September 2, 2010


43 years to the Israeli Occupation!

1230 Days to the Israeli Blockade of Gaza:

End Israeli Apartheid Now!

Help to stop the next war! Support Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions of the Israeli regime

Support Palestinian universities – spread the BDS campaign – it is what people under the Israeli jackboot ask you to do

Any army fighting against children, has already lost the war!

Israeli War Criminals and Pirates – to the International Criminal Court, NOW!

Make Zionism History!

Demand the destruction of Israeli WMDs NOW!

Obama's Iran War, by Carlos Latuff

EDITOR: Surprise, surprise!

Don’t say you have not been told. All the argument about Israelis being more open than their government have always been nonsensical – Israel is indeed a Jewish democracy, for Jews only, and as such, its government is representing this sector quite well…

Now the mathematics here is very interesting. Given that 22% of Israelis are indeed Palestinians, none of which are included in this majority, so leaving about 78% of the population which is mainly Jewish. This means that over 80% of Israel’s Jews support settlement building continuing. It is now veryclear why the Washington talks can only lead to further bloodshed.

Two-thirds of Israelis support settlement building: poll: Yahoo

JERUSALEM (AFP) – Two-thirds of Israelis support a total or partial resumption of settlement building in the occupied West Bank, according to a poll broadcast on Wednesday, as peace talks are due to restart in Washington.
Thirty nine percent of those questioned said they favour construction resuming in all the settlements from September 26, when a partial 10-month moratorium imposed by the Israeli government under US pressure expires.
Another quarter said they thought construction should only restart in the larger settlement blocks and not in smaller, isolated settlements, according to the poll, aired on private Channel Ten TV station.
Only 21 percent supported a continuation of the building freeze, with the remainder undecided.
The poll was carried out by the Gal Hadash Institute on behalf of Channel Ten, shortly after an attack in the Hebron area of the West Bank on Tuesday that killed four Israeli settlers.
The channel did not specify how many people were questioned in the poll or give the margin of error.
The settlement issue has been one of the thorniest in peace efforts and will be addressed during the negotiations due to start on Thursday, the first direct talks in 20 months.
In Washington, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told US Secretary of Hillary Clinton on Tuesday that there was “no change to the cabinet decision to end the (partial construction freeze) at the end of September 2010,” his office said.
The Palestinians have insisted this would torpedo the peace talks.

Architects out of Ariel: Haaretz

The time has come for those planning the red-roofed facts on the ground to refuse to design any more buildings in the settlements.
By Esther Zandberg

After dozens of actors, theater workers, professors and writers declared their refusal to appear in the new cultural hall in Ariel or any other settlement, the time has come for architects and planners to wake up and announce publicly that they will not continue planning new buildings in the settlements.

The architects protests will be more meaningful than any other effort. Architecture is the implementer of political decisions. Architects and planners are the ones who implement in practice the occupation policy of Israeli governments and continue the conflict on the drafting table.

Unlike the scenery in a play, the facts that architects establish on the ground do not go back into the theater warehouse after the curtain falls. Their footprint is irreversible. Those who sketch the blue lines of master plans of settlements are bound more than anyone else by the red lines of conscience.

Architects have a hand in all aspects of the settlement effort in Judea and Samaria. They are the ones who prepare the master plans for establishing communities, they plan the red-roofed residential neighborhoods in Ariel and all the other communities, and shape the public facilities built there.

The new cultural hall in Ariel was also designed by an architect, as if it were just another cultural center in another community within the state of Israel.

A B’Tselem report defines Ariel as a long, narrow enclave that penetrates deep into Palestinian territory, a place that was designed as it was not for pure planning reasons, but based on political considerations the gist of which was a desire to create a buffer between Palestinian towns and interrupt the territorial continuity between them.

Architects and planners do not need B’Tselem; they know enough about analyzing maps and plans to discern on their own that this is the situation. Their voices are what should be heard.

In the architectural community, more than in any cultural area, it is common practice to have sterile separation between architecture and politics. This is a comfortable arrangement that enables many within the community to continue viewing themselves as leftist, while planning for the right.

From the ranks of architects, no public protest has been voiced against the presence of an architecture department in Ariel College, which instills in its students the art of alienation from the surroundings, in contrast to the proper principles of planning and the appropriate professional ethic.

They never spoke to them about politics, as students in the department said in an interview here seven years ago. No wonder that the surroundings seem to them like an unspoiled biblical panorama, they said, and they feel free and uninhibited there.

Culture Minister Limor Livnat’s call this week urging theater people to leave the political debate outside of cultural and artistic life is superfluous in the architectural community, where the political debate is always pushed outside professional life, although it makes its way in through the back door.

Trends and worldviews seep in from the other side of the Green Line and impact on architecture in the rest of Israel more than architects are willing to admit. A protest by established architects within the community, figures with a reputation and influence, could lead to a protest movement that will draw many, restore to architecture its confidence in itself and its values, and may also make its own contribution to the end of the conflict over the land. Architects? Protest? Peace really can happen.

EDITOR: A fascinating argument

Two Haaretz leading commentators, Aluf Benn and Gideon Levy, argue about the ‘humanity’ of the IOF, with Benn giving the platitudinal answer building on his own army service, and Levy taking his argument apart. All this was of course sparked off by the Eden Abergil saga, once she has published her disgraceful photographs on FaceBook.

