“There was a moment that everything went wrong": Lara Logan

It only takes a minute for everything to turn wrong.

This was a special crowd situation — in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, after the announcement that Husni Mubarak was stepping down from his long-held — since the assassination of his predecessor, Anwar Sadat — post as Egypt’s president. There had been months of tension, weeks of world attention, adrenalin was flowing, the crowd was mixed and certainly infiltrated with people with all kinds of motives.

But, what happened to Lara Logan, CBS reporter visibly working in Tahrir Square with her producer and cameraman and crew and bodyguard who was suddenly set-upon set, in a frenzy, in an instant, can — and has — happened in other situations as well.

She was taken as a symbol, and not as a human being. This happens to women all the time, in many places around the world — but it seems to happen differently, if not more, in the area stretching from North Africa through West Asia.

Mukhtaran Mai, the then-illiterate Pakistani woman who was hauled before her village council, because they had actually ordered her to be raped. This outrageous order, a violation of all religious principles and all laws, was given for the most unjust of reasons: to avenge for something here 12-year-old brother was alleged to have done with a woman from a different tribe [later reports indicated that he had in fact been raped himself by men from that other tribe, and there was clear reason to believe he had not done what he was accused of]. The gang rape of Mukhtaran Mai then took place more or less in public, on the spot, and she was forced to walk home “semi-naked”, reports said — when they could more accurately have written “naked”. It was done without any pity, without the slightest pity, to an innocent human being. Last week, on 21 April, five out of the six of her assailants who were tried and convicted were released by Pakistan’s Supreme Court, and the sentence of the sixth man was commuted from the death penalty to life in prison. She has now said that with the release of the five men earlier convicted of raping her (there were apparently at least 13 other men involved who were not prosecuted), she fears for her life…

Continue reading ““There was a moment that everything went wrong": Lara Logan”

Dr. Salman Abu Sitta on Mapping Palestine

Dr. Salman Abu Sitta, Founder and President of the Palestine Land Society, spoke at the Jerusalem Fund in Washington today about “Mapping Palestine: For its Survival and Destruction”:

Video streaming by Ustream.

In his speech, Dr. Abu Sitta — described here as a historical geographer and researcher who writes about Palestinian refugees and their right to return — introduced the results of his research on the Palestinian Nakba, or forced dispersion of Palestinians in the fighting that surrounded the creation of the state of Israel in 1948.

Continue reading “Dr. Salman Abu Sitta on Mapping Palestine”

Hamas + Fatah announce in Cairo they've reached agreement

This was a surprise.

The announcement came at the end of the day, in the early evening. Reuters broke the story. Hamas and Fatah, meeting in Cairo, had reached agreement on reconciliation. Further details were not immediately available, and only a few pieces of information filtered out as evening became night, and later.

With the lack of information, there was much scepticism.

And, signs of possible trouble just ahead.

Isabelle Kershner (and four other correspondents in Cairo, Gaza and Washington) wrote in the New York Times that “In a televised address on Wednesday, even before the Fatah-Hamas press conference, the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, sent a stern warning to the Palestinian Authority president and Fatah chief, Mahmoud Abbas.  ‘The Palestinian Authority has to choose between peace with Israel and peace with Hamas’, Mr. Netanyahu said, adding, ‘Peace with both of them is impossible, because Hamas aspires to destroy the state of Israel and says so openly’.  The choice, he said, was in the authority’s hands”. This story is published here.

One Twitterer (from Gaza) called Netanyahu a “Drama Queen” after these remarks.

A Tweet from the Palestinian President’s office said, in response to Netanyahu’s remarks: @MahmoudAbbas – #Netanyahu has to choose between #Peace or #Settlement’s construction.

Continue reading “Hamas + Fatah announce in Cairo they've reached agreement”

The Israeli Peace Initiative is the Arab Peace Initiative-plus, with a better name?

The announcement came by email today, from Ben Or, an Israeli PR firm in Tel Aviv.

