+972 Magazine » Analysis http://972mag.com Independent commentary and news from Israel & Palestine Sun, 21 Dec 2014 22:47:48 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8 Who says Palestinians don’t have a vote in Israeli elections? http://972mag.com/who-says-palestinians-dont-have-a-vote-in-israeli-elections/100317/ http://972mag.com/who-says-palestinians-dont-have-a-vote-in-israeli-elections/100317/#comments Sat, 20 Dec 2014 19:40:47 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=100317 By warning that a Palestinian UN resolution might strengthen Netanyahu, Kerry is actually suggesting that Palestinians can influence Israeli elections — just not in the direction Washington was hoping for.

File photo of U.S. Secretary of State Kerry with Tzipi Livni (Photo by State Dept., cropped)

File photo of U.S. Secretary of State Kerry with Tzipi Livni (Photo by State Dept., cropped)

The United States is trying to scuttle UN Security Council resolutions seeking an end to the occupation under the pretense that it could strengthen right-wing political parties in Israel’s upcoming elections, according to a report in Foreign Policy on Friday.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told a gathering of European diplomats that Tzipi Livni — who recently departed the far-right Netanyahu government to join forces with the centrist Labor Party — warned him that international steps against the occupation risk emboldening the Israeli Right.

“[S]uch a text imposed by the international community would reinforce Benjamin Netanyahu and the hardliners in Israel,” Livni reportedly told the American secretary of state.

It should be noted that at least one of the UNSC resolutions being discussed is a Palestinian initiative, and is not being “imposed by the international community.”

Livni essentially confirmed the story on Saturday, responding to the Foreign Policy article with a statement saying she, “is proud to have preserved key Israeli interests at the Security Council.” Those Israeli interests, she explained, can be safeguarded only “if Herzog and Livni form the next government coalition.”

In other words, in an attempt to scuttle Palestinian diplomatic moves aimed at advancing Palestine’s own political interests, Kerry is quoting Livni in order to warn Europeans that supporting such a move might embolden Livni’s political rivals, all while the secretary of state goes out of his way to declare that Washington is not meddling in Israeli elections.

Makes sense, right?

If we follow Kerry’s logic, it’s not actually the Europeans who run the risk of interfering in Israel’s upcoming elections, but the Palestinians themselves.

Who says that Palestinians don’t have a vote in Israeli elections?

File photo of a Palestinian woman voting in Bethlehem. (Photo by Activestills.org)

File photo of a Palestinian woman voting in Bethlehem. (Photo by Activestills.org)

Of course none of this touches on the absurdity of asking the Palestinians to hold off on their aspirations for equality and national self-determination in order to give the Israelis time to elect a new government that might, if we’re lucky, perpetuate a 20-year-old peace process that has brought far more wars and military operations than peace.

It is worth noting that although it is still early in the Israeli election cycle, none of the leading parties have made seeking peace a cornerstone of their platform. Perhaps, that too, would embolden Netanyahu and the Israeli Right.

Related:
America: The hand that holds the status quo together
Israel’s elections: A referendum on Netanyahu

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How long must Palestinians pay for the Holocaust? [op-ed] http://972mag.com/how-long-must-palestinians-pay-for-the-holocaust-op-ed/100309/ http://972mag.com/how-long-must-palestinians-pay-for-the-holocaust-op-ed/100309/#comments Sat, 20 Dec 2014 17:34:07 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=100309 A man leading an occupying state, a racist state in which mixed marriages are protested, doesn’t get to teach lessons to others. Mr. Netanyahu, stop exploiting the Holocaust at every political opportunity; pick up a book and learn that we weren’t there in those darkest days of European and Jewish history.

By Samah Salaime Egbariya

On the eve of a historical day for the Palestinian people, when the international community has finally figured out that there is no point in waiting for Israelis to recognize their neighbors’ right to independence, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu chose to preach to the Europeans  – to teach them a lesson he himself has yet to learn.

And he is right. There really are people who have not learned a thing; not in Europe, but right here in Israel.

The time has come to put everything on the table and talk about the Palestinians and the Holocaust.

For years we have been keeping our heads down and avoided facing the issue. We were careful never to shout “Nazis” in protests against the occupation, against house demolitions, and on Land Day, when we speak up and resist the oppression and racism against Arabs in Israel. We are forbidden from even approaching that sensitive Jewish wound, the ultimate political trump card. We the Arabs were and still are vulnerable, weak, defeated, and yes – scared we would be blamed for taking part in or even for identifying with the horrors that took place in Europe.

But khalas. Enough. No more. I am no longer willing to carry the burden of the Great Sin on my shoulders. It is no longer possible to punish us in every way possible for nearly 70 years and then hide behind the black curtain of European Jewish history.

The prime minister of a state where rampant racism is raising its head in every corner —under the government’s patronage — has no right to preach to others. When in every city conquered in 1948 – Lydd, Acre, Jaffa – there is a neighborhood called “the ghetto,” meaning the old city where the Palestinian residents were kept and enclosed, you Mr. Prime Minister cannot speak of learning lessons.

In a state where every bill produced in your racist breeding ground reeks of hatred and fear mongering toward “the Arabs” – you don’t get to preach about learning lessons. When thousands of Palestinians begin their days at 2.30 a.m., turning into a single mass of human flesh pushed as one through a metallic sleeve at the end of which stands a soldier, only in order to earn a day’s wages and return home via the same route in the evening, don’t talk about learning lessons.

When in a single month you murdered thousands of innocent Palestinians, you must know that Umm-Muhammad from Gaza, whose four sons were murdered on the beach, does not believe you have learned your lesson. In a country where schools in which Arab and Jewish children study together are set ablaze, in a place where hooligans protest against the marriage of an Arab man and a Jewish woman, no lesson has been learned.

Stop taking every opportunity to wave the flag of Holocaust horrors at every turn of your political career. Go open up the history books and learn that we were not present in Europe at the time and took no part in any anti-Semitic plan. A million and a half Gazans imprisoned for nine years will not create another Holocaust against you or your people, even if Article 6 of the Hamas Charter calls for the annihilation of the Jewish state. Neither will Iran when your democratic state is the only nuclear power in the Middle East.

I expect nothing more of you, Mr. Prime Minister. I am relying on the people who will learn the lessons and choose to reroute the train heading full-speed toward oblivion. Such a shift may be bold and terrifying, but it is the only option left.

Samah Salaime Egbariya is a social worker, a director of AWC (Arab Women in the Center) in Lod and a graduate of the Mandel Leadership Institute in Jerusalem. This article was first published on +972′s Hebrew-language sister site, Local Call. Read it in Hebrew here.

Read more:
Being a Mizrahi Jew, an Israeli and touching the Holocaust
In Israel, Holocaust obsession prevents real change

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The hand that holds the status quo together http://972mag.com/the-hand-that-holds-the-status-quo-together/100270/ http://972mag.com/the-hand-that-holds-the-status-quo-together/100270/#comments Fri, 19 Dec 2014 14:10:10 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=100270 The Palestinians put forward a Security Council resolution calling for the end of the occupation by 2017. The Obama administration, which has supported essentially every Israeli policy toward the Palestinians, has promised to use its veto power.

