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A New Capital? Palestinians say Abu Dis is No Substitute for East Jerusalem

By Jonathon Cook | The National | September 11, 2018

From the offputting concrete edifice that confronts a visitor to Abu Dis, the significance of this West Bank town – past and present – is not immediately obvious.

The eight metre-high grey slabs of Israel’s separation wall silently attest to a divided land and a quarter-century of a failed Middle East peace process.

The entrance to Abu Dis could not be more disconcerting, given reports that Donald Trump’s administration intends it to be the capital of a future Palestinian state, in place of Jerusalem.

The wall, and the security cameras lining the top of it, are the legacy of battles for control of Jerusalem’s borders. Sections of concrete remain charred black by fires residents set years ago in the forlorn hope of weakening the structure and bringing it down.

Before the wall was erected more than a decade ago, Abu Dis had a spectacular view across the valley to Jerusalem’s Old City and the iconic golden-topped Dome of the Rock, less than three kilometres away. It was a few minutes’ drive – or an hour’s hike – to Al Aqsa mosque, the third holiest site in Islam, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the reputed location of Jesus’s crucifixion.

Now, for many of the 13,000 inhabitants, Jerusalem might as well as be on another planet. They can no longer reach its holy places, markets, schools or hospitals.

Abu Dis, say its residents, is hemmed in on all sides – by Israel’s oppressive wall; by illegal Jewish settlements encroaching relentlessly on what is left of its lands; and by a large, Israeli-run landfill site that, according to experts, is a threat to human health.

The Palestinian authorities do not even control Abu Dis. The Israeli security cameras watch over it and armoured jeeps full of Israeli soldiers make forays at will into its crowded streets.

Perhaps fittingly, given the Palestinians’ current plight, Abu Dis feels more like it is being gradually turned into one wing of a dystopian open-air prison than a capital-in-waiting.

Abu Dis repackaged

Nonetheless, the town has been thrust into the spotlight. Rumours have intensified that US President Trump’s promised peace plan – what he terms the “deal of the century” – is nearing completion. His son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has been drafting it for more than a year.

Back in January Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian leader, confirmed for the first time that the White House was leaning on him to accept Abu Dis as his capital.

The issue has become highly charged for Palestinians since May, when Mr Trump overturned decades of diplomatic consensus by moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

That appeared to overturn a once widely shared assumption that Israel would be required to withdraw from East Jerusalem, which it occupied in 1967, and allow the Palestinians to declare it their capital.

Instead Mr Kushner and his team appear to believe they can repackage Abu Dis, just outside the city limits, as a substitute capital.

How plausible is it that the Palestinians can accept a ghettoised, anonymous community like Abu Dis for such a pivotal role in their nation-building project?

Symbolic power

Ghassan Khatib, a former Palestinian cabinet minister, said Mr Trump would find no takers among the Palestinian leadership.

“A Palestinian state without Jerusalem as its capital simply won’t work. It’s not credible,” he said. “It’s not just Jerusalem’s religious and historic significance. It also has strategic, economic and geographic importance to Palestinians.”

The people of Abu Dis appear to feel the same way, with many pointing to Jerusalem’s enormous symbolic power, as well as the potential role of international tourism in developing the Palestinian economy.

Abu Dis, however, is unlikely ever to attract visitors, even should it get a dramatic makeover.

The approach road, skirting the massive settlement of Maale Adumim, home to 40,000 Jews, is adorned with red signs warning that it is dangerous for Israelis to enter the area.

The section of wall at the entrance to Abu Dis alludes to the residents’ growing anger and frustration – not only with Israel but some of their own leaders.

Artists have spray-painted a giant image of Marwan Barghouti, a Palestinian resistance leader imprisoned by Israel for the past 16 years. It shows him lifting his handcuffed hands to make a V-for-victory sign.

But noticeably, next to him is a much smaller image of Mr Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, whose face has been painted out. He has come under mounting domestic criticism for maintaining Palestinian “security cooperation” with Israel’s occupation forces.

Resentment at such cooperation is felt especially keenly in Abu Dis. Large iron gates in the wall give the Israeli army ready access in and out of the town.

An orphaned town

Under the Oslo accords signed in the mid-1990s, all of Abu Dis was placed temporarily under Israeli military control, and most of it under Israel’s civil control also. That temporary status appears to have become permanent, leaving residents at the whim of hostile Israeli authorities who deny building permits and readily issue demolition orders.

The restrictions mean Abu Dis lacks most of the infrastructure one would associate with a city, let alone a capital.

Abdulwahab Sabbah, a local community activist, said: “We are now a small island of territory controlled by the Israeli army.

“Not only have we lost our schools, the hospitals we once used, our holy places, the job opportunities that the city offered. Families have been split apart too, unable to visit their relatives in Jerusalem.

“We have been orphaned. We have lost Jerusalem, our mother.”

A short drive into Abu Dis and the shell of a huge building comes into view, a reminder that the idea of an Abu Dis upgrade is not the Trump administration’s alone.

In fact, noted Mr Khatib, Israel began rebranding Abu Dis as a second “Al Quds” – the Holy City, the Arabic name for Jerusalem – in the late 1990s, after the Oslo agreement allowed Palestinian leaders to return to Gaza and limited parts of the West Bank.

The Palestinian leadership, desperate to get a foothold closer to the densely populated neighbourhoods of East Jerusalem, played along. They expected that Israel would eventually relinquish Abu Dis to full Palestinian control, allowing it to be annexed to East Jerusalem in a future peace deal.

View of al-Aqsa

In 1996 the Palestinians began work building a $4 million parliament on the side of Abu Dis closest to Jerusalem. The location was selected so that the office of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat would have a view of Al Aqsa.

Reports from that time talk of Abu Dis becoming a gateway, or “safe corridor”, for West Bank Palestinians to reach the mosque. One proposal was to build a tunnel between Abu Dis and the Old City.

