The Israeli organization Zochrot has published testimonies from two men, Fayeq Abu Mana and Aaraf Muharab, on the Israeli ethnic cleansing of Lyd, my parents’ hometown. Israelis raping Palestinian women, wide-scale pillaging of Palestinian belongings for resale, mass murders of Palestinians, burning bodies of murdered, a massive Israeli military operation on the ground, military planes air bombing Lyd/Lod, Palestinians forced into prison and work camps. This is how Israel was created: raping, pillaging, and murdering.
From the testimony of Fayeq Abu Mana:
Lod was a quiet city without war. There were only Arabs here, Christians and Muslims, no Jews at all. Ben Shemen was the neighboring Jewish village and we were their friends. The war started and there were battles and they came to occupy Lod. The Jewish soldiers came from the direction of Ben Shemen dressed as Arabs like the Jordanian army. There was a war and there were casualties everywhere in Lod. In the room next to here there were many dead. There were many bodies. They were buried not far from here, near the main road. They buried them in a pit, I mean a jama’a [mass grave], everyone. Down in the city there is another mosque. It has a room that people entered, about 75 people. Someone from Lod took grenades and threw them at the army and killed a few soldiers. One of the soldiers, his brother was killed. He went to the mosque and killed all the people in that room.
We sat at home and they told us to burn the corpses. We burned them on the spot. They said to go to the mosque and take the corpses out from there. How take them out? The hands of the dead were very swollen. We couldn’t lift the corpses by hand, we brought bags and put the corpses on the bags and we lifted them onto a truck. We gathered everyone in the cemetery. Among them was one woman and two children. They said burn. We burned everyone.
I want those who stand with Israel to tell me how they justify this?
This man’s testimony matches the experience of my own family testimonies. My grandmother clinging to her citrus trees, refusing to leave her home and land that she and my grandfather had sacrificed so much and worked so hard for. Where was my grandmother to go with 11 children? She finally fled when the planes came and started bombing her hometown.
Aaraf Muharab relates the history in 1948 to the situation today, where Israel is still trying to force Palestinians out of Lyd, or at least limit the population’s growth. He says:
I want to connect it to what is happening today in local problems. Sometimes it seems to me that people experienced more than one Nakba. Two days ago a house in Lod belonging to a woman with nine children was destroyed and now she is discarded. We made a decision to rebuild the house but it’s not certain that they wouldn’t try to destroy it again. Most of the crimes are committed in fact because there is order. No suffering can be used as a reason to cause suffering to another, otherwise there is no end to it. I don’t think that Zionism is totally evil but you have to recognize the injustice here. Jews here think, that they are continuing the path of Herzl and they don’t see a difference between the expulsion of 1948 and expulsion today. You’re talking here about a demographic problem and that is the basis of racism.
I don’t want to use the word ‘discrimination’ because discrimination means, say, that 80% is apportioned to one side and 20% to the other. But here they give zero percent to the Arab side. It’s not discrimination but hostility. Planning in Lod is carried out purely in favor of the Jews and the Arab areas are an obstacle to the plans and nothing more.
I was 12 years old when for the first time in my life I became a citizen of a country – Australia. Before that, I was a stateless Palestinian refugee. There were two laments my parents always repeated whenever they spoke of their place of origin Palestine: if only we could have stayed and if only we could return.
According to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), in 2009 there were more than 10 million refugees around the world in need of assistance. This number does not include the7 million Palestinian refugees, who make up the world’s largest refugee population and whose question is the longest standing at the UN.
The plight of Palestinian refugees began 63 years ago when they were forced out of their homes or fled in fear as the Israeli state established itself on the ruins of their villages and their towns and it has not ended. The fact their issue still stands today, unresolved, is a poignant reminder that states and governments will continue to fail the weak and disenfranchised for the sake of political gains and posturing.
Refugees are by definition powerless, in many cases they are either stateless or have lost the protection of their nation state. They depend on international bodies to rescue them. There are two norms which guide the way the international community deals with refugee issues under the UNHCR, the first is to provide protection and assistance to refugees, and the second is to not return individuals to their own countries against their will or if they are at risk of persecution. However, various human rights conventions have over the years created additional norms that work as guidelines to resolve refugee issues by providing preventative measures to make it possible for people to remain on their land and rather than focusing on resettlement alone, safeguarding the rights of refugees to return to their homes if they choose to.
The concept of ‘preventive protection’ is especially important in the case of Palestinian refugees. The right of individuals and communities to remain in their own country is a principle which rejects the expulsion of ethnic communities or what is now known as ‘ethnic cleansing.’ The U.N. Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities has affirmed “the right of persons to remain in peace in their own homes, on their own lands and in their own countries”. The Turku/Abo Declaration on Minimum Humanitarian Standards also provides in Article 7: 1 “All persons have right to remain in peace in their homes and their places of residence.”
Also Article 7 states : “No person shall be compelled to leave their own country”.
Some in Israel may argue that because Palestinian refugees are not citizens of the state, they have no right to refer to the land from which they come from as ‘their country’. This claim is refuted by a litany of legal and human rights experts, most important of all, it is refuted by the UNHCR which defines the Palestinian population as the indigenous people of the land.
Palestinians who live under Israeli occupation face severe measures aimed to uproot them. One example is the practice of revoking residency rights: Hamoked, an Israeli NGO filed a freedom of information request from the Israeli government and found that over 140,000 Palestinians who left to study or work had their residency rights revoked between 1967 and 1994. They wrote in a statement “The mass withdrawal of residency rights from tens of thousands of West Bank residents, tantamount to permanent exile from their homeland, remains an illegitimate demographic policy and a grave violation of international law.”
Another example of an Israeli policy that is at the heart of the creation of the Palestinian refugee crisis is that of house demolition. An Israeli human rights group called the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) estimates at least 24,813 homes were demolished in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza since 1967, and that according to UN figures, during the 2009 Gaza bombing, more than 4,247 Palestinian homes were destroyed.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) reports that Israeli demolitions of Palestinian homes and other buildings reached a record high in March of this year. According to UNRWA, 76 buildings were demolished leading to the displacement of 158 people, including 64 children. UNRWA put the total number of displaced persons in the last six months alone to 333, including 175 children. UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness described the policy as “discrimination against one ethnic group”. These actions are illegal under article 53 of the 4th Geneva Convention and have been roundly criticized by the UN and other international groups, as well as by human rights organisations.