When I was Eden Abergil: Haaretz

The occupation did not transform us into law-breaking criminals, it only taught us that it’s best to be on the stronger side.
By Aluf Benn

The photographs of the female soldier Eden Abergil on Facebook with the young, bound Palestinians did not “shock” me, as did the automatic responses of people on the left who complained, as usual, about the corrupting occupation and our moral deterioration. Instead, the photos brought back memories from my military service. Once, I was also Eden Abergil: I served in a Military Police unit in Lebanon whose mission was to take prisoners from the Shin Bet’s interrogation rooms to the large holding camp of Ansar. I covered many eyes with pieces of cloth, I bound many wrists with plastic cuffs.

I never knew who the prisoners were and what they had done wrong, and I was not trained to know how to treat them. Everything was improvised. They showed me how to cuff them, apply the piece of cloth and load them onto army vehicles. And off we went. Very quickly I learned four words in Arabic that soldiers used when handling the prisoners: aud (sit ), um (stand ), yidak (put your hands out ) and uskut (quiet ). In the basement for Shin Bet interrogations at Nabatieh, in an old tobacco factory that had been transformed into the regional division headquarters, I saw prisoners eating like dogs, bent over with their hands tied behind their backs. And I smelled their sweat and urine.

I never saw “irregularities.” No beatings, no slappings, no maimings. But if the cuffs were put on a bit too tight, half a centimeter that couldn’t be reversed, the prisoner suffered great pain. The palms swelled because blood flow was restricted, and the trip became a nightmare when the prisoners begin to beg: “Captain, captain, idi, idi [my hands].” There were soldiers who tied the cuffs on too tight – a small torture that’s not in the reports by Amnesty International or the Goldstone Commission. It’s a torture that depends on a single soldier, without instructions from above or the military advocate general. An outlet for the hatred of Arabs during a routine mission.

And there were the humiliations. We did not force the prisoners to sing “Ana bahebak Mishmar Hagvul” (“I love you Border Police” ), as in the territories. The big hit back then was “Yaish Begin, mat Arafat” (“Long live Begin, Arafat is dead” ). In retrospect, it’s not certain that our Lebanese prisoners were opposed to Arafat’s removal; they may have even identified with that part of the song.

I once performed a leftist act of courage. I was guarding a truck full of prisoners who were waiting in the sun to be processed at Ansar. Suddenly a reservist thug showed up, with sneakers and no shirt on, and wanted to get on the truck and beat the prisoners. I refused to let him on. He made a threatening move. I had no chance against him one on one. I cocked my weapon, he took a step back and, enraged, said: “It’s because of people like you that the country is in the state it is.”

There was nothing special in my experience or in the photographs of Eden Abergil. Tens of thousands of soldiers who served in the territories and Lebanon, like Eden and me, were exposed to similar experiences. This is the routine of occupation: pieces of cloth, cuffs, sweat in the sun, aud, um, yidak, uskut. That’s the way it has been for 43 years. When 18-year-old soldiers with weapons guard civilians with their hands and eyes bound, and see the prisoners lying in pools of urine in the interrogation basements, the situation is violent and humiliating without diverging from orders or regulations.

The occupation did not “corrupt” me or any of my colleagues in the unit. We didn’t return home and run wild in the streets and abuse helpless people. Coming-of-age problems preoccupied us a lot more than our prisoners’ discomfort. Our political views were also not affected. Anyone who hated Arabs at home hated them when he was defeated and weak in the army, and those who read Uri Avnery before being drafted believed that it was necessary to leave Lebanon and the territories even when they actively took part in the occupation.

But we learned one lesson: Regardless of politics, it’s better to be the guard than the prisoner. Even those who dream of a permanent settlement and a Palestinian state and want to see the settlements gone prefer to tie on the cuffs than be cuffed. It’s better to guard the prisoner and eat at the mess hall than to eat on your knees with your hands tied behind your back in a smelly room. The occupation did not transform us into law-breaking criminals, it only taught us that it’s best to be on the stronger side.

A response to Pfc. Benn: Haaretz

Those who force people to eat like animals are not on the strong side.
By Gideon Levy

Pfc. Aluf Benn spent his years in the army in the Military Police in Lebanon. Yesterday, with commendable courage, he revealed his military routines in these pages (“When I was Eden Abergil”). He handcuffed and blindfolded people countless times and led many detainees to their cages. He saw detainees eating like dogs, as he put it – crouching with their hands tied behind their backs – and smelled their sweat and urine.

Benn tried to argue that everyone did this, thousands of soldiers of the occupation army for generations, and that is why he was not shocked by the acts of soldier Eden Abergil. That is a twisted but frightingly banal moral explanation: Everyone does it, so it’s okay. I never saw aberrations, Benn wrote, immediately after describing the detainees’ horrendous doglike meal. The occupation did not corrupt me, he added later, without batting an eyelash.

Well then, my excellent editor and good friend, Aluf Benn, your article is unequivocal proof of how much you have been corrupted after all – and, more seriously, how unaware of it you are. You didn’t know and didn’t ask who the prisoners were and why they were detained that way. Even their crouching to eat in handcuffs was deemed by you, a soldier who read Uri Avnery in his youth, to be normal, not a monstrous moral aberration. But really, what can you expect from a young brainwashed soldier?

The problem is that even today, with mature hindsight, you still don’t consider this an aberration. Why? Just because everybody did it.

The occupation did not turn us into lawless criminals, you write with a pure heart. Really? You handcuffed thousands of people for no reason, without trial, in humiliating conditions, causing them pain that made them scream, according to your testimony. Is this not a loss of humanity?

You didn’t return home to riot in the streets and abuse innocent people, you write, and that’s all very well. But you were silent. You were a complete accomplice to the crime, and you don’t even have a guilty conscience.