However, with the outbreak of hostilities in 2000 – a Palestinian intifada – work on the parliament came to a halt. The interior was never finished, and there is now no view of Al Aqsa. The parliament too is sealed off from Jerusalem by the wall.

Since then Israel has barred the Palestinian Authority from having any role in East Jerusalem.

Khalil Erekat, a caretaker, holds the key to the unused parliament. Once visitors could inspect the building, including its glass-domed central chamber. Now, he said, only pigeons and the odd stray dog or snake ventured inside.

“No one comes any more,” he added. “The place has been forgotten.”

And that, it seems, is the way Palestinian officials would prefer it. With the Trump administration mooting the town as a substitute capital, the parliament is now an embarrassing white elephant.

Requests from The National to the Palestinian authorities to visit the building were rejected on the grounds that it was no longer structurally safe.

Eyesore ghetto

Evidence of how quickly Israel has transformed Abu Dis from a rural suburb of Jerusalem into an eyesore ghetto are evident in the homes around the parliament.

A once-palatial four-storey home next door would be more in place in war-ravaged Gaza than an impending capital. Its collapsed top floors sit precariously above the rest of the structure.

Mohammed Anati, a retired carpenter aged 64, is a tenant occupying the bottom floor with his wife and three sons.

He said the destruction was carried out by the Jerusalem municipality several years ago, apparently because the upper floors were built in violation of planning rules Israeli military authorities imposed after 1967.

Neighbours speculate that, in fact, Israel was more concerned that the top of the building provided views over the wall.

Mr Anati said that, paradoxically, the Jerusalem municipality treated this small neighbourhood next to the wall as within its jurisdiction. “We have to pay council taxes to Jerusalem even though we are cut off from the city and receive no services,” he said.

Asked whether he thought Abu Dis could be a Palestinian capital, Mr Anati scoffed. “Trump will offer us the worst deal of the century,” he said. “Jerusalem has to be the capital. There is nothing of Jerusalem here since Israel built the wall.”

Only pigeons still free

Nearby, Ghassan Abu Hillel’s two-storey home presses up against the grey slabs of concrete. He said cameras on the top of the wall monitored his and his neighbours’ activities around the clock.

His family moved to this house in 1967, when he was 14 years old, and shortly before Israel occupied Abu Dis, along with the rest of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Until the wall was constructed, he spent his time herding sheep and goats on the surrounding hills.

Now he has had to corral them into a corner of the wall. Their improvised pen is daubed with graffiti: “Take an axe to the prison wall. Escape.”

His herd of what was once more than 200 sheep is down to barely a dozen. The animals can no longer graze out on the hills, and he cannot afford the cost of feeding them.

Unlike Mr Abu Hillel and the sheep, his pigeons still enjoy their freedom. “They can fly over the wall and reach Jerusalem whenever they want,” he said.

His family owned much of the land surrounding Abu Dis before 1967, he added, but almost all of it had been taken by Israel – originally on the pretext that it was needed for military purposes.

Since then, Israel has built a series of Jewish settlements on the surrounding land, including Maale Adumim, Kfar Adumim and Kedar.

In the early 1980s it also opened a landfill site to cope with the region’s waste. In 2009 the United Nations warned that toxic fumes from waste-burning and leakage into the groundwater posed a threat to local inhabitants’ health.

A bluff from Israel

Some residents are actively finding ways to break out of the isolation imposed on Abu Dis by Israel.

Mr Sabbah is a founder of the Friendship Association, which encourages exchange programmes with European students, teachers and youth clubs. His most successful project is the twinning of Abu Dis with the London borough of Camden.

Mr Sabbah’s prominent political activities may be one reason why his home – along with the local mayor’s – was one of 10 invaded in the middle of the night on September 4.

The operation had the hallmarks of what former Israeli soldiers from the whistleblowing group Breaking the Silence have termed “establishing presence” – military training exercises designed to disrupt the lives of Palestinian communities and spread fear.

Mr Sabbah is sceptical that the Abu Dis proposal by the Trump administration has been made in good faith.

“It’s a bluff,” he said. “Israel has shown through all its actions that it does not want any Palestinian state – and that means no capital, even in Abu Dis.

“It is being offered only because Israel knows no Palestinian leader could ever accept it as a capital. And that way Israel can again blame us for being the ones to reject their version of ‘peace’.”

An oasis of normality

Amid its confinement, however, Abu Dis does have one asset – a university – that now attracts thousands of young Palestinians, though it adds to overcrowding.

The main campus of the Palestinian-run Al Quds university has been operating in Abu Dis since the 1980s.

Sitting on the crossroads between the Palestinian cities of Bethlehem and Nablus to the south, Jericho to the east, and Ramallah to the north, the Abu Dis campus has grown rapidly. It has profited from the fact that West Bank Palestinians cannot access another campus of Al Quds university in East Jerusalem.

The university is enclosed and security is tight. Inside, students enjoy spacious grounds with shaded gardens, a small oasis of normality where it is possible briefly to forget the situation outside.

Nonetheless, the university is not immune from Israeli military operations either. On September 5, soldiers shut down the campus and nearby schools, as they reportedly fired tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets at youths.

Omar Mahmoud, aged 23, a medical student from Nablus, raised his eyebrows at the suggestion that Abu Dis could serve as the Palestinians’ capital.

“It’s fully under Israeli control,” he said. “One side there is the wall and on the other side there are Israeli settlements. There are no services and it just gets more crowded by the year.”

He has shared an apartment with other students in Abu Dis for five years. He said: “To be honest, I can’t wait to get out of here.”

September 11, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Family of 9 homeless as Israel demolishes Hebron home at behest of settlers

MEMO | September 4, 2018

At approximately 4am yesterday, Israeli forces entered the Palestinian village of Khirbet Qawasis and demolished the home of Yousef Abu ‘Aram following protests by settlers from the nearby illegal Israeli settlement of Mitzpe Yaier.

