Monday, April 30, 2007

Bedouin & Brous & Bustan - Part 5

Today is Day 14,261 of the Maintenance of the Immoral (and Illegal) West Bank Settlements and almost the 40th anniversary of the start of the immoral (and illegal) occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

Micah.6:8 “He has told you, O man, Only to do justice and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God

So much attention is appropriately devoted to the terrible illegal and immoral occupation and settlements and the terrible situation of the Palestinians. What is quite overlooked is the deplorable and shameful discrimination of the Israeli government towards the Bedouin CITIZENS OF ISRAEL LIVING IN ISRAEL.

AND NOW DEVORAH IS COMING TO THE UNITED STATES ON A FUND-RAISING TOUR. I HAVE REPRINTED HER SCHEDULE AND ENCOURAGE YOU TO EITHER HOST AN EVENT OR ATTEND ONE SO THAT YOU CAN HEAR HER DESCRIBE AND SHOW YOU SOME OF HER EXTENSIVE AND REMARKABLE HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVITIES IN WHICH SHE HAS BEEN INVOLVED.

Devorah Brous — Founder, Director BUSTAN
An American-Israeli, Brous graduated from the University of Vermont, and moved to Israel in 1993. She has spent the past 13 years catalyzing projects and designing, and running campaigns in Israel and the Occupied Territories to promote social and environmental justice. Devorah holds 2 masters degrees in Israel Studies and Peace/Conflict Studies, with a concentration in conflict transformation. In 1999, she founded BUSTAN. Brous is a writer, and an internationally-renowned speaker on the conflict between Israel and the Bedouin; Greenwashing; and the political and strategic aspects of environmental policies in the region.

BUSTAN is a partnership of Jewish and Arab eco-builders, architects, academics, and farmers promoting social and environmental justice in Israel/Palestine. BUSTAN cultivates sustainable models to effect change by combining advocacy and in-depth political analysis with strategic action. BUSTAN utilizes the principles of permaculture and non-violent direct action across ethnic divides.

Devorah will speak the unspoken and help us recognize what is 'unrecognized' in Israel's Negev - an area populated by Jews and Bedouin, rife with divisions. What can we do to catalyze and steward a healthy and sustainable connection with the Land, and all of its people? Is the future of the Negev a demographic battleground and a neglected, contaminated pocket of civil strife in the desert? Come and feel a gentle desert breeze and learn about BUSTAN, engaged as a vanguard of small-scale, local efforts to root social change.

TOUR SCHEDULE
May 5th - fly Tel Aviv to Newark
May 6th - Sonoma, CA - May 10th
May 10th - San Francisco, CA - May 15th
May 15th - LA - May 25th
May 25th - Maine
May 27th - Boston
May 28th - NJ, NY, PA - June 3rd
June 4th/6th - Lexington, Kentucky
June 6th - West Palm, Florida
June 9th - Newark to Tel Aviv

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
SOLAR MEDICAL EQUIPMENT CIRCULATED
TO BEDOUIN CHILDREN DENIED ACCESS TO ELECTRICITY
April 20, 2007
(Jerusalem , Israel) – Israeli Environmental Justice NGO's Children's Power Project connects children of the Negev to electricity.

Recently, the Israeli NGO BUSTAN connected 2 year-old Mohammed Abu Kaf, suffering from severe apnea and unable to breathe through the night, with a solar-powered oxygen machine. Prominent UK physicians and top scholars and administrators at Ben Gurion University attended the unveiling of the solar unit by BUSTAN in association with our partner Gil Nezer of Interdan solar company. The move is part of a wider effort called the Children's Power Project.

The Children's Power Project involves the distribution of assorted solar-powered equipment to refrigerate medications, power oxygen machines, and heat the homes of premature babies. BUSTAN is circulating the equipment throughout villages remote from roads, public transportation, and health services. 45 unrecognized Bedouin villages, constituting roughly 80,000 people, have been denied electricity by the Israeli government. Yet even 'recognized' villages suffer lack of service and resource access: Mohammed's village, Umbatin has recently been 'recognized' by the Israeli government, yet still there is no electricity in the village.

Why is an NGO providing electricity instead of the government of Israel? In addition to working with citizens that fall through multilayered cracks in the social welfare and freemarket system, and seeking to save the lives of Bedouin children requiring access to electricity in order to recover from serious health conditions, BUSTAN's Children's Power Project is aimed at raising awareness of governmental neglect of the rights of Bedouin citizens of Israel to equitable services and a healthy environment.

BUSTAN Director Devorah Brous asserts: "Planning regulations in Israel are used in a political manner , to justify unequal provision of basic amenities and social services to its citizens. BUSTAN sees this as a manipulation of laws that should benefit all of Israel's citizens. We call on the State of Israel to facilitate fair application of the law, implement necessary regulation reforms, or where this is not possible, to have the courage to transform the fundamental structures which impede equitable and healthy relations between Arabs and Jews."

This phase of the project rides on previous successes. Two years ago, BUSTAN worked with Dr. Yusef el Atrash to build a solar powered refrigerator to chill cancer medications for his 3 year-old daughter, Enas el Atrash (see The Guardian, 2005). Today, Enas, now 4 years old, is in remission from her cancer , and her family is no longer in need of the photovoltaic system and refrigerator built with the help of the funder, Ameinu, in 2005.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, Devorah Brous : mailto:devorah@bustan.org, (972) 0523 711 800 BUSTAN: P.O. Box 6955, Jerusalem, Israel 91060http://www.bustan.org/


United Nations International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination Signed by Israel 7 March 1966: Ratified by Israel: 3 January 1979In compliance with the fundamental obligations laid down in article 2 of this Convention, (Israel) undertakes to prohibit and to eliminate racial discrimination in all its forms and to guarantee the right of everyone, without distinction as to race, colour, or national or ethnic origin, to equality before the law, notably in the enjoyment of the following rights:The right to equal treatment before the tribunals and all other organs administering justice;The right to own property alone as well as in association with others;The right to housing;The right to public health, medical care, social security and social services;The right to education and training;The right to equal participation in cultural activities.

Deutoronomy 16:20 – “Justice, justice shall you pursue that you may live and inherit the land which God gave you” and the footnote in the 1980 Hertz Edition “(T)here is international justice, which demands respect for the personality of every national group, and proclaims that no people can of right be robbed of its national life or territory, its language or spiritual heritage.”

Bedouin & Brous & Bustan - Part 4

Today is Day 14,261 of the Maintenance of the Immoral (and Illegal) West Bank Settlements and almost the 40th anniversary of the start of the immoral (and illegal) occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

Micah.6:8 “He has told you, O man, Only to do justice and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God

So much attention is appropriately devoted to the terrible illegal and immoral occupation and settlements and the terrible situation of the Palestinians. What is quite overlooked is the deplorable and shameful discrimination of the Israeli government towards the Bedouin CITIZENS OF ISRAEL LIVING IN ISRAEL.

Working with Devorah, we developed this itinerary for the fact-finding tour and visit to the region of the Bedouin villages but in spite of the effort that Joan and I put in, we were unable to obtain any commitments to join us by mid-2004 and cancelled the tour.

RECOGNIZING DIFFERENCES: BEDOUIN AND JEWS
Bustan L’Shalom Delegation
10 Days (Plus 3 day optional add-on) October 3rd to 17th, 2004)

Translation from Hebrew /Arabic to English available during each session

Day 1 – Orientation - Afternoon - Arrive at Tel Aviv, travel to hotel in (Beer Sheva/Arad) and visit Joe Allon Bedouin Museum. Evening - Group orientation session by Professor Ismael Abu Sa’ad (Founder of Center for Bedouin Studies) and Devorah Brous (Founder of Bustan L’Shalom)

Day 2 – Bedouin Villages and Townships – Morning Meet with the Regional Council for Bedouin of the Unrecognized Villages, and the Together Forum. Afternoon - Meet first Bedouin professor, Ismael Abu Sa’ad to tour government planned townships, speak to local representatives and villagers. Evening meet with Bedouin MK Taleb el Sana, Thabet Abu Rass (Shatil Director).

Day 3 – Jewish Development: Farms and Factories – Morning Visit Ramat Hovav toxic waste incinerator and meet with factory management and environmentalists Afternoon – Lunch with Israeli professors at Ben Gurion University, see new Jewish neighborhoods, single-family farms, and a Jewish development town. Meet Jewish settlers and municipal officials for tour and discussion at new Giv’ot Bar settlement. Evening – Talking Circle

Day 4 - Health and Eco-Solutions – Morning Visit and tour the “unrecognized village”, Wadi el Na’am, village #32 - N.E. Tikkun’s sister community. Tour to see Bedouin Baika housing and traditional bustan agriculture in the village. Visit the village’s new medical clinic and learn about its sustainable construction from Michal Vital (eco-architect), hear from Njiib Abu Gharibiya (the village spokesperson) and meet medical personnel at the clinic. Discuss eco-building in the desert, green technologies suited for water and sewage treatment. Afternoon – Discussion with the residents of Wadi Na’am and Dr. Yunis Abu Rabia (the first Bedouin doctor in the sector) and Aziza Abu Freh (nurse) to learn about health issues affecting the Bedouin. Evening - Sunset walk. Panorama of encircling state infrastructure. Traditional meal and a cultural presentation including meeting the village Sheikh, traditional music, Dubka dance, and Bedouin story-telling fireside.

Day 5 –Nature – Morning Visit Sde Boker Institute – learn about solar designs, alternative technologies, permaculture techniques. Afternoon -- Travel to Makhtesh Ramon, the largest crater in the world and tour and hike by jeeps or camels

Day 6 – Palestinian Bedouin – Morning Travel to Jerusalem. Meet Jeff Halper (Israel Committee Against House Demolitions), Rabbi Arik Ascherman (Rabbis for Human Rights) and others to learn about Bedouin from South Hebron Hills. Meet displaced Jahalin Bedouin community as well as their leadership. Visit Ma'ale Adumim settlement. Evening - open.

Day 7 – Shabbat and Simcha Torah Celebration (Jerusalem or the Dead Sea).

Day 8 – Women, Education and Economics – Morning Meet with dynamic Bedouin women leaders in the field of education and Jewish women leaders in Negev. Visit Bedouin girls at school with Fares Abu Ayaad, Director of Association for Negev Arab Culture and Education. Visit the Bedouin shuk for shopping and lunch. Afternoon - Visit the Laqiya Weaving Cooperative and learn the basics of weaving and its integral value to their local economy. Evening – Talking Circle

TWO OPTIONS FOR DAY 9

Day 9 – Option 1 – Political and Legal Probing
Morning Meet and discuss issues and topics of interest with Jewish municipal authorities, governmental officials and non-governmental individuals including leadership from the Israel Land Authority and/or the Jewish National Fund, and the Green Patrol. Afternoon Meet with lawyers from Association for Civil Rights in Israel and Adalah and other organizations to discuss legal actions relating to the Bedouins of the Negev. Panel Discussion – review what we have seen with Forum for Coexistence in the Negev – Dr. Yanni Nevo and Yeela Livnat -- Forum Hakara, Shatil, and Mossawa

Day 9 – Option 2 – Field Work
Morning and Afternoon – Participate in actions in the field (such as volunteering in the Wadi el Na'am medical clinic, researching water quality, planting olive trees and organic seeds, renovating and/or painting a kindergarten, or learning traditional embroidery/weaving with a women's collective.

Day 9 – Evening – For the entire delegation - Documentary Film on Bedouin.