Try to think for a moment about the thousands of detainees that you handcuffed, humiliated and tortured. Think about their lives since then, the traumas and scars they carry, the hatred you planted in them. Now think about yourself, the soldier who has matured, become a family man and a respected columnist, a liberal editor to the bone, with independent and enlightened opinions. Could it be that you are blinder today than you were in your youth?

So that’s what everybody did. You have made an important contribution to Breaking the Silence, providing proof of what the occupation does to the occupier, who doesn’t even notice the ugly hump on his back anymore. The occupier you described is a grave development. An occupier who feels so good, so at peace with his past actions, is in need of profound self-examination.

“When I was Eden Abergil” is an important article. It honestly exposes what most of us don’t want to admit. It can’t be called false propaganda, and no one would dare accuse its author of being an anti-Semite. He was a dedicated soldier in the defense forces that committed (and still commit) such criminal deeds.

But the lesson Benn took away from his military service is perhaps the most chilling of all: It is better to be the one taking the prisoner, not the prisoner. It is better to be the one placing the handcuffs, not the handcuffed. It is better to guard the detainee and then go to the dining room than to eat crouching, hands cuffed, in a stinking hall. This is the binary world of the former Israeli soldier: either a brutal soldier, or his victim.

And what about the third possibility, which is neither one nor the other? The world has plenty of these – neither torturers not torture victims, neither occupiers nor the occupied. But they have been entirely erased from the narrow and frighteningly distorted image of the world that Israel plants in its soldiers’ minds.

Benn and his fellow soldiers just wanted to be on the strong side, and to hell with being on the just side. But those who forced people to eat like animals are not the strong side. Even the mighty, who once read the leftist Haolam Hazeh and now edits the op-ed page of Haaretz, has fallen.

Pfc. Benn certainly did not deserve a medal for his army service. Years later, he doesn’t even understand what was wrong with it.

Why Israel imprisoned my best friend: The Electronic Intifada

Mohammed Khatib, 2 September 2010
Abdallah Abu Rahmah being arrested by Israeli soldiers at demonstration in Bilin in 2005. (Oren Ziv/ActiveStills) When I was a boy I was still allowed to travel in Israel. I went to the beach and swam in the sea, something that most Palestinian children living in the West Bank today can only dream of. Israel has been restricting movement more and more over the years. We Palestinians were banned from traveling to Israel, the land where many of our parents were born. And now I find I cannot leave the West Bank. I was stopped from leaving the country on 4 August when I tried to cross the Allenby Bridge and reach Jordan in order to fly to Europe.

Abdallah Abu Rahmah being arrested by Israeli soldiers at demonstration in Bilin in 2005. (Oren Ziv/ActiveStills)

And just as Israel has gradually increased restrictions of where we can go, the boundaries of what is permissible to do as a Palestinian have narrowed markedly. We have reached a point where peaceful protest is unacceptable to the Israeli state and military legislation has been constructed to criminalize and throw in jail anyone who dares to publicly voice dissent.

Abdallah Abu Rahmah, coordinator of the Bilin Popular Committee and my best friend, is one such man. He made the international news after the EU’s foreign policy chief issued a statement condemning his conviction in an Israeli military court on 24 August. He was convicted of “incitement” — an intentionally vague charge that criminalizes freedom of speech — and of organizing “illegal” demonstrations. Direct negotiation between Israel and Palestinians may be restarting, but on the ground, Israel’s military occupation continues: oppression as usual.

Abdallah, a school teacher and father of three, has been imprisoned at the Ofer military prison since 10 December 2009 — International Human Rights Day, no less. Israeli soldiers raided his occupied West Bank home in the middle of the night, and dragged him from his bed in front of his wife, Majida, and their three children, Luma (7), Lian (5) and eight-month-old baby Laith.

The protests that Abdallah was convicted of organizing began on 16 December 2004, the day Israeli military bulldozers first came to uproot olive trees on our village’s lands and plant a wall in their stead. Since that day we have held hundreds of demonstrations in which Israelis and internationals joined Palestinians to say no to Israeli apartheid and yes to partnership and peace based on justice. In Bilin we believe that creativity and hope are our most effective tools to break the shackles of occupation and realize our rights as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and guaranteed to us by international law.

In July 2004, months before the construction of Israel’s barrier on Bilin’s lands began, the International Court of Justice in the Hague ruled that the wall Israel is constructing in the occupied Palestinian territory is illegal and must be dismantled. The ruling also reiterated that Israeli settlements in the occupied territories are also illegal under international law.

Israel however continued constructing the wall and the settlements unabated. The impunity Israel enjoys regarding these violations erodes our people’s faith that international law and human rights are relevant to our lives. Many of us feel that human rights are something the West enjoys speaking of, but are reserved for others. We believe that for things to change there must be a price for Israel’s flouting of international law and that this price can best be drawn through nonviolent means.

Every day, more and more Palestinians choose to oppose injustice and occupation with grassroots unarmed resistance, challenging Israeli hegemony. Threatened by our movement’s growth, Israel has launched a campaign of repression, targeting activists and members of popular committees — the bodies mobilizing protesters — across the West Bank with arrests and violence.

Last March, in another draconian attack on free speech, the lands of Bilin and the neighboring village of Nilin, where regular weekly protests against the theft of their land are also held, were declared a permanent closed military zones for a period of six months.

Between February 2004 and June 2009, twenty unarmed demonstrators have been killed, hundreds imprisoned and thousands injured. The soldiers and settlers who regularly violate international law do so with almost complete impunity. Meanwhile, Palestinian civilians who organize protest are charged with incitement and organizing illegal demonstrations.

In fact, it is only by coincidence that I myself am not imprisoned in Ofer prison together with Abdallah. Like Abdallah, I have been arrested by soldiers who broke into my home at the middle of the night. I too was charged with incitement and organizing demonstrations. Like they did with Abdallah, the military also claimed that I had been throwing stones.

