Briefing Paper January 2011

Diary entry for 2011

With 2011 being the year of election to the Scottish Parliament, Scottish Friends of Palestine is keen to reinforce the argument as to why the next government at Holyrood should boycott the state of Israel. Why it should not use the taxpayer’s money, your money, on encouraging trade with the state of Israel.

Day conference organised by SFoP

Boycott Israel – will Scotland lead the way ?

Renfield & St Stephens Church Centre, Bath Street, Glasgow

Saturday 19 March 2011   10am to 5pm

Speakers: Ali Abunimah, journalist, author (latest book: One country: a bold proposal to end the Israeli-Palestinian impasse )co-founder and executive director of Electronic Intifada

Ramzy Baroud, journalist, author (latest book: My father was a Freedom Fighter) and former Al Jazeera producer

David Cronin, journalist, author (latest book Europe’s Alliance with Israel: aiding the occupation) and Brussels correspond- Inter Press Service news agency

Mary Senior officer for UCU Scotland (formerly Asst Gen Sec STUC)

Barrie Levine Scottish Jews for a Just Peace

Pauline McNeill MSP

Hugh O’Donnell MSP

The speakers will make the argument. We need your support to reinforce the argument. Make it a date! Further details soon.

The US is involved in two expensive wars in Muslim countries – Iraq and Afghanistan – and in a severe crisis with a third Muslim country – Iran. All over the “extended Middle East”, its allies are declining, while its opponents are in the ascendency.

The opponents are a mixed lot: Iran is a religious Shiite country, Turkey is a Sunni secular republic (with a moderately religious party in power), Syria is a Sunni country ruled by the small Alawite sect, whose Islamic credentials are doubted by both Sunnis and Shiites. Hezbollah is fanatically Shiite, Hamas is fanatically Sunni. There is not much all these have in common, except their opposition to the status quo in the region.

Almost all the experts believe that the unlimited American support for Israel is the main cause for the Islamic anti-American wave. Most of them do not speak about this openly, because fear of the Israeli lobby pervades the entire American political establishment. But even the most terrifying lobby cannot withstand, in the long run, the inexorable logic of national interests.

Uri Avnery   November 6, 2010

The Extraordinary Rendition of Palestine

03/10/2010   Mazin Qumsiyeh

It has been a rather bizarre week in the Middle East. Let me just cite a few examples:

The International Atomic Agency (IAEA) succumbed to pressure from the US and other western countries and thus failed to make any explicit or even implicit request of Israel to join the non-proliferation treaty. One of the excuses given is that there is a delicate peace process going and we do not want to upset the situation.

With help from an emasculated Palestinian Authority, the United Nations Human Rights Council succumbed to the “might makes right” philosophy and refused to actively pursue Israel for its blatant violation of international law when it attacked Gaza. One of the excuses given is that there is a delicate peace process going and we do not want to upset the situation (i.e. upset Israel).

The UN Human Rights Council issued a report about its investigation of Israeli use of force, including apparently executing passengers on the Gaza-bound Freedom Flotilla. Yet, the great powers claim there is a UN commission of inquiry (three people sympathetic to Israel, including a known war criminal) who will look into the matter of the attack and issue recommendations, but without interviewing survivors or the attackers and without demanding from Israel the tapes, cameras etc that it confiscated (i.e. without evidence). And yes, the US and great powers claim that there is a delicate peace process going and we do not want to upset the situation (i.e. upset Israel).

Israel refuses to stop colonial settlement activities on the remaining shreds of Palestinian territory. The US administration will offer Israel all sorts of incentives, including promising to support Israeli demands that any Palestinian statelet is devoid of sovereignty (e.g. Israeli troops continue to be posted at borders) and that there will not be any demands to implement Palestinian rights (e.g. return of refugees). But, this is part of diplomatic maneuvering because we want the “peace” talks (now on for 18 years) to continue.

News media parroted Israeli releases that the boarding of the latest boat to Gaza was done “without violence from those on board” or from the Israeli Navy. Yet once those on board were released, we know that they told of horrific and degrading treatment done to them, including being tasored. But hey, the Palestinian Authority and Israel apartheid regime are in a peace process. So who cares about what happens to an 80 year old holocaust survivor or a bunch of Jews with conscience.

