Huwwara, Occupied Palestine – On Friday, July 25, an Israeli settler murdered a Palestinian teenager in the village of Huwwara, which lies approximately 10 km south of Nablus in the northern half of the West Bank. Two hours later, an Israeli sniper killed another Palestinian teenager in the same village.
After Friday prayers at the mosque in Huwwara, villagers began marching in solidarity with the victims of the Gaza massacre. The protest included many children, some of whom were carrying signs in support of their Gazan brothers and sisters. Two Israeli military jeeps were along the route, and some of the soldiers were taking pictures of the peaceful protest. As the procession wound its way back to the mosque, a settler suddenly raced alongside and slammed on the brakes.
“He was about a meter away from the kids and just started firing out the window of his car,” stated a witness. “It was clear he was trying to kill people.” The settler managed to shoot four people before fleeing the scene. 19-year-old Khalid Owda died from a gunshot wound to his abdomen, while Tarik Dmadi was shot in the chest and remains in critical condition. Hassan Dmadi was shot in the hip, while Jihad Owda was shot in the hand and has been released from the hospital.
“Had he had more ammunition, he would have kept on shooting and killed more people,” said a witness. “Killing Palestinians is no big deal for the settlers, because there is no punishment. And what about the soldiers? They were just standing there, doing nothing.”
Tragedy struck the town of Huwwara a second time two hours later, when an Israeli sniper gunned down 18-year-old Tayeb Shohaada, who, like Khalid Owda, was a student at an-Najah University in Nablus. Israeli forces were shooting tear gas at Tayeb and roughly ten other young men, who were throwing stones in their direction from a distance of approximately 100 meters. According to Red Crescent medic, Ahmed Owda, a female Israeli sniper shot Tayeb in the face. Her sergeant then congratulated her and clapped her on the shoulder. Ahmed subsequently attempted to reach Tayeb but was unable to do so because of Israeli fire. Tayeb was eventually taken to Rafidia hospital in Nablus, where he was declared clinically dead.
The attending surgeon revealed that the damage to Tayeb’s brain was consistent with that caused by expanding bullets. Expanding bullets are banned according to the 1899 Hague Convention, but Israel has frequently been accused of employing them against Palestinians.
Memorial ceremony for both Khalid and Tayeb (photo by ISM)
Every now and then the subject of the greenhouses left behind by Israeli settlers eradicated from Gaza is brought up by Israel apologists as proof of several things. It is claimed that Gazans don’t suffer from malnutrition: if they did, they wouldn’t have destroyed the greenhouses when the Israelis left. Therefore, there’s nothing wrong with Israel’s blockade of Gaza, because it doesn’t actually harm them. It is also claimed that the destruction of the greenhouses proves how hateful Gazans are: they prioritized wiping out every vestige of Jewish presence over keeping a valuable source of nutrients and income. Finally, it is asserted that a people that got the result of heavy investment and destroyed it can’t be trusted ro run anything, much less a state.
Much of this is bullshit, and the part that isn’t is highly distorted.
When Israel decided its unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, the settlers expected to be paid handosmely for the productive infrastructure they had created. Of course this was a display of chutzpah, because it had been heavy state subsidizing that had allowed them to create that infrastructure in the first place. As Haaretz noted:
The Gaza settlers had been inundated by perks from all directions. They received subsidized lands, subsidized water, assured wages from the public sector, “risk bonuses” and lower tax on their higher wages, subsidized daycare, cheap Arab labor, what didn’t they get. The benefits they received touched on every area of their lives and they became accustomed to higher standards they can’t forgo even now.
As the date of the withdrawal approached with no deal in sight, however, the settlers began to destroy the greenhouses. The New York Times reported:
About half the greenhouses in the Israeli settlements in Gaza have already been dismantled by their owners, who have given up waiting to see if the government was going to come up with extra payment as an inducement to leave them behind, say senior officials working on the coordination of this summer’s Israeli pullout from Gaza.(…)
Of the roughly 1,000 acres of agricultural land that were under greenhouses in the 21 Israeli settlements in Gaza, only 500 acres remain – creating significant doubts that the greenhouses could be handed over to the Palestinians as “a living business,” the goal cited by the Israeli coordinator of the pullout, Eival Giladi.
Finally, a last-minute effort by American Jewish philantropists raised $14 million and the remainder of the greenhouses was bought and turned over to the Palestinians.
