+972 Magazine http://972mag.com Independent commentary and news from Israel & Palestine Thu, 23 Oct 2014 14:45:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8 The struggle for Mizrahi recognition isn’t limited to Israel http://972mag.com/the-struggle-for-mizrahi-recognition-isnt-limited-to-israel/97963/ http://972mag.com/the-struggle-for-mizrahi-recognition-isnt-limited-to-israel/97963/#comments Thu, 23 Oct 2014 14:42:14 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=97963 If Israeli Jewish society is going to move forward dealing with its own racial tensions, it needs British and world Jewry to do the same. Generations of Mizrahi Jews in the UK no longer understand their own history: they have been taught to weep for Krakow but never for Sanaa.

By Leeor Ohayon

Deep in the heart of North East London, where South Tottenham meets Stamford Hill, sits an Adenese Jewish community. Here, I was born and raised, born into a mixed Yemenite-Moroccan family in the middle of a Mizrahi Jewish bubble. Within that bubble, where Hebrew was sung in heavy guttural pronunciations, where cussing was done in Arabic, and where women ululated at bar mitzvahs and weddings, we lived an existence away from the “Fiddler on the Roof”-style clichés that have come to dictate society’s understanding of Jews.

In my community a large percentage were ’67 refugees. The last Jews of Aden, who in 1967 boarded British ships with nothing but the clothes on their back, forced to flee suddenly in the midst of the turmoil of the British colonial exit. An ancient community, 2,000 years old, uprooted overnight, made its way to North East London to join an already established Adenese Jewish community that traced its roots to the heyday of the British Empire. Yet, despite their historical place in the British Jewish landscape, their presence remains forgotten by the mainstream Anglo-Jewish narrative. Similarly, no one speaks of the Iraqi-Jewish merchants who set up thriving communities in London and British Mumbai, nor of the Egyptian-Jews who arrived with the empire, or the Iranian-Jewish presence.

Attending British Jewish schools my entire life, it did not take long for me to realize that my Judaeo-Berber surname, brown skin and Mizrahi identity were undesirable. Better yet, they weren’t “really Jewish.” That undesirability, that categorization of what is Jewish, is chained to a non-pluralist Eurocentric reality which dictates Jewish history and culture, from Israel to the UK.

Judaism, we are told, is uniform: it is socially Eastern European, linguistically Yiddish, ethnically White. Judaism is never Brown, Arabic or Middle Eastern.  Subsequently, the Mizrahi Jew is whitewashed from the Jewish historical narrative, which in turn has allowed for his erasure from both Western and Arab historical, social and political discourse surrounding the Middle East. The non-Jewish world thus understands Judaism and Israeli society through Eurocentric-Ashkenazi paradigms provided for them by the Ashkenazi experience, which has anointed itself as the sole narrative of world Jewry. The Mizrahi Jew is expected to partake in a mainstream historical narrative that sees itself between Warsaw and Minsk, but never Baghdad.

Throughout my Jewish education, lessons fixated on the Gaon of Vilna or the Cholent of Shabbat — never on the Baba Sali of Tafilalt or the sweet buttery Jahnoon of Yemenite Jewry. Efforts to inform teachers that at home our rituals differed, it was dismissed; one teacher conceded to the class that “Sephardis have different traditions” with an added eye roll for emphasis.

All of this served to place myself and other Mizrahi British Jews in a state of continuous confusion, dictating a one-size-fits-all Jewish identity that did not reflect the realities of our homes and traditions. Mizrahi Jews are subsequently pressured to Ashkenize, to avoid appearing “too ethnic,” to understand their Jewish identity as not only inferior but as a historical anomaly not worthy of mention in Jewish environments. From the secular to the religious who have adopted the black hats of religious Ashkenazi tradition, a rich aspect of the Jewish world is being extinguished, for the sake of “blending in” with Ashkenazi Jewry.

A significant aspect of the Ashkenization of Judaism is in part credited to the place the Holocaust holds within the Jewish historical narrative. A tragedy which barely touched Mizrahi Jewry apart from small parts of North Africa, which also remains absent from the culture surrounding Holocaust remembrance. Mizrahi Jews across the world are expected to own the Holocaust as if it is their own. In the process, generations of Mizrahi Jews no longer understand their own history: they have been taught to weep for Krakow but never for Sanaa.

The Mizrahi story has been sacrificed at the altar of collective memory, silently accepting that ancient Judaeo-Islamic civilization is not something worth mourning. We are fed the notion of a rigid dichotomy between the Arab and Jewish worlds, as if either were two separate homogenous blocs with no connection to the other. To belong to an Arabic or Middle Eastern culture and have a Jewish identity is an oxymoron — being Polish and Jewish is not.

That lack of recognition and ensuing racism is a product of a British-Ashkenazi mind-set that regulates Judaism to a race, condensing a socio-religious group according to basic physical features — features that we Mizrahi Jews do not posses, features that are strictly European. As a result the Mizrahi Jew is a humorous concept, he does not “look” Jewish; he is Indian or Arab but never Jewish. Not really a Jew, an anomaly.

The Mizrahi struggle in Israel today is one about cultural recognition, historical justice for the crimes inflicted upon it by the Ashkenazi establishment and a demand for a new pluralism, one that brings the Mizrahi story into the fold. However, the Mizrahi struggle is not solely confined to Israel, it is part of a wider struggle for Mizrahi recognition across the Jewish communities of the West. The Mizrahi identity is subsequently swallowed up by an Ashkenazi collective memory and voice; the Mizrahi is expected to conform to the Ashkenazi hegemon.

If Israeli Jewish society is going to move forward dealing with its own racial tensions, it also requires British and world Jewry to do so. If Western Jewish communities begin to understand the Mizrahi in their midst, to recognize his story and to restore his rightful place in the Jewish collective imagination, then maybe, just maybe Israeli Jewish society might begin taking steps regarding its own Mizrahi population.

Related:
‘But you’re not really Mizrahi’: Rewriting an erased identity
Can a Mizrahi girl fit into Israel’s national story?
Re-learning history: A tribute to North Africa’s Jewish artists

Leeor Ohayon is a documentary photographer from London currently in Israel focusing his photographic work on Mizrahi Jewry. 