Day 10 – Next Steps - Morning Decompress and Debrief – Identify key topics, consider courses of action and establish priorities. Afternoon - Through facilitated discussion, define follow-up activity. Return to Tel Aviv for flight home Day 11

Day 10 - 12 (FIRST OPTIONAL ADD-ON) Three days and two nights at Kibbutz Lotan – Hiking, ecology, birdwatching, and visit to the Hai Bar Biblical Wildlife Reserve and Timna Valley Park. Cost to be set later.

Day 10 – 12 (SECOND OPTIONAL ADD-ON) One day in Tel Aviv and Jaffa - Tel Aviv Museum, beach, dinner. One day in Jerusalem visiting the wall, political tour of settlements and East Jerusalem. Visit mosques, ynagogues, churches; meeting with spiritual activists and leaders and participation in Peace Vigil. Cost to be set later.

Day 13 Return to Tel Aviv for flight home


United Nations International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination Signed by Israel 7 March 1966: Ratified by Israel: 3 January 1979In compliance with the fundamental obligations laid down in article 2 of this Convention, (Israel) undertakes to prohibit and to eliminate racial discrimination in all its forms and to guarantee the right of everyone, without distinction as to race, colour, or national or ethnic origin, to equality before the law, notably in the enjoyment of the following rights:The right to equal treatment before the tribunals and all other organs administering justice;The right to own property alone as well as in association with others;The right to housing;The right to public health, medical care, social security and social services;The right to education and training;The right to equal participation in cultural activities.

Deutoronomy 16:20 – “Justice, justice shall you pursue that you may live and inherit the land which God gave you” and the footnote in the 1980 Hertz Edition “(T)here is international justice, which demands respect for the personality of every national group, and proclaims that no people can of right be robbed of its national life or territory, its language or spiritual heritage.”

Bedouin & Brous & Bustan - Part 3

Today is Day 14,261 of the Maintenance of the Immoral (and Illegal) West Bank Settlements and almost the 40th anniversary of the start of the immoral (and illegal) occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

Micah.6:8 “He has told you, O man, Only to do justice and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God

So much attention is appropriately devoted to the terrible illegal and immoral occupation and settlements and the terrible situation of the Palestinians. What is quite overlooked is the deplorable and shameful discrimination of the Israeli government towards the Bedouin CITIZENS OF ISRAEL LIVING IN ISRAEL.

Another one of the documents in the packet we forwarded to those who were interested in the fact-finding tour which we named “Recognizing Differences: Bedouin and Jews” (no one seemed to pick up on the double meaning of the title – both the idea of seeing that there were differences in the treatment of Bedouin and Jews and differences in whether your village was a recognized one). was this welcoming letter from Devorah Brous

RECOGNIZING DIFFERENCES: BEDOUIN AND JEWS
Invitation to Join a Bustan Delegation

Shalom Aleichem,

We would like to extend a warm invitation to activists from Tikkun communities across the U.S. to join a fact-finding delegation and study an aspect of territorial conflict rarely highlighted: the Negev. On many levels it is a microcosm of the larger conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

We are looking to form a diverse cadre of writers, medical practitioners, environmental lawyers, human rights advocates, teachers, mediators, organic farmers, entrepreneurs, and photographers to spend two weeks in Israel to help in our joint struggle for justice and peace. Our aim is to generate public awareness. As Israel works to 'redeem the barren landscape,' and 'make the desert bloom,' how does this impact marginalized Israeli citizens living in the Negev?

This trip is designed to familiarize the participant with socio-economic, environmental, and political questions within the context of the protracted Israeli-Palestinian conflict over land. It will offer a lens into development in the Negev, the plight of the Bedouin, and the environmental impact of military, commercial, and industrial expansion on Israel’s fragile desert ecosystem.

We aspire to offer a balanced and dynamic approach with leading voices from the left and right. You will meet Jewish and Bedouin academics, government officials, eco-architects, journalists, urban planners, and entrepreneurs. You will meet Negev Bedouin villagers, and their spiritual and political leaders. You will meet a spectrum of Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jewish Israelis, including settlers and their opponents: ecologists, and human rights activists. Further, we have arranged multiple meetings with the Jewish Agency, and Jewish National Fund decision makers to explain the rationale behind the settlement expansion and Sharon's Negev Development Plan that necessitates the forced relocation of Bedouin from the unrecognized villages into the government built townships.

As reflected in the attached itinerary, we will see new Jewish settlements, neighborhoods, and single-family farms, and learn the difference between recognized townships, and unrecognized villages. We'll examine issues such as health care, housing, assimilation, environmental degradation, and women’s empowerment. We'll spend a day hiking Mitzpe Ramon. You will have the opportunity to work in a marginalized village and volunteer your professional skills toward a more conscious Israel.

Facts are being created on the ground. At the end of the delegation, you will be able to effectively draw your own conclusions about the continued unsustainable development of the Negev. It is hoped the Bustan delegation will buttress your knowledge and enhance your ability to effectively challenge the perpetuity of conflict between Jews and Arabs. We hope you will join us.

Warmth,
Devorah Brous, Founder of Bustan
Professor Ismael Abu Sa’ad, Founder of the Center for Bedouin Studies


United Nations International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination Signed by Israel 7 March 1966: Ratified by Israel: 3 January 1979In compliance with the fundamental obligations laid down in article 2 of this Convention, (Israel) undertakes to prohibit and to eliminate racial discrimination in all its forms and to guarantee the right of everyone, without distinction as to race, colour, or national or ethnic origin, to equality before the law, notably in the enjoyment of the following rights:The right to equal treatment before the tribunals and all other organs administering justice;The right to own property alone as well as in association with others;The right to housing;The right to public health, medical care, social security and social services;The right to education and training;The right to equal participation in cultural activities.

Deutoronomy 16:20 – “Justice, justice shall you pursue that you may live and inherit the land which God gave you” and the footnote in the 1980 Hertz Edition “(T)here is international justice, which demands respect for the personality of every national group, and proclaims that no people can of right be robbed of its national life or territory, its language or spiritual heritage.”

Bedouin & Brous & Bustan - Part 2

Today is Day 14,261 of the Maintenance of the Immoral (and Illegal) West Bank Settlements and almost the 40th anniversary of the start of the immoral (and illegal) occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

Micah.6:8 “He has told you, O man, Only to do justice and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God

So much attention is appropriately devoted to the terrible illegal and immoral occupation and settlements and the terrible situation of the Palestinians. What is quite overlooked is the deplorable and shameful discrimination of the Israeli government towards the Bedouin CITIZENS OF ISRAEL LIVING IN ISRAEL.

As I mentioned in the last post, I met Devorah Brous in Santa Fe at a weekly meeting of the Santa Fe Tikkun Community and invited her to speak in Boston to the New England Tikkun Community. Thereafter we formed a sister community with Wadi Na’am, an unrecognized Bedouin village IN ISRAEL (all caps provided to emphasize that the Bedouin live in Israel and are Israeli citizens), raised funds to construct a medical clinic (with no permit authorized by the Israeli government) This year the clinic received an Honorable Mention in Israel's Most Prestigious Architecture Competition. Read more about this at: http://bustan.org/2007/03/wadi_el_naam_clinic_receives_h.html

Joan and I also began to plan an tour and visit to the region of the Bedouin villages to witness and document the lives of the Bedouin and their treatment by the Israeli government. As part of the invitation and information packet we forwarded to those interested, we prepared this document:

SISTER COMMUNITY PROJECT
BETWEEN NEW ENGLAND TIKKUN AND WADI NA’AM
AN UNRECOGNIZED BEDOUIN VILLAGE IN ISRAEL

CHRONOLOGY

January, 2002 – Devorah Brous talks at the Founding Conference of the Tikkun Community in NY on her work with her organization, Bustan L’Shalom, providing direct action relief to impoverished families in Israel and Palestine.

October 9, 2002 – Devorah Brous, after talks to the Santa Fe and Houston Tikkun Communities makes a presentation to the New England Tikkun Community on”A Personal and Political Perspective on Human Rights in Israel and Palestine.”

February, 2003 – New England Tikkun adopts Wadi Na’am, an unrecognized Bedouin village in Israel as a sister community primarily to support the Bustan L’Shalom effort to build a medical clinic in the village. (See “The Bedouin in the Negev in Israel 1948-2004” Attached)

March, 2003 – In response to a Purim Tzedakah Request which reminded members that Purim is a time to give gifts to those in need and that a Tikkun principle requires us to “reject all practices which lead to unequal treatment of Palestinians or other non-Jewish minorities within the State of Israel”, members at a Purim auction and therafter raised over $1500 to purchase solar panels for the medical clinic.

June 15, 2003 – Some members of New England Tikkun and others sent a letter to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (with copies to the President of the United States, the Hon. Ted Kennedy, His Excellency Kofi Annan and others) urging him to respect the teachings of Judaism and human rights laws and to halt the government ordered demolition of houses and other buildings in Bedouin villages and noting “should any harm befall this (medical clinic) we will take it as powerful evidence that the Israeli government is embarking on an unfair, inhumane and possibly illegal forcible transfer of the Bedouin

October 15, 2003 - Presentation by Michal Vital, the lead architect on the construction of the medical clinic in Wadi Na’am on “Peacebuilding in Israel through Eco-Architecture”. Michal showed 150 slides covering the technical, cultural and social aspects of the construction. She also answered questions about the evacuation order issued by the Israeli government which would force the entire population of Wadi Na’am to move to a poor urban township and the status of the appeal of that order by the 4500 villagers.

December 21, 2003. In response to a suggestion in the Tikkun Magazine Chanukah Supplement that there be a theme for each night, Tikkun communities across the country, including Maine, Corpus Christi, Santa Fe and New England participated in “A Chanukah Observance in the Spirit of Tikkun” noting that “Chanukah represents the victory of a people who struggled to maintain their religion, their culture and their human dignity in the face of overpowering force and pressure to assimilate” Money was raised for the medical clinic (which officially opened on January 9, 2004) and prayers, messages of support and pictures were forwarded to the villagers Wadi Na’am.

April , 2004 – Devorah Brous invites members of the Tikkun Community to join a fact-finding delegation to study the territorial conflict between the Bedouin and the Jews in the Negev (See the Invitation, the Itinerary and the Expression of Interest Form Attached)
United Nations International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination Signed by Israel 7 March 1966: Ratified by Israel: 3 January 1979In compliance with the fundamental obligations laid down in article 2 of this Convention, (Israel) undertakes to prohibit and to eliminate racial discrimination in all its forms and to guarantee the right of everyone, without distinction as to race, colour, or national or ethnic origin, to equality before the law, notably in the enjoyment of the following rights:The right to equal treatment before the tribunals and all other organs administering justice;The right to own property alone as well as in association with others;The right to housing;The right to public health, medical care, social security and social services;The right to education and training;The right to equal participation in cultural activities.
Deutoronomy 16:20 – “Justice, justice shall you pursue that you may live and inherit the land which God gave you” and the footnote in the 1980 Hertz Edition “(T)here is international justice, which demands respect for the personality of every national group, and proclaims that no people can of right be robbed of its national life or territory, its language or spiritual heritage.”

Bedouin & Brous & Bustan - Part 1

Today is Day 14,261 of the Maintenance of the Immoral (and Illegal) West Bank Settlements and almost the 40th anniversary of the start of the immoral (and illegal) occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

Micah.6:8 “He has told you, O man, Only to do justice and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God

So much attention is appropriately devoted to the terrible illegal and immoral occupation and settlements and the terrible situation of the Palestinians. What is quite overlooked is the deplorable and shameful discrimination of the Israeli government towards the Bedouin CITIZENS OF ISRAEL LIVING IN ISRAEL.