Their mistake was, that unlike in Abdallah’s case, they tried to use not only unlawfully extracted testimonies of minors, but they also provided a falsified picture of me with a stone in my hand. But I was lucky. I was abroad on the date that the picture was taken and could prove that I was not the man in the picture. When the fraud became evident, the judge had no choice but to order my release. Otherwise, like Abdallah and many other Palestinian organizers and activists, I would have been considered dangerous and held at least until the end of my trial, which is still ongoing.

If what Abdallah has done is illegal, then we are all proud offenders. Israel better round us up and throw us to its jails and prisons by the hundreds, as the perverse reality Israel has created on the ground means that we must defy Israeli military law in order to uphold international law and achieve our human rights.

The EU’s statement denouncing Abdallah’s conviction is an important first step. But it must be followed by serious action to ensure that Israel does not use the resumption of negotiations as a smokescreen to hide behind while entrenching the occupation. Until such steps are taken, no one who dares to protest and challenge Israel’s occupation is safe.

Mohammed Khatib is the secretary of the Bilin village council and the coordinator of the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee.

EDITOR: The voice of the unheard

Now at last, the silent voice of the Palestinians humiliated is being heard, and a very disturbing story emerges. This is so reminiscent of Abu Ghraib, for the simple reason that similar conditions produce criminal perverts similarly.

‘Facebook Arabs’ speak out: YNet

‘She grabbed me by beard, called me a terrorist.’ Palestinians from Eden Aberjil’s photos tell their story
Eti Abramov
Published:     09.01.10, 19:32 / Israel News

The photographs posted by former Israeli soldier Eden Aberjil on her Facebook page caused a great storm around the world and embarrassed the State of Israel. Everyone focused on the image of the soldier who violated the dignity of the bound security prisoners, but no one showed any interest in who these prisoners are.

Ever since Gilad Shalit’s kidnapping, Israelis, including journalists, have been banned from entering Gaza. At the request of Yedioth Ahronoth, B’Tselem journalists were allowed into the Strip to located the men in the photographs. They are three members of the same family, the Abu Salah family, and live in the al-Amal neighborhood in Beit Hanoun.
‘I actually took care of the detainees’ / Boaz Fyler
Ex-soldier from Ashdod who caused worldwide stir by posting photos of herself posing with cuffed Palestinian detainees taken during her army service says she received death threats on Facebook. ‘The IDF let me down, I wish I never served in such an army,’ she says. Meanwhile, PA planning to take legal action against her
Full Story

Asad Abu Salah, 47, is the bearded man Aberjil nicknamed “Osama bin Laden”. He is married and a father of 10. Said Abu Salah, 44, is Asad’s brother, and is married to two women and fathers 18 children.

The young man in another picture is Eid Abu Salah, 25, Said’s son. He is unemployed due to a disability, is married and a father of two. The three were arrested along with four other family members on the charge of membership in Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

March 19, 2008, the date that appears on Aberjil’s pictures, was the eve of Purim. But while in Israel people were preparing for festivities and costumes, the defense establishment was preparing for security incidents. That same weekend, the mourning period for the death of Hezbollah officer Imad Mughniyeh came to an end.

Picture with Eid Abu Salah, posted on Eden Aberjil's Facebook

On the night of March 18, 2008, the Abu Salah family’s house was encircled. “At one point, we heard from the loudspeakers that the house was surrounded and that we must turn ourselves in. Father asked us to go down to the house’s ground floor and sit there,” Eid says. “Then we heard the sounds of heavy equipment near the house. I looked out the window and saw the Israeli soldiers speaking with my uncle Asad, who lives right next to us. Next we heard a knock at the door and my uncle Asad saying: ‘Open up Said.’ Father opened the door and we saw Asad with a number of soldiers behind him holding his hands back with a gun to his back. We all left the house and the soldiers went in with dogs to search. We went to Asad’s house and sat there. At four in the morning it was decided who would go with the soldiers: Asad and his two sons, 23-year-old Fahmi and 20-year-old Salah, and my father, myself, and two of my brothers, 21-year-old Ghassan and 20-year-old Muhammad.”

‘I felt sexually assaulted’
After over an hour of driving, in a tank and bus, with their eyes covered and their hands cuffed – according to Eid – they reached Zikim. “The soldiers untied the cuffs in the back and cuffed me in the front. Then they seated us on concrete blocks, ” he says. “Father sat on the block next to me and moaned with pain from the cuffs. I heard a soldiers telling my uncle Asad, ‘Tell your brother to shut up, or else you’ll be crying over him.’ We sat like that for half an hour.”

During that half hour, a group of female soldiers arrived. One of them was Eden Aberjil. “I heard the voices of several female soldiers laughing and shouting,” says Eid. “Guessing from the sound there were about 10 of them. One of them sat next to me and asked, ‘What’s your name?’ I answered, ‘Eid’.

“She told me, ‘You are a terrorist’. Then she told me to sit on another block, next to my uncle Asad, and she sat down between us. She told my uncle: ‘You are Osama bin Laden.’ Then she grabbed me by my beard and said, ‘You are Osama bin Laden’s son and are a terrorist just like him.’ Then I heard to the clicks of cameras and the soldier told her friend, ‘Sawri, sawri,’ which means ‘take a picture’ in Arabic.”

All the soldiers were Jewish, why did they speak to each other in Arabic?

“I don’t know why. They spoke to each other in mixed Arabic and Hebrew. She stuck to me and asked her friend to take a picture. At one point the soldier grabbed me by the head and planted a kiss on my right cheek. There was the sound of a camera then as well.