However, since there had been no coordination with the Palestinians, there was no security plan to protect the greenhouses from looters. AP reported:
Palestinians looted dozens of greenhouses on Tuesday, walking off with irrigation hoses, water pumps and plastic sheeting in a blow to fledgling efforts to reconstruct the Gaza Strip.(…)
Palestinian police stood by helplessly Tuesday as looters carted off materials from greenhouses in several settlements, and commanders complained they did not have enough manpower to protect the prized assets. In some instances, there was no security and in others, police even joined the looters, witnesses said.
“We need at least another 70 soldiers. This is just a joke,” said Taysir Haddad, one of 22 security guards assigned to Neve Dekalim, formerly the largest Jewish settlement in Gaza. “We’ve tried to stop as many people as we can, but they’re like locusts.”
As can be seen, the theft was carried out by individuals, and in no way was it encouraged by the Palestinian Authority. Quite on the contrary, there was a conscious PA effort to prevent the lootings, which was however hindered by lack of resources.
Two reflections arise from the stories above.
On the one hand, it’s true that some of the greenhouses were destroyed by Palestinian individuals. There’s nothing remarkable about that. Beggars can’t be choosers, as the saying goes, and looting is what normally happens when two conditions are met: 1) an impoverished populace; and 2) a situation of lack of control by an established authority. Gazans stole the hardware and materials contained in the greenhouses not in a drive to erase the Jews’ memory from the territory, but to satisfy their personal needs. There was a rationale to their theft.
The destruction of part of the greenhouses by the settlers, however, can only be explained by animosity. They spent time, effort and probably even money to dismantle the facilities so that the Palestinians wouldn’t be able to use them. There’s a big difference between he who damages property in order to derive a benefit and he who damages it only to harm another person.
Many other related points could be made. For instance, that even in the Zionists’ twisted logic the looting of the facilities would justify the ban on vegetable imports into Gaza, but not that on livestock (cows can’t be raised in greenhouses). Or that the 350 Arab villages that disappeared from Israel’s map were not looted by vandals; they were razed by the State in a clear drive to eliminate any trace of Arabness from their respective landscapes. But without getting into those intricacies, and just focusing on the destruction of the greenhouses by both Jews and Palestinians, it’s clear who was moved by necessity and who by hate.
RAMALLAH – Settlers attacked Palestinian villagers in Ramallah and Nablus late Sunday and early Monday, locals said.
Witnesses told Ma’an that settlers began hurling stones at Palestinian vehicles traveling near the illegal Halamish settlement, located opposite the village of Deir Nidam.
Israeli forces were present at the scene and opened fire at the villagers, locals said.
On Sunday, settlers from Halamish attempted to raid the nearby Nabi Saleh village but were blocked by locals.
Meanwhile, fierce clashes broke out late Sunday between Palestinians and settlers in the Nablus village of Einabus.
Dozens of settlers from Yizhar raided the village and attempted to attack houses, but were chased away by villagers.
Israeli military vehicles arrived at the scene and fired tear gas canisters at Palestinian residents, lightly injuring several people.
In 2013, there were 399 incidents of settler violence against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Nearly all settler attacks go unpunished by Israeli authorities.
Shu’afat, Occupied Palestine – On the 4th July 2014, at least 2,000 Palestinian mourners gathered in Shu’afat for the funeral of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, who was kidnapped last week.
His mutilated body was later found in a forest on the outskirts of Jerusalem. The autopsy indicates that he was burnt alive. It is widely believed that the murder was carried out by extremist Israeli settlers.
Mourners gathered by the mosque and marched carrying the body to the burial ground. Initially the funeral organisers formed a human chain to separate mourners and the police to prevent violence. Later on, Israeli police clashed with Palestinians for around 12 hours.
It has been reported that at least 30 Palestinians were hurt by rubber-coated bullets while dozens more were treated for the effects of tear gas. 13 Israeli police officers were also injured. A field of wheat was also partly destroyed by fire, probably caused by tear gas canisters.
Throughout the demonstration, undercover police agents, who were also acting violently towards the police, abducted and violently assaulted at least 11 Palestinians, including Tarek Abu Khdeir, Mohammed’s cousin, who was filmed being beaten by police.
Later in the evening, local Palestinian residents took steps to remove the illegal light rail system which runs through their neighbourhood. Two French companies, Veolia and Alstom, are subject to an international boycott and divestment campaign due to their involvement in the project. The tram primarily services illegal Israeli settlements in Occupied East Jerusalem and thereby facilitates Israel’s illegal policies of colonization and ethnic cleansing.
Local Palestinian’s pulled up bricks and cement that hold the tracks in place and damaged the tracks using an angle grinder. Many local residents gathered round to express their support for this act of civil disobedience. One Palestinian resident in his 60′s said that the tram “is for the illegal settlements. Israel takes our land and kills our people…we want them [the Palestinian protesters] to rip it up and take it away completely…we want rid of it”.
