Newsletter 20 Jan 2008
2. Jewish Voice for Peace News Roundups
4. A Life in the Day: Rabbi Ascherman
5. Nurit Peled-Elhanan on “the Jewish mother”
6. Yesh Din – Volunteers for Human Rights on Military Courts
7. Did Hizbullah target civilians during the Israel-Lebanon war?
8. Amira Hass on Daniel Barenboim’s honorary Palestinian citizenship
9. “Shooting Back”: A ‘Democracy Now’ video interview
10. Daily realities of the occupation – from B’tselem’s 18th January update
The crisis in Gaza overshadows all. There is little to add to the materials, already circulated, from Physicians for Human Rights, Gisha and others as part of the appeal for funds and support in opposing the blockade.
See, for instance:
* Gush Shalom materials
* Amnesty International Urgent Action, 14th January 2008
* PHR-Israel Emergency Appeal for Medical Supplies for Gaza
* PHR-I Israel’s Military Agrees to “Temporarily” Increase the Amount of Diesel to Gaza’s Power Station
JVP has been expanding its News Roundups for a while and are now producing the kind of regular overview of writings on the conflict and related issues that Stephen Marks did so well and single-handedly for us until last September. The JVP roundups include expanded contributions on particular topics, such as the 6th January 2008 report on the mounting tensions between Israel and Egypt, and an update on Israel and the Occupied Territories ahead of Bush’s visit. Full analysis
Also one on settlements – see below.
a) Jewish Voice for Peace (30th December 2007) has produced an excellent News Roundup on the Settlements, “freezes” on settlement building and assessing US and Israeli government intentions:
“By no means should it be understood that the settlers have somehow subverted the otherwise noble intentions of the Israeli government. On the contrary, one of the key strengths of the settlement movement is that its adherents can be found at the highest levels of the Israeli government. Government officials are a major factor in the success of the settlement project and in its continued growth.
b) In advance of the Annapolis meeting, the Palestine Center, an independent think-tank published three discussion papers on the settlements, the future of Jerusalem and the issue of the refugees. The settlement briefing, entitled “Settlements and the Wall”, by Stephanie Koury, deals with the current reality, and options for a possible solution:
“Today, there are approximately 450,000 Israeli citizens living in 149 settlements, nine industrial zone settlements and numerous settler outposts throughout the occupied West Bank including occupied East Jerusalem.3 The majority of Israeli settlers have chosen to reside in the West Bank due to lower costs of living subsidized largely by the Israeli government. A much smaller number are ideologically motivated who consider it their duty to settle the West Bank as part of the “land of Israel”. The rate of population growth within settlements is three to four times greater than the rate of growth within Israel…”
“There are several options for addressing the problems of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, some of which have been addressed in prior negotiations while others have not. Several of these options could be utilized in reaching an agreement on borders and are not mutually exclusive. They include the following:
Option A: Evacuation of the Settlements and Settlers from the West Bank …
Option B: Leasing …
Option C: Permanent Residence/Citizenship …
Option D: Landswaps …
Rabbis for Human Rights have been engaged in exemplary solidarity work in Palestine for a long-time now and are one of the organisations JfJfP has consistently supported. The Sunday Times (30th December 2007) carried an interview with its Executive Director, Rabbi Arik Ascherman:
When I look at the suppression of the Palestinian people – the home demolitions, the settler violence – I ask myself: “Is this what Zionism has come to? Is this what we created the state of Israel for? To be demolishing the home of this or that person to whom we never gave a fair chance to build legally?” This is not what Zionism is about. And it is certainly not what Judaism is about. For me, the real Zionism today is creating an Israel that is not only physically strong, but morally strong, and which reaches our highest Jewish values…”
A impassioned speech, delivered as a contribution to the 20th anniversary of Women in Black in Israel on Friday, the 28 December 2007
“I thank Women in Black for inviting me to speak here today. At this hour, I would like to dedicate my words to the children of the Gaza Strip, who are withering slowly from hunger and disease, and to their mothers, who continue to bring children into the world, to feed and to educate them wonderfully. The rate of literacy in the Gaza Strip today stands at 92% – among the highest in the world, and all that in the most terrible concentration camp on earth, the residents of which are being strangled as the civilized world looks on in silence. … ”
Outside the peace organizations that are considered in the general discourse to be marginal sleepwalkers and extreme leftists, the voice of the Jewish mother ceased long ago to be a maternal voice. The Israeli mother as she exists today embodies a motherhood that is distorted, lost, confused and sick. The Jewish mothers like Yochabad the mother of Moses; like Rachel who wept for her children and refused to be comforted; like Mother Courage; the mother who cannot find solace and healing in the death of the children of another mother, have been replaced by mothers who are nothing but golems that have turned on their creators and are more terrible and cruel than they, who dedicate their wombs to the apartheid state and to the occupation army, who educate their children in uncompromising racism and are prepared to sacrifice the fruits of their bellies on the altar of their leaders’ megalomania, greed and bloodthirstiness. Those mothers are also to be found among the teachers and the educators of our day.
And only the women who stand here week after week, in the rain and the sun, they are the one and only reminder that the voice of the other motherhood, the natural one, has not completely disappeared from the face of this wasteland that had once been the Holy Land.”
Yesh Din was founded in March 2005, and since then its volunteers have been working for structural and long-term improvement of the human rights situation in the OPT. The organization collects and disseminates credible and current information on systematic human rights abuses in the OPT; applies public and legal pressure on the state authorities to stop them; and raises public awareness of human rights abuses in the OPT.
