On Wednesday, 8 May 2013, Israel held its annual Jerusalem Day celebration, commemorating its annexation of East Jerusalem and the Old City during the 1967 Six-Day War.
Israeli settlers marched through East Jerusalem neighborhoods carrying Israeli flags and singing, celebrating and asserting their control of what is internationally recognized as the capital of any viable future Palestinian state.
Settlers marching in and out of the Damascus Gate, located directly alongside the largest Palestinian shopping center in the city, were met with a pro-Palestine counter-demonstration.
Hundreds of Israeli police were on the scene to put down the Palestinian counter-demonstration. Israeli police detained upwards of 18 individuals and beat dozens of others. Among the detainees were minors as well as several photographers.
(All photos by Dylan Collins)
JERUSALEM – Patriarchs and heads of Christian churches in Jerusalem on Sunday released a joint statement denouncing attacks by Israeli police officers on worshipers and pilgrims during Holy Saturday at the Church of Holy Sepulcher.
Signatories of the statement highlighted that they saw “awful scenes of the brutal treatment to clerics, average people and pilgrims in Jerusalem during Holy Saturday.”
They added: “A day of joy was turned into a day of severe sadness and pain for several of our faithful brothers who were mistreated by a number of Israeli police officers at the gates of the Old City of Jerusalem leading to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.”
It is unacceptable, according to the statement, that clergymen and average people “get beaten brutally and indiscriminately and be denied access to their churches under the pretext of keeping order.”
The statement urged the Israeli government to denounce the violence that police practiced against worshipers and clergymen.
The patriarchs and heads of churches also denied claims of those who blamed the churches for what happened during the Holy week in Jerusalem. “These claims are counter to what happened in reality, and all heads of churches condemn the Israeli procedures and violations of the Christians’ rights,” the statement said.
The statement was signed by heads of all recognized churches in the Holy Land including the Roman Orthodox Church, the Latin Church, the Armenian Orthodox Church, the Custodian of the Holy Land, the Coptic Orthodox Church, the Syriac Orthodox Church, the Ethiopian Church, the Roman Catholic Church, the Maronite Church, the Episcopal Church, the Lutheran Church, the Syriac Catholic Church, and the Armenian Catholic Church.
- Egyptian assaulted by Israeli police (dailynewsegypt.com)
- More zionist crimes against Christianity: Settlers raise Israeli flag over West Bank church (occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com)
- Israeli Settlers Burn Greek Orthodox Church Land In Jerusalem (occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com)
Israeli soldiers kidnapped the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and the Holy Land, Sheikh Mohammad Hussein, after surrounding his home and breaking into it Wednesday.
Local sources reported that the army invaded As-Suwwana neighborhood, in Jabal Al-Mokabbir in occupied East Jerusalem, and broke into the home of the Mufti before kidnapping him.
Sheikh Hussein asked to follow the soldiers by car to the Al-Maskobiyya Police Station and interrogation facility in the city, but they refused and placed him in one of their vehicles.
In related news, the army kidnapped Engineer Mustafa Abu Zahra, head of a committee in charge of maintaining Islamic graveyards in Jerusalem.
Furthermore, Israeli police officers were heavily deployed at the gates of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, interrogated dozens of worshipers while inspecting their ID Cards, withheld their ID cards and informed them that they will get their ID’s back once they leave the mosque area.
In addition, a number of settlers invaded the Al-Aqsa Mosque yard through the Al-Magharba Gate accompanied by dozens of soldiers and police officers.
On Tuesday evening, the Israeli Police handed orders to Palestinian shop owners in the Old City ordering them not to display their products in front of their shops on Wednesday evening in order to allow the settlers to march through the city and its markets while marking the so-called “Jerusalem Day”.
The “Jerusalem Day” is a an Israeli “national holiday” that started in June 1967 after the Israeli forces occupied East Jerusalem, and the rest of Palestine following the six-day war. In 1982, the Israeli Knesset passed a “legislation” considering Jerusalem “complete and united” as the eternal capital of Israel.
- Grand Mufti of Jerusalem detained (gulfnews.com)
William Cook in his masterly way tells us not to give up even if “overwhelmed by darkness of the times”.
And he reminds us that “sixty-five years ago this May 14, the world body admitted to its membership the state of Israel even as that self-declared state was in the process of invading, destroying and leveling 418 towns and villages owned by the people of Palestine who suffered death or expulsion out of their homeland to live without human rights anywhere in the world.”
His eloquence is designed to stiffen the sinews. But some weary truth-tellers and justice-seekers simply don’t want their sinew stiffened any more. For years they’ve given the Palestine thing their best shot, their family life has suffered… and for what?
With the 14th of May comes the realization that the crimes of the US-backed Israelis continue with impunity, encouraged and rewarded by those on high who should know better, while the suffering of the Palestinians knows no limit. This has been the longest and cruelest jackbooted torment of modern times yet the blood-spattered perpetrators are warmly welcomed into the drawing rooms of supposedly civilized Western rulers and promised undying support for ever. The British government has effectively disabled its Universal Jurisdiction laws to give these creatures a safe haven.
Of course, the problem is not just the Israelis. Sami Jamil Jadallah reports how the Palestinian leadership has “failed at every thing it set out to do. It failed at liberation, it failed at ending the occupation, failed at building governing institutions, failed at disengaging Palestinian economy from the Israeli economy, failed at ending the continued expansion of Jewish settlements, failed at bringing down the Apartheid Wall (though it had a court ruling), failed at creating a transparent and clean government…”
Jadallah remarks that the Arab League “recently gave Israel added incentives allowing the trade off of prime Palestinian territories in exchange for toxic waste dump. With this present leadership there is no hope for ever ending the occupation… More troubling is the commitment made with the approval of the Palestinian leadership that ‘Palestine’ will never file legal charges against Israel for past, present and future crimes.”
