conversations with a very rich and generous supporter, nonsense which jives with the general impressions that Americans get from our Zionist-controlled media, and that no doubt circulate in Gingrich’s Republican circles.
Does anyone think Gingrich has read Finkelstein? I doubt it! And if he did, would he turn down $10 million in favor of truth and justice?
 
The people native to the land of Palestine were not “invented” as Rich Siegel said, and foolishly repeated by Newt Gingrich . It is indeed unfortunate that someone who is supposedly educated, and who has achieved position in life where he is poised to potentially become the next president of the United States, is putting forth such foolishness

This historical wrong-timing calamity mistake: Late Hafez Assad troops crosses Lebanon borders in 1976

This historical error of judgement by Syria late Hafez Assad in 1976: Lebanese are still paying its dear price, 50 years later.

The Lebanese “progressive” movement of political parties, allied with Palestine Liberation Organization, were massed in the town of Dhour Shouweir and ready to enter Bikfaya and descend on Jounieh (supposedly a stronghold of the Christian militias forces).

The US ambassador hurried to Damascus to convince Hafez to cross the borders and prevent the defeat of the Christian militias.

The US and Israel gave Syria the green light and dangled all kinds of opportunities for Assad to move quickly, a one-life opportunity to take control of a big chunk of Lebanon.

The “Leftist” alliance needed barely 3 weeks to end their plan of attack.

Hafez didn’t give them that reprieve and ordered them to stop the attack.

Surely they resisted the onslaught of the Syrian army and delayed for 6 months the Syrian army to deploy.

But the “Christian” militias were saved and given fresh opportunities to resume their traditional treacherous activities before and after Lebanon independence of begging the colonial powers and Israel to continue their international support and weapon transfer.

The “Christian” leaders have always been the confirmed stooges to the colonial powers, on the faked and untenable assumption that their survival is linked to the firm colonial support. Though previous experience and successive later ones proved to be wrong and the colonial powers didn’t give any weight for the minority Christian forces, militarily and politically

So, what convinced Hafez, this level headed and patient leader, to cross in the wrong timing?

It was easy to surmise that in critical periods, the clan and minority spirit overcome the general concept of unity of the nation.

A minority “Muslim” Alawi sect in power in Syria, coming to the rescue of a minority Maronite “christian” sect that was in power a year ago, before the start of Lebanon civil war.

Kind of minorities in power rescuing one another in critical junctions.

Obviously, Hafez was Not about to state this inclination and he proclaimed that the decision was taken months ahead of US demand to cross the border.

Israel agreed for the Syrian army to cross Lebanon borders with easy conditions: that the army stay clear from Lebanon southern borders with Israel (a “buffer zone” of about 40 km deep) and Not to transfer quality weapons that might constitute threat to Israel security.

Consequently, the Lebanese christian militias had an easy propaganda to resume their cooperation with Israel: Hafez was guaranteed a life-long power over Syria and is Not independent in his foreign decisions and affairs.

This historical decision to cross the border, 3 weeks before taming the christian militias, exacerbated the situation and let the civil war continue till 1992.

From 1976 til 1984, the Christian forces harassed militarily the Syrian troops in location they had a majority population: They forgot that it was the Syrian troops that saved them from oblivion.

The Lebanese civilians paid the heaviest of prices: mass transfer to newly created sectarian cantons.

Syrian controlled Lebanon til 2005 before withdrawing its troops. From 1991 and on, military activities by Christian forces against the Syrian stopped since the world community agreed on a peaceful transition, but street demonstrations flurried now and then.

There were No Victors in this protracted civil war and the militia “leaders” of all religious sects returned to power and they rule Lebanon til now.

Since 2001, Lebanon has been declining economically, financially, politically and administratively: transformed into an anomie system where every deputy owns a basic business in Lebanon and swap shares without paying a dime in the transactions.

No public institutions function normally: No public electricity, potable water, polluted rivers and sea, and one third of the families relying on public services paychecks.

Israel also committed a strategic historical mistake by crossing Lebanon borders in 1982, entered Beirut, and forced the PLO to vacate Lebanon.

Since then, Israel had no valid lame excuses of trespassing the borders to attack Palestinian incursions within its borders. Lebanon national movement to resist and kick out Israel occupation was constituted and Hezbollah was organized after Islamic Iran came to power in 1979.

Israel could no longer rely on the Palestinians refugees to destabilize Lebanon society.

Israel is currently on the defensive and unable to pre-empt any war on Lebanon, since its defeat in the 2006 war.

Wrong timing is accelerated by faulty and difformed idea-fix passions.

 

Israel demolishes Mosques in West Bank, one in south of Nablus

As peace talks deadline passes

Israel is conducting aggravated persecutions against Palestinians for daring to unite and form unity government.

KHIRBET AL-TAWEEL, West Bank

(Reuters) – Israeli forces demolished several structures, including a mosque, in a Palestinian village on Tuesday, the day a deadline for a deal in now-frozen peace talks expired.

A Reuters correspondent saw several hundred soldiers deployed in Khirbet al-Taweel, in the occupied West Bank, around daybreak.

They guarded 6 bulldozers that reduced to rubble buildings that were constructed without Israeli permits. Palestinians say such documents are nearly impossible to obtain.

Palestinians saw a link between the demolitions and the passing, without a peace deal, of the April 29 deadline set when the talks began in July. Israel has also drawn Palestinian anger by continuing to expand settlements on land they seek for a state.

Villagers said the stone mosque was built in 2008, and that soldiers removed prayer rugs and holy scriptures before tearing it down.

Bulldozers razed buildings included 3 one-storey family houses, animal shelters and a communal well. Locals said around 30 people were made homeless.

The Israeli army said in a statement that 8 structures, including a “mosque in use“, were demolished because they had been built illegally inside a dangerous live-fire military training zone.

“I went to make my dawn prayers at the mosque and found the army surrounding it,” said resident Abdel Fattah Maarouf, 63.

“Then they tore the mosque down. They want this area so they can build settlements in it.”

Speaking on local radio, Yasser Abed Rabbo, a top Palestinian official and (former  leader of Palestinian Popular democratic faction), said that “unless acts like this cease completely” there was no room to return to U.S.-sponsored peace talks with “this expansionist, racist occupier“.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suspended negotiations last week after Western-backed President Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestine Liberation Organization signed a unity dealt with Hamas of Gaza.

The pact envisages the formation of a government of non-political technocrats within 5 weeks and a Palestinian election 6 months later. Israel said such a government would effectively be backed by Hamas and could not be a peace partner.

(Writing by Noah Browning; Editing by Jeffrey Heller/Jeremy Gaunt)

A Palestinian man holds damaged loudspeakers belonging to a mosque after it was demolished by Israeli bulldozers in Khirbet Al-Taweel village near the West Bank City of Nablus April 29, 2014. REUTERS-Mohamad Torokman
Palestinians walk past a structure after it was demolished by Israeli bulldozers in Khirbet Al-Taweel village near the West Bank City of Nablus April 29, 2014. REUTERS-Mohamad Torokman
A Palestinian man inspects a structure after it was demolished by Israeli bulldozers in Khirbet Al-Taweel village near the West Bank City of Nablus April 29, 2014. REUTERS-Mohamad Torokman

1 of 4. A Palestinian man holds damaged loudspeakers belonging to a mosque after it was demolished by Israeli bulldozers in Khirbet Al-Taweel village near the West Bank City of Nablus April 29, 2014.

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.

 

 


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