Analysis News

The other ‘1 percent’: On refugees and Passover

When we look around us this Passover, we are not the ones in need of protection, and we are not the ones escaping slavery. Somehow Israel has missed this role-reversal.

Text by Rebecca De Vries and Natasha Roth
Photos by Karen Zack

So spoke the Knesset’s legal representative at a High Court hearing on the Prevention of Infiltration Law at the beginning of this month. The statement adequately summarises the attitude of the Israeli government – and much of the public – toward the ‘strangers’ in our midst. Yes, Israel has an asylum seeker problem, but not the one that is so readily coughed up by the government and media. The essential statistic of the situation – that African asylum seekers/migrants/”infiltrators” make up less than 1 percent of the population in Israel – points to the fact that the problem is not one of security, or demographics. Rather, if it is possible to generate such violence, loathing and exaggeration over so small a percentage of Israel’s society, then the vast problem we have on our hands is one of racism and xenophobia.

In other times and other places our grandfathers, too, once were refugees. Louis Gruenberg (De Vries) was a young boy in Germany when a group of eastern European Hasidic Jews came through his village knocking on any door bearing a mezuzah, asking for food and shelter. With anti-Semitism already on the rise in Germany, the Jewish community was afraid to draw negative attention to itself and, although his family gave the visitors food, they wouldn’t allow them to stay. Later, when Gruenberg was himself in need of help and had to knock on strangers’ doors, he frequently thought of this decision and never stopped feeling guilty about it. Kurt Roth, having fled to the UK from Western Europe in the early years of the Second World War, found himself interned and then deported to Australia by the British government on account of his Austrian citizenship, in spite of his having arrived in England as a Jew escaping Nazi persecution.

Read +972′s full coverage of asylum seekers in Israel

Now, more than seven decades later, we see in Israel the same casual cruelty and outright prejudicial rejection plaguing the lives of those who have come seeking our help. With this in mind, and given the time of year, we have decided to go back...

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A Passover lesson: 'And then we were free'

By Eli Valley

Eli Valley Passover cartoon (page 2)

Eli Valley is a writer and artist whose work has been published in New York Magazine, The Daily Beast, Gawker, Saveur, Haaretz and elsewhere. Eli is currently finishing his first novel. His website is www.EVComics.com and he tweets at @elivalley.

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What progressive Jews can do for Mideast peace

The Middle East peace process is very much a partisan issue in American politics. Until J Street figures out how to solve the problem of Likud penetration of the Republican Party, there is no American solution for the Middle East.

By Thomas G. Mitchell

It appears that Secretary of State John Kerry’s mediation in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process has come to an end as Israel refuses to release the last group of security prisoners that it previously promised to release. This is because Jerusalem has no confidence in the peace process, partly based on expectations of the Palestinians and partly based on the composition of the Israeli coalition.

Last summer Secretary Kerry started out on a peace process with only weak backing from President Obama. This is similar to the situation that Secretary of State William Rogers was in during the Nixon administration in 1969. Nixon and Kissinger let Rogers busy himself with Middle East peace in order to keep him from interfering with the foreign policy issues that they were really concerned with like Vietnam, superpower relations, and China. Rogers attempted to negotiate a comprehensive peace settlement among Israel, Jordan, Egypt and Syria based on Israel giving up the territories captured in June 1967 and the Arabs making peace. Neither side was interested in doing what Rogers expected of it. The following year, thanks to escalation in the War of Attrition along the Suez Canal, Rogers was able to negotiate a bilateral ceasefire along the Canal in August 1970 (which Egypt promptly violated by moving its forces forward). Seven years later Jimmy Carter also attempted to negotiate a comprehensive solution and he again failed. He also switched and because of his extraordinary efforts from December 1977 to March 1979 he was able to broker a peace treaty between Egypt and Israel.

President Jimmy Carter shaking hands with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin at the signing of the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty on the grounds of the White House. (Photo: Warren K. Leffler/U.S. News & World Report/Library of Congress)

President Jimmy Carter shaking hands with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin at the signing of the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty on the grounds of the White House. (Photo: Warren K. Leffler/U.S. News & World Report/Library of Congress)

Today an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement...

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WATCH: Bringing Israelis face to face with Gaza closure

Although the Gaza Strip is only about 50 kilometers from the city of Hebron in the West Bank, few people are given permission to travel this short distance. One Israeli filmmaker decided to bring Gaza’s separation policy to the heart of the Israeli mainstream.

By Tania Hary

Any illusions that Israel’s policy on Gaza is only about security surely should have been dispelled by the events of this week.