I first met Devorah Brous an extraordinary person and dedicated committed human rights activist when I was visiting Santa Fe and attended a weekly meeting of the Santa Fe Tikkun Community. I was so impressed that I invited her to visit Boston and speak to the New England Tikkun Community. After she spoke, my wife, Joan, proposed that we form a sister community with Wadi Na’am, an unrecognized Bedouin village IN ISRAEL (all caps provided to emphasize that the Bedouin live in Israel and are Israeli citizens). Through the sister community project funds were raised to help construct a medical clinic (for which the Israeli government would not authorize a permit) in Wadi Na'am. This year the clinic received an Honorable Mention in Israel's Most Prestigious Architecture Competition. Read more about this at: http://bustan.org/2007/03/wadi_el_naam_clinic_receives_h.html

Here is some background material I prepared about:

The Bedouin in the Negev in Israel (1948-2004)

Research indicates that prior to 1948 the entire Negev was inhabited by about 80,000 Bedouins raising livestock in an agricultural setting. After the war, most were displaced, primarily to Jordan, Gaza and Sinai with a result that by 1951 only about 11,000 remained and most were forcibly moved from their tribal lands and confined to a reservation where they still exist today, the “Siyag”. Military rule was imposed until 1966. At the present time there are about 160,000 Bedouin living in the eastern Negev on about 10% of the area they previously inhabited. Approximately one-half live in seven townships which are the poorest in Israel. The remaining 76,000 live in 45 villages unrecognized by the state on land which the state claims it owns.

Much of the land in the Negev (85%) has been declared closed military zones in addition to the rapidly expanding commercial and industrial infrastructure inside and around the Siyag. While there is a wide range of choices for Jews in the Negev to inhabit; i.e., new neighborhoods, Moshavim, Kibbutim, development towns, cities and single family farms, Bedouin citizens are given an ultimatum – move to a government built township; once you waive your land claims, you will receive basic municipal services. At the same time, over 3000 lawsuits filed by Bedouin claiming ownership of Negev land have yet to be settled.

Wadi Na’am is one of the unrecognized villages referred to above. The 4500 Bedouin residents live, according to Devorah Brous, “in shanty encampments encircled by two industrial zones, a military fire-zone, an electric plant (though the village is not linked to the national electricity grid), an oil-drilling site, 18 hazardous waste factories and the Ramat Hovav toxic waste incinerator without municipal services. All this infrastructure has been erected and expanded since the Bedouin were transferred to this site. Its insufficient water pipelines frequently break down. There is no sewage system or trash removal. Unemployment is currently around 60 percent. Building permits are routinely denied and housing demolitions commonplace. While the Bedouin of Wadi Na’am are citizens of the state of Israel and some serve in the Israeli army, they are treated as squatters on state land.” They now face forced relocation into a government township. On September 17, 2003, the residents of Wadi Na’am appeared in Israel’s High Court in Jerusalem to appeal this evacuation order. They evidence a willingness to move to other land plots but not to be forced into a government township.

The United Nations Commission for Human Rights recently issued a report in which it harshly criticized Israel for its failure to recognize Bedouin settlements in the Negev. The commission called on the government to build adequate infrastructure in unrecognized villages, to cease house demolitions and to stop spraying Bedouin crops with defoliants. Concern was expressed over the intention to transfer families from shanties into permanent government-build communities, as proposed in the new Sharon Negev Development plan recently approved by the government.

To date there have been seven crop spraying operations in the Negev. On March 22, 2004, a lawsuit was filed by four residents and nine NGO’s including Bustan L’Shalom and the Physicians for Human Rights – Israel, demanding that the government halt its spraying operations to destroy Bedouin food crops with herbicides such as Round-Up manufactured by Monsanto. The High Court action is based on evidence that the chemicals in the herbicide are a health risk to residents and their animals.

United Nations International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination Signed by Israel 7 March 1966: Ratified by Israel: 3 January 1979
In compliance with the fundamental obligations laid down in article 2 of this Convention, (Israel) undertakes to prohibit and to eliminate racial discrimination in all its forms and to guarantee the right of everyone, without distinction as to race, colour, or national or ethnic origin, to equality before the law, notably in the enjoyment of the following rights:
The right to equal treatment before the tribunals and all other organs administering justice;
The right to own property alone as well as in association with others;
The right to housing;
The right to public health, medical care, social security and social services;
The right to education and training;
The right to equal participation in cultural activities;

Deutoronomy 16:20 – “Justice, justice shall you pursue that you may live and inherit the land which God gave you” and the footnote in the 1980 Hertz Edition “(T)here is international justice, which demands respect for the personality of every national group, and proclaims that no people can of right be robbed of its national life or territory, its language or spiritual heritage.

What Else Can I Do? Part 2

What Else Can We Do – Part 2
Demand that Bush and Cheney Resign

Remember the Iraq Study Group Report. Here is a story about it from the International Herald Tribune. While this bipartisan group inexcusably avoided the issue of how the administration used fraud and deceit to justify beginning to kill Iraqis and American soldiers, it did extensively cover the incompetence of the handling of the project.

I could not help but think of the report again and the response here when I read the article in the Boston Globe this morning about the reaction in Israel to the release of the report of the Winograd Commission on the invasion by Israel of Lebanon last summer.

There is such an eerie similarity between the Bush in Iraq and the Ohmert in Lebanon. Both invasions were rash and misguided and both were (and as for Bush’s are) badly mismanaged.

BUT in Israel the response has been to call for the resignation of Ohmert and Peretz.

In the United States.in the world of the news Bloggers, there are calls for impeachment of President Bush but for the most part the establishment traditional media’s response has not been outrage but rather, to be charitable, muted. Maybe they will read the news from Israel and have the courage and integrity come up with a consensus on a story line similar to the following:

“There is and there has been for a long time only one significant action that would begin to move the United States on a path that would lead to peace in Iraq, a return to unity and community and the rule of law (especially the Constitution) here at home and the restoration of the United States as a moral leader in the world: the immediate resignation of President Bush, Vice-President Cheney and the members of the cabinet.”

And, if they don’t, maybe THAT is something we can do!!!

Ron

International Herald Tribune
Report is a rebuke to Bush
By Sheryl Gay Stolberg
Wednesday, December 6, 2006

WASHINGTON: In 142 devastatingly stark pages, stuffed with adjectives like "grave and deteriorating," "daunting," and "dire," the Iraq Study Group report is an impassioned plea for bipartisan consensus on the most divisive foreign policy issue of this generation. Only one person - President George W. Bush - can make that happen.

The commissioners - five Democrats and five Republicans - tried to be kind to Bush, adopting his language when they accepted the goal of an Iraq that can "govern, itself, sustain itself and defend itself."

But gone is the administration's talk of Iraq as a beacon of democracy in the Middle East. Gone is any talk of victory.

Instead, the report forces the president to accept the painful truth that cost Republicans control of Congress: his policy in Iraq is not working, and it the American people do not support it. If Bush embraces the report's blueprint for changing course, he himself will have to reverse course - and meet Democrats more than halfway.

The study group, for instance, calls for direct engagement with Iran and Syria; so far, Bush has refused. While Bush has steadfastly resisted a timetable for withdrawal, the report says all combat brigades "not necessary for force protection could be out of Iraq" - note the careful use of the conditional, could - by the first quarter of 2008.


Olmert braces for fight to save his job
Report faults handling of Lebanon war
By Craig Nelson, Cox News Service April 30, 2007

JERUSALEM -- Prime Minister Ehud Olmert braced himself yesterday for a bitter fight to save his job after portions of a long-awaited government report criticizing his handling of last summer's war in Lebanon were disclosed to local media and the clamor for his resignation swelled.

Quoting from what they said were leaked copies of the report, local television stations reported over the weekend that a government-appointed panel investigating Israel's prosecution of the war had sharply criticized Olmert, describing his actions as "rash" and "misguided" and saying he lacked an "organized plan" for the Lebanon operation against the radical Islamic group Hezbollah.

Allegations that Olmert and his defense minister, Amir Peretz, demonstrated a woeful lack of military acumen and badly mismanaged the war prompted renewed calls for both men to step down. Both onetime allies and longtime foes joined the chorus.

Former Cabinet minister Ofir Pines, a member of Peretz's Labor Party, advised the pair to follow the example of Lieutenant General Dan Halutz, the military chief of staff during the war who quit in January in the face of criticism of his performance from both inside and outside the military.

"I expect the prime minister and the defense minister to stand up and take responsibility and resign," Pines told Army Radio.
Gideon Saar, of the opposition Likud, also urged Olmert's entire 26-member Cabinet to quit.

"The government is the body in charge of the military campaign, and the government failed," Saar told Israel Radio.

While Olmert's aides insisted that he had no intention of stepping down, the prime minister put off comment until today's scheduled release of the Winograd Commission's preliminary findings.
"We cannot discuss what has been leaked ," Olmert reportedly said at a meeting of ministers from his Kadima party.

The aftermath of last summer's war with Hezbollah is not the only source of political travails for Olmert, whose popularity ratings have dipped to record low single digits, according to some polls. He is the subject of at least three corruption investigations.

Despite Olmert's woes, his immediate resignation is unlikely, analysts said. The five-member commission has no authority to order or recommend resignation, or file criminal charges.
"Olmert will not resign unless there's a smoking gun, and since this commission is part of a political process not a criminal investigation, it is unlikely to produce one," said Reuven Hazan, a professor of political science at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

A revolt by members of his Kadima party, keen to avert catastrophe at the polls, could change the equation. So could the expected replacement of the unpopular Peretz as head of the Labor party later this month -- possibly by an emboldened successor who could topple Olmert by yanking Labor from the governing coalition.

Finally, public opinion could grow so toxic toward Olmert that he has "no choice" but eventually to resign, said Yossi Avigor, a 30-year-old army reservist who fought for two weeks in southern Lebanon last summer.

"The commission has no teeth, but in the end, Israelis don't want a prime minister who was so quick to go to war and don't want a defense minister who doesn't understand the military," said Avigor, a member of a group of reservists critical of the government's conduct during the war.
The conflict began July 12, when Hezbollah fighters kidnapped two Israeli soldiers and killed three others in a cross-border raid. When an Israeli armored unit struck back across the frontier an hour later, five more troops were killed. Hours later, Israeli warplanes began striking targets throughout Lebanon.

The 34-day military campaign ended Aug. 11, three days after the UN Security Council passed resolution 1701, which called for an enlarged UN force to maintain a security zone in southern Lebanon. The fighting left 159 Israelis dead, including 116 soldiers and 43 civilians. About 1,109 Lebanese civilians and 28 Lebanese troops were killed

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

Sunday, April 29, 2007

What Else Can I Do?

Today is Day 14,260 of the Maintenance of the Immoral (and Illegal) West Bank Settlements and almost the 40th anniversary of the start of the immoral (and illegal) occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

Micah.6:8 “He has told you, O man, Only to do justice and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God

This morning a friend sent me this excerpt from Lee Iacocca's new book entitled Where Have All the Leaders Gone" which you can find at

http://www.snopes.com/politics/soapbox/iacocca.asp

In response, this is what I wrote:


Hi

“Where have all the leaders gone? … You can’t call yourself a patriot if you’re not outraged.”