The powerful Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman gave a speech at the UN bragging about the power and claiming there will be no peace for a very long time, only interim arrangements some of which may involve transfer of part of the Palestinian population from inside the Green Line to get rid of those while Israel keeps the settlements. To counter the diplomatic damage, Netanyahu did not dismiss the ideas but merely said that his office makes policy. The US continues to insist Netanyahu is serious about “peace” when even imbeciles can see that this is the most fascist rightwing government in Israel’s history and that Netanyahu is a veteran liar (in private conversations he was recorded as dismissing all notions of peace).

At the behest of the Zionist lobby, the EU and US governments are applying additional sanctions on Iran and Iranian officials on the pretext of the latter’s suppression of human rights in Iran during recent unrest! Do they really think the world is blind, deaf, and mute? Do they not see that Iran’s behavior towards dissidents is child’s play compared to Israel’s relentless massacres and ethnic cleansing? And need we remind ourselves of the FBI search and seizure policy against human rights activists in the US? Would they at least demand that Nobel Peace Prize winner Mairead Maguire be released immediately from detention at Ben Gurion Airport (an airport named after a war criminal and ethnic cleanser). Oh, yes I forget, the P A of Mahmoud Abbas, Saeb Erekat et al are talking peace here, so we should all shut up.

President Barak Obama with a straight face stands in front of the UN to declare “Those who long to see an independent Palestine must also stop trying to tear down Israel. After thousands of years, Jews and Arabs are not strangers in a strange land. After 60 years in the community of nations, Israel’s existence must not be subject for debate. Israel is a sovereign state, and the historic homeland of the Jewish people. It should be clear to all that efforts to chip away at Israel’s legitimacy will only be met by the unshakeable opposition of the United States. And efforts to threaten or kill Israelis will do nothing to help the Palestinian people.” Imagine if he said the same thing about Apartheid South Africa. But then again, there was no peace process there other than between Chief Buthalesi Bantustan and the white regime.

The Israeli occupation forces killed five Palestinians last week, including a fisherman and a toddler, and continued with its other policies of siege, building walls on Palestinian lands, arresting political activists etc as the talk about the talk of “peace” continues.

These are just few of the rather bizarre happenings this week in the Middle East but when I think about it, we have had 62 years of misery, mayhem and pain filled with bizarre and almost unbelievable events. Who would have though it possible to gather members of a particular ideology into one spot on earth, displacing its native people and making them refugees, and yet label the victims as terrorists? Who would have thought that this would be achieved with incredible brutality supported by Western powers, themselves riddled with racism and hatred of non-whites?

But we take heart in the fact that this whole rigged game is finally coming to an end. Some claim that there is a trend that made the Palestinian cause a commodity traded for profit and positions and hence Palestine had been lost already in this game of world politics. But I, writing these notes after a long day of work with Palestinians (weak and strong, young and old) can tell you that they underestimate us.   Like contrarian investing, I tell people to be careful in making gloomy predictions. Things looked pretty gloomy in 1920, 1928, 1935, 1972, 1986, and 1999. The year after in each of those things was not predicted or predictable by the majority of people.

But I will go out on a limb and say that based on history, the next Intifada is likely to be global. Individuals have one of three choices regardless of their background: support the oppressors, be apathetic (and hence support the status quo of oppression), or join the growing movement saying “enough is enough”.

Is it really credible that these religious extremists who have been educated to hate Palestinians in the West Bank are going to behave differently when they police our communities inside Israel?

Jafar Farah, Director, Mossawa

But their studies also include seven months in a religious seminary in a small extremist settlement, Elisha, deep in the West Bank. Although all the settlements are illegal under international law, Elisha is one of dozens of wildcat settlements also illegal under Israeli law.

First army, now police set for takeover

Jonathan Cook   18/10/2010

As US-sponsored peace talks have stalled over the issue of settlements, Israel’s national police force has revealed that it is turning to the very same illegal communities in its first-ever drive to recruit officers from among the settlers. The special officer training course, which is chiefly aimed at discharged combat soldiers, includes seven months of religious studies in an extremist West Bank settlement.