The soldiers then stormed the village of Zuwaidin and destroyed several community bathrooms legally built on the side of a main road to the village. Soldiers prevented local activists from leaving their vehicles to film the demolition.

“We are sad and upset about what happened today,” says Yousef. “The Israeli authorities want to move us from our land and take it, but we will not move.”

Yousef had completed construction of the house on his land in the southern West Bank governorate of Hebron only a fortnight ago; a house he had hoped would protect his seven children from the coming winter.

“The situation is really bad,” says Yousef, who had intended to plough the land and nurture his trees in the South Hebron Hills, just a few metres from the settlers’ road to Mitzpe Yaier.

“They have left a family of seven children and their parents with no shelter, and now we sit under the trees and will be sleeping on the ground and covering ourselves with the sky.”

Israeli settlers routinely harassed Yousef during the construction of his concrete house and the Israeli Civil Administration, under pressure from the settlers, confiscated some of his building materials. The fate of the house was due to be determined at a court hearing scheduled for yesterday, however the Israeli Civil Administration unlawfully demolished the home ahead of the hearing.

Tariq Hathaleen, human rights activist in the occupied West Bank [File]

“It’s a new thing for settlers to go out to Palestinian houses to protest against the buildings,” says human rights activist, Tariq Hathaleen, who lives in the nearby village of Umm Al-Khair. “The military want to satisfy the settlers, so if there are building materials they confiscate them. If there’s a tent, they will dismantle it and take it away. If it’s a building, the Civil Administration will work very hard to demolish it.”

Hathaleen says that the rate of demolitions is increasing in the South Hebron Hills, where some 30 Palestinian villages can expect as many demolitions to occur in a month as they once did in a year.

“The number is increasing because of the settlers’ pressure. Not just them, but also because of settler NGOs, like Regavim, that works in the South Hebron Hills and across Palestine. They have people who drive cars around Palestinian villages and they also fly drones. Once they catch a Palestinian building a house, they inform the Civil Administration and the military.”

Regavim, a pro-settler not-for-profit that has received millions of shekels of public funds, is leading the legal battle to demolish the Palestinian village of Susiya.

According to B’Tselem, Israel demolished at least 1,342 Palestinian residential units in the West Bank between 2006 and 30 June 2018, displacing 6,024 people including at least 3,040 children. Israel has aggressively pursued a policy of demolishing Palestinian homes, schools, health facilities and other essential infrastructure since it began occupying the West Bank and East Jerusalem in 1967. These demolitions are a violation of The Hague and Fourth Geneva Conventions.

Israeli authorities deny most Palestinian applications for the necessary building permits in Israeli-controlled “Area C”, which accounts for around 60 per cent of the West Bank, forcing Palestinians to build without permission and live under constant threat of demolition.

Meanwhile, Jewish-only settlements like Mitzpe Yaier continue to expand on Palestinian land with the backing of the Israeli government. Around 600,000 Israelis live in over 250 settlements and outposts in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which forbids occupying powers from transferring their civilians to occupied territory. Settlements are usually built on stolen Palestinian land in “Area C”, where Khirbet Qawasis is located.

Israel has demarcated approximately 70 per cent of Area C for unlawful settlement expansion, as well as outposts, firing zones, state lands and national parks. This policy has fractured Palestinian land and created a hostile environment for Palestinians living nearby.

“Every day we hear of a new incident of settler violence happening,” says Hathaleen. “Two people from the South Hebron Hills were attacked this year. These people were attacked in less than one week.”

According to Hathaleen, both incidents involved settlers from the illegal Israeli outpost Havat Maon. His friend Sami was injured in one incident after settlers drove their motorcycle down a Palestinian road directly at him, running him over and breaking his leg in three places. The other incident involved a shepherd, who was walking with his flock when settlers attacked him with wooden sticks, leaving him with a broken leg and injuries to his head and hand. One of the settlers tried to shoot the shepherd several times but the gun did not fire. “This man was lucky to survive,” says Hathaleen, who adds that Palestinian shepherds are routinely attacked by Israeli settlers and soldiers if they aren’t accompanied by international volunteers. “Settlers don’t attack Palestinians in front of cameras.”

Many settlers carry government-issued weapons with them outside their homes. Settlers usually attack Palestinians in groups, and attacks often involve throwing stones at people and their property; firing live ammunition at or near Palestinians, homes and schools; the burning of trees and agricultural land; and vandalising vehicles and other property.

According to UN OCHA, an average of seven incidents of settler violence a month led to Palestinian casualties in the first four months of 2018. An average of 14 incidents a month caused property damage. Israeli human rights group Yesh Din reports that only 8.1 per cent of investigations into ideologically motivated offenses against Palestinians have led to an indictment since 2005, and 82 per cent of investigations were closed due to police failures.

READ ALSO:

Israel demolishes Palestinian school near Hebron

Report by Sawsan Bastawy@SawsanHefny

September 4, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , , , | 4 Comments

Israel celebrates 40 years of illegal settlement

MEMO | August 10, 2018

Two thousand Israelis yesterday gathered to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the illegal West Bank settlement of Shiloh, south of Nablus.

The celebration was attended by Israel’s Agriculture Minister, Uri Ariel, who is a member of the Religious-Zionist Jewish Home party. According to Arutz Sheva, the head of Israel’s “Binyamin Regional Council”, the group which oversees 42 of Israel’s illegal settlements and outposts in the occupied West Bank, also attended. Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, sent a letter of congratulations to the illegal settlers, claiming historic links between the Bible and the modern-day occupied Palestinian territory.

Uri Ariel has a long history of pro-settlement activity, previously serving as head of Beit El council, an illegal Israeli settlement situated north east of Ramallah. Ariel was also previously secretary general of the Yesha council.

