Occupied: Headlines From Palestine

Blogging From Gaza, Palestine


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Discriminatory Housing Policy Is Only Home Palestinian Israeli Citizens Know

In ruling against Bedouin, Israel’s top court ignored years-long institutionalized policy that created serious shortage of housing in Palestinian society.

After 13 years of legal battles, the Supreme Court last week ruled to finally approve the evacuation of the village of Umm al-Hiran, with its thousand residents. The court approved the evacuation based on the ruling that the state — which is the owner of the land and which granted the right to reside on the land — can also revoke the right it granted and remove the residents.

The court’s decision ignored the fact that it was the state that moved the residents to the area 60 years ago, after removing them from their own land during the the 1948 Nakba. During those 60 years, people were born in the village, grew up, married, built houses, gave birth to children and even had grandchildren.

Moreover, the court did not relate to the fact that the state is not planning to use the land for a different purpose. Houses will be built on it and people will live in them, exactly as they do today — but they will be Jewish residents, not the Bedouin of Umm al-Hiran.

It was not just these clear facts that the judges ignored. While they were entangling themselves in the legal exactitudes that allowed the state to change its mind and evacuate the residents legally, they ignored other legal principles, which should have caused the state to reexamine its decision.

Thus, for example, the planning authorities based themselves from the start on the assumption that the original residents had tresspassed on the land. In addition, according to the admission of the state representative in court, the possibility of integrating the residents of the village within the new community was not even considered, as fairness would require.

Joint Arab List Knesset members recently requested that a team of experts be established to provide an overall solution to the housing shortage in the Arab community — and that demolition orders be frozen until a long-term solution can be found. Attorney General Yehudah Weinstein did not accept the proposal. He insisted on enforcement — in the name of the rule of law, of course — with every objection being examined individually.

That is yet another example of how the authorities hide behind the dry letter of the law, without seeing the overall picture. Weinstein’s decision was supposedly based on the principle of “sectoral blindness,” but it ignored the discrimination against Arab society with regard to land and housing that is practised by all state authorities. It is this institutionalized discrimination that leads to construction without permits in Arab communities.

It is convenient to forget that the lack of housing in Arab communities stems to a great extent from their limited municipal boundaries, which do not include state land and have never been expanded. Twenty percent of the population lives on 2.5 percent of the land.

It also stems from the lack of up-to-date master plans in most Arab comunities and from the consistent discrimination in the allocation of resources — only 5 percent of the tenders published by the Israel Lands Authority for new housing in 2014 were for Arab towns.

And it stems from the systematic exclusion of Arabs from government benefits and support. One example is the “target price” plan for affordable housing, which will be implemented in 30 Jewish communities and not a single Arab one.

In such a situation, construction without permit is a necessity in Arab towns. The rule of law, even in its formalistic meaning, assumes that the citizen has been given a reasonable opportunity to act according to the instructions of the law, but chose not to do so. But governmental authorities prevent Arab citizens from building with permits or, at the very least, contribute significantly to making it impossible.

Turning a blind eye to the contribution of official policies in creating sectoral anomolies regarding planning and building laws and the insistence on literal enforcement, have turned the term “rule of law” into no more than a formalistic, bureaucratic cover.

In practice, it contradicts the essence of the rule of law, since it is the obligation of an administrative authority to strive for equality, not just in its meaning as relating to all as equals, but also in terms of relating to different people differently.

Legal formalism serves as an effective tool for the state to avoid its responsibility for the creation of the Arab housing shortage. In its decision on Umm al-Hiran, the court refused to see the human, social, historical and political aspects and ignored the state’s responsibility for the situation it created. Instead, it took advantage of the legal opportunity to remove the residents.

The Attorney General too, in his refusal to find an overall solution to the problem of construction without permit, defends the rule of law in only its formal aspect, while ignoring the years-long institutionalized policy that created the serious shortage of housing in Arab society.

The writer is an attorney in the land and planning rights department of Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel.

 


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Israeli Apartheid Week Launched In Dozens Of US Universities

PNN/ Bethlehem/

Israeli apartheid week activities were launched in several universities of the US, in coordination by the Students for Justice in Palestine organization, which has branches in many American universities, on Wednesday.