Hamas, naturally, are not best pleased. Their Salah al-Khawaja told Quds Press that international law does not allow it, and any idea of land swaps gives legitimacy to the occupation to continue its settlement activity in the West Bank and Jerusalem.
The Jerusalem Post was reporting three years ago that the Palestinians and US-backed Israel had agreed on the principle of a land swap, but denied that the two sides had reached any further agreement. The issue was the ratio of land Israel would give to the Palestinians in exchange for keeping their illegal settlement blocs, with the Palestinians demanding 1:1 and the Israelis, being their usual greedy selves, offering less.
Now the same source reports that, while the Palestinian Authority leadership supported the land swap idea, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) condemned it. “The Palestinians don’t need anyone to make concessions on their behalf. No one authorized the Arab delegation to voluntarily give up Palestinian lands. We condemn this proposal as an attempt to legitimize settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem in violation of international laws and the Geneva Fourth Convention.”
Another group, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), also slammed the land swap idea and accused Qatar, which has been playing a leadership role in the Arab League, of seeking to liquidate the Palestinian issue. Mohamed Jadallah, a senior member of the DFLP, said that Qatar was seeking to take over the Arab League in order to serve US interests in the region. “Qatar has bought the Arab countries with its money and stolen their political decision,” he said.
Jadallah claimed that Qatar was working toward by-passing the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative by offering to relinquish control over Palestinian territories.
Since US-backed Israel selected and stole prime locations for its settlements, knowing full well that it was committing a war crime, why should the Palestinians settle for 1:1? Why should they agree to land swaps at all? If the Jews living in these ‘squats’ wish to stay they can become Palestinian citizens.
All this simply adds fuel to the burning resentment felt by Palestinians and their sympathizers around the world towards the ‘enemy within’ who would sell their grandmothers for a fistful of dollars or shekels
In the Long Grass Something Stirs
Meanwhile, here in England it looks like a major party ‘scum clearance’ may have begun, albeit in a modest way. In elections last Thursday in the 27 English county councils and 7 unitary authorities the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) won over 140 seats and averaged 25% of the vote in the areas where it was standing. Cameron’s Conservatives lost control of 10 councils, but retained 18. Their coalition buddies, the Liberal Democrats, did badly too.
UKIP aims to haul us out of the EU cesspit and bolt the door against unwanted immigrants. As these concerns are uppermost in ordinary people’s minds, UKIP strikes a strong chord with British voters. The county election results show what can happen when political leaders continually ignore the electorate’s concerns and press ahead with their own private agenda when it is obviously not in the national interest.
The breakthrough by UKIP, however, is not entirely good news. The party claims “Israel has maintained an impeccable human rights record” and seeks to cement “true friendship” with its hoodlums. UKIP seems indifferent to the fact that Israel possesses hundreds of nuclear warheads (and the means to deliver them), menaces the whole region (and Europe) and defies calls to sign up to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and place its nuclear facilities under comprehensive IAEA safeguards. Yet UKIP believes a nuclear Iran would be unacceptable, and says it would support efforts to eliminate Iran’s nuclear weapons capability by “military means”.
UKIP is so bonkers about Israel that it rejects calls for the suspension of trade deals such as the EU-Israel Association Agreement, apparently seeing no need for the racist entity to show “respect for human rights and democratic principles” as set out in that Agreement.
Not surprisingly UKIP’s leader Nigel Farage has been described by the Jewish Chronicle as “a good friend of Israel”. And, naturally, UKIP has a Friends of Israel group which proclaims: “Despite constant assault from within and without, Israel has maintained an impeccable human rights record and remains the only country in the Middle East to extend full civil and political rights to all of its citizens, regardless of race or religion. Yet somehow it is cast as the oppressor, vilified as an ‘apartheid state’ and singled out for disproportionate criticism.
“Decades of malicious propaganda campaigns have seen to it that a one-sided historical narrative which portrays the Palestinians as blameless victims now successfully masquerades as reality…”
People who joined, then left UKIP say it’s corrupt and run on Stalinistic lines. So UKIP are not the loveliest people to have around… and certainly not the sort you’d want actually running your country. But for the time being these useful idiots may serve a purpose in helping to clear away the even more unlovely major party trash that’s funded by Zionists, owes allegiance to a foreign Zionist power and adores and supports the Zionist program of land-theft, mayhem and murder directed even against fellow Christians.
Another cause for slight hope is the recent Eminent Persons letter in which Jeremy Greenstock, former UK Ambassador to the UN, and 18 other prominent Europeans have sent a strongly-worded message to EU High Representative Catherine Ashton calling for a new European approach and expressing “strong concern about the dying chances of a settlement based on two separate, sovereign and peaceful states of Israel and Palestine”.
They warn that “the Occupation is actually being entrenched by the present Western policy” and “the steady increase in the extent and population of Israeli settlements, including in East Jerusalem, and the entrenchment of Israeli control over the OT [Occupied Territories] in defiance of international law, indicate a permanent trend towards a complete dislocation of Palestinian territorial rights.”
The letter concludes that letting the situation lie unaddressed is highly dangerous when such an explosive issue sits in such a turbulent environment.
It adds that over the years the EU’s inactivity has been unprincipled and unwise. “European leaders cannot wait for ever for action from the United States when the evidence accumulates of American failure to recognize and promote the equal status of Israelis and Palestinians… as accepted in United Nations resolutions.”
Why has it taken them so long to put pen to paper? It’s probably too late for a two-state solution, but what they say might lead to better things. Many more ‘eminent persons’ need to speak up for justice. Where are they? Why do they still skulk behind the woodwork?
As some of you know, my film EXILE, A MYTH UNEARTHED, which examines the myth of the Jewish EXILE and its political impact on both Israeli Jews and Palestinians in the Middle East, was going to be shown on the BBC Thursday April 25th. It was pulled out of the schedule only a few days earlier.