In July it emerged that Uri Ariel had previously approved plans to demolish Khan Al-Ahmar, the Palestinian Bedouin village that has been slated for demolition. The plans, which were made in the late 1970s, proposed a “Jewish corridor” of illegal settlements be built on some 100,000 to 120,000 dunams (25,000 to 30,000 acres) of Palestinian land, including the villages of Hizme, Anata, Al-Azariya and Abu Dis on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Demolishing these villages would make way for expanding two illegal settlements – Ma’ale Adumim and Kfar Adumim – situated on the Jerusalem-Jericho road.

Shiloh was one of the first locations targeted for illegal Israeli settlement as early as 1974 by Gush Emunim, the orthodox right-wing settlement movement that rose to prominence in the wake of the 1973 War. Gush Emunim was later succeeded by the Yesha council that Uri Ariel previously affiliated with. During the Oslo Accords of the early 1990s, Shiloh was identified as an example of an area that should be returned to Palestinian control given the high density of Palestinians living in the area.

Illegal settlement in the West Bank has been pursued as a policy by the State of Israel since it occupied the territory in the 1967 Six Day War, along with the Gaza Strip, Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and the Sinai Peninsula. Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem states that, as of the end of 2015, there were 127 Israeli government-sanctioned settlements in the West Bank (not including occupied East Jerusalem and Hebron). When combined with 100 non-recognised outposts and 15 Israeli neighbourhoods inside the Jerusalem Municipality, these settlements are inhabited by approximately half a million illegal settlers.

August 10, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, War Crimes | , , , , | Leave a comment

Israel advances new law to allow residential construction in settler-run national park

MEMO | July 5, 2018

The Israeli parliament yesterday advanced a new law that would allow residential construction in the settler-run “City of David” national park in Silwan, occupied East Jerusalem.

According to Haaretz, the bill – which was backed by the Knesset’s Interior and Environment Committee in an 8-6 vote – will “enable housing to be erected in areas zoned for national parks within municipal boundaries”. The law must now be passed by the Knesset plenum in three votes.

The legislation is backed by the City of David Foundation, also known as Elad, a right-wing settler group that operates a so-called tourist site and archaeological dig in the heart of Silwan, a Palestinian neighbourhood of occupied East Jerusalem.

“If enacted,” Haaretz reports, “the law would enable homes to be built in the City of David national park.” Indeed, the paper adds, the Elad-run site “seems to be the only park in all of Israel that meets these [the draft bill’s] criteria for residential construction.”

According to the report, “the minutes of the committee’s previous meeting in January made it clear that Elad and its leader, David Beeri, are behind the bill, which is designed to promote construction at the site.”

Two Israeli groups opposed to settlements, Ir Amim and Emek Shaveh, “say the purpose of the bill is to reinstate a grandiose construction plan Elad had prepared, which had been shelved in the 1990s due to strong opposition,” Haaretz stated.

“Then Elad sought to build 200 housing units in the national park, and a plan to that effect was prepared, but shelved.”

“This isn’t the first time a monkey is being made of the law and common sense to advance the agenda of the Elad settlers,” said Aviv Tatarsky, a researcher with Ir Amim.

July 5, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Israeli Authorities Demolish Graves at Historic Palestinian Cemetery

Sputnik – June 11, 2018

Israeli authorities were caught on video excavating portions of the historic Bab al-Rahma cemetery next to Al-Aqsa mosque in occupied East Jerusalem. The cemetery is believed to contain the final resting places of two companions of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.

Video from June 5 shows about a dozen men, presumably members of Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority, at a work site in the Bab al-Rahma cemetery, through which Israel is planning to build a national park trail.

​The cemetery sits adjacent to Al-Aqsa mosque, the third holiest site in Islam. It is believed to hold the graves of Ubada ibn as-Samit and Shadad ibn Aus, two of the Prophet Muhammad’s companions. The cemetery has remained in use for more than 1,000 years.

Israel plans to seize about 40 percent of the cemetery for the national park under murky legal pretexts, Sputnik News recently reported. The plan has supposedly been in place since 2015, but Palestinian lawyers and conservation activists claim Israel is jumping the gun, as court cases over the fate of the cemetery remain pending.

Israeli authorities have recently resumed work on the park and have been seen digging up and marking graves, removing trees and fencing off areas to halt future burials. During the first weekend of June, several Palestinians were injured and arrested while protesting the desecration of the cemetery.

Outside of Jerusalem proper, in the West Bank, authorities are also clearing the way for a new settlement over the village of al-Khana Ahmar, a village mostly inhabited by Bedouin refugees who were expelled from southern Israel in 1952. In 2009, an Italian aid organization constructed a school there, but Israel ordered it to be demolished one month after it opened. After that, residents in neighboring Israeli settlements petitioned the courts to demolish the community, which has been slated for destruction since February 2010. In 2015, authorities confiscated solar panels that provided the only source of electricity to the village.

​Israel plans to relocate them yet again, this time north to a village called An-Nuway’imah, allowing Jewish settlers to claim the strategically significant spot. Building an Israeli settlement there would allow the government to connect the urban Israeli settlement of Ma’ale Adumim to Jerusalem and to control the gateway between northern and southern parts of the West Bank.

Abu Khamiss, a spokesman for the current Khan al-Ahmar villagers, told France 24 in 2014 that “the place where Israel wants us to ‘relocate’ would be like a prison for us. We’d be surrounded by Israeli settlements, a checkpoint and military training camps.”

The demolition is expected to begin any day now. Already, Israeli authorities have been accused of poisoning locals’ dogs under cover of night, robbing the villagers of the “faithful shepherds.”