There are various other policies that drive Palestinians out of their homes, especially in Jerusalem where Palestinian neighborhoods are targeted for evictions to make way for Jewish settlers to move in. Once exiled, Palestinians are denied the right to ever return. This is also illegal under international humanitarian law.
The right to return voluntarily and in safety to one’s country of origin or nationality is a right enshrined in the rules of traditional international law and also in Human rights law. The U.N. Security Council has affirmed “the right of refugees and displaced persons to return to their homes”. The Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities has affirmed “the right of refugees and displaced persons to return, in safety and dignity, to their country of origin and or within it, to their place of origin or choice”.
This right is a pillar of international humanitarian law simply because it acknowledges that human beings form attachments to their native land. This is not a case that is unique to Palestinian refugees; it is one shared by indigenous people everywhere. Attachment to the land of one’s origin is a natural human condition and is precisely why these sentiments and emotional ties are protected.
The Palestinian refugee population will continue to grow because we in the international community have failed to find informed appropriate responses to their cries for help. We must intensify our efforts to prevent the increase of the number of Palestinian refugees that Israel uproots from the land and to help the indigenous people maintain their right to remain on the land. We also need to pressure Israel to make a repatriation offer to all the Palestinian refugees and to allow them to practice the right to return to their homes should they so choose. Failing to do so will set a negative precedent and can have an adverse consequence for the millions of other refugees.
Samah Sabawi is a Palestinian Australian writer, author of Journey to Peace in Palestine and public advocate of Australians for Palestine. She is a policy advisor for Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network. She took part in Refugee Week’s Hebron-Leichhardt Festival of Friendship in Sydney.
Israeli military forces have demolished 27 houses in the Jordan Valley in the occupied West Bank over the last two weeks. More than 140 Palestinians have been rendered homeless by the demolitions, while Israeli settlement expansion continues to threaten more land and restrict water access — affecting the vitality of dozens of Palestinian villages in the area.
According to the Jordan Valley Solidarity (JVS) campaign, an organization working with local communities, Israeli military and police jeeps and two bulldozers invaded the Bedouin community of al-Hadidya on 21 June. The bulldozers “demolished seven residential tents, 18 animal shelters and four kitchens, leaving 32 people homeless,” the group reports (“Big wave of demolitions in the Northern Jordan Valley,” 21 June 2011).
Al-Hadidya is located near two illegal Israeli settlements, which are built partly on the village’s farmland, according to JVS. The area is surrounded by three military bases and is a designated “closed military zone” by Israeli forces. JVS adds that there have been nearly a dozen demolitions of Palestinian homes in the village since 2007 “with many of the residents having had their homes destroyed multiple times.”
“After the demolition of al-Hadidya, the bulldozers drove on to nearby Khirbet Yerza, where they demolished two homes and two animal shelters. As a result ten people were left homeless,” JVS reports. The group filmed the demolition in al-Hadidya, which left the Daraghmeh family homeless, and uploaded the video to YouTube (“Khirbet Yerza Demolition,” 21 June 2011).
In the video, JVS reports that this is the second time in five months that the Daraghmeh family suffered a demolition of their home, and that the family was not given a demolition order before the destruction of their property on Tuesday.
Wave of home demolitions in the Jordan Valley
The demolitions in al-Hadidya and Khirbet Yerza come on the heels of a massive demolition inside the village of Fasayil on 14 June. The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) states in a report that more than 100 persons — including 64 children — were left homeless after Israeli forces destroyed 21 structures, including 18 homes (“Jordan Valley homes demolished, 103 left homeless,” 15 June 2011).
ICAHD co-director Itay Epshtain says in the report that the latest demolition of Fasayil “is part of an ongoing ethnic cleansing of the Jordan Valley … It is Israel’s overt policy to demolish Palestinians’ homes in the Jordan Valley to allow for land expropriation and for neighboring settlements to encroach on Palestinian land.”
Fasayil resident Khaled Abdallah Ali Ghazal added he was intent on rebuilding his destroyed home. “We have nowhere else to go, we will rebuild,” he says in the same report.
Meanwhile, on 20 June, demolition orders were handed out to Palestinian homeowners in Jiftlik, a village in the central Jordan Valley, months after Israeli officials came to “take pictures of the structures” that were listed for demolition, according to a JVS report (“3 new demolition orders in Jiftlik,” 20 June 2011).
The demolitions could happen on 11 July, JVS states, but the three families who were given the demolition orders are planning to challenge them in court.
“It happens very rarely that lawyers obtain a cancellation but sometimes they obtain a freeze. It enables people to stay in their house [until] the end of the freeze,” JVS reports. If the court rejects the appeal, 17 persons could be left homeless.
State of siege in Area C
These attacks on Palestinian villages are part of a wave of home demolitions across Area C in the West Bank. Under the Oslo accords signed by Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization in the mid-1990s, the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip were carved up into areas A, B and C, the last of which indicates full Israeli control.
Sixty percent of the West Bank is designated Area C, including East Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley. Under the Oslo regulations, Area C is administered and controlled by the Israeli government and its military, which has declared three-quarters of the land as “closed military zones” or nature reserves, and therefore “off-limits” to Palestinians. Approximately 40,000 Palestinians live in Area C.
At the same time, illegal Israeli settlements are continuing to expand on Palestinian land in the Jordan Valley for the benefit of Jewish settlers and Israeli agriculture, resulting in an increase in home demolitions and land appropriation.
The Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem reported recently that that there have already been more home demolitions in Area C in the first six months of 2011 than took place during all of 2010. The report states that since January more than 700 persons, including 341 children, were displaced after 103 homes were destroyed in Area C of the West Bank (“Sharp increase in West Bank home demolition,” 22 June 2011).
“This is a sharp increase in home demolitions in Area C,” B’Tselem states in the report. “In 2010, by comparison, the Civil Administration demolished 86 residential structures. In 2009, the figure was 28.”
Israeli settlement and resource theft in the Jordan Valley
In an in-depth report released by B’Tselem on Israeli policy in the Jordan Valley, released in May, the organization states that 9,400 Israeli settlers live in 37 different settlement colonies in the Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea areas, including seven outposts not yet authorized by Israeli officialdom.
