Friday, February 24, 2006
The start of a Jewish settlement in Bethlehem?
posted by: snoopy at 4:25 PM

Bethlehem is more quiet than for a long time, the tourist buses are arriving in higher numbers, we have had democratic elections, and one could almost pretend the situation was getting better.

What has failed to reach world media though, is the continuing systematic imprisonment of Palestinians, and especially Palestinian children.

In the last 3 weeks in Bethlehem alone, Israel has arrested 63 Palestinians, including 21 children!

Israeli forces arrest 63 Palestinians from Bethlehem

Also there are bulldozers digging around the Israeli military installation/place of worship 'Rachel's Tomb' in the North of the city. It is said that a Jewish religious school and a synagogue is to be built, surrounded by more concrete walls.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006
Oh, for an ordinary life...
posted by: buzzimp at 10:37 PM

Two weeks after the latest house demolitions in al-Walaje, one of the families are still living in a Red Cross tent just next to where their house used to stand.

The people of al-Walaje are still struggling desperately to cope with their horrendous situation. The residents have hired lawyers in groups to try and defend their homes. A group of 25 homes were asked by the Israeli Authorities to submit a Zoning Plan. They were told to hire an Architect, something which is extremely expensive, and then submit their plan. In good faith, the residents, desperate to save their homes, hired an architect and submitted their Zoning Plan to the Israeli Courts.

Last Friday, the 10th of February, the Israeli Courts replied to the Zoning Plan for the village which had been submitted. They said that they could not consider it, because the villagers in al-Walaje, who submitted the plan, hold West Bank ID cards, not Jerusalem ID cards. Israel annexed a part of the village in 1967, but didn’t inform the villagers until 1985 that they were not living in ‘Israel’. They now refuse to give the villagers Jerusalem ID cards, despite the fact that the villagers, who are refugees from 1948, have owned their land and lived on it since well before 1967, when it was illegally annexed. (See post of February 1st).

Now that the submission of a Zoning Plan has been rejected, and there is no possibility for the residents to submit another one, they expect the 25 homes to be demolished very soon.

All of this is, as usual with Israel, contrary to international law and treaties. The rule of law, either domestically or internationally, does not and will not ever work unless there are sanctions or punishments for those who break the rules. Where are the punishments for Israel? Who is willing to stand up and take a stand? Obviously not world leaders, so who will help the people of al-Walaje?
Monday, February 06, 2006
posted by: buzzimp at 12:55 PM
By Luckyboy Pitswane

Together with the rest of the world, we in Palestine followed the process leading to the 25th of January – the second Palestinian Legislative Council elections – with the greatest interest. This arose from a deep concern we have sustained for many decades to see the immensely talented people of Palestine living in conditions of peace.

Even though they are living under occupation, more than 1,000,000 Palestinians exercised their democratic rights by participating in the second elections for the PLC, which took place 10 years after the first ones. As an international observer, I was assigned to monitor elections in the rural villages outside of Jenin, in the northern part of the West Bank With or without us, everything was well organised.

I was very impressed by the level of professionalism displayed by the Central Election Commission, Party Representatives and international observers. Everything was well organised and everyone new what she/he was doing. Apart from few human errors or discrepancies people were in a position to exercise their democratic rights in a free and fair manner.

Once again, in Jerusalem, Israel was exposed. More than 125,000 Palestinians are eligible to vote in East Jerusalem, only 6,300 were allowed to vote in post offices in Jerusalem. The rest were forced to go to the nearest polling stations outside of Jerusalem. One cannot confirm if these elections were free and fair, since no Central Elections Commission staff were allowed to work in Israeli post offices. The elections were conducted by Israeli post office staff and no counting was allowed inside the post office.

The issue of Jerusalem should be seriously looked into, because East Jerusalem is seen as a future Palestinian capital. One is shocked that even though there have been serious reports of such malpractices in the past, the world is again quiet.

Many were and are still shocked by Hamas' victory, who won 74 seats out of 132 in the Council. Hamas will lead the Palestinian Authority for the coming four years. I wish and hope that Hamas will work with Mahmoud Abbas, as explained in the comments made by Ismail Haniyya (the head of Hamas' electoral list) when he said "Hamas is a Palestinian movement. It is an aware and mature movement, one which is politically open in the Palestinian political and social arena, and to its Arab and Islamic hinterlands and similarly open to the international arena."

The so-called Quartet is missing the point in Palestine

The Quartet's reaction to Hamas' election victory in Palestine is very disappointing. Their final statement presented by the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan appeared to be more politically biased, premature, unprofessional and more emotional than reflective.

Their comments remind one of the now defunct South African Apartheid Nationalist Party (NP) to impose on the African National Congress (ANC) the composition of its delegation for negotiations in the early 1990s. The NP then demanded the exclusion of the Communists ("terrorists") from the ANC delegation.

Their statement also contradicts the so called superpower's political strategy of dealing with terrorism by promoting democracy in the Middle East. Their reaction will send a confusing signal to the moderate citizens of the Gulf States who are hoping for more democratic reforms by their governments. The super-powers have once again revealed their true colours. Their intentions are not to promote democracy, but to create puppets and regimes that will always dance to their lousy music and are called allies in exchange for oil and natural resources in the Gulf region. It is unfortunate because the democratic process in Palestine has not allowed the superpowers that privilege.

