Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Settlement expansion continues
posted by: Frubious Bandersnatch at 1:14 PM
I found this article in Ha'aretz today. What is particularly relevent is that settlement expansion directly contravenes both the Oslo Accords and the Road Map to Peace. What was that about abiding by past agreements?

It is worth mentioning that the government of Israel does not 'recognize Palestine', the government of Israel routinely uses violence against the Palestinian civilian population, and the government of Israel routinely breaks past peace agreements. The astounding hypocrisy of both the government of Israel and the International community in demanding that the Palestinian Unity government recognizes Israel, renounces violence and abides by past peace agreements is quite jaw dropping.

Settlement expansion, besides inflaming tensions and inciting violence also annexes Palestinian land in an ever expanding 'security zone' around the settlement; steals Palestinian resources such as water; causes environmental destruction as new roads and tunnels are built to connect the settlement to the Israeli road network thus also obstructing Palestinian movement as neighbourhoods become encircled by settlement bypass roads that are no-go zones to Palestinians; and pollute the Palestinian environment with untreated sewage and industrial pollutants through poor waste management practices.

Gov't promoting plan for new ultra-Orthodox East Jerusalem neighborhood
By Meron Rapoport, Haaretz Correspondent

Government bodies have been promoting a preliminary plan over the past few weeks to build a neighborhood of 11,000 units for the ultra-Orthodox near the East Jerusalem airport.The plan also calls for the construction of a tunnel under a Palestinian neighborhood to connect the new quarter to one of the settlements in the Beit El area east of Ramallah.MK Otniel Schneller (Kadima) said Tuesday that the Housing Ministry is the body that developed a plan to erect a massive new ultra-Orthodox neighborhood in East Jerusalem. The ministry denied any knowledge of the project.

Schneller also said Tuesday that the Jerusalem municipality was "happy with the idea." In response to Schneller's claims that the housing ministry hatched the plan, they said, "the ministry has no knowledge of this plan. At most, only the Jerusalem district of the ministry knew about it."The plan has not yet been submitted to the various planning committees since, according to Schneller, "it is only in the idea and feasibility stage."

The new neighborhood is to be built close to the separation fence near the Qalandiyah road block, which separates the Palestinian neighborhoods of north Jerusalem from Ramallah. If approved, it would be the largest building project over the Green Line in Jerusalem since the 1967 Six-Day War. The neighborhood, which will apparently be built on state or Jewish National Fund land would sit in the heart of one of the most crowded urban Palestinian areas in the West Bank. The architectural firm planning the project, Reches Eshkol, refused to divulge which government body had commissioned the plans. Despite the Housing Ministry's response, Haaretz has learned that the plan was presented a number of times to various official bodies, and that the director of the Housing Ministry's Jerusalem district, Moshe Merhavya, was present at least at one such instance.

Schneller said of the project: "I saw the plans in the programs division of the Housing Ministry and I very much enjoyed seeing them." Schneller explained that even though the Safdie Plan to construct housing in the western part of Jerusalem has been shelved, the need to build in Jerusalem still exists. "The ultra-Orthodox public needs its solutions," he said. "There is the possibility that it will conquer the inner city, and that this city will then become an ultra-Orthodox-Arab city, which I would not want to happen."

Schneller, who is the former head of the Yesha settlement council and now serves as Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's liaison to the settlers, said he has not yet spoken to the prime minister about the plan. "But from what I know of the government's position, there is an Israeli interest in establishing a neighborhood in Atarot. The plan proposes connecting the new neighborhood to the ultra-Orthodox settlement of Kokhav Yaakov east of Ramallah, which is at present outside the planned route of the separation fence. To this end, a tunnel a few hundred meters long would be dug beneath the Palestinian village of Aqab and under the separation fence. The idea to build an "eastern fence" to separate the settlements of the Jordan Valley and the mountains from large Palestinian communities like Ramallah had been raised in the past. The construction of the tunnel might be the first step in this direction.

"If it is someday decided that Kokhav Yaakov will be part of the 'Jerusalem envelope' it would be logical to create such a link, but it has not yet been decided," Schneller said. The municipality said that "when the plan is officially presented to the municipality, it will be discussed and a decision will be made about it." Some of the neighborhoods built around Jerusalem after the Six-Day War were planned by the Housing Ministry and were established over the objections of then-mayor Teddy Kollek. Meron Benvenisti, who served as deputy mayor at that time, said that the area has complex problems: prior to the Six-Day war some of its land belonged to municipalities like al-Bireh, which are today in the Palestinian territories.

