Newsletter 13 Sep 2008
Summary of the news items in this mailing
1. News that the British government was about to rent property in Tel Aviv from settlement-developer Lev Leviev prompted an alert from Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine, calling for protests to be made – and elicited a fine letter from Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights to David Miliband.
2. In ‘End of an Odyssey’ Jeff Halper, Director of ICAHD and one of the Gaza boats’ passengers, reflects on the trip and its significance, arguing that it was a success beyond all expectations’, forcing ‘the Israeli government to make a clear policy declaration: that it is not occupying Gaza and therefore will not prevent the free movement of Palestinians in and out (at least by sea)’. And the Free Gaza movement has announced the opening of a regular postal service to Gaza from Cyprus, starting on 22nd September. We shall see.
3. The Israeli Committee for House Demolition (ICAHD), whose sterling campaigning work is a beacon of hope to all those working for a just resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, learnt just before the boat trip to which it contributed so much, that it had lost its EU funding.
4. Ha’aretz reports (10 August) that a Palestinian woman, on her way from Gaza to Nablus for medical care, went into premature labour and gave birth to quads in Israel at Barzilai hospital. All delightful and as it should be – except Israel will not allow the father to visit, nor the mother to return to Gaza…
5. Seth Freedman highlights a new B’tselem-Hamoked report, that ‘Palestinians whose registered address is in Gaza are now prohibited from living in the West Bank, regardless of how long ago they made the move eastward’. Ha’aretz , too, responds to this ongoing violation of international law and destruction of family life.
6. Meanwhile, in Gaza itself the sewage system is breaking down.
7. Who, exactly, are the Jewish people? Tel Aviv professor Shlomo Sand put the cat among the pigeons with his book, published in Hebrew earlier this year, “When and How Was the Jewish People Invented?”. An essay by him, summarising his thesis, is now available in English.
8. The crisis of the Palestinian struggle continues to deepen as a range of recent analyses makes clear:
a) Meron Benvenisti, former deputy mayor of Jerusalem, in a pessimistic analysis, points to the explosive realities of economic inequality which neither a two-state nor a binational solution would touch.
b)In mid-August Olmert was reported as giving Abbas ‘detailed proposal for final status’. Ron HaCohen, takes his cue from Benvenisti who remarked on the “success of the propaganda campaign known as ‘negotiations with the Palestinians,’ which convinces many that the status quo is temporary.” He provides an analysis of the latest ‘generous offer’, made last month, as further confirmation that ‘negotiations’ are not about negotiating at all.
c) Palestinians have been puzzling over the impasse they’re in, searching for effective strategies of opposition and liberation. Sam Bahour reports on the recent deliberations of a group of 45 Palestinians from all walks of life; and Ali Abunimah questions whether they have made any advances.
d) Jeff Halper takes another look at the emerging situation and comes up with the description of ‘warehousing a “surplus population”‘ to encapsulate what is happening to the Palestinians.
e) The International Crisis Group has just produced a sobering report ‘Round Two in Gaza’ which argues that The crisis of the Palestinian national movement is only worsening”.
9. New Profile reports that the Israeli High Court has given permission for Ben-Gvir and Baruch Marzel, right-wing extremist settlers, to march through the Arab town of Umm el-Fahm in the Galilee – a bit like allowing the Ku Klux Klan to march through Harlem.
10. Gush Shalom reports some success with the campaign to boycott settlement goods, as Barkan wineries moves out of the West Bank.
11. Finally, the Freedom Theatre in Jenin is looking for a resource Development Coordinator.
1. British Embassy in Tel Aviv planning to rent space from settlement-developer Lev Leviev
Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine together with Adalah/NY have put out an alert for people to action, to pressure the UK government not to rent its embassy space in Tel Aviv from one of major settlement developers Lev Leviev. JfJfP supports the general call and urges you to contact the relevant representatives of the UK government, asking them not to rent from Leviev.
