It’s a never ending struggle, this uphill battle with Israel’s mighty propaganda machine. But as they say, no rest for the weary.
Over the past few months, Israel has been sullying the reputation of yet another aspect of Palestinian governance. In late May, the Palestinian Media Watch, an Israeli watchdog organization that tracks Palestinian media for incitement against Israel released a report claiming that the Palestinian Authority is paying salaries to Palestinian prisoners in accordance with a newly published law.
The PMW spread the news as quickly and with as much venom as possible. “In other words, all Palestinians in Israeli prisons for terror crimes officially join the PA payroll. According to the definition in the PA law, Palestinian car thieves in Israeli prisons will not receive a salary, but Hamas and Fatah terrorist murderers will,” the report read.
“The PA also gives a salary to Israeli Arabs convicted of terror crimes against Israel – the country of which they are citizens. PA benefits to Israeli Arab terrorists, in fact, are greater than the ones extended to Palestinian terrorists.”
Since then, the slandering has taken hold, especially since the PMW called on donor countries to cut aid to the PA altogether since, according to their logic, the money will go to “terrorists” and their families.
This is not the first time the Palestinians have been accused of supporting terrorism and incitement towards Israel. After the PA came to power in 2004 and devised its own school curriculum, Israel immediately began tearing the books apart, page at a time and claiming they were full of anti-Israeli sentiments. An excellent article published earlier this month by The Guardian notes that Israeli textbooks, which are rarely in the spotlight, are far more inciting and racist than that of the Palestinians. The article points out that the word “Palestinians” is only used when in reference to “terrorists.” Otherwise, Palestinians are referred to as Arabs – uneducated, deviant, camel riders.
Claims of incitement are not limited to schoolbooks, unfortunately. When Palestinians named a square after Dalal Al Mughrabi, a Palestinian fighter who was killed during a military operation against Israel in 1978, Israel was up in arms, claiming the Palestinians should not be allowed to name streets or squares after “terrorists.” Israeli watchdog groups and the Israeli government play on the fact that Palestinians have named streets after Abu Jihad (Khalil Al Wazir) and Yehya Ayash. The prisoner stipends are just the latest episode in the drama.
What Israelis should know is that any country in the world with a welfare system is responsible for its citizens, including the families of prisoners. There is nothing out of the ordinary in this. Actually, the PA has been doing it for years. The United States does not punish the family of a murderer nor would Israel cut government benefits from the family of Yigal Amir. Neither should the Palestinians abandon their own people.
Additionally, Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails are a whole other ballgame. These men and women are not imprisoned for stealing cars, or for selling drugs. They are there because they are resisting a belligerent military occupation of their land, which has oppressed them and their people for decades. The PA’s allocations to prisoners and their families is in no way an endorsement of “terrorism and violence” but rather a means of helping mostly young men and women and their families to resume a life that has been interrupted by an occupying authority. Any other country would have done the same.
Besides, countries should not interfere in the internal affairs of others. If the Palestinians want to name a street after one of their national heroes, regardless of how this person is perceived by Israel, that is their business. The Palestinians have never objected to the fact that Israel named its international airport after David Ben Gurion, Israel’s founding father and a man who advocated the transfer of Palestinians after the 1948 war. “We should prevent Arab return at any cost,” he said in June, a month after Israel’s declaration of independence and 800,000 Palestinians were forced from their homes virtually overnight.
For the Palestinians, Ben Gurion is no hero. The thousands of political prisoners in Israeli jails, on the other hand, certainly are.
Joharah Baker is Director of the Media and Information Department at the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH). She can be contacted at email@example.com.
Netanyahu gov’t to approve plan to contain Negev Bedouin, forcibly relocating 30,000 people, reducing Bedouin land by two-thirds
“The plan is to concentrate them in certain areas, where they will receive land and till it…”
No, these are not the words of a Czar regarding the future of the Jews in the land. These are the words of David Rotem, an Israeli Member of Knesset from the Yisrael Beitenu party, deciding the future of the Bedouin, citizens of Israel, and the indigenous people of the Negev. His version of the Praver plan will be voted on by the Israeli government on Sunday, September 4th. (Hebrew, “On the way to approval: large cut in lands for Bedouin, YNET, 9/1/11).
I don’t know where to begin…
That the Bedouin have owned and used the Negev land for centuries before the establishment of the state of Israel?
That since the establishment of the state of Israel, their wish has been to become a legitimate part of their state?
That the policies of the state of Israel over the last 60 years have brought them to penury, living in tin shacks, at the threat of even these being demolished at the whim of a bureaucrat?
That the land they are holding on to now is no more than 3% of the Negev lands – and that the policies of oppression and destruction are in order to further reduce these lands to only 1.5% of the Negev land.