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IDF court convicts Palestinian non-violent organizer, EU human rights defender http://972mag.com/idf-court-convicts-palestinian-non-violent-organizer-eu-human-rights-defender/97965/ http://972mag.com/idf-court-convicts-palestinian-non-violent-organizer-eu-human-rights-defender/97965/#comments Thu, 23 Oct 2014 13:28:17 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=97965 Israeli military court convicts Abdullah Abu Rahmah of obstructing a bulldozer building the separation barrier. His previous trial and imprisonment was followed closely by western governments.

Abdullah Abu Rahmah at his trial in the Ofer Military Court, September 15, 2010. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Abdullah Abu Rahmah at his trial in the Ofer Military Court, September 15, 2010. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Abdullah Abu Rahmah, one of the central organizers of the popular resistance protests against the separation barrier in the West Bank village of Bil’in, was convicted of obstructing the work of a soldier by an Israeli military court this week. He will likely be sentenced to four months in prison.

Abu Rahmah, who was recognized by the European Union as a “human rights defender” dedicated to non-violence, previously served over a year in prison for organizing “illegal marches” as well as for “incitement.” All political demonstrations are illegal for Palestinians under Israeli military law.

+972 named Abu Rahmah “person of the year” in 2010. The choice was made, we wrote at the time:

Because he has become the face of the grassroots, unarmed resistance movement to Israel’s security barrier; because he is the person who has raised international awareness not only of the devastation caused by the barrier, but also the existence of a well-organized, non-violent grassroots opposition movement  – one that brings together Palestinians, Israelis and international supporters in a joint struggle. Because he is the answer to the question, “Where is the Palestinian Gandhi?” (answer: there are many; and they are languishing in Israel’s jails). Because he has never wavered in his commitment to non-violence – not even after his cousin Bassam Abu Rahmah was killed by a high-velocity tear gas canister shot by Israeli soldiers directly at his chest; nor after his cousin Adeeb Abu Rahmah was arrested and imprisoned for participating in weekly demonstrations against the barrier that separates the people of Bil’in from their own farmland.

Among other things, Abu Rahmah was arrested in the past for possession of spent tear gas grenades the Israeli army shot at protesters in Bil’in. The indictment, in which he was not convicted, referred to the used grenades as “weaponry.”

A display of spent tear gas canisters for which Abu Rahmah was indicted but not convicted. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

A display of spent tear gas canisters for which Abu Rahmah was indicted but not convicted, Bil’in, January 3, 2010. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

This week Abu Rahmah was convicted by a military court of obstructing the work of a soldier. The incident occurred in 2012 when he attempted to stop a bulldozer from clearing the route for the construction of a fence in the Beitunia area of the West Bank. According to AFP, Abu Rahmah’s conviction will include a four-month suspended sentence for an arrest in 2009, in addition to another that the court will decide on in the beginning of December.

Abu Rahmah’s attorney, Gaby Lasky, told AFP that the conviction is part of the army’s continual harassment of non-violent activists. The indictment is politically rather than criminally motivated, she added.

Regarding Abu Rahmah’s previous arrest, it is important to clarify that any and all Palestinian protests in the West Bank are illegal under Israeli military law. Therefore, any march is also deemed illegal. In addition, the crime of “incitement” does not necessarily refer to incitement to violence, but rather to any form of demonstration or protest.

Related:
+972 Magazine’s 2010 Person of the Year: Abdullah Abu Rahmah
PHOTOS: What the press missed in Bil’in tear gas flower garden
WATCH: Hundreds commemorate nine years of popular struggle in Bil’in

A version of this article was first published on +972′s Hebrew-language sister site, Local Call. Read it in Hebrew here.

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Surviving winter after surviving ISIS: A testimony by a Yazidi refugee http://972mag.com/after-surviving-isis-yazidi-refugees-brace-for-harsh-winter/97920/ http://972mag.com/after-surviving-isis-yazidi-refugees-brace-for-harsh-winter/97920/#comments Wed, 22 Oct 2014 18:43:56 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=97920 Since the beginning of August, an estimated 350,000 Yazidi internally displaced persons (IDP) have been living in villages, towns and various refugee camps in Iraqi Kurdistan, Syria and Turkey. While most of those who found refuge have taken shelter in local school classrooms, construction sites or under bridges, the IDPs who have been placed in refugee camps were housed in tents, some of which were provided by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Last week, as the first rains hit Iraqi Kurdistan, the Yazidi refugee camps quickly became mud traps. Should refugees not be put in caravans, these camps could potentially become the site of the next disaster to befall the Yazidis. Saad al-Avdal offers a first-hand account from Khanik, one of the largest and most densely populated refugee camps in Iraqi Kurdistan.

By Saad al-Avdal (translated by Idan Barir)

In the name of God, the compassionate, the merciful.

I do not know where or how to begin. I simply do not know. Let me start on August 3, 2014, that black and horrific day, when my family, as well as all the Ezidkhan [a general name for all Yezidi people] fell victim to genocide by the gangs of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), to the abduction of women and children and to the ruthless killing of anyone who got in their way. On that day, all of us who escaped their filthy murderous hands, were forced to flee to Mount Sinjar (Shingal) and stay there for a more than a week without the food or water that exceeds the minimum we were able to obtain in order to survive the terrible hunger and thirst.

This was the state of affairs in the particular area on the mountain where I stayed with my family. However, in other parts of the mountain there were people who could not even obtain this bare minimum – a piece of bread and some drinking water. As a result, hundreds, potentially thousands, of children, elderly and sick people died while still on the mountain.

The Yazidi refugee camp, Khanek (photo: Saad al-Avdal)

The Yazidi refugee camp, Khanek (photo: Saad al-Avdal)

So as not to tire you with the horror stories from Mount Sinjar, let me describe the rescue story: on August 9 and 10, a group of fighters from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) opened a safe corridor to rescue us across the Syrian border. The corridor was located roughly 20 miles north of the mountain, through Syrian territory, back to Iraqi Kurdistan territory. As soon as we got to Iraqi Kurdistan, we all breathed a sigh of relief and had a sense of security. However, soon thereafter, we were all engulfed by a sense of distress as more than 450,000 people were displaced and forced to flee to Iraqi Kurdistan and each of us scattered in different regions of the Kurdish region. Some 15,000 Yazidis remained in Syria and another 50,000 crossed into Turkish soil.

Meanwhile, more than 5,000 dead and more than 7,000 abductees have been reported by families in the various refugee camps. These figures are but a reminder of the magnitude of the calamity that has hit the Yazidis.