The programme has provoked widespread concern among Israel’s 1.3 million Palestinian citizens, a fifth of the population. “The police have already repeatedly demonstrated their hostility to Palestinian citizens, but this move proves that the authorities want to extend and deepen our oppression,” said Jafar Farah, the director of Mossawa, an advocacy centre for the Palestinian minority. “Is it really credible that these religious extremists who have been educated to hate Palestinians in the West Bank are going to behave differently when they police our communities inside Israel?”

The police command is said to have taken up the idea, originally proposed by right-wing groups, in the hope of reversing years of declining recruitment levels that have led to a national shortage of officers. Cadets will study for three and a half years, mostly at Haifa University in Israel, at the end of which they will be awarded a degree and the rank of officer.

But their studies also include seven months in a religious seminary in a small extremist settlement, Elisha, deep in the West Bank.. Elisha is one of dozens of wildcat settlements also illegal under Israeli law. Gershom Gorenberg, an expert on the religious settlers, said Israel’s “future police commanders” would graduate from the course after an early lesson in law-breaking. A right-wing settler activist, Hor Nizri, who has clashed with the police in the past over the evacuation of settlements, has been put in charge of recruiting young settlers.

He told the Yedioth Aharonoth newspaper that the programme was “a historic reconciliation”, adding: “We want to fill the ranks of the police as we fill the ranks of the army.” His comments have sparked concern among Palestinian groups inside Israel that the programme is the first phase of an attempted settler “takeover” of the police, replicating their growing dominance of sections of the army.

Growing influence of extremist rabbis in promoting anti-Palestinian views.

“There is justification for killing babies if it is clear that they will grow up to harm us.”

Over the summer, two prominent rabbis from the settlement of Yitzhar, near Nablus, were questioned on suspicion of incitement after publishing a book, The King’s Torah, in which they sanctioned the killing of non-Jews, including children. In one passage, the authors write: “There is justification for killing babies if it is clear that they will grow up to harm us.” The book has been endorsed by a number of senior rabbis in the settlements. Similar sentiments have been gaining a foothold among army rabbis.

Some Israeli observers have expressed concern that the settlers’ greater influence on the police could also make implementing the dismantlement of West Bank settlements much harder in any future peace deal. Mr Gorenberg said previous evacuations, including the 2005 withdrawal from Gaza, had been handled chiefly by the police because so many army units were dominated by settlers. The police, he added, “could acquire the same weakness”.

Shooting in “buffer zone,” air strikes across Gaza

The Electronic Intifada 14/10/2010

Israeli snipers shot a 17-year-old Palestinian boy on Wednesday, 13 October, as he collected aggregate materials near the so-called buffer zone in the north of the occupied Gaza Strip, according to Bethlehem-based Ma’an News Agency (“Teenager injured by Israeli fire in northern Gaza,” 14 October 2010). A medical services spokesperson told Ma’an that this was the seventeenth Palestinian industrial worker to have been shot by Israeli live fire since the summer.

The 300-meter-wide buffer zone is “a military no-go area that extends along the entire northern and eastern perimeter of the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel, inside Palestinian territory, as well as at sea,” according to the Gaza-based Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) in a recent report (“The Buffer Zone in the Gaza Strip (October 2010 Update),” 10 October 2010). PCHR’s report states that “[t]he precise areas designated by Israel as ‘buffer zones’ are unknown; changing Israeli policy is typically enforced with live fire,” as Israeli forces have often shot at Palestinians well outside this zone.

In the same report, PCHR documented 47 deaths and 114 injuries from January to September 2010. Gaza’s industrial workers have turned to collecting raw materials and rubble around the boundary areas for construction and repair projects, since new materials are still not being imported as a result of the three-year-long Israeli blockade.

This latest shooting comes on the heels of a similar attack also in northern Gaza against Ziad Tamboura, a 27-year-old Palestinian worker who was shot in the leg and foot by Israeli snipers on 7 October in Beit Lahiya near the buffer zone.