The report also finds that Israel has used the “absentee property law” enacted during the initial years of ethnic cleansing and dispossession in the 1940s and the 1967 war to take over more Palestinian land and allocate it to the settlements after Palestinians were driven out of their homes by military force and prevented from returning (“Disposession and Exploitation: Israel’s policy in the Jordan Valley and Northern Dead Sea,” 12 May 2011 [PDF]).
By the end of 2010, B’Tselem reports, the Israeli government had approved funding for the construction of dozens of housing units in two settlement colonies in the northern Jordan Valley. The government says that Jewish settler population growth in the Jordan Valley has been “modest” and is therefore trying to encourage more settlers to move into the area by providing economic incentives.
Along with the promise of cheap land in the Jordan Valley, those settlers are given massive amounts of water from the underground springs, which used to provide Palestinian communities with irrigation for abundant crops and running water in their homes year-round. Those springs have run dry in the last few years as Israeli settlements divert water systems for their own use.
In a summary of the report, B’Tselem says that those settlers are “allocated 45 million [cubic meters] of water a year from [wells], from the Jordan River, from treated wastewater and from artificial water reservoirs. This is almost one-third the quantity of water accessible to the 2.5 million Palestinians living throughout the West Bank. This generous water supply has enabled settlements to develop intensive farming methods and to work the land all year round, with most of the produce being exported” (“New report exposes scope of Israel’s economic exploitation of Jordan Valley,” 12 May 2011).
Effect of Israel’s policies on women and children
In interviews held in person in late April, residents of two villages in the Jordan Valley told The Electronic Intifada that these types of widespread demolitions and water restriction policies have a catastrophic effect on the village communities — especially on women and children.
The Electronic Intifada spoke with several women involved with the Auja-Fasayil Joint Women’s Center, a community organization based in Auja village that is helping to support local women and families with trade skills training, education and economic opportunities since Israeli policies have severely impacted farmers’ livelihoods.
Currently home to approximately 5,300 residents, Auja was known for its abundant crops of produce and grains. Farmers exported watermelons, bananas, citrus fruit and wheat to other areas in Palestine and across the border to Jordan as well. The area was famously rich with natural water springs, which would cascade down hillsides like waterfalls.
Residents told The Electronic Intifada that people had developed sustainable ways of sharing water resources amongst the communities through an intricate system of canals — some which date back to the ancient Roman era.
“Our main source for livelihood was the water itself,” Suheir Nujum, 37, and a member of the center’s General Assembly, said. “But now, with the development of settlements, central areas of the canals have been confiscated. [Israel] has diverted our water with irrigation systems to the settlements.”
Just in the past several years, Nujum said, most of the village’s land has become dust-dry and barren, forcing villagers to sell their parcels of empty land to large-scale chicken farmers who sell poultry meat elsewhere in the West Bank. The income for families in the Jordan Valley, in places like Auja, Nujum explained, was dependent on community agriculture. In a dramatically short period of time, since Israel began diverting water to illegal settlements within the last decade, their lands have dried up and unemployment has skyrocketed.
“We now have two options,” Nujum said. “The younger population either works with the Palestinian Authority, or works in agricultural farms in a nearby settlement.” She pointed out the shocking indignity of the latter option, as this is the first generation of indigenous people in the area to not enjoy their own economic sustainability drawn from their own land but rather forced to work on land that has been taken over and appropriated by foreign settlers.
“Israel is not allowing us to survive as people in Auja. They’re taking it away from us,” she added.
“Now we can’t grow the grain to feed the sheep”
Nujum said that the effect on women under this type of stress has become significant. “Women in Auja and other communities in the Jordan Valley are very well-educated,” she told The Electronic Intifada. “Many of us have finished college. But there are limited opportunities for women to generate income for our families, so that is why we built this community center.”
“However we used to be entirely self-sufficient. We used to have livestock, and we would feed them with grain that we grew,” Nujum said. “Now, we can’t grow the grain to feed the sheep. We don’t have sheep to make dairy products. There used to be so many options for feeding your family. So the women — well-educated women — are at home without jobs. We used to work side-by-side with the men on the land.”
Umm Hamza, 47, the center’s public relations officer, told The Electronic Intifada that she was formerly a farmer, along with her husband. Now that the water has been diverted to the nearby settlement, both she and her husband have been unemployed. “If you look at it, it’s all intertwined,” she said. “Our children used to take care of the land. Now there’s nothing for them. The land used to bring the whole family together to take part in farming. We didn’t need anyone from the outside to help us.”
These days, she said, the community is dependent on finding menial labor jobs from outside the village to bring in income, and women must buy lower-quality, imported produce at high prices in order to feed their families.
Umm Hamza also said that water for drinking, bathing, cooking and irrigation now must be brought in by truck, and bought from the Israeli water company Mekorot. The company is known for its discriminatory water policies and regularly cuts off water supplies to Palestinians across the West Bank, especially in the Jordan Valley.
“The water is filthy,” Umm Hamza explained. “Our children are getting sick from drinking it. And sometimes we wait days or months without water in the village.”
Umm Hamza and Nujum said that villagers in Auja and Fasayil are forced to pay Mekorot for the distribution of unclean water, while just a short time ago, abundant water used to be clean enough to drink from the canals and agricultural crops were well-irrigated.
Nujum said that everything has dramatically changed in her village. As her family and community struggle against the next home demolition, settlement encroachment or water cut-off, she explained that working alongside other women in similar situations at the women’s center is empowering, but that something needs to be done about Israel’s devastating policies in the Jordan Valley before it’s too late.
“We used to live the best life, with what we had here — from our own sources. We’d love to go back to our tradition of working on our land. It was our main source of income, it was a way of life. It wasn’t too long ago that we had this life, and now it’s all gone.”
Nora Barrows-Friedman is an award-winning independent journalist, and is a staff writer and editor for The Electronic Intifada. She also writes for Inter Press Service, Al Jazeera, Truthout and other outlets, and regularly reports from Palestine.
Siham Rashid translated for this article.
Only a Referendum of the People Can Stop Them Now
The fight for Europe’s future is being waged in Athens and other Greek cities to resist financial demands that are the 21st century’s version of an outright military attack. The threat of bank overlordship is not the kind of economy-killing policy that affords opportunities for heroism in armed battle, to be sure. Destructive financial policies are more like an exercise in the banality of evil – in this case, the pro-creditor assumptions of the European Central Bank (ECB), EU and IMF (egged on by the U.S. Treasury).