We watched the debate Thursday night. Have you read the comments about Gravel? Is that what happens when a candidate gets outraged?

BUT then again, I have a still vivid memory involving Gravel.

I was a delegate to the 1972 Democratic. Some of us met with Gravel and I became a supporter of his for the vice-presidential nomination. Our “outraged” delegation (headed by Father Robert Drinan) was upset with McGovern because although he committed himself to an “open” nomination of Vice-President (that meant he would ask for the delegates’ thoughts about nominations) appeared to be poised to unilaterally announce that Kevin White would be the nominee. We caused a ruckus and while Mike Gravel was giving his own nominating speech, some of us were hearing that he had used red-baiting techniques to defeat Ernest Greuning and become the senator from Alaska. I still picture myself standing near a wall on the side of the convention hall becoming more and more anxious. I had this ominous vision unlike anything I have ever experienced. I heard what I thought were the words of a demagogue, one who was going to be elected Vice-President and then somehow become President and then ……….. But eventually, McGovern nominated Eagleton. The next night, the Massachusetts delegation plastered the hall with fliers about something, we asked for a roll call, and McGovern gave an acceptance speech about 1 or 2 AM heard by no one, Nixon was reelected by a landslide and Gravel never did become VP.

I wonder now … Was I so traditional in 1972 that I did not recognize that Gravel’s speech was appropriate “outrage” and what we should have listened to during the Nixon presidency seeing as Gravel now has been given some credit for his 1971 filibuster that ended the draft and his release of the Pentagon Papers.

OR is the lesson that you should be careful what you do when you are outraged for fear you might elect someone who would form an administration that is willing to pretend that it is totally incompetent to simply cover its being totally corrupt - one that would trample on the constitution?

Whoops, didn’t we ALL do that because we were NOT outraged.

SO I am outraged and don’t know what to do about it. Lee Iacocca has written about it. What will he DO? Maybe he is waiting for a Republican draft for the Presidential nomination.

Perhaps, in default, the only thing I can think about doing is writing. For me the outrage is directed primarily against the Israeli government with special emphasis on the Jewish Israeli settlers (who I refer to as squatters) in Hebron so I write and write http://judaismandisrael.blogspot.com/

But there must be more I can do. I don’t blame the leaders? I sadly believe that the politicians are followers. They will do what we tell them to do. To some extent I believe it is a waste of time to watch these people debate. While I am not doing it, I believe that what is important is that WE decide what should happen and DEMAND that our congressional “followers” do it.

I know what I think should happen – George W. Bush and Richard Cheney should realize that they are the worst President and Vice-President this country has ever had, that they have formed the worst administration this country has ever had, that they are a shameful embarrassment, and should resign effective immediately.

Word, words, words.

What else can I do??

Ron

Deutoronomy 16:20 – “Justice, justice shall you pursue that you may live and inherit the land which God gave you” and the footnote in the 1980 Hertz Edition “(T)here is international justice, which demands respect for the personality of every national group, and proclaims that no people can of right be robbed of its national life or territory, its language or spiritual heritage.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Was Hebron Street "Intentionally" closed to Palestinians?

Today is Day 14,258 of the Maintenance of the Immoral (and Illegal) West Bank Settlements and almost the 40th anniversary of the start of the immoral (and illegal) occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

Micah.6:8 “He has told you, O man, Only to do justice and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God

Here is an recent, April 18, 2007, article from Haaretz on the inability of Palestinians to have access to one of the main shopping streets of Hebron for 6 years.

w w w . h a a r e t z . c o m
Last update - 18:14 18/04/2007
IDF: Was Hebron street 'intentionally' closed to Palestinians?
By Akiva Eldar

Israel Defense Forces Central Command head Yair Naveh has appointed an IDF officer to investigate whether Shuhada Street in Hebron has been intentionally closed to non-Jewish pedestrians for the past six years.

The IDF has closed the street, located in the old market, to non-Jews since the beginning of the second intifada, citing the need to protect the Jewish population there.

However, the IDF has not issued an official order calling for the closure. Following a petition by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, the army claimed last December that the closure had been "unintentional."

The closure has made life difficult for Palestinian residents of Hebron, including the elderly, who have to take long detours through neighboring yards and residences. Palestinians are still not allowed to use Shuhada Street.



________________________

United Nations International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination Signed by Israel 7 March 1966: Ratified by Israel: 3 January 1979

In compliance with the fundamental obligations laid down in article 2 of this Convention, States Parties undertake to prohibit and to eliminate racial discrimination in all its forms and to guarantee the right of everyone, without distinction as to race, colour, or national or ethnic origin, to equality before the law, notably in the enjoyment of the following rights:
..........
(d) Other civil rights, in particular:
(i) The right to freedom of movement and residence within the border of the State;
.........
(e) Economic, social and cultural rights, in particular: (i) The rights to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work, to protection against unemployment, to equal pay for equal work, to just and favourable remuneration;
..........
(f) The right of access to any place or service intended for use by the general public, such as transport hotels, restaurants, cafes, theatres and parks.

__________________

Keeping in mind that within the borders of Hebron, one of the biggest Arab cities in the West Bank, are 120,000 Palestinians. In the old city of Hebron, there are 650 Jewish Israeli squatters and 30,000 Palestinians while around Kiryat Arba the squatterment founded by Rabbi Levinger near Hebron, there are an additional 9,200 squatters. What possible justification can there be for closing this street other than a collective punishment for the acts of some during the intifata or to "protect" the 650 JISH?

And what kind of absurd distinction is there between "intentional" or "unintentional"? With a thousand IDF soldiers and 150,000 distressed and frustrated Palestinians having to be unable to open their businesses and earn a living for six years is the IDF saying that they did not notice that the street was closed?

The government of Israel should dismantle the Jewish settlement in Hebron.

Deutoronomy 16:20 – “Justice, justice shall you pursue that you may live and inherit the land which God gave you” and the footnote in the 1980 Hertz Edition “(T)here is international justice, which demands respect for the personality of every national group, and proclaims that no people can of right be robbed of its national life or territory, its language or spiritual heritage.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Hebron - The City of the Dead

Today is Day 14,257 of the Maintenance of the Immoral (and Illegal) West Bank Settlements and almost the 40th anniversary of the start of the immoral (and illegal) occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

Micah.6:8 “He has told you, O man, Only to do justice and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God

As a reminder, within the borders of Hebron, one of the biggest Arab cities in the West Bank, are 120,000 Palestinians. In the old city of Hebron, there are 650 Jewish Israeli squatters and 30,000 Palestinians while around Kiryat Arba the squatterment founded by Rabbi Levinger near Hebron, there are an additional 9,200 squatters.

I just came across the following powerful account by Aron Trauring in his Aron's Israel Peace Weblog who writes in 2002 of the 40 days he spend as a member of the IDF in Hebron.

He begins "This post is about Hebron. I gave 40 days of my life to the settlers of Hebron. 40 days for which I will never forgive them. Precisely now, when blood once again washes the cobblestones of those streets, now I feel compelled to write." and continues with this Introduction

Here is how the first part of his account ends "One day we were heading out to guard duty when we encountered a soldier from one of our co-units. He was white as a ghost, shaking with anger. He told us how settlers had just shouted at him, calling him a "Nazi." He ranted on and on, complaining about the humiliation of our living conditions, the constant personal danger. All these made the insult incredibly galling. "We risk our lives protecting these fucking bastards. Look how they talk to us," he said. In retrospect, though, I can only think of the irony of the settlers' curse: look who called the kettle black."

In the second part of the account he realizes "(H)ere in Hebron, I saw the true face of the settlers. The overturning of the stalls in the market. The kids kicking Arab passerbys. The unmasked racism. The contempt for us soldiers. The anti-democratic language and thinking. The tight connection between the army and the settlements. The deep disruption the settlement and the settlers caused in the day to day life of the Palestinians."

From the third part of the account apply entitled "They Should Rot in Hell" he says "My encounter with the Settlers in Hebron was an eye-opener for me,. On their home turf they shed their salesperson persona, and revealed their true, ugly face. So besotted were they with their zealous messianism, they had no qualms about exposing their contempt for Israeli secular society, for democratic institutions and norms, and for secular ideals about human rights."

Finally in the last installment of the account he recognizes the core value of the settlers. (T)he Settlers .... were in fact idol worshipers. Idol worship ... (the worship of stone and wood) ... is the sin most often and strongly condemned in the Torah ... claiming a piece of stone is more important than any other value of the Torah. The Settlers worship the stone of the Land of Israel and the wood of the Shulkan Arukh [...... the central book of Jewish practices which forms the core of modern-day Orthodox Judaism]. In pursuit of their godless and mindless worship, they put lifeless, soul-less objects above the value of living, breathing human beings.

The conclusion from the last post is worth repeating daily:
B’Tselem urges the government of Israel to dismantle the Jewish settlement in Hebron.

Deutoronomy 16:20 – “Justice, justice shall you pursue that you may live and inherit the land which God gave you” and the footnote in the 1980 Hertz Edition “(T)here is international justice, which demands respect for the personality of every national group, and proclaims that no people can of right be robbed of its national life or territory, its language or spiritual heritage.

Dismantle the Jewish Settlement in Hebron - B'Tselem August 2003

Today is Day 14,257 of the Maintenance of the Immoral (and Illegal) West Bank Settlements and almost the 40th anniversary of the start of the immoral (and illegal) occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

Micah.6:8 “He has told you, O man, Only to do justice and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God

Again, within the borders of Hebron, one of the biggest Arab cities in the West Bank, are 120,000 Palestinians. In the old city of Hebron, there are 650 Jewish Israeli squatters and 30,000 Palestinians while around Kiryat Arba the squatterment founded by Rabbi Levinger near Hebron, there are an additional 9,200 squatters.

In August 2003 B'Tselem issued another report on Heborn and the mass departures of Palestinians caused by the settlements within the city and at Kiryat Arba. The report details the human rights violations and disruption to the daily lives of Palestinians in Hebron caused by their being the only Palestinian West Bank city that contains an Israeli settlement. Here is the summary followed by an excerpt from the conclusions in the complete report.

August 2003, Summary
Hebron, Area H-2: Settlements Cause Mass Departure of Palestinians

Upon the signing of the Hebron Agreement, in January 1997, Hebron was divided into two parts: Area H-1, an area of eighteen square kilometers (80% of the city) with 115,000 Palestinians, was handed over to complete Palestinian control. Area H-2, in which 35,000 Palestinians and 500 settlers live, remained under Israeli security control, with the Palestinian Authority being given only civilian powers. During the al-Aqsa intifada, Israel again took control of Area H-1.
Since the beginning of the Al-Aqsa Intifada, the living conditions of Palestinians in H-2, primarily in the Casbah (Old City) area near the settlements, have deteriorated significantly. As a result, those families who could afford to do so moved to other neighborhoods.

