+972 Magazine » Analysis http://972mag.com Independent commentary and news from Israel & Palestine Fri, 31 Oct 2014 23:04:31 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8 The fraud that is the Temple Mount movement http://972mag.com/the-fraud-that-is-the-temple-mount-movement/98250/ http://972mag.com/the-fraud-that-is-the-temple-mount-movement/98250/#comments Fri, 31 Oct 2014 12:15:53 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=98250 Following the murder attempt on Yehuda Glick, the claim is being made – and getting a more sympathetic hearing than usual – that he and his colleagues have been leading a civil rights movement for Jews. Don’t believe it.

Palestinian Muslim worshipers pray at the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s old city on the first day of Eid al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice) marking the end of the hajj and commemorating Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son Ismail on God's command, on October 4, 2014. Israel is in security lockdown for the Jewish fast of Yom Kippur, which is coinciding with the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha for the first time in three decades. The concurrence of the holy days has not occurred for 33 years because the two faiths use different lunar calendars. (Activestills.org)

Palestinian Muslim worshipers pray at the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s old city on the first day of Eid al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice) marking the end of the hajj and commemorating Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Ismail on God’s command, on October 4, 2014. (Activestills.org)

Ten years ago I interviewed Likud Knesset member Moshe Feiglin in his office in the West Bank settlement Karnei Shomron. On his wall was a framed aerial photograph of the Temple Mount – but the Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock didn’t appear. In their place stood an illustrated, rebuilt Jewish Temple. I’ve heard that this photo and others like it are big sellers in Jerusalem.

Feiglin was at the Wednesday night conference in Jerusalem’s Menachem Begin Heritage Center where Temple Mount activist Yehuda Glick was shot and critically wounded by a Palestinian. Also present was Yehuda Etzion, who was imprisoned in the early 1980s for leading a plot within the “Jewish Terror Underground” to blow up the Dome of the Rock. Feiglin wasn’t the only extreme anti-Arab Likud MK at the gathering; Miri Regev and others were there too. The conference was titled “Israel Returns to the Temple Mount.”

Following the murder attempt on Glick, the claim is being made – and getting a more sympathetic hearing than usual (here and here) – that he and his colleagues have been leading a “civil rights” movement for Jews, one whose aim is simply to gain for Jews the same right Muslims have to pray on the Temple Mount, which Muslims worship as the Noble Sanctuary (Haram al-Sharif in Arabic). I heard Housing Minister Uri Ariel fuming on the radio about the injustice of the Israeli-enforced status quo on the Mount (which allows Jews to visit with police permission, but bars them from praying so as not to incite Muslim fears of a Jewish takeover, and in line with rabbinical rulings). The radio interviewer was at a loss to challenge him; no doubt Ariel convinced many listeners that he and the other Temple Mount activists are a bunch of Martin Luther Kings.

Right-wing activist Yehuda Glick holding a book depicting the Jewish Temple while standing in front of the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, May 21, 2009. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Right-wing activist Yehuda Glick holding a book depicting the Jewish Temple while standing in front of the Dome of the Rock in the Aqsa Mosque compound/Temple Mount in Jerusalem, May 21, 2009. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

This is a great fraud. I’m sure there are some Jews who really only want to be allowed to pray on the Mount without having any intention of bothering the Muslims and their holy places, who genuinely want religious coexistence up there. But they are incidental to the movement. The Temple Mount movement is and always has been a movement not for religious equality, but for Jewish religious domination and contempt for Muslims and Islam. That’s what Feiglin’s about, that’s what Etzion is obviously all about, and anybody who thinks Miri Regev and Yariv Levin and these other nonstop Arab-bashers in the Knesset who want to let Jews pray freely on the Temple Mount are looking for peaceful coexistence, dream on.

The best known of the Temple Mount NGOs, the Temple Mount Faithful, headed by Gershon Salomon, makes no bones about its intentions. On its website, the first of the group’s “Long Term Objectives” is: 

Liberating the Temple Mount from Arab (Islamic) occupation. The Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa mosque were placed on this Jewish or biblical holy site as a specific sign of Islamic conquest and domination. The Temple Mount can never be consecrated to the Name of G‑d without removing these pagan shrines. It has been suggested that they be removed, transferred to, and rebuilt at Mecca.

Glick appears to be a somewhat different story. Despite many media reports, he is not an activist in the Temple Mount Faithful, or at any rate not mainly in the Temple Mount Faithful; he heads an organization called the Temple Mount Heritage Foundation, and formerly led the Temple Mount Institute. Both of these groups express the hope of rebuilding the Temple alongside the Muslim holy sites, not in their place. But here is a brief video Glick made for the Temple Institute in which he makes what sounds like a veiled threat of what will happen to the Dome of the Rock if Muslim religious leaders do not cooperate peacefully with this project:

The decision of what will happen to that building, which today represents the Muslim religion – if the Muslim religious leadership decides to choose a path of peace, that building can remain and be part of the house of prayer for all nations, and it can be used as a center of monotheistic religions. If, unfortunately, the Muslim leadership continues the path they are leading today – [Islamic Movement leader] Ra’ed Salah and other Muslim leaders today – it will bring to a very dangerous … [here Glick pauses, searching for words, then continues in a barely audible voice] to a great threat to the world and to the peace of the world.

I’m calling upon the leadership of the Muslim religion: join, cooperate with those who want peace. Join with those who believe that the Temple Mount belongs to all those who believe in God, and then the Dome of the Rock, built by Abdel Malek, will be part of the house of prayer of all nations, the holy temple.

Glick did not deserve to be shot. From all reports, he is not a man of violence at all; he could be described as the friendly face of the Temple Mount movement. But he works alongside men of the most violent possible intent. He is the window-dressing of a movement with a psychotic, apocalyptic goal, one that goes back to the Six Day War conquest of the Mount when IDF Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren, later to become Israel’s chief rabbi, implored Moshe Dayan to destroy the Dome of the Rock.

Again, I’m sure there are Jews who honestly just want to be allowed to pray on the Mount, nothing more, and who see this as an issue of religious equality. I would ask them if they favor introducing the same sort of religious equality for Muslims at the Western Wall, which Muslims worship as the Buraq Wall, the site where Mohammed mounted his winged horse Buraq and ascended to heaven:

Should Muslims, accompanied by Muslim police, be allowed to conduct Muslim prayer in the Western Wall plaza?

With a police escort, right-wing Jews visit the Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City at the end of a ‘Jerusalem Day’ demonstration calling to rebuild the Jewish temple, May 21, 2009. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

With a police escort, right-wing Jews visit the Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City at the end of a ‘Jerusalem Day’ demonstration calling to rebuild the Jewish temple, May 21, 2009. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

For that matter, should the police of a Muslim country be allowed to station themselves in the Western Wall plaza as the enforcer of law and order? Should the police of a Muslim country be allowed to decide which Jews can come pray at the Western Wall and which cannot?

That would be the mirror image of the current, Israeli-enforced status quo for Muslims on the Noble Sanctuary, which Jews worship as the Temple Mount. That status quo is not a violation of Jews’ civil rights, but a violation of Muslims’ religious rights and Palestinians’ national rights. That status quo is bad enough as it is; Glick, Feiglin, Etzion, Ariel, Regev and the movement they represent would make it out-and-out catastrophic.

Related:
There are no good guys in Jerusalem
Why the status quo on the Temple Mount isn’t sustainable
Disturbing the ‘peace’ in Jerusalem’s holiest site
Judenrein or Judaized? A false choice for the Temple Mount

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There are no good guys in Jerusalem http://972mag.com/there-are-no-good-guys-in-jerusalem/98214/ http://972mag.com/there-are-no-good-guys-in-jerusalem/98214/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 18:24:48 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=98214 The attempt to assassinate a prominent right-wing Jewish activist in Jerusalem has brought the city to a boiling point. Now is the time for responsible leadership. 

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called the Israel Police’s decision to temporarily close the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount to all visitors — Jewish and Muslim — “a declaration of war” on the Palestinian people and the Islamic nation, speaking in the aftermath of an attempted political murder in the already tumultuous city.