The Kingdom of Jordan on Wednesday submitted a resolution draft to the United Nation Security Council, which calls for the establishing of a Palestinian state as well as a deadline for the occupation: 2017, two years from now. The proposal, which could be voted on at any time, was drafted by the Palestinian Authority in the aim of breaking the diplomatic impasse in efforts to establish a Palestinian state.

According to reports, should the Obama administration vetoe the resolution, the Palestinians will join dozens of international agencies, including perhaps the International Criminal Court – a move that may allow the court to hear future charges against Israeli officials.

The United States opposes the Palestinian motion. The Israeli media reported yesterday that Secretary of State Kerry informed Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Palestinian Authority that the U.S. will veto the resolution should it come to a vote. It seems that the Americans also object to a more modest resolution proposed by the French government. The French proposal is said to put forward several parameters for a final-status agreement, setting a two-year deadline for negotiations.

The idea of a deadline on the occupation is required to solve an inherent problem with the diplomatic process: it depends entirely on the Israeli will to make concessions. There is simply no incentive for any Israeli leadership (not just Netanyahu’s) to move forward, certainly not at a time when Israel enjoys relative calm and prosperity, as it has over the past decade. The negotiations are not balanced: one side is holding all the cards while the other depends on its good will; one side is in a state of emergency, and the other can ignore the issue altogether; one side gains international credit by merely agreeing to talk, while the other side of the deal — a Palestinian state — is only promised in the very distance future, if at all.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice. (UN Photo/JC McIlwaine)

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice. (UN Photo/JC McIlwaine)

Millions of Palestinians have been living under military rule in the West Bank and siege in Gaza for almost 50 years. The lack of any form of Palestinian sovereignty directly affects millions more who are stuck in refugee camps and cannot be helped by their own people, even during a crisis like the Syrian civil war. It has been half a century since the 1967 war, and the Israeli government still has not made up its mind whether to leave the territories it captured and allow Palestinians their independence, or grant them full civil rights. Or perhaps it seems like the government has made up its mind to keep the land but not give the rights, thus treating the Palestinians as prisoners. The expiration date on this state of affairs is long overdue. In this context, allowing another two years for completing an agreed-upon process to end the occupation actually seems like a generous offer.

The problem is that the U.S. agrees with Israel on an entirely different framing of the problem: not how or when Israel should end the occupation, but whether it should do so at all, and under which hypothetical circumstances. For the two countries, the talks are a process through which Israelis need to be convinced that the Palestinians have rights, too.

In recent years I have attended and sometimes even spoken on various panels and forums on American policy vis-a-vis the conflict, including its failure to facilitate a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians. In such forums one always get a sense of helplessness coming from the American side. What more can America do, people ask, to end the occupation? How can peace be so elusive? What went wrong with “the process?”

But in order to keep raising those questions, one must ignore reality. In truth it is the United States that holds everything together right now. When people think about American support for Israel they imagine the military aid and Iron Dome. But in fact, American administrations – every one of them – have created the diplomatic and political environment in which Jerusalem can carry out its policies. And when the chips are down, it is the American administration that shields Israel from the inevitable consequences of its policies, allowing Israeli leaders to make decisions that are not only immoral, but also carry disastrous consequences for all parties involved.

This is true for almost every step of the way. The United States boycotted the Fourth Geneva Convention Conference taking place this week, mainly because Israel does not accept the interpretation of its settlement activities as a violation of Article 49 in the treaty; the United States is vetoing Security Council resolutions on the occupation – even resolutions that are deliberately drafted using the State Department’s texts on settlements. And when Israel ran out of artillery shells during its latest war in Gaza, the U.S. opened its emergency bunkers in Israel to resupply the IDF. In short, one cannot think of any part of Israeli policy toward the Palestinians – the so-called status quo – that does not depend on the active support and participation of the United States.

This cooperation is a bit inconvenient for the administration at times, especially when it is trying to get the support of other Arab countries for its Middle East wars – and this is precsiely where the personal rift between the governments serves both sides. Obama and Kerry are able to distance themselves from the active role they are taking in aiding Israeli policies, and Netanyahu can score some points with its base for “standing up” to the U.S. But when things matter – like they do now in the Security Council or last summer in Gaza (and the war was all about maintaining the status quo) – the U.S. and Bibi are almost exactly on the same page.

Unlike UN resolutions, which Israel has learned to ignore, Security Council measures are binding, and can have very serious implications on states (just take a look at Russia or Iran). That’s why the Palestinians are trying to get the international community involved in a way that would require Israel to think about how to end the occupation, rather than whether to do it in the first place. But without American approval, nothing can move forward at the UNSC. When you look for the thing that is holding the status quo together, the American ambassador’s voting record at the UN is a good place to start.

Related:
Amid Gaza war IDF buys ammunition from U.S. stock in Israel
Israel’s UN ambassador puts another nail in the two-state coffin

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The Palestinian who won’t give up on the power of nonviolence http://972mag.com/is-nonviolence-on-the-rise-in-palestine-an-interview-with-dr-mubarak-awad/100248/ http://972mag.com/is-nonviolence-on-the-rise-in-palestine-an-interview-with-dr-mubarak-awad/100248/#comments Fri, 19 Dec 2014 11:15:13 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=100248 At the end of 2000, as the Second Intifada was beginning to spread throughout the West Bank and Gaza, Israeli Professor Meir Amor sat down to speak with Dr. Mubarak Awad, a Palestinian expert on nonviolent resistance. Fifteen years later, the two met once again to talk about nonviolence, growing religious fundamentalism, gender equality, Palestinian refugees and Jews from Arab countries. This interview will be published in Peace Magazine in January 2015.

By Meir Amor

* * *

Meir Amor: About 15 years ago you and I had a discussion published in Peace Magazine. The editors think it’s a good opportunity to have another one. So let me ask you: Does your approach to nonviolence have a religious basis? Do Jewish or Muslim religious authorities consider it compatible with their teachings?

Mubarak Awad: Personally, I do it from a Christian perspective. For me, it’s time for us all to learn not to kill or destroy. But I did not push that belief on any Israelis or any Muslims. However, I did study Islam and nonviolence a lot, and I thought it would be great to have a Muslim who was interested in nonviolence so we could have a strong campaign. At that time I was interested in a fellow by the name of Faisal Husseini, a great Muslim who believed in nonviolence. I bought a lot of books about a Muslim who had been with Gandhi—Abdul Ghaffer Khan, who said that Islam is a nonviolent religion.

Mubarak Awad. (photo courtesy of Meir Amor)

Mubarak Awad. (photo courtesy of Meir Amor)

I did this because the majority of Palestinians are Muslim. We held conferences studying Islam and nonviolence, discussing what jihad really means and Sufism in Islam. Sufis are like the Quakers in Christianity. There are many Sufis in Islam who accept the challenge of nonviolence. It’s a big struggle for them—not only between the Palestinians and Israelis or Arabs and Israelis, but also between themselves, for them to be nonviolent at home and active in nonviolence in their community. They can see that we human beings have brains, not just guns, and can resolve any conflict, however big, by debating, by forgiveness, by conciliation.

But in the past 20 years the world has moved toward radical religion in Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. That has allowed a minority within each religion to begin dictating what religion means in a fundamentalist way. Many Muslims want to go back to a caliphate or to Mohammed. Some of them want to be more fundamentalist or more conservative.

Amor: Does conservative also means opposing nonviolence?