Among the factors leading to their leaving the area are the following:
  • Palestinians in this area suffer almost daily physical violence and property damage by settlers in the city. Settlers throw stones at them, curse them, damage their property, and take over their apartments. At its worst, the violent acts resulted in the death of fourteen-year-old Nibin Jamjum. Security forces do not protect Palestinians against settler violence and almost never enforce the law against the lawbreakers. Even in cases in which the security forces anticipate settler violence, they fail to make preparations to prevent the attacks. A report prepared by Israel's Civil Administration stated that, "The image of the State of Israel is extremely bad in all matters related to law enforcement in Hebron."
  • The restrictions on Palestinian movement in the city are among the harshest in the Occupied Territories. The IDF imposes curfew on Palestinian residents of H-2 both in response to violence by Palestinians and violence by settlers, and to enable settlers to hold public events. Between 2,000-2,500 shops and businesses have been closed in the area since the beginning of the current intifada. Business life in the Casbah and Bab a-Zawiya area, which constituted the commercial center of the city, has come to an almost complete standstill. The inability to move about freely and to earn a living has increased the unemployment rate and the number of people living in poverty. These restrictions also affect the ability of residents to receive medical services and for children to attend school in a normal and regular manner.
  • Palestinian residents of H-2 also suffer from serious acts of violence by border policemen and IDF soldiers. Testimonies provided to B'Tselem indicate a phenomenon of routine, daily violence by security forces, including beatings, hurling of stun grenades, and theft of money and goods, sometimes by threat. The most egregious incident of violence was the killing of 'Imran Abu Hamdiya by four border policemen, who were interrogated only after B'Tselem and other human rights organizations pressured the authorities. State officials stubbornly sought to present this case and others as "unusual cases." However, B'Tselem has documented many other cases, even after the killing of Abu Hamdiya. In fact, violence by security forces is a widespread phenomenon, which began before the killing of Abu Hamdiya and still continues.

Israel has continually ignored its duty to protect the safety and welfare of the Palestinians living in Area H-2. Most IDF effort is directed toward protecting settlers in the city, while grossly violating the human rights of the city's Palestinian residents. The primary cause of the grave violation of Palestinian human rights is the presence of the settlers within the city. Therefore, Israel must remove the settlers. As long as settlers are living in the city, Israel must protect their safety and welfare. It cannot do so, however, while ignoring almost completely its obligations toward the city's Palestinian population, and while systematically and continually violating their rights.

Excerpt from the Conclusions in the complete report from the complete
B’Tselem urges the government of Israel to:
• lift the ongoing curfew;
• enable the markets and shops to open;
• revoke the house demolition orders;
• enforce the law and punish all lawbreakers to the full extent of the law;
• investigate every case of violent conduct by members of the security forces;
• dismantle the Jewish settlement in Hebron.

Deutoronomy 16:20 – “Justice, justice shall you pursue that you may live and inherit the land which God gave you” and the footnote in the 1980 Hertz Edition “(T)here is international justice, which demands respect for the personality of every national group, and proclaims that no people can of right be robbed of its national life or territory, its language or spiritual heritage.

Read about B'Tselem and its 2002 Report "Land Grab"

Today is Day 14,257 of the Maintenance of the Immoral (and Illegal) West Bank Settlements and almost the 40th anniversary of the start of the immoral (and illegal) occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

Micah.6:8 “He has told you, O man, Only to do justice and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God

Every few months I receive a report on some topic from B'tselem - The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories such as "Take No Prisoners: The Fatal Shooting of Palestinians by Israeli Security Forces during 'Arrest Operations", "Perpetual Limbo: Israel's Freeze on Unification of Palestinian Families in the Occupied Territories", "Through No Fault of Their Own: Punitive House Demolitions during the al-Aqsa Intifada". Each report is usually over 50 pages in length and most contain heart-wrenching accounts by Palestinians of mistreatment by the Israel Defense Force, squatters or other Israeli government agency representatives. One report, however, stands out - the May 2002 Report "Land Grab: Israel's Settlement Policy in the West Bank". This thoroughly researched and well documented 140 page report is a "must read" for anyone interested in learning the details of the process and the mechanisms by which the land of Palestinians have been stolen from them by the Israeli government and given to squatters to build illegal squatterments.

Because I respect so much the work of B'Tselem I have first reprinted the "About Us' portion of its website.

Below that is the Summary of the Land Grab Report.

B'TSELEM - The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories was established in 1989 by a group of prominent academics, attorneys, journalists, and Knesset members. It endeavors to document and educate the Israeli public and policymakers about human rights violations in the Occupied Territories, combat the phenomenon of denial prevalent among the Israeli public, and help create a human rights culture in Israel.

B'Tselem in Hebrew literally means "in the image of," and is also used as a synonym for human dignity. The word is taken from Genesis 1:27 "And God created humans in his image. In the image of God did He create him." It is in this spirit that the first article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that "All human beings are born equal in dignity and rights."
As an Israeli human rights organization, B'Tselem acts primarily to change Israeli policy in the Occupied Territories and ensure that its government, which rules the Occupied Territories, protects the human rights of residents there and complies with its obligations under international law.

B'Tselem is independent and is funded by contributions from foundations in Europe and North America that support human rights activity worldwide, and by private individuals in Israel and abroad.

B'Tselem has attained a prominent place among human rights organizations. In December, 1989 it received the Carter-Menil Award for Human Rights. Its reports have gained B'Tselem a reputation for accuracy, and the Israeli authorities relate to them seriously. B'Tselem ensures the reliability of information it publishes by conducting its own fieldwork and research, the results of which are thoroughly cross-checked with relevant documents, official government sources, and information from other sources, among them Israeli, Palestinian, and other human rights organizations.

May 2002, Summary
Land Grab: Israel's Settlement Policy in the West Bank

Historical Background

Since 1967, each Israeli government has invested significant resources in establishing and expanding the settlements in the Occupied Territories, both in terms of the area of land they occupy and in terms of population. As a result of this policy, approximately 380,000 Israeli citizens now live on the settlements on the West Bank, including those established in East Jerusalem (this report does not relate to the settlements in the Gaza Strip).

During the first decade following the occupation, the Ma'arach governments operated on the basis of the Alon Plan, which advocated the establishment of settlements in areas perceived as having "security importance,” and where the Palestinian population was sparse (the Jordan Valley, parts of the Hebron Mountains and Greater Jerusalem). After the Likud came to power in 1977, the government began to establish settlements throughout the West Bank, particularly in areas close to the main Palestinian population centers along the central mountain ridge and in western Samaria. This policy was based on both security and ideological considerations.

The political process between Israel and the Palestinians did not impede settlement activities, which continued under the Labor government of Yitzhak Rabin (1992-1996) and all subsequent governments. These governments built thousands of new housing units, claiming that this was necessary to meet the "natural growth” of the existing population. As a result, between 1993 and 2000 the number of settlers on the West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem) increased by almost 100 percent.

International Law

The establishment of settlements on the West Bank violates international humanitarian law, which establishes the principles applying during war and occupation. Moreover, the settlements lead to the infringement of international human rights law.

International humanitarian law prohibits the occupying power to transfer citizens from its own territory to the occupied territory (Fourth Geneva Convention, article 49). The Hague Regulations prohibit the occupying power to undertake permanent changes in the occupied area, unless these are due to military needs in the narrow sense of the term, or unless they are undertaken for the benefit of the local population.

The establishment of the settlements leads to the violation of the rights of the Palestinians as enshrined in international human rights law. Among other violations, the settlements infringe the right to self-determination, equality, property, an adequate standard of living, and freedom of movement.

The illegality of the settlements under international humanitarian law does not affect the status of the settlers. The settlers constitute a civilian population by any standard, and include children, who are entitled to special protection. Although some of the settlers are part of the security forces, this fact has absolutely no bearing on the status of the other residents of the settlements.

Taking Control of the Land

Israel has used a complex legal and bureaucratic mechanism to take control of more than fifty percent of the land in the West Bank. This land was used mainly to establish settlements and create reserves of land for the future expansion of the settlements.

The principal tool used to take control of land is to declare it "state land.” This process began in 1979, and is based on a manipulative implementation of the Ottoman Lands Law of 1858, which applied in the area at the time of occupation. Other methods employed by Israel to take control of land include seizure for military needs, declaration of land as "abandoned assets,” and the expropriation of land for public needs. Each of these are based on a different legal foundation. In addition, Israel has assisted private citizens purchasing land on the "free market.”

The process employed in taking control of land breaches the basic principles of due procedure and natural justice. In many cases, Palestinian residents were unaware that their land was registered in the name of the state, and by the time they discovered this fact, it was too late to appeal. The burden of proof always rests with the Palestinian claiming ownership of the land. Even if he meets this burden, the land may still be registered in the name of the state on the grounds that it was transferred to the settlement "in good faith.”

Despite the diverse methods used to take control of land, all the parties involved - the Israeli government, the settlers and the Palestinians - have always perceived these methods as part of a mechanism intended to serve a single purpose: the establishment of civilian settlements in the territories. Accordingly, the precise method used to transfer the control of land from Palestinians to Israel is of secondary importance. Moreover, since this purpose is prohibited under international law, the methods used to secure it are also unlawful.

Israel uses the seized lands to benefit the settlements, while prohibiting the Palestinian public from using them in any way. This use is forbidden and illegal in itself, even if the process by which the lands were taken were fair and in accordance with international and Jordanian law. As the occupier in the Occupied Territories, Israel is not permitted to ignore the needs of an entire population and to use land intended for public needs solely to benefit the settlers.

The High Court of Justice has generally sanctioned the mechanism used to take control of land. In so doing, the Court has contributed to imbuing these procedures with a mask of legality. The Court initially accepted the state's argument that the settlements met urgent military needs, and allowed the state to seize private land for this purpose. When the state began to declare land "state land,” the Court refused to intervene to prevent this process.

The Policy of Annexation and Local Government

The Israeli administration has applied most aspects of Israeli law to the settlers and the settlements, thus effectively annexing them to the State of Israel. This has taken place although in formal terms the West Bank is not part of the State of Israel, and the law in effect there is Jordanian law and military legislation. This annexation has resulted in a regime of legalized separation and discrimination. This regime is based on the existence of two separate legal systems in the same territory, with the rights of individuals being determined by their nationality.

Local government in the settlements has been established on the basis of the usual model inside Israel and is managed in a similar manner, ignoring the relevant Jordanian legislation that should apply in the West Bank. Twenty-three Jewish local authorities operate on the West Bank: three municipalities, fourteen local councils and six regional councils, including 106 settlements recognized as distinct communities. In addition, twelve settlements have been established in the areas annexed to the Municipality of Jerusalem in 1967 - areas in which Israeli law has been officially imposed.

The areas of jurisdiction of the Jewish local authorities, most of which extend far beyond the built-up area, are defined as "closed military zones” in the military orders. Palestinians are forbidden to enter these areas without authorization from the Israeli military commander. Israeli citizens, Jews from throughout the world and tourists are all permitted to enter these areas without the need for special permits.

Encouragement of Migration to the Settlements

The Israeli governments have implemented a consistent and systematic policy intended to encourage Jewish citizens to migrate to the West Bank. One of the tools used to this end is to grant financial benefits and incentives to citizens - both directly and through the Jewish local authorities. The purpose of this support is to raise the standard of living of these citizens and to encourage migration to the West Bank.

Most of the settlements in the West Bank are defined as national priority areas (A class or B class). Accordingly, the settlers and other Israeli citizens working or investing in the settlements are entitled to significant financial benefits. These benefits are provided by six government ministries: the Ministry of Construction and Housing (generous loans for the purchase of apartments, part of which is converted to a grant); the Israel Lands Administration (significant price reductions in leasing land); the Ministry of Education (incentives for teachers, exemption from tuition fees in kindergartens, and free transportation to school); the Ministry of Industry and Trade (grants for investors, infrastructure for industrial zones, etc.); the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (incentives for social workers); and the Ministry of Finance (reductions in income tax for individuals and companies).