Israel’s highest court struck down the petition of Gaza’s only Olympian runner, Nader al-Masri, who had asked to be able to travel to Bethlehem to race in the second annual Palestine Marathon. Ironically enough, the marathon is meant to be a celebration of freedom of movement.

The state rejected Nader’s request to travel as it didn’t conform to the army’s criteria. Namely it wasn’t considered humanitarian enough and because allowing access for plain old professional opportunities runs counter to “the separation policy.” No one argued that the 34-year-old runner, undoubtedly a role model in Gaza, posed a threat to Israel. And with regard to the separation policy, it’s hard to follow the logic that somehow not allowing one of Palestine’s most accomplished athletes to reach the West Bank contributes to any long-term security goals.

A new short film by Israeli filmmaker Itamar Rose, in cooperation with Israeli NGO Gisha , brings the Gaza policy to the streets of Tel Aviv and Bat Yam. Rose asks average Israelis to play the role of a soldier at Erez Crossing who has to decide whether to allow a young girl out of Gaza to visit her sick grandmother in Ramallah.

In reality, decisions like this aren’t made by individual soldiers but rather in the high offices of Israel’s defense ministry, far from the reach or oversight of Israeli citizens, let alone the people impacted by them most – Palestinian residents of the occupied territory.

If there’s any glimmer of hope for Gaza, it’s in the realization of the people in Rose’s film who struggle to defend the criteria they are fictitiously handed. There’s possibility in the “hold on” moment that people experience when they hear about Nader al-Masri or that a girl can visit her sick mother or another immediate relative but aunts, uncles, grandmas – out of the question. In other words, there’s hope when Israel realizes that no purpose is served by blocking travel...

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WATCH: Will Liberman become Israel's next prime minister?

This week, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman began signaling that he is interested in dragging the nation into early elections. Just a few days later, Liberman told a crowd of New Yorkers that Israel may soon have a Russian-speaking prime minister. Is one of the most right-wing politicians in the Knesset trying to rebrand himself as a moderate pragmatist?

By Lia Tarachansky/The Real News

Lia Tarachansky is an Israeli-Canadian filmmaker and journalist with the The Real News Network.

Related:
Coming attraction: Liberman the peacenik
Liberman: Citizenship annulment is a condition for peace



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Disturbing the 'peace' in Jerusalem's holiest site

The past 15 years have seen a revival of Jewish extremist movements seeking to upend the status quo around the Temple Mount in the name of multicultural ideals. Betty Herschman says failing to see through this veneer could lead to the enflaming of one of the world’s most combustible hotspots.

By Betty Herschman

The current intensification of religious extremist activities on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif is not a new phenomenon, but rather the ultimate realization of a slow, decades-long crusade. The story behind today’s mounting pressures – from increased attempts to ascend and pray on the Mount to legislative challenges to current arrangements – offers a case study in political alchemy. Through organizational perseverance and the co-opting of the lexicon of religious rights, what have become known as the temple movements have managed to secure the support of the mainstream Israeli establishment while successfully exploiting liberal Jewish ideals.

In their joint 2013 report, Dangerous Liaison: The Dynamics of the Rise of the Temple Movements, Israeli NGOs Ir Amim and Keshev trace the growth of these movements, along with their ideological underpinnings and ties to Israeli governmental institutions. According to the report, over the last decade, a status quo carefully maintained since the Ottoman era has progressively shifted as a result of activity by Jews determined to strengthen the status of the Temple Mount as a Jewish religious center, while marginalizing the claims of Muslims to the Mount.

In the past year alone, hundreds of national religious Jewish pilgrims have ascended the Mount, including groups of rabbis, women, members of Knesset and uniformed soldiers. While the various Temple organizations may have differing goals and varying impacts, a common denominator of religious and nationalist messianism distinguishes the movement as a whole. Religion has becomes a tool for realizing extreme national goals at a site that is a focal point of political and religious tension.

Twenty years ago, these organizations were on the radical fringes of the political and religious map. Since 2000 they have attained a respectable position within the mainstream political and religious right, and have benefited from close ties with Israeli authorities. Likud member Moshe Feiglin actively calls for ascent to the Mount. The Ministry of Education funds curricula promoted by temple groups. The Temple Institute, a group devoted to the rebuilding of the Third Temple, organizes an annual conference promoted and attended by members of the political establishment.

The dangerous...

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Getting guns off the kitchen table – locally and globally

How is it that Israel, a state with substantial arms exports, and which demands tight global scrutiny of the weapons purchased by its neighbors, has not signed a UN treaty to reduce violence against women and children?

