Thursday, November 17

MCC Palestine Update #115

MCC Palestine Update #115

17 November 2005

Picking Olives as Resistance

The land recently received its first rain of the season. This is always a special day of the year as it marks the end of the long dry season. It is also a special day because it also signals the beginning of the olive harvest season. On the Mount of Olives, where MCC Palestine’s office is located, can be found hundreds of olive trees ripe for picking. Here in Bethlehem also, this is the time of year when the local olive press cooperative is primed and readied for operation with Palestinians waiting late into the night for this gift from the land.

It is difficult to communicate just how important these olive trees and the fruits they produce are to the people. For it is more than simply economic reasons that Palestinians value them greatly. It also represents a connection to the land that Palestinians identify strongly with. This is why as the Wall continues to be built and colonies continue to expand and more and more Palestinian land is expropriated, the uprooting of centuries-old olive trees (often-times sold and replanted inside Israel) and the denial of access to olives that are literally rotting on the trees represents so much of the oppression and dispossession that Palestinians continue to experience.

The Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem recently released a report speaking to this injustice (“Olive harvest begins under the shadow of restrictions on movement,”

"This year's olive harvest season in the West Bank has begun. The harvest comes in the wake of extensive damage to the groves during the construction of the Separation Barrier, and strict restrictions on movement imposed on Palestinian farmers trying to access their land west of the Barrier. Many farmers received a permit for the harvest season, but were not allowed to reach their land during the course of the year. Since they were unable to work their fields during the year, they will now find their fields in poor condition. As a result, the harvest will be more difficult and yield a smaller crop.

"The restrictions on movement due to the barrier are in addition to those the IDF has imposed for a number of years on Palestinians whose agricultural lands lie near settlements and outposts. During the harvest in 2004, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and Rabbis for Human Rights petitioned the High Court on behalf of five villages in the West Bank, calling on the court to permit the residents' access to fields that had been taken over by settlers with the tacit approval of the IDF. The petition even described incidents in which IDF soldiers stood by and watched as settlers attacked Palestinians who were harvesting their olives."

For further reading on this, see “Settler saboteurs target Palestinian olive trees,” and “Once again the olive orchards will become closed military zones,”

The olive tree belongs to a family of plant life that shares the name sabr in Arabic. The word sabr also carries the meaning of “patience” in Arabic as well, a fitting description for these aged trees that continue to live and exist, patiently through the centuries. It is also a fitting name to describe the Palestinian people who identify so closely with it.

Despite their consistent misrepresentation in the Global North, Palestinians continue to resist this illegal occupation, applying themselves to nonviolent means. The weekly nonviolent demonstrations against the Wall in the Palestinian village of Bil'in (where the demonstrators are often met with brutal response by the Israeli military; see “Bil'in demonstrators: 14-year-old hit in the head by rubber bullet,” is just one, very obvious, example. The call for alternative pressures including economic options such as boycotts, divestment, or sanctions is also one of those nonviolent avenues to resistance Palestinians are lifting up that should be heard by the larger international community.
But it is Palestinian sabr and sumud, patience and steadfastness, in carrying out their daily lives despite the invasive presence of occupation that may be the most powerful manifestation of Palestinian nonviolent resistance, just not as obvious or overt. As something so mundane as picking olives becomes a form of resistance and an expression that life will overcome oppression and death, Palestinians teach us more about nonviolent resistance than we are often open to hearing.

Ongoing Dispossession

In addition to the dispossession experienced by Palestinians in their denial of access to agricultural lands, the Israeli colonization of Palestinian territory continues unabated and uninterrupted. While in many areas of Israel, population and housing construction is decreasing, it is conspicuously increasing in the “settlements” (“Rise in settlement population,”,7340,L-3165998,00.html). Colonization efforts are being felt even here in Bethlehem (“Plans to Build a new Israeli settlement near Bethlehem,”; and in Jerusalem (“U.S millionaire finances Jewish settlement in east Jerusalem,”

In addition to this, the apartheid nature of this project becomes more evident with the plans revealed to construct separate roads altogether for Palestinians, to restrict their movement and keep them away from these Israeli colonies (“Israel accused of ‘road apartheid’ in West Bank,”,2763,1596168,00.html). The blatantly segregationist efforts at “cantonization” or “bantustanization” of Palestinian life—transferring Palestinians onto a handful of isolated “reservations” on about 40% of the West Bank—continues to be clarified (“PA: Massive new IDF checkpoint aims at creating ‘canton,’”

