The reality of Israelis open Jerusalem

Ghettos, Demolitions and Housing Shortages
The Reality of Israel’s “Open” Jerusalem


No one would have been more surprised than Fawziya Khurd by the recent pronouncement of Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, that Israel operates an “open city” policy in Jerusalem.

Mr Netanyahu told his cabinet on Sunday that Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem following the 1967 war — what he called the city’s “unification” — meant that all residents, Jews and Palestinians alike, could buy property wherever they chose.

“Our policy is that Jerusalem residents can purchase apartments anywhere in the city,” he said. “There is no ban on Arabs buying apartments in the west of the city, and there is no ban on Jews building or buying in the city’s east.”

Mr Netanyahu was trying to justify recent construction in East Jerusalem by settler organizations in defiance of demands from the US that Israel halt all such work. In particular, US officials are objecting to the recent takeover of property by settlers in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, where Mrs Khurd used to live, as well as the Old City, Silwan and Ras al-Amud.

According to experts, however, the reality is that in both a practical and legal sense Mr Netanyahu’s “open city” is a fiction, extended only to the settlers and not to Mrs Khurd or to the 250,000 other Palestinians of East Jerusalem.

Mrs Khurd, for example, has been forced to live in a tent after settlers ousted her from her East Jerusalem home of five decades in November. She also has no hope of moving back to the house taken from her family in Talbiyeh, now in West Jerusalem, during the 1948 war that established Israel.

In addition, movement restrictions mean that almost all of the nearly four million Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza are banned from entering the city or visiting its holy sites.

Inside Jerusalem, as in the West Bank, Israel enforces a strict programme of segregation to disadvantage the Palestinians, says Jeff Halper, of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions.

Israeli Jews have the freedom to live in both parts of the city, with 270,000 in West Jerusalem and a further 200,000 living in East Jerusalem in rapidly expanding settlements heavily subsidized by the state.

Palestinians, meanwhile, are denied the right to live both in West Jerusalem and in many residential areas of East Jerusalem. Even in their tightly controlled neighborhoods in the city’s east, at least 20,000 of their homes are subject to demolition orders, according to Mr Halper.

Daniel Seidemann, a Jerualem lawyer, says that in his 20 years of handling residency rights cases for Palestinians he has never heard of a Palestinian with a Jerusalem ID living in West Jerusalem.

The reason, he points out, was that almost all land inside Israel’s 1948 borders, including West Jerusalem, has been registered as “state land” managed by a body known as the Israel Lands Authority.

The authority allows neither Palestinians nor Israelis to buy property on state land. Instead long-term renewable leases are available to Israeli citizens and anyone eligible to immigrate to Israel under the country’s Law of Return — meaning Jews.

The settlements in East Jerusalem — now covering 35 per cent of the eastern city, according to Mr Seidemann — are also built on land declared as “state land”, in violation of international law. Again this means that only Israelis and Jewish foreign nationals are entitled to lease land there.

Because they do not hold Israeli citizenship, the Palestinians of East Jerusalem are disqualified from acquiring property either in West Jerusalem or in the settlements of East Jerusalem.

“The extraordinary situation is that a Palestinian who had his land expropriated to build the settlement of Har Homa [on the outskirts of East Jerusalem] cannot lease land there, whereas a Jew from Paris or London who is not even an Israeli citizen can.”

Mr Seide


Quest for Justice

This article was sent to Debbie Ducro, a American-Jewish journalist with the Kansas City Jewish Chronicle. She published it, and was fired the next day.

Quest for justice

By Judith Stone

I am a Jew. I was a participant in the Rally for the Right of Return to
Palestine. It was the right thing to do.

I’ve heard about the European holocaust against the Jews since I was a small
child. I’ve visited the memorials in Washington, DC and Jerusalem dedicated
to Jewish lives lost and I’ve cried at the recognition to what level of
atrocity mankind is capable of sinking.

Where are the Jews of conscience? No righteous malice can be held against
the survivors of Hitler’s holocaust. These fragments of humanity were in no
position to make choices beyond that of personal survival. We must not
forget that being a survivor or a co-religionist of the victims of the
European Holocaust does not grant dispensation from abiding by the rules of

“Never again” as a motto, rings hollow when it means “never again to us
alone.” My generation was raised being led to believe that the biblical land
was a vast desert inhabited by a handful of impoverished Palestinians living
with their camels and eking out a living in the sand. The arrival of the
Jews was touted as a tremendous benefit to these desert dwellers. Golda Meir
even assured us that there “is no Palestinian problem”.

