Saturday, January 28, 2006
'Welcome to Bethlehem in Israel' - 'What? No it isn't!
posted by: Frubious Bandersnatch at 3:23 PM
To set the record straight. Bethlehem is a Muslim and Christian city with no Jewish population at all. The inhabitants are Arabic speaking people who identify themselves as 'Palestinian'. International law also deems this territory to be the remnants of what was once a territory called Palestine. (UN resolutions 242 & 338). Since the supposed 'peace process' the entire city has even been under the jurisdiction of an entity known as the Palestinian authority. Bethlehem is in Palestine – this may come as a shock, but its true.

It is extremely offensive to the people of Bethlehem when foreign visitors come through the wall and fail to notice that they have left Israel. After all its not as if the wall is a particularly unnoticeable boundary – it consists of 30ft of solid concrete with sporadic gun towers and steel gates! Its not hard to miss people.

But why am I being so uptight about people making this seemingly innocent mistake? Well, for several reasons;

1) Bethlehem city and its inhabitants have suffered greatly under the Israeli regime. In 1967 Bethlehem – which was up until that point in time under the administration of Jordan – was occupied by the Israeli military. It remained under this direct colonial control until the creation of the Palestinian authority in the 1990's, despite numerous UN resolutions declaring the occupation illegal.

2) Bethlehem city has suffered greatly from a series of Israeli invasions in the period of time since it was handed over to the Palestinian authority. During this period, Bethlehem has been subject to numerous and often violent incursions by Israeli troops. The largest of which was when a few dozen Palestinian militants were placed under siege in the famous Church of the Nativity.

3) Bethlehem has had vast quantities of land illegally confiscated for settler and military use. Using an array of laws compiled from the British, Jordanian and Ottoman occupations – coupled with the arbitrary use of 'military orders' – The Israelis have succeeded in confiscating over 50% of the land in the Palestinian West Bank. In the Bethlehem area alone, no less than 11 illegal settlements have been installed – in effect, completely surrounding the city.

4) The construction of the apartheid wall is currently in the process of devastating the city by cutting it off from the outside world. As opposed to being constructed along the internationally recognized border with Israel (which would be the logical route of the wall if the argument that it is for security were true) the wall runs along the edge of the urban areas deep inside Bethlehem's territory. (See picture's in article's below) This is to ensure that the maximum possible amount of land can be confiscated and illegally settled. The result is that Bethlehem is being turned into an urban ghetto so as to not disrupt Tel Aviv's plans for a greater Israel.

5) Bethlehem shelters a large population of refugees from the original round of ethnic cleansing which took place with the founding of Israel in 1947-8. Having been denied their internationally recognized right of return (according to UN resolution 194 refugees 'must be permitted to return') these people – and their decedents – live in poverty stricken refugee camps which are heavily over-crowed.

6) Final reason, Its bloody annoying! The people of this city have suffered a great deal from the policies of the Israeli colonial regime whilst the world fails to notice. When Westerners walk around Bethlehem saying 'oh isn’t this a lovely part of Israel' it only serves to highlight how little the outside world are aware of this area and subsequently it adds insult to injury.

I'm not one for nationalism myself, I believe the people of all nations are essentially all the same – just people – but the people of this suffering city are entitled to their identity and they unanimously agree that they are Palestinians. When visiting or writing about Bethlehem, please try to be sensitive to the fact that many of the things associated with the word 'Israel' have caused these people almost permanent suffering since 1947. The very least we can offer them in terms of respect is to at least addressing these people with the name of their enemy.
Thursday, January 05, 2006
The 24th House demolition in Al Walaja village in 10Years
posted by: Frubious Bandersnatch at 5:34 PM
At 6:30am yesterday morning Israeli mounted police escorted an IDF bulldozer into Al Walaja village (2km West of Bethlehem - in the illegally occupied West Bank.) The targeted house was demolished at 7.28am.

The official reason given for the house demolition was that the house was built without the required permit from the municipality of Jerusalem, which annexed the land in 1967. Under international law the municipality has no jurisdiction over the village of Al Walaja. Under the 1949 Geneva Convention the demolition any civilian buildings in an area of military occupation is forbidden. This action is therefore a war crime.

Since the illegal annexation of the land, non of the houses built to accommodate natural population growth have been granted the required permits. The result of this discriminatory policy is that Fifty-three of the surviving Eighty-five houses in the village have been issued with demolition orders and have not been offered any compensation. Twenty-three further houses have already been demolished over the last decade.

Israel's real motivation for demolishing the houses is that they intended to expand the illegal settlements of Gilo and Har Gilo which are to the east and the south of the village. The demolitions are therefore an act of ethnic cleansing and part of a wider process of population transfer that has been well documented by the UN but largely ignored by the outside world.

The house was not occupied by the family at the time of demolition. They were forced to abandon their new home in 2004 as a result of the municipality's refusal to connect the house to electricity for less than Fifty thousand Israeli Shekels (5 times the average annual income of a Palestinian family.) Since then the family have resided in Aida refugee camp along with thousands of other victims of ethnic cleansing from 1948, 1967 and from a multitude of other minor purges that took place over the following years.

House demolitions are just one of many breaches of international law which the Israeli state carries out on a regular basis. Some are because the house was built without a permit on land intended for an illegal settlement. Many however are demolished as a form of collective punishment for the families of Palestinian fighters and bombers. As this policy forces thousands of children to grown up in the squalid conditions found in the refugee camps, it is frankly hard to see why the Israeli state believes this draconian policy will deter further attacks.