Palestinian schoolchildren queue outside a tent where they attend lessons after Israeli troops confiscated caravans used as school classrooms, due to the lack of an Israeli-issued construction permit, in the West Bank village of Jubbet Al Dhib, near Bethlehem August 24, 2017

© REUTERS / Mussa Qawasma

For Palestinian children living in the West Bank, getting to school is an incredibly difficult task because of their scarcity and the difficulty of traveling due to the abundance of Israeli checkpoints that control movement around the territory and can take hours to pass through. Israel is slated to destroy the Palestinian school in al-Khana Ahmar as well, a move the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East said in 2011 “would effectively deny the children of the community their education and jeopardize their future.”

According to a January report from the the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, at least 61 schools in the West Bank and East Jerusalem have pending demolition orders or stop work orders against them from the Israeli government.

See Also:

Israel’s Demolishing of West Bank Schools May Amount to Int’l Crime – Watchdog

June 12, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, Video, War Crimes | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Simple Dreams

Al-Haq | May 24, 2018

May 24, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular, Video | , , , | 1 Comment

‘Partners in crime’: Israel settlers and soldiers attack Palestinians in West Bank village

MEMO | May 4, 2018

Israeli settlers attacked Palestinians in the West Bank village of ‘Einabus with the assistance of Israeli soldiers, according to a new report by human rights NGO B’Tselem.

On the morning of 6 March, two Palestinians – ‘Ahed Hamad and Yasser Hamad – went to the northern part of the village to pave a road intended to help residents access their farmland.

Shortly after they began work, some 30 Israeli settlers, “some of them masked”, arrived from the direction of the notorious Yitzhar settlement, located some four kilometres away.

“The settlers surrounded the bulldozer and began throwing stones at it, breaking the windshield,” stated B’Tselem. “The two men tried to escape, but some of the settlers pursued them, throwing stones and hitting them, until they managed to escape into the village.”

“The settlers who remained near the bulldozer threw stones and sticks at it and slashed its tyres.”

Some 50 village residents then went to protect their lands, after which “the settlers returned in larger numbers, accompanied by soldiers”.

Settlers and Palestinian residents “threw stones at each other”, while Israeli occupation forces “fired live bullets, rubber-coated metal bullets and teargas” at the Palestinians. Six Palestinians were injured, of whom four were taken to hospital.

According to B’Tselem: “This incident is not unusual: settlers have attacked Palestinians in the presence of soldiers hundreds of times, with the soldiers sometimes – as in the present case – joining in the assault.”

Israel effectively condones this conduct and reaps the benefits: the Palestinian residents, who know they face a possible attack with no protection at any given time, hold back from going to their farmland – to tend the land or graze flocks – and this makes it easier for the state to take over the land.

May 4, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , | 1 Comment

Ex-Israel chief military prosecutor lives in home built on privately-owned Palestinian land

MEMO | May 3, 2018

A former chief Israeli military prosecutor lives in a house in the West Bank settlement of Efrat “which was illegally constructed on private Palestinian land”, it has been revealed.

According to anti-occupation NGO Kerem Navot, Lieutenant Colonel Morris Hirsch served as the chief military prosecutor in the West Bank until about a year and a half ago, “and was responsible for legal proceedings against thousands of Palestinians each year”.

In addition, “since his release, he has been employed as a ‘military consultant’ by the right-wing organisation NGO Monitor”.

Kerem Navot has now revealed that Hirsch not only lives in a West Bank settlement, but his house is located on privately-owned Palestinian land.

An Israeli company says it bought the land “from some Arabs”, but have no evidence to prove the claim. This did not prevent Israeli authorities “from allowing the company to advance a master plan on site and to authorise the two illegally constructed housing units, in one of which Hirsch resides”.

Kerem Navot said it is “ironic” that an individual “who was responsible for the rotten prosecution system that Israel runs in the West Bank for several years, currently lives in a house that was built solely due to the very same rottenness that pervades the law enforcement system in its entirety”.

May 3, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , | 1 Comment

Israeli settlers attack Palestinian families, attempt to take over homes in Hebron

Ma’an – April 21, 2018

HEBRON – A group of Israeli settlers attacked a Palestinian family and attempted to take over two homes on Saturday in the southern occupied West Bank city of Hebron.

Local activist Aref Jaber told Ma’an that a group of Israeli settlers “attacked” two homes in the Old City and attempted to take them over, demanding that the families leave their homes.

The homes belonged to the Jaber and Kfeisheh families.

Jaber added that the same group of settlers had previously taken over a home belonging to the al-Zaatari family, near the Ibrahimi mosque in the Old City.

“These continuous threats by Israeli settlers are meant to terrify Palestinian families in order to force them to leave their homes.”

Located in the center of Hebron — one of the largest cities in the occupied West Bank — the Old City was divided into Palestinian and Israeli-controlled areas, known as H1 and H2, following the Ibrahimi Mosque massacre.

Some 6,500 Palestinians and 800 notoriously aggressive Israeli settlers live in the Old City of Hebron, according to a 2016 report by legal rights NGO BADIL.

Palestinian residents of the Old City face a large Israeli military presence on a daily basis, with at least 32 permanent and partial checkpoints set up at the entrances of many streets.

Additionally, Palestinians are not allowed to drive on al-Shuhada street, have had their homes and shops on the street welded shut, and in some areas of the Old City, are not permitted to walk on certain roads.

Meanwhile, Israeli settlers move freely on the street, drive cars, and carry machine guns.

April 22, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, War Crimes | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Over 130 Palestinian Sports Clubs Urge Adidas to End Sponsorship of Israel Football Association

IMEMC | March 22, 2018

Today, over 130 Palestinian football clubs and sports associations called on German sportswear giant Adidas to end its sponsorship of the Israel Football Association (IFA) over its inclusion of football clubs based in illegal Israeli settlements built on stolen Palestinian land.

In a letter addressed to Adidas CEO Kasper Rørsted, the Palestinian clubs cautioned that as “the main international sponsor of the IFA, Adidas is lending its brand to cover up and whitewash Israel’s human rights abuses” and give “international cover to Israel’s illegal settlements.”