The email says: “President Abbas has invited the leadership of the Israel Peace Initiative to the Mukaata [sic] in Ramallah to present their new regional peace initiative. The invitation follows the Palestinian President’s recent statement regarding his willingness to relinquish the plan to appeal to the UN General Assembly, if the political negotiations, based on the ’67 borders, are renewed”.

A report by Israel National News today — along the same lines — said Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren told Israel Radio “that Washington is attempting to convince its European allies that a unilateral declaration of statehood for the Western-backed Palestinian Authority will bring conflict and not peace”, and that “Israel is trying to renew negotiations with the PA in order to draft an agreement of two states for two nations in the Land of Israel”. The report is posted here.

So, if these two assertions are correct, both the Palestinian and the Israeli leaderships are looking for a way to create a Palestinian State by September. Could that be true?

One of the problems with the email sent out by the Israeli PR firm about tomorrow’s [Thursday’s] meeting at the Muqataa is that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas seems not to have made the statement attributed.

It was Yasser Abed Rabbo who said it — he is Secretary (and member) of the PLO Executive Committee, and he is also head of Palestinian Television, and he was (and still may be) the head of the Palestinian team in the “civil society” Geneva Initiative [signed December 2003]. He reportedly said it in an interview in the London paper Al-Hayat, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz here.

There are, in fact, a number of signatories to the Israeli Peace Initiative who are associated with the Geneva Initiative. Before he was elected President, Abbas himself was involved in drafting the Geneva Initiative through the efforts of his staff member Ghaith al-Omary, now at the American Task Force on Palestine in Washington D.C. This is one of several indications of the tacit approval given was to the effort by the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat Israeli former Justice Minister Yossi Beilin was Yasser Abed Rabbo’s counterpart, and Beilin’s staff assistant Daniel Levy, now also in Washington at the New American Foundation, was al-Omary’s counterpart in the drafting process.

The Geneva Initiative was viewed with hostility in Israel — mainly because the Israeli government at the time said it had not been informed in advance. The Swiss government, which did give substantial diplomatic and financial support to the Geneva Initiative, was surprised and flustered by the Israeli rejection. The Swiss support since then has fluctuated. Other European states, the United Nations, and the U.S. were cool — though former U.S. President Jimmy Carter was at the signing ceremony in Geneva on 1 December 2003.

Since then, the Geneva Initiative Israeli team has been much more active than the Palestinian team — though they seem to have revived a bit, and recently held a meeting in Nablus on the Right of Return, one of the points in the Geneva Initiative most criticized by Palestinians and their supporters.

A recent Tweet from the Israeli Geneva Initiative office (@genevaaccord on Twitter) said, based on the Haaretz report, that: “Geneva Initiative’s cofounder Yasser Abed Rabbo: PA prefers negotiations to unilateral declaration of Palestinian… http://fb.me/y2FruuVl”

According to the Haaretz report, “The Palestinian Authority will defer its attempts to unilaterally declare a Palestinian state at the United Nations if “real and serious” negotiations with Israel begin, an official was quoted saying Monday. Secretary General of the Palestine Liberation Organization Yasser Abed Rabbo told London-based Al-Hayat newspaper on Monday that the basis of any negotiated agreement must be according to ‘the 1967 borders, very limited exchange of land and no exchanges of populations’. Abed Rabbo called on the Middle East quartet, comprised of the UN, the European Union, the United States and Russia to ‘tackle these negotiations in accordance with the timetable we previously agreed on, which ends in September’, he told the London-based daily … ‘Otherwise’, the PLO official said, ‘we will go to the United Nations, then ask them to deal with the military presence and the Israeli settlements as an assault on the sovereignty of another state, which is a member of the United Nations’. He added that ‘these are the two solutions for international powers, especially Washington. We do not have a third option’. Abed Rabbo said that the PA will honor all of its internal and external obligations as a formal state, but that it would not accept Israeli military or civilian presence in its territories”…

But Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has never said anything publicly like this, and has continued to insist that the Palestinians would present their request for recognition of a Palestinian state to the UN in September.

Given the track record, however, that doesn’t mean he disagrees with the proposition.

Maybe there is something in the works that we all don’t know about, yet.