The Ministry of the Interior provides increased grants for the local authorities in the territories relative to those provided for communities within Israel. In the year 2000, the average per capita grant in the Jewish local councils in the West Bank was approximately sixty-five percent higher than the average per capita grant in local councils inside Israel. The discrepancy in the grants for the regional councils is even greater: the average per capita grant in 2000 in the regional councils on the West Bank was 165 percent of that for a resident of a regional council inside Israel.

One of the mechanisms used by the government to favor the Jewish local authorities in the West Bank, in comparison with local authorities inside Israel, is to channel funding through the Settlement Division of the World Zionist Organization. Although the entire budget of the Settlement Division comes from state funds, as a non-governmental body it is not subject to the rules applying to government ministries in Israel.

The Planning System

The planning system on the West Bank, implemented by the Civil Administration, is one of the most powerful mechanisms of the Israeli occupation. As with the other bureaucratic systems, the planning system operates on two distinct tracks: one for Jews and the other for Palestinians.
This system is responsible for transforming the map of the West Bank because it is the planning system that approves the outline plans for the settlements and issues building permits for the establishment and expansion of settlements and for the construction of by-pass roads. Israel changed the composition of the planning institutions on the West Bank and transferred numerous planning powers to the Jewish local authorities, while expropriating these powers from Palestinian planning institutions.

While facilitating Jewish settlement, the planning system works vigorously to restrict the development of Palestinian communities. The main tool used to this end is to reject requests for building permits filed by Palestinians. In most cases, the requests are rejected on the grounds that the regional outline plans - approved in the 1940s during the British Mandate - prohibit construction in the relevant area of land. These plans do not reflect the development needs of the Palestinian population, and the planning system deliberately refrains from preparing revised plans. Houses built by Palestinians without building permits are demolished by the Civil Administration, even in cases when the construction took place on private land.

After the signing of the interim accord in 1995, planning powers in areas A and B - which account for approximately forty percent of the area of the West Bank - were transferred to the Palestinian Authority. While the vast majority of the Palestinian population lives in these areas, the vacant land available for construction in dozens of villages and towns across the West Bank is situated on the margins of the communities and defined as area C. The Israeli planning authorities continue to control planning and construction in these areas.

Analysis of the Map of the West Bank

The analysis of the map in terms of the geographical dispersion of the settlements and their ramifications for the Palestinian population is based on a division of the West Bank into four areas: three longitudinal strips extending from north to south, and the Jerusalem area, which has its own unique characteristics. This typology is applied solely for the purpose of analyzing the map, and has no legal or administrative significance. Within each of these areas, a distinction must be made between three types of land: land actually occupied by the built-up area of the settlements; open land surrounding the settlements and included within the area of jurisdiction of a specific settlement; and land included within the area of jurisdiction of a regional council, but not attached to any particular settlement.

The Eastern Strip includes the Jordan Valley and the shore of the Dead Sea. Approximately 5,400 settlers live in this area, mainly in kibbutzim and moshavim. With the exception of the Jericho enclave, almost the entire area of the Eastern Strip is included within the areas of jurisdiction of two regional councils: Arvot Hayarden and Megillot, which jointly occupy over 1.2 million dunam. The injury to the Palestinian population caused by the settlements in this area relates mainly to the restriction of possibilities for economic development in general, and agriculture in particular, resulting from the denial of the two resources required for this purpose: land and water.

The Mountain Strip is situated along the central mountain ridge that crosses the West Bank from north to south. Most of the settlements in this area were initiated by Gush Emunim. The population of the settlements totals approximately 34,000. Some of the settlements are dispersed in a string formation along Road No. 60 - the main north-south traffic artery in the West Bank. With the goal of protecting the safety of settlers in this area, the IDF imposes severe restrictions on the freedom of movement of Palestinians along this road, making it impossible to maintain normal everyday life. In addition, these settlements block, to a lesser or greater extent, the potential for urban development in the major Palestinian cities situated along the mountain ridge (Hebron, Ramallah, Nablus and Jenin).

The Western Hills strip extends from north to south, and is ten to twenty kilometers wide. The proximity of this area to the Green Line and to the main urban centers of Israel has created great demand among Israelis for the settlements in this area. The total population of the settlements in this area is approximately 85,000. The seizure of land limits the potential for urban and economic development in the Palestinian communities. The transfer of powers to the Palestinian Authority under the Oslo Accords has led to the creation of over fifty enclaves of area B in this area, as well as a small number of enclaves defined as area A. These areas are completely surrounded by area C, which remains under full Israeli control. As a result, these settlements interrupt the territorial contiguity of the Palestinian villages and towns located out along this strip.

The Jerusalem metropolis includes the settlements established in the area annexed to the Municipality of Jerusalem (these settlements are referred to as "neighborhoods” in domestic Israeli discourse), as well as the settlements around the area of jurisdiction of the city that function as satellite communities. The settlements in this area include approximately 248,000 residents. The ramifications of these settlements in terms of the Palestinian population vary in the different parts of the metropolis. The establishment of the settlements in East Jerusalem entailed the expropriation of extensive areas of privately-owned Palestinian land; the area of jurisdiction of the settlements in the area east of the metropolis (Ma'ale Addumim and the adjacent community settlements) dissect the West Bank into two parts; the settlements in Gush Etzion, located south of the metropolis, block the urban development of Bethlehem and sever it from the adjacent Palestinian communities.

Almost two million dunam of land seized by Israel over the years, mainly by means of its declaration as "state land,” have been included within the areas of jurisdiction of six regional councils, but not attached to any particular settlement. Some of these areas, particularly in the Jordan Valley, are farmed by settlers or used by the IDF as training zones. The vast majority of this land, however, is empty, constituting reserves for the future expansion of the settlements and the establishment of new industrial and tourism zones.

Conclusions

Israel has created in the Occupied Territories a regime of separation based on discrimination, applying two separate systems of law in the same area and basing the rights of individuals on their nationality. This regime is the only one of its kind in the world, and is reminiscent of distasteful regimes from the past, such as the Apartheid regime in South Africa.

Under this regime, Israel has stolen hundreds of thousands of dunam of land from the Palestinians. Israel has used this land to establish dozens of settlements in the West Bank and to populate them with hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens. Israel prohibits the Palestinians as a group from entering and using these lands, and uses the settlements to justify numerous violations of the Palestinians' human rights, such as the right to housing, to earn a livelihood, and the right to freedom of movement. The drastic change that Israel has made in the map of the West Bank prevents any real possibility for the establishment of an independent, viable Palestinian state as part of the Palestinians' right to self-determination.

The settlers, on the contrary, benefit from all the rights available to Israeli citizens living within the Green Line, and in some cases are even granted additional rights. The great effort that Israel has invested in the settlement enterprise - in financial, legal and bureaucratic terms – has turned the settlements into civilian enclaves in an area under military rule, with the settlers being given priority status. To perpetuate this situation, which is a priori illegal, Israel has continuously breached the rights of the Palestinians.

Particularly evident is Israel's manipulative use of legal tools in order to give the settlement enterprise an impression of legality. When Jordanian legislation served Israel's goals, Israel adhered to this legislation, arguing that international law obliges it to respect the legislation in effect prior to the occupation; in practice, this legislation was used in a cynical and biased manner. On the other hand, when this legislation interfered with Israel's plans, it was changed in a cavalier manner through military legislation and Israel established new rules to serve its interests. In so doing, Israel trampled on numerous restrictions and prohibitions established in the international conventions to which it is party, and which were intended to limit infringement of human rights and to protect populations under occupation.

The settlements are unlawful, and their presence leads to the violation of human rights. Accordingly, B'Tselem demands that the Israeli government act to vacate all the settlements. This process must take place while respecting the human rights of the settlers, including payment of compensation.

Vacating all the settlements is obviously a complex and protracted task. However, a number of interim steps can be taken to minimize the violation of human rights and international law. Among other steps, the Israeli government should:

  • Cease all new construction in the settlements, either to build new settlements or to expand existing settlements;
  • Freeze the planning and construction of new by-pass roads, and cease expropriation and seizure of land for this purpose;
  • Return to the Palestinian communities all the non-built-up areas within the municipal boundaries of the settlements and the local councils;
  • Abolish the special planning committees in the settlements, and hence the powers of the local authorities to prepare outline plans and issue building permits;
  • Cease the policy of providing incentives that encourage Israeli citizens to move to the settlements, and direct the resources to encourage settlers to relocate to areas within the borders of the State of Israel

Deutoronomy 16:20 – “Justice, justice shall you pursue that you may live and inherit the land which God gave you” and the footnote in the 1980 Hertz Edition “(T)here is international justice, which demands respect for the personality of every national group, and proclaims that no people can of right be robbed of its national life or territory, its language or spiritual heritage.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Fighting Anti-Judaism in Hebron Part 9

Today is Day 14,255 of the Maintenance of the Immoral (and Illegal) West Bank Settlements and almost the 40th anniversary of the start of the immoral (and illegal) occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.Micah.6:8 “He has told you, O man, Only to do justice and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God
An article in the Boston Globe this morning made me want to write an article about the deplorable (or biased or incompetent) state of journalism when it comes to reporting on the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Here is the headline

On solemn day, Olmert vows Israel will seek peace

The article quotes Olmert as calling for peace and saying: his country was prepared to make”far-reaching compromises" and "very painful concessions;" his country would "discuss diplomatic agreements and the future of the ties between us with good will and readiness to make painful concessions; and his country would continue "the vital effort to achieve the peace we long for" and to "seriously consider every diplomatic initiative”.

But he added that Israel would hit militants "until they are destroyed," following a weekend of fighting that left nine Palestinians dead. And referring to militants targeting Israelis, Olmert said Israel "will never cease to pursue them and strike at them until they are destroyed."

What would have been helpful is if the reporter, based on a 40 year perspective of the occupation, were to have provided some insight into what those “painful concessions” are that Olmert and the Israeli government are ready to make since it does mention that Israel objects to a full withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines and has ruled out the return of refugees to their former homes (a red herring, of course, since no one is seriously proposing that as the solution to the refugee problem).

The reporter might have noted, in addition, that

Israel may also not want to withdraw settlers from the West Bank and close the settlements,

Israel may also not want to create a corridor for travel between the West Bank and Gaza,

Israel may also not want to stop the violence of the settlers against the Palestinians,

Israel may also not want to apply the laws equally to Israeli and Palestinians,

Israel may also not want to make Jerusalem the capital of both states,

Israel may also not want to ease the restrictions on travel for Palestinians,

Israel may also not want to grant permits to Palestinians to build decent and safe housing.

Israel may also not want to release imprisoned Palestinians held without charges, and

Israel may also not want to take steps to improve the quality of Palestinians’ lives.

And when the reporter notes that Olmert recently started a round of talks with the moderate Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, in hopes of jump-starting peace efforts that have been stalled for years, don’t you think it might have been helpful to have provided some background on why the peace efforts have been stalled for years?

When will the picture become clear to reporters for the major media that while Israel can give speech after speech in which it says it wants peace, what it really wants is the West Bank and Gaza. The peace it seeks is not one with justice but one that comes when it has forced all Palestinians into total submission (not unlike what happened to Junior Soprano) so that no matter how much they are oppressed or their human and civil rights are violated, they will stop complaining. The only other solution which would be appealing to the Israeli government would be the total transfer of all Palestinians out of the occupied territories.