Initial autopsy reports reveal that 16-year-old Muhammad Hussein Abu Khdeir, was still breathing when he was burnt after being assaulted by his Israeli kidnappers.
Forensic studies found chars in the lungs, indicating that Muhammad was still breathing while he was being burned, according to WAFA. 90% of the child’s body was burned, varying from 1st to 4th degree in severity.
The child was also beaten on the head, as signs of beating and concussion were clear.
The Palestinian Forensic Center has taken samples and tissues from the body, to be submitted for further analysis before a final detailed report can be revealed, according to Arabs48.
16-year-old Muhammad Hussein Abu Khdeir was abducted from outside his home, in the Shu’fat district of occupied East Jerusalem, by a group of Israelis who forced him into a car and sped off.
The teen’s burned body was found hours later in a vacant lot in another part of the city, sparking protests in his home neighborhood which are ongoing at the time of this report.
Over 200 Palestinians have been injured by Israeli army fire in ongoing clashes with Israeli soldiers, in different parts of occupied Jerusalem and nearby towns, following the abduction.
His funeral was held Friday, amidst further clashes with Israeli forces.
Ecostream issued the following statement this morning: “SodaStream confirms that the EcoStream store, located on Western Road in Brighton, closed earlier this week. Following the two year test period, the company has decided to focus its business efforts on other channels, specifically on retail distribution partnerships.”
John Lewis have also informed Corporate Watch today that they will no longer be stocking Sodastream products. According to John Lewis’ Senior Press officer: “John Lewis has stocked Sodastream for the past four years but in light of declining sales we’ve taken the decision to no longer stock the range”. Campaigners have demonstrated repeatedly outside John Lewis stores calling for the chain to discontinue its Sodastream range and for consumers to boycott Sodastream products.
In 2012, Israeli company Soda Club, which owns the Sodastream brandname, opened a new store called Ecostream on Western Road in Brighton.
Sodastream, a manufacturer of machines and refills for making fizzy drinks at home, has a factory in the Mishor Adumim settlement industrial zone. Mishor Adumim is an industrial area attached to the residential settlement of Ma’ale Adumim, East of Jerusalem in the Israeli occupied West Bank.
In 2013, Corporate Watch conducted interviews with Palestinian Bedouin who had been displaced from their land to make way for Mishor Adumim. One of them told us:
“We are not allowed to go near them [the factories]. They took our livelihood to build them and we got evacuated for them to build their factories. After they built them there were no resources to live from for us. The gains are nothing compared to what was lost. They destroyed our lives and then gave a few people a job. It is nothing”.
Since the store opened there have been demonstrations outside its doors on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. Activists from Brighton and Hove Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Brighton Jordan Valley Solidarity, Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods, local trade unionists, university students from Palestine solidarity groups and more joined together with the aim of closing the shop down. As well as the weekly pickets, campaigners took the oppurtunity to use the space outside the store to highlight the daily aggression against Palestinians. They talked to the public about Israeli house demolitions, the illegal apartheid wall erected on Palestinian land and Israel’s use of drones to attack people in Gaza.
Mass marches have been held in Brighton against the store. During an Israeli attack on Gaza in 2012 one activist locked himself to the doors of the shop forcing them to close. Last week activists unfurled a huge ‘Free Palestine’ on the wall opposite the shop.
It soon became clear that the pressure was taking its toll and the store remained largely empty even on the busiest of shopping days.
The demonstrations against the store led the Israeli embassy to contact Sussex Police asking them to take measures against the demonstrators. A group called Sussex Friends of Israel formed and has been holding a counter-picket every Saturday. The Zionist and Christian Zionist demonstrators regularly shouted racial abuse at Muslim, Palestinian and Jewish activists opposing the shop. They regularly chanted that there was “no such thing as a Palestinian” and called Jewish activists “self-hating Jews”. In short, SFI used bullying tactics to intimidate people who attended the demonstrations. Their antics caused chaos outside the store every weekend and made it even less likely that people would do their shopping there.
The closure of the Ecostream store is a victory for people power against a corporation profiting from human suffering and shows that the movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israeli apartheid, militarism and occupation is continuing to gather momentum.
Brighton & Hove Palestine Solidarity Campaign today issued the following statement:
“This campaign has taken the message about human rights abuses in occupied Palestine to the people of Brighton, and their response has been fantastic. They have made it clear that they do not want businesses from illegal Israeli settlements trading in their town. The closure of SodaStream’s so-called flagship UK store in Brighton is just one step in a campaign to send a clear message to the Israeli government and the international community that, at the grassroots level, people of conscience are taking action to force Israel to comply with international law and to bring about justice for the Palestinian people. We give notice to the other stockists of SodaStream products in the city that we will continue to take the message about SodaStream to the people of Brighton on behalf of the Palestinian people. Congratulations to the people of Brighton and Hove, who can tell the difference between ethical and unethical.”