How did you feel when she kissed you?

“I cried. It was difficult. I was already married and the father of a son. I felt scared, sad. She posted one photo on the internet, but there were no less then 10 pictures with me.”

Did you try to resist verbally? To tell the solider something?

“What could I say? Every time I tried to say something, the soldiers hit me.”

How did it end?

“They questioned us, and in the end me and my brother Muhammad were released.

“What did they want from you?

“To know things about Hamas, about the launching of rockets. We told them that we have nothing to do with these things.”

Muhammad Abu Salah, 20, Eid’s brother, told the same story. “She took pictures with us, one by one. When the soldier approached me and while she was taking pictures I felt like she was getting very close to me. I felt sexually assaulted because she was touching my leg, neck and back in a provocative way. Then more soldiers came, started to mock us and insult us with crude remarks. They started to beat me. I asked to go to the bathroom. One of the soldiers took me. I was unable to go from the fear.”
‘Father fell ill after seeing pictures’

Two-and-a-half years have passed since Aberjil’s photos were taken. The soldier has already been discharged from the military and moved on with her life. This is not the case with the Abu Salah family. Out of the seven family members arrested, only the two brothers, Eid and Muhammad, were released. Their uncle, Asad Abu Salah, was tried and sentenced to 25 years in prison for security offenses. His two sons, Fahmi and Salah are being held in the Beersheba prison, awaiting trial over their alleged membership in Hamas. Said Abu Salah, Muhammad and Eid’s father, is also currently at the Beersheba prison, also awaiting trial along with his other son Ghassan.

Aberjil posing in front of bound detainees

The family learned of the publication, and the soldier’s name, from neighbors. “After we returned from the post I forgot about it. I decided that if I don’t have proof, I’m better off keeping quiet,” says Eid. “We only told the family what happened there, including the fact that we were photographed. Some two weeks ago family members called me and said my pictures were on the television and internet. I was very surprised. And then we got a letter from prison, that my father saw the pictures in the newspaper, fell ill and was hospitalized. It’s understandable. Those pictures aren’t exactly cheerful.”

A similar reaction was felt in the house of Asad Abu Salah, who Aberjil nicknamed ‘bin Laden’. His wife Muna says she heard about the incident on TV. “I actually collapsed,” she says. “I cried a lot, because I couldn’t do anything. My husband is a well-known man in the village, and when the pictures were published, everyone recognized him.”

Eid, in interviews she gave to Israeli media, Eden says she brought you something to eat and drink.

“Not at all, I swear she didn’t bring us anything.”

She says she didn’t talk to you, and only brought you food and water.

“She cursed at us, called us terrorists, and didn’t bring us anything.”

What would you tell her if you would meet her?

“I would tell her that if she gets married and has children, she should behave appropriately. They say treatment begets treatment, maybe one day she will feel the way I felt over there. This life is fickle, maybe some day she will experience something similar and feel what I felt.”

The Abu Salah family came to Beit Hanoun from Damra, a town near Majdal Shams. Most of them live in the same house, or in neighboring houses. “No one at home works,” says Eid. “We live from hand to mouth. But thank God, we get by. There are people in much worse situations.”

What changed in your life since the arrest?

“For me, personally, nothing has changed. But I am worried about my relatives who are still in detention, because they will only harass them more now that the pictures are out.”

Would you like Eden to receive some sort of punishment?

“I would like the war crimes being committed to be exposed.

Do you send things to the prison?

“No, they don’t let us take anything in. They tell us that this is the case with all detainees, not just us.”

Aberjil: He’s a liar
This week, when we called Eden Aberjil to get her response, she said a day after the story was published a member of the Abu Salah family phoned her and asked her, “Why are you taking pictures with my uncle?”

What did you do?

“I hung up on him. Where could this conversation possibly lead?

Is it true that you told your friend to take the picture in Arabic?

“I don’t know Arabic. How does he even know it was me?

And what about the sexual assault?

“I caressed his leg? He’s a liar. I would never touch him. On the contrary, I took the picture from a distance so as not to be close to them, because they stink. It’s a simple as that. If you know anything about body language, you can see that I am disgusted by them.”

So, you didn’t kiss him, you didn’t touch his leg?

“They are ingrates and of course they wouldn’t say that I gave them food. Of course they would slander me.”

Did you hear that one of them, Said, was hospitalized after the pictures were made public?

“No, but he is a liar. Let him bring documents.”

Bedouin future at stake in the Negev: Jonathan Cook

The National, September 1. 2010

HURA, ISRAEL // Nuri al Uqbi’s small cinderblock home in a ramshackle neighbourhood of Hura, a Bedouin town in Israel’s Negev desert, hardly looks like the epicentre of a legal struggle that some observers say threatens Israel’s Jewish character.

Inside, the 68-year-old Bedouin activist has stacks of bulging folders of tattered and browning documents, many older than the state of Israel itself, that he hopes will overturn decades of harsh government policy towards the Negev’s 180,000 Bedouin.

For the past few months, Mr al Uqbi has been in court pursuing a case that has pitted his own expert witnesses against those of the state.

Mr al Uqbi claims the right to return to a patch of 82 hectares in the Negev, close to the regional capital, Beersheva, that he says has belonged to his family for generations. But as both the government and the judge in the case, Sarah Dovrat, seem to appreciate, much more is at stake.

Should Mr al Uqbi win his case, tens of thousands of Bedouin, who long ago had their properties confiscated, could be entitled to repossess their agricultural lands or seek enormous sums in compensation.

Theoretically, it might also open the door to claims by millions of Palestinian refugees scattered across the Middle East.