Home demolitions also continue (“Occupation Forces destroy Palestinian house in Anata: Campaign Condemns Judaization of Jerusalem,”, often times to prepare for the construction of the Wall (“High Court permits building of separation barrier north of Jerusalem,”; “Sharon to Knesset: Separation fence will be first priority,”

This ongoing dispossession may be manifest most clearly in U.S. President Bush’s repositioning of himself and his “Road Map” relative to the realization of a Palestinian state, telling Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in a recent visit to the White House that he is unsure about the prospects of a Palestinian state. This is yet another adjustment to the “Road Map” which originally claimed the establishment of a Palestinian state by the year 2005. After his reelection in 2004 President Bush declared that before the end of his term the Palestinians would have a state of their own. Now in his most recent comments, President Bush makes no commitment before 2009 (“Bush unsure of Palestinian statehood before 2009,” AFP).

What about Rafah?

There has been much ado about U.S. Secretary of State Rice’s visit this week, and the deal that was reached regarding the Rafah border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt that will presumably provide Palestinians access to the outside world (“Deal reached on Gaza crossings” This after “Quartet” representative to Gaza and former World Bank head James Wolfensohn repeatedly reported on Israel’s failure to move ahead on ending the occupation in Gaza and its “one big prison” status (“Quartet envoy: Israel acting as if disengagement never happened”, “Gaza in danger of turning into a 'giant prison', says Mideast envoy”

In addition to this, Secretary Rice has made comments regarding Israel’s role in obstructing the resolution of this situation, specifically regarding the continued Israeli colonization of the West Bank (“Rice: U.S. expects Israel to halt settlement expansion” And this despite the indicators, as mentioned above, that this colonizing policy unflinchingly moves forward without delay (“Israel issues tenders for further West Bank construction”, “Mofaz: Strengthen settlement blocs”,7340,L-3170332,00.html).

The skepticism regarding such calls by the U.S. toward the state of Israel is based not only on the past relationship between these two states—the utter lack of accountability for the billions of U.S. dollars provided to Israel over the last decades—but also on the current developments in U.S.-Israeli relations. For example, Israel has recently been reinstated by the U.S. to the group of countries taking part in a program to develop the “next-generation combat plane,” the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. U.S.-based Lockheed Martin Corporation is developing this new weapon which will replace the F-16 fighter jet, which has also served as Israel's primary combat airplane for a quarter of a century (“U.S. brings Israel back on board for fighter plane development project”

The unfortunate irony in all of this “optimism” surrounding the Rafah “deal” is that the hollow sound to all of these words from Secretary Rice—whether this “deal” is realized in any beneficial way for the resident of Gaza, whether Israeli colonization and Palestinian dispossession stops or not—the U.S. contribution to Israeli capabilities to maintain the military complex that bolsters this structure of oppression is ensured in this project.

For the same planes that will be upgraded, due to the good graces of the U.S., are the very planes that have been wreaking havoc in the skies over the same Gaza Strip and in the lives of the Palestinians living there of whose situation Secretary Rice has been working hard to improve. Since the Israeli withdrawal earlier this year, a new tactic the Israeli air force has developed has been to fly their U.S.-subsidized F-16’s at very, very low altitudes so that when they break the sound barrier, causing a “sonic boom” (a tactic that the Israeli air force has only attempted now that all Israeli settlers are gone and not subject to the damaging effects), it not only strikes incredible fear in those Palestinians victimized in this Gaza prison, it causes serious physical and psychological damage, not to mention the property damage—broke glass and doors, etc. (“Palestinians hit by sonic boom air raids”,2763,1607450,00.html, “Human rights groups sue to stop Israeli sonic booms over Gaza”

It is difficult to see the grounds for optimism in these “micro managing” exercises that are not intended to address the substantive issues plaguing this conflict, such as the relational asymmetries between the Palestinians and the state of Israel (power and otherwise, which such negotiations are never meant to address in the first place and are indeed constructed in order to avoid such a conversation), but instead keep both sides busy negotiating on technicalities, and keeping the rest of the world distracted from these death-dealing realities that will continue to go unrecognized and unhindered.

How do we respond?