A Palestinian teenager from occupied east Jerusalem was kidnapped and killed early Wednesday, hours after Israelis rampaged through the city calling for Arabs to die in “revenge” for the deaths of three settlers by unknown assailants.
The killing of 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khudair from the Jerusalem neighborhood of Shuafat sparked a wave of clashes in east Jerusalem where hundreds of angry young Palestinians demonstrated.
Quoting witnesses, army radio said the boy was seen being forced into a car in the city. Ma’an cited witnesses who said the car involved in the kidnapping was a Hyundai with three settlers inside.
A burned body was found shortly afterwards in another part of the city, the radio said, describing it as a “suspected revenge attack” for the kidnapping of three Israeli settlers from the southern West Bank on June 12.
Israel’s Ynet web site said the body, discovered in a forest in the area of Deir Yassin, was charred and showed signs of violence.
Ma’an also reported that the body had been burned.
Palestinian Authority president Mahmud Abbas on Wednesday demanded Israel condemn the kidnapping and suspected murder.
“The president of Palestine, Mahmoud Abbas, demanded that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemn the kidnapping and murder of Palestinian teenager Mohammed Abu Khudair as we condemned the kidnapping of the three Israelis,” a presidential statement said.
A cousin of the missing youth who gave his name only as Mahmoud, said locals had tried to chase the car involved in the abduction immediately after the suspected settlers abducted the boy, but were unable to catch the fleeing car.
“They chased him in two cars through the village. The cars drove fast but they didn’t manage to reach them,” he told army radio.
Residents had filed a police complaint in recent days that someone in the same car had tried unsuccessfully to snatch a seven-year-old child.
Shortly after the kidnapping was reported, a body was found in a forest near Givat Shaul in west Jerusalem, the radio said, indicating it had been burned. It had earlier said there were signs of stab wounds.
Several hours after three Israeli settlers found dead Monday were buried on Tuesday, hundreds of Israelis rampaged through Jerusalem, stopping cars and the light rail and shouting “Death to Arabs,” police and witnesses said. Police said 47 people were arrested.
Police spokeswoman Luba Samri confirmed they were investigating reports of a kidnapping and said they had found a body but refused to say whether the two incidents were connected. She did not give details on the victim’s identity.
“In the early hours of Wednesday morning, police received a report of a person being forced into a car in Beit Hanina,” Samri told AFP, referring to a well-heeled east Jerusalem neighborhood.
“Within an hour, a body was found in Jerusalem that has still not been identified. We are looking to see if there is a connection between the two incidents.”
Quoting witnesses, army radio said a black car had stopped next to a youth who was hitchhiking and he was forced inside. The car then took off.
Some time later, the family of the youth, who is understood to be around 16, reported him missing, it said.
The body was discovered in a forest in Givat Shaul in southwest Jerusalem. An AFP correspondent said police had sealed off a large area around the neighborhood.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a statement, urged police to “to swiftly investigate who was behind the loathsome murder and its motive.” He called on all sides “not to take the law into their own hands.”
Tensions were also high in the West Bank, where around 40 Palestinians were arrested in raids on Tuesday, the latest in a campaign by Israel to cripple Hamas there.
Four people were wounded by live bullets early on Wednesday in an Israeli raid in the Palestinian city of Jenin.
Near Hebron, Israeli forces destroyed the home of a Palestinian arrested on charges of shooting dead an off-duty police officer in the West Bank in April.
(AFP, Reuters, Al-Akhbar)
The New York Times, in its never-ending fawning over Apartheid Israel, published recently what is obviously meant to be a heart-rending story of a Jewish woman whose son was killed during the intifada of 2001. The article talks about Sherri Mandall, an American living in settlements that the world condemns as illegal. She, herself, is also part of a serious violation of international law that states that an occupying power must not move residents onto occupied land.
The article discusses the ‘murder’ of her son, and her ‘noble’ efforts to assist others who have lost loved ones.
This writer searched the New York Times archives in vain to find an article that interviewed a Palestinian mother whose young son had been killed by IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) terrorists. Was The Times unable to find such an individual? In the last 14 years, while 129 Israeli children have been killed by Palestinians, at least 1,530 Palestinian children have been killed by Israelis. Surely, one or two mothers could have been located from among that number. Perhaps the mother of Nadim Nawara, 17, unarmed and shot in the back by IDF soldiers, a crime captured by a video camera and shown around the world, might be interested in telling her story. Surely The Times could extract some human pathos from such an interview.