The head of President Abbas’ press office, Mohamed Edwan, said Wednesday “No, the President has never said that he was willing to relinquish this plan” if political negotiations are renewed. However, Edwan noted, “if we reach that [a Palestinian state] by negotiation by September, that would logically change the current plan, IF…”

The website of the Israeli Peace Initiative, we are informed by today’s email, is here.

The email sent out by the Israeli PR firm also says that “The Israeli Peace Initiative is a new regional peace initiative, calling upon the Israeli government to take action that will ensure the existence of Israel as a Jewish and Democratic State, its security and prosperity, and also to ensure normal relations between Israel and the Arab and Muslim world, and not be dragged along by the political events. More than 70 Israeli leaders from the fields of economy, defense, education, media, diplomacy and academy have already signed the initiative”.

This is the same Israeli PR company that is representing another group of Israelis who made their own recent peace initiative in Tel Aviv last week, the Declaration of Independence from the Occupation (as we wrote about here yesterday, see our post, A Tale of Two Translations, here.

Though both groups are represented by the same Israeli PR firm, only one is being taken to the Muqataa tomorrow to present their plan to the Palestinian President.

Is this a conflict of interest? Does one group of Israelis simply pay a better retainer to the Israeli PR firm?

Or are their other reasons for this selection? Does the Palestinian leadership prefer to deal with ex-military and ex-security officials? Does it judge that they have a greater chance of success? Does it feel that this particular group of Israelis will be in a better position to make accusations against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu if there is no other development between now and September? Is it the linkage (though not explicit) with the Geneva Initiative part of the charm?

This Israeli Peace Initiative has already been welcomed by the U.S. as a “positive contribution”, according to a report by AFP posted here.

That, of course, is polite, but falls short of a full endorsement. It’s not a cold shoulder, however.

According to AFP, the U.S. State Department spokesperson Mark Toner said: “We remain committed to achieving an agreement… we also support the goal of fully normalized relations between Israel and the Arab world … We welcome all ideas to achieve those goals and we look forward to hearing more about the Israel peace initiative. We believe it could possibly make a positive contribution”.

Akiva Eldar, Israeli journalist who is big supporter of Arab Peace plan, and one of the signers of this new Israeli Peace Initiative, has said that the biggest problem, for Israelis, with the Arab Peace Initiative is its name.

This is not a joke.

A number of other Israelis I’ve questioned over the last three years all agree — Israel can never sign on to an “Arab Peace Initiative”. It has to be Israeli, they said.

So, now we have it — the Israeli Peace Initiative (proposed by private Israelis, not the government).

However, it is written as if by the government.

The full text of the proposed Israeli Peace Initiative [IPI], posted here.

Continue reading “The Israeli Peace Initiative is the Arab Peace Initiative-plus, with a better name?”

A Tale of Two Translations

Does it matter? Yes.

UPDATE: Ethan Bronner went over the translations with me by phone just now, and agrees that the English version we published is closer to the Hebrew text that he received.  He says he did not do the translation into English, which was sent to him in the same mail as the Hebrew document… see below for more.

Last week, as we reported on our sister blog, Palestine-Mandate, here, some of Israel’s traditional and now-very-privileged elite held a demonstration in Tel Aviv, outside the hall where Israel’s independence was proclaimed on the night of 14-15 May 1948.

This demonstration, scheduled during the Jewish holiday of Passover — which celebrates freedom, while reminding Jews that they were once slaves — was timed to offer the support of this particular group of Israelis (called “eminent” and “distinguished”) for the anticipated Palestinian move to seek full UN membership and recognition of a Palestinian State, probably in September when the UN General Assembly holds its annual high-level debate in New York, opened by the U.S. President (leader of the UN’s host country).

At the demonstration in Tel Aviv, which was nearly drowned out by a noisy “right-wing” counter-demonstration, the Israeli group read out a document they had signed, which they called a “Declaration of Independence from the Occupation”.

After I posted the story on my blog, I received a comment from someone (the name is probably fictitious) saying that the version of the Declaration I had posted was different from the document posted on the website of the New York Times.