The Negev, constituting nearly two-thirds of Israel’s territory, has been almost entirely nationalised by the state, with the land held in trust for world Jewry. But the Bedouin have outstanding legal claims on nearly 80,000 hectares of ancestral property.

Tom Segev, an Israeli historian, observed that the historical documents presented by Mr al Uqbi “raise a fundamental question: Who does this country belong to?”

The lawyers and witnesses in the case, Mr Segev added, were not just “arguing over a plot of land. They are arguing over the justness of Zionism”.

Such high stakes may explain why over the past few weeks, as Ms Dovrat has been considering her verdict, the authorities have sped up plans to plant over Mr al Uqbi’s land a “peace forest”, paid for by an international Zionist charity called the Jewish National Fund (JNF).

Until now the main obstacle in their way has been a small village, Al Araqib, re-established a decade ago by several Bedouin families who, rather than pursue Mr al Uqbi’s legal route, have simply reoccupied the land.

Last week, about 300 Bedouin were again evicted when the police destroyed the village’s 40 homes for the fourth time in less than a month.

Mr al Uqbi, a father of eight, said that five years ago – after years of challenging the land confiscation with protests and appeals to the authorities – he launched the lengthy legal process that has finally reached the Beersheva court.

“I realised that the authorities were simply waiting for me to die. When all the old people are gone, who will be left to come and testify?”

Mr al Uqbi said his father, Sheikh Suleiman al Uqbi, and the other villagers were “tricked” by the authorities in 1951. He said they were told that they would have to relocate “temporarily” while military exercises were carried out in the area.

All these years later, Mr al Uqbi’s home in Hura, like his neighbours’, is still illegal, and they are all denied water, electricity and other services.

The only option they had been offered to make their lives legal again, Mr al Uqbi said, was to move to one of seven government “townships” set up in the 1970s. All are sunk at the very bottom of Israel’s social and economic tables.

The families have refused, protesting that they would also have to renounce both their claim to their ancestral lands and a pastoral and agricultural way of life known by the Bedouin for centuries. The Uqbi tribe’s fate is far from unique. Tens of thousands of other Bedouin were also moved by the army and have been faced with a similar, stark choice.

Today, 90,000 Bedouin, or half the Negev’s Bedouin population, live in unrecognised communities, according to a human rights group.

Mr al Uqbi’s court case has set two noted Israeli geography professors in sharp opposition.

The state’s position is represented by Ruth Kark, of Hebrew University in Jerusalem, who claims that the Negev Bedouin were nomads with no ties to the land. Instead, she argues, most of the Negev was considered “mawat”, or dead, and its ownership passed to Israel in 1948 as the new sovereign ruler.

But Mr al Uqbi’s expert, Oren Yiftachel, of Ben Gurion University in Beersheva, has countered that there was a well-established system of Bedouin land ownership and crop cultivation in the Negev long before Israel’s creation.

He says Bedouin deeds were recognised by the Ottomans, the British and even early Zionist organisations such as the JNF, which bought land from the Bedouin.

A 1921 document from the public records office in London unearthed by Mr Yiftachel shows that Winston Churchill, the colonies minister, signed an agreement with Bedouin in the Beersheva area that exempted them from registering their lands and set up a special tribal court to settle land disputes.

Mr al Uqbi has kept a large store of documents passed on to him, showing that his father cultivated crops on the land and paid regular tithes on the profits to the Ottoman and British authorities.

He also has a copy of the treaty signed in 1948 between 16 Bedouin tribes, including the Uqbi, and the new Israeli army, pledging loyalty in return for a guarantee that they could continue living on their lands.

Mr Yiftachel said the legal battles of the Bedouin should be compared to those waged by other indigenous peoples in countries such as Australia, Canada, South Africa, India and Brazil. “Like them, they are fighting for recognition of ‘native title’,” he said.

Israeli teen hurt as assailants pelt car with rocks in West Bank: Haaretz

12-year-old girl moderately hurt; ‘Our lives have been left unprotected and the defense minister is doing nothing’ says resident of the area.

A 12-year-old Israeli girl was moderately wounded on Thursday evening when assailants hurled rocks at a car she was traveling in near the West Bank settlement of Ariel.

Israel Defense Forces troops attended to the girl, administering first aid, and she was subsequently transferred to Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva for further care.

The victim was traveling with her parents on a highway going east from Ariel. Near the village of Marda, stones began pelting the vehicle. When the girl sustained injuries to her head, her parents drove to the Tapuah Junction, where there was a large IDF presence in light of shooting attacks in the region on the two previous nights.

Sagi Chrysler, who was also hit by rocks while driving in the area, told Haaretz “I was driving on the road to Ariel, when two rocks hit the car. I was with the entire family – four children in the car. Our security is deteriorating, our lives left unprotected, and the defense minister is doing nothing.”

On Tuesday, four Israelis were killed when unknown assailants opened fire at a vehicle they were traveling in near the West Bank city of Hebron. The following night, two Israelis were wounded in a similar shooting attack at the Rimonim Junction near the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Earlier Thursday, Palestinian sources told Haaretz that the Palestinian security forces had apprehended two Hamas-affiliated Hebron residents suspected to have been involved in the deadly shooting attack on Tuesday.

The attacks coincided with the launch of U.S.-sponsored direct peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians in Washington. The Islamist Palestinian group Hamas has come out vocally against the talks. Claiming responsibility for Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s shootings, Hamas vowed to carry out further attacks.