By Smadar Ben-Natan (translated from Hebrew by Ofer Neiman)

The Knesset Committee for Advancement of the Status of Women is about to discuss a national action plan, initiated by a wide coalition of feminist NGOs, for the implementation of UN Security Council resolution 1325. The resolution calls for the adoption of a gender perspective in peace and security issues, or simply put – for the consideration of women’s special security needs, and of the unique nature of harm they suffer. For the first time, the national action plan includes a reference to the connection between violence against women and the proliferation of small arms and light weapons (SALW), viewing the reduced presence of such weapons in the public sphere as a means to minimize and prevent violence against women.

This recommendation joins a reform program started by the Public Security Ministry last August, which has resulted in a drop of almost half in the number of armed security guards. In addition, in most cases, armed guards are no longer allowed to take their weapons home. The reform aims to reduce the number of weapons in the public sphere and prevent lethal violence of the type inflicted in past on both women and men, relatives and intimates of security guards.

The realization that the presence of small arms in family settings endangers women in particular is gradually taking root throughout the world. Six months ago, the UN Security Council passed resolution 2117, dealing with restrictions on the proliferation of small arms, calling on all relevant organs to take into consideration the specific effects of this phenomenon on women. The resolution also calls for women’s participation in policymaking, planning and implementing disarmament and security sector reform, for instance, by encouraging the involvement of women’s organizations.

Women from the West Bank city of Bethlehem march to protest honor killings and other forms of violence against women, Bethlehem, November 16, 2013.

Women from the West Bank city of Bethlehem march to protest honor killings and other forms of violence against women, Bethlehem, November 16, 2013.

The resolution also mentions the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), adopted last...

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BDS's Jewish roots: A lesson for Hillel

In all other contexts, the Jewish people have demonstrated that we understand boycotts, divestments, and sanctions to be effective, non-violent tools for political change. So why do we deem them violent and illegitimate when it comes to Israel?

By Alice Mishkin

JVP Boston activists protest the Veolia transportation company for operating bus lines serving settlements in the West Bank. November 14, 2012. (Tess Scheflan/ Activestills.org)

JVP Boston activists protest the Veolia transportation company for operating bus lines serving settlements in the West Bank. November 14, 2012. (Tess Scheflan/ Activestills.org)

My introduction to divestment as a tool for activism came in 2005. I was a staff member at the Save Darfur Coalition (SDC) from 2005-2006, during the peak of the movement. With the help of our board members who represented organizations like the Jewish Council on Public Affairs, the Religious Action Center, American Jewish World Service, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and many more, we led a nationwide campaign calling for divestment. The campaign called on our coalition members to support divestment from those who supported the Sudanese government. Our campaign targeted companies ranging from Fidelity and Berkshire-Hathway to PetroChina and Rolls Royce.

It was in the midst of this campaign that I found my connection to the Jewish community.

The Judaism I grew up with was not one of activism. But at SDC, Judaism was activism and activism was Judaism. I learned about Abraham Joshua Heschel. I learned the scope of Jewish involvement in divestment from South Africa. I put together activist toolkits on divestment to send to synagogues, Hillels and day schools. I organized rabbis to get their congregations involved in our campaign. I learned from some of the biggest Jewish activists of our time just how deeply activism was entrenched in the texts and histories of the Jewish people.

I’ve since worked for American Jewish World Service, spent a year in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories as a Dorot Fellow, and completed my Masters in social work with a certificate in Jewish communal leadership. My life has become about learning how Judaism and activism intersect. I’ve studied the history of movements marked by disproportionate Jewish participation– Civil Rights, divestment against South Africa and Sudan, feminism. These are movements where Jews have been among the leaders.

These are also movements that have shown the...

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What the bones remember: Israeli doctors talk torture

How can signs of deliberate physical injury be detected years after they were caused? What are the physical and psychological ramifications of torture for its victims? How can we cope with the moral dilemmas raised by treating captives and prisoners? Physicians who attended the first workshop in Israel devoted to locating and treating torture victims share their insights.

By Einat Fishbain / ‘The Hottest Place in Hell’ (www.ha-makom.co.il)
This article first appeared in Hebrew here.

“I must admit that the issue of torture kind of passed me by,” says Dr. Revital Arbel, a senior gynecologist at a hospital in Jerusalem. “It was always out there somewhere, but I guess that I preferred not to see it. Then I monitored the pregnancy and labor of an Eritrean refugee who was raped in Sinai. Although I have been involved in these issues for years, working with victims of sexual assault, this was the saddest birth I have ever seen. I will never forget the sadness in this mother’s eyes when her son was born.