Yes, the increasing and more frequent restrictions on Muslim worshipers’ access to the Aqsa Mosque is a valid and serious grievance. Those restrictions, coupled with more frequent and more bold visits to the site by Jewish extremists have been responsible for fueling much of the anger radiating from East Jerusalem in recent months.

Palestinians perform Friday Prayer at the neighbourhood of Ras Al-Amud in East Jerusalem due to Israeli Government's entrance restriction to the al-Aqsa Mosque for the Palestinians under the age of 40, October 24, 2014. (Activestills.org)

Palestinians perform Friday Prayer at the neighbourhood of Ras Al-Amud in East Jerusalem due to Israeli Government’s entrance restriction to the al-Aqsa Mosque for the Palestinians under the age of 40, October 24, 2014. (Activestills.org)

Nevertheless, describing Thursday’s closure — which was made purely to prevent clashes from escalating at a dangerous junction — as a declaration of war on all Palestinians and Muslims, is to provoke, not calm. Abbas should not be blamed for his frustration with Israel in almost every aspect of the relationship, but this is a time that calls for responsible leadership.

Abrogating responsibility, ignoring causation

Likewise, the Israeli leadership’s attempts to abrogate responsibility for the sources of anger and violence in Jerusalem, along with its campaign blaming it all on incitement by the Palestinians, makes one question how much they want to prevent another violent explosion.

To his credit, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that “we” must “lower the flames. “No side should take the law into its own hands.” In the same breath, however, he blamed the current situation on the incitement of “radical Islamic elements and by Palestinian Authority Chairman Abu Mazen who said that Jews must be prevented from going up to the Temple Mount by any means possible.”

Palestinian youth hold a Palestinian flag outside the Aqsa Mosque in the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount compound, East Jerusalem. (Photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Palestinian youth hold a Palestinian flag outside the Aqsa Mosque in the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount compound, East Jerusalem. (Photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Netanyahu made no mention of a draft law that would change the delicate status quo on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif. The draft law, which would likely enjoy little support in the Knesset, has been used as a rallying cry for Palestinians and Muslims in the region who see it as yet another step toward the ultimate fear: that Israel, or Jewish Israeli extremists, plans to take over the compound in order to demolish the Aqsa Mosque and build a Third Temple.

Read more: Disturbing the ‘peace’ in Jerusalem’s holiest site

Such fears were not assuaged in recent months as one of a number of extremist Jewish groups raised $100,000 to draft architectural plans for such an endeavor. It would be wise to remember the Jewish Underground plot to blow up the mosque 30 years ago — the Palestinians remember it — for which the plotters were pardoned by then-Israeli President Chaim Herzog in 1990.

Although the Israeli prime minister has indeed made a number of reassurances that Israel “is committed to maintaining the status quo exactly as it’s been for many decades,” he has not come out and rebuked those elements on the Israeli side who are — very vocally — advocating for exactly the opposite. He has not addressed the Palestinian population of East Jerusalem, the West Bank or the Arab world with conciliatory and calming assurances that such forces are marginal or are being marginalized.

Palestinian youth throw stones during clashes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ras al Amud, with the Aqsa Mosque seen in the background. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Palestinian youth throw stones during clashes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ras al Amud, with the Aqsa Mosque seen in the background. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Instead, he places the blame entirely on the Palestinians. Once again, he has an opportunity to act as a responsible and conciliatory leader in a dangerous moment. Instead, he dismisses all criticism and passes the buck by treating Palestinian grievances as invalid at best or nonexistent at worst, and blaming the current situation entirely on the Palestinians.

The extremists

And then there are the extremists. Yehuda Glick is one of them. He and others of his ideological stream want to see the Aqsa Mosque demolished to make way for a third Jewish temple. They have moved from the radical fringes closer to the mainstream in recent years and enjoy support and representation from inside the government.

Glick ally and radical Knesset member from Prime Minister Likud’s ruling party Thursday morning attempted to defy the police closure of the Temple Mount and said, “Temple Mount should be opened today exclusively to Jews.”

As Betty Herschman wrote in +972 earlier this year:

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.

And of course, the events on the Temple Mount do not take place in a vacuum. In the sometimes deceivingly simple Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a number of micro-conflicts are in no way disconnected from other conflicts and the larger question on Palestinian and Israeli self-determination. Yonathan Mizrachi wrote in these pages yesterday, before Glick’s shooting:

Some argue that the tension in East Jerusalem is tied to the question of sovereignty over the Temple Mount: that is, tension on the Mount leads to unrest in the streets, not vice versa.

When one takes into account the status of the Temple Mount in Judaism, the military and political power of Israel in the region, and the unwillingness of many Israelis recognize the importance of the site in Islam in general and to the Palestinians in particular, it becomes evident that Israel’s tightening grip on the Temple Mount is a result of the wider political reality.

None of that, of course, can justify political assassinations, or attempted ones, like we saw in Jerusalem Wednesday night when another extremist, this time from Palestinian side, tried to kill Mr. Glick.

Read more: Why the Temple Mount status quo isn’t sustainable

We will never know exactly why Muataz Ibrahim Hijazi allegedly tried to murder Yehuda Glick. He was shot dead by Israeli special police forces in a shootout at his home early Thursday morning. It is probably safe to assume that Glick’s stature as a symbol of radical Jewish threats to the Aqsa Mosque had something to do with it, but we will never know.

What is clear — and terrifying — however, is that a single person acting on his own can catapult Israel and Palestine, already in such a dangerous place, into flames that threaten so many.

And then there is the elephant in the room: the occupation, which many people love to forget includes East Jerusalem. When an entire population is neglected by the government and municipality who claim authority over them, when their right to live in their hometown and holy city is permanently under threat, when now-regular construction plans threaten to cut them off from the rest of what may or may not one day become a Palestinian state, when extremist Jewish elements with the support of the state are attempting to wrest control of already contested neighborhoods — then one of the most contested cities on earth is destined to remain a powder keg for the foreseeable future.

Without an end to the occupation, without responsible leaders and without good guys, that is a sad and scary prospect — that is our reality.

Related:
Why the status quo on the Temple Mount isn’t sustainable
PHOTOS: Protests in Jerusalem over Aqsa Mosque closures
IDF makes the Dome of the Rock vanish from photo, and lies about it

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Netanyahu’s status quo strategy: Thwarting a Palestinian state http://972mag.com/netanyahus-status-quo-strategy-thwarting-a-palestinian-state/98190/ http://972mag.com/netanyahus-status-quo-strategy-thwarting-a-palestinian-state/98190/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 12:38:46 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=98190 The Americans got it wrong. By seemingly doing nothing but trying to preserve his seat in power, the Israeli prime minister is in fact advancing a process that makes a Palestinian state an impossibility.

By David Zonsheine

In his Atlantic article on the growing crisis between Jerusalem and Washington, Jeffrey Goldberg quoted American officials slamming Netanyahu, one now-famously called him “chickenshit.” The substance of the criticism was that he lacks the “guts” to strike Iran and is only interested in “protecting himself from political defeat.”

Beyond the damage Netanyahu and his government are causing Israel in the international community – hurting ties crucial for a small country with limited resources in a complicated region – I disagree with the American diagnosis. In Netanyahu’s case, preserving his rule without any apparent progress towards a clear goal is part and parcel of his plan to deepen the deeply-ingrained process of preventing a Palestinian state in the West Bank and splintering the Palestinian people. Even if Netanyahu did not start these steps, he is propelling them with pristine efficiency.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem. (Photo by Haim Zach / GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem. (Photo by Haim Zach / GPO)

Every day that Netanyahu tries to maintain his seat is another day of settlement construction in the West Bank, another day of Palestinian displacement, of destroying Palestinian assets and other grave human rights violations; another day in which Netanyahu’s strategic goals are being achieved.

Unlike the objective of peace and ending occupation, Netanyahu’s objectives don’t have a big fan base in the international arena. He knows this all too well, and this is why he cunningly operates to maintain the status quo. Ostensibly this means doing nothing; in practice it means rapidly changing facts on the ground in the West Bank.