"It is complete insanity to place tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews in the heart of a densely populated Arab area," he said. "No one thinks about how they will live there. It's like living in the middle of Ramallah." Attorney Danny Zindman of the Ir Amim association says such a plan will lead to the "balkanization" of Jerusalem.
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
A Post Modern Occupation
posted by: [jimiffondu] at 7:33 PM
Thanks to Whirling McDervish for this piece...

On Friday 09.02.07, Jerusalem’s old city was declared a military ‘no go’ area after clashes between IDF troops and Israeli Arab (Palestinian) youths flared up. Israeli excavation beneath the Dome of the Rock complex is steadily chipping away at the city’s precarious foundations. While for Muslims, the rock, beneath the dome, is where, according to Islam, the prophet Mohammed ascended to Heaven, for Jews, this is the supposed site of King Solomon’s temple, previously destroyed and supplanted by the Islamic Dome of the Rock. The ‘wailing wall’ represents the only surviving remnants of this temple as evidenced to date. Jews believe that the rebuilding of the temple will precede the return of the messiah. Muslims believe that the collapse of the dome of the rock will put apocalyptic events in motion.

After Muslim midday prayers on Friday, continued Israeli excavation work sparked a riot. Troops moved in, firing plastic bullets and tear gas at stone throwing youths, even storming and tear gassing protestors in the Dome of the Rock complex itself where, apparently, at a loss to find rubble ammunition in the austere grounds protestors took to throwing anything at hand, including shoes. On Sunday entrance to the old city itself was restricted by the IDF; only residents, Israeli Arabs above the age of 45, and, evidently, internationals were allowed in. Many of the old city’s narrow backstreets were strewn with stones from Friday’s clashes and alleyways leading to extremist Israeli settlements were heavily guarded by IDF soldiers.

Jerusalem is strange; the divide between old and new more so. Politically far removed from any West Bank city, there is a completely different atmosphere, perhaps one that belies the belittlement of Arabs with Jerusalem ID’s and their relative freedom compared to fellow Palestinians trapped behind the Apartheid wall just minutes away. Jerusalem’s old city is perhaps the only place in the world you can cross the Middle East / Europe divide in a matter of minutes, and so, from a western point of view, the local portal between eyed curiosity and anonymity. There couldn’t be a starker contrast leaving behind the complex maze of narrow heaving, bazaared streets of the Arab quarter and stepping into the uncluttered space of restauranted courtyards, art galleried parades, and cappuccino coffee shopped terraces of the Jewish quarter. Just a few streets away, back in the Arab quarter, extremist Jews hold out in occupied, backstreet apartments, conspicuously signposted by Star of David flags, draped and unmoving in the breezeless streets, barbed wire tangled across rooftops and balconies, and CCTV surveillance systems aimed accusingly upon Arab neighbourhoods. These Jews, many from Europe and the US, may have a zealous, even romantically misplaced, disposition for staking their claim to their utopian promised city, but rhetoric fuelled, barbed wired assault on the Arab quarter is an outwardly belligerent attack on the values and aesthetics of a once thriving old city culture. These implanted strongholds are not only dividing neighbourhoods but the minds and aspirations of a once prosperous people. Back in the Jewish quarter there is a different vibe altogether; none of the barbed wire, none of the despondent apathy so apparent among many of the Arabs, more the kitsch banter of pasty tourists perusing ‘jerUSAlem’ hats and t-shirts, and the flash of instamatic cameras unconsciously recording the history of a cultural whitewash, a little lost with every shutter release, every oblivious smile.

On the same day as the Jerusalem riots, we were in Hebron where it also kicked off. We were supposed to meet up with a demonstration in support of Palestinian families effectively imprisoned in Tal Rumeida, a now predominantly Jewish area, still home to a fast dwindling number of Palestinians. Largely due to the failure of the Israeli state to intervene in problems of a racially prejudiced nature, Tal Rumeidan Palestinians are experiencing harassment from Jewish extremist settlers, often violently so, as well as segregation and difficulty of movement in and out of their neighbourhoods. These Palestinians have, astoundingly, been completely banned from driving cars?!? We did not manage to meet up with the demonstration as we were stopped from entering Tal Rumeida, the checkpoint conveniently closed by the Israelis as we turned up, so, instead, we spent the afternoon with the Hebronites under incursion from the Israeli military.