As Vladimir Putin pointed out some years ago, the neoliberal reforms put in Boris Yeltsin’s hands by the Harvard Boys in the 1990s caused Russia to suffer lower birth rates, shortening life spans and emigration – the greatest loss in population growth since World War II. Capital flight is another consequence of financial austerity. The ECB’s proposed “solution” to Greece’s debt problem is thus self-defeating. It only buys time for the ECB to take on yet more Greek government debt, leaving all EU taxpayers to get the bill. It is to avoid this shift of bank losses onto taxpayers that Angela Merkel in Germany has insisted that private bondholders must absorb some of the loss resulting from their bad investments.
The bankers are trying to get a windfall by using the debt hammer to achieve what warfare did in times past. They are demanding privatization of public assets (on credit, with tax deductibility for interest so as to leave more cash flow to pay the bankers). This transfer of land, public utilities and interest as financial booty and tribute to creditor economies is what makes financial austerity like war in its effect.
Socrates said that ignorance must be the root of all evil, because no one deliberately sets out to be bad. But the economic “medicine” of driving debtors into poverty and forcing the selloff of their public domain has become socially accepted wisdom taught in today’s business schools. One would think that after fifty years of austerity programs and privatization selloffs to pay bad debts, the world has learned enough about causes and consequences.
The banking profession deliberately chooses to be ignorant. “Good accepted practice” is bolstered by Nobel Economics Prizes to provide a cloak of plausible deniability when markets “unexpectedly” are hollowed out and new investment slows as a result of financially bleeding economies, medieval-style while wealth is siphoned up to the top of the economic pyramid.
My friend David Kelley likes to cite Molly Ivins’ quip: “It’s hard to convince people that you are killing them for their own good.” The EU’s attempt to do this didn’t succeed in Iceland. And like the Icelanders, the Greek protesters have had their fill of neoliberal-learned ignorance that austerity, unemployment and shrinking markets are the path to prosperity, not deeper poverty. So we must ask what motivates central banks to promote tunnel-visioned managers who follow the orders and logic of a system that imposes needless suffering and waste – all to pursue the banal obsession that banks must not lose money?
One must conclude that the EU’s new central planners (isn’t that what Hayek said was the Road to Serfdom?) are acting as class warriors by demanding that all losses are to be suffered by economies imposing debt deflation and permitting creditors to grab assets. As if this won’t make the problem worse. This ECB hard line is backed by U.S. Treasury Secretary Geithner, evidently so that U.S. institutions not lose their bets on derivative plays they have written up.
This is a repeat of Geithner’s intervention to prevent Irish debt alleviation. The result is that we enter absurdist territory when the ECB and Treasury insist on “voluntary renegotiation” on the ground that some bank may have taken an AIG-type gamble in offering default insurance or bets that would make it lose so much money that yet another bailout would be necessary. It is as if financial gambling is economically necessary, not part of Las Vegas.
Why should this matter a drachma to the Greeks? It is an intra-European bank regulatory problem. Yet to sidestep it, the ECB is telling Greece to sell off its water and sewer rights, ports, islands and other infrastructure.
This veers on financial theater of the absurd. Of course some special interest always benefits from systemic absurdity, banal as it may be. Financial markets already have priced in the expectation that Greece will default in the end. It is only a question of when. Banks are using the time to take as much as they can and pass the losses onto the ECB, EU and IMF – “public” institutions that have more leverage than private creditors. So bankers become the sponsors of absurdity – and of the junk economics spouted so unthinkingly by the enforcers, cheerleaders for the banality of evil. It doesn’t really matter if their names are Trichet, Geithner or Papandreou. They are just kindred lumps on the vampire squid of creditor claims.
The Greek crowds demonstrating before Parliament in Syntagma Square are providing their counterpart to the “Arab spring.” But what really can they do, short of violence – as long as the police and military side with the government that itself is siding with foreign creditors?
The most effective tactic is to demand a national referendum on whether to accept the ECB’s terms for austerity, tax increases, public spending cutbacks and selloffs. This is how Iceland’s president stopped his country’s Social Democratic leadership from committing the economy to ruinous (and legally unnecessary) payments to Gordon Brown’s Labour Party demands and those of the Dutch for the Icesave and even the Kaupthing bailouts.
The only legal basis for demanding payment of the EU’s bailout of French and German banks – and U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner’s demand that debts be sacrosanct, not the lives of citizens – is public acceptance and acquiescence in such policy. Otherwise the imposition of debt may be treated simply as an act of financial warfare.
National economies have the right to defend themselves against such aggression. The crowd’s leaders can insist that in the absence of a referendum, they intend to elect a political slate committed to outright debt annulment. International law prohibits nations from treating their own nationals differently from foreigners, so all debts in specified categories would have to be annulled to create a Clean Slate. (The German Monetary Reform of 1947 imposed by the Allied Powers was the most successful Clean Slate in modern times. Freeing the German economy from debt [including reparations to Greece for the havoc of WW2, Editors] it became the basis of that nation’s economic miracle.)
This is not the first such proposal for Greece. Toward the end of the 3rd century BC, Sparta’s kings Agis and Cleomenes urged a debt cancellation, as did Nabis after them. Plutarch tells the story, and also explains the tragic flaw of this policy. Absentee owners who had borrowed to buy real estate backed the debt cancellation, gaining an enormous windfall.
This would be much more the case today than in times past, now that the great bulk of debt is mortgage debt. Imagine what a debt cancellation would do for the Donald Trumps of the economy – having acquired property on credit with minimum equity investment of their own, suddenly owing nothing to the banks! The aim of financial-fiscal reform should be to free the economy from financial overhead that is technologically unnecessary. To avoid giving a free lunch to absentee owners, a debt cancellation would have to go hand in hand with an economic rent tax. The public sector would receive the land’s rental value as its fiscal base.
This happens to have been the basic aim of 19th-century free market economists: tax land and nature – and natural monopolies – rather than taxing labor and capital goods. The aim was to keep for the public what nature and public infrastructure spending create. A century ago it was believed that monopolies such as the privatizers now set their eyes should be operated by the public sector; or, if left in public hands, their prices would be regulated to keep them in line with actual costs of production. Where private owners already have taken possession of land, mines or monopolies, the rental revenue from such ownership privileges would be fully taxed. This would include the financial privilege that banks enjoy in credit creation.