Surplus of coffins, shortage of medicines in Gaza

Mohammed Omer Electronic Intifada 14/10/10

Gaza City, occupied Gaza Strip (IPS) – Samir Tahseen al-Nadeem died after waiting 35 days for an exit permit for treatment for his heart condition. He was 26. The medicines he needed could not get in. But the coffins do. The health ministry now lists 375 deaths due to shortage of life-saving medicines. The medicines sit just outside the borders of the territory until most pass their expiry dates. But there are no expiry dates on about 10,000 coffins that have been donated for Gaza. The coffins do make it to those who eventually need them.

By the end of last month more than seventy percent of medicines donated for Gaza had been dumped because they were past their expiry date, the health ministry says. They were worth many millions of dollars. And they were worth many lives. “Much of the donated medicines came from Arab states,” Dr. Mounir al-Boursh, director of the pharmaceutical department at the health ministry, tells IPS. This added up to 10,300 tons of medicines worth 25 million dollars, he said. Only about thirty percent of this could be used, he said; the rest either expired, or was inaccessible because of restricted distribution by the Israelis, who control what gets into Gaza.

It’s not easy to dump medicines safely, either. Much of unused supply mixes with domestic waste, creating health hazards far from bringing relief. The World Health Organization has had to “raise concern about the unsafe disposal of expired medication and other medical disposable material,” WHO spokesperson told IPS.But the Gaza ministry has received 10,000 coffins, about 1,000 of them for children, Dr. Boursh said. Such help, he said, “does not meet with the needs of the Gaza Strip.”

What Gaza needs is 110 types of medicines and 123 types of medical equipment that the ministry has listed. Gaza is expected to run out of more medicines over the next few months. The announced ease in the blockade of Gaza has not currently brought more supplies. The medicines now under threat are for childcare, in the maternity departments, and for conditions such as cancer, epilepsy, hemophilia and thalassemia.

“Death has become routine,” says a young woman from Jabaliya in the north of Gaza Strip as she waits in the corridor at the al-Nasser Children’s Hospital in Gaza City. Next to her, the parents of two-year-old Israa Tabsh are struggling to save the child, born with a heart defect. “We have been waiting for weeks for permission to leave Gaza for the cardiac surgery she needs,” says the child’s father, Fayez al-Tabsh. The treatment is available at the al-Maqased hospital in East Jerusalem, but Tabsh can’t get there.

The family, like others, first needs an exit permit, and then a financial guarantees statement that all expenses would be met by the health ministry in the occupied West Bank, which is under the control of the Fatah-led administration, unlike the Hamas government in Gaza. That guarantee is near impossible for most patients. “You need connections,” says a 53-year-old mother waiting for a guarantee for her son. “We are caught between corrupt officials and death.”

Patients in Gaza depend on the West Bank government both for permits and for many needed medicines. In 2010 Gaza received only 22 percent of the medicines it needed from the Palestinian Authority based in Ramallah in the West Bank, Boursh said. Supplies are declining. “In 2008 we had received fifty percent, and in 2009, 49 percent.” The medicines that come in, and in time, are not easy to preserve. At the old al-Ghifari medical storage in Gaza City, the facility leaks fluids. “It’s the rats,” says a caretaker. “They get to the fluid bags, causing the leakages. The rats get the medicines, the patients the coffins.”

Israel’s security forces practiced the putting down of mass demonstrations and protests among Israel’s Arab citizens and their imprisonment in a large detention camp to be established at Golani Junction in Galilee. The exercise was based on a scenario of the riots being provoked by implementation of Avigdor Lieberman’s plan for “an exchange of populations”

It seems Lieberman is Israel’s true Prime Minister

Gush Shalom   9/10/10

This week Israel’s security forces practiced the putting down of mass demonstrations and protests among Israel’s Arab citizens and their imprisonment in a large detention camp to be established at Golani Junction in Galilee. The exercise was based on a scenario of the riots being provoked by implementation of Avigdor Lieberman’s plan for “an exchange of populations”, i.e. massively depriving Arabs of their Israeli citizenship. A week ago Lieberman voiced this heinous idea on the podium of the UN Assembly General and Prime Minister Netanyahu murmured some weak reservations.

