Peace in our Time?

June 19, 2007

Unmoved by the humanitarian crisis

Filed under: Blogroll, Gaza, Israel, Middle East, Palestine, Peace, Peace Now, Saudi, Uncategorized — angelajerusalem @ 8:35 am

By Nehemia Shtrasler

From the perspective of Likud chief Benjamin Netanyahu, the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip proves that the right-wing stance was correct all along. Israel didn’t have to quit Gaza in 2005 or withdraw from Lebanon in 2000, Netanyahu says. The conclusion of Netanyahu and National Union’s Zvi Hendel is that Israel should not negotiate over either the Golan Heights or the West Bank, because Syrian President Bashar Assad is unreliable and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is weak.Such a position makes it seem like rockets weren’t being fired on Sderot when Israel was deep in Gaza, and Hamas wouldn’t have taken control of the strip if the Gush Katif settlement bloc had remained in Israel’s hands. Except that if Israel had not withdrawn from Gaza, the Palestinian fire would have been aimed at the settlers, and the Israel Defense Forces would have paid a heavy price to protect them.

But Netanyahu and Hendel are not moved by the death toll. According to their thinking, we will still be living by our swords in another hundred years. They are also unmoved by the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. They think Israel was charitable toward the Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza because the quality of their lives rose during the years of occupation.

But the facts indicate otherwise. In 1970, the gross national product in the West Bank was $250 per capita, and today it is $1,300 – five times as hi gh in nominal terms. During the same period, Jordan experienced 10-fold growth, going from $280 to $2,800.

Similarly, Gaza’s GNP rose from $170 per capita in 1970 to $1,000 today, growing six times, while the figure in Egypt rose from $200 to $1,800 – nine times. In other words, the Palestinians’ conditions under Israeli rule worsened compared with the region, not to mention the large gap between them and us. Israel’s GNP per capita is 20 times larger than the Palestinians’.

Israel has used the resources of the West Bank and Gaza shamefully, taking full advantage of the occupied areas. For years, Israel prevented the Palestinian territories from developing and setting up factories due to opposition from Israeli industrialists, but exploited the cheap and humiliated labor pool. Palestinians stood on endless lines at the Erez Crossing starting at 2 A.M. to land a day’s work in Israel. Israel also saw the 3.5 million residents of the West Bank and Gaza as a captive market for Israeli products, generally those of inferior quality. To this day, Israeli factories in the fashion industry continue to take advantage of the cheap labor in Gaza for simple sewing work.

In addition, Israel prevented the Palestinian Authority from setting up a large power station so that it could remain dependent on the Israel Electric Corporation. Israel also prevented the construction of a port so it could control all the imports and exports, and put Dor Energy in charge of supplying the territories with gas.

For 40 years, Israel imprisoned 1.4 million people in the large, neglected and backward refugee camp that is the Gaza Strip, turning them into “the poor that are cast out,” as Isaiah would have it. There is a 60-percent unemployment rate in Gaza, and residents depend for sustenance on the rice and hummus they get from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. It is a hopeless situation. Parents are unable to provide their children with food, the housing is dismal, the poverty is humiliating, and the filth, neglect and overcrowding cause despair and aggression.

There is virtually no family in Gaza that has not had relatives killed or wounded, that has not suffered degradation. In such a situation, they have nothing to lose other than life itself. It has become clear that when despair goes sufficiently deep, even life holds no attraction. Last week a woman in her ninth month of pregnancy, a mother of eight children, was arrested on her way to carry out a suicide bombing.

When the Palestinians had a strong and widely accepted leader, Yasser Arafat, with whom one could arrive at a final-status solution, Israel depicted him as a monster and imprisoned him in his Muqata headquarters until his death. When Abbas, an easygoing leader, came along afterward, Israel humiliated him and weakened him and damaged the Palestinian Authority. Israel wouldn’t agree to let him have even the accomplishment of the withdrawal from Gaza. No wonder then that Hamas won the elections.

There is a lot of talk over here about the large gaps between the income of the top Israeli decile and the bottom decile, gaps that are said to endanger the stability of Israeli society. But what about the gaps between us and the Palestinians? Don’t they endanger us? After all, no one wants to live in a “villa in the jungle,” as Labor Party leader Ehud Barak put it. No one wants his neighbor to be poor, unemployed and bitter, to be planning to take revenge on him. But that is precisely our situation. That is where our leaders have brought us. Netanyahu and Hendel, though, aren’t bothered by this. They want to continue to lead the country on the path of destruction and bereavement – because Rachel’s Tomb is more important.