Since there is nothing in the story to support Olmert’s talk about peace with justice, here is an alternative headline for this story:

On solemn day, Olmert vows to continue to kill Palestinians
_____________________


After I finished the article, I went to my computer and in my e-mail found this Update from the Americans for Peace Now, about the taking over of a massive building by the JISH (Jewish Israeli Squatters in Hebron) which says all there is to say about the illegality and the immorality of the settlements and the occupation. It is a long article but quite worth reading.

MORE ABOUT THE JISH (JEWISH ISRAELI SQUATTERS IN HEBRON)
Keep in mind that within the borders of Hebron, one of the biggest Arab cities in the West Bank, are 120,000 Palestinians. In the old city of Hebron, there are 650 Jewish Israeli squatters and 30,000 Palestinians while around Kiryat Arba, the squatterment founded by Rabbi Levinger near Hebron, there are an additional 9,200 Jewish Israeli squatters.

4/20/07
Settlements in Focus - Hebron in the Headlines(Vol.3, Issue 3)
A publication of Americans for Peace Now

There has recently been a lot of news about settler activities in Hebron. What is the story?
On March 19, 2007, in a move that seemed to surprise everyone – including, according to some press reports, Israeli security and intelligence officials – several hundred settlers took over a massive building in the heart of the city of Hebron. They immediately named their new stronghold "Beit HaShalom" ("House of Peace"), while the press nicknamed the structure "Beit HaMeriva" ("House of Contention"). The takeover of the site has sparked controversy over the legality of the purchase itself, the legality of the purchase under Israeli law as it pertains to the activities of Israelis in the West Bank, and the proper role of the government in confronting this clear challenge by the settlers.

This isn't the first time settlers have seized a building or established an outpost. Why is this particular incident such a big deal?
Fundamentally this is just another outpost – a new settlement site established using illegal methods with the goal of creating new facts on the ground, demonstrating to the government of Israel that the settlers will continue to be the primary actors setting the agenda in the West Bank and dictating the geo-political reality on the ground (for a recent report on the issue of illegal outposts, see: http://peacenow.org/policy.asp?rid=&cid=3066). However, this new site in Hebron is uniquely problematic, and the controversy it has sparked is of particular importance, for three reasons: the location of the site and its implications for this volatile city, the broader settler agenda that underlies the decision to undertake this provocative act at this time, and the political context in which this provocation is taking place. Each of these reasons will be explored in detail, below.

What is so important about the site itself?
The site is strategically located along the route between the settlement of Kiryat Arba (located just east of Hebron) and the group of settler-held properties located in the heart of the Hebron city center. For some time now, Hebron settlers have been trying to establish contiguity between the areas, without success. The site of this latest takeover by the Hebron settlers was clearly chosen in order to create this contiguity. Creating this contiguity between the downtown settlement sites and Kiryat Arba has been on the settlers' agenda for a long time – a goal that enjoys the support of some prominent political figures in Israel and from foreign backers (for background on who funds the Hebron settlers, see: http://peacenow.org/policy.asp?rid=&cid=1636).

As noted in an earlier edition of Settlements in Focus (dedicated entirely to the issue of settlers in Hebron), Hebron settlers live in a number of distinct (non-contiguous) sites, with each site anchored by a formerly Jewish-owned property which the settlers have 'reclaimed,' renovated, and expanded. The largest of these are the Avraham Avinu area (which includes a synagogue, schools, and offices), Tel Rumeida (an archeological site on which settlers lived, from 1983-2003, in trailers; in 2003 permission was given for them to build permanent structures on the site, despite its archeological importance), Beit Hadassah, Beit Schneerson, Beit Kastel, Beit Chason, and Beit Romano. In late 2002, a plan to build a 'promenade' for settlers connecting Kiryat Arba and the city center – approved by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon following a terrorist attack in the area – generated controversy within Israel and vehement opposition from the United States. The plan was subsequently shelved. (For the full report, see: http://peacenow.org/policy.asp?rid=&cid=1636)

The location is also important because the site is completely disconnected from other settler areas in Hebron -- it is clearly not an expansion of the existing settlements in the city center. If the settlers are allowed to remain at this new site, they will have succeeded in establishing a brand new, large settlement in an area of the city which until now remained free of Israeli settlers, and in the process will have massively expanded the settlers' presence and impact in the heart of this city. It should be kept in mind that it is not just the site itself that is impacted by the settlers' presence, but already a new and much larger security/military presence has been placed in the vicinity to secure the building and protect the settlers as they travel to and from the site. As is the case in the other areas of downtown Hebron where the settlers are present, when the settlers take over even one building, the effect on the ground is a much larger and more intrusive (and provocative) settler "footprint" in the entire area.

In addition, the size of the building itself is important. The site, which has often been referred to misleadingly in the press as a "house" (giving the impression of a relatively small, single-family structure) is actually a massive four-story structure intended for both commercial and residential use. According to media reports and settlers publications, the size of the building is around 3500 sq. meters (around 39,000 square feet). The settlers reportedly plan for it to become home to around 20 families (100-150 people), making it one the largest settler-populated sites in Hebron. In addition, according to press reports the settlers plan to add an additional floor to the structure, creating space for many more settlers. (Photos of the site can be seen at the Hebron settlers' website: http://www.hebron.com/english/article.php?id=313)
Finally, the fact that this is all taking place in Hebron is of tremendous importance. Hebron is the one city in the West Bank where Palestinians and settlers live cheek-and-jowl, the site of some of the worst settler violence (including the February 25, 1994 Hebron Massacre, when an American-Israeli settler from Kiryat Arba murdered 29 Palestinians at prayer in the Ibrahimi Mosque), and home to a core of the most extreme religious-nationalist ideological settlers in the West Bank. It should be recalled that Hebron is also the site of the second oldest settlement in the West Bank which, not coincidentally, was established during Passover 1968, through the illegal and deliberately provocative takeover of a building by a group of settlers. For details on the history of the settlements in Hebron, including the story of the original settlement in the settlers' own words, see: http://peacenow.org/policy.asp?rid=&cid=1636

When talking about the settlers' goals and intentions, is this just speculation or is it fact?
The settlers' goals and intentions are not secret. The settlers openly boast about their strategy and plans regarding the site. A March 19th press release posted on their website stated:
"The house of peace, on the main road between Hebron and Kiryat Arba is an additional link in the growth of the City of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs. Bonding Hebron and Kiryat Arba, this building will provide homes for dozens, if not hundreds of Israelis, waiting to live in Hebron. It is a tremendous asset which marks another step in the renewal of the Jewish community of Hebron. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the return to Hebron, during the 1967 Six Day war. What could be a better way to celebrate the return to Hebron than by dedicating a new building! It is our hope that this will truly be a place of peace, and that our new neighbors will finally accept that Jews have returned home, to the first Jewish city in the Land of Israel, never ever to leave again." http://www.hebron.com/english/article.php?id=313

What does this new Hebron settlement say about the settlement movement today?

The settlers have been active in determining the political priorities of all Israeli governments over most of the past 40 years. During that time they have developed a talent for detecting especially good tactical opportunities to strike. The current situation represents such an opportunity, and the settlers have taken full advantage. The Hebron case is actually one of two recent, major settler challenges/provocations. The other provocation also took place in late March, when the settlers defied the government and eventually forced the government to permit and provide security for a huge march and symbolic "re-settlement" of the settlement of Homesh – a settlement in the northern West Bank that had been evacuated as part of Sharon's disengagement plan. At that time the settlers stayed at the site for 3 days. On April 19th it was reported that settlers are planning another march to Homesh, this time to celebrate Israel Independence Day; it is likely that in the end the IDF will accede to the settlers' demands in this regard.

The examples of Homesh and Hebron suggest that the settler leadership has decided that now is the time to regain the initiative, following several uncomfortable years during which the settlers, for the first time in the history of their movement, found themselves mainly in a defensive position (i.e., when they faced first disengagement, then the evacuation of 9 buildings in the illegal outpost of Amona, then the election of Olmert on a platform of "convergence").

One recent op-ed also observed:
"The people of Hebron know this is a test case. If the Olmert establishment, which leans that way anyway, allows them to hold on to the asset, this would mark a breakthrough. They can get many donors who would purchase many homes at the heart of the city of our forefathers at full price. They would then be able to create a continuum between Kiryat Arba and Tel Rumeida. They would be able to establish facts on the ground that would make it harder to evacuate them later, should someone would want to do that in the future, heaven forbid. The name 'House of Peace' may be an excellent starting point. Olmert's administration would be able to 'swallow' it with no trouble. More anonymous Jewish donors would donate hundreds of thousands of dollars – and if necessary, millions – just like they provided the USD 750,000 needed to purchase this shopping compound at the heart of the Arab population. 'There is no problem fundraising even a billion dollars in order to purchase houses from the Arabs here,' one of the visitors to the house told us. 'The problem is only to accept the fact that this is indeed a legal procedure, and that a Jew can purchase a house at the heart of Hebron.'" http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3387605,00.html

What has this incident shown about the Israeli government?
This Hebron story comes just over a year after the formation of the Olmert-Peretz government. During this year Defense Minister Peretz has failed to deliver on any of the promises he and the Labor party made with respect to settlements – promises that were incorporated into the government platform when Labor joined Kadima in power. Not a single outpost had been dismantled nor has the pace of construction in outposts slowed. The Maskiyot saga from the end of 2006 (when the government approved the establishment of a new settlement in the Jordan Valley, then changed its mind in the face of an international outcry) was further evidence of the lack of any clear position of the government regarding the future of the West Bank.

It also comes at one of the lowest points in the careers of both Prime Minister Olmert and Defense Minister Peretz. Both are still reeling from last summer's war with Hezbollah, and Olmert himself is facing numerous scandals.

As a result, the Israeli government's response to the settlers' takeover of the site has been notable for its mixed messages, infighting, and the overall sense that those who have the legal authority to take action (the IDF, the police, Defense Minister Peretz) lack either the will or the ability to actually do so.

While Defense Minister Peretz and Deputy Defense Minister Sneh have insisted that the settlers will be evacuated, as is required under law and in a decision that is legally under the authority of the Defense Ministry, other key political figures, including ones very close to Prime Minister Olmert, have taken up the settlers' cause.

For example, on March 20 (the day after the settlers took over the property), Kadima MK Otniel Schneller, Olmert's de facto link to the settlers (Schneller is himself a settler and the former Secretary General of the settler leadership body, the Yesha Council), described the settlers' action as "a continuity of unparalleled importance. This is extraordinary. The work of the righteous is done by others. By rights, the government of Israel should have done this, but since it was done, and assuming that it is legal, this is definitely in line with Kadima's approach from the demographic standpoint, an approach which views Kiryat Arba - Hebron as a Jewish settlement bloc, under any future agreement. In my understanding, this is part of Kadima's world view." http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/839905.html

Similarly, Deputy Prime Minister Eli Yishai (Shas), who has visited the settlers at the new site, has stated, among other things, that: "Hebron is ours since Abraham our forefather purchased the Cave of the Patriarchs, and any Jew who legally purchased a home here can reside here," "I have no problem with the purchase of this house, or the purchase of other houses in Hebron," "The house is Jewish property; there is no legal or military basis to evacuate it. I will raise the issue during the next cabinet meeting," and "The settlers should not be evacuated, they have a right to the property."

Were Palestinians living at the site before the settlers moved in?
No. The building is still under construction and was vacant. While the fa├žade is mostly complete, construction on the inside of the building is not complete, and the structure is not connected to water or electricity.