There had been problems in the city the day before, also due to the excavation work beneath the Dome of the Rock, so tensions were expected to flare again after Friday’s Muslim prayers. In typical fashion, IDF soldiers waited tauntingly, idly draped across concrete roadblocks, M-16 nozzles directed vaguely down adjacent streets. It seemed like a bit of a show really, with a multitude of press, internationals, peace activists, and locals onlooking, evidently awaiting the inevitable; an unwittingly macabre bunch. The first incident we witnessed involved four young Israeli soldiers half-intent on getting even with a youth throwing pebbles from about 100m away. These stones rolled to a standstill at soldiers’ feet – hardly a threat. However, in an operation that resembled something out of Hollywood, these Raybanned soldiers went in, guns raised in terminator style poses, ducking and diving in and out of doorways, backs hard-up against walls, conscious austerity aimed at a multitude of poised cameras an open betrayal of ambitions to military cool. When they suddenly broke off the chase, it was as if they had forgotten what they set out to do, so lost were they in the process of themselves. While they were absorbed, the stone throwing youth had escaped, and all they could do was back up in the direction of the roadblock, slowly nodding, left and right, checking each other pull snapshot poses.

Later, in the market area, abandoned fruit and veg stalls fuelled a one sided food fight. Youths took to hurling oranges, apples and tomatoes, only to get tear gas and rubber bullets in return. Another Palestinian attack from the rooftops was medievally inspired; what seemed to be a wheelbarrow, or the like, full of stones emptied over the edge into a narrow soldier patrolled alley below. Soldiers, lucky to escape unscathed and largely saved by over hanging shop canopies, were quick to pop sound bombs and tear gas canisters onto the roofs. The sound bombs are loud, reverberating throughout the streets, up and down alleyways with solid sound waves. They can easily damage ear drums in the wrong place at the wrong time. Even when you know they are coming, they really jar you to the core.

During all this, weathered workmen continued road works down the central reservation of the adjacent street. One resting on a spade, woollen hat pushed to the back of his head, the other wading backwards through and levelling freshly poured concrete, casually pausing to flick away fallen ash from the fag drooping at the corner of his mouth. They did in fact smile at us as if to intimate the apparent comic nature of continuing work under the circumstances, but you can't escape the fact that they must see this sort of thing frequently. Thinking about it in terms of this, their smiles meant something completely different.

As we sheltered, out of soldiers’ field of fire, beneath overhead shopping parade canopies, also protecting us from short falling stones from the rooftops, soldiers and youths continued projectile exchanges, while unfazed children scampered about, the entrepreneurs among them trying to sell us token, souvenir spent rubber bullets collected from the street, another even boasting a tear gas grenade and proudly posing for photographs with a head wrapped keffiyah obscuring his features.

A brief burst of stones from the rooftops above us saw Israeli soldiers retaliate, this time returning stone projectiles in mocking condescension, dispelling any misplaced notion of an organised military operation. Events certainly portrayed the escapade as nothing more than a gangland streetfight, and did little to attest to professional conduct from an army whose command claim the occupation to be an administrative necessity in maintaining state security.

Infact, the IDF are a ragtag bunch. There does not seem to be any pervading ethic concerning rules of engagement, more individual snapping points, personal prejudices and unit vendettas. Some soldiers will fly into rages when challenged; others are more diplomatic, making it known that they can’t express true held views whilst in uniform. The image of a self-conscious, slightly paranoid, perhaps even post modern occupation is inescapable. Oversized khakis and clumpy boots impede gangly teenagers aspiring to institutionalised military cool; the cool being an image that you cant help but feel is the adhesive factor holding operations together. What else in a ground-level self-doubting occupation? Officers donned in Raybans or mirrored shades, exhaling toasted tobacco smoke in self-conceived ‘unparody’ of Vietnam platoon GI’s provide the role model, the hardened, aloof and indomitable hero to imitate whose buried ethics provide a simple framework for a conscript’s better self to hide behind. These are the collective heroes that sanctify occupation, the icons of self-denial that conscripts hold aloft in obscuring their own, disturbing and disconsonant views.

On that day in Hebron, if the soldiers had withdrawn there would have been no one for Palestinian youths to throw stones at. However, Israeli machismo, strutting a state funded brawl, and staged on the stomping grounds of hundreds of Palestinian malcontents could only see the situation escalate into a full blown riot.

Down otherwise deserted streets, tables and chairs borrowed from market stalls were piled up into crude roadblocks, tyres burnt in true Intifada style while mobs of youths darted from street to street retreating from the intermittent pops and bangs of further sound and tear gas grenades. In the city centre a loosely associated contingent of about hundred youths, attempting stealth behind the acrid smoke of burning tyres, rained stones toward four soldiers, stupidly pulled in and cut off, awaiting further military assistance. When it came the soldiers left veiled in clouds of tear gas, leaving the Palestinian mob elated at their small but significant victory. Crowds swarmed and cheered. Today they had seen the soldiers off.