What the wall has done: The Electronic Intifada,

Jamal Juma’,  31 August 2010

Palestinian women walk past Israel's wall in the West Bank. (Luay Sababa/MaanImages)

Israel began constructing the wall in June 2002 following its invasion of cities in the West Bank, which it dubbed “Operation Defensive Shield.” In retrospect, the invasion appears to have been a prelude to the construction of the wall and no one recognized the significance of the invasion’s code name at the time. The immense scale of the 2002 invasion — characterized by the destruction of Palestinian civilian infrastructure, mass arrests, assassinations and massacres — ensured that the construction of the wall would commence with as little resistance as possible.

Accompanied by hundreds of military checkpoints, the wall solidified the dismemberment of the West Bank’s major population centers into Bantustans, separated from each other and segregated from occupied East Jerusalem. Israel’s actions were intended to enhance its control over the Palestinian people and block the establishment of a Palestinian state. The wall intentionally blurs the “Green Line,” the internationally-recognized armistice line between Israel and the occupied West Bank, thus overriding international law and United Nations Security Council resolutions relating to the occupied Palestinian territories (OPT). Instead of relying on international law, Israel has substituted negotiations over “disputed” territories for which it sets the terms under an American shield.

Today, Israel’s “facts on the ground” clearly display the realities of its system of apartheid:

The wall, which will reach 810 kilometers in length, isolates 46 percent of the occupied West Bank and divides it into three large cantons and 22 small Bantustans. It cements Israel’s control over 82-85 percent of Palestinian water resources in the OPT.
A 1,400 kilometer road network is dedicated exclusively to Israelis and separated from Palestinian roads by 48 tunnels.
Thirty-four military checkpoints control the movement of people and goods between the different cantons and the movement of commercial traffic with Israel and the outside world.
Industrial zones, agricultural areas and crafts workshops have been established along the wall. These Israeli, joint and international ventures aim to transform the Palestinian people into a cheap labor force dependent on the Israeli economy. Raw materials and exports are entirely Israeli while the capital is international, Israeli and Palestinian.

Palestinian civil society’s response
Grassroots and peaceful resistance against the wall started three months after construction began. The delay was due in large part to the impact of the 2002 invasion on Palestinian society. Popular committees were formed in the villages and cities of the northern West Bank where the first stage of the wall was under construction. Activists organized events, documented damages and violations and organized international campaigns, communicating and coordinating with international solidarity activists who formed human shields at key areas around the West Bank. Dozens of rallies and activities were organized in the towns and villages across the northern and central West Bank. These protests occurred throughout the week and were coordinated with visits by international solidarity activists.

The demonstrations and other events attracted international attention. The images of the wall and its route, which clearly showed the extent of Israel’s theft of vast agricultural lands and water resources as well as the immense environmental and agricultural destruction, shocked observers around the world.
However, the Palestinian Authority (PA) remained indifferent to these activities, angering many Palestinians. The PA’s silence was particularly glaring given the numerous letters and appeals by farmers, local councils and popular committees for a response. Eventually, the indifference of the elected leadership raised questions and cast doubts among Palestinians and two rallies were organized outside the prime minister’s office to protest this stance.

Following the 2003 conference convened by the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People in New York, the Grassroots Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign met with Nasser al-Qidwa, the Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) permanent observer at the UN. The Grassroots Campaign provided al-Qidwa with a detailed power point presentation about the wall and its consequences for the “peace process.” Al-Qidwa took action and coordinated with international organizations, seeking information from the committees, civil and formal institutions, and international institutions that monitored Israel’s violations in the OPT.

In December 2003, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution to refer the case to the ICJ to seek its opinion about the legal consequences of Israel’s construction of the wall. Prior to the 14 February 2004 ICJ meeting, peaceful popular marches across the occupied West Bank increased and were met with violence and repression by the Israeli army. Five Palestinians were killed and hundreds were wounded in the villages northwest of Jerusalem, specifically from Beit Duqqu and Biddu. In anticipation of the ICJ meeting, Israel altered the route of the wall in Baqa al-Sharqiya in the Tulkarem Governorate and Beit Sourik and Qatana in the Jerusalem Governorate, restoring thousands of dunums of land it had previously confiscated (a dunum equals approximately 1,000 square meters). Meanwhile, the Israeli high court issued a ruling stating that the army should take the “human impact” of the wall on Palestinians into consideration.

Before the ICJ was due to announce its ruling in July 2004, then member of the Israeli Knesset Dr. Azmi Bishara organized a sit-in in cooperation with the Grassroots Campaign. A tent was erected at the northern entrance to Jerusalem and stood for ten days, attracting hundreds of solidarity delegations and popular committees from across historic Palestine as well as foreign and international organizations, diplomatic missions and dozens of media outlets. The tent was packed with hundreds of people around the clock and lectures and presentations were organized. However, the PA abruptly and violently shut down the tent. The PA claimed that the tent was no longer needed after the ICJ passed its ruling on 9 July 2004. In reality, the tent was becoming a source of embarrassment to the PA because it was attracting attention in the media and the public.

The ICJ opinion and its implications
The ICJ’s advisory opinion was a great boost to the Palestinian people, particularly those living in the villages, cities and communities closest to the path of the wall.

The ICJ also found — by a vote of 13-2 — that the international community was obliged not to recognize the situation resulting from the construction of the wall or to provide assistance to maintaining the status quo. It is interesting to recall that a similar conclusion over three decades ago with regard to South Africa’s occupation of South West Africa led to sanctions against the apartheid state.

In addition, the court called for all parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to compel Israel to implement its decision and reaffirmed the applicability of the Geneva Conventions to the OPT. By a vote of 14-1, the ICJ called on the UN to “consider what further action is required to bring to an end the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the Wall and the associated regime.”