His declaration of support for the two-state solution at Bar Ilan University and the negotiations led by Kerry were conducted in parallel to government actions on the ground – constituting an integral part of his strategy.

Netanyahu surely must have taken the Americans’ criticism as a complement. They thought they were insulting him but in fact they were praising him. They revealed that they do not understand Netanyahu’s strategy – mistaking his effective methods for fear and lack of political vision. They also positioned him perfectly in his battle for right-wing voters. He is simultaneously standing tall in front of the Administration while winking to his benefactors and allies in the Republican Party ahead of Senate elections. At the same time, he is not “giving in” to Bennett, who perfectly fills the role of the settler youth who makes the prime minister appear like the experienced, rational centrist.

A trip to the West Bank and a perusal of reports by human rights organizations, like the recent B’Tselem report on the Burqah village, can attest to these processes. While Netanyahu’s rhetoric focuses on Iran, ISIS, the war in Gaza and the high cost of living, the West Bank continues to undergo significant changes and the Palestinian people continued to be divided and conquered.

Netanyahu is the victor in Goldberg’s Atlantic story. And he continues to be the leading candidate for Israeli prime minister, precisely because of his ability to sell his de facto strategy of change as a status quo strategy.

David Zonsheine is the chairman of B’Tselem.  

Related:
‘Chickengate:’ In the confrontation between Bibi and Obama, Palestinians are only a sideshow
How the very concept of human rights has failed Palestinians
Replacing the peace process with a civil rights struggle

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‘Chickengate:’ In the confrontation between Bibi and Obama, Palestinians are only a sideshow http://972mag.com/chickengate-in-the-confrontation-between-bibi-and-obama-palestinians-are-only-a-sideshow/98178/ http://972mag.com/chickengate-in-the-confrontation-between-bibi-and-obama-palestinians-are-only-a-sideshow/98178/#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2014 22:39:55 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=98178 The rift between Washington and Jerusalem has to do with the changing American interests in the Middle East and internal Israeli politics, not with an end to the occupation. 

In a story in The Atlantic Tuesday, Jewish-American journalist Jeffrey Goldberg cited a White House official calling Netanyahu “chickenshit,” blaming him for lack of political vision or guts. Relations between Jerusalem and Washington have reached the lowest point he can remember, Goldberg wrote. This was the top story in the Israeli media this morning. Even the pro-Netanyahu, free tabloid Israel Hayom quoted Goldberg.

In his response, Netanyahu maintained the confrontational tone, saying in the Knesset on Wednesday that he was attacked “for defending the State of Israel,” no less (thus hinting that the American administration is doing the opposite). Later, an official statement from the White House rejected the terms used by Goldberg’s sources, which was to be expected. So, what should one make of this?

1. The messenger is important: Goldberg was as pro-Bibi a journalist as one could find among Jewish Democrats. On major policy issues, Goldberg has consistently taken Jerusalem’s side: in 2010, he authored a piece that predicted Israel would attack Iran’s nuclear facilities; he criticized the administration for its public confrontations with Netanyahu and blamed PA President Mahmoud Abbas for failing to recognize Israel “as a Jewish state,” thus aiding the collapse of the Kerry Initiative. Even in his recent piece, Goldberg agrees that the time is not right for the creation of a Palestinian state — which is just what Netanyahu says. So I think Goldberg would be the last person to exaggerate the rift between the Obama Administration and the government in Jerusalem.

In fact, much of Goldberg’s unique professional position has to do with the “special relationship” between the two governments. A piece in a DC magazine once called him a mashgiah, a Hebrew term that, in this context, relates to Goldberg as the gatekeeper for what is legitimate in the Israeli-American political conversation. If Goldberg is (quoting someone) calling Bibi a “chickenshit,” then everyone can call Bibi a chickenshit.

2. This is not about a Palestinian state or an end to the occupation. The administration deserted this cause along with the Kerry mission, and it is now trying to cut its losses. I think the American goal is to contain the Israeli-Palestinian problem, not only because the chances of a breakthrough are slim compared to the political cost, but mainly due to the turmoil in the rest of the Middle East, and the danger that will emerge on new fronts. Things are complicated as they are and Netanyahu is making them much more complicated with his projects in the West Bank and the changes to the status quo in Jerusalem. Jordan’s King Abdullah raised the alarm, and since everybody is currently concerned about the stability of Abdullah’s regime, you can bet that the White House heard his warnings.

Make no mistake, the Obama administration will confront Netanyahu on its immediate interests but I do not see it making serious moves aimed at ending the occupation any time soon. In fact, one might suspect that the United States would like to avoid any change now. I imagine some people in Washington think that a weak Palestinian state will just be another front to defend against the forces of jihad — and who needs that right now?

3. Netanyahu is reconnecting with his base. Bibi leads the weakest coalition he has ever had, completely dependent on each one of his coalition partners. This is the reason Netanyahu has gone back to his political base in recent weeks — the settlers, the far-right and the ultra-Orthodox. The latter are receiving political favors from Bibi recently despite not even being in the coalition. Netanyahu is already thinking about the next government.

It has been said many times that with Netanyahu, these kinds of confrontations are a feature, not a bug. He may lose some votes in the center when he exchanges insults with Washington, but he is gaining on the right. Bibi is working to maintain the same coalition that brought him to power in 1996 — national-religious, ultra-Orthodox, Revisionists (the old Likud elite) and Jews of lower socio-economic background. These groups are far from an absolute majority in Israeli society, but they are enough to give Netanyahu slim victories: 50.5 percent vs. 49.5 percent against Peres in the direct elections of 1996; 65:55 in Knesset seats in 2009, and 61:59 in 2013. Never a landslide, but always enough.

The thing about Netanyahu’s coalitions is that they are made of forces less prone to outside pressure than the secular, upper-middle class that votes against him. With some of them — the settlers, for example — confrontations even work in Netanyahu’s favor. In the absence of a strong challenger from the Left, Bibi is betting that he can rally his base to another narrow win. He may be right.

4. Netanyahu’s opponents are also using the showdown with Washington to their advantage. Finance Minister Yair Lapid refused today to discuss funding projects in the West Bank, stating that he doesn’t remember a government decision to destroy relations with Washington. Lapid might also be sensing imminent elections, although he would like to avoid them, given his disappointing showing in all the recent polls.

In this sense, it is interesting to note that Lapid could theoretically form a government without going to elections. In a recent post, political pundit Raviv Druker speculated about Avigdor Liberman, Tzipi Livni, Labor and Meretz joining Lapid, and together with the tiny Kadima (two seats), forming the necessary bloc of 61 Knesset members that could send Netanyahu home. This is not a very likely scenario, but I think that Netanyahu must be giving it some thought, leading him to shore up his own bloc with the Right.

But any alternative coalition will be as unstable as the current one, and I don’t see any Israeli leader making the necessary steps that could end the occupation. The political interests of an American and Israeli government collided this week, but the Palestinians are just a sideshow here; their right to freedom and dignity is yet to be recognized by any of the actors in this political drama.

Related:
How the very concept of human rights has failed Palestinians
Replacing the peace process with a civil rights struggle
A rights-based discourse is the best way to fight dispossession

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Why the status quo on the Temple Mount isn’t sustainable http://972mag.com/why-the-status-quo-on-the-temple-mount-isnt-sustainable/98162/ http://972mag.com/why-the-status-quo-on-the-temple-mount-isnt-sustainable/98162/#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2014 14:20:46 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=98162 Israel’s tightening grip on the Temple Mount — and reactions to it — cannot be disconnected from the wider political reality. Tensions on the Temple Mount lead to unrest in the streets of East Jerusalem, many argue, not the other way around.