Awad: Yes. Being radical, insisting that Islam has to be exactly like the time of Mohammed, discriminating against women and against others who don’t believe in their tradition. They see killing as an honor instead of using an ethical or secular way of discussing issues within civil society.

Amor: Nonviolence runs into trouble, not only with the religious authorities, but with existing political institutions. In Israel I’ve been advocating refusal to serve in the occupied territories, but it is only a tiny group of people who actually do that. And within the Palestinian community too, there is political opposition to nonviolence.

Awad: Yes. To be fair to the Palestinians, nonviolent activities have increased over the past 20 years, especially regarding the separation wall. Nearly every Friday a group comes—Israelis, Palestinians, and internationals. They come and protest about the wall. But this nonviolence is by individuals. We don’t see thousands or millions of people coming together for it. We haven’t recognized the strength of nonviolence by a majority of the people who are willing to sacrifice.

Amor: Why is that? Why is it hard for Palestinians and Israelis to accept the option of nonviolence?

Awad: Because they don’t see it as a way of life, or think that the government will listen to them and make changes. Both the Israeli and Palestinian governments are stuck in their way of thinking. Both of them think it is “not the right time” for it. And they both think nonviolence is a weakness.

Amor: When it comes to individuals, it seems that your approach to nonviolence is based on cooperation between “enemies”—that nonviolence requires a courageous, humanistic approach to cooperation across the lines, not only within your group.

Awad: Right. Look at what has happened. The Soviet Union is gone—nonviolently. We had the problem with South Africa; it’s gone—nonviolently. We had the Berlin Wall. It’s gone—nonviolently. We had the Catholic and Protestant fights in Northern Ireland. It’s gone—nonviolently. We had the civil rights movement against segregation in the United States. There are still difficulties in it but it’s gone. We have equal rights. So with any conflict, a time will come for it to solve itself. The question is how we can push it to solve itself without a lot of killing in the meantime. To have less people killed, fewer refugees, widows, and orphans.

Amor: But it is hard to transform a person from perceiving another as an enemy into perceiving him as cooperative. How do you do this?

Awad: A big example of that transformation is in Israel. Anybody who goes to Haifa can see that the Israelis and Palestinians live together with each other. They have Palestinian and Israeli policemen, judges, schools, everything. It’s a small area but it works. Unfortunately, it cannot work in Jerusalem because each religion there says: “God is on our side. God is ours, not theirs, and we have to ask our God to destroy them.” In Haifa they don’t have that notion, so it can happen.

Amor: I agree. I taught for two years at Haifa. I used to write in journals that Haifa University is the most Israeli-Palestinian university you can find. Half of my students were Palestinian (Israelis) and we had to understand the sensitivities.

AWAD: I gave two lectures at Haifa University and they were full of students. I was impressed with them. They did not ask the weird questions that we often hear from both sides. They think in a positive way about how to live together. It was a great experience for me.

AMOR: You have written that “nonviolence is non-acceptance of the authority of the subjugator.” You said that there is a need to overcome the fear of the subjugator. How do you teach political courage?

AWAD: I have recently been speaking with the leadership of Hamas about why Hamas has refused nonviolence. It has to do with ethics, with human rights, and how they could approach the international community. For example, a Palestinian went to a synagogue in Jerusalem just a few weeks ago and killed five people. It would be good for Hamas to say, “We will not accept that.” That would help Hamas’s image with the international, Jewish, and Arab communities. Say that they are not interested in this killing—that there are other ways of dealing with problems.

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)

Amor: Did they accept your opinion?

Awad: Yes. And at one point more than 75 percent of the Israelis accepted a two-state solution. Now I don’t know whether it even reaches 20 percent. At one time they were in the streets asking for peace. Now it is much less acceptable to ask the Palestinians for peace—to the point that it would be to the interest of the peace process to have a nonviolence center in Tel Aviv run by Israelis. The education would have to do with the Jewish concept of nonviolence. It would have nothing to do with religion, but rather with Israeli ways of accepting peace, because people are only getting the army’s perspective.

Amor: The war is managed by men. How does your nonviolent approach relate to gender issues? Do women find it easier to practice nonviolence?

Awad: It’s partly about equality. Men hide behind religion to oppress women. As long as we don’t have gender equality in the Knesset or Palestinian parliament, men will still dominate the whole arena. Even a democracy such as the United States is not fully democratic when there is not equality in the Senate and the House of Representetives between men and women.

Amor: I want to ask how you’d solve the refugee problem. That’s the heart of the problem between Israeli Jews and Palestinians.

Awad: I don’t see it as much of a problem if you accept the two-state solution. Those Palestinians who lived in Palestine are welcome to come back. Those who want to stay where they are outside of Palestine, they should have the right to citizenship in any country where they are. They have to make that choice themselves. The Palestinians in Syria, Iraq, and other places where there is war – they need a place to call home. For them it has become a sacred question. That can be handled very well.

There is no way that Palestinians in the West Bank or in Gaza could destroy Israel—“push Israel into the sea.” Israel has all the power. They can move the United States in whatever direction they want, so Israel’s fear of us is not realistic. Don’t view the acceptance of refugees as a sign weakness; view it as just something that will be accepted by Israelis and Palestinians alike.

Somebody will have to pay them and there is a lot of money around to pay for houses or to move settlers. The refugees could go live there. But in Jordan I don’t think more than 20 percent—maybe only five percent—of the refugees want to go to the West Bank or Gaza.

Amor: I say to my Israeli friends that we should address the refugees not as a threat but as a hope.

Awad: Yes, that’s a positive approach. If those people are welcomed, they will not fight against the people who welcome them.

Amor: You know there is a debate about the one-state or two-state solution, but it seems that the nonviolent approach is not only a peaceful and feminist approach but also suggests that if there is a state at all. We have to share the place.

Awad: Yes, those people who were there in 1948, or who faced difficulty (like myself, after my father was killed when I was five years old), they are Palestinians. How can you make them feel at ease with their environment and with their neighbors? When I feel at ease and know that nobody is going to harm me, I can easily stretch out my hand out to an Israeli. That is no problem. But he has to accept my hand. And if both accept it then we have to show that people can eat together, that what we both need is for our children and grandchildren to have a good society. Let’s work on it.

Amor: You mention South Africa. Some people there, like Desmond Tutu and Mandela recommended ways of forgiveness and sharing. However it seems that they did not actually do so much sharing, although they made significant efforts. Are elements of sharing necessary for achieving forgiveness and reconciliation?

Palestinians march through the streets of Bethlehem to commemorate the Nakba, May 14, 2013. (Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Palestinians march through the streets of Bethlehem to commemorate the Nakba, May 14, 2013. (Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Awad: Yes. It takes leadership to accept that challenge. Tutu is excellent in dealing with reconciliation. He’s a teacher. We have lots of Jews who have been helping in South Africa. They can help the Palestinians and Israelis. But peace will not happen all at once. In South Africa and the United States there are still problems.

Amor: Mainly on the issue of redistribution of resources.

Awad: Right. But nonviolence is mostly a spiritual attitude.

Amor: The late Professor Edward Said, in his book on the Palestinian question, cited Hannah Arendt on how the Jewish refugee issue was solved at the expense of creating refugees on the Palestinian side. In other places she writes about the inability of most people to deal with cohabitation. Your approach of nonviolence is infused with this notion of accepting cohabitation.