We ask that you would continue to prayerfully consider these issues weighing heavily in this broken land with discussion and dialogue in your own communities. Suggestions for steps for moving towards action by advocating for a justpeace for Palestinians and Israelis can be found at MCC’s “Bridges Not Walls” website: and include resources such as:

· “Peacebuilding in Palestine / Israel: A Discussion Paper” meant to help facilitate a conversation in communities back in North America about stewardship, divestment, and economic justice, online at
· What Is Palestine/Israel?: Answers to Common Questions by Sonia Weaver:

Peace to you all,

Timothy and Christi Seidel
Peace Development Workers
Mennonite Central Committee – Palestine

Attachments and Links:

1. James M. Wall, “Divestment,” Christian Century, 15 November 2005
2. Chris McGreal, “Israel redraws the roadmap, building quietly and quickly,” The Guardian, 18 October 2005
3. Meron Benvenisti, “The Rafah precedent,” Haaretz, 17 November 2005
4. Amira Hass, “The IDF tars a road,” Haaretz, 9 November 2005
5. Danny Rubinstein, “You be calm, we'll build,” Haaretz, 7 November 2005
6. Gideon Levy, “Demons in the skies of the Gaza Strip,” Haaretz, 6 November 2005
7. Meir Margalit, “Like a Thorn in the Heart: settlements and settlers in East Jerusalem,” Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, 31 October 2005
8. Rami G. Khoury, “Christian prophetic voices face many battles,” The Daily Star, 12 October 2005
9. Jeff Halper, “Setting up Abbas,” Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, 6 October 2005
10. Norman G. Finkelstein, “Judge Israel's deeds, not words,” The Daily Star, 10 Oct. 2005
11. Gideon Levy, “The beautiful life without Arafat,” Haaretz, 9 October 2005
12. Nadav Shragai, “Jerusalem Fence / First in a Series - Study: Separation wall negatively impacts J'lem residents and status,” Haaretz, 6 October 2005 and “Jerusalem Fence / Second in a Series - Jerusalem's Arabs find themselves pushed out,” Haaretz, 10 October 2005
13. Meron Benvenisti, “Eight percent of their homeland,” Haaretz, 6 October 2005


Christian Century
James M. Wall

15 November 2005

For most media in Israel, American Protestants are simply the people who book Bible tours of the region. In June 2004 this indifference changed. That's when the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) adopted a resolution recommending that "a longstanding Presbyterian position against the occupation of Palestinian lands by the State of Israel" should lead to the initiation of "a process of phased, selective divestment in multinational corporations operating in Israel, in accordance with General Assembly policy on social investing."

Is divestment the best tactic to use in trying to change American public opinion? I cannot say for certain. Was the nonviolent 1930 attack on the salt tax in India the best way to force the British to give India its freedom? Were marches and bus boycotts the best tactics to eliminate racial segregation in the U.S.?

Martin Luther King Jr.'s protest actions led him to a jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama. There he received a letter from local religious leaders telling him that his actions were "unwise and untimely" because they harmed relations between blacks and whites. King's response, in his famous "Letter from Birmingham Jail," was that he had already done a lot of talking. Now it was time to act.

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The Guardian
Israel redraws the roadmap, building quietly and quickly
Chris McGreal

18 October 2005

At the northern edge of Jerusalem, on the main road to the Palestinian city of Ramallah, three towering concrete walls are converging around a rapidly built maze of cages, turnstiles and bomb-proof rooms.

When construction at Qalandiya is completed in the coming weeks, the remaining gaps in the 8m (26ft)-high walls will close and those still permitted to travel between the two cities will be channelled through a warren of identity and security checks reminiscent of an international frontier.

The Israeli military built the crossing without fanfare over recent months, along with other similar posts along the length of the vast new "security barrier" that is enveloping Jerusalem, while the world's attention was focussed on the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon's removal of Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip.

But these de facto border posts are just one element in a web of construction evidently intended to redraw Israel's borders deep inside the Palestinian territories and secure all of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, and to do it fast so as to put the whole issue beyond negotiation. As foreign leaders, including Tony Blair, praised Mr Sharon for his "courage" in pulling out of Gaza last month, Israel was accelerating construction of the West Bank barrier, expropriating more land in the West Bank than it was surrendering in Gaza, and building thousands of new homes in Jewish settlements.