By Yonathan Mizrachi

A sign warns of the destruction of Al-Aqsa mosque sat Najah National University in Nablus, West Bank, September 26, 2013. The signs were hung by students in protest of visits by Jewish nationalists to Al-Aqsa Mosque and suspected Israeli intentions to divide the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount between Muslims and Jews. (Photo by Ahmad Al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

A sign at Najah National University  in Nablus warns of the destruction of Al-Aqsa mosque, Nablus, September 26, 2013. The signs were hung by students in protest of visits by Jewish nationalists to Al-Aqsa Mosque and suspected Israeli intentions to divide the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount between Muslims and Jews. (Photo by Ahmad Al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

With the escalating violence and tensions in Jerusalem in recent months, the Temple Mount has become a major item on the social and political agenda. Aspirations of apparent extremists to change the status quo on the Temple Mount / Haram al-Sharif are raising concern among many Israelis, the Arab world, and the international community — which seeks to maintain the status quo there; that is, to maintain the autonomy of the Muslim Waqf in managing the complex, while allowing Jews to visit the Mount on certain occasions.

Some argue that the tension in East Jerusalem is tied to the question of sovereignty over the Temple Mount: that is, tension on the Mount leads to unrest in the streets, not vice versa.

If we examine the history of the Temple Mount over the past 2,000 years, we see that its rulers have changed many times, and each sovereign altered the situation on the ground. In the first century CE, the Jewish temple was destroyed, but already in the second century CE, the Romans had built a pagan temple in its place.

When Christianity became the official religion of the Byzantine Empire in the fourth century, the Temple Mount became a waste area — seemingly out of disrespect for its status, yet the Christians’ need to turn the mount into a place outside of the boundaries of the city attests to their desire to redefine it.

Palestinian youth throw stones during clashes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ras al Amud, with the Aqsa Mosque seen in the background. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Palestinian youth throw stones during clashes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ras al Amud, with the Aqsa Mosque seen in the background. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

The Arab conquest restored the mount’s religious centrality, and from the end of the seventh century, structures of prayer and commemoration were built there. The most recognized are the Aqsa Mosque and the memorial building that later became a mosque — the Dome of the Rock. In addition to these, the Temple Mount / Haram al-Sharif contains collonades, madrasas (Islamic seminaries) and domes, and other structures that make it what it is today – the sacred precinct of Islam.

But even during Muslim rule, the picture on the mount was not uniform, and changes took place according to the political situation. The Umayyad leaders (seventh century) strengthened the sanctity of the place, while the rulers of the House of Abbas (eighth century) reduced its value.

Read more: Disturbing the ‘peace’ in Jerusalem’s holiest site

Crusaders in the 12th century turned the Aqsa Mosque into a church and identified it as one of the holy sites of Christianity. Immediately after Jerusalem reverted to Muslim rule during Mamluk reign in the 13th century, the mount underwent rapid development and religious structures were once again built to reinforce its importance in Islam. Even in the years when the mount was under British control (the Mandate period), changes were made to the status quo.

Palestinian youth hold a Palestinian flag outside the Aqsa Mosque in the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount compound, East Jerusalem. (Photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Palestinian youth hold a Palestinian flag outside the Aqsa Mosque in the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount compound, East Jerusalem. (Photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

When Israel decided to manage the political conflict rather than resolve it, and to strengthen its control over East Jerusalem, it likewise sought to manage the situation on the Temple Mount. Management does not mean freezing the situation. Yet when the faithful Israeli public sees that Israel is deepening its hold on East Jerusalem, it will likewise require a change in the status quo in the holy place.

The yearning of millions of Jews for the Temple cannot be solved by managing the conflict or maintaining the status quo, but only by a political solution to the conflict as a whole. Otherwise, Israel will change the situation on the Temple Mount, as it continues to change the situation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

When one takes into account the status of the Temple Mount in Judaism, the military and political power of Israel in the region, and the unwillingness of many Israelis recognize the importance of the site in Islam in general and to the Palestinians in particular, it becomes evident that Israel’s tightening grip on the Temple Mount is a result of the wider political reality.

The author is an archaeologist in Emek Shaveh, an organization that deals with the role of archeology in the political conflict.

Related:
Disturbing the ‘peace’ in Jerusalem’s holiest site
In Silwan, the settlers are winning – big time
PHOTOS: Protests in Jerusalem over Aqsa Mosque closures

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A life of forced labor: Why Israel’s Eritrean refugees fled home http://972mag.com/a-life-of-forced-labor-why-israels-eritrean-refugees-fled-home/98144/ http://972mag.com/a-life-of-forced-labor-why-israels-eritrean-refugees-fled-home/98144/#comments Tue, 28 Oct 2014 18:52:30 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=98144 Is Eritrea’s brutal dictatorship on the verge of collapse?

By Elizabeth Tsurkov

Israel is home to about 35,000 Eritrean asylum-seekers. While the Israeli government claims that they are work migrants, so as not to violate its own laws, Israel does not forcibly deport Eritreans back to their country of origin. As long as Eritrea is ruled by the current regime, the millions of Eritreans living outside of their homeland cannot return, but is it possible that the regime in Eritrea will soon collapse?

Recent reports from Eritrea and refugees who recently fled the east-African country indicate that the regime is struggling to maintain its control over the population. The regime relies on repression, its most extreme fashion being open-ended national service, to scare the population into submission. At the same time, revenues from mining, nearly free slave labor and taxes Eritreans abroad are forced to pay, allow the regime to sustain itself economically. In recent years, however, these pillars of the regime’s stability have begun to crack.

Read +972′s full coverage of refugees in Israel

National service in Eritrea starts in the 11th grade and ends when the person is no longer capable of performing his service, usually around the age of 50. Eritreans who fought in the country’s war of independence from Ethiopia (which ended in 1991), for example, are still mobilized. The 400,000-strong military and national service force makes up about 10 percent of the population. The servicemen and women are rarely involved in military-related activity, as Eritrea hasn’t fought a war since 2001. Instead, according the UN Special Rapporteur on Eritrea, the servicemen and women carry out “manual labor on agricultural farms or construction sites… A large number of draftees… work in civilian administration, infrastructure projects, education and construction.”

The International Crisis Group (ICG), a think-tank, adds: “national service is used as a source of free, forced labor for ‘parastatal’ farms or companies directly in the hands of individual generals.” Since most of the duties performed by Eritrean draftees has nothing to do with military service and the service is open-ended, the International Labor Organization (ILO) has labeled the national service in Eritrea as forced labor, which is prohibited under numerous ILO conventions that Eritrea has ratified.

Soviet tank abandoned by Ethiopian forces retreating from northern Eritrea in 1991. (Photo by David Stanley/CC)

Soviet tank abandoned by Ethiopian forces retreating from northern Eritrea in 1991. (Photo by David Stanley/CC)

During national service, religious practice or the possession of religious books is forbidden, even if the religion is one of the four recognized religious denominations in Eritrea. Anyone raising questions about the service or its conditions are detained, sometimes underground and at other times in metal containers placed under the scorching sun, and tortured. Anyone caught attempting to flee or evade service is detained and tortured, sometimes to death. The UN Special Rapporteur on Eritrea adds: “Alleged or actual failure to execute tasks during national service is severely punished… national service conscripts live in constant fear; the threat of severe penalties, sometimes of life-threatening nature, being part of their daily life.”

Due to the endless nature of the national service and the perpetual fear of being subjected to abuse, thousands defect from national service every month. According to UN statistics, about 4,000 Eritreans fled their homeland every month in the first six months of 2014, doubling the number of people fleeing the country compared to 2013. According to Eritrean-Swedish activist Meron Estefanos, since September 2014, the average number of Eritreans arriving in Ethiopia daily has reached 200, meaning, each month about 6,000 people flee to Ethiopia alone (while many others flee to Sudan).

Many of the refugees are unaccompanied minors who flee forced drafts. This process has started to deplete entire villages. Eritreans are fleeing despite the regime’s draconian policies to stymie the exodus – a policy of shoot-to-kill at the border, detention and torture of those caught attempting escape, and even of Eritreans suspected of “plotting to leave the country.” The conditions in detention are life-threatening and the detainees are not provided with enough food. Relatives of people who successfully escape the country are forced to pay a high fine (50,000 nakfa) or face detention themselves. In addition, Eritreans deported to their country of origin after illegally leaving it “face torture, detention and disappearance in Eritrea,” according to the UN Special Rapporteur on Eritrea.