Thanks to Laura for this video from the day...

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Bethlehemghetto supports Anarchists Against the Wall

Resistance to the injustice and inhumanity of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territories is not limited to Palestinians, nor even to Palestinians and sympathetic internationals. A number of people in Israel itself oppose Israel's unjust treatment of the Palestinian people, and in particular the construction of the Apartheid Wall, which has been ruled as illegal by the International Court of Justice (2003). We received this report today of the trial and sentencing of one such activist, and would like to take this opportunity to send a message of support and respect to all Israelis who believe in the universality of human rights.

Report on the trial and sentencing of Jonathon Pollock:
Jonathan Pollak, an activist with Anarchists Against the Wall, an Israeli anti-Apartheid organisation was sentenced to a suspended sentence of 3 months in prison at a court hearing in Tel Aviv last week. This charge will be activated if he is convicted at a similar charge again.

Pollak was sentenced after he was convicted together with 10 other activist for blocking a road in Tel Aviv in protest of the construction of the wall. He asked theTel Aviv Magistrate's Court to sentence him to jail time, rather than community service or a suspended sentence, saying he has no intentionto stop resisting the occupation. The ten other convicted activistswere sentenced to 80 hours of community service.

In his sentencing statement Pollak said: "This trial, had it not takenplace in a court of the occupation, in the democracy imposed on 3.5 million Palestinian subjects devoid of basic democratic liberties - was supposed to be a trial of the wall. The same wall defined as a illegal by the highest legal authority in the world; the same wall that serves as a political tool in the campaign of ethnic cleansing Israel is running in the occupied territories.

"It was not us who were supposed to stand here in the dock, but thosewho plan and carry into action the Israeli apartheid," Pollak continued. He also stated that while he is not surprised by his conviction, he does not recognize it as legitimate, explaining that is the reason he refused community service or cooperation with the probation authorities.To end his statement Pollak asked that the court punish him with a prison sentence and not a suspended one.

"In a state of things where any gathering in the territories is considered illegal because of a widespread anti-democratic policy of closed military zones, any suspended sentence given to me will quickly become a prison term" Pollak said, then turning to the judge personally, saying "if your honor believes one should be sent to prison for such acts, please take the liberty and personally send me to prison here and now".

The state prosecutor quickly responded by asking not to send Pollak to prison, but rather to pose a conditional sentence and a fine.

Jonathan Pollak's full sentencing statement:

From the first moment of this trial we took responsibility for our acts. We've never denied, even for an instant, that we sat on the road. Quite the opposite - we fully admitted this, and we explained why we did so. The defense was revolved around two central axes -exposing the police's lies and their invention of fictional accusations, which the court has already addressed, and on the principals of civil resistance.

In its decision, the court stated that we were attempting to drag this court into the political arena, which it should avoid like fire, lest it get burned. In fact, the state prosecution was the one doing the dragging. In every crime and in every trial, the question of motive is a central one. Our so called crime is clearly a political one, and so are its motives.

This trial, had it not taken place in a court of the occupation, in the democracy imposed on 3.5 million Palestinian subjects devoid of basic democratic liberties, would have been the trial of the Wall; that same wall that was defined as illegal by the highest legal authority in the world; that same wall that is used as a political tool in the campaign of ethnic cleansing being undertaken by Israel in the Occupied Territories; that same wall that in its previous route, that route of the relevant days, was thrown out even by Israeli courts!

It was not us who should have been standing accused here, but rather the architects and enforcers of Israeli Apartheid. To our assertion that there is a duty to violate the law at times, the court answered that in such times, one must accept the punishment as well. This response contains an obvious moral failure. The correct response would be that those who violate the law must expect punishment. Expect it, but under no circumstances accept its legitimacy.

I am not surprised that we were found guilty. But in spite of that, I cannot accept the legitimacy of the punishment. That is the reason I refused to cooperate with the parole agency, and I will refuse community service as well. I believe that at this stage of the trial the defense tends to state that this is the defendant's first conviction, that he is a normal human being, who is well within the bounds of civil society, that he works a steady job and so on and so forth. I will argue otherwise. I will state that while this is indeed my first conviction, it is unlikely to be my last.