Since than I was flooded by dozens of emails of angry and concerned viewers asking what happened. To be honest I debated whether to tell the story of what I think had happened. I have worked with the BBC in the past on some programs that were deemed controversial and I never had any political censorship. On the contrary I was impressed by the integrity and fairness of the people I dealt with.
So based on my past experience, I was going to wait patiently until the BBC programming executives would solve the internal drama that apparently has begun to brew inside the BBC. “The film is gorgeous, courageous and fresh, “ I was told several times by the programming executives. I was promised that the cancellation was temporary: “Given the short timescale and your workload, we have decided to delay transmission until we’ve had the chance you’ve had the chance to go through it in detail”.
I naively believed and decided to wait quietly. But things have their own momentum and as I learned more, I realized that the story of “EXILE” in the BBC is far more complex.
Among the dozens of emails I received one caught my attention. It included the official email response from the BBC to the inquiry/complaint sent to irate viewers who contacted the BBC asking why the program was pulled out of the schedule. This email contradicted a private email sent to me by the programming executives. I was intrigued.
I discovered after quick research that while I was contacted by the BBC barely a week before the broadcast asking for my comments about the cut, the BBC have had the film for almost 6 months. So why was this sudden rush which supposedly was the excuse given to me as to why the film was pulled out? Why was I contacted so late in the game? And why was there a discrepancy between what was told to me and the “official” version . I started to dig a bit deeper and to put my findings in a blog, rather than answer the dozens of people who wrote to me privately.
This is not a personal issue. This is ultimately a sad saga of what I believe is a mixture of incompetence, political naiveté, conscious or subconscious political pressure and ultimately, I believe, a lack of courage of broadcasters when they are faced with the complexity of the Middle East issue and the intense emotions, fears and aggression it generates. Once you indeed depersonalize this incident, you gain a fascinating insight into how subtle and complex is the process by which our understanding of the Israeli Palestinian conflict is being shaped and what happens when one dares to raise questions about issues deemed by some as taboos. It is this insight that I think is worth sharing and detailing.
The story begins for me with the name. I discovered only 3 days before the broadcast that the BBC has been using a different name for the film: Jerusalem – An Archeological Mystery Story. It struck me as an odd choice that seems to camouflage the film’s real subject and repackages it as a neutral archeological mystery of sort- like the hundreds of hours one can see on cable and Satellite channels throughout the world.
“ Exile” of course is not about a mystery, neither it is limited to archeology or to Jerusalem. The name and the illusion that one can pretend that this film is just about archeology and its mysteries are at the core I believe of Thursday’s fiasco.
Digging deeper I also learned that this title was established back in November 2012 in the agreement between the National Film Board of Canada (one of the film’s co producers and its int’l distributor) and the BBC. I was approached by the distributor to see if I would agree for the BBC to cut down the program. I agreed to it on the condition that I would be consulted so the integrity of the longer version (104 min) would be preserved. I also said that if I was not to be consulted my name should be removed from the program and the cut down will be listed as an “adaptation from a film by Ilan Ziv”. From my access to some internal documents, it is obvious now that the BBC was not genuinely interested in my getting involved. As the documents suggest, they already announced that the cut down version would be an adaptation.
So back in November 2012, everything seemed to be on track to produce a cut down of the film without having to deal with the director, broadcast the film under a neutral title and hopefully avoid any serious political debate. A perfect solution! So what went wrong?
Fast forward to Saturday April 20th 2013 when I received an email from a friend in the UK who saw that “my” film Jerusalem; An Archeological Mystery Story was going to be broadcast on BBC 4. He even read a preview of it in the Guardian. The preview promised that the film “ will ruffle some feathers”. Two days earlier I did receive from the editor who cut the film a copy of the cut for me to comment on, but there was no mention of an impeding broadcast date!
On Monday, 3 days before the broadcast, I fired an email to the BBC programming executives complaining that it is unfair to expect me to spend time reviewing the cut and coming up with suggestions of a re cut, when I was given only a few days before a broadcast date that no one bothered to inform me about. I pleaded for more time. It was only when one of the programming executives called me, I realized that there were much bigger issues for her than my complaint about being pushed into an impossible schedule.
The program executive seemed genuinely shocked that a freelance employee hired by the BBC to take part in the re-versioning process called the film “propaganda”. When I asked if this unnamed person had specific examples to support such a sweeping charge, I was told that she claimed that , “Everything was propaganda”. And there was more.
An “unnamed” BBC insider who I was told “liked the film,” claimed that the film props up the myth of Exile “ which we all know did not happen, in order to support his political analysis”. I learned that the cut I was given was now irrelevant, since some internal review deemed one scène with the Palestinians to be “too emotive” and they were asked to cut it down. Realizing that a mini political storm was brewing around the film and attacks lodged against its integrity, I asked and was promised that I would be given at least a summary of the essential charges so I could answer them in length. I am obviously very familiar with some of them and could easily and in detail refute them. I told the programming executive that my reply would help them to defend the film in the Channel. After all, they professed to love the film and seemed genuinely interested to show it. I told them it was very easy for me to prepare a detailed rebuttal with citation of sources for every word of the narration, the overall analysis and for every scene. I told them that some of the academic participants in the program who saw the cut and are reputable scholars in their field did not find any factual errors or misrepresentations of facts or of the historical narrative. In other words, I argued that such a detailed and substantial defense would convince any objective reader and observer of the editorial integrity of the film. I repeated the request several times yet I never got a reply. Instead, I received an email telling me that they decided to pull it out of the schedule, citing the “ short timetable and my work load “( !) A few days later I saw the “official” version that went to the public:
“We originally acquired ‘Jerusalem: An Archaeological Mystery Story’ to supplement BBC Four’s season exploring the history of archaeology. However, we have decided that it doesn’t fit editorially and are no longer planning to show it as part of the season. Plans to broadcast the program are currently under review” So Exile, A myth unearthed has begun its own exile within the BBC.