Please read more at,2763,1594745,00.html


The Rafah precedent
Meron Benvenisti

17 November 2005

Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz needed a huge dose of irony, or else of self-delusion, in order to define the Rafah crossing agreement as "another stage of confidence-building measures vis-a-vis the Palestinian Authority." Twenty weeks of Israeli stubbornness over these arrangements, whose sole purpose was to show the Palestinians who the boss is, outraged even a warm and wise Jew such as James Wolfensohn.

The defense minister and his subordinates did not hesitate to use bullying tactics, or to cause the Palestinians devastating economic damage, so that they would forget the feeling of relief they experienced following Israel's withdrawal from Gaza. Now that Condoleezza Rice decided to show Mofaz who the real boss is, he has capitulated, but he is trying to explain his capitulation as a concession to America's need for an achievement. The Palestinians do not interest him. After all, if he wanted a confidence-building relationship with them, he would have agreed long ago to the arrangements laid out in the Rafah Agreement, without massive American pressure.

The Palestinians also do not interest the Americans, and were it not for Rice's desperate need for some kind of achievement for public relations purposes, this agreement would never have been reached. The last thing that the U.S. president wants is to nurture the illusion that in the wake of the Rafah precedent, other American initiatives to advance the process will be forthcoming. And the Israeli public is already being reassured that the Rafah agreement is "the last move" before the start of a lengthy campaign season…

A U.S. State Department official boasted to a New York Times reporter that "a lot of diplomacy is about when things are ripe for movement. There was the sense that now was the time to really capitalize on the situation." And indeed, one can be pleased that American pressure led to an agreement that is significant on the level of principle. But one could also ask the following question: If massive pressure and personal intervention by Rice were necessary to achieve a meager technical agreement - what are the chances of real progress in the peace process?

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The IDF tars a road
Amira Hass

9 November 2005

In each area of the West Bank, the regime of restrictions on mobility is characterized by various military orders and other types of roadblocks. The restrictions were not imposed all at once; the reasons given and the security incidents always make it possible to present them as a temporary "ad hoc response," but they serve a highly consistent colonizing purpose. Between one exacerbation and the next, the Palestinians are given a chance to adjust, to find a bypass road, to believe that "it can't get any worse." But then a new restriction is imposed, and it turns out that it most certainly can get worse.

At issue are not only the high gasoline expenditures, the time lost, and cars breaking down frequently on shoddy roads. The bisecting that Israel is carrying out undermines natural economic ties, without which any talk of development is an act of deception.

The bisection contravenes international resolutions regarding the establishment of a viable Palestinian state, and makes a mockery of the hopes for economic recovery and political calm expressed by the World Bank and Condoleezza Rice. In its overall effect, the bisection crams the Palestinians into a restricted, humiliated, stifled life in Third World enclaves and townships separated from each other, at a distance of five minutes from our life of convenience.

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You be calm, we'll build
Danny Rubinstein

7 November 2005

In spite of all that, we should make no mistake, not about Abu Mazen and not about Palestinian public opinion. The willingness for a lull - i.e., for a halt to the violence - does not reflect a Palestinian willingness to accept even minimal Israeli demands. Neither the separation fence that is being built on their land, nor the effort to "Judaize" Jerusalem, nor the reinforcement of the settlement blocs. From their point of view, the Israeli demand of them is: You Palestinians will sit quietly, and we Israelis will build settlements and outposts, remove Arabs from Jerusalem and bring Jews instead of them. That's how it has been all these years, even during the Oslo period, and that's how it will continue.

In light of this situation, every time the PA is asked "to dismantle the terror infrastructure" - in the West Bank and Gaza, this is understood as a demand for surrender, as a demand not to do anything in the face of Israeli activity. Therefore, the lull that continues will be very temporary and fragile. A kind of time-out during an intifada whose end is not in sight.

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Demons in the skies of the Gaza Strip
Gideon Levy

6 November 2005

This word does not appear in the Hebrew dictionary, but an old-new weapon from the sophisticated arsenal directed against the Palestinian people has again suddenly emerged. While not deadly, it is fiendish: the sonic boom.

The world's best air force is amusing itself by creating fear in a helpless and terrified civilian population. Twenty-nine such booms were sounded during a period of four days in September, and this practice was repeated again recently, according to Physicians for Human Rights-Israel and the Gaza Community Mental Health Program, which jointly submitted a High Court petition on this matter. If there is such a thing as an unequivocal case of collective punishment, then this is it.