The way to lower costs is to lower “bad” taxes that add to the price of production, headed by taxes on labor and capital, sales taxes and value-added taxes. By contrast, rent taxes collect the economy’s “free lunch,” and thus leave less available to be pledged to banks to capitalize into debt service on higher loans. Shifting the Greek tax burden off labor onto property would reduce the supply price of labor, and also reduce the price of housing that is being bid up by bank credit.
A land tax shift was the primary reform proposal from the 18th and 19th century, from the Physiocrats and Adam Smith down through John Stuart Mill and America’s Progressive Era reformers. The aim was to free markets from the landed aristocracy’s hereditary rents stemming from the medieval Viking conquest. This would free economies from feudalism, bringing prices in line with socially necessary costs of production.
Every government has the right to levy taxes, as long as they do it uniformly to domestic property owners as well as to foreign owners. Short of re-nationalizing the land and infrastructure, fully taxing its economic rent (access payments for sites whose value is created by nature or by public improvements) would take back for the Greek authorities what creditors are trying to grab.
This classical threat of 19th century reformers is the response that the Greeks can make to the European Central Bank. They can remind the rest of the world that it was, after all, the ideal of free markets as expressed from Adam Smith through John Stuart Mill in England, and underlay U.S. public spending, regulatory agencies and tax policy during its period of take-off.
How strange (and sad) it is that Greece’s own ruling Socialist Party, whose leader heads the Second International, has rejected this centuries-old reform program. It is not Communism. It is not even inherently revolutionary, or at least was not at the time it was formulated. It is socialism of the reformist type that two centuries of classical political economy culminated in.
But it is the kind of free markets against which the ECB is fighting – backed by Treasury Secretary Geithner’s shrill exhortations from the United States. Obama says nothing, leaving it all to Wall Street bureaucrats to set national economic policy. Is this evil? Or is it just passive and indifferent? Does it make much of a difference as far as the end result is concerned?
To sum up, the aims of foreign financial aggression are the same as military conquest: land and the public domain. But nations have the right to tax their rental yield over and above a return to capital investment. Contrary to EU demands for “internal devaluation” (wage cuts) as a means of lowering the price of Greek labor to make it more competitive, reducing living standards is not the way to go. That reduces labor productivity while eroding the internal market, leading to a deteriorating spiral of economic shrinkage.
The need for a popular referendum
Every government has the right and indeed the political obligation to protect its prosperity and livelihood so as to keep its population at home rather than drive them abroad or drive them into a position of financial dependency on rentiers. At the heart of economic democracy is the principle that no sovereign nation is committed to relinquish its public domain or its taxing, and hence its economic prosperity and future livelihood, to foreigners or for that matter to a domestic financial class. This is why Iceland voted “No” in the debt referendum. Its economy is recovering.
Ireland voted “Yes” and now faces a new Great Emigration to rival that which followed the poverty and starvation driven emigrations of the mid-19th century. If Greece does not draw a line here, it will be a victory for financial and fiscal aggression imposing debt peonage.
Finance has become the 21st century’s preferred mode of warfare. Its aim is to appropriate the land and public infrastructure for its own power elites. Achieving this end financially, by imposing debt peonage on subject populations, avoids the sacrifice of life by the aggressor power – but only as long as subject debtor countries accept their burden voluntarily. If there is no referendum, the national economy cannot be held liable to pay the debts owed even to “senior” creditors: the IMF and ECB. Assets that are privatized at foreign bank insistence can be renationalized. And just as nations under military attack can sue, so Greece can sue for the devastation caused by austerity – the lost employment, lost output, lost population, capital flight.
The Greek economy will not end up with the proceeds of any ECB “bailout.” The banks will get the money. They would like to turn around and lend it out afresh to the buyers of the land, monopolies and other properties that Greece is being told to privatize. The user fees they collect (no doubt raising charges in the process, to cover the interest and pay themselves the usual salary jumps on privatized property) will be paid out as interest. Is this not like military tribute?
Margaret Thatcher used to say “There is no alternative.” But of course there is. Greece can simply opt out of this giveaway of assets and economic privilege to creditors.
What do Papandreou’s Socialist International colleagues have to say about current events in Greece? I suppose it is clear that the old Socialist International is dead, given the fact that Papandreou is its head, after all. What passes for socialism today is the diametric opposite of the reforms promoted under its name a century ago, in the era prior to World War I. Europe’s Social Democratic and Labour parties today have led the way in privatization, financializing their economies under conditions that have blocked the growth in living standards. The result promises to be an international political realignment.
Economic austerity cannot secure creditor claims in the end
On Thursday afternoon the Dow, having been down 230 points, leapt up at the close to lose “only” 60 points, on rumors that Greece had agreed to the IMF’s austerity plan. But what is “Greece”? Is it the cabinet alone? Certainly not yet the entire Parliament. Will there be a Parliamentary vote in opposition to the public interest, accepting austerity and privatization?
Only a referendum can commit the Greek government to repay new debts imposed under austerity. Only a referendum can prevent property that is privatized from being re-nationalized. Such a transfer is not legitimate under commonly accepted ideas of political and economic democracy. And in any event, a rent-tax can recapture for the Greek economy what the financial aggressors are trying to seize.
History is rife with instructive examples. Local oligarchies in the region invited Rome to attack Sparta, and it overthrew the kings and their successor Nabis (who may himself have been royal). The sequel is that Rome headed an oligarchic empire, using violence at home to murder democratic reformers such as the Gracchi brothers after 133 BC, plunging the republic into a century of civil war. The creditor interests ended up fully in control, and their own banal self-seeking plunged the Western half of the Roman Empire into an economic and social Dark Age.
Let’s hope the outcome is better this time around. There will indeed be fighting, but more in the financial and fiscal sphere than the overtly military one. The fight ultimately can be won only by understanding the corrosive dynamics of the “magic of compound interest” and the social need to subordinate creditor interests to those of the overall “real” economy. But to achieve this, economic theory itself needs to be brought out of its current post-classical “neoliberal” banality.
Michael Hudson is a former Wall Street economist. A Distinguished Research Professor at University of Missouri, Kansas City (UMKC), he is the author of many books, including Super Imperialism: The Economic Strategy of American Empire (new ed., Pluto Press, 2002) and Trade, Development and Foreign Debt: A History of Theories of Polarization v. Convergence in the World Economy. He can be reached via his website, email@example.com
Recently I often think I have entered a parallel universe. One where the illegal is legal; the victim the criminal; where Goliath defends himself from David.