In the meantime, I was having an exchange on Twitter with Ali Abunimah, who disagreed with my view that the Declaration was something new. What’s new, in my view is above all the statement, according to the English-language version sent to me, that (1.) “The complete end of occupation is a fundamental condition for the freedom of both peoples”.

After that, in my view, this Declaration (2.) made a clear endorsement of a Palestinian State on the 1949/1967 borders — the very ones claimed by former PLO leader Yasser Arafat in his Declaration of Independence in 1988. The Declaration states, in the English-language version I posted on Palestine-Mandate: “Therefore we are here assembled, on April 21st, 2011, to welcome the coming Declaration of Independence of the Palestinian State, neighboring the state of Israel, according to our borders of independence, shaped at the end of the War of Independence in 1949. The borders known today as the ‘67 borders”.

This excludes equivocal arguments for any kind of partial or temporary “state” [or “bantustan”], or any entity with provisional borders. And it excludes any lingering presence of the Israeli military occupation.  It  seems to argue for full sovereignty for both states.

These things do matter, and taking this stand now is significant.

The Document — which is an Israeli paper, and not a joint initiative — argues for full rights within Israel. The signers of this text are not empowered to speak for the future Palestinian state, after all.

As the Twitter conversation continued, Ali was quoting things from the Declaration that were not in the version I had read (which I had posted on my other blog, Palestine-Mandate). He then kindly sent me the link to the document posted on the NYTimes site.

I was very surprised to discover that the two documents were different.

The one I had was sent from the group which had made the Declaration.

On Sunday morning, I started my investigation into the discrepancy between the two versions of the Declaration, and called them to ask about the difference in the two.

I was told by Roy Yellin of Ben-Or (a smooth and professional public relations firm in Tel Aviv which specializes in Israeli human rights organizations) that the Ethan Bronner, Jerusalem Bureau Chief, had written the story in the NYTimes, and had done his own translation of the Declaration from the Hebrew version — “he speaks Hebrew, you know”.

UPDATE: Yes, Bronner speaks Hebrew, but he says the rest of this is nonsense — “He’s wrong”, he said about Yellin’s assertion. Bronner told me he was sent the Declaration in Hebrew, and an English translation which he then passed on to the NYTimes web designers, without comparing it to the Hebrew version.

Yellin told me that he believes the translation they did (which is the one I published on Palestine-Mandate) is more accurate — but that there areas that are always “open to interpretation to a certain degree”.

He said indignantly that they did not try to soften the language of the Declaration for PR purposes — “Never!” If anything, he said, he would have wanted it to be harder…

“Our purpose is not to jostle over nuance”, he said, “we wanted to offer an alternative to the present Israeli policy, and to say that September is an opportunity, rather than a threat”.

And, he added, “I’m not getting into an argument with the New York Times”.

Well, this is probably one reason why Israeli-Palestinian negotiations are conducted in English — and it’s not only because the Americans have been involved as facilitator or mediator or whatever since the Oslo process went public in September 1993. [The year-long secret Israeli-Palestinian contacts before that were conducted, also in English, by the Norwegians.] English is simply, now, the world’s lingua franca. English is also the obligatory second language in both Israeli and Palestinian educational curricula. [And, though some will bristle at the memory, English was one of the three official languages in Palestine from the time of the British conquest by General Allenby in December 1917, during the First World War.]

The battle over the subtle linguistic difference between the English-language version of UN Security Council Resolution 242, adopted after many months of diplomatic wrangling following the June 1967 Middle East war, and the French-language version [withdrawing from territory occupied, or from the territory occupied, involving an intense and bitter dispute over whether this means all or only some territory] , is enough of a lesson learned to recommend designating one language, and only one language, for purposes of negotiating and concluding an agreement — certainly here.

Yellin did tell me that in any case, the NYTimes, or Ethan Bronner, didn’t translate the whole thing, but only a few sentences.

In fact, looking at the whole translation published by the NYTimes — which Yellin said was done by Ethan Bronner, but which Bronner has now confirmed was in fact NOT translated by him — some sentences were not translated at all, some were moved, and some stuff that wasn’t in the original Declaration was added.