Or perhaps The Times is only interested in interviewing U.S. citizens (Mrs. Mandall holds dual U.S. and Israeli citizenship). This writer also searched the archives for an interview with Craig and Cindy Corrie, parents of Rachel Corrie, a U.S. citizen who was crushed to death by a bulldozer in Gaza, as she was attempting to stop an illegal home demolition. Unfortunately, he was not successful in finding such an interview.
Could it be that The New York Times, once undeservedly revered for publishing ‘all the news that’s fit to print’, somewhere along the line decided to print just what it determines is news?
The recent disappearance of three Israeli teenagers, living illegally in the West Bank, has garnered extensive coverage in The Times. However, the kidnapping of hundreds of Palestinian youths each year, some of them pre-teens, by the IDF, usually does not warrant so much as a mention by the paper. The cold-blooded murder of Nadim Nawara, in May of this year, did receive an unprecedented three articles over a period of a week. But there has been no mention of Mr. Nawara since the end of May. This writer would imagine that his mother may be available for comment.
It is difficult to see this happening, this lack of reporting, without the ugly word ‘racism’ coming to mind. Is the grief of an Israeli mother somehow, in the opinion of The New York Times, more poignant or searing than that of a Palestinian mother? If that is not the opinion of The Times, then what would be the reason for highlighting one while ignoring the other?
Information about home-made bottle rockets being shot into Israel from the Gaza Strip also seems to be considered newsworthy by The Times. But what of the carpet bombing of Gaza, with sophisticated weaponry, including chemical weapons, provided by the United States? If the use of chemical weapons in Syria is so serious, shouldn’t the same standard apply to their usage in Palestine? Or is anything acceptable as long as it’s done by Israel?
Journalism is, by nature, expected to be unbiased. News is reported simply because it is newsworthy. The disappearance of hundreds of Palestinian children each year, often violently taken from their beds in the middle of the night by IDF terrorists, is news. Proportionally, it is more newsworthy than the disappearance of three Israeli teenagers, simply because the numbers kidnapped are so much greater.
This racism is reflected in journalistic circles throughout the United States. The ‘Missing White Woman Syndrome’ describes the disproportionate amount of news coverage given to upper-middle-class white women who disappear, over minority women who disappear. About half of people, including men, women and children, who are reported missing in the U.S. each year are white, and they receive about 80% of the media coverage of missing persons.
So The New York Times, a rag inexplicably popular with the left, is only following the long-standing national trend: report in depth on the sufferings of whites, but let minorities fend for themselves.
One might ask how Israel fits into all this. Why are the children of settlers, living in communities that the world has condemned as illegal, so very precious, while the children of the oppressed Palestinians are somehow expendable? Why does this mindset seem also to permeate the hallowed halls of Congress, and the White House?
There seems to be a perverse symbiotic relationship at work: the American Israel Political Affairs Committee (AIPAC) purchases members of Congress, who then toe the Israeli line. The New York Times, wanting nearly unlimited access to the corridors of power in the U.S., report what those power-holders say, and want reported. And the only thing to get lost in all this is truth.
Since this writer began this article, news that the bodies of the three missing teenagers have been found has been reported. One feels sorrow and compassion for their survivors, but no more so than one feels for the surviving loved ones of Nadim Nawara and the countless other Palestinians murdered in cold-blood by Israel. Palestinian victims are living in their homelands; the three Israeli teenagers were part of an occupying population, living where they were in violation of international law. This does not alter the sorrow of the families, but there is certainly some risk in living in a settlement as part of a brutal occupation.
How will The Times report on this new development, and Israel’s horrifically brutal response? Will the three Israeli victims be honored, while the countless Palestinian victims are ignored and forgotten? Will the anticipated carpet-bombing of the Gaza Strip, and the further crack down in the West Bank, be reported as reasonable responses to the deaths? And will any Palestinian resistance to this unspeakable brutality be ascribed as the work of terrorists?
The Israeli public relations machine, so effective with the U.S. press and political establishment, will shift into high gear, to ensure support for whatever oppressive cruelty, and whatever extreme and shocking violation of human rights, Israel decides to perpetrate. And The New York Times will follow Israel’s game plan to the letter.
Perhaps this will finally motivate that stooge of Israel, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, to petition the International Criminal Court for redress. Were he not a puppet of Israel he would have done so long ago, but perhaps even for him there is a tipping point. If the expected brutal barrage that Israel is now expected to unleash on Palestine isn’t enough incentive for him to act, nothing will be. The sooner Palestinian elections are held, and the sooner he can be removed from office, the better it will be for all Palestinians.