I do believe it is ultimately a sad saga. A saga of well meaning programming executives who acquired the “courageous “ film they claim to love, believing that they can sneak it by with a “neutral title”. When they were “caught”, rather than face the criticism and be helped by the mountains of documents and data I was ready to send them, they panicked like deer in the headlights not knowing what to do and eventually raised their hands in resignation.
The truth of the matter is that the reaction outside and inside the BBC surprised me too. The film by now has been shown in a Jewish Festival in Toronto, playing in a screening room there for a week. It was shown on Canadian TV with a second broadcast planned for June. Another version of the film is scheduled to be shown in France and the original version in Switzerland ,with hopefully screenings in the US later in the year. The response in all the public screenings, some of which I attended, was overall extremely positive. Nowhere did the film generate such a reaction as that of the few individuals inside and outside the BBC.
The temporary success to “exile” the film might prove I believe to be a pyrrhic victory.
EXILE does not deal with contemporary politics in the Middle East, rather, it proposes to examine their ideological and historical underpinnings. EXILE has not contributed to the political stalemate in the region nor to the continued bloodshed, occupation and violence. It is a film born out of the continued violence. Rather than propose a simplistic solution or an aspirational political program , it tries to suggest a possible way out by re examining the historical narratives we all grew up on, suggesting that in this tormented land there are historical models of co existence and tolerance that could replace the dominant conventional nationalist ones. Silencing this film is silencing a possibility of discussion, debate and re examination not of the current political stalemate but of the intellectual stalemate that contributes to it.
I hope that somewhere in the BBC someone will rise above the hysteria and the attempts at self censorship to take a cooler look at the film and realize how it has been profoundly mis-characterized , -viewing it through partisan glasses instead of looking at it for what it is: a film that can and has already in its public screenings generated dialogue and positive, thinking rather than perpetuating divisions and polarization.
So for me this is not the end of EXILE in the UK but only the beginning. I will show the film publically throughout the UK and will challenge the BBC to either broadcast the film or relinquish its rights. I have offered to buy these rights so I could place the film elsewhere in the UK.
The saga of EXILE will continue. Stay tuned!
Exile – A Myth Unearthed (Trailer)
cus·to·di·an (kəs-ˈtō-dē-ən) n. 1. One who has charge of something: caretaker
– The Heritage Illustrated Dictionary of the English Language, International Edition, 1973
The office of Ronen Baruch, the current Custodian of Absentee Property for Israel, is in an ancient Arab home at 8 Yoel Salomon Street in Jerusalem. A house of this type is not unusual in this part of Jerusalem, and this one has few markings to indicate its function. Even its mail is delivered to the main building of the Ministry of Finance in another part of the city.
Searching the Internet will not yield this information unless you read Hebrew, and even then not much else. Much more is available about the Mossad, but perhaps only because it is bigger and more interesting. Information about the Custodian is not necessarily secret, just possibly of little interest to journalists. However, it has no website and does not advertise its contact information. It is almost as if Israel would prefer that no one knows it is there.
Despite this, the office plays a pivotal role in the existence of Israel. Most Israelis live and work on land that was once in the charge of the Custodian of Absentee Property, an office created less than two months after the Israeli state and existing to this day as part of the Ministry of Finance.
Who or what is the Custodian of Absentee Property?
To many of the indigenous nations of North America, the European notion of land ownership was strange. The role of humans was to be custodians of the land and for the land to be the custodian of its human inhabitants. Similarly, the rulers of Makkah and Medina have historically referred to themselves as custodians, not owners, of the holy shrines.
Thus, when Israel created the Office of the Custodian of Absentee Property in July, 1948, to take charge of property belonging to refugees that fled or were expelled, was its intention for the custodian to be a steward and trustee for the property of these refugees while they were away? Certainly, the title of the office implicitly acknowledges that the property belongs to the absentees, not the Custodian, which land registry documents in fact confirm.
Of course, land and the structures on it – some dating back a thousand years or more – were not the only property that came into the charge of the Custodian. Many millions of dollars of gold, jewelry, antiques, cars and other items made their way into the inventory. However, real estate was by far the most important and valuable. The absentee owners were almost all Palestinian Arab refugees and exiles, both rich and poor. A few were Jews, and their property was quickly returned to them. Not so for the rest, except a tiny fraction that were able to prove that they had not fled at all.
How much of the territory within the 1949 ceasefire line did the absentees leave behind? Prior to the proclamation of the state of Israel on May 14, 1948, some 6% of Mandate Palestine was Jewish property (Sami Hadawi, Village statistics: 1945). Considering that Zionist forces seized 78% of Palestine, however, the proportion within those areas would have been closer to 8%, excluding Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. In addition, the remnant of the Palestinian Arab population that was not expelled retained some of their lands and homes, currently estimated to be less than 3% of the same areas. Roughly half of the captured territory was state land of the government of Palestine, mostly the Naqab (Negev) desert.
It is likely that all the rest, roughly 39%, was declared absentee property, and placed under the control of the Custodian. This figure agrees with an inventory made by the United Nations Conciliation Commission for Palestine (UNCCP) of 7,069,091 dunams. If the Custodian also took charge of state lands, the total would have been 89%. This information has not been released, but a statement by Jacob Manor, the Custodian in 1980, to journalist Robert Fisk (Pity the Nation, p. 45) indicates that the higher figure may be more accurate.
Of course, Israel had no intention of respecting the legal records of land ownership. The Absentee Property Law of 1950 made clear that the job of the Custodian was to “release” the property in its custody to other agencies, which would use the land without regard to the registered owners.
Thus, in effect, the Custodian of Absentee Property became Israel’s largest “fence” for stolen property. Under the powers authorized by the Absentee Property Law, the Custodian “released” the land to the Israeli state, the Development Authority and the Jewish National Fund (JNF), with the combined lands (93% of the state of Israel) under the management of the Israel Land Administration (ILA). The ILA thus became the largest recipient of stolen property in Israel, notwithstanding the international racketeers and blood diamond traffickers that have found a safe haven there.