We know now this picture wasn’t as it was painted. Palestine was a land
filled with people who called it home. There were thriving towns and
villages, schools and hospitals. There were Jews, Christians and Muslims.

In fact, prior to the occupation, Jews represented a mere seven per cent of
the population and owned three per cent of the land.

Taking the blinders off for a moment, I see a second atrocity perpetuated by
the very people who should be exquisitely sensitive to the suffering of
others. These people knew what it felt like to be ordered out of your home
at gun point and forced to march into the night to unknown destinations or
face execution on the spot. The people who displaced the Palestinians knew
first hand what it means to watch your home in flames, to surrender
everything dear to your heart at a moment’s notice. Bulldozers levelled
hundreds of villages, along with the remains of the village inhabitants, the
old and the young. This was nothing new to the world.

Poland is a vast graveyard of the Jews of Europe. Israel is the final
resting place of the massacred Palestinian people. A short distance from the
memorial to the Jewish children lost to the holocaust in Europe there is a
levelled park ing lot. Under this parking lot is what’s left of a once
flourishing village and the bodies of men, women and children whose only
crime was taking up needed space and not leaving graciously. This particular
burial marker reads: “Public Parking”.

I’ve talked with Palestinians. I have yet to meet a Palestinian who hasn’t
lost a member of their family to the Israeli Shoah, nor a Palestinian who
cannot name a relative or friend languishing under inhumane conditions in an
Israeli prison. Time and time again, Israel is cited for human rights
violations to no avail. On a recent trip to Israel, I visited the refugee
camps inhabited by a people who have waited 52 years in these ‘temporary’
camps to go home. Every Palestinian grandparent can tell you the name of
their village, their street, and where the olive trees were planted. Their
grandchildren may never have been home, but they can tell you where their
great-grandfather lies buried and where the village well stood. The press
has fostered the portrait of the Palestinian terrorist. But the victims who
rose up against human indignity in the Warsaw Ghetto are called heroes.
Those who lost their lives are called martyrs. The Palestinian who tosses a
rock in desperation is a terrorist.

Two years ago I drove through Palestine and watched intr

Are we humans yet ??

Today’s Anne Frank . . .

The face of this petrified child — photographed in her place of hiding as Israeli soldiers stormed into her family home with deadly force during the 2008/09 war on Gaza — starkly portrays the kind of fear that Anne Frank may have had also been terrorized with when her sanctuary was ruptured by Nazi soldiers.

This child of innocence, represents the harrowing plight of every child living under damning occupation, or under circumstances where they are willfully deprived of the ethical right to aspire unto adulthood with the dignity of humanism, and with unconditional access to the enhancement of hope, learning and survival.

This year marks the 80th anniversary of Anne Frank’s birth. We could begin by questioning what might have become of the terrified Palestinian child pictured above.

Is she alive?

Does she have any pencil or paper to write her diary?

If Anne Frank were alive today, she would have given a conscientious resonance to the outrage: `NEVER AGAIN’!

— Dom Martin

Breaking the silence on Israeli war crimes

Breaking the Silence on Israeli War Crimes
The Johnny Procedure

Like the ghost of Hamlet’s father, the evil spirit of the Gaza War refuses to leave us in peace. This week it came back to disturb the tranquility of the chiefs of the state and the army.

“Breaking the Silence”, a group of courageous former combat soldiers, published a report comprising the testimonies of 30 Gaza War fighters. A hard-hitting report about actions that may be considered war crimes.

The generals went automatically into denial mode. Why don’t the soldiers disclose their identity, they asked innocently. Why do they obscure their faces in the video testimonies? Why do they hide their names and units?

How can we be sure that they are not actors reading a text prepared for them by the enemies of Israel? How do we know that this organization is not manipulated by foreigners, who finance their actions? And anyhow, how do we know that they are not lying out of spite?

One can answer with a Hebrew adage: “It has the feel of Truth”. Anyone who has ever been a combat soldier in war, whatever war, recognizes at once the truth in these reports. Each of them has met a soldier who is not ready to return home without an X on his gun showing that he killed at least one enemy. (One such person appears in my book “The Other Side of the Coin”, which was written 60 years ago and published in English last year as the second part of “1948: A soldier’s Tale”.) We have been there.