Eritrean refugees living in Israel take part in a protest outside the Eritrean embassy in the city of Ramat Gan, February 1. 2013. The protesters were calling for the ousting of the dictatorship regime in Eritrea, and the release of all political prisoners. (Photo by: Yotam Ronen/ Activestills.org)

Eritrean refugees living in Israel take part in a protest outside the Eritrean embassy in the city of Ramat Gan, February 1. 2013. The protesters were calling for the ousting of the dictatorship regime in Eritrea, and the release of all political prisoners. (Photo by: Yotam Ronen/ Activestills.org)

Due to the shortage in slave labor, the military police goes on routine forced-conscription round-ups (“giffas” in Tigrinya), during which anyone who appears healthy enough to serve is forcibly taken, including children under the age of 18. Those who resist being taken are at times executed on the spot. The regime resorts to these round-ups because many Eritreans simply don’t show up for the obligatory service and must be physically compelled to perform it. According to activists in Eritrea, only 50 of the 400 who Eritreans who were recently granted a short leave to see their families returned to service. According to Meron Estefanos, the regime recently began calling up men over 50 for military training, due to the manpower shortage. Very few men showed up, forcing the regime to issue a second call.

The salaries of national servicemen is about $10 per month, precluding servicemen and women from supporting their families throughout their service. As a result, families of servicemen struggle to survive, while the cost of basic staples of food, gasoline and rent keeps rising. The impoverished regime, at the same time, cannot provide its citizen with even the basic services of water and electricity, which are recurrently cut for several hours every day. As one Eritrean described it to The Guardian: “Essentials like water, electricity or petrol have disappeared” and even middle-class families struggle to find food. As a result, “many Eritreans rely on informal work to feed their families.” Soldiers at border crossings, for example, demand up to $1,000 to smuggle people safely out of the country.

Read +972′s full coverage of refugees in Israel

The militarism and discipline that characterized the years of the war of independence against Ethiopia are no longer necessary, but the regime is attempting to keep them alive to preserve its rule. After independence, Eritrea’s revolutionary leader-turned-dictator, Isaias Afawerki, instituted mandatory national service, “the official aim was to inculcate the younger generation with the spirit of the liberation struggle, but the impact was to cow society,” writes the International Crisis Group. The indefinite military service, institutionalized under the Wefri Warsai Yika’alo development campaign, “serves the dual purpose of eliminating dissent and reinforcing the army, which has become increasingly necessary for maintaining power,” writes the ICG. “The result is overwhelming militarization of an already authoritarian regime… Therefore, the military plays a leading role in coercing and intimidating the population.” To justify not demobilizing an army that makes up 10 percent of the population while there is no war, “Isaias played on the general animosity between states in the region to promote the idea that Eritrea is surrounded by enemies,” according to the ICG.

But this ideology of paranoia and militarization is losing adherents – thousands of Eritreans abandon their service every month, tired of slaving away for years while being subjected to constant abuse. Ethiopia, the major ‘enemy’ justifying the general mobilization, is home to about 100,000 Eritrean refugees. No wonder then that when the Ethiopian military made incursions into Eritrean territory in 2012, it was met with little resistance. That same year, the information minister, once deemed ultra-loyal to Afawerki, defected and fled the country. In January 2013, a group of soldiers voiced their opposition to the regime by taking over “Forto,” the building of the Eritrean Information Ministry. The soldiers forced the station’s director to read a statement on air calling for the release of political detainees and for the implementation of the 1997 constitution. The crisis ended with the soldiers retreating to their barracks. Following the incident, the regime carried out several rounds of arrests of political and military figures. In 2013, rumors circulated in Eritrea that numerous generals and lower-ranking officers were dismissed or neutralized, as Afawerki attempts to prevent any challenges to his rule. As the Eritrean military grows weaker and is seen as unreliable by Afawerki, he began relying on a 20,000-strong force of Ethiopian guerrillas (TPDM) who are based in Eritrea to police the population, which is resentful of the foreign force.

Eritrean activists outside of the country launched the “Freedom Friday” movement two years ago. The activists would randomly call Eritrean landline numbers and urge people to stay at home that day to quietly voice their opposition this way. Since then, the underground movement in Eritrea has grown, with activists now pasting posters on walls in Eritrea, calling for protests against the regime. The public discourse in Eritrea is also apparently changing, with citizens openly criticizing the regime in public spaces.


(Video: Eritreans read anti-regime posters pasted on walls in Asmara, the capital, 2013.)

Repression of an entire population requires dedication, resources and people willing to take part in the repression. All these elements are wavering. As the Russian dissident Andrei Amalrik who predicted the fall of the USSR back in 1969 wrote: “The regime is simply growing old and can no longer suppress everyone and everything with the same strength and vigor as before… We can visualize all this in the following allegory: A man is standing in a tense posture, his hands raised above his head. Another, in an equally strained pose, holds a Tommy gun to the first man’s stomach. Naturally, they cannot stand like this for very long. The second man will get tired and loosen his grip on the gun.”

Related:
Eritrean asylum seekers: Caught between jail and death
Asylum seekers: Israeli support for Eritrea prevents us from going home
WATCH: Eritrean refugee’s shocking personal testimony

Elizabeth Tsurkov works at the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, an Israeli human rights NGO, and can be followed on Twitter.

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Israel increases pressure on nonviolent struggle’s flagship village http://972mag.com/israel-increases-pressure-on-nonviolent-struggles-flagship-village/98084/ http://972mag.com/israel-increases-pressure-on-nonviolent-struggles-flagship-village/98084/#comments Tue, 28 Oct 2014 13:52:20 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=98084 Whether as a result of the violence in Jerusalem or just because there’s a new commander in town, the Israeli army is once again increasing its oppressive measures in the West Bank village of Bil’in.

Palestinians, international and Israeli activists demonstrate against the separation barrier and the occupation in the West Bank village of Bil'in, October 17, 2014. (Photo by Ahmad Al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

Palestinians, international and Israeli activists demonstrate against the separation barrier and the occupation in the West Bank village of Bil’in, October 17, 2014. (Photo by Ahmad Al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

By Roy Wagner

There’s nothing new under the sun in Bil’in.

If you take a look at the Wikipedia page on Bil’in, you’ll see that the last updates about the village’s struggle against the separation wall refer to 2012. B’Tselem’s page on Bil’in was last updated almost two years ago. One could easily be led to believe that the struggle is over. But Bil’in continues to demonstrate.

Perhaps updating Wikipedia and B’Tselem’s website isn’t necessary. The situation in Bil’in remains as it was. Veteran protesters even experience flashbacks to 2008, when the demonstrations took place near the old route of the wall. This is the same route that stole nearly half of the village’s agricultural land, and which the High Court later ordered be dismantled and moved west. This was before the new route was built and introduced in 2011 — the same one that steals only one third of the village’s land.

Demonstrator overlooking wall and settlement in Bil'in (Haggai Matar)

Demonstrator overlooking wall and settlement in Bil’in (Haggai Matar)

Over the last several weeks, however, Israeli soldiers have been waiting for the protesters on the old route, near the monument for the late Bassem Abu Rahmah, who was shot and killed at close range by a high-velocity tear gas grenade. As far as I can tell from the videos and testimonies, Abu-Rahme was likely murdered intentionally. (The IDF closed its investigation into the killing without indictment.) From high positions the soldiers fire barrages at the protesters who try to make their way along the “Freedom Road.” Afterward, the soldiers descend toward the built-up areas of the village and fill people’s homes with tear gas.

Soldiers recently set on fire a building that stands between the old route and the new one. The army issued a demolition order for a playground that was built there. During the last protest a man who said he was a village resident told me that 20 of his olive trees, which are located on the other side of the wall, were set ablaze. Arresting protesters and assaulting them while in custody, practices that have become rarer in recent years in Bil’in, are once again becoming common practice.