June 18, 2007

Assaf Oron on 40 years of Occupation

Filed under: Blogroll, Gaza, Israel, Middle East, Palestine, Peace, Peace Now, Saudi, Uncategorized — angelajerusalem @ 9:40 pm

Forty years ago this week, tiny Israel demolished the greatest Arab armies and acquired territories three times its size. For us Israelis, these newly occupied territories — East Jerusalem, West Bank, Gaza, Golan, Sinai — were love at first sight. The occupied people — especially more than a million Palestinians — much less so.

In Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol’s words, “We want the dowry, not the bride.” Legal experts concluded that settling Israelis in occupied territories would be illegal. The late Yeshayahu Leibowitz, Israel’s leading intellectual, warned that occupation would turn Israel into a terror-ridden police state. But these voices were drowned in the euphoric din. The Israeli Defense Forces and Shin Bet secret police were ready; we embarked on a mission to have the cake and eat it.

Already in June 1967, citing “municipal unification,” we annexed East Jerusalem, immediately confiscating land and building Jewish neighborhoods. The world looked the other way. Before long, all old borders were erased from our maps. New roads connected Israel with the territories. New settlements were built on “borrowed” land. We loved touring those biblical landscapes, and Palestinians seemed happy. After all, we brought them modernity and great jobs.

Their jobs: building our homes, washing dishes in our restaurants, tilling our fields. No civil or social rights. Palestinians became the ideal cheap foreign laborers — ones who returned home every night. The Shin Bet made sure Palestinians “looked happy,” spreading its nets everywhere: recruiting collaborators, corrupting leaders, jailing or expelling incorruptible ones, torturing bad guys when needed. The IDF provided boots on the ground (including mine), liberal daily doses of humiliation and a system of kangaroo military courts.

The occupation is still intact. We have settled more than 400,000 Israelis beyond the 1967 borders, seamlessly integrating them into Israel. Palestinians are impoverished, demoralized, bitterly divided and oppressed by us more than ever. Considering the fate of other modern occupation regimes, our little “dowry” project seems like an astounding success. Or is it?

Many tend to forget, but settling Sinai and ignoring Egypt brought us the costly 1973 war. We gained peace by completely evacuating Sinai, but failed to apply the same logic elsewhere. So it happened again: Since 1987, East Jerusalem, West Bank and Gaza have erupted with rebellions and terror waves, turning the occupation into an emotional drain and a financial sinkhole — kept afloat only with U.S. support. Most Israelis don’t visit the West Bank anymore, and Jewish Jerusalem suffers a mass exodus of its young.

Meanwhile, the have-the-cake-and-eat-it attitude permeates and corrupts Israeli society and politics to a frightening degree. Tribalism and internal rifts between Jewish population groups have intensified. External threats temporarily unite us, but last summer’s war exposed another problem: After decades of functioning mostly as an occupation police, a bloated IDF could not defeat Hezbollah — a force the size of one regiment.

Most Israelis blame everything on “Arab mentality” or on the Oslo process, conveniently leaving us with an empty to-do list. But occupation and settlement were our free choices. We must take drastic, honest steps to dismantle both.

Unfortunately, the occupation mind-set predates 1967. “Good Arabs,” a new book by Hillel Cohen based on declassified government documents, describes our military rule over Israel’s Arabs from 1948 to 1966. All the occupation’s ingredients were there. In the 1950s, our “security” system even objected to municipal elections in Israel’s Arab towns, for fear of losing control. From the start, our security establishment has equated Israel’s security with controlling Arab lives.

What a narrow-minded, immoral, disastrous mind-set. Go tell Israelis that: We blindly trust our “security experts.” After the much-heralded 2005 Gaza evacuation, Israelis did not question the outrageous security demand to continue controlling Gaza’s exit and entry, its imports and exports. We merely converted Gaza from occupied colony to remote-control prison, precipitating the current chaos there.

Israel is sinking fast. Our Jewish population will soon be outnumbered by the country’s Palestinians, most of them under occupation. Perhaps Americans, who have funded this madness, will help us undo it? Oops, I forgot: Americans are now stuck occupying Iraq.

Assaf Oron is writing his doctoral dissertation at the University of Washington

Nurit Peled-Elhanan, laureate of Sakharov Prize

Filed under: Blogroll, Gaza, Israel, Middle East, Palestine, Peace, Peace Now, Saudi, Uncategorized — angelajerusalem @ 8:57 pm

Speaking at the Tel Aviv demonstration marking 40 years of Occupation

Good evening. It is a great honour for me to stand on this stage beside my friend and brother Bassam Aramin, a man of the Palestinian peace camp, one of the founders of the Combatants for Peace movement of which two of my sons, Alik and Guy, are members of. Only last week, on Tuesday in Anata and on Thursday in Tul Karem, the Combatants for Peace movement succeeded in organizing two massive gatherings and recruited 10 thousands Palestinians to their goal – a joint non-violent struggle against the occupation through close cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians. If not for the racist laws of the State of Israel all those of thousands of people could be with us here this evening to prove once and for all that we have a partner.