Yesh Din has just produced two important reports:
a) “Backyard Proceedings” on the military justice system in the Occupied Territories. Thousands of Palestinian civilians, prosecuted by the Israel Defense Forces every year, come before the Military Courts, which operate virtually under complete darkness. The findings of the research described in the report reveal a series of grave defects and lapses in the implementation of due process rights in the Military Courts. On the basis of those findings Yesh Din offers recommendations for reforming legislation and policies.
b) A brief data sheet ‘Investigation of criminal offenses by IDF soldiers against Palestinians and their property – Figures for 2000-2007′
‘according to Military Advocate General figures, in 2006 alone the number of indictments against IDF soldiers on drug offenses was seven times higher than the total number of indictments filed on soldiers’ harming Palestinians and their property for nearly seven years since the beginning of the second Intifada’
a) The Arab Association for Human Rights, representing Palestinian citizens of Israel, published a report on the topic in December 2007. It is entitled “The Location of Temporary and Permanent Military Installations Close to Arab Communities during the Second Lebanon War”
“… it emerges that temporary military installations from which missiles were fired into Lebanon during the war were indeed positioned in very close proximity to the Arab locales that suffered the gravest attacks during the war. This is in addition to permanent military installations in existence prior to the war. In some cases, the military installations were established inside the Arab locales. It is reasonable to assume that these installations were targets for Hizbullah rocket attacks; that their placement in the locale exposed Arab civilians to a grave risk that rockets would strike their locales; and that this risk indeed materialized in practice. Equally, the investigation found that Arab locales that were not surrounded by military installations were not damaged during the war, or were damaged to a lesser extent, despite their proximity to the Israeli-Lebanese border.”
It urges the Israeli government …
1. To remove all permanent military bases situated in the vicinity of civilian centers…
2. To refrain from locating temporary installations during periods of conflict in close proximity to civilian centers or inside such centers…
3. To take immediately all steps necessary, including the allocation of appropriate resources, in order to protect Arab towns and villages, which have suffered extensive neglect, from future missile attacks…
4. To prepare in advance emergency plans for the evacuation of the civilian population in a future conflict…
Furthermore, the HRA urges the international community to respond firmly to the violation of international humanitarian law committed by Israel.
Report at http://www.arabhra.org/HRA/SecondaryArticles/SecondaryArticlePage.aspx?SecondaryArticle=1575
b) Jonathan Cook follows up this report in his Evidence of Israeli ‘Cowardly Blending’ Comes to Light, 5th January 2008 and places it in a wider context in a hard-hitting overview of the issues at stake. He claims that not only did Israeli investigations of the conduct of the war fail to hold Israel to account, but also that Human Rights Watch’s reports revealed troubling double standards.
‘Honorary citizenship of the moon’
Noting that Daniel Barenboim was granted honorary Palestinian citizenship in appreciation of his work for Iaraeli-Palestinian cooperation Amira Hass comments:
“It could just as well have said that the PA granted Barenboim citizenship of the moon, since the PA has no authority to grant citizenship (or in its more correct definition: Palestinian residency) to anyone. Not to Yasser Arafat, not to Mahmoud Abbas and not to an 80-year-old refugee woman who lives in Ein el Hilweh in Lebanon and continues to miss the almond tree that her grandfather planted in the village of Lubia (today’s Kibbutz Lavi).
The PA has no power to grant Palestinian residency to those who were born in pre-1948 Mandatory Palestine, nor does it have the power to grant residency to those born after 1948, within the borders of the State of Israel. It does not even have the power to restore residency to about 400,000 people who were born in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip after 1948, and Israel did everything possible over the years so that they would lose their right of residency: It issued injunctions limiting their right to stay abroad, prevented their return from abroad in time, did not take into account those who were not present during the population census of August 1967.
In spite of the wealth of information published in recent years, especially in Haaretz, about Israel’s control of the Palestinian Population Registry, the facts are not absorbed. The PA is seen as a “state” with the sovereign right to grant “citizenship.” For Israelis in particular it is hard to understand the extent of our domination over the Palestinians: After all, every Jew in the world has a right to come to Israel, and within a few days to become an Israeli citizen and to live not only in Israel proper but in any illegal settlement and any illegal and unauthorized outpost.”
B’Tselem has given Palestinian families across the West Bank video cameras to document how they are treated by Israeli soldiers and settlers. Some of the videos depicting abuse by settlers sparked a national debate earlier this year after they were broadcast on Israeli television. Amy Goodman speaks with Oren Yakobovich who coordinates B’Tselem’s video department.
Link to the interview and a rush transcript
Two women give birth in cars after soldiers refuse to open Barrier gate
Both women are from ‘Azzun ‘Atmah, a village cut off from the West Bank by the Separation Barrier. In 2007, a critically wounded man from the village died in similar circumstances. The gate remains closed at night, despite the army’s promise to keep it open.
Testimony: Soldiers wreak havoc during house search in Yatta
During a search for weapons that yielded nothing, soldiers beat occupants, smashed furniture, destroyed electrical devices, and emptied sacks of food.
A quarter of soldiers serving at checkpoints perpetrated or witnessed abuse of Palestinians
According to a survey conducted by the Israeli army. In response, B’Tselem said that the numbers are not surprising: despite official condemnations of abuse, the army does not do enough to ensure accountability and to deter soldiers from engaging in such behaviour.