Curiously, however, the ILA has until recently been prohibited from offering the land for sale, but rather to lease it to users, although in 2009 plans were made to begin granting title. This policy was promoted in the 1950s allegedly as an enlightened socialist program of collective ownership borrowed from the institution of the kibbutz. Was it instead a means of protecting individual Israeli citizens from the accusation of receiving stolen goods? If so, it constitutes another implicit admission that the property legally belongs to expelled Palestinians and not to either the Israeli government or its citizens.
The Absentee Property Law is in fact contrary to the Fourth Geneva Convention and the International Declaration of Human Rights, both of which were constituted less than two years earlier and to which Israel became a signatory. This discrepancy came to light in the case of the Jerusalem residence of the Consul General of Belgium, which has been located since 1948 on absentee property known as the Villa Salameh. In order to be in compliance with international law, Belgium elected to pay rent to the exiled Palestinian owners of the property rather than to any Israeli authority or to Israeli businessman David Sofer, who claims to have “bought” (leased) the property from the Israeli government since 2000.
Surprisingly, Israel has been one of the strongest proponents for the restoration of absentee property to its original owners or their rightful heirs. One of the best examples of this is the HEART (Holocaust Era Asset Restitution Taskforce) Project, established in 2011 with more than $2.5 million per year funding from the Israeli government, in cooperation with the Jewish Agency for Israel. Its purpose is to seek restitution for Jewish property seized by the Nazi government in Germany. Other victims of the Holocaust, such as Slavs, Poles, Romanies (Gypsies), disabled persons, non-Europeans, political prisoners, Jehovah’s Witnesses and others are apparently ineligible for this service, as well victims of the 1948 Israeli ethnic cleansing project known to Palestinians as the Nakba (catastrophe).
Although the extent of past Israeli property theft is well known to students of such matters, popular awareness is lagging. Current activists are likely to consider the more recent thefts of Bedouin property in the Naqab (Negev), confiscation of Palestinian property in Jerusalem and West Bank land seizures, house demolitions and village eradications as the major problem without taking into account the much larger scale of earlier crimes. They might be shocked to learn, for example, that the land stolen from Palestinian owners prior to the 1949 ceasefire is equal in size to more than the total area of the West Bank and Gaza combined.
The issue is sometimes raised when defining “Arab land” in the Palestinian context. If, for example, “Arab land” is defined only as that which was seized in the June 1967 war, it disregards the enormous amount of property that was confiscated without compensation from “absentee” Palestinian refugees and exiles in 1947-49 and soon after.
Is the Custodian of Absentee Property awaiting the return of the absentees to reclaim their property? In a sense probably so, though not with a sense of joy. Rather, all who are responsible for the theft of the property and for the ethnic cleansing and other crimes committed in furtherance of that theft know that a day of reckoning always awaits those who think they are above the law.
Paul Larudee is one of the founders of the Free Gaza and Free Palestine Movements and an organizer in the International Solidarity Movement.
- Muslim cemetery cleared as building of vast ‘Museum of Tolerance’ goes ahead (occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com)
Israeli police arrested Palestinian worshipers on Saturday at the al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem, after an alleged scuffle erupted during a visit by a group of Jews and Christians to the mosque.
Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told Ma’an that six Palestinians were arrested for throwing stones at groups of Jews and Christians visiting the compound.
Witnesses told Ma’an that police detained ten Palestinians and attacked Muslim worshipers with electric shock batons.
Dozens of Israeli settlers raided the mosque from al-Magharbeh gate, witnesses said. One settler drank wine and another allowed her daughter to urinate near an olive tree in the compound, they said, adding that a guard at al-Aqsa Mosque intervened, leading to scuffles.
Sheikh Azzam al-Khatib, the director of Islamic endowments in Jerusalem, said 200 Israeli settlers had entered the mosque in a provocative way, adding that religious officials had forced Israeli police to close al-Magharbeh gate for the day.
Israel’s police spokesman said further visits of Jewish and Christian groups were scheduled on Sunday afternoon and would continue as planned.
The al-Aqsa Mosque compound is one of the holiest sites in Islam. Jews also consider the area, which they refer to as Temple Mount, as imbued with important religious meaning.
- News Black-out and Political Farce over Jerusalem Clashes (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Bethlehem – On Thursday, 21 March 2013, US President Barack Obama traveled from Jerusalem to the occupied West Bank town of Bethlehem. He entered the city through its northern entrance along the road Israelis call Route 300.
After all checkpoints had been opened and the roads were cleared of people, Obama’s trip took only a few minutes. However, the Palestinians do not enjoy such luxuries; this route is off-limits and access would necessitate a special permit from the occupation authorities.
If Obama wanted to arrive in Bethlehem via Ramallah, then his journey would not have taken him longer than 25 minutes, if not less. But what do Palestinians’ trips to Bethlehem from Ramallah look like?
Atef Louwais works in Ramallah and lives in Bethlehem. He told Al-Akhbar that he leaves his home every day at 6:30 am to catch a taxi to Ramallah, in the hope that he can get to work by 8 am.
After getting a taxi downtown, he makes his first mandatory stop at the Israeli “Container” military checkpoint at the southeastern entrance to the city.
If Israeli soldiers are in a good mood, they do not hold Louwais for very long, and let him continue his journey through the dangerous road known as Wadi al-Nar, which means valley of fire in Arabic. From there, he arrives at the town of Azarieh (Bethany) on the outskirts of occupied Jerusalem.
This takes him close to the Israeli settlement of Ma’ale Adumim, where Israeli border police vehicles often patrol the adjoining area. Louwais said that these patrols, which the Palestinians call “flying checkpoints,” are the real nightmare for commuters. The occupation soldiers habitually detain passengers, sometimes under the pretext of an ID or car registration check.