The Yazidi refugee camp, Khanek (photo: Saad al-Avdal)

The Yazidi refugee camp, Khanek (photo: Saad al-Avdal)

The refugee camp of Khanik, whose land is muddy and swampy, is now home to more than 700 Yazidi families. True, this is Kurdish territory, but the services provided to refugees are terribly scarce. Last Thursday night, following heavy rains, another disaster befell us when the tents in the camp collapsed and the heavy rain flooded them up to our legs. As a result, several elderly people died in the camp and an ambulance that was called to evacuate them ran over two children, killing them instantly.

Because of the difficult situation, we were forced to flee the camp and to find shelter, once more, in the classrooms of local schools. We therefore find ourselves forced to appeal to governmental organizations, human rights organizations, non-governmental organizations, civil society organizations, UNICEF and all relevant international organizations. We call on them to intervene immediately in this critical situation in order to save the surviving Yazidis, who have already suffered the bloody fate of 74 Firmanat (genocidal campaigns) throughout their history.

The Yazidi refugee camp, Khanek (photo: Saad al-Avdal)

The Yazidi refugee camp, Khanek (photo: Saad al-Avdal)

Every time it starts to rain in our camp, we fear for the lives of our children and our elderly, who are exposed to the bitter cold and the danger of slipping on the muddy ground. We also face the danger of fire, which causes us to refrain from turning on the heating in our tents. If this is the situation in the fall, what will be our fate during the harsh Kurdistan winter, unless international aid organizations supply caravans and winter clothing for the IDPs in the camps?

Our suffering is endless, even if we, the Yazidi people, do all we can to remain steadfast in the face of these calamities.

The author is a Yazidi IDP currently living in the refugee camp of Khanik, near Duhok. Prior to the ISIS invasion of Sinjar in early August, he lived in the village Zorava, north of Mount Sinjar.

Related:
Why Israel must help the Kurds in Iraq
The Kurds must not be abandoned again, this time to ISIS

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‘Klinghoffer’: New York’s Jewish right goes to the opera http://972mag.com/klinghoffer-new-yorks-jewish-right-goes-to-the-opera/97929/ http://972mag.com/klinghoffer-new-yorks-jewish-right-goes-to-the-opera/97929/#comments Wed, 22 Oct 2014 15:36:02 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=97929 Now that ‘The Death of Klinghoffer’ has opened and people are learning what the opera is actually about, the outraged claims made against it are being exposed as hot air.    

Until Monday night, when the “The Death of Klinghoffer” opened at New York’s Metropolitan Opera, people knew it was being attacked by many Jews for supposedly being anti-Semitic and for defending terrorists, and they didn’t know if the accusations were true or false. But now that the opera has opened, and it’s been widely reviewed, and audience members have been interviewed, it’s becoming clear to the mainstream public that pays attention to such issues – and this controversy has attracted a lot of attention – that these claims are total bullshit.

And what should be clear, though it probably isn’t, is that the protest against the opera, the raging campaign to prevent it from being staged at the Met, was not made by “American Jews” or even “New York Jews,” but by the anti-Muslim, anti-liberal, pro-war American Jewish right based in New York – the same people whose word should never be taken for anything.

As the right-wing Orthodox Jewish Press noted helpfully in an article titled “For Grass Roots Klinghoffer Protest, Jewish Establishment MIA”:

Not one mainstream Jewish organization has lent its name or its resources to this effort. …

The mostly small, and some quite tiny pro-Israel organizations which have been working tirelessly to fight the Met’s decision to stage “Klinghoffer” are (this is all of them): Advocates for Israel, AMCHA, Americans for a Safe Israel, the Bridge Project, Citizens Opposed to Propaganda Masquerading as Art, Catholic League, Christians’ Israel Public Action Campaign, Congregation Oheb Zedek, Congregaton Or Zarua, Endowment for Middle East Truth, Hasbara Fellowship, Human Rights Coalition Against Radical Islam, International Committee for the Land of Israel, Israel Forever Foundation, Israel’s Voice, JCCWatch.org, Jewish Action Alliance, Jewish Political Education Foundation, MERCL, Mothers Against Terrorism, One Israel Fund, Rambam Mesivta High School, Shalhevet High School for Girls, Simon Wiesenthal Center, StandWithUs, Strength to Strength, Westchester Hebrew High School, Zionist Organization of America.

This is not to say, though, that it was entirely a fringe effort; a former New York governor and a few local politicians lent their names to the protest. Ronald Lauder, one of the biggest right-wing machers in the world, was on the podium at the rally across from Lincoln Center. Rudolph Giuliani, possibly this crowd’s single favorite gentile, was the guest of honor, and while he argued against forcing “Klinghoffer” to shut down and didn’t accuse it of anti-Semitism, he complained that it was guilty of “historical inaccuracy and historical damage.” In an article in the Daily Beast, he lamented that the opera, first staged in 1991, was partly responsible for the Oslo Accords.

But the giveaway that the attacks on “The Death of Klinghoffer” were the product of the most closed-minded, ultra-nationalistic, bigoted reaches of organized New York Jewry was that the emcee at Monday night’s protest rally was Jeffrey Weisenfeld. Weisenfeld came to fame a few years ago when he blocked a New York college from giving playwright Tony Kushner an honorary doctorate because Kushner wrote (correctly) that Israel carried out ethnic cleansing in the War of Independence. At the time Weisenfeld said, “My mother would call Tony Kushner a kapo.” He also said Palestinians were “not human” because they “worship death for their children.” A couple of years ago he told me in an interview that it wasn’t enough for Israel to destroy Iran’s nuclear weapons, it had to destroy all its enemies’ conventional missiles, too. ”Israel can’t go on living with 200,000 missiles pointing at it,” he said.

Another star of the protest was, inevitably, “America’s rabbi,” Shmuley Boteach, scourge of Israel’s critics and sycophant to the rich and famous.

In retrospect, it should have been obvious from the names associated with the protest that the claims against the opera were nonsense. Furthermore, even Anti-Defamation League head Abraham Foxman said the opera “is not anti-Semitic” (though he did harrumph that it is “highly problematic and has a strong anti-Israel bias …”) One just has to ask himself: Would New York’s Metropolitan Opera put on an anti-Semitic production? Would it glorify terrorism? And if anybody were going to glorify terrorism, would they do it by showing terrorists on a hijacked cruise ship shooting an old man in a wheelchair and throwing him overboard?