But regardless of the actions of the weak, corrupt Mr. Abbas, The New York Times will continue to report on Israel’s ‘victimhood’ and Palestinian ‘terrorism’, once again demonstrating that in the world of U.S. journalism, black is white and white is black. One looks in vain for any real, fact-filled, investigative reporting from The Times.
Robert Fantina’s latest book is Empire, Racism and Genocide: a History of US Foreign Policy (Red Pill Press).
A child was seriously wounded in the head when an Israeli settler ran her down Monday night as Israeli settlers marched through the city of Hebron demanding vengeance.
Sanabel Attous, 9, from Jab’a village southwest of Bethlehem was hit by an Israeli car which witnesses say deliberately ran her down.
She was taken to the Bethlehem Arab Society Hospital suffering serious fractures and bruises in the head, face and abdomen.
Eyewitnesses said the settler struck her intentionally, and left her in a ditch, on the side of the road without providing assistance to the wounded child, and left the scene.
Israeli troops closed all entrances to the city of Hebron and the village of Halhoul, near Hebron, where the bodies of three settlers were found on Monday.
Israeli extremists attacked two Palestinians in Jerusalem. A taxi driver was sprayed with pepper spray, and a second man was beaten by Israeli settlers in West Jerusalem.
Settlers across the West Bank have stepped up attacks on Palestinian civilians over the past 18 days, since 3 Israeli settlers disappeared.
When the bodies of the three settlers were found on Monday, Israeli settler leaders and Israeli government officials vowed revenge against the Palestinian people and particularly the Hamas party, though there has been no evidence linking the deaths of the three settlers to Hamas.
One former Israeli Knesset (Parliament) member posted a video Monday called Palestinian children “little terrorists”, and called for “Death to the enemy, evacuation, and wiping off of [their] smile”, according to a translation by the Electronic Intifada.
EI also quoted Tzachi Hanegbi, a former cabinet minister from the ruling Likud party, as saying, “I don’t know how many Hamas leaders will remain alive after tonight.”
During January 2013, Corporate Watch conducted interviews with Palestinians who work in the illegal Israeli settlements in the Jordan Valley. Part one to three of our findings can be read here, here and here.
We met 44 year old Rashid* and 38 year old Zaid* in their hometown of Tammoun in the northern West Bank. They both work in the illegal Israeli settlement of Beqa’ot. A colony with 171 residents situated close to the Palestinian community of Al Hadidya in the Jordan Valley.
Tammoun is situated just outside the Jordan Valley. Like thousands of other Palestinian workers Zaid and Rashid travel into the Jordan Valley in search of work on a daily basis. To cross into the valley they have to pass through the Israeli military checkpoint at Tayasir or Al Hamra.
Rashid has worked in Beqa’ot since the early ’90s whereas Zaid worked in Israel until 5 years ago. Zaid tells us: “Now it is impossible for me to get a permit to work outside the West Bank.”
For Israeli companies, sourcing their goods from the settlements in the Jordan Valley allows them to circumvent workers rights and health and safety regulations. According to Zaid: “Inside Israel the workers have contracts and the conditions are better. This is because in Israel there are some controls on companies, unlike in the West Bank.”
Both men work all year round except for September-November when there is no work available. They have no contracts and tell us that none of their workmates do either. Their job is to plant grapes and tend to the vines, pruning them and spraying them with fertilisers and chemicals. At harvest time they cut and collect the grapes.
Zaid and Rashid both work in the fields outside the boundaries of Beqa’ot. They do not have a permit to enter the settlement itself.
Paid below the minimum wage
Palestinian workers in Israeli settlements have been entitled to the Israeli minimum wage since an Israeli Supreme Court ruling in 2007 (see here). In 2010 Corporate Watch conducted over 40 interviews with settlement workers showing that Palestinians are consistently paid as little as half the minimum wage. These conditions remained largely unchanged when we returned in 2014.
The current hourly minimum wage is 23.12, NIS (New Israeli Shekels),the equivalent of 184.96 NIS for an eight hour working day, having risen from 20.70 NIS in 2009. However, for Palestinian workers on Israeli settlements in the Jordan Valley these conditions seem an impossible dream.
Zaid and Rashid are employed directly by the settlers in Beqa’ot and speak to them directly to arrange their work. Both get paid 82 New Israeli Shekels (NIS), 18 of which goes towards daily transport.
They have no insurance provided by their employer. Rashid explains: “Last year one of the workers died, but the settlers did not help his family at all.