This is the fourth time this year the settlement has pumped sewage from their storage reservoir into Beit Ummar, destroying crops and effectively depriving the farmers of thousands of shekels in lost harvest.

Settlers Flood Palestinian Village With Sewage

Palestine Monitor 24 October 2010

Beit Ummar is just one of hundreds of villages in Palestine under constant harassment from Israeli settlers. They have suffered the loss of their land, limited access to their own water supply, rocks smashing their windows, midnight arrests, tear gas, rubber bullets, and daily Israeli military aggression. The most recent insult: settlers’ feaces covering the vineyards of Beit Ummar.

Twelve vital acres of farmland lie underneath thousands of litres of raw sewage leaked from the nearby illegal settlement of Gush Etzion. The settlement stores its sewage in a reservoir, where it is filtered to extract non-potable “grey” water for agricultural purposes. The leftover, concentrated toxic sludge was released on October 18, downhill directly onto Palestinian farmland. The stench is overpowering, the grape harvests ruined, and the residents of Beit Ummar are tired. “Even if the Israelis never dump sewage again,” said Beit Ummar Public Committee volunteer Raied Aboyyash, “the land would need to be cleaned with a chemical solvent and the top meter of polluted dirt removed, and then new dirt brought in.”

This is the fourth time this year the settlement has pumped sewage from their storage reservoir into Beit Ummar, destroying crops and effectively depriving the farmers of thousands of shekels in lost harvest. Following settler threats after the weekly Saturday demonstration against the annexation wall in the village, last Monday sewage again surged onto the farmland. The previous week eight peaceful protesters were arrested, held down and pepper-sprayed.

The villagers of Beit Ummar rented a bulldozer on the afternoon of October 18 and dug a large reservoir to contain the sewage water and prevent the waste from spreading and causing further damage. The next morning, the settlers of Gush Etzion descended into the Palestinian farmland, and forced the rented bulldozer into the middle of the toxic pond. Villagers then rented a crane to extract the bulldozer from the sludge, and climbed into the toxic muck in order to salvage their costly equipment.

The sludge contains bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi that can cause serious illness and death. Microbes from raw sewage can enter the body through the nose, mouth, or open cuts. Even more daunting for Beit Ummar’s future is the likelihood of groundwater contamination – the area is already plagued by drought and suffering from Israeli control of precious water resources.

The farmers are left to clean the farmland themselves, with the assistance of the Palestinian Medical Relief Society and volunteers. They must also buy new plants. The Palestinian farmers are not provided any reparations or financial assistance by the government for their lost crops, nor are they compensated for the loss of land stolen by the Israelis settlements or blocked behind the wall. Instead, the villagers of Beit Ummar must depend on the help of civil society organisations. The Palestinian Agricultural Committee will help the farmers by providing new plants, but this is pointless without necessary soil replacement and protection from the settlers.

The Israeli military told the Public Committee members of Beit Ummar that they would stop “making problems” for the village if the weekly demonstrations against the construction of the wall were to cease. However, the villagers feel that the continued construction of the wall, which will take away an additional 1,550 acres of land from the village, is a problem in itself. The people of Beit Ummar will continue to protest, facing arrest, fines, and harassment, trudging across their soiled fields.

Children – New Target in Silwan Ethnic Cleansing Campaign

Palestine Monitor 25/10/2010

“I asked them to give me a minute to wake him up. But they didn’t wait, they came in and took him”, said Mahmoud Mansour as he explained how the Israeli police arrested his son. Mahmoud is the father of 12-year-old Imran Mahmoud, the boy who was caught on video being forcefully hit by the car of David Beeri, head of the settler organization, Elad, in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Silwan. Less than ten days after Imran was critically injured by the hit-and-run, the Jerusalem police arrested him on charges of throwing stones.

Since the murder of Samer Sahan by a settler guard on September 22, Jerusalem police and security forces have filled the streets of Silwan. Every day, the neighbourhood teems with police patrolling the streets on foot and in cars. This past week alone, the police conducted a massive arrest campaign, detaining at least 23 residents.