Awad: This is related to segregation in our education. Men and women are educated separately, Palestinians and Israelis are educated separately. We have no sports together, no activities together. I have a friend, Eddie Kaufman, who is a Zionist who comes to teach here [in Washington DC]. He wants peace. When we bring his grandchildren and my grandchildren together, they play together and he says, “Look, they don’t understand that in a few years they will want to kill each other.” We put hatred in their minds.

Amor: About 50 percent of the Israeli Jewish population are Jews from Arab countries. Many of them became refugees as a result of the creation of the Jewish state and the conflict. And, in a strange twist, many of these people are seen as right-wingers, entrenched in opposing Palestinians. Tell me about the Palestinian approach to the issue of Jews who were moved out of Arab countries by Arab regimes—which in fact cooperated with the Israeli project of evacuating Jews who had lived in peace with Arabs for centuries. This complemented the Jewish project of pushing Arabs from Palestine instead of accepting their cohabitation. How do you view the dominance of Jews of European descent in Israel and the subordination, not only of Palestinians, but also of Jews who came from Arab countries?

Awad: It is to the advantage of Arab countries to have Jews as neighbors and business people in their countries. They know then that there’s nothing imaginary about Jews. Here they are—human beings just like us. People have to know each other, shake hands, do business with each other. It would be to the advantage of those Arab countries to bring back more Jews. I was discussing this with Jewish groups in Morocco. They are Moroccan. They are happy there; they don’t feel discriminated against because of their religion. That’s fair. A fellow can run for a position in the government. If he is qualified, why not?

Israel is making communication difficult between Palestinians and Israelis by building that wall, by not allowing Israelis to go to Bethlehem, Ramallah, or Gaza. Then it becomes, “Those people over there are hiding. They are devils.” That’s the danger—the danger of not knowing. In a village where the people are all of the same religion, whoever comes to visit is a stranger.

Amor: Recently there was an initiative in the Israeli government to rescind the status of Arabic as a formal language of the state, though the mother tongue of many Jews is Arabic. Politicians build walls but life builds bridges.

Awad: We have to continue supporting Israeli and Palestinian people to get together to push hard against unjust laws. The people can do it.

Dr. Mubarak Awad is a Palestinian psychologist who founded the Palestinian Center for the Study of Nonviolence in 1983, teaching methods of resisting the Israeli occupation. For this he was deported to the United States, where he teaches at American University.

Meir Amor is a sociology professor of Israeli-Moroccan background teaching at Concordia University in Montreal. The interview will be published in Peace Magazine in January 2015.

Related:
Palestinian non-violent activists: Army violence won’t stop our resistance
Israel increases pressure on nonviolent struggle’s flagship village

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For Israeli media, even the memory of the Nakba poses a threat http://972mag.com/for-israeli-media-even-the-memory-of-the-nakba-poses-a-threat/100255/ http://972mag.com/for-israeli-media-even-the-memory-of-the-nakba-poses-a-threat/100255/#comments Thu, 18 Dec 2014 18:52:37 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=100255 A new study reveals that although Israeli newspapers present an array of views on the Nakba, the most common one sees it as nothing less than a threat that seeks to delegitimize Israel.

By Oren Persico / ‘The 7th Eye

An ultra-orthodox Jewish man walks in the depopulated Palestinian village of Lifta, located on the edge of West Jerusalem, Israel, March 4, 2014. During the Nakba, the residents of Lifta fled attacks by Zionist militias beginning in December 1947, resulting in the complete evacuation of the village by February 1948. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

An ultra-orthodox Jewish man walks in the depopulated Palestinian village of Lifta, located on the edge of West Jerusalem, Israel, March 4, 2014. During the Nakba, the residents of Lifta fled attacks by Zionist militias beginning in December 1947, resulting in the complete evacuation of the village by February 1948. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

A new study reveals that Israel’s mainstream media maintains the state’s official stance toward the Nakba, and “puts full responsibility on the tragedy that occurred in 1948 on the Palestinian leadership, thus purifying Israel from any responsibility for the outcome of the war on the Palestinian people.”

The study, conducted by Amal Jamal and Samah Basool and published earlier this year by the I’lam Media Center for Arab Palestinians in Israel, is based on the way Israel’s five main newspapers – Yedioth Ahronot, Ma’ariv, Israel Hayom, Haaretz and Hamodia – describe the Nakba (the Arabic word for “catastrophe,” which Palestinians use to describe the expulsion of over 750,000 Palestinians from their homes during the 1948 War). The researchers looked at how the newspaper articles refer to the Nakba during the period in which the term comes up most naturally – two weeks before Israel’s Independence Day, and two weeks after May 15, Nakba Day. The study took place between 2008-2012 in an attempt to understand the “patterns of perceptions of the Palestinian Nakba in the Israeli collective consciousness, as they are reflected in Israel’s media discourse.”

In their study, Jamal and Basool stress that the goal is not “to argue over the stances in the articles sampled, but rather to classify their contents according to parameters of attitudes.”

As one could probably guess, the newspaper that publishes the highest number of articles relating to the subject is Haaretz. Surprisingly, Israel Hayom published a relatively high number of articles on the Nakba, as opposed to Yedioth Ahronoth and Ma’ariv.

“The data is surprising, on the one hand, since Yedioth Ahronoth is seen as a centrist newspaper that deals with the major issues of the day,” write the researchers. “[…] on the other hand, the large number of articles published in Israel Hayom does not ostensibly align with the nationalistic, hawkish worldview of the newspaper.

Jamal and Basool explain the findings:

Yedioth Ahronoth tries not to upset its readers, and thus refrains from dealing with controversial issues. On the other hand, Israel Hayom serves as a comfortable platform for expressing hawkish opinions toward Arabs and Palestinians. While this fact raises the amount of attention paid to the Nakba, it does so by framing it in a very negative light, which invites a contemptuous attitude toward it.

Jamal and Basool divide the media’s views of the Nakba into five categories, with the first two categories subdivided into two categories each.

Palestinian students lead a Nakba commemoration ceremony at Tel Aviv University. (photo: Activestills.org)

Palestinian students lead a Nakba commemoration ceremony at Tel Aviv University. (photo: Activestills.org)

The first view is one of denial, which views the Nakba as an invention based on propaganda and historical distortions. This view is subdivided into two subcategories: (1a) Denying that that the events of 1948 amount to a Nakba; (1b) The Nakba is an invention based on propaganda and historical revisionism.

The second view is one of denying responsibility for the Nakba, while not denying the it took place. This view is also subdivided into two categories: (2a) The Palestinians are to blame for their situation; (2b) The Nakba is the result of a war that Israel was forced into.

WATCH: Palestinian students commemorate Nakba at Tel Aviv University

According to the third view the Nakba was a tragic occurrence that continues until today. According to the fourth view the Nakba is a continuing threat whose goal is to delegitimize Israel. According to the fifth view, the Nakba is a part of the collective memory that needs to be respected.

The study shows that the most common view in the newspapers (that are not published in Haaretz) is the fourth one, according to which the Nakba is nothing less than a threat that seeks to delegitimize Israel.

“The prominence of the view that sees the Nakba as a continuous threat whose goal is the delegitimization of Israel is connected to the growing emphasis on Israel’s public, diplomatic struggle against the boycott, which has grown in the last years,” say the researchers. According to them “the view that the Nakba is a threat and delegitimizes Israel is intended to mobilize Israeli public opinion – to mold the public’s consciousness against the most central expression of Palestinian identity: the memory of the Nakba.