The men do not receive any paid holiday, even for religious holidays. This is despite the fact that an Israeli government website advises that workers are entitled to 14 days paid holiday and must receive a written contract and payslips from their employer (see here).
Both men are members of the General Palestinian Workers Union (GPWU). However, they are unable to represent workers in Beqa’ot or negotiate with their bosses. According to Rashid: “We organise trainings for agricultural workers but we are not recognised by the settlers, we do not receive any representation from Histradrut”.
Histradrut is the Israeli trade union organisation. Many campaigners for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israeli apartheid have called for a boycott of the Histradrut because of its failure to represent Palestinian workers and its overt support of Israeli state policies. For example, in 2010 the British University and College Union broke ties with the Histradrut; a UCU spokesperson said the Histradrut, “supported the Israeli assault on civilians in Gaza” and “did not deserve the name of a trade union”.
Companies sourcing produce from Beqa’ot
Rashid tells us: “We label the grapes ‘Made in the Jordan Valley’ and mark them with the name and phone number of the Israeli settler.
“Each of the settler has his own packing house. When we harvest the grapes they are taken first of all to packing houses in Beqa’ot owned by individual settler, then transported to a central refrigeration unit owned by the Moshav [a Hebrew word for a cooperative farm]. Then a refrigeration truck takes them to be exported.”
The men tell us that the majority of the grapes they harvest are exported through Mehadrin.
Corporate Watch visited Beqa’Ot in February 2013 and photographed several packing houses displaying Mehadrin signage. Israeli company Mehadrin Tnuport Export (MTEX) is a part of the huge Mehadrin Group which owns a 50% of STM Agricultural Exports Ltd – another Israeli company dealing in vegetables. MTEX export around 70% of all their produce to outside Israel and are one of the largest suppliers for the Jaffa brand world wide. Sainsburys confirmed to Corporate Watch in August 2013 that the supermarket sourced fresh vegetables from Mehadrin. Mehadrin is also certified to supply fresh produce to Tesco (see here).
Corporate Watch also photographed boxes and export labels for Carmel Agrexco in Beqa’ot. Carmel Agrexco was the Israeli state owned fresh produce export company. In 2011 the company went into liquidation, due in part to the international boycott movement. The brand has since been bought by Gideon Bickel of Israeli firm Bickel Flowers and has been fighting to regain lost contracts.
Working for poverty wages on land stolen from their families
Rashid and Zaid refer to Beqa’ot by its Palestinian name, Libqya. Rashid tells us: “Before the occupation in 1967 Libqya was owned by Palestinians who used it for planting crops and raising animals. All of the families around here owned land in Libqya.
“I remember when my mother passed Libqya when I was young she told us how she used to play there with her brothers and sisters. Our family owned 70 dunums of land there.
“This reality is too painful. When I was older I tried to reach the land my mother told me about. But a settler told me I was forbidden to go there.”
‘We will get back our land’
Both men are supportive of the call for a boycott of Israeli agricultural companies. When it was pointed out that if the boycott was successful then their employers would not be able to pay them a wage any longer Zaid responded: “We support the boycott even if we lose our work. We might lose our jobs but we will get back our land. We will be able to work without being treated as slaves.”
* Names have been changed at the authors’ discretion
Gaza – Al Jazeera English’s reporting on the missing Israeli settlers was not naive and it is rather impossible to classify it as part of the rhetoric of neutrality and objective reporting on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
It is simply deliberate coverage that targets the Palestinians’ presence on their own land and their just cause, while giving leverage to the “perseverance” of the Israeli society living in a jungle of “barbaric” Palestinians. Al Jazeera English correspondent Jane Ferguson started her report a few days ago by focusing on the feelings of Israelis and specifically their shock following the [alleged] capture of three Israelis about 10 days ago.
This shock, of course, did not not originate from the Palestinians’ right to face their enemies, but was ignited due to the Palestinians’ insensitivity, which was displayed through their “kidnapping of three teenagers” who could be robbed of their lives with a fatal bullet, or rather “a deceiving” bullet in the words of the Qatari channel.
Certainly, all the misery the Palestinians have suffered for 66 years at the hands of those expressing their shock is insignificant. Today, the only thing that matters is the sorrow of the Israeli people. Ferguson began her report with images of a tent erected by residents of Nof Ayalon village to pray for the safe return of Naftali Fraenkel, a town native and one of the three [allegedly] kidnapped individuals.