But again, nobody had seen the opera. People were not aware that this wasn’t American Jewry making accusations, this was hysterical right-wing American Jewry making accusations. And finally, the protest was given legitimacy by the moral leadership provided by Leon Klinghoffer’s daughters, Lisa and Ilsa. In a letter included in the playbill given to members of the audience, they wrote that the opera “presents false moral equivalencies without context, and offers no real insight into the historical reality and the senseless murder of an American Jew. It rationalizes, romanticizes and legitimizes the terrorist murder of our father.”

Lisa and Ilsa Klinghoffer’s motives are pure; they’re acting out of personal anguish and whatever they say or do with regard to the opera is understandable and irreproachable. Not so at all for the protest’s rank and file, though, and unfortunately the Klinghoffer daughters’ immunity from criticism was transferred, to a large degree, to the protest itself. Whether or not the Klinghoffer daughters or the protesters intended it, the effect on the public watching the controversy play out was a kind of emotional blackmail: If the victim’s daughters say the opera glorifies terrorism, who am I to say it doesn’t, especially when I haven’t seen it?

But again, this changed after Monday night when the reviews came in, and when audience members who’d actually seen the play (unlike the protesters) began talking about it. Here’s Jordan Hoffman’s review in the Times of Israel, a centrist website:

The [protesters’] problem with the work … seemed to stem from the fact that the opera does not portray the hijackers as mindless bloodthirsty monsters, but dares to give the men and their cause a degree of backstory.

That it also shows these men shooting an innocent elderly man in cold blood and concludes with a heartbreaking aria from his widow didn’t seem to carry much weight with this bunch, nor did any discussion of whether representation in a work of fiction automatically means endorsement.

Here’s Adam Langer in The Forward, a liberal Zionist publication, after seeing a dress rehearsal:

Does the opera, as some protesters have contended, idealize terrorism or condone murder? Of course not. If anything, it seems to be an impassioned and perhaps naive plea for dialogue and mutual understanding.

That’s from the Times of Israel and the Forward, there’s no need to quote New York Times reviewer Anthony Tommasini’s dismissal of the protesters’ claims. But what the hell:

In the libretto, the murder takes place offstage. Here, it is depicted explicitly, which should silence detractors who charge that “Klinghoffer” explains away a vicious murder.

For the reactions of audience members, see here and here. The opening-night performance got “tremendous” ovations at the end, according to the Times. A lot of the people cheering – maybe even most of them – were New York Jews, which is important to remember.

Myself, I didn’t see the opera but I did read the libretto (the words), and I have to say that from that alone, I didn’t understand the opera’s message; the lines are written in lyric poetry, and most of it I couldn’t make heads or tails of. But there were some parts literal enough for me to understand, such as the “heartbreaking aria from [Klinghoffer’s] widow” that ends the opera, and the crudely anti-Semitic remarks spoken by a killer named “Rambo.” Plus, of course, I knew that the opera shows Palestinian terrorists murdering an old Jewish man in a wheelchair. So while I still don’t know what the opera’s message is, I damn sure know what it isn’t.

Related:
Anti-Semitism has no place in Palestine advocacy
A distorted portrait of Palestinian ‘anti-Semitism’

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For the Israeli media, Gazan lives are little more than expendable http://972mag.com/for-the-israeli-media-gaza-lives-are-expendable/97927/ http://972mag.com/for-the-israeli-media-gaza-lives-are-expendable/97927/#comments Wed, 22 Oct 2014 13:35:06 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=97927 Nearly two months after the end of Operation Protective Edge, the Israeli media refuses to ask the difficult questions. Who decided that killing entire families is now allowed? What is the justification for doing so? And why won’t the army explain why it killed five members of the Joudah family?

Why doesn’t anyone care about the Joudah family? Nearly two months have passed since Israeli Air Force pilots bombed their yard in Gaza, killing the mother of the family and four of her children. Until today, the IDF has not published an explanation of the incident. Actually, almost no one has bothered to ask. A mother and four of her children were sitting in their yard and were killed with no prior notice, and the Israeli media doesn’t deem this worthy of a story. Why?

It happened on August 24. According to Issam Joudah’s testimony, the family was sitting in the shade of their yard in order to get some fresh air during the hot summer months. Issam was making coffee in the house when the missile exploded in the yard, killing his wife and four of his children. Only two children survived – one of them was badly wounded and is undergoing rehabilitation in Germany.

Palestinian children carry goods that were rescued from the village of Khuza'a, which has undergone of intense attacks and was largely destroyed during the Israeli offensive.

Palestinian children carry goods that were rescued from the village of Khuza’a, which has undergone of intense attacks and was largely destroyed during the Israeli offensive.

Why was the home bombed? The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit had this to say: “We do not respond to specific events, the updates on investigations that have been opened can be accessed via the Military Advocate General’s website.” Scanning the website, one cannot find the Joudah family’s name, but rather a list of seven incidents that took place during Operation Protective Edge that the Military Advocate General decided to investigate. That’s it. Any further questions were not answered by the IDF Spokesperson.

As I previously wrote, the Yedioth Ahronoth daily did not even report on the deaths of the family. Not a single word has been written about the bombing since. Even media outlets that initially reported on the deaths of the family members did not come back and demand answers from the army.

And really, why should they demand them? It’s just another incident, after all. Another family. One of more than 70 families who were bombed in a similar fashion, some of them much larger. The dead members of the Joudah family are just five out of over 540 family members who were killed in their homes, among them 250 minors. And if we don’t demand answers for all those deaths, what makes the Joudah family so special?

Nothing. The only thing that makes the Joudah family special is that I read more about them than any other family, not to mention the fact that Yedioth completely ignoring their deaths. Or perhaps it is that that blogger Awni Farhat interviewed the father of the family last month (Hebrew). Or that the photo he took of Rawan Sabah, friend of Raghed Joudah, still lingers in my mind. It could have been any other family. Each family and its “specific incident.”