The article Ethan Bronner wrote was published here, and the translation Ethan Bronner did from the Hebrew is posted on the New York Times website here, http://graphics8.nytimes.com/packages/pdf/world/PalestinianState.pdf, where it is entitled: “ISRAELI INTELLECTUALS WELCOME AND ENDORSE AN INDEPENDENT PALESTINIAN STATE NEXT TO ISRAEL”.

Following is a comparison of the two English-language texts.

Continue reading “A Tale of Two Translations”

More car harassment in Dahiet al-Bariid

At 7:45 in the morning on Sunday — it was Easter morning, which is not only a Christian holiday, it is also a Palestinian national and religious holiday, according to Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad — my doorbell began to ring, loudly and insistently.

Finally, leaving the bolt latched, I opened the door a crack. It was a man, I didn’t know him, who was speaking Arabic.

The Imam from the Mosque across the street sent him, he explained, to ask me to move my car. Yes.

Otherwise, the man said, a truck either would hit my car, or had already hit my car, and move it from its place.

I did not know him, I did not know what was going on outside, and I did not take the risk to go out and find out.

More than that, I did not know who told him that the car was my car, or who sent him to the exact door — the names are not marked, and very few people know exactly which door to ring. The entrance door, which is supposed to be locked, is almost always open, wide open, as it apparently was at that moment (unless, of course, someone opened the door to let him in).

UPDATE: I called the landlord when the doorbell was rung so many times, but he did not answer for 30 hours. (He then phoned to wish me Happy Easter, he said, though it was a day and night later.)

After I called the landlord, I called a taxi driver who helps me, who said he was not nearby but would come to check later what was going on outside. (As far as I know, he did not come. He called me Tuesday just after noon to ask what was happening, and explained he had been busy on Sunday because he was installing air conditioning in his house, as it was very hot last year…)

When the landlord called me Monday night, he said that when he had arrived at the building at midday Sunday, people from the mosque told him they had asked me to move my car, but I didn’t.

He told me that he told them they could come more easily from the other direction.

He also told me that they could have asked me in advance. (But, I told him, if they had done that, and I had not parked in my place, then someone else would have parked there…which wouldn’t have solved the matter for the people in the mosque, if indeed that was the real problem and not something else. My neighbors do take my space whenever it is convenient for them. And they allow their visitors to park in my space, too… Some people apparently find this quite amusing, but it can quickly turn nasty.)

But, he said, they were just nice people who were only asking me a favor…

In fact, as is clear, it was never necessary to ask me to move my car.

[And, I couldn’t understand why my landlord was calling me 30 hours later… his behavior on the phone was not normal, and my friend Nuha Musleh was sitting beside me when I received this call, and heard my end of the conversation.]

Who decided that asking me to go out to move the car is what to do to make things more convenient for them? Who told them to go ring my doorbell? Who told them which door to ring? And, if the outside door was closed, as it is supposed to be — though almost certainly it was not — who would have opened it for them?

Harassment often starts when people with a motive then encourage [incite] other people with other motives… and the whole thing can quickly flare up, and get out of control.

Postscript – on Israeli jurisdiction: Palestinian challenges his arrest by Israel in West Bank

Perhaps because this did NOT involve “security” matters, an Israeli lawyer representing a Palestinian arrested in the West Bank and taken to Israel to be charged with a minor crime is challenging this as a violation of international law.

Haaretz is reporting here that Mohamed Beni Gama, a Palestinian resident of the West Bank, was arrested at his home in the village of Arkaba, near Nablus on Friday morning “accused the Israel Police of illegally abducting him beyond Israel’s borders, thus violating international law and overstepping the Israel Police’s authority.  The Petah Tikva Magistrate’s Court instructed police to verify whether the suspect had been arrested ‘outside the country’ and whether it was legal to bring him into Israel for questioning over a two-year-old property offense”.

Haaretz added that “Judge Yael Klugman, formerly president of the military court in Tel Aviv, accepted the attorney’s arguments, ruling it must first be ascertained where Gama was arrested.  ‘If it transpires he was arrested outside Israel, and the police ask to extend his remand despite that … they must prepare to argue the case for their authority to arrest someone outside the country and bring him into Israel for investigation over a two-year-old breaking and entering offense’, she wrote”.