Background details and a contact details for British representatives David Milliband, the Foreign Secretary, Kim Howells, Minister of State for the Middle East, UK Ambassador Tom Phillips in Tel Aviv and, Richard Edward Makepeace, Consul-General in Jerusalem can be found at
Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights sent a fine letter to David Miliband on the subject
2. End of an Odyssey – the Gaza boat trip
In ‘End of an Odyssey‘ Jeff Halper, Director of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, reflects on the Gaza boat trip and its significance:
‘First, the mission of the Free Gaza Movement to break the Israeli siege proved a success beyond all expectations. Our reaching Gaza and leaving has created a free and regular channel between Gaza and the outside world. It has done so because it has forced the Israeli government to make a clear policy declaration: that it is not occupying Gaza and therefore will not prevent the free movement of Palestinians in and out (at least by sea)… Any attempt on the part of Israel to backtrack on this – by preventing ships in the future from entering or leaving Gaza with goods and passengers, including Palestinians – may be immediately interpreted as an assertion of control, and therefore of Occupation, opening Israel to accountability for war crimes before international law, something Israel tries to avoid at all costs.’
His greatest frustration, he says, is that ‘Israelis just don’t get it – and don’t want to get it’. His blames this in large part on the media:
‘Nowhere in the many interviews was there a genuine curiosity about what I was doing or what life was like in Gaza. No one interested in a different perspective, especially if it challenged their cherished slogans. No one going beyond the old, tired slogans. Plenty of reference, though, to terrorism, Qassam missiles and Palestinian snubbing our valiant efforts to make peace; none whatsoever to occupation, house demolitions, siege, land expropriation or settlement expansion, not to mention the killing, imprisoning and impoverishment of their civilian population. As if we had nothing to do with the conflict…’
And the Free Gaza movement has announced the opening of a regular postal service to Gaza (currently, all mail sent to Palestinians from abroad has to go via Israel). The service is scheduled to begin on 22nd September.
3. ICAHD has recently learnt that it has lost its funding from the European Union
Jeff Halper writes:
We have just heard that our request for re-funding has been rejected, in high probability because of pressure brought to bear by right-wing Israeli neo-cons who have campaigned obsessively against our funding while threatening publicly to close us down.
So we now face a real crisis
That said, those who want us “gone” make a mistake in assuming that we will close if our funding is withdrawn. Our plan is to keep the office open and retain two staff; I will work on a voluntary basis until the financial picture improves.
I promise you, no matter what, ICAHD will not be silenced.
ICAHD is not the only grass-roots NGO to suffer form what appears to be a redirection of EU-funding. We’re trying to find out more about what is going on but, in the meantime, all offers of help to icahd-uk offices.
4. W. Bank mom gives birth here, can’t go back to dad in Gaza, reports Fadi Eyadat in Ha’aretz (10 Aug)
The sheer bizarreness of Israeli actions can sometimes make them hard to fathom:
A Palestinian woman who gave birth to quadruplets at Ashkelon’s Barzilai Hospital this week cannot have her husband visit her from Khan Yunis – nor will Israel let her return to him in the Gaza Strip.
Hawla Fadlalla has been at Barzilai for more than a month. She had been heading from Gaza to Nablus, where she planned to seek treatment at a clinic, but she never made it there. At Gaza’s Erez checkpoint, she went into early labor. With her life in danger, she was taken to nearby Barzilai Hospital instead.
There, according to her husband, Issam Fadlalla, she ‘received devoted and pleasant treatment.’ It is just that, in order to be admitted to the hospital, she had to ‘sign a commitment not to return to the Gaza Strip’…
See the report in Ha’aretz.
5. This is part of a wider assault on Gaza as Seth Freedman’s ‘Read it and Weep’ makes clear
In Comment is Free (12 September) Seth Freedman writes about a new B’tselem-Hamoked Report just published that ‘highlights yet another facet of Israel’s regime in the occupied territories that is seeing Palestinian lives ruined and families torn apart’.
‘Palestinians whose registered address is in Gaza are now prohibited from living in the West Bank, regardless of how long ago they made the move eastwards. Thanks to Israel’s flouting of the Oslo agreements, the process of updating Palestinians’ addresses on the population registry has been indefinitely frozen, making criminals of everyone who falls foul of the rule.’
The authors of the report argue that this is conscious Israeli policy ‘based on a desire to do everything within their power to drive a wedge between the West Bank and Gaza, and to turn them into separate entities’ – in direct contravention of the Oslo Accords, which state that the two areas are to be treated as one geographical unit, and in total disregard of family life.
And a report covering similar ground in Ha’aretz.