The letter notes, according to the PNN, that “UN Security Council Resolution 2334 denounces Israeli settlements as flagrant violations of international law” and cautions the world’s second largest sportswear manufacturer that its sponsorship of the IFA makes it eligible for inclusion in the UN’s database of complicit companies doing business in or with Israel’s illegal settlements. The Palestinian clubs further warn that the company’s continued complicity with Israel’s settlement enterprise “may expose it to consumer-led boycott campaigns in the Arab world and globally.”

Former Palestinian national team player Mahmoud Sarsak said:

“Palestinian footballers are routinely forced to endure Israeli military raids and tear gas on our fields, denied by Israel our right to travel to matches, and have seen our teammates killed and our stadiums bombed.

I was jailed by the Israeli occupation for three years without charge or trial and released only after a 96-day hunger strike and worldwide outcry. Palestinian players run this risk everyday, as they are forced to go through Israeli military checkpoints. All the while, the IFA holds matches in illegal Israeli settlements, which rob us of our land, water, resources and livelihoods. Adidas’ sponsorship of the IFA prominently places its iconic logo on Israel’s abuses of our rights. The company must immediately cut ties with the IFA.”

Hind Awwad from the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) said:

“Adidas relies heavily on football league and club sponsorships to raise its brand awareness. However, being associated with the IFA as it tramples Palestinian rights will implicate Adidas in Israel’s egregious human rights violations, including illegal settlements, home demolitions, and land grabs throughout the occupied Palestinian territory.

In 2016, Adidas ended its sponsorship of the International Association of Athletics Federations, regarding the doping and corruption scandals plaguing the organization as a breach of the contract. Surely involvement in Israeli settlements built in violation of international law should be grounds for ending sponsorship of the IFA. Adidas has a responsibility to do the right thing and heed the call from Palestinian footballs clubs to end its sponsorship of the IFA.”

In their letter, the Palestinian clubs recall the “widespread protests, calls for boycott and government condemnations” of Adidas over sponsorship of Israel’s so-called Jerusalem Marathon, which illegally passes through occupied East Jerusalem. “Adidas rightly ended its sponsorship” of the marathon, they say, and must now withdraw sponsorship of the IFA “until it ends its involvement in Israel’s grave violations of international law and human rights abuses against Palestinians.”

Among the clubs signing the letter are the Jenin Athletic Club, the oldest Palestinian club in the West Bank, founded in 1940, as well as former Premier League champs Shabab Al-Khalil and top clubs Tulkarem and Shabab Alsamu.

PACBI has also launched a petition calling on Adidas to end its IFA sponsorship as “Palestinian children and their families are being pushed from their homes” to give way to the settlements hosting IFA league matches.

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) was initiated in 2004 to contribute to the struggle for Palestinian freedom, justice and equality.

PACBI advocates for the boycott of Israeli academic and cultural institutions, given their deep and persistent complicity in Israel’s denial of Palestinian rights as stipulated in international law.

March 22, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , | Leave a comment

Israel has accelerated its annexation of the West Bank from a slow creep to a run

By Jonathon Cook | The National | March 18, 2018

Seemingly unrelated events all point to a tectonic shift in which Israel has begun preparing the ground to annex the occupied Palestinian territories.

Last week, during an address to students in New York, Israel’s education minister Naftali Bennett publicly disavowed even the notion of a Palestinian state. “We are done with that,” he said. “They have a Palestinian state in Gaza.”

Later in Washington, Mr Bennett, who heads Israel’s settler movement, said Israel would manage the fallout from annexing the West Bank, just as it had with its annexation of the Syrian Golan in 1980.

International opposition would dissipate, he said. “After two months it fades away and 20 years later and 40 years later, [the territory is] still ours.”

Back home, Israel has proven such words are not hollow.

The parliament passed a law last month that brings three academic institutions, including Ariel University, all located in illegal West Bank settlements, under the authority of Israel’s Higher Education Council. Until now, they were overseen by a military body.

The move marks a symbolic and legal sea change. Israel has effectively expanded its civilian sovereignty into the West Bank. It is a covert but tangible first step towards annexation.

In a sign of how the idea of annexation is now entirely mainstream, Israeli university heads mutely accepted the change, even though it exposes them both to intensified action from the growing international boycott (BDS) movement and potentially to European sanctions on scientific co-operation.

Additional bills extending Israeli law to the settlements are in the pipeline. In fact, far-right justice minister Ayelet Shaked has insisted that those drafting new legislation indicate how it can also be applied in the West Bank.

According to Peace Now, she and Israeli law chiefs are devising new pretexts to seize Palestinian territory. She has called the separation between Israel and the occupied territories required by international law “an injustice that has lasted 50 years”.

After the higher education law passed, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his party Israel would “act intelligently” to extend unnoticed its sovereignty into the West Bank. “This is a process with historic consequences,” he said.

That accords with a vote by his Likud party’s central committee in December that unanimously backed annexation.

The government is already working on legislation to bring some West Bank settlements under Jerusalem municipal control – annexation via the back door. This month officials gave themselves additional powers to expel Palestinians from Jerusalem for “disloyalty”.

Yousef Jabareen, a Palestinian member of the Israeli parliament, warned that Israel had accelerated its annexation programme from “creeping to running”.

Notably, Mr Netanyahu has said the government’s plans are being co-ordinated with the Trump administration. It was a statement he later retracted under pressure.

But all evidence suggests that Washington is fully on board, so long as annexation is done by stealth.

The US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, a long-time donor to the settlements, told Israel’s Channel 10 TV recently: “The settlers aren’t going anywhere”. Settler leader Yaakov Katz, meanwhile, thanked Donald Trump for a dramatic surge in settlement growth over the past year. Figures show one in 10 Israeli Jews is now a settler. He called the White House team “people who really like us, love us”, adding that the settlers were “changing the map”.

The US is preparing to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May, not only pre-empting a final-status issue but tearing out the beating heart from a Palestinian state.