The testimonies about the use of phosphorus, about massive bombardment of buildings, about “the neighbor procedure” (using civilians as human shields), about killing “everything that moves”, about the use of all methods to avoid casualties on our side – all these corroborate earlier testimonies about the Gaza War, there can be no reasonable doubt about their authenticity. I learned from the report that the “neighbor procedure” is now called “Johnny procedure”, God knows why Johnny and not Ahmad.

The height of hypocrisy is reached by the generals with their demand that the soldiers come forward and lodge their complaints with their commanders, so that the army can investigate them through the proper channels.

First of all, we have already seen the farce of the army investigating itself.

Second, and this is the main point: only a person intent on becoming a martyr would do so. A solder in a combat unit is a part of a tightly knit group whose highest principle is loyalty to comrades and whose commandment is “Thou shalt not squeal!” If he discloses questionable acts he has witnessed, he will be considered a traitor and ostracized. His life will become hell. He knows that all his superiors, from squad leader right up to division commander, will persecute him.

This call to go through “official channels” is a vile method of the generals – members of the General Staff, Army Spokesmen, Army Lawyers – to divert the discussion from the accusations themselves to the identity of the witnesses. No less despicable are the tin soldiers called “military correspondents”, who collaborate with them.

* * *

BUT BEFORE accusing the soldiers who committed the acts described in the testimonies, one has to ask whether the decision to start the war did not itself lead inevitably to the crimes.

Professor Assa Kasher, the father of the army “Code of Ethics” and one of the most ardent supporters of the Gaza War, asserted in an essay on this subject that a state has the right to go to war only in self defense, and only if the war constitutes “a last resort”. “All alternative courses” to attain the rightful aim “must have been exhausted”.

The official cause of the war was the launching from the Gaza Strip of rockets against Southern Israeli towns and villages. It goes without saying that it is the duty of the state to defend its citizens against missiles. But had all the means to achieve this aim without war really been exhausted? Kasher answers with a resounding “y

What About Jerusalem ?

Samia is a dear friend who lives in Jerusalem. I urge you to read this one page email.

July 13, 2009

Dear Friends:

I write to you with a heavy heart as two more houses were demolished today in Beit Hanina and Silwan. Eviction orders, confiscation of land and demolishing of homes have become a daily activity of the Israeli occupying forces in East Jerusalem, while the world is watching. Renewal of Permits for couples who are seeking family reunification are being delayed endlessly without any explanation. This is a process required when one of the spouses is from outside the Jerusalem area. And when a new baby is born in Jerusalem, parents need to prove that they are actually living in Jerusalem by presenting a whole set of documents including municipal taxes, electricity, telephone, and sewage bills, etc. etc. in order to be able to register the child. As if their Identity Cards were not proof enough. Restrictions are being imposed on organizations and schools as well, so as to tighten the pressure on them and make their presence in Jerusalem irrelevant, or force them out of the city. Even cultural activities and festivals have become a great challenge for organizations and their sponsors as they continue to face obstacles imposed by military orders.

When Israel, which claims to be a leading country in the world of arts, would deprive a small community from the pleasure of enjoying music and literature festivals, then there is something very wrong in the psyche of those occupying forces. They probably would rather see us throw stones and bombs so that they will have a good reason to lock us up or expel us out of the country. But we shall not give them that pleasure. We shall defend our freedom and rights by music, art , drama and literature, and any other non-violent resistance. In fact if any of you saw this month’s publication “This Week in Palestine,” you would be astonished at the number of activities going on not only in Jerusalem, but in Ramallah, Birzeit, and other parts of the country. While we are being creative in cultural activities to help us overcome the pressures of the occupation, Israel continues to come up with the most innovative measures of oppression to subdue us and make life absolutely unbearable. If I were a cartoonist, I would sketch a demonic brain that creates this continuous onslaught.

It is becoming very obvious that there is a concerted effort to implement the policy of limiting the number of Palestinians in Jerusalem to a minimum percentage of the population of Jerusalem, which rises all the time through the annexation of Israeli settlements built on Palestinian land. The Arabic name of the city as well as the names of other towns and streets are not being spared this onslaught by the enforcement of Hebrew names, so as to obliterate not only our existence but our history and heritage.

