After Beit Hanoun report, Archbishop Desmond Tutu to receive Fulbright Prize for International Understanding at U.S. State Department

There is a message here.

Just about a month after delivering his final report — from the heart — to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on the Israeli shelling of Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza that killed 19 Palestinian civilians in November 2006, an announcement has come from the U.S. State Department saying that Archbishop Desmond Tutu is to receive the 2008 Fulbright Prize in a ceremony in Washington on Friday.

The totally unedited announcement says:
“Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Goli Ameri and the Fulbright Association will co-host a ceremony honoring Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu on Friday, November 21, 2008, at 11 a.m. in the Dean Acheson Auditorium of the U.S. Department of State. The 2008 J. William Fulbright Prize for International Understanding will be awarded to Archbishop Tutu for his work for peace in South Africa and elsewhere. The prize carries a $50,000 award provided by The Coca-Cola Foundation. In addition to Archbishop Tutu, other speakers will include poet Maya Angelou; Coca-Cola Company Chairman of the Board Neville Isdell; Goucher College Professor Kelly Brown Douglas; and Fulbright Association President Suzanne E. Siskel. The J. William Fulbright Prize for International Understanding was created by the Fulbright Association in 1993 to recognize individuals who have made extraordinary contributions toward bringing peoples, cultures, and nations to greater understanding of others. Past Fulbright Prize recipients include Bill Clinton, Colin Powell, Václav Havel, Jimmy Carter, and Nelson Mandela.”

Protest tent detroyed following earlier house eviction in East Jerusalem

On 9 November, the Al-Kurd family was evicted at dawn from a house they had lived in for over 50 years on Nablus Road, clinging to the slopes of Wadi Joze in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem.

The legal case is complicated — the Israeli Supreme Court (also known as the High Court of Justice) had ordered their eviction last summer, apparently on the basis of their refusal to pay rent to an escrow account or to the Jewish settler organization that claimed the property. The Jewish claim was filed in 1976, but was not known until 1999, when the Al-Kurd family filed a permit to renovate their small home to allow one of their married sons to move back in with his family in order to help care for the ailing head of the family. The Jewish claim is based on a possible sale during the Ottoman era that ended in 1918 — before the British Mandate period that stretched from the end of World War I until the end of World War II.

In the conflict that surrounded the proclamation of the State of Israel in 1948, the Al-Kurd family fled their home in West Jerusalem and became refugees in East Jerusalem, which was occupied by Jordanian forces — a situation which lasted until the Israeli conquest during the June 1967 war.

During its administration, Jordan granted to UNRWA (the UN Agency created to deal with Palestinian refugees) the land on which the house (and 26 others in the same neighborhood) were built in 1956. Ownership of the 27 houses had been living — perhaps also including the land, but this is unclear — reverted to the refugee families who had been living in the houses, in exchange for their foregoing three years of food rations from UNRWA.

Almost immediately after the 9 November eviction of the Al-Kurd couple, according to UNRWA spokesperson Christopher Gunness, a Jewish settler family was moved in.

The disabled head of the family was taken to the home of family members in Beit Hanina, but the able-bodied 52-year-old Mrs. Al-Kurd (Um Kamil) has been staying in a large plastic tent pitched in an flat area in Wadi Joz below her former home.

The land on which the protest tent was erected is fenced, and cleared and levelled — it is private land belonging to a Palestinian named Kamel Obeidat (or A’bidaat, as reported by a press release from Ir-Amim, an Israeli NGO working for an equitable future sharing of Jerusalem between the two peoples living here).

The plastic tent that Um Kamel has been staying in was torn down this afternoon, together with two smaller canvas tents thatvhad been erected beside it, as well — though one of those two smaller tents was back up within the hour.

Four internationals (European members of the International Solidarity Movement – two Danish, one Swede, and one British, all polite and quiet young men in jeans and sweatshirts) plus one Palestinian who were taken away to the Russian Compound police office in West Jerusalem — and told they were being “arrested” — were actually back at the site in Wadi Joz within the hour as well, having apparently neither actually been “arrested”, nor even “deported” to the West Bank as at least one of them had been on the day of the house eviction, 9 November.

Notification had been given to Um Kamil and her supporters this past Sunday that the tent would be removed by 16h00 that same afternoon, but nothing happened until today (Wednesday), when a big deployment of Israeli police and security forces suddenly arrived, accompanied by a big bulldozer or construction-type machine which torn down the temporary installation.

Rabbi Arik Ascherman of the Rabbis For Human Rights NGO was among the visitors to the site this evening. He said that the plastic tent was apparently demolished upon orders of the Jerusalem Municipality — which he said apparently requires permits even for tents, even on private property, though there is no law preventing the protesters from staying on the site…