6. Meanwhile, in Gaza itself the sewage system is breaking down
Mohammed Omer writes in the New Statesman (28 August) from Gaza where sewage pours on to the Mediterranean coast at a rate of between 30,000 and 50,000 cubic metres of partially treated waste water and 20,000 cubic metres of raw sewage a day.
“What ends up in the sea is the water normally reclaimed for agricultural purposes upon proper treatment,” says Monther Shoblak, an engineer and director of Gaza’s Coastal Municipalities Water Utility. “Gaza’s power woes have exacerbated the situation. After Israel destroyed the main electricity station in 2006, when we are able to generate electricity, it is pumping sewage away from homes that takes priority. This leaves little for treatment.”
The raw waste is also seeping into Gaza’s aquifer: “Ninety per cent of Gaza’s drinking water is considered polluted under the international standards specified by the World Health Organisation,” says Shoblak.
7. The invention of the Jewish people
“An Israeli historian suggests the diaspora was the consequence, not of the expulsion of the Hebrews from Palestine, but of proselytising across north Africa, southern Europe and the Middle East”
Under this stand-first, Le Monde Diplo carries an article by Tel Aviv professor Shlomo Sand author of “When and How Was the Jewish People Invented?”. Originally published in Hebrew earlier this year, a French translation is now available.
‘Every Israeli knows that he or she is the direct and exclusive descendant of a Jewish people which has existed since it received the Torah in Sinai. According to this myth, the Jews escaped from Egypt and settled in the Promised Land, where they built the glorious kingdom of David and Solomon, which subsequently split into the kingdoms of Judah and Israel. They experienced two exiles: after the destruction of the first temple, in the 6th century BC, and of the second temple, in 70 AD…
All this, says Sand is myth. Not just the bible stories, but the exile as well.
But then ‘where did all the Jews who have populated the Mediterranean since antiquity come from? The smokescreen of national historiography hides an astonishing reality. From the Maccabean revolt of the mid-2nd century BC to the Bar Kokhba revolt of the 2nd century AD, Judaism was the most actively proselytising religion.’
And although it slowed with the triumph of Christianity, proselytizing did not stop:
‘The most significant mass conversion occurred in the 8th century, in the massive Khazar kingdom between the Black and Caspian seas. The expansion of Judaism from the Caucasus into modern Ukraine created a multiplicity of communities, many of which retreated from the 13th century Mongol invasions into eastern Europe. There, with Jews from the Slavic lands to the south and from what is now modern Germany, they formed the basis of Yiddish culture.
Sand does not claim originality for his work, recognising that much of it was ‘more or less reluctantly acknowledged by Zionist historiography’ until the 1960s when it was finally submerged in the dominant narrative.
The politics of all this, says Sand, is the way in which ‘the myth of the eternal nation, reconstituted on the land of its ancestors [is invoked] to justify internal discrimination against its own citizens’.
For an infuriated response (just look at its title) by Ami Isseroff, which disputes particularly the question of the exile in 70AD, see his ‘Shlomo Zand and the Final Solution to the Jewish Problem’ on the ZioNation Progressive Zionism website.
Tom Segev, on the other hand, in a piece in Ha’aretz in March this year, called it ‘one of the most fascinating and challenging books published here in a long time’.
8. The crisis of the Palestinian struggle continues to deepen as a range of recent analyses makes clear:
(a) Meron Benvenisti’s pessimism
Former deputy mayor of Jerusalem and now longstanding critic of the occupation remarks that: ‘A status quo is preserved as long as the forces wishing to preserve it are stronger than those wishing to undermine it, and that is the situation today in Israel/Palestine.’
He argues that ‘the debate over one or two states the debate over the two alternatives is a moot argument, the sole value of which is in its very existence, and whose purpose is to obscure the robust and durable nature of the status quo.’
Usually the emphasis is on the political and civil inequalities, which can potentially be solved in either scenario. But, says Benvenisti, the greater danger is economic inequality, which will not be reversed by either alternative.