The action highlights the Israeli apartheid policies and daily human rights violations against Palestinians, in synchronization with the Palestinian Nakba (exodus) anniversary, on 15 May, 1948.

According to a statement by the student activists in Justice for Palestine organization which PLO Department of Palestinians Expatriates Affairs received, the apartheid week will be organized in tens of American universities including Northwestern University, Delaware, Houston, New Jersey, New Orleans, New York and Seattle.

Palestinian activist and entrepreneur at Students for Justice in Palestine, Omar Shanti, said that the event aims on exposing the dark Israeli history and systematic ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, in addition to the ongoing oppression and racism policies. The activity will support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) movement against Israel, in addition to seeking justice for Palestine and ending the Israeli occupation.

Throughout the week, there will be several speakers and activists of different backgrounds and cultures to raise awareness of the issue. Workshops will be held on the Palestinian resistance through cultural heritage, poetry and arts around the world.

Solidarity stands with Palestine will be conducted by setting checkpoints around campuses to explain the Israeli blockade, since about 67 Palestinian mothers between the years 2000-2005 had to deliver their babies on military checkpoints, leading to the death of 36 infants.

The other purpose of the apartheid week involved the ethnic minorities in the US, and the struggle to be free around the world, to achieve justice and equality for the oppressed.


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Israeli Occupation Denies South African Education Minister Entry To Palestine

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — The South African minister of higher education said late Thursday that he had been denied entry to Palestine by Israeli authorities in revenge for political stances against Israeli policies.

“This is not only an act against him, but also an act against him as a member of the Cabinet, so by extension it’s an anti-government protest by Israel,” spokesperson Khaye Nkwanyana told South African news website News24.

Minister Blade Nzimande was due to travel to the West Bank for a six-day working visit to discuss collaborations between the University of Johannesburg and Palestinian universities, a follow up to an agreement signed when Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas visited South Africa last year.

The Ministry said, however, that the Israeli consulate refused to grant him a visa as a result of his political views in what is being labeled an “attack” on the South African government itself in the local press.Nkwanyana said that the visa rejection was creating a “serious diplomatic problem,” noting that it effectively barred all South African officials from visiting both Palestine as well as Israel.

All travel in and out of the West Bank is controlled by Israel, meaning that Israeli military authorities hold ultimate control over any individual trying to reach the Palestinian territories.

“We must just boycott Israel,” the minister said in a statement to the press, adding that Israel was trying to “minimize the number of people who can actually see what is happening on the ground.”

He also said that he would urge South African institutions of higher education to cut their ties to Israeli institutions. Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki condemned the move in a statement released on the official Palestinian news agency Wafa.”Israel’s policies would not succeed in isolating the Palestinians,” he said. “It will only embolden them into more struggle for ending Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.

“South Africa is a vocal supporter of the Palestinian cause and numerous government officials have repeatedly compared the Israeli occupation and the systematic discrimination practiced against Palestinians to the racial apartheid policies practiced by the South African government against its black citizens until 1994.

Israeli authorities have repeatedly denied entry to officials from other countries and even from international bodies such as the United Nations that it feel have taken antagonistic political stances.In January, the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes, and consequences, Rashida Manjoo said she had been denied entry by Israel. She said she had tried for months to get permission to enter in order to undertake a fact-finding mission, but had been refused entry.In November, Israeli authorities banned the Colombian foreign minister from visiting the West Bank after discovering that she did not plan to meet with Israeli officials as well.


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Israeli Occupation Reinstates Apartheid Segregated Roads In Hebron (Video)

 

IDF re-segregates main road leading to Cave of the Patriarchs, two years after it ostensibly put an end to the policy.  

Israeli human rights group B’Tselem announced Thursday that the Israeli military has renewed segregation between Jews and Palestinians on the main street leading to the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron since January. The military does not allow Palestinians to use the main part of the street and forces Palestinians to use a narrow, unpaved and rough pedestrian passageway.

According to B’Tselem, this policy had been previously implemented between September 2012 to March 2013. It was was temporarily stopped after the organization published a video (above) showing Border Police officers explaining that the main part of the street was for Jews only. The military withdrew the policy only once the video circulated widely and received much media coverage. Until recently, that is.