Particularly startling, however, is the arrests this week have included at least six children between the ages of eight and 12. The charge against the children is always the same—throwing rocks—and they are usually released after a day. Imran was detained and interrogated for four hours before being fined 2,000 NIS and sentenced to two weeks house arrest. Muna Hasan, who works for the Wadi Hilweh Information Center, explained, “The charge for arresting minors is always throwing stones. But for the past few days, the children were not throwing stones, there was nothing. They just picked them from the streets for nothing.”

On Wednesday October 18, three minors were arrested in Silwan, including one boy who was recovering from a recent surgery. A few days earlier on Monday, October 16, three children between the ages of 10 and 12 were detained. One of them, Muslim Auda, aged 10, returned to his family with his legs heavily bruised from beatings he had received from the undercover police who arrested him. “Investigators beat them, shout at them, and they also try to make them a collaborator. They use methods that are not even appropriate for adults. They make children tell them who the children throwing stones are.” Hasan said.

Hasan is not surprised by the escalation of harassment. “It’s not new, of course, you know Silwan has the highest percentage of arrested people in East Jerusalem, in minors especially… We think all the Israeli practices, including the arrests, including letting settlers do what they are doing, all of this is coming under the same fact that they want to put more and more pressure on the Palestinians.”

Silwan is one of the poorest neighborhoods in Jerusalem. The families and residents lack many basic services, including schools, community centers, and resources for their children. Due to Israeli zoning, a very small proportion of land in East Jerusalem has been allocated for building. Furthermore, obtaining a building permit costs up to USD $25,000-30,000. The impossibility of building has made living quarters intolerably overcrowded. “The parents don’t have the capacity to involve their children in community centers or playgrounds outside of Silwan. Also the pressures that are on the parents from the Israeli laws, taxes, and demolition orders, all of these pressures make the situation worse”, Hasan told us.

Despite the pressures, the resilient local community has found ingenuity to cope. In 2007, Palestinian residents in Silwan founded the Madaa Creative Center in order to create a safe place for children to develop their creativity through music and art, and maintain their Palestinian identity. “Residents themselves took the initiative to start this on their own; they don’t wait for any authorities to build a place for their children.” Hasan said.

In 2008, in response to Mayor Nir Barkat’s demolition order of 88 houses in Silwan to make room for the expansion of the City of David archaeological park, the Palestinian residents erected a large tent. In the tent the locals organise prayer, meetings, children’s activities, and other community events. On October 21, former US-president, Jimmy Carter visited Silwan and met with local community leaders in the tent. The latest addition to locally formed organizations is the Wadi Hilwah Information Center, formed by a group of residents in 2009. The aim of the centre is to tell the Palestinian history of this village as a means to counter the increasingly dominating Jewish narrative that has been promulgated by the archaeological site, the City of David.

As she speaks, three young ultra-orthodox Jewish settlers swagger in to stake their claim to the front part of the building, shouting abuse in Hebrew and broken Arabic: “Arab animals”, “shut up, whore”.

It is an ugly scene, the settlers’ chilling arrogance underpinned by the certain knowledge that they can call in the police and army at will.

The Palestinians of Israel are poised to take centre stage

The Guardian Seumas Milne.

With the peace process going nowhere, common experience on both sides of the Green Line is creating a new reality In a quiet street in the Sheikh Jarrah district of occupied East Jerusalem 88-year-old Rifka al-Kurd is explaining how she came to live in the house she and her husband built as Palestinian refugees in the 1950s. As she speaks, three young ultra-orthodox Jewish settlers swagger in to stake their claim to the front part of the building, shouting abuse in Hebrew and broken Arabic: “Arab animals”, “shut up, whore”.

There is a brief physical confrontation with Rifka’s daughter as the settlers barricade themselves in to the rooms they have occupied since last winter. That was when they finally won a court order to take over the Kurd family’s extension on the grounds that it was built without permission – which Palestinians in Jerusalem are almost never granted. It is an ugly scene, the settlers’ chilling arrogance underpinned by the certain knowledge that they can call in the police and army at will.