Adeeb Abu Rahme, one of the residents of Bil'in who appears in 5 Broken Cameras, confronts the IDF during a protest in 2007 (Activestills)

Adeeb Abu Rahme, one of the residents of Bil’in who appears in 5 Broken Cameras, confronts the IDF during a protest in 2007 (Activestills)

According to photojournalist Haitam al-Hatib, soldiers raided the village last Saturday, confiscating agricultural tools. The soldiers retreated in the end, but not before they threatened to demolish another house. Abdullah Abu Rahme, one of the leaders of the nonviolent struggle in the village, who was recognized as a “human rights defender” by the European Union and a “prisoner of conscience” by Amnesty International, was once again convicted in military court for resisting the occupation (“obstructing the work of a soldier”) and is likely heading back to prison.

Struggling, not just protesting

The goal of the demonstrators has not changed since 2005. They are not “protesting.” They are not “expressing an opinion.” They are not taking part in the “game of democracy,” whose rules don’t even apply to the occupied territories in the first place, and where every protest is considered illegal. The goal of the protesters is to tear down the wall and cross to the other side in order to reach their lands (upon which sit military positions and the Modi’in Illit settlement).

Although the wall — which supposedly save lives — is full of gaps (proof: tens of thousands of permit-less Palestinian workers cross it regularly), it is still continuous enough to separate Bil’in’s residents from their lands. Week after week, the protesters are left on the east side of the wall, yet they are persistent about their demands.

Palestinians, international and Israeli activists demonstrate against the separation barrier and the occupation in the West Bank village of Bil'in, October 17, 2014. (Photo by Ahmad Al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

Palestinians, international and Israeli activists demonstrate against the separation barrier and the occupation in the West Bank village of Bil’in, October 17, 2014. (Photo by Ahmad Al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

The chances that the stolen lands will return to their rightful owners through some kind of legal or political arrangement is near zero. Bil’in’s residents understand this fact. The demand to cross over to the lands on the other side of the fence is one that embodies the demand to end the occupation and the apartheid regime on both sides of the wall. The response to the protests remains the same, whether it includes chanting or rock throwing, whether the demonstrators are able to approach the wall or remain far from it, whether the army uses tear gas and stun grenades, rubber coated bullets or live fire. Life-threatening violence by well-armed and armored soldiers against unarmed protesters.

Every once in a while, someone in the IDF will come to the conclusion that its time to put an end to these demonstrations. They invent “new” tactics, “new” weapons, “new threats.” But after more than 10 years of protests, there is really nothing new. The protesters know all the scenarios. Regardless, the demonstrations continue and as far as I can see, they’ll keep on going for many years to come. As they do in Ni’ilin, Ma’asara, Kufr Qadum, Nabi Saleh and other villages.

I do not know whether the escalation in Bil’in today, which is happening more than 10 years after the first demonstration in 2005, has to do with Operation Protective Edge, or with the growing resistance in East Jerusalem, or with the caprices of the local command. I also do not know how long the escalation will last. Perhaps in a week or two the military will relax. Maybe another protester will be killed.

The right to incite

The European-Israeli fantasy of a Palestinian Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr., who will lead the popular struggle toward a political overhaul, continues to stagnate. This fantasy forgets that there is no Gandhi without Ambedkar (who fought against the British using arms), and there is no King without Malcolm X. And in any case, this isn’t India or America and the political violence of this place has its own characteristics, which adopts the cruel patterns of French colonialism in Algeria, at the expense of the less brutal tactics of British rule in India or white rule in the U.S.

Every week a few dozen Israelis and internationals come to Bil’in and join another few dozen Palestinians for a protest. Every once in a while there is a larger demonstration.

I will not pretend that additional Israelis coming to the protests will tip the scales. The Israeli public, which is unable to effectively pressure the government to change its health, housing and welfare policies, will probably not be the one to end the occupation. Those who fail to protect the rights of poor and vulnerable Israeli citizens living inside Israel will probably not be able to save the residents of Bil’in. The weekly protests will continue with us or without us.

A Palestinian youth places a flag on the Israeli wall during a protest marking nine years of struggle against the wall in the West Bank village of Bilin, February 28, 2014. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

A Palestinian youth places a flag on the Israeli wall during a protest marking nine years of struggle against the wall in the West Bank village of Bilin, February 28, 2014. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

But in a place where someone like the peace-loving Abdullah Abu-Rahmah is convicted for “incitement,” perhaps, at the very least, it is fitting to incite others to fight against the occupation. To continue and resist in Bil’in and in other places. To continue and resist on both sides of the wall that bisects Bil’in. To continue and resist in order to maintain an infrastructure of resistance, so that one day, when the political conditions change, when something here changes, it will also change in Bil’in. A place where, at least for now, there is nothing new under the sun.

The IDF Spokesperson issued a response regarding the protest in Bil’in two weeks ago, stating that:

During the illegal and violent riot in Bil’in, west of Ramallah, which included 30 Palestinian rioters who threw stones and acted violently toward our forces, our forces responded with riot-control measures, while approaching the direction of the village, in order to prevent the confrontation from reaching the area near the security fence. The rest of the claims are baseless, the IDF will continue to enforce order and will not allow harm to the security of the region.

Roy Wagner is an Israeli activist who has been attending the demonstrations in Bil’in for the past five years. This article was first published on +972′s Hebrew-language sister site, Local Call. Read it in Hebrew here.

Related:
IDF court convicts Palestinian non-violent organizer
PHOTOS: What the press missed in Bil’in tear gas flower garden
Bil’in revisited: The small changes in life under occupation

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Israeli president’s apology offers a rare hope for coexistence http://972mag.com/president-commemorates-massacre-calls-for-equality-in-israel/98091/ http://972mag.com/president-commemorates-massacre-calls-for-equality-in-israel/98091/#comments Mon, 27 Oct 2014 17:10:31 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=98091 With his unprecedented and heartfelt speech in Kafr Qassem commemorating the massacre there, President Rivlin has outlined a future of equality, respect and shared identity for Israelis and Palestinians alike.

Israeli President Reuven (Ruby) Rivlin visited the Palestinian town Kafr Qassem in the Triangle region of Israel on Monday to commemorate the massacre of 49 of its residents by Border Police in 1956. He was the first president to attend the formal memorial ceremony, and only the second president to visit, according to Haaretz.

After nearly 15 years of a severe deterioration in relations between Palestinians and Israeli Jews, the visit stood out as a good-will gesture rarely seen on the part of any Israeli leaders. During the vicious climate of the war over the summer, the Israeli public became more accustomed to its elected officials calling Arab citizens terrorists, traitors, and trojan horses and calling to boycott Arab businesses (shouldn’t this be made illegal?).

But even before the war, the previous Knesset passed laws targeting Arabs and debated mean-spirited bills; and the bigot Avigdor Liberman’s star has only risen. These developments topped a dark decade that began with the killing of 13 Arab citizens in October 2000 during demonstrations – a traumatic turning point in relations back then.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin greets an Arab-Israeli elder during a memorial ceremony in honor of the Kafr Qassim massacre October 26, 2014, held in the Arab-Israeli town Kfar Qassem. (photo: Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin greets an Arab-Israeli elder during a memorial ceremony in honor of the Kafr Qassim massacre October 26, 2014, held in the Arab-Israeli town Kfar Qassem. (photo: Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

The Kafr Qassem massacre in 1956 took place amidst escalation on the eastern border with Jordan and the start of the Sinai campaign. A curfew on Arab towns in the Triangle area – much of the Arab population lived under military rule from 1949-1966 – was changed from 9 p.m. to 5 p.m. Anyone violating the order was to be shot. Many of the residents were farmers were out working their fields when the change to the curfew was announced. Military personnel in the other towns realized that residents would be unaware of the new curfew time and concluded that the order was not logical. But in Kafr Qassem, Border Police soldiers opened fire, murdering 49 unarmed civilians returning from the fields.