Since the 1994 Cave of the Patriarchs Massacre, in which an Israeli settler by the name of Baruch Goldstein murdered 29 Muslim worshippers, the Israeli military has adopted an official policy of separating Jews and Muslims in Hebron. However, only Palestinians bear the brunt of this policy, which places them under severe restrictions when it comes to travel and movement in downtown Hebron.


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Israeli Occupation Seize Tractor,Truck and 4 Water Tanks From Palestinian Village via @ISMPalestine

22nd November 2014 | Operation Dove | Susiya, Occupied Palestine

On November 20th, the Israeli forces seized a tractor, its truck, four water tanks and three tanks’ bases from the Palestinian village of Susiya.

Photo by Operation Dove

In the early morning DCO [District Coordination Office] officers approached the Palestinian village to take pictures of the ongoing works to install four new water tanks. In the early afternoon DCO officers returned with Israeli army, police, two trucks, one of which was equipped with a mechanical arm.

The tractor and its truck, that carried water cisterns and their bases, were seized with the accusation of being used for illegal works, since Palestinians didn’t have permissions to install new water tanks. Tanks and bases were seized without any previous issued demolition order under the pretext that they were not yet installed on the ground.

Photo by Operation Dove

Water tanks were geared of filters to provide drinkable water and were donated to the Palestinian village because of the lack of drinkable water that effects all the South Hebron Hills area.

The Palestinian village of Susiya is located in Area C, under Israeli military and civil administration, and it is surrounded by the Israeli settlement of Suseya, the outpost of Suseya’s Ancient Synagogue and the military base of Suseya North. Around the settlement and the military base there are 26 wells and water cisterns that Palestinians are forbidden to use even if they are on Palestinian private proprieties. Even more, the CO doesn’t allow Palestinian residents of Susiya to connect to Israeli Makorot Company’s water pipes that run right through the Palestinian village and bring water from the settlement of Suseya to the outpost of the Ancient Synagogue.

Palestinian residents of Susiya pay 35 NIS per cubic meter of tanked water, six times more than the nearby settlement, which is served by the network, and Palestinian residents spend up to 1/3 of their income on water. Water consumption of Palestinians in Susiya is 28 liters/capita/day, significantly less than the 70 l/c/d consumed by an average Palestinian and well below the World Health Organization standard of 100 l/c/d. (source OCHA OPT)

The Palestinian inhabitants of Susiya are struggling through non-violent popular resistance in order to gain the right to access their own lands and to live a dignified life.

Operation Dove has maintained an international presence in At Tuwani and the South Hebron Hills since 2004.


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Apartheid: Israeli Town Banning Palestinians With Israeli Residency From Entering

Arutz Shuva

In the wake of the storm Ashkelon Mayor Itamar Shimoni’s Wednesday night’s announcement created, additional municipalities have stepped up Thursday with their own plans to increase the security in their communities, also with an emphasis on construction sites, Channel 10 News reported.

Mayor Shimoni’s decision to temporarily freeze the employment of Arab Israeli workers on construction sites in kindergartens has sparked condemnation from various party members in the Knesset as well as criticism from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu himself.

The mayor, citing security concerns, explained that the increased presence of Arab workers in close proximity to educational institutions is potentially harmful to residents’ security, and therefore their employment will stop until the tense security situation improves.

“There is no place for discrimination against Israeli Arabs. We should not generalize an entire population because a small minority of it is violent and belligerent,” Netanyahu stressed in response.

On Thursday, the Mayor of Ashdod, Yehiel Lasri, in cooperation with the Municipality Manager as well as security forces in the city, decided on a series of measures including increased police patrols within the city.

Ashdod, like Ashkelon, is located along the southern part of the Mediterranean coast.

Additionally, construction sites’ contractors were instructed to carry out strict daily reviews of the sites and their workers, as well as to be prepared for the deployment of security guards to those sites, with a particular focus on kindergartens.

The municipality of Kiryat Ono – a small city in the Gush Dan area – announced on its website Thursday its new security measures, effective immediately. “As of today, there there is no entry for employees who do not carry blue Israeli ID Cards. Employees with orange ID cards will not enter our city.”  (A citizen receives a blue ID card in Israel, while a resident’s ID card is orange.)

Kiryat Ono’s municipality also announced the reinforcement of security forces in the area in addition to municipal policing patrols.