But such takeovers of Palestinian homes in Sheikh Jarrah have become commonplace, and the focus of continual protest. The same is true in nearby Silwan, home to upwards of 30,000 Palestinians next to the Old City, where 88 homes to 1,500 Palestinians have been lined up for demolition to make way for a King David theme park and hundreds of settlers are protected round the clock by trigger-happy security guards.        Throughout the Arab areas of Jerusalem, as in the West Bank, the government is pressing ahead with land expropriations, demolitions and settlement building, making the prospects of a Palestinian state ever more improbable. More than a third of the land in East Jerusalem has been expropriated since it was occupied in 1967 to make way for Israeli colonists, in flagrant violation of international law.

Israel’s latest settlement plans were not “helpful”, Barack Obama ventured on Tuesday. But while US-sponsored Israeli-Palestinian negotiations go nowhere and attention has been focused on the brutal siege of Gaza, the colonisation goes on. It is also proceeding apace in Israel proper, where the demolition of Palestinian Bedouin villages around the Negev desert has accelerated under Binyamin Netanyahu.

About 87,000 Bedouin live in 45 “unrecognised” villages, without rights or basic public services, because the Israeli authorities refuse to recognise their claim to the land. All have demolition orders hanging over them, while hundreds of Jewish settlements have been established throughout the area. The Israeli writer Amos Oz calls the Negev a “ticking time bomb”. The village of Araqeeb has been destroyed six times in recent months and each time it has been reconstructed by its inhabitants. The government wants to clear the land and move the Bedouin into designated townships. But even there, demolitions are carried out on a routine basis.

At the weekend, a mosque in the Bedouin town of Rahat was torn down by the army in the night. By Sunday afternoon, local people were already at work on rebuilding it, as patriotic songs blared out from the PA system and activists addressed an angry crowd. The awakening of the Negev Bedouin, many of whom used to send their sons to fight in the Israeli army, reflects a wider politicisation of the Arab citizens of Israel. Cut off from the majority of Palestinians after 1948, they tried to find an accommodation with the state whose discrimination against them was, in the words of former prime minister Ehud Olmert, “deep-seated and intolerable” from the first.

That effort has as good as been abandoned. The Arab parties in the Israeli Knesset now reject any idea of Israel as an ethnically defined state, demanding instead a “state of all its people”. The influential Islamic Movement refuses to take part in the Israeli political system at all. The Palestinians of ’48, who now make up getting on for 20% of the population, are increasingly organising themselves on an independent basis – and in common cause with their fellow Palestinians across the Green Line.

Palestinian experience inside Israel, from land confiscations to settlement building and privileged ethnic segregation, is not after all so different from what has taken place in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. After 1948, the Palestinians of Jaffa who survived ethnic cleansing were forced to share their houses with Jewish settlers – just as Rifka al-Kurd is in Jerusalem today. The sense of being one people is deepening. That has been intensified by ever more aggressive attempts under the Netanyahu government to bring Israel’s Arab citizens to heel, along with growing demands to transfer hundreds of thousands of them to a future West Bank administration. A string of new laws targeting the Palestinian minority are in the pipeline, including the bill agreed by the Israeli cabinet last month requiring all new non-Jewish citizens to swear an oath of allegiance to Israel as a Jewish state.

Pressure on Palestinian leaders and communities is becoming harsher. A fortnight ago more than a thousand soldiers and police were on hand to protect a violent march by a far-right racist Israeli group through the Palestinian town of Umm al-Fahm. The leader of the Islamic Movement, Ra’ed Salah, is in prison for spitting at a policeman; the Palestinian MP Haneen Zoabi has been stripped of her parliamentary privileges for joining the Gaza flotilla; and leading civil rights campaigner Ameer Makhoul faces up to 10 years in jail after being convicted of the improbable charge of spying for Hezbollah.

Meanwhile Israel is also demanding that the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah recognise Israel as a Jewish state as part of any agreement. Few outside the Palestinian Authority – or even inside it – seem to believe that the “peace process” will lead to any kind of settlement. Even Fatah leaders such as Nabil Sha’ath now argue that the Palestinians need to consider a return to armed resistance, or a shift to the South African model of mass popular resistance, also favoured by prominent Palestinians in Israel.