How many settlers are present at the site?
While the settlers' entry into the building involved reportedly as many as 300 people, according to various reports it appears that 20-30 families have actually taken up residence at the site, living in makeshift, temporary conditions (since the building is still under construction). In addition, during the day there is a larger settler presence in the building and in its immediate vicinity, including settler children brought there for some of their classes. A photo of students at class in the building is included in a Peace Now PowerPoint presentation, which can be viewed at: http://peacenow.org/updates.asp?rid=0&cid=3624

What is the status of Palestinian ownership claims to the building?
A Palestinian from Hebron from the Rajabi family claims to own the building and says he has documentation to back his claim. A petition was filed on Rajabi's behalf to the Israeli High Court of Justice earlier this week making his formal claim in the case. For more details regarding Rajabi's claim, see: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3378588,00.html and http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3379061,00.html

What is the status of the settlers' claim to own the building?
The full details of the transaction – and whether such a transaction even took place – are unknown at this time. We only know what the settlers themselves claim: that the obtained ownership of the building through a purchase facilitated by an office in Jordan, and that they paid around $700,000 for the site, financed, according to some press reports, by a foreign benefactor. This claim has not yet been verified. In the meantime, what is known for certain is that one of the companies involved in the deal is suspected by the Israeli police of involvement in the forgery of documents related to two other sites targeted by settlers in Hebron

If the settlers' purchase is legitimate, do they have a legal right to take over the property?
No. According to Israeli law, real estate transactions involving Israelis and Israeli corporations on the West Bank purchasing property in Palestinian urban areas require the approval of the Minister of Defense and the Civil Administration. Without such approval any such transaction is not only invalid, but it constitutes a criminal act on the part of the Israelis involved. Assuming that the settlers obtained title to the building in a transaction that is otherwise legal (something that has not yet been established), the transaction is still illegal, since there was no such prior approval was sought or granted. A letter making this case was sent March 20th to Defense Minister Peretz by the lawyer for Peace Now's Settlement Watch. (To read the full letter, see: http://www.peacenow.org.il/data/SIP_STORAGE/files/4/2854.doc)

Israeli attorney Talia Sasson, appointed in 2005 by Ariel Sharon to write a comprehensive report on the situation of illegal outposts in the West Bank, weighed in on the issue in a recent op-ed in Ha'aretz. A lengthy excerpt from the op-ed is included here, since it makes very clear why this approval requirement is not just a technicality, but an important requirement reflecting the national security interests of the state of Israel:

"Whether it [the building] was acquired legally by the settlers is a question related to the laws of purchase, but it is not the only question that determines the legality of its seizure. No less important is the question of whether the defense minister approved the acquisition.…The approval of the defense minister is not a technical matter. The acquisition of real estate in the territories has clear diplomatic and security aspects. As ruled by the High Court of Justice, since the area is not under Israeli sovereignty, international law applies to it. The purchase of an asset by Israelis in the heart of a Palestinian population is not only a controversial matter in Israel, but is also seen by the local population as a provocative act, and this is liable to lead to violent opposition against the residents of the asset, the Jewish community and the settlements, as well as against soldiers deployed in the territories. The asset populated by Israelis requires the Israel Defense Forces to deploy differently in the area, and to reinforce the manpower engaged in protecting the residents. Moreover, any settlement in the territories, and certainly in the heart of a Palestinian population center, is liable to have a negative influence on Israel's status in the world.

"These considerations explain why the instructions of the Israeli government regarding the approval of the defense minister, as a representative of the government, were decided on even though Israel's declared policy at the time was to increase the settlements in the territories. As far as is known, no one is claiming that the defense minister and the head of the civil administration approved the purchase of the house. Since the required permit was not presented to the army, the Israel Defense Forces had an obligation to prevent the entry of the settlers before it took place." http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/848026.html

Given that the purchase is illegal, have the settlers been ordered to leave?
On April 11th, Peretz rejected the settlers' appeal to officially register the transaction after the fact, based on the fact that the transaction was made without the required prior approval. On the same day Peretz announced his intention to order the eviction of the settlers from the house within 30 days, allowing them two weeks to evacuate voluntarily and two weeks to appeal his decision.

It is unclear whether Peretz's order to evict the settlers will be carried out, for three main reasons. First, the political future of the Peretz-Olmert government is not clear. Second, there is strong opposition within the government, and within Olmert's Kadima party, to the removal of the settlers from the building (along with pressure to strip Peretz of his authority to order their removal). Third, and perhaps most important, more than a month into this saga Prime Minister Olmert has still failed to make clear his own position on the issue, lending credence to the view that he either supports the settlers or is unwilling to expend political capital fighting this battle.

As observed in one recent editorial in the Jerusalem Post:
"…who decides on the lines of the settlement map? Definitely not Amir Peretz. He might still be nominally in charge of upholding the law in the West Bank and officially the leader of the second-largest party in the coalition, but he has virtually no power to affect government policy. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has yet to express himself publicly on the issue, but there have been two broad hints to his view…If Olmert had felt that he was being misrepresented, surely he would have made that clear, just as he did last week when US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi claimed to be bearing messages from him to Damascus. His stand seems to have been further affirmed this week by Bar-On, one of his closest political allies, stridently supporting the settlers right to remain. If Olmert was in favor of eviction, Bar-On would have kept quiet. Now that Olmert is planning a comeback to his old haunts in the right wing, the last thing he needs is a fight with the settlers. And besides, he's not about to give Peretz any satisfaction."

As it stands, this Hebron affair will likely become either the low point for Peretz, when he is shown to all the country to be completely impotent politically, or it will become the chance for Peretz to establish himself as a real political player – something he urgently needs to do if he is going to survive the Labor party primaries in May 2007.

Are the settlers likely to be evicted anytime soon, if at all?
There is no doubt that the settlers will try to exhaust all legal possibilities and delays in order to gain more time, further entrench themselves in the building, wear out the various political actors, and ensure that anyone who challenges them is forced to expend massive political capital in the effort. Their hope, of course, is that they will benefit either from a weak government or a friendly government, and in the end their illegal act will be sanctioned post facto, as has so often happened in the past. The settlers have long lived by the rule that "it is better to ask forgiveness than permission."

In the end, they will probably be evicted, given the clear and blatant illegality of their action and the provocation this action represents, both in terms of challenging Israel's rule of law and in terms of exacerbating tensions in this very tense city. In the meantime, a recent op-ed explains the various competing forces and consideration at work here:

"It wouldn't be too rash to predict that Defense Minister Amir Peretz will never succeed in evicting the Hebron settlers from the building they moved into four weeks ago. That's not to say that they will not eventually be forced to leave by the government, but it won't be by order of Peretz. There is almost no way that the evacuation will be carried out in the month and a half left to Peretz in the Defense Ministry. The May 28 Labor primaries will almost definitely evict him both from the Labor leadership and the ministry. Even in the extremely unlikely scenario that Peretz manages to snatch victory from the jaws of almost certain defeat, he has already promised after the primaries to demand the Finance Ministry. Meanwhile, in his remaining 45 days, a quiet coalition of ministers, senior officers and legal officials are going to make sure he doesn't provoke another bloody showdown with the settlers just to boost his flagging primaries campaign…. It is almost inevitable that the next defense minister will be the one to deal with this hot potato…"

What does this incident say about law enforcement and settlers in the West Bank?
With respect to this latest provocation in Hebron, a question that still hasn't been answered is why the IDF and the police allowed the settlers to enter the building in the first place, or didn't evict them immediately. As has been clearly established, the purchase was illegal, regardless of whether the financial transaction itself was properly completed. The fact that the IDF and police permitted themselves to be manipulated by the settlers in such a blatant fashion – and then turned around to provide security to enable the settlers to remain in the structure, is a black eye for both organizations and underscores the findings of the March 2005 Sasson Report (http://www.peacenow.org/hot.asp?cid=390), the report on illegal settlements commissioned by Ariel Sharon, with respect to law enforcement in the West Bank:

"…As opposed to Israel, law enforcement in the territories is partially in the hands of the political echelon, especially in the matter of unauthorized outposts. As far as law enforcement is concerned, the political echelon sends a message of no enforcement, when it comes to the territories. Felons are not punished. The overall picture draws the conclusion that no one seriously wants to enforce the law…To this I should add the security concept that wherever an Israeli is placed in the territories – he should be protected. Thus, IDF soldiers will arrive at any place where someone decided to build an outpost, and protect him. The result is that IDF is unwillingly dragged to give its 'seal' to illegal settlements, by being present and protecting the settlers. In its presence, and by protecting law violators, IDF sets the situation, together with these violators. It gives them protection, instead of evacuating them. Therefore it seems that law violation became institutionalized. We face not a felon, or a group of felons, violating the law….Almost all senior officials who I talked with, in the Ministry of Defense, IDF and the Israeli police, believe that the major difficulty with enforcing law in the territories, regarding unauthorized outposts, is the mixed message sent by Israeli governments along the years to executive echelons, both security and civil."

Some settler supporters argue that it is discriminatory to bar Jews from buying property in the West Bank. Is this the case?
No. First, as noted in the op-ed by Talia Sasson (copied above), Israel does not have or even claim to have sovereignty over the West Bank. Indeed, in the Israeli High Court of Justice ruling on Sharon's disengagement plan, the Court observed that since the 1967 War, Israel has had many different governments, but "their legal position regarding the status of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza District as an area which is subject to a belligerent occupation did not change." Thus, if settlers are appealing to the law to sanctify their purchase, it is international law, not Israeli law, that should properly be invoked – law the settlers steadfastly reject (since under most interpretations of international law, all the settlements are illegal). When the settler extremist leader Baruch Marzel (long affiliated with the outlawed Kach party), states that "Our entry into the house in Hebron is a test of the authority of law. If there is law in Israel, the Attorney's Office must protect our rights to buy houses in our ancestors' city," he is deliberately ignoring the fact that the law he is invoking, even according to Israel, does not apply in this area. A recent editorial in Ha'aretz made this clear: "...Hebron is not Jaffa, as the settlers are trying to claim, because it is not part of the State of Israel. On the other hand, the Jewish settlers of Hebron are Israeli citizens and as such the police can evacuate them." http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/846424.html

Second, in an almost farcical moment, Marzel went on to say, "Why should an Arab be allowed to buy a Jew's house but not vice versa?" This bizarre statement ignores the reality that a Palestinian cannot purchase, under any circumstances, property inside a West Bank settlement. Similarly, a Palestinian cannot purchase property inside Israel – indeed, Palestinians cannot even enter Israel without a special permit. It also ignores the reality that even Arab citizens of Israel may face a very difficult time purchasing property in Israeli-Jewish housing developments in Israel – a problem that has been taken to the Israeli High Court of Justice (for an example, see adalah.org/eng – the latest case is documented in a February 19, 2007 press release). Looking at this issue, a recent editorial in Ha'aretz commented: "It is quite funny to hear the legal chicanery regarding the settlers' legal right of purchase, in the context of acts of occupation that are all illegal. After all, Israel is the occupier. It has the power, and it is the law. Would anyone dream of allowing a Palestinian family to purchase a house 'with a clear right of purchase' in Ariel?" http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/848027.html

Produced by Lara Friedman, Government Relations Director, Americans for Peace Nowand Dror Etkes, Settlements Watch Director, Peace Now (Israel)

Deutoronomy 16:20 – “Justice, justice shall you pursue that you may live and inherit the land which God gave you” and the footnote in the 1980 Hertz Edition “(T)here is international justice, which demands respect for the personality of every national group, and proclaims that no people can of right be robbed of its national life or territory, its language or spiritual heritage.