After it was referred to the UN, an overwhelming majority of members of the UN General Assembly endorsed the ICJ’s opinion. However, over six years later, the UN Security Council has yet to review the advisory opinion.

The advisory opinion has had implications at both the official and popular levels. In spite of the victory at the ICJ, PA officials have deliberately disregarded the advisory opinion. Each year they justify their negligence by maintaining that the political circumstances are unfavorable and that the Europeans and the Americans would not support their request to resort to the UN Security Council. While it is evident that there is considerable pressure from Israel and the US, the PA has not utilized the advisory opinion as an effective bargaining chip. Instead of relying on international law it has continued to bet on the negotiations sponsored by successive American administrations. Thus, the PA is caught in a vicious cycle: the very negotiations that they rely on for international recognition are used by the US and Israel to pressure them to abandon Palestinian rights.

The PA’s approach has had implications internationally. Because it represents the “official” Palestinian position, no nation — however friendly to the Palestinian people — is able to advocate forcefully on behalf of the Palestinians or its leadership. In other words, they cannot be “more Palestinian than the Palestinians.”

By contrast, the popular position has been and remains well ahead of the official position. From the earliest days of the wall’s construction, the Palestinian public recognized it as a colonial and racist project aimed at imposing a new geopolitical and security reality on the ground that would dramatically alter the West Bank and tighten Israel’s grip. Therefore, the strategy underpinning popular action was based on resisting Israel’s goals on the ground, creating broad international support with solidarity movements, and demanding the enforcement of international law and resolutions.

That popular resistance soon included moves toward boycotting Israel. Since 2003, civil society activists, including the Grassroots Campaign and the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel have worked for an international boycott against Israel. The ICJ’s advisory opinion not only reinforced the Palestinian boycott efforts but also enabled Palestinian civil society to continue pressuring the PA to challenge Israel in international forums. Moreover, international solidarity movements began to base their demands for dismantling the Wall and settlements and ending the occupation on the ICJ’s advisory opinion.

On the first anniversary of the ICJ opinion the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) was launched by 171 Palestinian coalitions, associations, trade unions and organizations within and outside historic Palestine. This call, which is the first Palestinian consensus document since the founding of the PLO, seeks to boycott and impose sanctions against Israel to ensure its compliance with international law. Over the past five years, the BDS movement has grown in size and strength around the world and has become the international reference point for all solidarity initiatives and movements globally. The BDS call has been followed by subsequent declarations such as the 2009 Kairos Document issued by a coalition of Palestinian churches that called on churches around the world to boycott Israel. Moreover, these actions by Palestinian civil society were welcomed by international solidarity groups who were eager for a nonofficial Palestinian grassroots initiative.

The popular resistance embodied by the BDS movement and the weekly protests against the wall are the foundation upon which international solidarity is built. These grassroots efforts have pushed the confrontation with Israel’s occupation to a vital battleground: the international arena with its media, civil and official institutions, organizations, trade unions, activists, universities and even the private sector. The impact and implications of these efforts has not gone unnoticed. A recent report by the Reut Institute, an Israeli think-tank, argued that BDS represented a strategic threat to Israel.

These recommendations stem from the experience of the past eight years of struggle against the wall.

The PA must end its compliance with US dictates and fully engage in the international battle against Israel as an occupying state, demanding that the UN Security Council and General Assembly implement the ICJ’s advisory opinion as well as other relevant resolutions.
Greater coordination and organization of the BDS movement is needed internationally in order to maintain pressure on Israel.
Within the Arab world, it is crucial to revive the Arab Boycott Committee, bringing more Arab grassroots organizations and unions on board with the BDS movement and pressuring the Arab League to withdraw its support for negotiations until the ICJ ruling is implemented in full.
Grassroots resistance needs to be expanded to include all contact points along the wall and alongside Israeli settlements. At the same time all forms of formal and popular normalization must be stopped.
The Palestinian citizens of Israel must resort to international judicial means to end the racism and discrimination they have been suffering for more than six decades.
This is the way to end Israel’s occupation, dismantle the wall and destroy the deep-seated racist mentality of Israel’s leaders. This is the way to make Israel recognize that it is part of rather than above the international community.

Jamal Juma’ is a founding member of the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees, the Palestinian Association for Cultural Exchange and the Palestinian Environmental NGO Network. Since 2002, he has been the coordinator of the Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign.

This article was originally published by Al-Shabaka, The Palestinian Policy Network and is republished with permission.

Rightists step up protest, burn Palestinian flags: YNet

Dozens of right-wing activists burn Palestinian flags near Jericho to protest talks, attacks

Right-wing activists stepped up their protest Thursday against direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks launched in Washington by earlier in the day.

Dozens of protestors met at Almog junction near Jericho, and planned to march towards the city to demonstrate against the talks as well as against the two recent terror attacks in the West Bank.

At one point, the activists proceeded to burn Palestinian flags.

Two female protestors were arrested during the demonstration and transferred to Maaleh Adumim Police Station for questioning.

Protests against the recent attacks, which left four Israelis dead and two more wounded, were held elsewhere. Around 6 pm Thursday, rightists began assembling structures throughout the West Bank in defiance of the settlement construction freeze. One such structure was being set up near the site of one of the terror attacks..

Some 200 settlers arrived to express their anger, including Kiryat Arba Rabbi Dov Lior. The rabbi proceeded to pour cement into one of the structures, to serve as a floor.

At Adam, in northeast Jerusalem, the cornerstone for a new community center was laid as several settler leaders watched on, including Yesha Council Chairman Naftali Bennet.

Further to the north, at the settlement of Kedumim, a tractor began to lay the groundwork for a new pre-school. It was accompanied by 200 residents, young and old, who helped with the work.

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