Parents in Gaza speak about the fears their children have suffered in recent weeks, the nightmares and bed-wetting. Husbands tell about pregnant women who have experienced panic attacks. The windowpanes in homes shatter one after another. Here is a scoop: Palestinians can also be "trauma victims."

These booms, whose only purpose is to sow fear among innocent civilians, have been added to the artillery shells pounding the Gaza Strip and the daily barrage of liquidation missiles, which indiscriminately kill armed militants and innocent people. The fact that the air force is employing this weapon mainly late at night, or early in the morning, when masses of pupils are making their way to school, only makes its wickedness more conspicuous. Israel may have disengaged from Gaza, but its air force has not.

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Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions
Like a Thorn in the Heart: settlements and settlers in East Jerusalem
Meir Margalit

31 October 2005

Since the Occupation of the West Bank began in 1967, Israeli governments have made incessant efforts to change the Arab character of East Jerusalem, eradicate all sign of Palestinians or their symbols, and engender a Jewish mass that would in turn create a new geopolitical reality. That process is aimed at assuming control not only of the physical space of the city’s eastern half but also of its local identity, and so “Judaise” East Jerusalem at the expense of its Palestinian heritage.

Successive governments have tried to implement that aim by integrating two forces that operate in tandem and feed off each other. One is the official state organ that expropriates land and builds Jewish neighbourhoods and enterprises, while the non-official organ is comprised of settlers who perform what the state is unable to do, for legal reasons. The settlers’ amutot (non-profit associations) are the long arm of government, moonlighting contractors for the Israeli government – each and every government. They flourished and developed with government backing and sponsorship, and are warmly embraced by every legal authority, from the Municipality to the police. A close, almost symbiotic relationship has formed between them and state representatives, to the extent that occasionally it is unclear who is running whom – the state the settlers, or the settlers the state.

This article focuses on actions by settlers in the very heart of East Jerusalem’s Arab population. It does not deal with the neighbourhoods built in the eastern half of the city that Palestinians call ‘settlements’, which is a well-known and thoroughly documented phenomenon, but with the compounds of houses being built in the midst of the Arab population, in Jerusalem’s Old City and neighbourhoods bordering it. The settlers’ endeavours are shrouded in secrecy, but in spite of their attempts to cover their tracks we have collected enough material to assemble a reliable and almost exhaustive picture of their efforts.

In the wake of the Oslo Accords and later peace plans, the settlement project in East Jerusalem achieved greater impetus, in light of the possibility that Jerusalem might be divided as part of an overall peace agreement. Israel’s government and the Jerusalem Municipality work on the assumption that the Western powers will eventually enforce a diplomatic arrangement in the form of a ‘road-map’ featuring some sort of division. When that time comes, the deployment of settlements will determine the city’s boundaries, just as in 1948 the map of settlements was used to chart the new state’s borders. As a result, both the state and the Municipality are making tremendous efforts to create ‘facts on the ground’ that will rule out any future division of the city.

The settler project is a well-thought-out and deeply dangerous attempt by right-wing Israelis to thwart future peace-plans. Quietly and furtively, Israel’s government is using the settlers to seal up the last loopholes through which peace can conceivably find its way, and is creating significant facts which are liable to bury the peace process. It is uncertain whether the string of settlements will manage to modify East Jerusalem’s character but what is certain is that they are liable to sabotage any form of agreement. Both the government and the Palestinians are aware that East Jerusalem will not be able to function eventually as the capital of Palestine when a belt of settlements encircles it and settlers have taken possession of sites that are holy to Islam. These settlements are a recipe for disaster, a time-bomb which, if not defused in time, might cause an appalling explosion.

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The Daily Star
Christian prophetic voices face many battles
Rami G. Khoury

12 October 2005

Publicly supporting equal rights for Palestinians alongside Israelis has always been a risky venture in the United States, as an American professor who heads the only Middle Eastern studies center at an evangelical American university is discovering these days. The Reverend Donald Wagner, professor and director of the Center of Middle Eastern Studies at North Park University in Chicago for the past 10 years, has had his tenure appointment blocked and, with two other prominent Palestinian clergymen, is being subjected to a campaign of criticism and vilification in the American and Israeli press.

I have known Reverend Wagner and his work for justice, peace and security for all in the Middle East for over 25 years. I have always known him to be a man of deep compassion, and of moral depth and equity toward all human beings. So I visited him in his office in Chicago last week to enquire about the nature of the attacks against him, and the reasons for them.