That on average a Bedouin farmer can use no more than 3 dunams (1 dunam = 1/4 of an acre) to support his family of 10, while a Jewish farmer in the Negev has no less than 30 dunams, and at times even 1,000?
So let’s remember how we got to where we are now:
Retired Supreme Court judge Eliezer Goldberg listened to many voices, and together with a small committee put together “the Goldberg Report” in 2008 under the auspices of the Olmert Government. This report, while using positive rhetoric, such as “the villages must be recognized, as much as possible,” also recommended that Bedouins should not receive land beyond Route 40, re-establishing the norm that Bedouins, while being citizens, are not really a fully legitimate part of our country. The Bedouin community, which had fully cooperated with the Goldberg committee, was disappointed.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert assigned Ehud (Udi) Praver to create a plan implementing the Goldberg Report recommendations. Praver’s plan was released a couple of months ago. This plan did not implement the Goldberg Report recommendations, but rather created a completely new plan.
In developing this new plan, NO BEDOUIN were consulted. NONE. Creating a plan for a community, without even thinking of considering their voice, is a strong statement – indicating that Israel still perceives the Bedouin as less than citizens. It also means that the chance of implementing the plan is really low.
The Praver plan includes massive violent enforcement, concentration, no clear statement as to the recognition of villages, use of “divide and rule” tactics intended to split the community, and no option for the community for negotiations. The end result was to be – reduction of actual use of land by the Bedouin community from 300,000 dunams to no more than 200,000.
Naturally, the leadership in the Bedouin community felt betrayed yet again, and together with organizations such as ACRI (the Association for Civil Rights in Israel) and Bimkom: Planners for Planning Rights, expressed their disapproval of this plan. But, evidently, that was not important to Prime Minister Binyamin (Bibi) Netanyahu: his concern was the criticism from the Right.
It is with sadness, disappointment and a feeling of intense distaste that I write of the next steps decided upon by Netanyahu:
Netanyahu gave Yaakov Amidror, the director of the National Security Council (NSC), the mission to “correct” Praver’s plan. Yet again, the Bedouin are treated not as citizens, but as a security issue. In addition, Foreign Minister Liberman assigned MK David Rotem, Chairman of the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee in the Knesset, to study the plan, and insure it is in accordance with his party’s (Yisrael Beitenu’s) line.
MK Rotem is demanding that the maximum amount of land allowed to remain in the hands of the Bedouin be no more than 100,000 dunams, and that another 300 paramilitary police be assigned to enforce the relocation and containment of the Bedouin.
There are 100,000 Bedouin living today in the villages, an agricultural people and young population with an annual growth of about 5%. The entire land they utilize is 300,000 dunams – used for their homes, their livestock, and their agriculture. Rotem is demanding that it be reduced to 100,000 dunams. By contrast 50 newly established Jewish single family ranches in the Negev have received about 1,000 dunams each from the State. The words of MK Rotem “…concentrate them, there they will till their land”, are extremely ironic pending this planned process of dispossession.
MK David Rotem’s opinions on Arabs are well known. For example, he presented a law conditioning Israeli citizenship on service in the Israeli army. Now the Bedouin – who have no say in the plans for their future within their own country – have to accept the plans created for them by a person of MK Rotem’s views.
I don’t believe it is possible, even with the use of massive force: police brutality, bulldozers, arrests, fines, demolitions, and village erasures – to evict the Bedouin from their lands and contain them.
We are about to step into a very dark era in Israeli history, making the Bedouin community suffer tremendously before the government will change its ways.
Eventually, at some time in history, Israel will realize that its treatment of its Bedouin population must be one of inclusion and dignity. But I am fearful of what will happen until then.
For more updates see the website of Dukium, the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality, a group of concerned Arab and Jewish residents of the Negev engaged in collaborative Jewish-Arab efforts in the struggle for civil equality and the advancement of mutual tolerance and coexistence.
Please take initiative and do what you can to help change Israel’s treatment of its Bedouin population.
Recognition Now calls on the Government of Israel to integrate the Arab-Bedouin community of the Negev into the region based on the principles of partnership, equality, human rights, and a future of prosperity for all the Negev residents.
For more information: Dr. Awad Abu-Frieh, firstname.lastname@example.org,
Halil El-Amour, email@example.com
Many of the 70,000 “third country national”(TCN) service workers employed in Afghanistan and Iraq “recount having been robbed of wages, injured without compensation, subjected to sexual assault, and held in conditions resembling indentured servitude by their subcontractor bosses,” reports Sarah Stillman in a June 6th article in The New Yorker magazine titled “The Invisible Army.” In fact, the system resembles nothing so much as a twisted form of modern slavery.