‘This explosive status quo survives due to the combination of several factors: fragmentation of the Palestinian community and incitement of the remaining fragments against each other; enlistment of the Jewish community into support for the occupation regime, which is perceived as protecting its very existence; funding of the status quo by the ‘donor nations,’ which cause corruption among the Palestinian leadership; persuasion of the neighboring states to give priority to bilateral and global interests over Arab ethnic solidarity; success of the propaganda campaign known as ‘negotiations with the Palestinians,’ which convinces many that the status quo is temporary and thus they can continue to amuse themselves with theoretical alternatives to ‘the final-status arrangement,’ the silencing of all criticism as an expression of hatred and anti-Semitism; and psychological repugnance toward the conclusion that the status quo is durable and will not be easily changed.’
(b) In mid-August Olmert was reported as giving Abbas a ‘detailed proposal for final status’
In ‘Occupation by Another Name‘ (27 August) Ron HaCohen, provides an analysis of this latest ‘generous offer’ which apparently would give the Palestinian state 93% of the West Bank and a further 5% of lands in the Negev.
But all is not what it seems. Israel would take its share of the West Bank now; the Palestinian deal would await the PA taking control of Gaza from Hamas. Jerusalem is left for later. And refugees are subject to a ‘detailed and complex formula’, no details of which were given.
Israel later presented the Palestinians with an elaborated model of new security arrangements under the proposed agreement: “For its part, Israel would like to supervise border crossings, maintain a limited deployment in the Jordan Valley, continue overflights of the Palestinian territory, maintain early warning stations on mountain ridges, and hold emergency response units in Palestinian areas.”
It’s hard not be cynical about the Israeli proposals. As Ron HaCohen remarks: ‘No one believes such an agreement can be reached, as agreed, by the end of this year… But the show must go on.’
And he concludes his analysis:
‘Israel clearly rejects the notion of an independent Palestinian state, other than a Bantustan under total Israeli control. If you wonder why the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains unresolved, this is the simple answer: the two-state solution… is still unacceptable to Israel’s military and political leadership.’
(c) Palestinians have been puzzling over the impasse they’re in, searching for effective strategies of opposition and liberation.
Sam Bahour reports on the deliberations of ‘a group of 45 Palestinians from all walks of life — men and women, on the political right and left, secular and religious, politicians, academics, civil society and business actors, from occupied Palestine, inside Israel, and in the Diaspora’. They have [produced a working document entitled “Regaining The Initiative: Palestinian Strategic Options To End Israeli Occupation.”
Bahour’s article has a link to the strategy document.
Isabel Kerschner reports on his development in the New York Times, saying that: ‘At one level the one-state ultimatums are intended as a pressure tactic to wring concessions out of Israel – granting equal voting rights to millions of Palestinians in the territories would ultimately spell the end of the Zionist project of Jewish self-determination and a Jewish state.
But now they also reflect an urge for a genuine reappraisal in the dwindling Palestinian nationalist camp as it despairs of achieving the kind of state it had envisaged and questions its own ability to survive.
And Ali Abunimah, in “A New Palestinian Strategy or the Same Failed One?“, accepts the need for a fundamental reassessment of Palestinian strategy, but point to some of the problems and less than principled compromises apparent in this working document.
(d) The Palestinians: Warehousing a ‘Surplus People’
In his latest reflections on the current situation, Jeff Halper (11 September 2008) comes up with new concept to describe the situation of the Palestinians: warehousing.
‘Warehousing, then, is the best, if bleakest, term for what Israel is constructing for the Palestinians of the Occupied Territories. It is in many ways worse than the Bantustans of apartheid-era South Africa. The ten non-viable “homelands” established by South Africa for the black African majority on only 11% of the country’s land were, to be sure, a type of warehouse. They were intended to supply South Africa with cheap labor while relieving it of its black population, thus making possible a European dominated “democracy.” This is precisely what Israel is intending – its Palestinian Bantustan encompassing around 15% of historic Palestine – but with a crucial caveat: Palestinian workers will not be allowed into Israel.’
(e) International Crisis Group’s new briefing, ‘Round Two in Gaza’
Round Two in Gaza ‘describes the events that saw Hamas battle and bring to heel one of Gaza’s most potent families. It also shows how the Islamist movement has been turning the territory into a model of internal security and bureaucratic consolidation.