Rawan Sabah sits next to where her friend, Ra'ed Joudah, used to sit in class. Joudah was killed by an Israeli airstrike along with five of her family members. (photo: Awni Farhat)

Rawan Sabah sits next to where her friend, Raghed Joudah, used to sit in class. Joudah was killed by an Israeli airstrike along with five of her family members. (photo: Awni Farhat)

But we simply do not hear these stories anywhere. Even two months after the fighting ended, no media outlet has seen fit to go back and examine exactly what happened there: How did Israel’s policy change since the assassination of Salah Shehade in 2002? Who decided that it is now logical to blow up entire families? Which intelligence, air force, state attorney or military command experts sat down and agreed that the killing of hundreds of innocent civilians is justified if there is a suspicion that a Hamas member is in the area? Is it true that there was a Hamas member or rockets near every home that was blown up or family that was decimated? Is this what happened in the case of the Joudah family?

These questions remain unanswered. The media, and most likely the Israeli public, simple don’t care for the answers. One need only remember the way in which the horrifying murder of the Fogel family was covered, in order to examine the differences in media coverage between incidents where Israelis are killed by Palestinians, and those in which Palestinians are killed by Israelis.

This article was first published on +972′s Hebrew-language sister site, Local Call. Read it in Hebrew here.

Related:
Gaza deaths aren’t worth a mention in leading Israeli newspaper
PHOTOS: Gaza’s children face an uncertain future

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The Beaten Path: Baha’i Haifa, Banana St. and the ultimate Other (part 3) http://972mag.com/the-beaten-path-bahai-haifa-banana-st-and-the-ultimate-other-part-3/97525/ http://972mag.com/the-beaten-path-bahai-haifa-banana-st-and-the-ultimate-other-part-3/97525/#comments Tue, 21 Oct 2014 15:59:03 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=97525 From afar, the flight of the fancy complex and the boxy city appear rather harmonious. It is upon close inspection that they are revealed to be made up of entirely contradicting notions. The second stop on Yuval Ben-Ami’s journey to deconstruct Israel’s well-worn tourist trail is something of an exception, in every sense of the word. Welcome to Haifa’s Baha’i Gardens.

Photo by Yuval Ben-Ami Haifa

The view from the Baha’i Gardens (Photo by Yuval Ben-Ami)

A few weeks ago, my dear friend Osnat had an interesting experience on the slopes of Mt. Carmel. It happened when she came to visit the famed Baha’i Gardens: an astounding pillar of greenery rising up from Haifa’s port district, crowned by the golden-domed Mausoleum.

The group climbed down the higher tiers of the garden, descending toward the Tomb of the Bab – the Baha’i faith’s major prophet. There are 18 tiers in all. They reflect the pillars of faith as described by the Bab, and also provide a fairly nice framework for a guided tour. A basic introduction is given at the top, with a splendid view of the bay. A few steps down, features of the garden can be pointed out, and one or two tiers later it’s time for a Q&A session.

Osnat asks: “So say I would like to become Baha’i, how would I go about it?”

This was a real conversation killer. The tour was in Hebrew, and Jews are deeply sensitive about proselytizing, while the Israeli state frowns on it severely. Consequently, all religions besides Judaism practice extreme care not to offer a pathway to the light. Osnat says she heard the group fall uneasily silent. Some may have suspected that she was “planted” to bring up the question. The guide had to quickly make clear that this is not the case. “The Baha’is do not accept Israeli converts,” she said, “so as to not meddle with the already complex fabric of this country.”

Fair enough. To the best of my knowledge, Osnat has no real inclination for becoming Baha’i (she beautifully described her very real journey of identity as a second generation Russian-Israeli here). She is, however, an authentically curious person. And so a few tiers down, on the central platform of the garden surrounding the tomb, she came up with an even more risqué question:

“There are all sort of stories about things that are inside the mountain,” she said, “Some people say they keep rocket launchers there. Where do you think these stories originate?”

This would have been more easily answered had there been nothing inside the mountain. But a television exposé released nearly a decade ago showed the mountain below the gardens to be largely hollow. The producers obtained footage of a large scale auditorium and something resembling a supermarket.

“It’s a shelter,” the guide explained, She added that “people have wild imaginations,” that she has heard many conspiracy theories and that some people believe the Baha’is keep live dinosaurs in subterranean caves.

The mystery component

I muse on this anecdote as I ride the train to Haifa. It provides a fine key for unlocking the second stop of the journey. To the naked eye, the Baha’i complex in Haifa is first and foremost a breathtakingly beautiful place, but there’s so much more to it. It is also an extraordinary study in “otherness” within the Israeli and Palestinian framework. It is a bastion of the ultimate outsider, one that forces us to reevaluate our own identities.

The Baha’is are Middle Eastern but they are neither Palestinian nor Arab. The religion originated in Iran and the aesthetic of the Haifa gardens, as well as those in Akko, betrays the love of symmetry found in Persian gardens. The Baha’is are also Western but they are not Ashkenazi-Jewish, nor is their presence part of a global consumerist culture. When we meet one, he or she is often American. The Haifa complex, complete with a library and a conference hall, is strongly reminiscent of Salt Lake’s Temple Square or the Boston headquarters of Christian Science.

Then again, when do we ever meet one? The elders of the faith forbid Baha’is from living in the Holy Land, so as to prevent them from getting involved in its religious wars. The guides are most frequently not Baha’i, though the guards are. My only real conversations with Baha’is took place abroad. It was overseas that I learned of their religion’s tolerance for all other faiths (apart from atheism), its unique history, the plight of Baha’is under the Islamic regime in Iran and more.

Those who are absent can only be seen as a mystery, and every visit to this embassy of a nonexistent country is an attempt at cracking the mystery a bit further. The train arrives at Haifa’s waterfront and I take a bus to the mountaintop, hoping to make it to the noon English-language tour, which is the last of the day. Unfortunately, my new status as a tourist seems to be getting to me and I find myself on the wrong bus.

I call Ruthie, my girlfriend, to moan. “If you’re only five minutes late, they’ll probably let you join late,” she suggests.

“Do you think so? I think they’re pretty tough.”

“Who knows. It’s in Israel, maybe they won’t start on time anyway.”

Yes. The “others” are so foreign that we don’t even know by what sense of time they function.

I end up arriving 20 minutes too late. Past the locked gate is a member of the staff, a Palestinian citizen of Israel. I ask her if I may join the tour in the middle, and mention that I am working on a series dealing with tourist attractions in the Holy Land.

“No you may not join the tour in the middle,” she says, “and you may not write anything about the Baha’is without permission of the Baha’is.”

“You know,” I smile, “the rule of the thumb is that so long as libel is not involved, a journalist may write about any group or organization freely.”