Next, according to Saed Abdallah, Atef’s commuting companion, “We head along the route known as the quarry road until we reach the Palestinian village of Hazma. We then take a bypass road around occupied Jerusalem. During that leg of the trip, we get to see the progression of the settlements devouring the lands in and around Jerusalem.”
“If we manage to cross the Jabba checkpoint, we walk a few minutes before reaching the Qalandiya crossing. But there, we will meet with another disaster: the massive traffic jam that comes with the arrival of thousands of commuters every morning and evening, all under the eyes of the occupation soldiers who enjoy torturing and humiliating the Palestinians.”
This is the arduous journey that Palestinian commuters must make every day. The return trip is even more difficult, and might take up to two hours, if not more. Perhaps Obama, who was met with red carpets and empty roads on his arrival, does not know these details. But even if he did, would he care?
Despite their ferocity, the March 9th 2013 clashes in the Noble Sanctuary of Al-Aqsa failed to make international headlines. The virtual news black-out was indicative of prevailing attitudes towards Jerusalem as a whole. Palestinian officials argue, and rightly so, that even the Arab media is complicit in this neglect. With every outrage committed in Al-Aqsa Mosque tensions rise to boiling point, evoking memories of September 2000 when Ariel Sharon ignited the second intifada with his provocative incursion into the Mosque compound.
Palestinians’ daily harassment at checkpoints, house demolitions and arbitrary arrests at the hands of Israelis are surely bad enough. However, the willful desecration of religious sites and Al-Aqsa Mosque in particular, is one indignity too many. In recent days Israel has taken its violations to new levels with a spate of incursions into the mosque, ending with the defiling of the Holy Qur’an.
Can things get worse? Many are expecting a dramatic turn of events. According to the Chief Imam of Al-Aqsa Mosque, Shaikh Ekrima Sabri, “The arrogance of the Israeli occupation and its on-going provocations will ignite the third uprising and no one will be able to stop it.”
For now, the Israelis are hoping that Mahmoud Abbas and his security forces will prevent this from happening. As a pre-emptive measure they have arrested scores of young men across the West Bank. Abbas vows that he will not allow another intifada. In this regard he is consistent, for he was staunchly opposed to the 2000 uprising. Besides, there is also the spectre of what happened to his predecessor, Yasser Arafat, who was blamed for instigating and encouraging the Aqsa Intifada.
There was, however, no justification for last week’s gratuitous violence. There were no attacks on Israelis or their property. The only Palestinian “crime” was that they protested against the defiling of the Qur’an by an Israeli soldier who was filmed kicking the Holy Book days earlier.
Friday’s attack on worshippers in Al-Aqsa Mosque left scores injured. Israeli soldiers and Special Forces fired tear gas and rubber-coated metal bullets at worshippers inside the mosque. The obvious conclusion from this is that Israel is determined to raise tensions in the run up to US President Barack Obama’s visit to the country.
The ugly scenes in Islam’s third most sacred mosque were preceded hours before by the desecration of the graves of revered Islamic scholars and sages in Ma’man Allah cemetery. Eighty-five per cent of the cemetery has been seized to build amusement parks, museums and even dog kennels. Two recent developments illustrated the shambolic approach of western politicians and governments to these manifestly criminal acts. The first was a threat from a gutless Canadian government to cut aid to the Palestinian Authority if it resorts to an international court to seek redress against the Israelis. Canada’s Foreign Minister [John Baird] made the announcement at the annual conference of the largest North American pro-Israel lobby group, AIPAC. In Britain, meanwhile, opposition leader Ed Miliband declared himself to be a Zionist and warned in a speech to the Board of Deputies of British Jews — the nearest thing to AIPAC on this side of the Atlantic that any thought of a boycott campaign against Israel is unacceptable. In both instances the message to the occupier was clear; carry on with more of the same illegal and unjust behaviour, we stand shoulder to shoulder with you.
UN Resolution 2787 called “upon all states dedicated to the ideals of freedom and peace to give all their political, moral and material assistance to peoples struggling for liberation, self-determination and independence against colonial and alien domination”; what happened to its lofty ideals? Countries like Canada and Britain appear to have abandoned them when the country being questioned is Israel.
On the ground, the coordination and division of roles between Israel’s army, Jewish settlers, the judiciary and the politicians continue unimpeded. The sacred Al-Aqsa Mosque compound has now, to all intents and purposes, been turned into an Israeli military outpost, contradicting the universal right to worship that all humanity is entitled to. Indeed, days after International Women’s Day, Palestinian women were prevented from attending classes in the mosques spread around Al-Aqsa’s courtyards. The silence of those critics of Islam who have a lot to say about Muslim women being oppressed is deafening in the face of the brutality of Israeli soldiers against Palestinian women.
In the absence of any meaningful political negotiations the politicians should tell us how to protect Palestinian rights. All they are doing at the moment is giving Israel time to realise its ambitions at the expense of Muslims.
These despicable acts of sacrilege will continue for as long as Israel enjoys the support of the US and its western allies. Every failure to act is an incentive which emboldens Israel to impose its administrative control over Al-Aqsa Mosque, to determine who enters the sacred site and when they can enter. These unjustified and deliberate attempts to insult and humiliate Muslims can only add to the dangerous climate of regional instability and move it inexorably towards the abyss of religious confrontation.
Dr. Daud Abdullah can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Historic buildings around Al-Aqsa continue to be demolished (alethonews.wordpress.com)
BETHLEHEM – Israeli forces on Wednesday surrounded a new tent village erected by Palestinian activists in Eizariya east of Jerusalem.
An Israeli military spokeswoman said hundreds of Palestinians established “an illegal settlement” and that security forces were in the area “to maintain order.”
She said soldiers arrested the driver of a truck loaded with equipment including tents.
Mohammad Khatib, a spokesman for the activists, said soldiers handed protesters a document declaring the area a closed military zone.