Right-wing nationalists from the group Im Tirzu protest as Palestinian students living in Israel and Israeli supporters commemorate the Nakba outside Tel Aviv university, May 11, 2014. (Activestills.org)

Right-wing nationalists from the group Im Tirzu protest as Palestinian students living in Israel and Israeli supporters commemorate the Nakba outside Tel Aviv University. The sign reads: ‘Nakba is Bullshit.’ May 11, 2014. (Activestills.org)

The prominence of this view along with the relative prominence of other views, creates what the researchers describe as an “array of public stances, which deny the truth behind the catastrophe that the Palestinians underwent in 1948, and Israeli responsibility for this catastrophe.”

On the other hand, one also encounters views that place the blame on Palestinians for what took place in the 1948 War. “In other words,” write Jamal and Basool, “there are two basic stances that are not necessarily coherent. The first stance denies the existence of the Nakba, while the second one denies Israel’s responsibility for what happened to the Palestinians.”

After analyzing the headlines of the articles included in the study sample, the researchers created a world cloud that presents the most popular terms in different sizes, according to the number of times they appeared. The most common terms that appeared (aside from “Nakba” itself) are: “Israel,” “IDF,” “in the territories,” “were wounded,” “borders,” “riots” and “were killed.” Jamal and Basool claim that “this testifies to the context in which the Nakba is raised, and reflects Israeli public discourse as a whole, particularly the one most intensively engaged in issues related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Read: What do Palestinian refugees want?

Jamal and Basool provide various quotes to back their central premise. However, one of the articles “Nakba Carnival,” by Assaf Geffen and published in Yedioth Ahronoth, was misread by the researchers. Geffen’s satirical article, which called on readers to “stop denying the existence of the Nakba and begin to enjoy it,” and wrote that Israel’s Independence Day celebrations should be turned “into a day of celebrations of the Palestinian catastrophe,” was understood by Jamal and Basool as a serious op-ed. Thus, in the study they claim that Geffen is “trying to make a convincing argument that we must recognize the Nakba and use it for the sake of Jewish nationalism, in order to ensure the future of the Zionist project, with no need to apologize.”

According to Jamal and Basool, the data they collected points to the Israel public’s complex relationship with the Nakba. “On the one hand the view that denies the Nakba as a historical event and opposes taking any responsibility for it is clearly dominant. On the other hand, there is also support for the need to admit not only to its existence, but also its continuation as well as recognizing the legitimacy of memorializing it,” they write.

Jamal and Basool write that the public discussion that arises from these contradictory stances abets the official Israeli stance. “Despite the different attitudes toward the Nakba, the data allows us to differentiate between the general atmosphere, which suggests a fruitful discussion taking place among the Israeli public… and the power of the hegemonic view, according to which not only did the Nakba not take place, but it is a clever Palestinian invention whose sole purpose is to delegitimize Israel,” they write.

Palestinians demonstrate on the 66th anniversary of the Nakba in the West Bank city of Nablus, May 14, 2014.

Palestinians demonstrate on the 66th anniversary of the Nakba in the West Bank city of Nablus, May 14, 2014.

“The array of stances ostensibly ‘whitewashes’ the discourse of denial and repression of the past and its memory. That way the official position wins twice: it is able to affirm itself in the wider public’s consciousness, while presenting itself as liberal and tolerant. The very existence of this range of positions gives a feeling of pluralism, which grants legitimacy to the dominance of a denouncing position, which in the end leads to the legitimate conclusion of denial.”

Jamal and Basool write that “despite it taking place six decades ago, the Nakba is evident even today. This evidence only strengthens the claims of the minority in the media, according to which the Nakba is an event that has continued from 1948 until today, and thus neither denial nor responsibility have been able to become normative views. The Israeli anxiety vis-a-vis the Nakba, which is manifested through symptoms of past trauma and the return of that that has been repressed in various ways, is an expression of how relevant the Nakba is, despite the attempts to push it out of the public discourse.”

The two conclude by writing that “viewing the memory of the Nakba as a threat to the legitimacy of Israel mean that Israel needs Palestinian recognition in order to be at peace with itself. This need reflects the deep chasms in the moral strength of the narrative, as well as how Israelis view themselves.”

This article was first published in Hebrew by The 7th Eye media watchdog website. It is reproduced here with permission.

Related:
Liberating Israeli Jews from the dark legacy of the Nakba
The Palestinian Nakba: Are Israelis starting to get it?

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Israel’s marriage police: An aberration from Jewish tradition http://972mag.com/israels-marriage-police-an-aberration-from-jewish-tradition/100251/ http://972mag.com/israels-marriage-police-an-aberration-from-jewish-tradition/100251/#comments Thu, 18 Dec 2014 14:51:00 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=100251 From interrogations to blacklists to computerized databases, Israel’s rabbinical authorities have adopted a coercive system of oversight that punishes violators of Jewish law’s bans on ‘certain’ kinds of relationships.

By Akiva Miller

Everyone knows that Israel’s Jewish-Orthodox-controlled marriage system must change. But while activists, lawyers and politicians struggling to reform it have won some important battles in recent years, one of the most important factors behind the crisis — the rabbinical authorities’ system of databases, investigative methods, and coercive powers — has received too little attention.

This system is best understood as a marriage police, motivated by an unprecedented zealousness to detect, enforce and punish would-be violators of Jewish law’s ancient bans on certain kinds of relationships as if they were criminal offenses — most notably the prohibitions on intermarriage and the marriage of a mamzer, the offspring of illicit relations. While the Jewish prohibitions date back two millennia or more, Israel’s marriage police is a new phenomenon of recent decades. It is not rooted in law, but almost entirely built upon a patchwork of administrative regulations and decisions by Israel’s rabbinical courts.

The first and best-known process for policing marriage prohibitions is the pre-registration interview. This interview is at times more like an interrogation; witnesses and relatives of suspect couples are brought before the marriage registrar to give testimony, asked to bring evidence, and are carefully cross-examined on the couples’ Jewishness. This can be a humiliating process, and makes ordinary Israelis feel that the religious authorities of the Jewish state are calling their Jewish identity into question.

If an individual is suspected of being subject to a marriage prohibition, their case is brought before the rabbinical courts. Ordinarily, these cases involve only adults who have applied to marry and were turned away. In recent decades, however, rabbinical courts have adopted the view that they have the authority to initiate investigations into the marriage eligibility of minor children who were born under circumstances that may make their marriage prohibited – whether suspected mamzerim or children of suspected non-Jewish or convert parents. Once any person — adult or child — is caught up in the rabbinical courts, the ordeal can last for years and extracts a heavy financial and emotional toll.

The system of marriage police relies on modern information technologies. One such tool is the “blacklist,” a national database containing thousands of individuals suspected of being under marriage prohibition. A single official, the Administrator of Rabbinical Courts, controls the blacklist. By official policy, every couple applying to marry anywhere in Israel is checked against this list. Placing individuals on the “blacklist” (temporarily pending investigation or permanently) serves as a de-facto sanction to compel cooperation with rabbinical court proceedings.