Monday, January 02, 2006
Address to Israeli readers
posted by: Frubious Bandersnatch at 5:48 PM
We at the Bethlehem blog receive many comments from Israeli readers. From these comments two things become clear;
1) That there are many people in Israel that have no idea, whatsoever, what life is like in a Palestinian city.
2) That many people feel threatened by what we write. We are regarded as an enemy because we speak from a Palestinian city. Therefore we are on the 'other side' and clearly hate Jews. Why else would we side with this murderous race of terrorists?

In response to these comments I would like to make several things clear about my own reasons for writing about this city and criticising Israeli policy.

Firstly, I am well aware of what happened to the Jews in the Holocaust. As a result of wide spread anti-Semitism in Europe (NOT just from the Nazis) hatred and fear were allowed to spiral out of control. Jewish people were dehumanised to the extent that no one resisted when the Nazis dragged away their Jewish neighbours. People knew what was happening on some level, but they turned a blind eye whilst over six million Jewish human beings were butchered like cattle. It was a massive crime against humanity and its enormity still lies deep within the Jewish collective mind today. Everyone in Israel has a relative (or perhaps many) who lost their lives. For the survivors the only question left in life was 'how do we guarantee that this will never happen again?'

For many Jewish people the answer was Israel. The task was to build a state just for Jewish people. A place where being Jewish was a merit not a curse. A place governed by Jewish people, with Jewish courts and a Jewish military. Never again would someone come in the middle of the night to take your children, not when the police and the people with the guns were all Jewish. For a people who had lost so much, I can see how perfect this dream must have seemed.

One thing stood between the Jewish people and the realisation of their dream. The British (occupied) Colony of Palestine, which was chosen because of ancient historical ties with the Jewish religion, was already populated by Arabic people. Roughly 70% were Muslims, 20% were Christians and 10% were Arab Jews. This is not the case today and there is only one possible way that the population could have gone from 10% being Jewish to an overall Jewish majority.

Driven by the fear which the Holocaust created the Jewish people fought another war which they believed was for their survival. Israel could not simply be founded as a settler state. It had to be founded as a military state because the settlers needed protecting from the native population who were being displaced. The refugee camps throughout the Middle East, and the vast world Diaspora which calls itself Palestinian, is testimony to the fact that a second genocide happened. Through fear and a desperate urge for self protection, David became Goliath.

Instead of bringing peace and security for the Jewish nation, what have these actions earned? More death, more killing and a state in almost constant war for the last 60 years. Every time a bomb explodes in Tel Aviv, do you really feel you have found the peaceful Jewish paradise which you were looking for? Violence has spawned more violence.

I write for the Bethlehem blog because I want peace. I want the constant violence to end as I recognise that peace for the Palestinians alone is a contradiction. The only peace which can exist will come from both sides feeling secure. In bringing peace to the Palestinians you will finally find the peace you have been looking for since 1942. In order for this to happen some hard truths must be faced. You must admit that your country is not only a coloniser, it is also a colony. That the white skin many of you bare comes from the cooler climate of northern Europe, where you ancestors lived before the Holocaust.

When you call the Palestinians terrorists, do you not recognise that every Jewish city in Israel was built on the ruins of an Arabic city which stood before it? Your ancestors may have lived here Two Thousand years ago, but many of the individuals who were expelled in 1948 are still alive and living in refugee camps today, with the keys to their original homes sting hanging on their walls. The population of this country may have changed many times over the millennia, but do you really think that ancient history justifies 'wringing' the native population out of the land in the Twentieth century? Have you never seen the poverty stricken Arabic minorities living in the old cities of Haifa, Acre and Jaffa? Have you ever wondered why some towns like Nazareth are entirely inhabited by Arabs even though they are inside Israel? The Jewish state you have created came at the price of destroying the people who lived there before you. If peace is ever to be achieved you must admit to your own history, you must recognise the level of injustice which has to be reached in order to make people desperate enough to become 'terrorists'.

Today the colonisation continues. Even in the West Bank (a place with a large Arabic majority) your own country's extremists are building new colonies inside densely populate Arabic areas.

Do I blame the people of Israel for what they have done to Palestine? No. Do I hate Jewish people for dismantling this small nation? No. The hatred and the fear which the Nazis created during the holocaust has simply been passed on.

I do not blame you, as I do not blame the Palestinian bomber who was born in a refugee camp, saw the soldiers come for his father in the night and saw his own brother shot in the street for throwing stones. When you label the Palestinians terrorists you are dehumanising them as much as the Nazi dehumanised you.

The nation of Israel deserves to have peace. A fight that started against the Nazi in 1933 has yet to reach conclusion. If you want peace, recognise what you have done to your neighbours, the brutal actions that were taken through fear. Visit the outskirts of a Palestinian city and see the old men and women being harassed and interrogated in front of an 8 meter high concrete ghetto wall. Look at the young frightened Israeli soldier who is holding the gun instead of being at home like the other youths in the world, and ask yourself 'will this bring Israel the peace it has been seeking?'

The writers at the Bethlehem blog do not mean to be hostile to the people of Israel. We wish to bring to you a simple message.

What we see in this city will not bring peace, only more violence. If you want peace, admit to your past and stop colonising what remains of the Palestinian territory. Every time a Palestinian dies in a house demolition, or an Israeli dies in a Tel Aviv café, and the suffering of both sides increases, the only person laughing is the Nazi - like an echo through decades past.