“Hamas’s takeover of Gaza is increasingly complete, and both it and Fatah seem intent on consolidating their gains. The crisis of the Palestinian national movement is only worsening”, says Robert Blecher, Crisis Group’s Senior Analyst for the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. “Palestinians are fed up with the feuding and many are looking for a way out. But they find none”…
Prospects for a genuine and sustainable peace process are bad and getting worse”.
9. New Profile reports that the Israeli High Court has given permission for Ben-Gvir and Baruch Marzel, right-wing extremist settlers, to march through the Arab town of Umm el-Fahm in the Galilee.
Dorothy Naor writes (6 September):
This is Israel.
If you have never heard the names Itamar Ben-Gvir and Baruch Marzel look them up via Google. Nasty persons these two, who represent what every humane and decent being should not want to be. Their choice of Umm el-Fahm to march through waving Israeli flags is not by chance. The city is known to have a large contingent of the Northern Islamic movement, and also suffered in October 2000 during demonstrations in which Israeli police turned their guns on the population and shot to death 12 Israeli citizens (and one person from the WB), 3 of whom were killed at the entrance to Umm el-Fahm. This is not to say that Umm el-Fahm is unfriendly to Jews who visit. To the contrary. It welcomes peaceful Jews as it does tourists and others. It has an art museum that invites the public at large to visit and other attractions. Its businesses and restaurants welcome Israeli (and other) Jews, too. I have never felt unwanted or in danger when I have gone to visit the museum, walk through the city, or stop to have a tasty dish of knafe.
But allowing Ben-Gvir and Marzel and their sort to march through the city waving Israeli flags is pure and simple provocation-just as having the KKK walk with dummies of Afro-American torsos hanging from trees through NY’s Harlem would be. And the fact that the High Court asserted the right of Human Rights groups to do tours of Hebron despite the objection of the Jewish residents is no parallel to the right of the likes of Ben-Gvir and Marzel to march triumphantly through Umm el-Fahm waving the Israeli flag or flags. The Human Rights groups do not walk through Hebron waving the Palestinian flag (even though Hebron is on the West Bank and still has some Palestinians living in it, despite the best efforts of the Jews to push them out). Furthermore, Human Rights groups take people to tour the area so as to show them how human rights are violated in Hebron, where you find graffiti as Kill all the Arabs, and worse. The fact that this bothers the Jewish residents tells you much about the kind of people the residents are.
For the population of Um el-Fahm, which suffered in October 2000 but has not seen a single person take responsibility nor a single policeman stand trial for the killings (even though the Israeli police never shoot at any other sector of demonstrators, nor should they), this march will be rubbing salt into its still open wounds.
If this march will end without disaster it will be a miracle. Just this past Naqba memorial this year the police, without provocation, acted violently against a non-violent population (including infants and small children and aged) commemorating its tragedy. We can readily guess how the police will react if even a single resident of Umm el-Fahm will seem in any way to threaten the marchers. Freedom of speech yes, but freedom to provoke for the sake of provoking no.
But that’s Israel, as I said.
10. Boycotting settlement goods / the Barkan wineries move out of the West Bank
‘The company directors’ report to their stockholders stated: “In the past, the location of the company’s winery at the Barkan area caused a negative image and made difficult the exporting of the Barkan brands. The company is acting to change this image, especially in light of moving production activity to Kibutz Hulda. (…) Due to severe limitation caused by the size of the Barkan location, as well as due to problems connected with operating a winery beyond the Green Line, the company decided to remove the winery from the Barkan Industrial Zone and relocate it to the Hulda site”.’
11. The Freedom Theatre in Jenin is looking for a Resource Development Coordinator
The Freedom Theatere (www.thefreedomtheatre.org) is looking for an experienced and dedicated Resource Development Coordinator to take on a full-time position, with a minimum commitment of 6 months. The Resource Development Coordinator should work in our office in Jenin, but can be based elsewhere for part of the working time.
The Resource Development Coordinator will be responsible for carrying out the following tasks:
– Donors research
– Proposal writing
– Grant reporting
– Maintaining donor relations
– Coordianti8ng fundraising efforts with the Freedom Theatre’s friendship associations and other support networks.
The following qualities are required:
– native English speaker
– excellent communication and writing skills
– the capacity to work independently
Applicants are expected to have at lest one years of fundraising experience.
If you are interested in the position, please send your CV and a cover letter to firstname.lastname@example.org