We will have no tolerance for contractors who disrespect our procedures,” the municipality added. “They will stop work until further notice. We have ordered police tours of urban construction sites and compounds to check identity cards, as well previous criminal convictions.”

“These decision were made in full cooperation with the Israeli police and will be under the supervision and close monitoring of Adi Maoz, the Director of Emergency and Security in the municipality.”

Finally, the Municipality of Ma’ale Adumim, a city in Judea, has also announced new security measures including the shift of construction work in schools from morning hours to the evening, after the students have vacated the premises.

In addition, the city has doubled its police vehicles, and added security patrols, particularly during the hours workers enter the city. Municipal security cameras were also connected to a police hotline.


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Apartheid Israeli Mayor Bars Arabs From Working In City’s Kindergartens

 

Says order is a part of an effort to make parents feel safe in light of recent attacks in Jerusalem.

By Shirly Seidler for Haaretz

Ashkelon Mayor Itamar Shimoni decided on Thursday to bar Arabs from working in three kindergartens in the city during school hours. Shimoni said his move was prompted by pressure from parents fearing a terror attack.

Shimoni said that as of Thursday armed guards will be posted at the entrance to seven kindergarten complexes accommodating more than 100 children. The money for the security guards, estimated in the tens of thousands of shekels, was partly donated from abroad, it was revealed.

Shimoni wrote on his Facebook page: “Although the Public Security Ministry is responsible for placing security guards, I’ve instructed putting armed guards in every kindergarten complex close to construction sites in which Arabs are employed. Also, in kindergartens where protected rooms are being built by Arab workers, the work will be stopped until further notice.”

A municipality official said the directives were not to stay in effect “until further notice” but until “things calm down,” due to the tension among parents after the recent terror attack in Jerusalem.

The city’s security director, Effie Mor, said parents who felt their children were unprotected had approached the mayor and himself.

“We discussed the situation with all the relevant city officials and especially the tension among the residents. We’ve received many calls from mothers afraid for their children, saying they saw a suspicious person near the kindergarten, or reports of workers in construction sites,” he said.

“Because of the tension we decided to create a few days of respite for the residents, so they can have some quiet and feel safe over the next few days,” he said.

Residents collected signatures in several kindergartens Wednesday for a petition urging the mayor to post armed guards at schools. The mayor had said he would have “security forces” patrol the schools, but the parents said patrols are not enough and insisted on posting a security guard at every kindergarten.

MKs from the left and center condemned the move.

Meretz leader Zehava Gal-on blasted the move as illegal and unjustified. “I understand perfectly well the fears felt by the parents of Ashkelon, who are afraid of Arab laborers, despite the fact that most of them are citizens, just like them. These parents, like us all, hear government ministers repeatedly equating the terrorists of recent days with any and every Arab. They are being exposed to statements meant to erase the humanity of all Arabs and convince us that they are all potential terrorists, all traitors, and that this conflict is a religious one between all Jews and all Muslims …. The role of parents is to fear for their children. But at the same time, the role of real leaders in such times is to work to allay these fears, and be strong enough to not bow down to primal fears. The role of leaders – and I am talking about the Mayor of Ashkelon – is not to choose the easy path, that bows down to incitement and racism.”

MK Issawi Freij (Meretz) called on the mayor to retract his decision. “Shimoni’s decision to stop Israeli Arabs from working in Ashkelon is the worst kind of racism. Using the shabby excuse of ‘sense of security,’ Shimoni wants to purge Ashkelon of Arabs and pollute it with anti-Semitic racism. I call on Interior Minister Gilad Erdan and the chairman of the Local Authorities Union to denounce Shimoni and insist he retract his decision,” Freij said.


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Israeli Occupation Freezes Plans To Reopen Some Apartheid West Bank Roads To Palestinians

By Jonathan Lis for Haaretz

Plans to reopen some West Bank roads for Palestinian vehicles have been put on hold due to the escalating violence, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said Wednesday.

Ya’alon did not specify which roads were included in the now-shelved plan, which was being devised by the Israel Defense Forces’ Central Command.

“In recent years, in the wake of the last decade’s terrorism wave, checkpoints have been erected and roads have been closed,” the defense minister said. “Due to an improvement in security that began after Operation Defensive Shield and lasted until recently, steps have been taken to ease [these restrictions]. These administrative efforts included understandings with regard to reopening more roads in the future, but due to the escalation, these steps have been frozen.”