The Quartet has an opportunity to work with the democratically elected Hamas now that it is a legitimate political voice of the Palestinians. If they reject Hamas, they reject Palestine. We got the message.
Wednesday, February 01, 2006
The ethnic cleansing continues...
posted by: buzzimp at 10:35 PM
Two more houses demolished. Eleven more people homeless. Eleven more lives ruined. Another village petrified. Another 50 households wondering when their turn will come. All in a day’s work for the Israeli Defense Forces.
Two more houses in the village Palestinian of al-Walaje, just outside Bethlehem, were demolished by the Israeli Occupation Forces, on 31st of January, the Islamic New Year. (A new year’s present, as one resident of the village explained to me.) The bulldozers arrived at 12 noon, and were all gone by 2pm. The bulldozers were accompanied by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), Israeli Police from the municipality of Jerusalem and Israeli Border Police, who all descended on the village.

The first house to be demolished didn’t even have a demolition order on it. The inhabitants, Munther Salim, his wife Siham and their three children, hired a lawyer because so many houses in their village had demolition orders on them. They were assured by their lawyer just two weeks previously that he had received promises from the Israeli authorities that their house would not be touched. Because of their difficult economic situation, they could not afford to build a house on the land which Siham inherited from her father when he died nearly 20 years ago. Despite this, four years ago, with both financial and practical help from the community, a house was built for the family. The family were both full of shock and questions and sat on the remains of their house in tears. ‘We want to live in peace, but there is no peace here, how can we live like this? Where shall I go? To a camp? To spend all of my life in a refugee camp?’ Siham asked me. I admit I was lost for answers. Siham’s young niece asked me, ‘What would happen if I went to Jerusalem and demolished an Israeli house, where Jewish people lived. The whole world would stand behind Israel and call us terrorists, wouldn’t they? Why is it different for us? Who was this house hurting? How does this house harm the security of Israel?’

I’d like everyone reading this to, just for one moment, imagine, genuinely try and imagine what it would feel like if a foreign country’s police force came to your door and told you that they were about to demolish your house, ordered you out of the house, took out all of your things, and half an hour later started the demolition. Then left.

The second house, which was demolished immediately after the first, belonged to Mohammad Faraj, and was inhabited by his relatives: an elderly couple, their daughter and grandson, and two other relatives, one of whom is blind. The house was built in 1995, and was promptly declared illegal by the Israeli authorities because it didn’t have a building permit. (Palestinians simply do not receive building permits from Israel, so they are either forced to live in overcrowded areas, or become criminals, or of course leave the country which is exactly what Israel wants). The fine for building this ‘illegal’ house was 20,000 Shekels ($4,350) – more than an average family in Palestine earns in a year. The fine was and still is being paid in monthly instalments, and the fine still stands, and must be paid in full, despite the fact that the house has been demolished. The elderly inhabitants of their house have already had one house demolished, in the same villages, years before, and after that demolition they moved to this house. Their daughter also moved to this house after her previous house was demolished. She lived in Jenin with her husband, who was killed in the Jenin Massacre of 2002, and the next year her house was demolished, with all her possessions inside. Homeless and almost penniless she moved to al-Walaje to be with her parents. On the day of the demolition, she had been working in Bethlehem, and came home to find her possessions scattered on her yard and her house in pieces, again.

The owner of the house tapped me on the shoulder as we were assessing the remains of his home, and pointed to West Jerusalem, which you can see from the village, and pointed to the cranes building housing there. ‘You see these houses, they’re building for Jews all the time. Can I move into one of those houses? No, because I’m a Palestinian. Can I build a house on my own land? No, because I’m a Palestinian. Where are we meant to live?’ Unbelieveably, the tragic story of the village does not end there, because not only are the vast majority of the houses there ‘illegal’, but so are the people, in the eyes of the Israeli state. Because of the proximity of the village to the Green Line – the border between Israel and Palestine – when Israel illegally annexed East Jerusalem in 1967, it also illegally annexed half of al-Walaje village. It did, however, seem to forget to inform the inhabitants that they were now living in ‘Israel’. The inhabitants of al-Walaje had always paid their taxes to Bethlehem and received their municipal services to Bethlehem, but in 1985, Israeli authorities came to the village, demolished a house, declaring it illegal construction in Israel. It then informed the residents that they were illegally resident in Israel, and that if they wanted a Jerusalem / Israeli ID card then they had to prove that they lived there before 1967 (ideas on a postcard please?). Therefore, the residents of half of the village can be arrested simply for being in or stepping out of their houses, for being in ‘Israel’ without a permit from the Israeli authorities. Many have been arrested for this very reason. Out of the 100 houses in the annexed area, 75 were given demolition orders, and 25 of those have now been executed, plus one which didn’t have a demolition order. 50 homes are still to be demolished. The villagers of al-Walaje are waiting petrified, not knowing who will be next, or when the bulldozers will next invade their village.

War crimes, such as the demolition of civilian homes, amongst many others, occur on a daily basis in occupied Palestine. The people of this country want to live in peace, but are under a brutal military occupation. Whilst the world reflects on the victory of Hamas in the Palestinian elections, maybe everyone should be considering why people join or vote for Hamas. What effect will the house demolitions have on the people of this village, especially the young people? Who will they grow up supporting?