“Not the Baha’is,” she states firmly.

Very well. I walk away. The topmost tier may be visited without a guide, and the same goes for the shrine of the Bab itself. I take some photos at the top, then follow the streets down to the temple, only to find out that it is already inaccessible. The opening hours of the Baha’i grounds are even shorter than that of a typical Israeli government office. I come to wonder whether the Baha’is consciously preserve their status as mysteries through unwelcoming policies such as this, or whether being a mystery in this land is such a bad idea in the first place.

How Banana Street came to be

For want of a tour or a community to engage with, I take in as much as I can of the gardens’ extraordinary aesthetics, especially enjoying the large-scale stone eagles that overlook the steps. The bones of the Bab were brought to the Holy Land in 1909, the same year the first kibbutz was established. A decade or so later, Zionism began to adopt modernist aesthetics, and it is modernism that defines today’s Haifa.

Interestingly, when viewed from afar, the flight of the fancy complex and the boxy city appear rather harmonious. It is upon close inspection that they are revealed to be made up of entirely contradicting notions. Looking down toward the port and the neighborhoods at the foot of the Carmel Mountain, I am reminded of an incident in which these notions clashed.

It happened sometime during the 1990s when the city of Haifa decided to renovate the “German Colony,” a lovely strip of stone dwellings built by the Templars — a German Christian society that settled many corners of the land in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

When the Baha’i establishment caught wind of this, they approached the municipality with a request. It turns out that the street running between the German Colony’s houses points almost directly from the tomb of the Bab to that of Bahá’u'lláh, the faith’s holiest figure. Bahá’u'lláh is buried in the city of Akko, across the bay. It would only take a slight shifting of the street, a 10-degree shift to the east, in order for a symbolic finger to point precisely from the tomb of the prophet to that of the messiah.

Sorry, said the city of Haifa, we are not shifting a street that is part of a coherent grid and is lined with historical buildings. As a matter of fact, we are not shifting any street.

I had the pleasure of interviewing a member of the city council on the issue, for the sake of my book, Wonderland, an exploration of oddities in Israel. The council member said that she does not recall a more demanding negotiation in all of her years in office. The Baha’is wanted their finger and were not taking no for an answer. The compromise that was eventually reached is either absurd, genius or both. The street was lined with roundabouts and at each roundabout it shifted ever so slightly, invisibly, to the east. The final tilt comes up to less than one degree, but if this newly-formed arch were to extend across the bay, its tip would touch the resting place of Bahá’u'lláh.

Say what you will of this country. Along a single axis, extending down a single mountain, it gives you a banana shaped street, a mountain of live dinosaurs and the most beautiful gardens west of Isfahan, so much devotion and so many potential misunderstandings.

Read parts one and two of Yuval Ben-Ami’s series, “The Beaten Path.”

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Ultra-Orthodox Jews tear down ‘bat mitzvah’ ads in Jerusalem http://972mag.com/ultra-orthodox-jews-tear-down-bat-mitzvah-ads-in-jerusalem/97905/ http://972mag.com/ultra-orthodox-jews-tear-down-bat-mitzvah-ads-in-jerusalem/97905/#comments Tue, 21 Oct 2014 13:23:49 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=97905 Buses carrying ‘Women of the Wall’ advertisements are vandalized and attacked; until earlier this year the Egged bus company refused to run ads featuring photos of women in Jerusalem.

Unlike the majority of Jewish communities in western countries, most girls in Israel do not usually have bat mitzvah ceremonies. A new Jerusalem campaign promoting the right of girls to have the ceremonies at the Western Wall has been met with violence by ultra-Orthodox elements in the city.

Busses carrying the advertisements, paid for by Women of the Wall, have been vandalized and the posters themselves ripped off of public buses. Half of the ads were vandalized, according to the Egged public bus company’s advertising agency.

The posters, which carry Hebrew text saying, “Mom, I want a bat mitzvah at the motel, too,” also feature photos of a bat mitzvah-aged girl and her mother.

A damaged 'Women of the Wall' ad on an Egged bus in Jerusalem, October 21, 2014. (Courtesy of Women of the Wall)

A damaged ‘Women of the Wall’ ad on an Egged bus in Jerusalem, October 21, 2014. (Courtesy of Women of the Wall)

Police reportedly had to extricate a bus carrying the ad that was attacked by ultra-Orthodox protesters in Jerusalem in recent days.

The marginalization of women in public spaces

At issue is more than just the idea of young women partaking in bat mitzvah ceremonies. Placing images of any women on public advertisements has been a point of serious contention in Jerusalem for years, part of a larger public struggle against pressure from ultra-Orthodox Israelis to marginalize women in public spaces.

For years, Egged, Israel’s most prominent public bus company, had refused to carry advertisements that featured images of women on bus lines in cities with large ultra-orthodox populations like Jerusalem. Ultra-Orthodox communities claim that just displaying photos of women is “indecent.”

Only half a year ago did the company agree — as part of a high-profile court settlement — to begin accepting advertisements featuring women. The settlement was only possible because the state agreed to cover physical damage to Egged’s buses caused by vandalism related to ads featuring women.

Two years earlier, the bus company decided to stop running advertisements featuring any people, men or women, in order to avoid being accused of discrimination while appeasing the ultra-Orthodox community.

Responding to the latest violence and vandalism, Women of the Wall leader Lesley Sachs said, “It is sad to yet again see the ultra-Orthodox citizens take the law into their own hands and use Judaism as an excuse for the use of force, threat and violence against women. We call on ultra-Orthodox leadership to strongly denounce this act of violence and all others.”

One of the young women featured on Women of the Wall’s current ad campaign plans to hold her bat mitzvah at the Western Wall Plaza this coming Friday. Police, however, have many times in the past prevented Women of the Wall from bringing their Torah scroll into the plaza.

The group and other non-Orthodox streams of Judaism negotiated a deal with the Israeli government to build an egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall Plaza, although the plan has yet to be fully realized.

Related:
3 women arrested while praying at Western Wall in 24 hours
Supporting roles: Men stand in solidarity with Women of the Wall
‘Why I cannot stand with Women of the Wall’

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WATCH: Reflections on Gaza — from Likud to ‘Women Waging Peace’ http://972mag.com/watch-reflections-on-gaza-from-likud-to-women-waging-peace/97902/ http://972mag.com/watch-reflections-on-gaza-from-likud-to-women-waging-peace/97902/#comments Tue, 21 Oct 2014 11:20:58 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=97902 Over a month after this summer’s devastating Gaza war, small groups of Israelis are starting to reflect on what was and what will be. From a debate hosted by the youth wing of Israel’s ruling Likud party to a new group called Women Waging Peace and the Parents Circle forum of bereaved families, Social TV visits with those who are ready to start talking.