“We are staying. We are Palestinians, and we will stay here. They will have to evacuate us. They will have to use their power to do it, but we will not do it by ourselves,” Khatib told Ma’an.
“We are staying here because this is Palestinian land. This is our land, and no one has a right to evacuate us.”
As US President Barack Obama arrived in Israel, activists set up 15 tents on a hillside near the site of the Bab al-Shams protest village that Israeli forces tore down in January.
They have named the new neighborhood Ahfad Younis, after the main character in the novel Bab al-Shams.
In a statement, the activists described the initiative as “first, to claim our right as Palestinians to return to our lands and villages, second, to claim our sovereignty over our lands without permission from anyone.”
The activists said it aimed to highlight their opposition to the Obama administration’s policies in the region, saying that it has been “complicit in Israeli occupation and colonialism.”
“An administration that used the veto 43 times … in support of Israel and against Palestinian rights, an administration that grants military aid to Israel of over three billion dollars annually, can’t have any positive contribution to achieve justice,” the statement said.
- Palestinians erect new ‘village’ as Obama lands in Israel (alethonews.wordpress.com)
JERUSALEM – Last month, an international fact-finding mission on Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council found that settlements constituted a violation of international human rights and humanitarian law and called on Israel to stop all expansions immediately and withdraw from settlements.
A controversial Israeli plan, known as E-1, to build thousands of housing units and hotel rooms near the Ma’ale Adummim settlement, has garnered much attention in the media because it would sever Palestinian East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank. (See IRIN’s briefing on E-1 here.)
But at the same time, Israel has been moving forward with equally controversial settlement plans under less scrutiny and with unusual speed.
As US President Barack Obama prepares to visit the region this week, IRIN takes a look at some of the details that have been overlooked in the discussion.
What’s the Giv’at HaMatos plan?
According to Israeli NGO Ir Amim (“City of Nations”), which works to preserve Jerusalem as a home for both Jews and Palestinians, one settlement plan of “critical importance” is Giv’at HaMatos.
In a sense, Giv’at HaMatos does in the south what E-1 does in the east. The planned large housing and hotel complex at the southern perimeter of Jerusalem would further disrupt the contiguity of land between East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank required for a future Palestinian state, seriously impeding a two-state solution, research and rights groups say. It would also mark the first new settlement construction in Jerusalem since 1997.
“All construction is problematic but there are several plans that are, in our view, more dangerous if implemented,” Hagit Ofran, director of the Settlement Watch project at the Israeli NGO Peace Now, told IRIN. “Giv’at HaMatos is the most dangerous plan that is now approved.”
Part of the plan – to build 2,612 units – was approved by the Jerusalem Regional Planning Committee on 19 December.
Most of Giv’at HaMatos is currently uninhabited, but according to the International Crisis Group (ICG), which recently released a two-part report on the future of East Jerusalem, its build-up would cut off Arab neighbourhoods in southern Jerusalem, like Beit Safafa and Sharafat, rendering them “Palestinian enclaves”.
Giv’at HaMatos would connect the dots of several other planned or expanding settlements along southern Jerusalem – including Giv’at Yael in the southwest; and Har Homa and East Talpiyot in the southeast – forming “a long Jewish continuum severing Bethlehem’s urban continuum from Palestinian Jerusalem”, ICG said. Last year, the Israeli government also approved more than 2,000 new units in neighbouring Gilo.
This kind of attachment to Jewish expansions could make peace negotiations even harder.
“From an Israeli public opinion perspective, Giv’at HaMatos is in the municipal border of Jerusalem,” Ofran said. “It’s considered a legitimate part of Israel.”
Barak Cohen, the Jerusalem Municipality’s adviser for foreign affairs and media, told IRIN Giv’at HaMatos is part of Jerusalem’s “natural and much-needed growth”, allowing both Arab and Jewish landowners to develop their properties.
Indeed, part of the Giv’at HaMatos plan, approved on 18 December, allows for the building of 549 units for Palestinians – though Betty Herschman, director of international relations and advocacy at Ir Amim, points out much of it retroactively legalizes building that has already been completed. The figures, she added, amount to just over one-fifth of the Jewish expansion.
“For many Arab East Jerusalemites, the battle for their city is all but lost.”
Still, Cohen insisted, the development would benefit Jerusalem as a whole: “Not planning and developing Jerusalem neighbourhoods ultimately harms all residents and landowners – Arabs and Jews alike.”
Last year, Israel also issued tenders for the construction of 606 new housing units north of East Jerusalem, in the Ramot settlement, just north of the Green Line marking the border between Israel and the West Bank, and approved another 1,500 units in the neighbouring settlement of Ramot Shlomo, according to Ir Amim.
What other settlements are planned?
Beyond Jerusalem, there was movement on a number of other settlements projects in disputed areas, according to Settlement Watch.
In June 2012, the Israeli government announced it would build 851 new units in the West Bank, including more than 230 in the controversial settlements of Ariel and Efrat. Like Giv’at HaMatos, these two settlements make a contiguous Palestinian territory impossible, Settlement Watch says.
Overall, settlements expanded much faster than usual last year.
In 2012 the Israeli government approved the construction of 6,676 settler housing units in the West Bank, compared with 1,607 in 2011 and several hundred in 2010, according to Peace Now.
For plans that were already approved, it issued more than 3,000 tenders to construction contractors – more than any other year in the last decade, Peace Now said. Construction has actually begun on 1,747 homes.
Regardless of the settlements, Palestinians, especially in Area C, are under immense pressure. Recent weeks have seen a considerable upswing in demolitions of Palestinian structures. According to the Displacement Working Group, a grouping of aid agencies helping displaced families, Israeli forces destroyed 139 Palestinian structures, including 59 homes, in January – almost triple 2012’s monthly average. The demolitions occurred in East Jerusalem and the West Bank – with a majority taking place in Area C – and left 251 Palestinians, including over 150 children, displaced.