Like the sad reality in other kinds of policing, the Israeli marriage police also has its suspect classes — primarily recent immigrants and converts to Judaism. These groups are treated with immediate suspicion and suffer excessive enforcement and on the part of rabbinical authorities. Several sources of data allow rabbinical authorities to identify their “suspects.” Marriage registrars enjoy full access to the National Population Registry, which allows them to know, for example, when and where the couple and their parents were born, if they immigrated to Israel, or if they changed their religious status. Official rules on the registration of newborn babies flag suspected mamzerim from birth in official records by omitting the name of their biological fathers.

When individuals of questionable Jewishness (a category expanded since the 1990s to include all immigrants from the Former Soviet Union) seek to marry, the rabbinical courts rely on the opinions of four state-appointed “Jewishness investigators,” who are tasked with investigating and determining who is Jewish and who is not. Officially acting only as expert advisors, the four investigators have unfettered discretion to collect any information — and their opinions are almost never challenged. They apply a body of “expertise” on Jewish genealogy that was never subject to public scrutiny or debate. The investigators use a computerized database called Maayanot to perform their investigations, and receive assistance from the Israel Police’s forensic investigators to examine genealogical documents they suspect as forgeries.

The treatment of converts, always a touchy social issue, took a dramatic turn for the worse after a 2008 landmark decision of Israel’s Supreme Rabbinical Court held that any rabbinical court was authorized to retroactively annul the conversion of a parent and her children and at any time if the court believes the convert was insincere. Consequently, every and any contact by a convert — or her children — with Israel’s rabbinical authorities becomes an opportunity for the rabbis to closely scrutinize the converts’ level of religious devotion.

While every marriage denied or delayed is a personal tragedy, the cumulative affect of the system of marriage police is to deny thousands of citizens the right to marry in Israel, and causes unnecessary hardship on entire segments of Israel’s population, numbering in the hundreds of thousands. Most cases of denied marriages are “false positives” of couples who should never have been denied marriage under Jewish law in the first place. The excessive and unfair targeting is a significant factor in the scores of Israeli couples’ decision to avoid marriage in Israel entirely and marry abroad, or to forego official marriage altogether.

The bitter irony is that Israel’s modern marriage police is an aberration from Jewish tradition, not an expression of it. Traditional Jewish marriage law was careful to limit the disclosure of information that might lead to the prohibition a marriage. It allowed old secrets to remain hidden and forgotten over time and wisely required distant rumors to be ignored.

But creating alternatives to Jewish Orthodox marriage is not enough. Dismantling the marriage police through legal reform is not only possible, but necessary. As long as most Israelis desire some form of Jewish wedding, reform of the broken marriage system will not end with the creation of civil marriage; it requires an end to the vast and arbitrary power that a tiny group within the state’s religious authorities exercise over the entire Jewish population of Israel.

Akiva Miller is an Israeli and New York lawyer.

Related:
Israel’s rabbinate reflects country’s racist streak

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Zionist Christians’ war on the true meaning of Christmas http://972mag.com/zionist-christians-war-on-the-true-meaning-of-christmas/100211/ http://972mag.com/zionist-christians-war-on-the-true-meaning-of-christmas/100211/#comments Wed, 17 Dec 2014 11:17:31 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=100211 The rhetoric of Christian Zionists consistently places loyalty to the modern state of Israel above the example and teachings of the Jesus born in Bethlehem whose birth Christmas celebrates. It’s time to stop calling such groups Christian Zionists and instead use the term Zionist Christians, to more accurately reflect their priorities.

Photos and text by: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org

Graffiti on the Israeli separation wall in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, December 16, 2010. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Graffiti on the Israeli separation wall in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, December 16, 2010. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

For the last two years, Christians United for Israel (CUFI), the largest Christian Zionist organization in the U.S., has sent email blasts urging their supporters to fight back against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement by buying Christmas ornaments “Made in Israel.” Or rather, by receiving these ornaments as a reward for a tax-deductible donation. One message urges supporters to “commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ with this symbolic ornament that was made in the land where Jesus was born.”

I don’t blame CUFI for flogging BDS to fill its own coffers. That’s just standard fundraising strategy. What offends me as a Christian is that while exploiting U.S. Christians’ sentimental perceptions of the Holy Land, they ignore the current situation in Bethlehem, they ignore Palestinian Christians, and worst of all, they ignore the Jesus they claim to follow.

Jesus was born in occupied territory. At the time, it was occupied by the Romans. Today, the West Bank town of Bethlehem is virtually surrounded by the Israeli separation barrier, which if completed as planned will confiscate some 64 square kilometers of the governorate’s land as nearby Israeli settlements continue to expand in violation of international law. How dare CUFI mention “the land where Jesus was born” without recognizing the plight of the Palestinian Christians who’ve carried his tradition to the present day?

When groups like CUFI do make a rare mention of Palestinian Christians, it is often to paint them as victims of Islamist persecution. This despite polls showing that Palestinian Christians overwhelmingly cite the Israeli occupation as the primary challenge in their lives.

Palestinians hold a Catholic mass as a weekly nonviolent witness against the Israeli separation wall in the West Bank village of Beit Jala, September 7, 2012. If completed as planned, the wall would cut off the Cremisan monastery from the Beit Jala community, blocking access to one of the Bethlehem area's last remaining green spaces, and a source of employment for area residents. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Palestinians hold a Catholic mass as a weekly nonviolent witness against the Israeli separation wall in the West Bank village of Beit Jala, September 7, 2012. If completed as planned, the wall would cut off the Cremisan monastery from the Beit Jala community, blocking access to one of the Bethlehem area’s last remaining green spaces, and a source of employment for area residents. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

In their Christmas email, CUFI claims that BDS supporters are: “Israel haters” who are “hoping you’ll not know that the freest Arabs in the Middle East are the Arab citizens of the Jewish State of Israel.”

While denying the persistent discrimination faced by Palestinian citizens of Israel and entirely ignoring the injustices faced by those living in the occupied territories, they also ignore fellow Christians. Some 3,000 Palestinian Christians, including the heads of 13 historic Holy Land denominations signed the Kairos Palestine Document, which calls for: “boycott and disinvestment as tools of nonviolence for justice, peace and security for all.”

Unlike the straw man “haters” of CUFI’s rhetoric, Kairos Palestine’s call for BDS is rooted in values of liberating love: “These advocacy campaigns must be carried out with courage, openly and sincerely proclaiming that their object is not revenge but rather to put an end to the existing evil, liberating both the perpetrators and the victims of injustice.”

Zionist Christians participating in the annual Jerusalem March offer their support to Israeli troops along the parade route, October 4, 2012. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

South African Zionist Christians participating in the annual Jerusalem March offer their support to Israeli troops along the parade route, October 4, 2012. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

If only groups like CUFI reflected the best teachings of their faith as clearly. Instead, they have made an idol of the modern state of Israel. They may mention Jesus every now and then, but they rarely quote him. Benjamin Netanyahu gets a lot more airtime. “Netanyahu” even returns more than twice as many search results as “Jesus” when searching their web site.

I was not surprised to learn — from the extremely conservative Christian magazine Charisma of all sources — that CUFI’s executive director, David Brog, is “said to run CUFI like a political campaign.” The report goes on to say that, “[o]ne by one, the higher-profile Christian leaders who helped [John] Hagee start CUFI are dropping off as the organization becomes more focused on political lobbying.”