Related:
Channeling loss to stimulate change: 71 days of dialogue
In my name, in your name, in all of our names

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How the very concept of human rights has failed Palestinians http://972mag.com/how-the-very-concept-of-human-rights-has-failed-palestinians/97883/ http://972mag.com/how-the-very-concept-of-human-rights-has-failed-palestinians/97883/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 12:53:11 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=97883 Certain rights should be inalienable — yet Israel refuses to grant them to Palestinians and the world continues to treat the country as a rights-based democracy. What does this absurdity say about human rights as a political tool, and about the powers, entities and institutions that speak in their name?

Human Rights March 2009 (Naama Saar Stavy)

Human Rights March 2009 (Naama Saar Stavy)

Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee chairman MK David Rotem laid out some of his beliefs and world views in an extensive interview with Israeli financial daily Globes a few weeks ago. One of Rotem’s statements – which made the headline of the piece – was that “human rights are [reserved] for people who are citizens of the state.”

Rotem was referring the Israeli High Court of Justice’s decision to strike down, for the second time, an amendment to the “anti-Infiltration Law,” which authorized the prolonged imprisonment of asylum seekers who entered the country illegally. The final word in this legal battle has yet to be said, as Rotem’s committee will soon discuss and advance yet a third version of the law, which in all likelihood will be also be challenged before the High Court.

Yet when it comes to Israel’s decades-long occupation in the West Bank and Gaza, Rotem’s statement captures the entire logic of the system. This logic is tolerated, and often even accepted, by entities and institutions that see themselves as guardians of human rights. In that sense, that fact that a man like Rotem now heads the Israeli parliament’s constitutional committee is more telling than it seems. Human rights here are not a given, but something that are reserved for one category of people and deprived from another.

* * *

Many 20th century scholars, even liberal ones, have expressed doubts about the effectiveness of human rights as a political concept that can be used for advancing freedom and dignity for all human beings.

The fact that these “inalienable” rights were quickly attached to the concept of “national rights” and citizenship is even more troubling. Jewish philosopher Hanna Arendt pondered the fate of the person who is not entitled to citizenship – making it “legal” to strip him of his human rights, too. The result is a “legitimate” form of abuse, which could actually be worse than what preceded the idea of the “inalienable rights.”

This might sound too abstract — until one looks at the Palestinian case. The Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza comprise an indigenous population, and are a people who were uprooted from their homes in 1947-1948, only to be reconquered by Israel 19 years later. Neither group has Israeli citizenship — or any citizenship for that matter. They don’t even have the legal status of “permanent residents,” as do Palestinians of East Jerusalem. They are the subjects of a military regime.

Israeli soldiers blindfold and arrest a young Palestinian man in Hebron. (photo: Activestills.org)

Israeli soldiers blindfold and arrest a young Palestinian man in Hebron. (photo: Activestills.org)

Under the military regime, Palestinians can have their private property destroyed or confiscated at the discretion of the military commander (and in most cases don’t even have the right to appeal such decisions); their freedom to travel outside the West Bank, and sometimes even within it, depends on special permits given by the military commander; they cannot build without the approval of the military commander, thousands can be deported from their homes with the stroke of a commander’s pen; every political assembly or protest can be deemed illegal unless it was given the permission of the military commander, and; they can be imprisoned, tortured or even killed without trial or due process.

Naturally, when it comes to the decisions of the military commander, Palestinians have no say and no mechanisms for accountability. The army and the Defense Ministry, the sovereign in the West Bank, rule as they see fit. In other words, every Palestinian in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, regardless of their actions, has had his or her civil rights and many of their human rights revoked.

* * *

There is something misleading about the term “occupation” because, in theory, it represents a temporary state of affairs. And while it is true that the international legal system allows the temporary revocation of some rights of an occupied population, Israel’s occupation is permanent. It might not have been this way in the late 1960s, when it wasn’t clear what was in store for the territories Israel captured in the Six Day War. But once the Israeli government started settling its own population in the occupied territory — and even more so, once it began arguing before its own court that such settlements are within its rights — this debate regarding the transience of the occupation should have ended.

People tend to confuse “permanent” with “eternal.” The Israeli occupation is not eternal — no institution is — but it is as permanent as can be in this world. It’s already lasted longer than the post-WWII Soviet bloc, for example. Israel itself stopped treating the OPT as occupied, now viewing them as territories held by Israel under a different status than the rest of the state. Therefore, the act of revoking the rights of an entire category of people is also permanent.

This is something that, in theory, can’t been reconciled with the idea of human rights. How could we deny the inalienable rights? Yet the very same political entities that speak in the name of rights have come to tolerate, accept, and even cooperate and support holding of a certain category of people without said rights.

The international community as a whole tends to view the Palestinian issue as a problem of war and peace, or as a diplomatic issue, rather than an issue of rights. Instead of demanding to immediately return the Palestinians their rights (because rights are inalienable and cannot be revoked in the first place), and only then discuss where those rights will be exercised (within the State of Israel or within a new Palestinian state), the rights were forgotten and the debate focused exclusively on the issue of the state. On a side note, this is also where the deep roots of the failure to reach an agreement lie. The heart of the matter was, and still is, being ignored.

The institutions that speak the language of rights are the very ones that sealed the denial of the Palestinians’ rights. The Israeli Supreme Court, for example, will review cases from the OPT, but it will not uphold Israel’s basic laws (the closest thing the country has to a constitution) in the West Bank and Gaza. The High Court rejects or refuses to hear most petitions from Palestinians, and when it does, it usually approves all the major policies of the occupation – from the confiscation of land, to the transfer of prisoners, to deportations, to imprisonment without trial (“administrative detention”), to torture and targeted assassinations. The court has set certain guidelines and limits on those measures, but the underlying notion that Palestinians have no rights — and can therefore be treated differently than Israeli citizens — has never been questioned.

Once the court accepted this logic it went on to its mini-constitutional revolution of the 1990s, which won it the label of an activist institution. This too was all about rights — but these were the rights of the privileged class: citizens.