Bassam and I are both victims of the cruel occupation that has been corrupting this country for forty years now. The two of us came this evening to lament the fate of ths e that has buried our two daughters – Smadar – the bud of the fruit* and Abir – the perfume of the flower*, who were murdered at an interval of ten years, ten years during which this country has filled with the blood of children and the underground kingdom of children on which we tread day by day and hour by hour has grown to overflowing.

But what unites Bassam and me is not just the death that the Occupation sentenced us to. What unites us is principally faith and a willingness to raise the children that have been left to us so that they will never again allow corrupt, greedy and power-hungry politicians and generals who thirst for blood and conquest to rule over their lives and set them against each other. No more will they allow the racism that has spread over this country to lead them off the path of peace and brotherhood that they have paved for themselves. Because only that brotherhood can bring down the wall of racism that is being built before our very eyes.

For forty years now, racism and megalomania have dictated our lives. Forty years during which more than four million people do not know the meaning of freedom of movement. Forty years in which Palestinian children are born and raised as prisoners in their homes that the Occupation converted into a prison, deprived at the outset of all the rights that human beings are entitled to because they are human. Forty years during which Israeli children are educated in racism of the type that has been unknown in the civilized world for decades. Forty years during which they have learned to hate the neighbours just because they are neighbours, to fear them without knowing them, to see a quarter of the citizens of the State as a demographic danger and an enemy within, and to relate to the residents of the ghettos created by the policy of occupation as a problem that must be solved. Only sixty years ago Jews were residents of ghettos and seen in the eyes of their oppressors as a problem that needed to be solved. Only sixty years ago the Jews were enclosed behind ugly concrete and electrified walls topped with watchtowers manned by erect armed figures, and deprived of the ability to make a living or to raise their children with dignity. Only sixty years ago racism exacted its price from the Jewish people. Today racism rules in the Jewish state, tramples people’s dignity underfoot and deprives them of liberty, condemns all of us to lives of hell. For forty years now the Jewish head has unceasingly been bowed in worship of racism while the Jewish mind is devising the most creative ways to devastate and demolish and destroy this country. That is what remains of the Jewish genius, which has become Israeli. Jewish compassion, Jewish mercy, Jewish cosmopolitan-ness, love of humanity and respect for the other have been long forgotten. Their place was claimed by racism. It was only racism that motivated a Border Guard soldier to pull the trigger from inside his armoured vehicle and to shoot at the head of little Abir as she huddled by the wall of her school in fear of the military vehicle that was plopped down in the schoolyard as if it owned the place. It is only racism that motivates the drivers of bulldozers to demolish houses on top of their occupants, to destroy vineyards and fields, to uproot centuries-old olive trees. Only racism can invent roads on which circulation is classified on the basis of race, and it is only racism that motivates our children to humiliate women who could be their mothers and to abuse old people at the evil checkpoints, to strike young people their own age who, like them, want to drive with their families to bathe in the sea, and to look on impassively as women give birth on the road. It is only pure racism that motivates our best pilots to drop one-ton bombs on residential buildings and it is only racism that permits those criminals to sleep well at night.

Because racism eliminates shame. This racism has erected for itself a monument in its own image – the monument of an ugly, rigid, menacing and invasive concrete wall. A monument that proclaims to the whole world the banishment of shame from this country. This wall is our wall of shame, it is testimony to the fact that we have turned from being a light unto the nations to “an object of disgrace to the nations and a mockery to all the countries.” **

And this evening we must ask where we take our shame? How will we remove the disgrace? But first and foremost, how is it that the shame does not keep us from sleeping at night? How do we consent to have half our salaries be used for the execution of crimes against humanity? (more…)

Crisis in Gaza

Filed under: Blogroll, Gaza, Israel, Middle East, Palestine, Peace, Peace Now, Saudi, Uncategorized — angelajerusalem @ 6:11 pm


June 16, 2007

American Jew finances anti-demolition campaign

Filed under: Blogroll, Israel, Middle East, Palestine, Peace, Peace Now, Saudi, Uncategorized — angelajerusalem @ 10:01 am

By Tovah Lazaroff

An Orthodox American Jew has donated $1.5 million to fund a campaign against the demolition of Palestinian and Beduin homes throughout Israel and the territories, the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions announced on Monday.