“These workers, primarily from South Asia and Africa, often live in barbed-wire compounds on U.S. bases, (and) eat at meagre chow halls…” she reports. “A large number are employed by fly-by-night subcontractors who are financed by the American taxpayer but who often operate outside the law.”
Since the U.S. invasions, more than 2,000 contractor fatalities and 51,000 contractor injuries have been reported in Iraq and Afghanistan as the soaring casualty rates “are now on a par with those of U.S. troops in both war zones,” Stillman writes.
Although President Obama said in 2009 he would make good on his campaign pledge to do better by these contractors, the number of TCN’s in Afghanistan had increased by nearly 50 percent reaching 17,500—-with no apparent improvement in their lot. Indeed, the deplorable conditions on the bases where contractors are employed have triggered widespread rioting.
“Previously unreported worker riots have erupted on U.S. bases over issues such as lack of food and unpaid wages,” Stillman reports. On May 1, 2010, in a labor camp run by Prime Projects International on the largest military base in Baghdad, more than a thousand subcontractors—primarily Indians and Nepalis—rampaged using as weapons fists, stones, wooden bats, and, as one U.S. military policeman put it, “anything they could find.”
“Employees started to throw gravel at the managers. Four-foot pieces of plywood crashed through glass windows. Workers broke down the door to the food cellar and made off with as much as they could carry,” the reporter noted. Several weeks later, workers in a nearby camp run by subcontractor Gulf Catering Co. staged a copycat riot, “pelting their bosses with stones and accusing the company of failing to pay them proper wages,” Stillman added.
A manager in another camp operated by a K.B.R. (the former Halliburton subsidiary), told Stillman about conditions that triggered one riot. Ziad Al Karawi described how a thousand Indian and Sri Lankan men under his supervision slept on crowded floors: “Rats and flies attacked us…We had no beds to sleep at or tables to eat at….No communication, no TV,no soap to wash or bathe, no visits from anyone from the company or K.B.R….The workers had no choice except going out in a protest.”
K.B.R. claims that its “business ethics and values” require employees and subcontractors are treated “with dignity and respect,” Stillman writes but even after its investigation of conditions “little seems to change.” And a spokesman for the U.S. Army Central Command conceded that it “does not play a formal role in the monitoring of living conditions on U.S. bases.”
Many of the T.C.N.’s are hired by private employment subcontractors who promise them high wages but pay only a fraction of what they promised. T.C.N.’s are also lied to even about where they will be employed. Some are told they will be working in luxurious Dubai only to find themselves in Iraq under incoming fire.
Stillman reports that “military privatization (of jobs) has produced convoluted chains of foreign subcontracts that often lead to cost overruns and fraud. The Commission on Wartime Contracting recently warned of the dangers associated with “poorly conceived, poorly structured, poorly conducted, and poorly monitored subcontracting,” particularly noting the military’s “heavy reliance on foreign subcontractors who may not be accountable to any American governmental authority.”
The racket begins when the Pentagon outsources prime logistics contracts, worth as much as $15 billion a year, to such private military firms as K.B.R., DynCorp International, and Fluor. Stillman writes, “These ‘prime venders’ then shop out the bulk of their contracts to hundreds of global subcontractors, many based in Middle Eastern countries that are on the U.S. State Department’s human-trafficking non-compliance list. Finally, these firms call upon thousands of Third World ‘manpower agencies’—small recruiting operations…”
The recruiters, who charge the job-seekers at least a thousand dollars and often more for the privilege of signing up, put them to work on military bases as cooks, cleaners, construction workers, fast-food clerks, electricians, and beauticians, etc. Kenyans truck frozen steaks and inflatable tents, Bosnians repair electrical grids, and Indians provide iced mocha lattes, Stillman writes.
Stillman, who interviewed hundreds of TCNs in the process of preparing her article, said a typical story was that of a 25-year-old Taco Bell employee on a major U.S. base in Iraq who paid a Nepal recruiter $4,000 to get a job in Iraq where he was told he would make his investment back quickly. In May, 2009, the man found himself housed in a shipping container behind the U.S. Embassy in the Green Zone where he slept on a soiled mattress with 25 other migrants. “Many learned that they were to earn as little as $275 a month as cooks and servers for U.S. soldiers—a fraction of what they’d been promised, and a tiny sliver of what U.S. taxpayers are billed for their labor.”
In case you think the investigative reporter’s findings are sensationalized, read the findings of the Pentagon’s own 2006 investigation into subcontractor working conditions. Government inspectors listed “widespread” abuses, including the illegal confiscation of workers’ passports, “deceptive hiring practices,” “excessive recruiting fees” and “substandard worker living conditions.” In short, another tragic example of how a greed-driven totalitarian state has no regard for the individual. Although President Lincoln abolished slavery in 1863, it appears the Pentagon has reinstituted the practice for its own ends.