“I monitored the entire pregnancy not knowing she had been raped. When she came in to deliver the baby she was accompanied by an interpreter for the first time, and they told me the story. Slowly the things she had been through in Sinai began to sink in. Like other refugee women imprisoned in Saharonim, she had not been able to undergo a termination of pregnancy at an early stage. It’s hard to realize that women who arrive there pregnant are not given the opportunity to undergo termination. This causes appalling suffering. However late it is, it is always possible to stop a pregnancy in these circumstances – anything rather than see the face of a woman giving birth to her rapist’s child.”

Just as Arbel realized that eventually this suffering would not forever pass her by unnoticed, she received an invitation to participate in the first-ever training program in Israel for physicians and psychologists teaching ways to locate and diagnose torture victims. She accepted the invitation and became one of the first 16 participants to undergo training from foreign experts in working according to the Istanbul Protocol. The workshop is an ongoing project of the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI), in cooperation with the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT)....

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Just another day of settler violence, IDF acquiescence

A group of 10 settlers assaults two Palestinian farmers, with IDF troops standing by. Just another day of occupation.

By Yesh Din, written by Yossi Gurvitz

The media is in the habit of reporting “price tag” attacks: they’re rather easy to report. There’s often arson, and the arsonist generally leaves a clear message. It’s very photogenic and allows the common Israeli to dismiss those nutcases who use wild violence, not orderly violence like the army does, mutter something about the government being unable to deal with them, and move on.

Those who are familiar with the subject of settler violence, however, know that “price tag” is not the important story, but merely the one that’s easy to tell. The real story, which hardly leaves any traces and therefore rarely makes headlines, is that of the daily terror intended to scare Palestinians away from their land. And in this story, the line between the violence of the settlers and the actions of the body purporting to be the sovereign, the IDF, is blurry, since the settler violence cannot exist without, at least, quiet assent from the military.

Here’s a story that didn’t make the headlines. One day at the end of February, Ahmed Bassam Ahmed Uda and his cousin, Fouad Daoud Salim Shkhada, both residents of the village of Huwara, went to work on Uda’s land outside the village. They worked uninterrupted for four hours, and then, as they finished working, Uda looked up and saw, on the nearby ridge, about four Israeli civilians coming down in their direction from the settlement of Yizhar.

Settlers throw stones at Palestinians as IDF soldiers stand by in the West Bank village of Asira al Qibliya. April 30, 2013 (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

[File photo] Settlers throw stones at Palestinians as IDF soldiers stand by in the West Bank village of Asira al Qibliya. April 30, 2013 (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Uda understood immediately what was about to happen, but believed everything would be fine: between him and the Israeli civilians were more than 600 meters and he intended to rev up his car and escape. But as he pushed the ignition, he was surprised to see more Israeli civilians jumping at him from a nearby ambush, stoning the car. He and Shkhada found themselves surrounded, and Uda decided to abandon the vehicle and attempt to escape...

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When it comes to racist border policies, Israel has no leg to stand on

The fuss ‘The Jerusalem Post’ made about its correspondent being denied entry to Saudi Arabia on religious, racial or national grounds is too much for one Arab-American journalist who was denied entry to Israel.

By Anna Lekas Miller

Passengers at Israel’s Ben-Gurion Airport (Photo by ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock.com)

Passengers at Israel’s Ben-Gurion Airport (Photo by ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock.com)

On Friday, United States President Barack Obama landed in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It was a whirlwind visit to reassure King Abdullah that even though the U.S. had backed down from intervening in Syria, had no intention of showing solidarity with the Arab world whatsoever and will continue negotiating with Saudi arch-rival Iran, Washington is still very interested in any oil that the desert kingdom has to offer.

However, a funny thing happened on the way to the desert camp. Although most of President Obama’s press entourage received the necessary visas to accompany the presidential visit without a problem, Jerusalem Post White House correspondent Michael Wilner was denied a visa to travel to Saudi Arabia.

The Jerusalem Post quickly condemned the action as exclusionary and anti-Semitic. In one of no fewer than four articles on its reporter’s exclusion, the paper’s editorial board asked, “How are we to understand the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s crass treatment of The Jerusalem Post, Israel’s only English language daily?”

We need look no further than the Kingdom of Israel’s crass treatment of a certain Open Zion reporter, who shall remain nameless. Just kidding, it’s me.