This terrible chapter may have precipitated some progress. The state takes pride in the fact that Supreme Court Justice Benjamin Halevi tried the killers and set a legal precedent in Israel by decreeing that it is a soldier’s duty to refuse a “manifestly illegal order, on which the black flag of illegality flies.” Soldiers who carry them out can be tried; soldiers who refuse can draw on this as a legal defense. Further, some say the Kfar Qassem massacre hastened the end the military rule that Israel’s Arab minority lived under for the state’s first 18 years.

But such progress is heavily circumscribed, even schizophrenic. The duty to refuse is indeed a value in Israeli life, but in practice it is extremely complicated for a soldier to navigate in real time. Regarding the massacre itself, lengthy prison sentences for the key guilty parties were whittled down through bureaucratic and political decisions including, inexplicably, a presidential pardon. And it was another 10 long years before the military rule over Arab citizens ended.

Fifty-eight years later, the president’s visit was a symbolic sign of brotherhood. He said things I have longed to hear, particularly after years of vitriol from Israeli-Jewish political leaders.

The State of Israel has recognized the crime committed here. And rightly, and justly, has apologized for it. I too, am here today to say a terrible crime was done here… We must understand what occurred here. We must educate future generations about this difficult chapter, and the lessons which we learn from it.

This paragraph is for all intents and purposes an apology. The president’s emphasis on teaching future generations is a change from earlier attempts to hide the state’s crimes. Rivlin’s vision is a step away from the lie of false purity, and calls on Israel to confront its deeds head on. He went on:

I came here today, specifically during these difficult days to reach out my hand, in the belief that your hands are outstretched to me and to the Israeli Jewish public in turn. Friends. I hereby swear, in my name and that of all our descendants, that we will never act against the principle of equal rights, and we will never try and force someone from our land.

This statement pushes the bar from the “is” to the “ought;” it is, for once, a desirable vision for a way forward compared to the ills of the present.

Rivlin then said something rarely heard in Israel from the left or the right: he stated that this is also the homeland of Arab-Palestinians. In so doing, he addressed them not as a fifth column, newcomers or subjects, but as indigenous citizens and equals; as partners, not problems. In a nearly buried sentence, he made their identity part of the nation.

The State of Israel is the national home of the Jewish people, who returned to their land after two millennia of exile. This was its very purpose.

However, the State of Israel will also always be the homeland of the Arab population…The Arab population of the State of Israel is not a marginal group in Israeli society. We are talking about a population which is part and parcel of this land, a distinct population, with a shared national identity and culture, which will always be a fundamental component of Israel society… [emphasis mine].

And in a slapdown to the far-right, he legitimized the fact that they will not surrender their identity to embrace that of the people who conquered them:

…The Jewish public must understand that the ambition of so many to live alongside a Zionist Arab minority, which proudly sings the Hatikvah (Israel’s national anthem), will not, and cannot be realized.

The president even acknowledged some of the most sensitive tensions among Arabs in Israel: their commiseration with Palestinians under Israeli military occupation, racism and the daily scourge of discrimination of resources and opportunities in their own country.

I am aware that the establishment of the State of Israel was not the realization of a dream for the Arabs of this land. Many Israeli Arabs, forming part of the Palestinian people, feel the hurt and suffering of their brothers on the other side of the Green Line. Many of them experience not uncommon manifestations of racism and arrogance on the part of Jews.

…We must state plainly — the Israeli Arab population has suffered for years from discrimination in budget allocation, education, infrastructure, and industrial and trade areas. This is another obstacle on the road to building trust between us. A barrier which we must overcome.

These statements are close to perfect-pitch in terms of bold moral leadership, with a vision of an Israel that I can support.

But like the Kfar Qassem episode itself, the new president’s speech represented contradictions in his intentions, that marred the notion of real progress. Some of his words are sentiments that could actually perpetuate the very dynamics he hopes to shift.

Oddly, he called on the Arab citizens of Israel to renounce violence and terrorism and accused them of not doing so, although there hardly is any (nationalist) violence or terrorism in this community.

The Arab population in Israel, and the Arab leaders in Israel, must take a clear stand against violence and terrorism. All that live here, must today stand up and speak out against violence, against those who try to plunge us into the abyss. And I must tell you, this voice is not being heard. Neither clearly nor strongly enough.

It is understandable that the president was emotionally overwhelmed, having just attended the funeral of the three-month-old infant killed in a terror attack in Jerusalem last week. Practically during his visit, a second person died of injuries from that attack. As if a three-month-old is not horrible enough, this woman, a tourist, was just 22 years old.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin speaking during a memorial ceremony in honor of the 1953 Kafr Qassim massacre October 26, 2014. (photo: Yotam Ronen)

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin speaking during a memorial ceremony in honor of the 1956 Kafr Qassem massacre October 26, 2014. (photo: Yotam Ronen)

But the implication that citizens of Israel are somehow linked to terror attacks by Palestinians under occupation (East Jerusalem Palestinians cannot be viewed in any other light, especially in recent months) is frankly absurd. It reinforces the idea that all Palestinians are the same – and all are terrorists.

The statement also makes me wince, coming after a summer when over 1,000 civilians, and not one, but hundreds of children were killed by Israel’s army. The war was an extension of a daily, systematic 47-year violent military occupation. By his logic, the president should implore Jewish Israelis to condemn the killing of innocents in Gaza.

Still, in a net assessment, I believe the president’s intentions are genuine, and it is high time that Israelis see some leadership from at least one corner of the country. He has laid out a path – not a perfect one – but at least broad outlines for a future of equality, respect and shared identity. The Israeli people and government must pave the road with policy.

Related:
Why the Left’s best president might come from the Right
For Palestinian citizens, 1956 massacre is not a distant memory
‘Bad apple’ narrative still rotten 57 years after Kafr Qasim Massacre

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Segregating the evening commute to the West Bank http://972mag.com/segregating-the-evening-commute-to-the-west-bank/98041/ http://972mag.com/segregating-the-evening-commute-to-the-west-bank/98041/#comments Sun, 26 Oct 2014 15:07:47 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=98041 Jews and Palestinians who commute from the West Bank to work in central Israel each day will soon ride separate buses home. Let’s not give too much credit to Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, however. The decision to segregate the evening commute wasn’t all that creative. He only completed his predecessors’ decision to segregate the morning commute.

Palestinian workers wait in line to board an Israeli bus line meant for Palestinians only after crossing the Eyal checkpoint from the West Bank into Israel proper. (Photo by Activestills.org)

Palestinian workers wait in line to board an Israeli bus line meant for Palestinians only after crossing the Eyal checkpoint from the West Bank into Israel proper. (Photo by Activestills.org)

It’s not really segregation. Not on paper at least. Or at least the paper doesn’t use the word “segregation.” In practice, however, people of one national origin will not be allowed to ride on the same bus lines as people of another national origin — for the benefit and at the request of one group, at the expense and against the desires of the other. Call that what you will.

Here’s how it works. Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, the de facto and de jure sovereign ruler of the West Bank, could have easily ordered his generals to revise Israeli military law to legally ban Palestinians from riding on the same buses as their Jewish Israeli neighbors. (It’s important to remember at this junction, no pun intended, that we are talking about two groups of people who live in the same place — the West Bank — and who each day commute back and forth to their workplaces in the same place — central Israel.)

If that military order had been issued so explicitly, however, it would actually be called segregation and understood to be segregation by the general public, which at least in theory, sometimes opposes segregation. If the defense minister had written such an order it probably would have even used the Hebrew word “hafrada,” which inconveniently means both separation and segregation. That wouldn’t have looked good. So Ya’alon found another way, one that didn’t require him to use such politically loaded words.

Read more on Palestinian laborers working in Israel

Instead, the defense minister ordered that Palestinian commuters return to their West Bank homes through a specific, dedicated checkpoint — a different checkpoint than the Jewish commuters with whom they shared their evening bus rides until now. Technically speaking, Palestinians with valid work permits are still allowed to ride Israeli buses; they just aren’t allowed to go through the checkpoints through which those buses pass. Which means they will have to travel a different route, and therefore, ride separate buses.