We urge you dear friends to help us put an end to this onslaught that is affecting every aspect of our lives. We appreciate all the statements, solidarity groups, church initiatives, conferences, and all the advocacy. But rhetoric is not enough any more at this stage. There should be a serious consideration for a change in policy so that Israel, the spoilt and pampered child, will not be allowed to continue to get away with all the violations that have devastated not only the land but the human dignity of the Palestinians. We have seen how affective the policy of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) was in bringing an end to the Apartheid regime in South Africa. We are not being innovative in this policy, we are simply learning from history. So I hope the international community, and basically the US administration will deal with Israel by the same standards it deals with other countries which violate UN resolutions and international law.

It will be very interesting to see if M

Wiping Arabic Names Off the Map

Wiping Arabic Names Off the Map
Israeli Road Signs

Thousands of road signs are the latest front in Israel’s battle to erase Arab heritage from much of the Holy Land.

Israel Katz, the transport minister, announced this week that signs on all major roads in Israel, East Jerusalem and possibly parts of the West Bank would be “standardised”, converting English and Arabic place names into straight transliterations of the Hebrew name.

Currently, road signs include the place name as it is traditionally rendered in all three languages.

Under the new scheme, the Arab identity of important Palestinian communities will be obscured: Jerusalem, or “al Quds” in Arabic, will be Hebraised to “Yerushalayim”; Nazareth, or “al Nasra” in Arabic, the city of Jesus’s childhood, will become “Natzrat”; and Jaffa, the port city after which Palestine’s oranges were named, will be “Yafo”.

Arab leaders are concerned that Mr Katz’s plan offers a foretaste of the demand by Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, that the Palestinians recognise Israel as a Jewish state.

On Wednesday, Mohammed Sabih, a senior official at the Arab League, called the initiative “racist and dangerous”.

“This decision comes in the framework of a series of steps in Israel aimed at implementing the `Jewish State’ slogan on the ground.”

Palestinians in Israel and Jerusalem, meanwhile, have responded with alarm to a policy they believe is designed to make them ever less visible.

Ahmed Tibi, an Arab legislator in the Israeli parliament, said: “Minister Katz is mistaken if he thinks that changing a few words can erase the existence of the Arab people or their connection to Israel.”

The transport ministry has made little effort to conceal the political motivation behind its policy of Hebraising road signs.

In announcing the move on Monday, Mr Katz, a hawkish member of Likud, Mr Netanyahu’s right-wing party, said he objected to Palestinians using the names of communities that existed before Israel’s establishment in 1948.

“I will not allow that on our signs,” he said. “This government, and certainly this minister, will not allow anyone to turn Jewish Jerusalem into Palestinian al Quds.”

Other Israeli officials have played down the political significance of Mr Katz’s decision. A transport department spokesman, Yeshaayahu Ronen, said: “The lack of uniform spelling on signs has been a problem for those speaking foreign languages, citizens and tourists alike.”

“That’s ridiculous,” responded Tareq Shehadeh, head of the Nazareth Cultural and Tourism Association. “Does the ministry really think it’s helping tourists by renaming Nazareth, one of the most famous places in the world, `Natzrat’, a Hebrew name only Israeli Jews recognise?”

Meron Benvenisti, a former deputy mayor of Jerusalem, said Israel had begun interfering with the Arabic on the signs for East Jerusalem as soon as it occupied the city in 1967. It invented a new word, “Urshalim”, that was supposed to be the Arabic form of the Hebrew word for Jerusalem, “Yerushalayim”.

“I was among those who intervened at the time to get the word `al Quds’ placed on signs, too, after `Urshalim’ and separated by a hyphen. But over the years `al Quds’ was demoted to brackets and nowadays it’s not included on new signs at all.”

He said Mr Katz’s scheme would push this process even further by requiring not only the Arabic equivalent of the Hebrew word for Jerusalem, but the replication of the Hebrew spelling as well. “It’s completely chauvinistic and an insult,” he said.

Meir Margalit, a former Jerusalem councillor, said official policy was to make the Palestinian population in East Jerusalem as invisible as possible, including by ignoring their neighbourhoods on many signs.

The transport ministry’s plans for the West Bank are less clear. In his announcement Mr Katz said Palestinian-controlled areas of the territory would still be free to use proper Arabic place names.