I still believe that what I did was necessary and morally correct, and that resistance to oppression is the duty of every human being, even at a personal price. It is customary to ask for leniency - not to impose an active sentence, and to be satisfied with a conditional sentence. I will ask not to have a conditional sentence imposed on me, but an active one, since as things are, any demonstration taking place in the OccupiedTerritories is declared illegal assembly, according to the extensive and anti-democratic system of closed military zone warrants. In this state of affairs, any conditional sentence imposed upon me will quickly become an active one. If your honor believes one should be sent to prison for such acts, please take the liberty and personally send me to prison here and now.
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
International Olive Tree Planting Day, February 3rd 2007
posted by Frubious Bandersnatch

At 9.30 am on Saturday February 3rd, a group of about 40 international volunteers gathered at the YMCA office in Beit Sahour for the first international planting day of the Joint Advocacy Initiative Olive Tree Campaign in 2007 ( The Olive Tree Campaign aims to replant uprooted trees, and to plant trees on land that is threatened with confiscation by the Israeli authorities, with the help of international church groups and peace activists. Since the outbreak of the Intifada, over half a million olive trees have been uprooted throughout the Palestinian Territories, decimating the rural economy and the morale of the people. International Planting Day is an exercise in awareness raising, as well as an opportunity for fundraisers to participate in olive tree planting. Besides this, the presence of international volunteers acts as some deterrent against unwarranted interference and sabotage by Israeli settlers or Security forces. The diverse group this year consisted of British, Norwegian, French, German, Italian and American volunteers, as well as both Palestinian and Israeli peace activists.
Planting for the Olive Tree Campaign began in mid January this year, and so far over 5000 trees have been planted in 78 fields in the Bethlehem, Salfit and Hebron areas of the West Bank. A further 2000 or more trees will be planted, mainly around Jenin and Gaza by mid March.

International planting day this year took place at Ein al Qassis (Reverend’s Spring) at Al Khader, a village very close to Bethlehem. This village is surrounded on three sides by the Israeli settlements of Har Gilo, Betar Illit, Neve Daniyyel and Efrat. Several of these settlements are currently expanding, with outposts of caravans occupying the hilltops bordering the villagers’ lands. It is worth noting that all of these settlements are well to the Palestinian side of the 1967 armistice line (Green Line), which runs to the north of Battir (see map), and hence are illegal under international law. Settlement expansion threatens Palestinian livelihoods as it goes hand in hand with land confiscation, harassment of civilians and appropriation of water resources.

Map of Bethlehem area showing Al Khader Village and the Israeli settlements around it (prepared by ARIJ -

There have been several reports of increasingly violent behaviour by the settlers at the outposts around Al Khader, with farm animals being attacked and killed, trees and storage sheds destroyed, and farmers beaten and attacked by dogs whilst trying to access their fields. The settlers have a vested interest in preventing the farmers from working their land, as under Israeli law, dating back to the Ottoman era, land that is ‘abandoned’ and left uncultivated for a period of 4 years becomes state property. Thus if farmers cannot work their land it is seized by the Israeli government, and will doubtless be allocated to the settlers.

In addition, the route of the Separation Barrier is very close to the built-up part of Al Khader village, and when completed will cut off access to 90 % of the village’s agricultural land. In recent years, villagers have suffered greatly, both from land confiscation, destruction of property and settler violence and intimidation. According to the database of the Applied Research Institute of Jerusalem (ARIJ, 2005), over 10 000 trees have been uprooted in this area since the year 2000. Furthermore, several wells and 25 homes have been demolished. As a farming community, the people of Al Khader have been economically decimated by these actions, as well as emotionally demoralized. The crumbling economy of Bethlehem city, which has suffered from the demise of the tourist industry in recent years, has no capacity to absorb the ruined farmers of Al Khader and if current trends continue, their future looks grim indeed.

On Saturday, over 250 trees were loaded onto trucks by the volunteers at the YMCA, and driven to fields belonging to three different farmers from Al Khader, to the south of the village, near Neve Danniyyel settlement. Here they were planted, with the help of the farmers whose land it is. Work went well apart from a brief interruption by settlers from a new caravan outpost nearby, who attempted to prevent the planting and called out the Israeli army to evict the volunteers and land owners. After some time, the army arrived and requested that the group leave the field closest to the settlement, brandishing a military order declaring it a closed military zone. They also attempted to arrest a young Palestinian volunteer, but after the intervention of Ecumenical Accompaniers and Israeli peace activists, he was released. The group moved on and continued planting at a field further from the outpost and closer to Al Khader village. Shortly after all the trees were planted, rain began to fall, watering these newest seeds of hope for Al Khader.