Unfortunately, CUFI and similar groups have convinced many Americans that “blessing Israel” means rubber-stamping every policy of its increasingly right-wing governments. This includes a message filled with military imagery to “stand with Israel” during last summer’s assault on Gaza, with talking points like, “Israel must not be condemned for doing what any responsible government would do to protect its citizens from terror.” Another message demands, “[t]ell President Obama to stop blocking weapons to Israel!” And yet another email cites 64 Israeli soldiers killed and describes a CUFI-sponsored solidarity visit by pastors to Jerusalem, Sderot and Mt. Herzl. None of these messages even mention the 2,200 Palestinians killed in Gaza, most of them civilians.

A Zionist Christian attends a "Stand with Israel" rally in Boston, August 7, 2014. The rally came in the midst of an Israeli military offensive that had thus far killed nearly 2,000 Palestinians, including at least 1,400 civilians. At the same time, three civilians in Israel and 64 soldiers had been killed by Palestinian militants.

A Zionist Christian attends a “Stand with Israel” rally in Boston, August 7, 2014. The rally came in the midst of an Israeli military offensive that had thus far killed nearly 2,000 Palestinians, including at least 1,400 civilians. At the same time, three civilians in Israel and 64 soldiers had been killed by Palestinian militants. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

One need not be a Christian to recognize that Christmas celebrates the arrival of the Jesus who preached, “blessed are the peacemakers”, “love your enemies”, compassion for “the least of these,” and who taught his followers to pursue “justice and the love of God.” But as a Christian, I am compelled to question the priorities of fellow believers who have placed loyalty to the government of Israel above the life, teachings and example of Jesus.

A Palestinian pastor friend put it this way: “my biggest challenge with Christian Zionism is that it doesn’t promote peace and it ignores justice.”

Where is the Jesus of sacrificial love, peace and justice for all amid the Israeli and American flag-waving and military imagery? I therefore suggest that we stop calling such groups Christian Zionists and instead use the term Zionist Christians, to more accurately reflect their priorities.

The Kairos Document offers a sharply contrasting vision of concern for all life, but will U.S. Christians listen to their Palestinian sisters and brothers?

Through our love, we will overcome injustices and establish foundations for a new society both for us and for our opponents. Our future and their future are one. … We call on the people of Israel to be our partners in peace and not in the cycle of interminable violence.

Finally, as an alternative to the CUFI’s ornaments, I recommend supporting Palestinian Christians in the town where Jesus was born by buying an olive wood nativity like this one from the Bethlehem Bible College gift shop—complete with separation wall to raise awareness among your holiday guests.

Read also:
An open letter to Evangelical supporters of Israel
PHOTOS: ‘Christ at the Checkpoint’ challenges Christian Zionism

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WATCH: A heartbreaking portrait of life in Hebron, in 9 minutes http://972mag.com/watch-a-heartbreaking-portrait-of-life-in-hebron-in-9-minutes/100172/ http://972mag.com/watch-a-heartbreaking-portrait-of-life-in-hebron-in-9-minutes/100172/#comments Tue, 16 Dec 2014 15:28:44 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=100172 By Moriel Rothman-Zecher

What does life under occupation look like for a teenage Palestinian?

A new, powerful short film by filmmaker and activist Yuval Orr attempts to show exactly that, by following 15-year-old Awni Abu Shamsiya as he attempts to maintain some shred of normalcy in his hometown of Hebron.

Hebron, where the occupation is in many ways manifested in its rawest form, is the only Palestinian city inside which there is an Israeli settlement. It is a junction of direct and daily conflict between Palestinian civilians, Israeli soldiers and Jewish-Israeli settlers. It is a city where streets are segregated between Jews and Palestinians,and one of the places where freedom of movement is most restricted. It is the site of some of the worst civilian-led massacres, on both sides, since the beginning of Jewish-Arab conflict. No single work can summarize this city and its machinations, in nine minutes or nine days, but Yuval’s film, in zooming in on one day in Awni Abu Shamsiya’s life, gets as close as anything I’ve seen recently.

Maybe it’s the throat-clench of absurdity or the dull-throb of heartbreak, but “Khalil Helwa” (Hebron is Beautiful) is one of the most powerful films about life under occupation in Hebron that I’ve seen in years. The film leaves room for the viewer to come to her own conclusions, while maintaining a clear, humane and empathetic view of the gallingly unfair situation.

But forget what I have to say. The work speaks for itself, whether you’ve been to Hebron 50 times or only know the vaguest contours of its story.

Watch the full nine-minute film:

Moriel Rothman-Zecher is a writer and activist, based in Tel Aviv. He blogs independently at thelefternwall.com. Follow the filmmaker (@yuvalorr) and the author (@Moriel_RZ) on Twitter.

Related:
In Hebron, terror begets a reign of terror
This is what a military operation in Hebron looks like
Former Israeli AG: We should have evicted Hebron settlers

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The wave of Jerusalem attacks Israelis don’t hear about http://972mag.com/the-wave-of-jerusalem-attacks-israelis-dont-hear-about/100165/ http://972mag.com/the-wave-of-jerusalem-attacks-israelis-dont-hear-about/100165/#comments Tue, 16 Dec 2014 10:41:56 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=100165 One hundred Palestinian bus drivers in the capital have quit their jobs because of such violence from Jewish racists.

Illustrative photo of an Egged bus (Photo by Kw0/CC 3.0)

Illustrative photo of an Egged bus (Photo by Kw0/CC 3.0)

If you’d asked me how many East Jerusalem Palestinian bus drivers in the capital had quit their jobs because of the violence they’d faced from Jewish assailants, I’d have said oh, maybe three. When I read in Haaretz on Sunday (truly a must-read) that the number is roughly 100 — or one out of three Palestinian bus drivers in the capital — I was amazed. East Jerusalem Palestinians, on the whole, are poor; driving for Israel’s giant Egged bus cooperative is a very, very good job for an ordinary eastside resident, paying about three times the average East Jerusalemite’s salary. When 100 of these drivers quit their jobs because of the menace of racist Jewish marauders, it means that that menace is overwhelming.

I had no idea. And I keep up with the news and I’m extremely alert to stories about Jews abusing Arabs. I knew from the Israeli media that on the nights after Palestinian terror killings, bands of young Jews would roam the streets on Jerusalem’s Jewish westside, attacking Arabs in their path and chanting “death to the Arabs.” After the death of Egged driver Yousef Hassan al-Ramouni a month ago — he was found hanged in his bus in what Israeli forensic pathologists ruled a suicide, but which Palestinians commonly believe was a murder — there was a story or two about East Jerusalem drivers complaining about Jewish attacks. But with those rare exceptions and the story of the murder by burning of 16-year-old Muhammad Abu Khdeir, the only Jerusalem violence you hear about in the Israeli media lately is Palestinian-on-Jewish — the murders by car and knife, the stoning of the light rail, the violent protests against the police.

But Jewish violence against Arabs in Jerusalem? As far as we Israeli Jews can gather from the news, these are not exactly isolated incidents, but they’re not a “phenomenon,” either. Nothing to make a normal Palestinian bus driver quit his job.

I didn’t know, we didn’t know. In Israel, any incident of Arab-on-Jewish violence is a big story, while a plague of Jewish-on-Arab violence has to be going on for years and years, like the “price tag” settler attacks, before it qualifies for sustained media attention.