He thought that concern was growing among pro-Israeli groups about the impact of the Presbyterian Church's campaign to study selective divestment of investments in American and multinational companies that do business with the Israeli armed forces. Consequently, he charged, a public campaign had been launched to silence the voices of Christians demanding justice, peace and security for Palestinians alongside Israelis…

Wagner is worried that such campaigns, especially against Christian groups in Palestine, aim to "silence the prophetic voices of Palestinian Christians, like Sabeel, Cannon Ateek and Rev. Raheb, so they can say that our friends in the Christian community are the Christian right and those who support the Sharon policies."

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Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions
Setting up Abbas
Jeff Halper

6 October 2005

From Sharon's point of view it's a done deal. Israel has won its century-old conflict with the Palestinians. Surveying the landscape - physical and political alike - the Israeli Prime Minister has finally fulfilled the task with which he was charged 38 years ago by Menachem Begin: ensure permanent Israel control over the entire Land of Israel while foreclosing the emergence of a viable Palestinian state.

With unlimited resources at his disposal, Sharon set out to establish irreversible “facts on the ground” that would preempt any process of negotiations. Supported by both Likud and Labor governments, he oversaw the establishment of some 200 settlements (almost 400 if you include the “outposts”) on land expropriated from Palestinians in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. Today almost a half million Israelis live across the 1967 border. With financial backing of the Clinton Administration, a system of twenty-nine highways was constructed in the Occupied Territories to incorporate the settlements into Israel proper. In the meantime 96% of the Palestinians were locked into what Sharon calls ”cantons,” dozens of tiny enclaves, deprived of the right to move freely and now being literally imprisoned behind concrete walls twice as high as the Berlin Wall and electrified fences. Although comprising half the population of the country between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River, the Palestinians - including those with Israeli citizenship - are confined to just 15% of the country…

Israeli unilateralism means only one thing: it has nothing to offer the Palestinians, nothing worth negotiating over. The Road Map asserts that only a true end of the Occupation and the establishment of a viable Palestinian state will finally see the end of this conflict with its global implications. A genuine two-state solution may already be dead, the victim of Israeli expansionism. A two-state “solution” based on apartheid cannot be an alternative accepted by any of us. Yet apartheid is upon us once again. Sharon must act fast to complete his life's work before his term of office expires within the next year. This is the crunch. We cannot afford to have our attention deflected by any other issue, important as it may be. It is either a just and viable solution now or apartheid now. We may well be facing the prospect of another full-fledged anti-apartheid struggle just a decade and a half after the fall of apartheid in South Africa. In my view, the next three to six months will tell.

Please read more at or


The Daily Star
Judge Israel's deeds, not words
Norman G. Finkelstein

10 October 2005

On the night of August 24, 2005, Israeli troops shot dead three teenage boys and two adults in a West Bank Palestinian refugee camp. An army communique claimed the five were terrorists, killed after opening fire on the soldiers. An investigation by Israel's leading human rights organization, B'Tselem, and its leading newspaper, Haaretz, found, however, that the teenagers were unarmed and had no connection with any terrorist organizations, while neither of the two adults was armed or wanted by the Israelis.
In Israel, as elsewhere, it's prudent to treat official pronouncements with skepticism. This is especially so when it comes to the "peace process."

Israel's announcement that it would withdraw from the Gaza Strip won high praise in the American media as a major step toward ending the occupation of Palestinian land. Human rights organizations and academic specialists were less sanguine, however.

In a recent study entitled One Big Prison, B'Tselem observes that the crippling economic arrangements Israel has imposed on Gaza will remain in effect. In addition, Israel will continue to maintain absolute control over Gaza's land borders, coastline and airspace, and the Israeli Army will continue to operate in Gaza. "So long as these methods of control remain in Israeli hands," it concludes, "Israel's claim of an 'end of the occupation' is questionable."

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The beautiful life without Arafat
Gideon Levy

9 October 2005

Time flies when you're having fun, as the saying goes. Next month marks one year since the death of Yasser Arafat, and the masses will not fill the squares in Ramallah in memorial assemblies; Bill Clinton and other world leaders will not come to inaugurate a center in his name. However, the anniversary of his death serves as an opportunity to raise questions about Israel's behavior before and after his death.