Ya’alon made the comments during a Knesset plenum session in response to a question by MK Orit Strock (Habayit Hayehudi).

“I am glad to hear that these steps have been frozen,” Strock then said. “One needs to be blind and deaf to not realize that the Palestinians have declared a road intifada. Clearly, as the defense minister, you must take note of this road intifada and not allow it to hurt us.”

Strock said that more roads should be closed, and called on Ya’alon to make efforts to allocate additional 1.9 million shekels toward armoring settlers’ vehicles. The defense minister responded by saying that such allocations are the responsibility of the Finance Ministry.


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‘Jewish Nation-State’ Bill Sets Out To Establish Democracy For Jews Only

Government must reject shameful bill outright.
Haaretz Editorial

The bill proposing a basic law on Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people will be presented to the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday in its original form. This version, by MK Zeev Elkin (Likud) – which differs from the “laundered” version presented by MKs Yariv Levin (Likud) and Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi), which was discussed by the committee and passed on to a special committee headed by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni – lets the cat out of the bag: The Jewish character of Israel supersedes its democratic character. The Jewishness of the state is manifest in discrimination against Arabs, and its democracy is none other than a regime that lets the majority do anything it wants and exploits the minority.

The current version of the bill states specifically that it is intended to outrank any ordinary legislation or basic law that preceded it, and that all legislation will be interpreted through it. Thus, the bill undermines the Basic Law on Human Dignity and Freedom (1992), which ensures the right to human dignity, including the right not to be discriminated against based on affiliation to a certain group.

The bill also obviates the official status of the Arabic language, encourages preference for Jewish communities as opposed to non-Jewish ones, and declares that the state reserves the possibility to establish communities on the basis of national or religious affiliation.

According to the bill, while Jews have a collective right to heritage and culture backed by the state, Arab citizens may foster their culture by themselves. The bill would also strengthen the status of religion in the country by increasing the impact of Jewish jurisprudence and making it an “inspiration to the legislator.”

The purpose and significance of the law – to reestablish the constitutional foundation of the State of Israel in a manner that elevates its Jewish character and compromises its democratic character – threatens to destroy Israel’s democratic way of government, and to justify claims that Israel is a “democracy for Jews only.” This legislation clearly undercuts the Zionist ideal of the establishment of an exemplary, egalitarian and democratic society.

The presentation of the bill at this time, with tensions between Jews and Arabs running so high, is a political move lacking wisdom and sensitivity. It also raises the suspicion that its framers want to raise tensions further for political gain. The government, which is obligated to the Declaration of Independence and the protection of democracy in Israel, must reject this shameful bill outright.

 


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Palestinian Activists Cross Separation Wall in Protest Action

RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — Dozens of Palestinian activists crossed Israel’s separation wall on Friday near Qalandia checkpoint as part of a series of non-violent protest actions to demonstrate solidarity with Jerusalem.Activists used makeshift ramparts, ladders and cut through barbed wire to climb over the separation wall near Qalandia military checkpoint, which is at least six-eight meters in height.The action was part of a campaign entitled #On2Jerusalem that was organized by the Popular Resistance Committees.

Coordinator of the popular committees, Salah Khawaja, said they attempted to enter Jerusalem but were prevented from doing so by Israeli forces, who deployed heavily in the area.

Israeli forces used live fire, tear gas canisters, stun grenades and rubber-coated steel bullets to disperse the march.

Dozens of Palestinian activists also gathered near the village of Hizma carrying Palestinian flags and shouting slogans in support of Jerusalem.

Several youths were injured as Israeli forces opened fire at them to prevent them crossing the checkpoint. The activists managed to close the road, with Israeli forces preventing settlers from traveling to the area.

Dozens of activists also demonstrated by the entrance to Maale Adumim settlement waving Palestinian flags.

“They attempted to detain us for carrying Palestinian flags,” Khawaja said. “What we did today was to emphasize that we do not have a choice but popular resistance and clashing with Israel is a part of our fight to stop Israeli crimes against Palestinians”

An Israeli army spokeswoman said there was an “attempt” to cross the wall, without providing further details.