The office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the (Palestinian) Territories (COGAT) told IRIN there was no connection between the removal of unauthorized buildings and the construction of Israeli settlements. “All construction in the West Bank is subject to building codes and planning laws and unauthorized constructions are dealt with accordingly,” the office said in an email.
What are the knock-on effects?
Settlements are often discussed through the lens of their illegality under international law or as obstacles to a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. But everything associated with the settlements – including Israeli-only infrastructure, the separation barrier, military checkpoints, restrictions on Palestinian freedom of movement, suppression of freedom of expression and political life, and control of Palestinian natural resources – causes a ripple effect through Palestinian society, adversely impacting the people.
The UN estimates there are now 520,000 Israeli settlers in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, with 43 percent of the land there allocated to local and regional settlement councils. According to the UN Secretary-General, Israel has transferred roughly 8 percent of its citizens into OPT since the 1970s, altering the demographic composition of the territory and furthering the Palestinian people from their right to self-determination.
Baker, of the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office, said a future Palestinian state should include a Jewish minority. “The assumption behind this… is that Jews have no right to live in the West Bank, an assumption that we reject. In fact we see ourselves as the true indigenous people of this land.”
But Israeli settlements have violated Palestinian rights to equality under the law, to religious freedom and to freedom of movement, according to the UN fact-finding mission. They have also eroded Palestinian access to water and to agricultural assets, and the ability to develop economically, it said.
Photo: OCHA – View larger version of map here
For example, Bedouins from the Palestinian village of Khan Al Ahmar, northeast of E-1, cannot sell their dairy products at their traditional Souq Al Ahmar market any more. Because of movement restrictions (they hold West Bank IDs and lack the proper permits to enter East Jerusalem), they cannot get there.
The UN secretary-general has said that Palestinians “have virtually no control” over the water resources in the West Bank, with 86 percent of the Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea under the de facto jurisdiction of the settlement regional councils.
There is a statistical correlation between Palestinians’ proximity to settlements and their rates of food insecurity, according to a UN and government survey, which found that one quarter of Palestinians who live in Area C, home to the largest number of settlements in the West Bank, are food insecure. In Areas A and B, the average rate of food insecurity is 17 percent.
In addition, “all spheres of Palestinian life are being significantly affected by a minority of settlers who are engaged in violence and intimidation with the aim of forcing Palestinians off their land,” the mission said.
Operation Dove, an international organization working in the Palestinian village of At-Tuwani and the South Hebron Hills, reported that Palestinian children have a very hard time going to school due to settler attacks.
The UN and rights groups say radical settlers use violence against Palestinians with impunity and their illegal outposts are often recognized and retroactively legalized by the government.
Since the occupation began, Israel has detained hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, some of them without charge, and some of them children. Most of the minors are arrested “at friction points, such as a village near a settlement or a road used by the army or settlers”, the fact-finding mission said.
Israel uses what they term “administrative detention” when it considers the detainee a threat to the security of the state.
Ir Amim’s Herschman says Israel is also attempting to create a “greater Jerusalem” through additional means, for example: the Israeli separation barrier, planned national parks, and the construction of highways dividing villages, dispossessing Palestinians of their land and making it harder for them to access services like schools and mosques.
In recent weeks, residents of the Palestinian village of Beit Safafa have been protesting against the planned extension of the Begin Highway that would divide their village in order to connect major Israeli settlement blocks outside the city to Jerusalem.
The planned root of the separation barrier, in addition to a potential national park around the perimeter of the barrier would also close off nearby Palestinian village al-Wallajeh.
The planned route of the barrier extends all the way around and far beyond Muale Adummim and in other areas south and north of Jerusalem. “These lines are a unilateral declaration of a much greater Jerusalem, a unilateral expanding of the boundaries, an exponential increase,” she told IRIN.
Or as the ICG put it, “for many Arab East Jerusalemites, the battle for their city is all but lost.”
According to bystanders, a young Jewish woman punched the Palestinian suddenly as she was passing by the station. A friend of the assailant began aiding her in beating the Palestinian, pushing her against the wall, and ultimately ripping off her headscarf.
The Palestinian was accompanied by an old man who tried to push the attackers away to no avail.
The event occurred at about three o’clock in the afternoon. It is unclear whether the incident involved only the two assailants mentioned in witness accounts, or a larger group shown in the photo.
“There were about 100 Orthodox and yeshiva students who disembarked the tramway and spotted an Arab woman accompanied by an older man,” a witness, who photographed the event, told Ma’ariv.
“It developed into arguing and yelling, and I don’t know what the content was that everyone jumped on her.”
According to the witness, an activist named Dorit Jordan Dotan, a municipality security officer passively watched the event and seemed to be smiling. Many residents also stood by.
“The entire time, the guard stood and smiled and did not even try to break up the fight,” a witness said.
Dotan confirmed that the incident took place at the station where a group of young people had just arrived from the train, but seemed to downplay the event by suggesting the attackers were intoxicated.
“Young people drink a lot of wine for Purim. Screams were heard everywhere. A woman tried to fight [the Jewish students] but they yelled at her not to dare touch the Jews and continued to beat [the Arab woman],” Dotan said.
Following publication in Ma’ariv, police launched an investigation into the case.
“It’s a shame that the Arab whore didn’t die”
On the day the report was published, Israeli police officer Ariel Shapiro re-posted the article on his Facebook page and issued a chilling endorsement: “Very good,” wrote Shpiro “It’s a shame that the Arab whore didn’t die.”
Screenshot of Shapiro’s Facebook page along with the offending status message
The message was publicized by Palestinian Member of Knesset Ahmad Tibi.
Israeli army and police officers have come under fire in recent weeks for showcasing dehumanizing images of and slogans about Palestinians. The most famous of these is an Instagram photo of Mor Ostrovski, 20, showing the crosshairs of a rifle being aimed at the head of a Palestinian boy.