It was midnight on the tarmac at Ben-Gurion Airport when my plane touched down. The applause of overeager American visitors and Israelis returning home filled the cabin. I was busy trying not to vomit. A few months earlier, after a seven-hour-long interrogation at the Israeli border, I had sworn I would never again set foot in Ben-Gurion Airport. However, after being invited to attend a conference at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, I was back, Hebrew-language invitation letter in hand, along with the phone numbers of four good Jewish boys who promised to vouch for me.

It wasn’t good enough.

Four hours later, I was on a plane to Istanbul and banned from Israel for 10 years.

I will spare you the details of the interrogation, as I have written about...

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38 years later, Israel gives Palestinians new reasons to mark Land Day

Like other Palestinian national days, Land Day commemorations are less about the historical event as they are reminders of things happening today. Despite years of active struggles, Palestinians are finding themselves protesting the same threats to their land rights in 2014 as they were in 1976.

By Amjad Iraqi

House demolition in Anata, Northern Jerusalem, April 14, 2008 (Photo: Meged Gozani/Activestills.org)

House demolition in Anata, Northern Jerusalem, April 14, 2008 (Photo: Meged Gozani/Activestills.org)

March 30 marks the 38th anniversary of Land Day, which commemorates the mass Palestinian demonstrations against Israel’s sweeping confiscation of Arab lands in the Galilee in 1976. But like other Palestinian national days, the commemorations are less about the historical event as they are reminders of things that are happening today. Despite years of active struggles as second-class Israeli citizens, an occupied population or exiled refugees, Palestinians are finding themselves protesting the same threats to their land rights in 2014 as they were in 1976.

This is neither a nationalist nor ideological statement. Since 1948, the state has aggressively expropriated and minimized Palestinian lands and properties and transferred them to exclusive Jewish ownership. But rather than correcting its policies to realize the historical, human and civil rights of Palestinians to the land, the discriminatory practices have intensified. An alarming rise in forced displacement, unequal distribution and racist laws that target the land rights of Palestinians both in Israel and the Occupied Territories show that the state’s priorities continue to lie more with its ethno-nationalist ambitions than with the rights of non-Jews inside its borders, let alone the viability of peace with the Palestinians.

The last year alone demonstrates the severity of this vision. In 2013, at least 572 homes and structures belonging to Arab Bedouin citizens in the Negev were demolished, many of them destroyed by residents themselves due to threats of financial charges by state authorities. The number of demolitions in the occupied Jordan Valley doubled in 2013, with 390 structures destroyed compared to 172 in 2012. Dozens of Palestinian families in East Jerusalem also face the same threats to their homes. This means that hundreds of Palestinians every year, half of whom are children, are being forcibly displaced on both sides of the Green Line regardless of their citizenship or basic rights.

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An Israeli policeman's account of Land Day, 1976

On March 30, 1976, Israeli police repressed protests by Palestinian citizens of Israel against the confiscation of Arab land in the Galilee for use by Jewish citizens. Six protesters were killed, some 100 wounded and hundreds were arrested. Ever since, Palestinians in Israel, the Occupied Territories and the Diaspora mark Land Day on March 30. ‘Ha’olam Hazeh,’ a magazine published by Uri Avnery, was the only Israeli media outlet to challenge the state’s narrative of the events at the time. The following, a testimony from an Israeli police officer who was present that day, is short item ‘Ha’olam Hazeh’ published following the Land Day events.

(Translated from Hebrew by Ofer Neiman)

I was unfortunate (the swelling on my forehead will attest to that) to be a part of the police forces which were supposed to pacify the riots which had broken out amongst the Arabs of the Galilee on the day they called “Land Day.”

Reading the reports by journalists who were present on the ground, I cannot but throw down the yoke of silence imposed on me as a police officer, and set the record straight regarding a number of issues.

I am not a man of the left, but aspects of my view of what happened in the Galilee on March 30 [1976] will surely have me annexed to the left-wing bloc, for this bloc, in my opinion, is, to my dismay, the bloc holding the objective view.

On March 30 at 12:30 in the morning, my unit was called to a briefing, which was engulfed in hatred towards Arabs, and in which expressions mandating violence for the sake of violence against those who have violated our sleep, the Arabs, were voiced. When we reached the place, no stones awaited us, and therefore our ‘forces’ invaded the village in armored vehicles – associations with my parents’ stories about the British Mandate [come to mind].

In the face of the villagers’ practical discontent, the officers began to fight back with their submachine guns. These officers were very pleased with themselves, since after all, it is not every day that one can be a hero with such ease. And more than all others, a first sergeant and a logistics officer found relief from their abhorrence of the bureaucratic apparatus by shooting at the panicked villagers (the latter even hit two, one of them, it turned out, died due to this).

After the...

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