Read also: Settler violence — it comes with the territory

The resignations, formal or effective, by the 100 Palestinian bus drivers have come only in the last month, since the driver Ramouni’s hanging death, said Tamir Nir, the Jerusalem city councilman in charge of local transportation. In a Sunday interview on TLV1 radio, he told me that Jewish attacks on Palestinian drivers have become a full-blown phenomenon in the last six months, growing especially intense in the last two.

Most of the assaults have been verbal, he added, but “about 40” were physical. However, a Palestinian attorney representing many of the former Egged drivers painted yet a much bleaker picture for Haaretz’s Nir Hasson:

“The situation is catastrophic,” said attorney Osama Ibrahem, who represents more than 40 drivers who have been attacked — mainly in the past four months. “Not a day passes without a physical assault,” he said. “I’m not talking about verbal assaults. They don’t even count those; that’s something they’ve learned to live with.”

Hasson reported that Egged buses are frequently stoned in East Jerusalem neighborhoods, regardless of whether the driver is Jewish or Arab. He also wrote that “Jewish drivers complain of passengers who suspect them of being Arabs and demand to see their identity cards before boarding.”

I asked Councilman Nir if Palestinian passengers were also attacking Jewish drivers. “No, I don’t know about it, I don’t think that they are,” he said. “But as you know there are attacks on the train.” Yes, about that we know.

“We also have problems with Arab taxi drivers,” the councilman continued. “They suffer too, from violence, and not only violence — some people don’t want to drive with them, don’t want to pay them.”

He said Egged plans to install security cameras in the buses, and that he’s lobbying to get barriers put up between drivers and passengers, but until now no measures have been taken to protect Palestinian drivers, who have been under ongoing attack for the last half year. “Unfortunately, I heard about the issue only about three weeks ago,” he said. “It came up only after the death of the driver. I didn’t know about it before, nobody told me about it.”

I believe him. That’s how pathetically in the dark Israeli Jews are about Jewish-on-Arab violence: even the head of transportation for the Jerusalem Municipality didn’t know that local Palestinian bus drivers had been getting attacked regularly until one of them was found hanged in his bus last month.

Read also:
WATCH: Israeli Jews attack Palestinian on public bus
A frightening new era of Jewish-Arab relations in Israel

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From Gaza to Salameh: A Palestinian refugee’s journey home http://972mag.com/from-gaza-to-salameh-a-palestinian-refugees-journey-home/100074/ http://972mag.com/from-gaza-to-salameh-a-palestinian-refugees-journey-home/100074/#comments Sun, 14 Dec 2014 19:43:04 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=100074 A Palestinian refugee from Gaza journey’s to his family’s hometown in present-day Tel Aviv. Standing on what used to be the village cemetery, he feels the ghosts of the past as he must reckon with the currently reality.

By Eitan Bronstein Aparicio (translated by Charles Kamen)

On International Human Rights Day, he took advantage of his basic rights and returned to Salameh, which today is known as Kfar Shalem. It is the first time he has visited the place where his parents were born. His father was born in 1936 and was 12 when he, along with the rest of the residents of the town, was forced to leave his home and move to the Gaza Strip where they still live today. I won’t mention his name so as not to endanger him.

He’s excited as we make our way to Salameh, growing quiet for a long time as we go from the village mosque and the mukhtar’s house. He spends some time on the exercise equipment in a local playground while his four-year-old nephew plays on the slides. The playground was erected on Salameh’s cemetery, of which nothing remains.

The son of refugees from Salameh stands outside the village mosque. Today Salameh is known as 'Kfar Shalem' and is part of Tel Aviv. (photo: Eléonore Merza)

The son of refugees from Salameh stands outside the village mosque. Today Salameh is known as ‘Kfar Shalem’ and is part of Tel Aviv. (photo: Eléonore Merza)

When we arrive at the mosque he calls his father. Even before he tells him where is, his father asks whether he has already visited Salameh. He tells his father that although the village in which he was born has become a neighborhood in Tel Aviv, some of the original buildings and the winding village streets preserve its memory. His father doesn’t speak at length. “It must not be easy for him,” he says and asks me about the village school. His father, who had been a pupil there, asks whether it’s still standing. I take him to the school which today houses the offices of the National Insurance Institute. When the construction plans are complete and the remaining residents who currently live in Salameh’s buildings are evacuated, only the mosque will remain. Its dome was damaged by rioters in 2000 and has yet to be repaired.

I tell him about the struggles of the neighborhood’s residents, almost all of them Mizrahis, against their eviction by both the state and Israeli capitalists. We pass a ruined house on Street 4848, where a resident died as a result one of these violent incidents. I have no idea how much this interests him.

They slept in our house in Tel Aviv – only an hour’s drive from where they live today (assuming there is no delay at Erez Crossing), but based on his reactions it seems like a parallel universe. He is astonished by the variety of fruits and vegetables in the Carmel Market, not to mention the prices, which are double those in Gaza. Together we sit down in front of the television to watch a Champion’s League soccer game. “We also have a set like that, but the recent attack on Gaza destroyed it as well,” he notes bitterly. That gives him the opportunity to tell about their living conditions. “Palestinians in Gaza build their homes the same way they raise children. It never ends because they must continually rebuild after the destruction caused by Israel. After we finished building a new section of the house, the summer attack destroyed all the doors and windows. A tank shell penetrated the kitchen, destroyed the stove, the refrigerator and the range hood.”

The son of refugees from Salameh returns to his family's village. (photo: Eléonore Merza)

The son of refugees from Salameh returns to his family’s village. (photo: Eléonore Merza)

“Where were you at the time?” I ask, assuming they’d found shelter in a safer location than their home. “We were at home,” he replies. “It’s very expensive to live somewhere else, we didn’t have the money, and for the entire family to live in an UNWRA school would be unbearable so we decided to remain home.” The non-material damage can only be imagined, based on what he is willing to share with us.

The conversation meanders between the horrors in Gaza and the fascinating soccer game on the screen. Basel is subsituted for an Egyptian player, he tells me. Gerard scores a great goal and for a moment it seems Liverpool will move up to the next round. My wife Eleanore wants to photograph us pretending to be happy about the goal. We agree willingly and both laugh, trying to forget the difficult day. He is well-informed about European and African soccer teams and is a Barcelona fan. “Like your son, as I saw in his bedroom,” he says. “When Barca plays Real Madrid, Gaza splits into two camps,” he adds an important detail. This human moment lasts, and the atmosphere is pleasant. The tense end of the game connects us, two fairly typical soccer-loving men. I tell him that Sosa, the fidgety coach giving instructions to the Basel players, led Maccabi Tel Aviv to the championships last year. “But you seem to want Liverpool to win this game,” he says. “I don’t really care who wins, I just want to see a good game.”

When we part the following day his nephew is happy to return home and we hug warmly on the corner of Allenby and Mazeh in central Tel Aviv. The taxi driver understands very well what is happening and concludes: “It’s a cruel world.”

Eitan Bronstein Aparicio is the founder of Zochrot. This article was first published on +972′s Hebrew-language sister site, Local Call. Read it in Hebrew here.

Related:
Sentenced to life at birth: What do Palestinian refugees want?
How Mizrahi Jews as pawns against Palestinian refugees

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