Let’s not give too much credit to Ya’alon, however. The decision to segregate the evening commute wasn’t all that creative. He was only completing his predecessors’ decision to segregate the morning commute.

See more photos of the segregated checkpoint here.

Palestinian workers board a new segregated bus line at the Eyal checkpoint, March 4, 2012.

Palestinian workers board a bus at the Eyal checkpoint, March 4, 2012. (Photo by Activestills.org)

On the sidelines of Ya’alon’s decision, an argument took place between two people in uniform about whether the segregation is necessitated — or even motivated — by security. According to Maj.-Gen. Nitzan Alon, who happens to be the commander in charge of the Israeli army’s entire operations in the West Bank (or in other words, the occupation), Palestinian and Israeli commuters sharing buses poses no security risk, Haaretz reported Sunday. Another man in uniform, one who apparently has neither name nor rank, declared that the only considerations in the new policy are security considerations. Go figure.

Don’t expect a huge fallout

The new policy will have only a couple of effects, neither of which are significant enough to endanger the two-state solution or move a single foreign government to change the course of their Mideast foreign policy.

First and foremost, the new segregated evening commute will do exactly what it was designed to: segregate the evening commute. Jewish settlers will be able to enjoy their ride home from Tel Aviv through the fertile West Bank foothills of Palestinian olive country without the annoyance of having to listen to other commuters speaking Arabic. Haaretz quoted MK Moti Yogev (The Jewish Home), a settler himself and member of the Israeli parliament’s ruling coalition, after riding one of the yet-to-be-segregated buses: “Riding these buses is unreasonable. They are full of Arabs.”

The second consequence is just slightly more politically correct, or less, depending on how you like your racism, civil rights and labor conditions. Palestinian laborers, who are forbidden from remaining inside Israel proper at night, will be forced to take longer routes home to their families every evening. Already, they arrive at the checkpoint before the crack of dawn in order to make it to work in the morning. Just another hardship of the occupation — nothing to write to the UN about.

As Amjad Iraqi wrote here on +972 when the morning buses were segregated last year:

This is certainly not the worst case of state-sanctioned discrimination in the Occupied Territories, and it won’t be the last. What makes the bus case notable, however, is that it starkly presents the pervasiveness of the state’s segregationist mentality by evoking the memory of the infamous buses under the Jim Crow laws of the southern United States.

On a related note, Arab minority rights organization Adalah filed a lawsuit against the segregation of an Israeli youth soccer league along Jewish-Palestinian lines. The decision to segregate the Jewish and Arab youth teams into different leagues was apparently made in response to complaints by Jewish parents, according to a statement by Adalah.

Related:
Palestinian-only buses serve to incentivize segregation
Photos: Israel’s ‘Palestinian only’ segregated bus lines
West Bank and East Jerusalem buses are already segregated

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Treat Palestinian killers like you treat Israeli killers http://972mag.com/treat-palestinian-killers-like-you-treat-israeli-killers/98026/ http://972mag.com/treat-palestinian-killers-like-you-treat-israeli-killers/98026/#comments Sun, 26 Oct 2014 10:29:45 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=98026 We often quip that being a Palestinian is a crime. Judging by the hundreds of Palestinians who are in administrative detention — detained without charge or trial — that statement is not too far off.

By Talal Jabari

Illustrative photo of a man being arrested after police used a tazer (Activestills.org)

Illustrative photo of a man being arrested after police used a tazer (Activestills.org)

More dead children. A Palestinian and an Israeli. More grieving families. And I can’t help but feel that the Israeli justice system is responsible for both deaths. This justice system has an affliction that in any other democratic country would paralyze the entire judicial system: rather than being blind to ethnicity, the Israeli justice system has perfect vision, especially when it comes to crimes of a political nature.

Take two recent incidents as prime examples: a Palestinian driver collides with a crowd of people getting off a train, killing a child. He is killed on the spot and the authorities immediately announced that he has a record of “security related offenses.” I don’t know if he did it on purpose or not, but after the collision, his exited his vehicle and ran. Why wasn’t he arrested? Why was he not given the chance to defend himself? Could he not just have been driving recklessly? Instead, he was shot and killed.

The other incident occurred in the Palestinian village of Sinjil, where an Israeli settler ran over two girls walking along the side of the road, killing a five-year-old girl. Was this an accident? Possibly. Will there be an open investigation? Very unlikely. And most importantly, the driver wasn’t gunned down as a terrorist moments after the incident.

And this isn’t a one-off. Whenever a Palestinian is suspected of killing an Israeli, he is convicted, jailed or killed without what would be called “concrete evidence”in a democratic nation, or even a semblance of a real, fair or open trial.

And it doesn’t usually just end there. Now the family that has lost a husband and a father, for an event for which he may or may not be responsible, but in which the family played no part, has their home destroyed. Then the man’s close relatives who obviously played no part in the event  — otherwise they they would have met with his same fate  — get nasty little marks put onto their secret police files, making it very difficult for them to get permits to enter Israel or even travel abroad. (Generally speaking, when a Palestinian is killed by Israeli forces, their close relatives’ entry permits are revoked out of fear that they will seek revenge.)

So one Palestinian allegedly (judging by the way Israeli news articles are written, “allegedly” is a word that doesn’t exist in the Hebrew language) commits a crime, and several dozen people pay the consequences potentially for years to come.

This is the same justice system that allows for the detention of hundreds of Palestinian children every year. And while my hypothetical example was of the act of killing, you don’t really have to have committed any crime to end up on the wrong side of an Israeli detention facility. Any public political expression by a Palestinian, for example, is a crime. A Palestinian taking his sheep to pasture too close to a settlement is a crime. A Palestinian defending himself from a settler attack is committing a crime. In the Jordan Valley, where water is scarce, collecting water from an overflowing pump, is a crime.

We often quip that being a Palestinian is a crime. Judging by the hundreds of Palestinians who are in administrative detention — detained without charge or trial — that statement is not too far off.

Illustrative photo of masked undercover Israeli police arresting a Palestinian (Activestills.org)

Illustrative photo of masked undercover Israeli police arresting a Palestinian (Activestills.org)

Hundreds of meters away, behind their fences, live the settlers.

Case in point, the self-confessed killers of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, the Palestinian boy they doused in gasoline before burning alive. The team of killers includes one adult and two minors. And whereas Palestinian minors are detained with adults for merely throwing stones, these murderers continue to be treated as minors.

There are Israeli settlers who routinely attack Palestinians as the latter pick their olives. There are settlers in Hebron’s Tel Rumeida neighborhood who are constantly harassing their Palestinian neighbors. Israeli human rights organizations supply Palestinians with video cameras, so there is actual footage of these attacks, but that has lead to almost no convictions. Thomas Hobbes wrote in 1651 that in the absence of law, the resulting human nature is terrifyingly chaotic, and nowhere is that clearer than among the settlers of the West Bank, who act without fear of ramifications.

What I am trying to say here is that the double standards are frustrating. Yes, I realize that we live under occupation, and under occupation you can’t really ask for justice. But the result is a frustrated populace that due to ongoing restrictions feels increasingly that they have nothing to lose. I’m not saying that when a Palestinian kills an Israeli that they should be let off the hook. What I am saying is treat them the same way you would treat an Israeli who kills a Palestinian.

President Reuven Rivlin says it’s time to admit Israel is a sick society in need of treatment. But that’s not going to happen in the absence of rule of law, and more importantly, justice. As long as a double standard exists whereby rabbis like Dov Lior can spew hate speech with no recourse. As long as the Israeli army comes to the aid of or turns a blind eye to settlers attacking Palestinian’s, as long as Palestinians are killed rather than arrested, the “treatment” President Rivlin seeks isn’t going to come.

Talal Jabari is a Palestinian award-winning documentary filmmaker and journalist from East Jerusalem. He tweets from @TalalJabari.

Related:
For near identical crimes, an Israeli and a Palestinian’s fate couldn’t be more different
Hebrew U. threatens Palestinian students with expulsion over political activities
IDF court convicts Palestinian non-violent organizer, EU human rights defender

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