Palestinians have of course endured this experience for the last 100 years, but in recent weeks Israel’s denunciations of the upcoming Gaza Flotilla, coming on the heels of its pious condemnation of the dead refugees on the Golan Heights have stretched incredulity to breaking point.
When Israel killed 14 unarmed refugees on Nakba Day and then out did itself in a repeat performance three weeks later, I expected the international community to speak out; to condemn, to reiterate the promise of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that everyone has the right to leave and return to their own country. I waited in vain.
Over the mumblings of the Quartet, and Ban Ki-moon’s pathetic call for “restraint,” the most strident voice of course was Israel’s. Outraged at having to kill unarmed civilians, the turkey shoot of refugees became transformed into a defence of Israeli sovereignty, the refugees aggressors – guilty of the egregious provocation of attempting to exercise their human rights.
Today, as the Gaza Flotilla approaches, the same transformation of unarmed activists into dangerous and irresponsible extremists is already well under way. Whilst Israel rehearses its naval operations, it also ratchets up its diplomatic and media offensive. Israel’s UN Ambassador, Ron Prosor, ominously repeats the language used before last year’s massacre; declaring the flotilla “a provocation” and calling upon the international community to do all in its power to prevent it.
Omitted of course from this discourse is the statement from the International Committee of the Red Cross that the blockade is illegal; or that from the former head of UNRWA in Gaza, John Ging, who last year called for activists to break the blockade. Indeed, forgotten already is the fact that Israel’s previous assault upon the Mavi Marmara was both illegal, and, according to the UN Human Rights Council report, murderous.
In other words, all the objective legal context necessary for the public and the international community to judge the actions of the activists and Israel is absent. Instead what is presented is a narrative of Israel under attack – indeed of Israel under siege. As Proser says, “The goal of the flotilla is not to give humanitarian aid but to provoke and aid a radical political agenda.”
That radical agenda being the enforcement of international and human rights law.
And of course Israel has had its successes. The Turkish charity IHH has pulled out of the flotilla, most probably under pressure from the Turkish government which in light of the Syrian uprising appears keen to repair relationships with Israel. Even more concerning however has been the pusillanimous appeal by Ban Ki-moon to Middle East states to do everything they can to prevent the flotilla (28/05/2011).
Similarly Israel’s champions in the media have not been slow to trumpet the statements of its politicians and smear the flotilla activists as far leftists, anti-Semites or terrorists; Israeli Admiral Eliezer Marom calling it “a hate flotilla whose only goals are to clash with IDF soldiers, create media provocation and to delegitimize the State of Israel.” (Ha’aretz, 19/06/2011)
Sadly, amongst all this media storm, what is being delegitimized here is not Israel but international law. To my knowledge, no country has issued a statement warning Israel not to attack it citizens, but several have warned their citizens not to take part in the flotilla and to avoid all travel to Gaza. This sends an ominous message. In the event of an Israeli attack it puts the blame for activist casualties on the activists themselves. In effect it is governments diplomatically washing their hands whilst giving Israel a readymade alibi to be as violent as it chooses. A phenomenon, which in the context of Gaza, is anything but unusual.
Yet International Humanitarian Law requires that all States both “respect and ensure respect” for the laws of war; the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that all States promote “universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms.” Therefore, when governments wash their hands of Gaza and of the activists who are seeking to aid its people, they are also washing their hands of these commitments.
So let’s see the Gaza Flotilla as the challenge it really is – it is not about whether a few ships can successfully reach Gaza; or about whether some tonnes of aid can be delivered; nor is it about the delegitimization of Israel – in fact, it is about the most fundamental issue of all – whether the rule of law or the rule of might should prevail. In the end its not just the siege of Gaza the flotilla activists are challenging, but the siege of international law. So yes I agree with Ron Proser, it is “a radical political agenda.”
Richard Irvine is a Belfast, Ireland-based writer.
In the 1999 flick “Wag the Dog,” White House aides try to build up anger against Albania by showing a phony Albanian young woman, played by Kirsten Dunst, trying to escaping rape at the hands of Albanian troops. The “rape” was faked and filmed in a studio, complete with a blue screen. The intent of the phony rape was to divert the public’s attention away from a presidential sex scandal and build up support for military action against Albania.
Fast forward to today and we see such “made in Hollywood” tactics being played out in Libya. On March 26th Eman al-Obeidy, said to be a Libyan law student and an aspirant journalist originally from Tobruk in rebel-held eastern Libya, entered the Rixos Hotel, the headquarters for the international media and claimed she was gang raped and kidnapped by Colonel Muammar Qaddafi’s military forces at a security checkpoint in Tripoli.
Al-Obeidy was bruised and scratched and said she entered the hotel by passing herself off as a member of the hotel staff. She claimed that the Libyan security forces recognized her accent from eastern Libya and then proceeded to rape her. Al-Obeidy, like the Kirsten Dunst character in “Wag the Dog,” became an instant media celebrity. For the anti-Qaddafi journalists nested at the Rixos, including those from The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, CNN, Reuters, and the Associated Press, Al-Obeidy immediately became a cause celebre with her tale of rape and being held in subhuman conditions by her assailants, who had the help of black African “mercenaries.” The black “mercenary tale would soon be debunked and Al-Obeidy’s rape story also began to lose credibility.
Libyan government officials opened a criminal case against Al-Obeidy’s accused attackers and Saadi Qaddafi, the son of the Libyan leader, met with her after she was released from detention in Tripoli. Al-Obeidy was permitted to conduct interviews with the CNN’s celebrity in-breed Anderson Cooper and National Public Radio, among others. Al-Obeidy was permitted to air her grievances against the Libyan government and parrot Libyan rebel propaganda talking points from Tripoli. Eventually, Al-Obeidy ended up in Tunisia, after she said she was spirited out of Tripoli disguised as a Berber with the help of a defecting Libyan army officer. Somehow, Al-Obeidy managed to evade detection by over 50 security checkpoints on the coastal highway from Tripoli to the Tunisian border and enter Tunisia without any difficulties. This reporter, even with a Libyan visa and a Libyan diplomatic escort, was held up for at least one hour while crossing back into Tunisia from Libya. The delays were prompted by the border bureaucracies of both Libyan and Tunisian immigration and customs officials.