The thrust of US strategy is so well-known to Palestinian leaders – and in lockstep with Israel – that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is said to have refused to even look at the peace plan recently submitted to him.

Reports suggest it will award Israel all of Jerusalem as its capital. The Palestinians will be forced to accept outlying villages as their own capital, as well as a land “corridor” to let them pray at Al Aqsa and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

As the stronger side, Israel will be left to determine the fate of the settlements and its borders – a recipe for it to carry on with slow-motion annexation.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat has warned that Mr Trump’s “ultimate deal” will limit a Palestinian state to Gaza and scraps of the West Bank – much as Mr Bennett prophesied in New York.

Which explains why last week the White House hosted a meeting of European and Arab states to discuss the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

US officials have warned the Palestinian leadership, who stayed away, that a final deal will be settled over their heads if necessary. This time the US peace plan is not up for negotiation; it is primed for implementation.

With a Palestinian “state” effectively restricted to Gaza, the humanitarian catastrophe there – one the United Nations has warned will make the enclave uninhabitable in a few years – needs to be urgently addressed.

But the White House summit also sidelined the UN refugee agency UNRWA, which deals with Gaza’s humanitarian situation. The Israeli right hates UNRWA because its presence complicates annexation of the West Bank. And with Fatah and Hamas still at loggerheads, it alone serves to unify the West Bank and Gaza.

That is why the Trump administration recently cut US funding to UNRWA – the bulk of its budget. The White House’s implicit goal is to find a new means to manage Gaza’s misery.

What is needed now is someone to arm-twist the Palestinians. Mike Pompeo’s move from the CIA to State Department, Mr Trump may hope, will produce the strongman needed to bulldoze the Palestinians into submission.

March 19, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Palestine: The Camps and the Colonies

By Tim Anderson | American Herald Tribune | March 18, 2018

As Apartheid Israel proceeds with its ethnic cleansing of Palestine, financed and armed by the imperial powers, Palestine’s camps and Israel’s colonies (‘settlements’) remain the focus of much day to day colonial violence.

There is no need to waste too much time over the character of Israel. The Adalah group within Israel, for example, has documented more than 65 laws that make Israel a racist state (Adalah 2017). The most recent authoritative report from the UN, by US lawyers Richard Falk and Virginia Tilley (2017), makes it clear that Israel is indeed an ‘apartheid state’ and, therefore, a crime against humanity. They conclude that “the situation in Israel-Palestine constitutes an unmet obligation of the organized international community to resolve a conflict partially generated by its own actions”.

Meantime, people in the camps maintain a strong community spirit, which drives them to resist; while fanaticism and self-interest amongst the often immigrant new colonists encourages them to make regular forays destroying Palestinian crops and trees, and participate in seizures of nearby Palestinian lands.

The camps all date from the years after ‘The Catastrophe’ of 1948, when Jewish colonists got the green light to take over a large part of the ‘British Mandate’ of Palestine. Camp families are mostly those evicted from their lands by that violent event. The ‘colonies’, for their part, represent steady incursions into West Bank lands, after the 1967 war.

Israelis and Jewish populations today are encouraged to believe that, in the colonial manner, military conquest entitles Israel to Arab lands. The Zionist state illegally occupies Lebanese and Syrian, as well as Palestinian lands.

On a recent visit to Palestine’s West Bank I had the opportunity to observe the camps and the colonies. First of all, it is obvious that the Israeli state pretends to own it all. At the border Israeli officials do not even want to acknowledge that outsiders might be entering ‘Palestine’; nor do they want to hear that anyone might want to visit Ramallah, Nablus or Hebron, the major Palestinian cities. The mere mention of these names incurs suspicion. The Palestinian Authority itself – established in 1994 and recognised by at least 40 governments as a fledgling state – so far only functions as a municipality under Israeli control.

Zionist storm troops make regular raids on any part of the Palestinian territory, but particularly the camps, most often to make arrests, mostly of young men. Raids are also signals of Zionist power and are sometimes even used just as training exercises. Ali, a young man in Dehaisheh camp, now part of the southern suburbs of Bethlehem, told me the history of this camp.

Dehaisheh was created in 1950, to house the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians displaced by ‘1948 Israel’. They did not resettle, as they imagined they would be going back soon. They kept their house and land title deeds and keys. A UN agency later helped them build mostly 3 x 3 metre concrete box-dwellings. After the 1967 war, when Israeli troops took control of the West Bank, these camps were policed heavily. They were seen as hotbeds of resistance and were denied access to books (which they had to hide, and often bury) as well as to normal freedoms of movement and association.

The camp communities remain distinct to those of the municipality and the village. Ali says that for three generations they have had ‘no privacy and no property’. They had no individual titles to land. In their little box houses, which could only expand upwards, those next door could hear everything, from the bathroom to intimate moments.

Yet these conditions also meant that camp communities developed a strong collective spirit, with little crime and no voting, instead common consensus agreements. That spirit reinforced their resistance to the colonists. The presence of these strong values was confirmed to me by Naji and Amal, experienced Palestinian activists who do not live in the camps.

The camps contain various groups and political parties but, in Deheisheh, they kicked out religious sectarians, such as those of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Israelis were already skillfully fomenting divisions between Muslims, Christians, Druze and Bedouins.

Around 2016 a new Israeli commander (‘Captain Nidal’) began a wave of terror on the southern West Bank camps. He told them that instead of killing youth he would ‘teach them a lesson’ they would not forget. From there began a wave of ‘knee-capping’ (shooting in the knee, to cripple), which has been widely reported (Hamayel 2016; Hass 2016; Ashly 2017). ‘Ali’ told me that over 200 young men in the camps have been crippled in this way.

Dehaisheh youth began a library/reading group, but that came to an abrupt end, Ali says, when 22 year old Raed al Salhi was shot dead (Benoist 2017) and 9 others were imprisoned.