As for the people who actually won the last elections, Mahmoud Ramahi, the Hamas secretary general of the Palestinian parliament, reminded me on Monday that the US continues to veto any reconciliation with Fatah. He was arrested by the Israelis barely 24 hours later, just as talks between the two parties were getting going in Damascus.

The focus of the Palestinian-Israeli struggle has shifted over the last 40 years from Jordan to Lebanon to the occupied territories. With the two-state solution close to collapse, it may be that the Palestinians of Israel are at last about to move centre stage. If so, the conflict that more than any other has taken on a global dimension will have finally come full circle.

Israeli government documents show deliberate policy to keep Gazans at near-starvation levels

Saed Bannoura IMEMC 06/11/10

Documents whose existence were denied by the Israeli government for over a year have been released after a legal battle led by Israeli human rights group Gisha. The documents reveal a deliberate policy by the Israeli government in which the dietary needs for the population of Gaza are chillingly calculated, and the amounts of food let in by the Israeli government measured to remain just enough to keep the population alive at a near-starvation level. This documents the statement made by a number of Israeli officials that they are “putting the people of Gaza on a diet”.

In 2007, when Israel began its full siege on Gaza, Dov Weisglass, adviser to then Prime-Minister Ehud Olmert, stated clearly, “The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.” The documents now released contain equations used by the Israeli government to calculate the exact amounts of food, fuel and other necessities needed to do exactly that.

The documents are even more disturbing, say human rights activists, when one considers the fact that close to half of the people of Gaza are children under the age of eighteen. This means that Israel has deliberately forced the undernourishment of hundreds of thousands of children in direct violation of international law and the Fourth Geneva Convention.

This release of documents also severely undermines Israel’s oft-made claim that the siege is “for security reasons”, as it documents a deliberate and systematic policy of collective punishment of the entire population of Gaza. Gisha’s director said, in relation to the release of documents, “Israel banned glucose for biscuits and the fuel needed for regular supply of electricity – paralyzing normal life in Gaza and impairing the moral character of the State of Israel. I am sorry to say that major elements of this policy are still in place.”

In its statement accompanying the release of the documents, Gisha wrote:

The documents reveal that the state approved “a policy of deliberate reduction” for basic goods in the Gaza Strip (section h.4, page 5*). Thus, for example, Israel restricted the supply of fuel needed for the power plant, disrupting the supply of electricity and water. The state set a “lower warning line” (section g.2, page 5) to give advance warning of expected shortages in a particular item, but at the same time approved ignoring that warning, if the good in question was subject to a policy of “deliberate reduction”. Moreover, the state set an “upper red line” above which even basic humanitarian items could be blocked, even if they were in demand (section g.1, page 5). The state claimed in a cover letter to Gisha that in practice, it had not authorized reduction of “basic goods” below the “lower warning line”, but it did not define what these “basic goods” were.

Commentator Richard Silverstein wrote: “In reviewing the list of permitted items for import, you come to realize that these are the only items allowed. In other words, if an item is not on the list, it’s prohibited. So, for example, here is the list of permitted spices: Black pepper, soup powder, hyssop, sesame. cinnamon, anise, babuna (chamomile), sage. Sorry, cumin, basil, bay leaf, allspice, carraway, cardamon, chiles, chives, cilantro, cloves, garlic, sesame, tamarind, thyme, oregano, cayenne. Not on the list. You’re not a spice Palestinians need according to some IDF dunderhead. And tomatoes, potatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, toys, glassware, paint, and shoes? You can forget about them too. Luxuries all, or else security threats.”

Despite the disturbing nature of the documents, which show a calculated policy of deliberate undernourishment of an entire population, no major media organizations have reported the story. The full text of the released documents, and the original Freedom of Information Act request filed by Gisha, can be found on Gisha’s website at the link below:

Related Link

Hugh Humphries


Scottish Friends of Palestine

0141 637 8046

View all →