On May 5th Al-Obeidy was whisked into Tunis, courtesy of French diplomats who met her at the border, and by May 11th she was in Doha, Qatar, courtesy of the Libyan rebel Transitional National Council. It was apparent that Al-Obeidy’s propaganda value for the rebels and the West still had some currency because she was in the same city where Al-Jazeera has its broadcast headquarters. However, something went wrong in Qatar, an ally of the Libyan rebel movement and the NATO military offensive against Libya. Al-Obeidy was suddenly deported by Qatar. Al-Obeidy resorted to the same histrionics she employed against Qaddafi’s government: she claimed she was beaten by Qatari authorities, although she withheld rape charges in Qatar’s case. The Qatar press denied Al-Obeidy’s charges that she was beaten in Doha. The Libyan authorities claimed that Al-Obeidy had a history of mental illness and the events in Qatar lend credence to Tripoli’s contention about Al-Obeidy’s truthfulness.
WMR learned in Tripoli that Qatari officials were not satisfied with Al-Obeidy’s story or that proffered by her rebel movement handlers. The Qataris deported Al-Obeidy back to Benghazi, however, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton intervened and sent a U.S. government aircraft to Europe to fly her to political asylum in the United States. The United States arranged for Al-Obeidy to travel to Malta and on to Vienna where she was picked up by State Department officials. CNN, which through its MI-6 intelligence-linked reporter Nic Robertson, followed Al-Obeidy’s case with a priority zeal, reporting that after being deported from Qatar she ended up, via Italy, in a refugee camp in Timisoara, Romania.
Just a few weeks after the Al-Obeidy debacle, the puff piece-entranced Western media found a new heroine in the Middle East. Amina Abdullah Araf al-Omari said she was a Syrian-American lesbian woman blogging from Syria. It was later reported that Amina had been kidnapped by Syrian security forces and was being held incommunicado. It was later revealed that “Amina” was, in reality, Tom MacMaster, a 40-year old PhD student at Edinburgh University in Scotland. “Amina” had posted “her” anti-Syrian government diatribes on the lesbian website LezGetReal run by executive Paula Brooks. “Amina’s” photograph was lifted from the Facebook page of a young Croatian woman living in London. Less than 24-hours after “Amina” was exposed as MacMaster, Brooks, who billed herself as a lesbian woman with three children living in the Washington DC area, was, in fact, Bill Graber, a 58-year old man from Ohio.
Cass Sunstein, President Obama’s “information czar,” is on the record favoring the use of Wikileaks and websites to spread disinformation and propaganda. In the case of Libya and Syria, Sunstein’s policies appear to be fully underway. It is also noteworthy to point out that General Keith Alexander, the director of the National Security Agency, who is also the commander of the U.S. Cyber-Command, which is tasked with carrying out offensive information warfare operations on the Internet, was an attendee at the recent Bilderberg meeting in St. Moritz, Switzerland. High on the agenda of the secretive and elite group was how to salvage what is becoming a quagmire in Libya. It is certain that Alexander offered up some enticing high-tech tricks to the gathering of the cabal that actually runs the world.
Previously published in the Wayne Madsen Report.
Copyright © 2011 WayneMadenReport.com
Wayne Madsen is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist and nationally-distributed columnist. He is the editor and publisher of the Wayne Madsen Report (subscription required).
Hundreds of protesters led by a bulldozer marched on the Wall in Bil’in today after the Israeli army began dismantling it earlier this week. Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad ank MK Mohammed Barakah participated in the demonstration.
Israeli soldiers open fire at a Palestinian protester driving a bulldozer at the site of the Wall in Bil’in today, shattering one of the vehicle’s windows and puncturing two of its tires. At the time of the shooting, the bulldozer was dismantling the gate in the section of the Wall that is being relocated by the army these days.
The 500 protesters, among them Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and Israeli MK Mohammed Barakah, marched from the village’s mosque towards the Wall. On arrival to the gate, and as the bulldozer advanced at the gate, the protesters were attacked with rubber-coated bullets, tear-gas and foul-smelling water shot by a water-cannon. Two people were lightly injured.
At a demonstration in the village of Nabi Saleh, also today, the army attacked a group of children dressed as clown who were running kites inside the village. In Deir Qaddis, the Nili settlement’s security guard shot live fire at protesters who flew the Palestinian flag from one of the houses being built in the new neighborhood of the settlement.
The Bil’in Popular Committee has declared today as the last day of the old path of the Barrier on village’s lands, and the beginning of the struggle against the new path. A mass demonstration will march on the Barrier to dismantle it and access the lands sequestered behind it.
On Tuesday morning this week, army bulldozers began work to dismantle the Wall in Bil’in. As early as 2007, after two years of weekly protests in the village and following a petition filed by the residents, Israeli high court declared the path of the Barrier illegal. The court ruled that the route was not devised according to security standards, but rather for the purpose of settlement expansion. Despite the high court’s ruling four more years of struggle had to elapse for the army to begin dismantlement. During these years two people were killed in the course of the weekly protests and many others injured.
Yet even according to the new path, sanctioned by the high court, 435 acres of village land will remain on the “Israeli” side of the Barrier.
On September 4th, 2007, the high court ordered the state to come up with an alternative path for the existing Barrier in Bil’in within a reasonable period of time. Despite the ruling, many months elapsed and no new plan was offered. On the May 29th, 2008, the residents of Bil’in filed a petition to hold the state in contempt of the court due to this delay. In response to the petition, the state offered an alternative path. However, the plan failed to comply with the high court’s ruling as the proffered path left a large area designed for settlement expansion on the “Israeli” side of the Barrier. The only difference between the two paths being that the latter offered to award 40 acres of land back to the residents.
A second petition claiming the alternative path not in accordance with court ruling was then filed. On August 3rd, 2008, the court declared that the first alternative path indeed fails to adhere to the ruling. The court ordered the state to come up with another alternative path.
On September 16th, 2008, the state offered a second alternative path. This path also left a large area designed for settlement expansion on the “Israeli” side, offering to return 100 acres of village land to the residents. A lawyer for the residents asked that the state be held in contempt of the court for violating a court ruling for the second time.
On December 15th, 2008, the high court ruled that the second alternative path was not in accordance with the original court ruling.
In April 2009 the state offered a third alternative path which left most of the area destined for settlement expansion on the “Palestinian” side of the Barrier, thereby returning to the village 150 acres of 490 acres annexed by the original path.