By contrast, there is a strange air of normality in Arab cities like Ramallah, in the middle of a countryside of fences, walls and storm troops. Unlike Jerusalem, which is a heavily policed ‘mixed’ zone, life in Ramallah goes on with little day to day Israeli presence. Yet they come at night. There has been widespread international coverage of the arrest of young Ahed Tamimi, and many of her family members in Ramallah; but such arrests are an everyday occurrence, affecting thousands of families.

Each major Palestinian city these days encompasses a few ‘camps’ and is surrounded by several colonies, mostly on the surrounding hill tops. The entire West Bank is fractured with these colonies and their no-go zones, roads and fences.

People hear a lot about the recent separation wall, which annexes all of what was supposed to be the ‘international city’ of Jerusalem to ‘1948 Israel’. Yet there are also dozens of walls throughout the West Bank, protecting the colonies, their associated army bases, linked lands and feeder roads. These colonies also line the Jordan River and indeed all perimeter areas of the West Bank. There are more kilometres of walls and fences protecting colonies throughout the West Bank than there are in the infamous separation wall.

An impressive sign on the outskirts of Ramallah declares, in Hebrew, Arabic and English: ‘This Road leads To Area ‘A’ Under the Palestinian Authority The Entrance For Israeli Citizens Is Forbidden, Dangerous To Your Lives And Is Against The Israeli Law’ [exact punctuation]. This is all a show of deference, of course.

Israeli troops make regular night-time raids on all Palestinian cities and towns. But special attention is paid to the camps. Troops raided Balata camp, just south of Nablus, the day before I visited Nablus. They killed a young local man in custody, the day I arrived in Jericho. Elsewhere the resistance sniped at Israeli troops, as the Zionist government announced plans to criminalise criticism of the Israeli military.

Ali says heavily armed Israeli troops invade Dehaisheh about two times every week. Nevertheless this camp remains strong and cohesive. When Israeli lawyers offered Ali some money to buy his family land in ‘1948 Israel’, he refused. It is not just the land, he said; it is about culture and identity.

Israel sometimes recognises historic Palestinian land title, but often does not. Land is seized in a variety of ways. It can be bought, compulsorily acquired for infrastructure such as separation walls and roads or simply taken without notice. Amal’s family land on the outskirts of Ramallah was seized without notice, for the perimeter land and fences of a new colony outside Ramallah. Land is also stolen through punitive demolitions. In a peculiarly colonial form of collective punishment, homes and lands are taken from the families of those convicted of resistance activities.

Ali wants international support, but resents western aid agencies which come to Palestine, pretending to help communities with their own ideas of ‘empowerment’. He recalls a young European woman preaching to experienced Palestinian mothers about ‘how to be a good mother’. Some of the women laughed, finding it hard to believe. ‘We are not helpless victims, we are people with a strong culture’, Ali said.

Ethnic cleansing has advanced substantially in recent decades, despite the withdrawal from Gaza and Israel’s 2006 defeat in south Lebanon at the hands of Hezbollah. To that extent some limits have been imposed, by the Resistance, on the expansion of ‘Greater Israel’. Israel would have annexed large parts of southern Lebanon by now, were it not for Hezbollah.

However the West Bank is under serious threat. In the late 1960s the plan of Yigal Allon called for annexation of 40% of the West Bank, and control of the Jordan River (Reinhart 2006: 51). Israel’s Labor Party broadly backed that idea, in contrast to the extreme right which has always wanted it all. Now Israel controls about 60% of the West Bank, choking it with walls and fences. The territory is almost cut in half. One consequence of this expanded ethnic cleansing has been to mark a definitive end to any ‘two state solution’.

Endnotes

Adalah (2017) ‘The Discriminatory Laws Database’, 25 September, online: https://www.adalah.org/en/content/view/7771

Ali (2018) interview with this writer at Dehaisheh camp (Bethlehem), Occupied Palestine, February [‘Ali’ is a pseudonym, to protect him from Israeli reprisals. The Israeli parliament is currently trying to pass a law which would criminalise criticism of the Zionist military. Already such criticism serves as grounds for interrogation and possible imprisonment.]

Amal (2018) interviews with this writer at Ramallah, Occupied Palestine, February

Ashly, Jacyln (2017) ‘How Israel is disabling Palestinian teenagers’, Al Jazeera, 21 September, online: https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2017/09/israel-disabling-palestinian-teenagers-170911085127509.html

Benoist, Chloé (2017) ‘Raed al-Salhi, another Palestinian life of promise snuffed out by Israel’, Middle East Eye, 8 September, online: http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/life-and-death-raed-young-palestinian-big-plans-861499040

Falk, Richard and Virginia Tilley (2017) Palestine – Israel Journal of Politics, Economics, and Culture; East Jerusalem Vol. 22, Issue 2/3, 191-196; also available here: https://counter-hegemonic-studies.net/israeli-apartheid/

Hamayel, Mohammad (2016) ‘Israeli military practice kneecapping against Palestinians’, Press TV, 29 August, online: http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2016/08/29/482147/Israeli-military-kneecapping-Palestinians

Hass, Amira (2016) ‘Is the IDF Conducting a Kneecapping Campaign in the West Bank?’, Haaretz, 27 August, online: https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/is-the-idf-conducting-a-kneecapping-campaign-in-the-west-bank-1.5429695

Naji (2018) interview with this writer at Bethlehem, Occupied Palestine, February

Reinhart, Tania (2006) The Road Map to Nowhere, Verso, London

Dr. Tim Anderson is a Senior Lecturer in Political Economy at the University of Sydney. He researches and writes on development, human rights and self-determination in the Asia-Pacific, Latin America and the Middle East. He has published dozens of articles and chapters in academic journals and books, as well as essays in a range of online journals. His work includes the areas of agriculture and food security, health systems, regional integration and international cooperation.

March 18, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | 1 Comment