The committee plans to use those funds to rebuild as many as 300 Palestinians homes it expects to be demolished this year either by the Interior Ministry, the Jerusalem Municipality or the Civil Administration.

Israel officials argue that Palestinian homes are only destroyed for security reasons or because they were illegally constructed, but ICAHD disputes both those arguments. Director-General Jeff Halper said that the government discriminates against Palestinians and therefore it is very difficult for them to obtain building permits.

Nor does he believe the security argument. “These are not people that have done anything or have been charged with anything. There is no security issues at all in terms of these homes,” he said.

“This is really part of a continuing policy of displacement and dispossession” of Palestinians, he added.

He would not give the name of the US donor but said it was someone who did not want to be complicit with the policy of destroying Palestinian homes.

In the last 10 years, ICAHD has rebuilt some 35 destroyed Palestinians homes, but this is the first time that it has embarked on an anti-demolition campaign of this magnitude, in which it plans to rebuild each destroyed Palestinian home. It has already rebuilt five homes in the Jerusalem area and started on another eight, including four in Hebron.

To mark both the start of its campaign and the 40th anniversary of the Six Day War, the group held a press event in the Old City in one of the few homes that remains from the Mughrabi Quarter which once stood at the site of the plaza that stretches out from the Wailing Wall.

While there have been few home demolitions in the Old City itself in the last 40 years, Halper said that the first act of the “occupation” in 1967 at the end of the war was to destroy part of the Mughrabi Quarter, including two mosques, to make space for worshipers at the wall. Bulldozers came at night and 135 families were forced to leave their homes, Halper said. “We are coming back to the place where the occupation began,” he said.

Speaking with him was the mukhtar of the Mughrabi Quarter, Mahmoud Masloukhi, whose family had lived there for 120 years. He himself was born in 1933 and grew up in the quarter. In 1967, he had recently remarried. When he and his family understood that the quarter was being destroyed, they fled with only the clothes on their backs, he recalled. Now all he has left of his ancestral home is a few black and white photographs which he brought with him. He recalled how at one time, Jews and Muslims lived peacefully together in the Old City. Jews were forced to leave the Old City after the War of Independence in 1948, when Jordan had control of the area. It also destroyed most of the Old City’s Jewish Quarter.

After the Six Day War, it was Masloukhi and his family who had to leave. He and his sister are among the few who have returned to the Old City.

As Masloukhi stood with reporters and showed them the photos of his former home, a number of Jewish children in a school located above the courtyard threw large spitballs and water at him and the other people standing below.

June 10, 2007

ICAHD wins Jewish Voice for Peace “Olive Award”

Filed under: Blogroll, Israel, Middle East, Palestine, Peace, Peace Now, Saudi, Uncategorized — angelajerusalem @ 11:38 am

On Saturday, April 28, 2007 in Oakland, CA, Jewish Voice for Peace proudly presented the 2007 Olive Branch Award to two extraordinary people representing two extraordinary Israeli human rights organizations: Jeff Halper of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) and Professor Anat Biletzki, former chair of B’Tselem, the Israeli Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories.

Jewish Voice for Peace is one of the largest and. oldest Jewish peace organizations in the United States. We are dedicated to promoting a US foreign policy grounded in international law and democracy that recognizes the rights of both Israelis and Palestinians to self determination.

Both ICAHD and B’Tselem embody the spirit of the Jewish tradition of universal justice — ICAHD through its unwavering dedication to stopping the illegal and inhumane practice of the destruction of Palestinian homes, B’Tselem through its fearless commitment to documenting human rights violations in the Occupied Territories. Both organizations are beacons of light to thousands in the United States. We look to you for leadership, courage and inspiration. It is with great pride that we have selected both groups to win the prize this year. Nominees were selected by a group comprised of members from across the United States.

*Cecilie Surasky Director of Communications Jewish Voice for Peace*
1611 Telegraph Ave., Suite 806; Oakland, California 94612
ph: 510 465 1777 x303 fx: 510 465 1616 cell: 510 410 4202

June 8, 2007

UNOCHA Map of Fragmentation of West Bank

Filed under: Blogroll, Israel, Middle East, Palestine, Peace, Peace Now, Saudi, Uncategorized — angelajerusalem @ 4:25 pm

June 1, 2007


Filed under: Blogroll, Israel, Middle East, Palestine, Peace, Peace Now, Uncategorized — angelajerusalem @ 8:59 am

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