Ferguson did not miss the opportunity to remind viewers that the three Israelis (Naftali Frenkel, Gil-ad Shaer and Eyal Yifrach) were teenagers, further seeking the viewers’ compassion by stating that they were all under the age of 19. The reporter did not stop there, but gave Fraenkel’s aunt a platform to express her feelings on air, saying “I am still in shock, it is hitting me repeatedly, Fraenkel went to school and didn’t come back. It is really difficult, and the whole family is crushed.”
The correspondent’s report does not mention neither the suffering of over 5,700 Palestinians held in the occupation’s prisons, nor the fact that four of those prisoners died under physical and psychological torture in the past year.
“Not only in this small village are people waiting anxiously to hear news about the missing teenagers, but across the entire nation, everyone is gripped by this story,” Ferguson commented in her report, adding that Israeli channels have been in the village for days to cover the incident.
The scene displaying solidarity with the town’s locals is later taken off screen to be replaced with images of a street populated by Israeli settlers. The channel then sheds light on the challenges faced by Israelis to strengthen their “perseverance” on a land that is not theirs, saying that they are not scared and that they are going on with their lives as usual.
To give more credibility to her short analysis, Ferguson gives a female settler the opportunity to explain whether or not the “kidnapping incident” had negatively affected her life. The settler confirms Ferguson’s view by saying, “there is nothing to be afraid of. If there was a bombing on a bus, does it means we should not catch buses? This is the same for me, this is our lifestyle.”
The reporter seemed to have forgotten how Palestinians resist death and how much they love life even though they are besieged by their enemy’s weapons from the front, its tanks from behind and its planes from above.
Perhaps, Palestinian viewers would have better received the report if Ferguson had also visited towns and refugee camps in the West Bank, and had broadcast live images of the arrest campaigns and the raids on Palestinian homes, as well as Israel’s policy of systematic killing, as reflected by the fact that four Palestinians have already been killed since the beginning of the operation.
Meanwhile, Al Jazeera English’s Gaza correspondent Charles Stratford started his report by linking the operation in Hebron to the Gaza Strip by showing two Palestinian boys from Gaza training on how to use weapons and participate in combat missions at a camp affiliated to Hamas.
Stratford then commented that “these are the children of people who believe, like the majority of Gaza residents, that Hamas represents the future of Palestine and is a part of the unity government rejected by Israel.”
The correspondent sought to differentiate between “terrorist” boys following Hamas’ path and other “innocents” that fall in the hands of the group that is training droves of “terrorists.”
The English-language Qatari channel claims to have been launched to change the stereotype about the Middle East. However, today it has become another burden on Palestinians, promoting the Israeli side of the story in the West while disregarding the real narrative.
Sunday evening a number of fanatic Israeli settlers attacked the funeral of a Palestinian, killed by the Israeli army in al-Biereh, near the central West Bank city of Ramallah, wounding one Palestinian.
The Palestinians were participating in the funeral procession of resident Mohammad at-Tareefi, 30, in Jabal at-Tawil neighborhood, when settlers of the Psagot illegitimate settlement opened fire on them, wounding one resident.
Several minutes later, dozens of soldiers arrived at the scene, and fired live ammunition at the residents, and several homes, in al-Biereh.
The Israeli military attack pushed dozens of residents to advance towards Psagot settlements, and hurl stones at it.
The soldiers chased the residents in Dahiat Jabal at-Tawil and al-Jinan area, while firing dozens of rounds of live ammunition, gas bombs, concussion grenades, and rubber-coated metal bullets.
The funeral procession started in front of the Palestine Medical Center in Ramallah, heading towards the home of the slain Palestinian in Betunia, before advancing towards the Jamal Abdul-Nasser Mosque in al-Biereh city.
At-Tareefy was shot by a live round in his chest during Sunday dawn clashes with Israeli soldiers invading Ramallah.
Israel’s military offensive in different parts of the occupied West Bank started ten days ago, following the disappearance of three Israeli settlers from Gush Etzion settlement, near Bethlehem.
Although Israel said Hamas is behind the “abduction”, Hamas denied the claim.
The ongoing Israeli military invasion led to the abduction of more than 400 Palestinians, many of them are children, and the soldiers invaded and searched more than 1000 areas in the West Bank.
The army alleged uncovering dozens of tunnels under Palestinian homes in the West Bank, and that the soldiers “located underground labs used for the production of explosives”.
The army said Israel had no prior information about the alleged labs and tunnels, but uncovered them during the extensive searches of homes and property.
In a Sunday report by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, the center said Israeli soldiers shot and killed four Palestinians in the last ten days. Two of them were killed Sunday.
At least 38 Palestinians have been kidnapped by the Israeli army on Sunday, in different parts of the occupied West Bank.
The army also shot and wounded dozens of Palestinians in the ongoing offensive.