The year since Arafat's death has not been beautiful as they promised us, and life here without him has not been better than our life with him. Arafat served as an excellent excuse for Israel to continue the occupation and almost the only significant change that has occurred since his passing is the loss of this excuse.

The past year was the year of disengagement. Not a "partitioning of the land" and not anything approaching this. Not even progress toward peace, but merely a year in which a unilateral arrangement was imposed on the Palestinians that completely disregards their needs. There was no letup in the occupation during this year. Gaza remains imprisoned; in the West Bank, the restrictions on Palestinian life continue in their full cruelty, and are even intensifying due to the separation fence. All this, despite the fact that the demonization of Arafat by Israeli leaders in his waning days could have led one to assume that the largest obstacle to peace had disappeared when he died.

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Jerusalem Fence / First in a Series - Study: Separation wall negatively impacts J'lem residents and status
Nadav Shragai

6 October 2005

The separation wall, which cuts off tens of thousands of Palestinians and their neighborhoods from Jerusalem, is not only having a negative impact on the lives of East Jerusalem residents, but is also harming the city's Jewish inhabitants and its position as the nation's capital, according to a recent study conducted by the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies.

According to the report, "To a large extend, Jerusalem has changed from a central city providing services to more than a million people in the surrounding area to a peripheral town. ... It is a limited metropolitan area that serves only 20 percent of the residents it formerly did, most of them Jews."

These team that prepared the study includes Dr. Yisrael Kimche, former head of Jerusalem municipal policy planning division, urban planner Dr. Maya Hoshen and Amnon Ramon, a specialist on the city's Christians and churches. The study warns that changes in real estate use brought about by the wall will have an impact on "the future of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel."

According to the report, while the wall may be contributing to security, overall "it has a negative effect on life in the city and its surrounding area" and in the long run it may increase hostility and terrorism.

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Jerusalem Fence / Second in a Series - Jerusalem's Arabs find themselves pushed out
Nadav Shragai

10 October 2005

The security fence enveloping Jerusalem can now be seen from several vantage points in the city, and it is not a cheerful sight.

Built partly from exposed concrete, and rising to nine meters in parts, it can be seen from the Old City, from Liberty Bell Park, and from the promenade in East Talpiot.

These are sensitive spots in terms of visual beauty, but the major damage caused by the fence is not to the scenery but to the human fabric of the city.

In effect, the fence has pushed tens of thousands of Palestinians beyond the municipal borders and affected the routine of their lives and that of the residents of many Palestinian villages alongside Jerusalem.

Two studies conducted recently by the Jerusalem Institute for the Study of Israel reveal that the fence has hit hardest with regard to employment.

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Eight percent of their homeland
Meron Benvenisti

6 October 2005

The basis for the optimism is territorial: The concession called "partitioning the land" has always served as a measure of peace and compromise, and anyone who supports it, never mind anyone who initiates and implements the partition, is considered a seeker of peace and reconciliation. The concept of partition is perceived as an absolute concept, that is, there is no need to define quantitatively the relative share that each side controls, and there is also no need to calculate the costs and effect of the partition on the people who live in the "partitioned" territories. The chronicles of partitioning the land of Israel exemplify its devaluation from a historic compromise to a humiliating dictate, and the correct calculation must be not, as is generally accepted, how much is "returned" but rather how much remains with each side since the first "partition" in 1947. According to the partition resolution, the Palestinian territory was supposed to comprise about half of the western land of Israel; the truce lines reduced the area to about 22 percent. The Allon plan left 14 percent of it, while the Sharon plan (the route of the fence, the settlement blocs and the Jordan Valley) leaves in the hands of the Palestinians no more than 8 percent of Mandatory Palestine. Both the plan that included 50 percent and the one that includes 8 percent of the territory are defined as "partition plans," and the latter can only be implemented unilaterally - by force, is seen by many as praiseworthy and is depicted as a historic compromise. But the devaluations of partition do not fully cover all of the implications that go beyond the territorial dimension, as any partition has a crucial influence on the lives of the inhabitants. And indeed, it is possible to describe the chronicles of partitioning the land also as the chronicles of the smashing of the Palestinian people from a national community into fragments of communities, congruent with the territorial outlines that are dictated by the ruling Israeli element…

The smashing of the Palestinian community into six or seven sub-communities could have won the Israeli regime the colonial club prize of the imperialist era, but that is long gone, and in the 21st century "divide and rule" is considered a procedure that deserves to be condemned and boycotted…

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