Onward, to the world: the United States, which endowed upon the world the very idea of inalienable rights, is preventing the Palestinians from taking their case to international courts. The Palestinians are regarded by all American administrations as people who need to pass various thresholds and litmus tests if they are ever to win back their (inalienable) rights. So far, they haven’t passed those tests — so their current legal status has become the normal state of affairs, while Palestinians’ efforts to challenge it are regarded as “unilateral” acts which need to be punished.

The European Union views its normative power on human rights issues as one of its sources of pride. Some see it as the essence or the EU’s legitimacy. The 1995 trade agreement between the EU and Israel even includes a clause in this spirit:

Relations between the Parties, as well as all the provisions of the Agreement itself, shall be based on respect for human rights and democratic principles, which guides their internal and international policy and constitutes an essential element of this Agreement.

Yet the EU never attempted to reconcile these words with the existence of a population living without rights in the West Bank and Gaza. And when it did, instead of questioning the entire agreement, the EU duplicated the Israeli distinction between the “regions of rights” and the “regions of no-rights,” by moving to exclude the West Bank from the agreement. I support the EU policies regarding the settlements, but we should keep in mind that they don’t address the issue of rights; they only allow the EU to feel less complicit in their abuse.

We can go on with these examples (how about the American Jewish community – considered the most liberal in the States – and its ongoing refusal to view the Palestinian issue as a problem of rights?), but the bottom line should be clear by now: human rights are not “inalienable,” but are rather seen as something that can be revoked by a sovereign power.

In fact, as Israel denies the rights of millions of people, it is still considered to be a rights-based democracy, and therefore a natural partner and ally to the liberal West. In other words, it is the rights-based discourse itself that has allowed Israel to revoke the rights of an entire class of people and get away with it. Maintaining the rights of some made it possible to take away the rights of others; exactly as Arendt, Giorgio Agamben and others warned could happen.

Needless to say, Israel is not a rights-based democracy, if this idea has any meaning. As I argued here a few weeks back, it’s time the Palestinian issue became a conversation about rights rather than diplomatic solutions. Until then, the failure to address the occupation as such casts a long shadow on the very concept of rights as a political and philosophical tool for bettering the human condition.

Related:
Replacing the peace process with a civil rights struggle
A rights-based discourse is the best way to fight dispossession

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Nine more Jewish families take over Silwan homes in dead of night http://972mag.com/nine-more-jewish-families-take-over-silwan-homes-in-dead-of-night/97864/ http://972mag.com/nine-more-jewish-families-take-over-silwan-homes-in-dead-of-night/97864/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 11:07:48 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=97864 If settling Jews beyond the Green Line in Palestinian East Jerusalem is legitimate, why are organizations sneaking in settlers in the middle of the night?

Nine Jewish Israeli families took over two empty buildings in the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan in East Jerusalem overnight Sunday. According to the NGO Ir Amim, the families took control over 10 housing units in two buildings in the heart of Silwan. They moved in under the auspices of Ateret Cohanim, a settler organization based in the Muslim quarter of the Old City that works to create a Jewish demographic majority in East Jerusalem.

This latest takeover comes less than a month after settlers moved into seven houses in another part of Silwan, also in the dead of night and backed by heavy security forces, courtesy of Elad, another East Jerusalem settler organization. These new moves double the number of Jews currently living in Silwan, according to Israeli media. There were no reports of confrontations during the takeover Sunday night.

Read also: In Silwan, the settlers are winning — big time

According to Haaretz, the buildings were purchased in the last year by foreign companies at the behest of the Committee for the Renewal of the Yemenite Village, which looks to restore the Yemenite community that lived in the area before the establishment of the State of Israel. This is similar to the warped rationale behind moving Jews back into the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah — which exposes the discriminatory practice in which Jews can reclaim lands from before 1948 in East Jerusalem but Palestinians cannot do the same in West Jerusalem — or anywhere throughout Israel.

Silwan, East Jerusalem (image: activestills)

Silwan, East Jerusalem (photo: Activestills)

Speaking at a dedication ceremony for a road in memory of late Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Shamir on Sunday in Jerusalem, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin addressed the situation in the city, specifically alluding to settlements in Silwan:

Jerusalem cannot be a city in which building takes place in secret, or where moving into apartments happens in the dead of night. We must bear responsibility for keeping Jerusalem sovereign.

We need to take the reins and manage Jerusalem in an active and straightforward way, with care and thoughtfulness. I hope that in Yitzhak Shamir’s spirit, we will know how to stand up for our undisputed right over Jerusalem, and through this right, treat her as a sovereign with all the responsibility that comes with it.

Rivlin is essentially saying that there is no reason to move Jews into East Jerusalem in a clandestine manner since Jews have an “undisputed right over Jerusalem.” He does make a point. If East Jerusalem is the legitimate, uncontested capital of Israel, then why are settler organizations sneaking people in secretly at night? The act is incriminating when, according to the president, there is no crime being committed.

This is the same president who recently appeared in a video with a Palestinian boy from Jaffa calling for equality and tolerance, pretty much the only major political voice in Israel doing so — although as head of state his office doesn’t have any actual political power. During the speech, he does indeed go on to invoke the need for Arabs and Jews to be treated equally:

It is no secret that Jerusalem is volatile. Too many violent incidents occur in East as well as in West Jerusalem. This violence, which boils into terrorism, must be stopped, and dealt with severely by the security forces and police. Even at the cost of forcible action against the rioters – whether Arab or Jew.

Jerusalem cannot be governed by groups with an interest to enflame and stoke the fires at their will. We cannot ignore the conscious attempts by different sides to incite Jerusalem’s citizens, against each other. Jerusalem wasn’t divided into tribes. She was not and will not be anybody’s hostage, or political pawn. Jerusalem must be kept as a sovereign city with a responsibility to all its inhabitants, and maintaining the relations between them.

The president wants nothing more than for Jews and Arabs to get along in Jerusalem and at the same time is supporting the continued occupation of East Jerusalem.

In a statement responding to the takeover, Ir Amim wrote:

The entrance of additional settlers in Silwan is another step toward closing the window for a political solution. It is always done with the backing of the authorities, both directly and through the allocation of millions of shekels in security from the state budget.

Related:
In Silwan, the settlers are winning — big time
Elie Wiesel, Amos Yadlin congratulate E. Jerusalem settlers

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