An Israeli military court decided Thursday to renew, for six more months, the administrative detention order against elected legislator, Mohammad At-Til, from Al Thaheriyya town, south of the southern West bank city of Hebron.
The Hamas’ Change and Reform Parliamentary Bloc, issued a press release denouncing the Israeli violation, and stated that this is the second time in a row that Israel renews the administrative detention order against the detained elected official.
It added that this decision reflects “the terrorist and criminal nature of the Zionist occupation and its ongoing violations against elected officials”.
The Bloc demanded that Arab and Islamic parliaments intervene and place real pressure on the international level to ensure the release of all elected legislators and officials.
At-Til was kidnapped by the army on December 28, 2010, and was placed in administrative detention without charges filed against him, for six month. The order was renewed for additional six months.
Throughout the years, especially after the first Intifada started in 1987, Israel detained thousands of Palestinians and placed them under administrative detention orders that were repeatedly renewed forcing hundreds of detainees behind bars for several years without even knowing what charges, if any, were brought against them under the so-called “security file” that even defense attorneys cannot view.
Following Hamas’ overwhelming victory in the 2006 legislative elections, Israel and the United States led a campaign to shun the new democratically elected cabinet. Israel then went on to arrest most of the elected legislators, mayors and officials in an attempt to force the collapse of the elected government.
United States Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, stated Thursday that solidarity ships heading to Gaza come in defiance of the Israeli Blockade on the coastal region, and are considered “unnecessary effort” that is likely to draw a reaction.
Clinton said that Israel approved this week the entry of construction materials to ensure the construction of houses in the coastal region.
She added that the U.S. Administration does not believe that flotillas are helpful, and claimed that such ships “entering Israeli water” are an act of provocation that draws a response from the Israelis “who will have to defend themselves”.
She failed to mention that solidarity ship heading to Gaza do not enter “Israeli territorial waters” as they sail to Gaza shores without having to enter any “Israeli waters”.
The Secretary of State avoided a direct reference to the Israeli attack against the Turkish Mavi Marmara Ship on May 31 2010, and the killing of nine Turkish activists, including a Turkish activist who carried U.S. citizenship.
The Freedom Flotilla 2 – Stay Human will be sailing to the besieged Gaza Strip in the coming few days to deliver urgently needed medical and humanitarian supplies.
In a statement by the US State Department on Wednesday, the US government mentioned last year’s attack and warned US citizens against participating in the flotilla, stating, “U.S. citizens are advised against traveling to Gaza by any means, including via sea.
Previous attempts to enter Gaza by sea have been stopped by Israeli naval vessels and resulted in the injury, death, arrest, and deportation of U.S. citizens. U.S. citizens participating in any effort to reach Gaza by sea should understand that they may face arrest, prosecution, and deportation by the Government of Israel.”
An investigation by the Turkish government of last year’s Israeli attack released its results two weeks ago, showing that the nine men killed were hit by 30 bullets fired at close range, with five of the men killed by shots to the head.
The 19-year old American citizen who was killed, Furqan Dogan, was killed by five bullets fired at a distance of 45 cm to his face, the back of his head, his leg and his back.
BETHLEHEM — Gaza’s medicine shortage has reached “alarming proportions,” international aid group Oxfam said Friday, quoting medical officials saying that drugs were held up at Israel’s crossing into Gaza.
Shifa Hospital in Gaza City has only five vials left to dissolve blood clots, the director of Gaza’s Central Drug Store told Oxfam, and kidney transplant patients are at risk of rejected organs due to drug shortages, a release from the international organization said.
“Can you imagine after going through all the hardships to find a compatible kidney, having it rejected because drugs did not enter Gaza?” Dr Mohammed Zamili said, noting that deliveries from the Ministry of Health in Ramallah were not meeting the huge shortage of medicines.
“There are also some trucks held up at the Kerem Shalom crossing and we don’t know exactly what’s in them,” he added.
Oxfam said that drug suppliers in the West Bank have held back medical supplies after the Ramallah government defaulted on payments, and the West Bank was also facing a shortage of 150 drugs.
In Gaza “a total of 178 types of medications and 123 types of medical supplies have already run out and others have reached their expiration date,” according to an Oxfam report last week.
A delivery of 20 truckloads of medicines from the Ramallah ministry in the past week was “nothing next to the enormous shortage we’re facing,” Zamili said.
On Saturday, the Ramallah Health Minister Fathi Abu Moghli accused the Hamas health ministry in Gaza of trying “to politicize the health sector” by blaming the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority for the shortages.
The Gaza ministry threatened to close hospitals and clinics “to disturb the reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah,” Abu Moghli said.
But the medical supply chief urged attention to those in need. “Patients are the ones suffering from all this,” Zamili said.
CAIRO — Egyptian activists are calling for a massive rally on July 8 to ‘save the revolution’ that toppled Hosni Mubarak, urging politicians to drop debates on the timing of elections and focus on the basics.
In a Facebook page entitled “The 2nd revolution of anger”, activists say the fundamental demands of the uprising — to protect rights and freedoms — have not been met, and have instead become clouded by arguments on whether elections or a constitution should come first.
“To all rival political forces debating which should come first, constitution or elections, save your revolution first, save Egypt first. Our revolution is collapsing,” the activists said on their Facebook page, which has garnered over 55,000 members. … Full article
The Beersheba Municipality has rejected a petition by the Bedouin Muslims of the Negev to pray in the old mosque of Beersheba.
The Baseiso mosque was built in 1906 by the Ottoman Empire and served as a mosque until 1950. At that time, the Israeli’s decided to convert the mosque into a Museum for Islamic and Israeli culture.
The High Court of Justice rejected a petition by the Negev’s Muslim Committee and the Bedouin Rights Protection Foundation to convert the museum into a mosque for local Muslims to use it for prayer.
The Municipality stated that, “an active mosque in the heart of a Jewish city is unthinkable.” They also claimed that converting the museum back into a mosque for public prayer would threaten the city’s security.
Beersheba Mayor Rubik Danilovich stated that, “the city views Muslim prayer as an element of incitement.”
There remains no active center for the five thousand Muslims remaining in Beersheba, which compels them to pray on the street, in other public places, or not at all.
Since 1948, the population of Beersheba is mostly Jewish with no significant Arab population.