When I passed through the Hizma checkpoint yesterday from Jerusalem on my way to Ramallah, I noticed a new red sign on a stand, with white lettering only in Hebrew. When I returned to Jerusalem later in the evening, I saw the sign deployed, for the first time, just before the checkpoint, facing those coming to Jerusalem.

I asked the soldiers what it said, and a young woman with an olive green jumpsuit, jacket, hat — and a sleek black weapon — said that it simply indicated that “The area ahead is Israel, and in the other direction, behind you, it is Palestinian”.

Continue reading “Postscript – on Israeli jurisdiction: Palestinian challenges his arrest by Israel in West Bank”

Quote of the Day – 16th in our series: "Memory is a political issue"

Today’s quote of the Day – the 16th in our series — comes from remarks made by Israeli historian Tom Segev, interviewed by Ed Sanders in the Los Angeles Times about the significance of the 1961 trial in Jerusalem of Nazi officer Adolph Eichmann, months after Eichmann was captured and secretly abducted from a hiding place in Latin America by Israeli Mossad agents.

As’ad AbuKhalil (The Angry Arab News Service blog) linked to the interview, criticizing Sanders for asking, in a question, why Eichmann was the only person ever to have ever been given the death penalty and executed [he was hung] in Israel.

As’ad noted: “the writer then said: ‘Since Eichmann, Israel has not put anyone else to death. Why?’. Excuse me, but Israel has killed thousands since then but it does not put people to death after a trial anymore. In the case of Arabs, it kills them without trial. Eh, what does it call that? Targeted assassinations?”   This is posted both on the Angry Arab blog, and on his website here .

The interview, apparently inspired by an exhibit in an Israeli museum, is a fascinating exchange.

Sanders wrote: “Fifty years ago this month, Israel seemed to grind to a halt as people huddled around radios, listening to testimony in the trial of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann. Captured by Israeli secret service agents in Argentina in 1960, Eichmann was tried, and eventually executed, as a chief architect of the Holocaust, in which 6 million European Jews were killed”. The interview is published here.

At the time of the Eichmann trial, Sanders reported, about one-fourth of Israel’s population were Holocaust survivors.

In the interview, Segev told Sanders:
“In a Cabinet meeting minutes three or four days after Eichmann’s capture, [Prime Minister] David Ben-Gurion talks about the need to bring the Holocaust closer to the new Israeli generation, which knows nothing about the Holocaust. Most of the meeting dealt with PR…. All the details are related to selling two ideas: A.) this is a sovereign country with a right to judge the criminal who hurt our citizens. And B.) that Israel represents the Holocaust victims. Israel may not represent the entire Jewish people. This would be too sensitive, especially vis-a-vis Jews in America. But it [Israel] does represent the 6 million victims“.

Continue reading “Quote of the Day – 16th in our series: "Memory is a political issue"”

Hilarious! Two Egyptian guys try to get into Gaza via the tunnels, discover Hamas visa policy

This drama has played out on Twitter for the past 48 hours.

Since the Jan25 revolution in Egypt led to Husni’s Mubarak’s forced resignation, there has been speculation about a new and more open Egyptian policy to Gaza.

But, the adventures of two Egyptian guys [@dooolism and @tarekshalaby] trying to enter Gaza via Rafah (or, via the infamous Rafah-to Rafah-tunnels) shows us it hasn’t happened yet.

They reveal, among other things, that Hamas has a visa policy for human passage into Gaza via the tunnels.

Here is a summary or synopsis of their account:

@dooolism – so 2night [n.b. – Thursday] with possibly the worst plan ever conceived by mankind, @tarekshalaby and I will head 2 Areesh & attempt 2 get into #Gaza 2morrow. – 3:12 PM Apr 21st

@dooolism – @Tarekshalaby and I can enter most North American, European, Asian and African countries right now, but they won’t allow us into #Gaza #irony – 9:40 PM Apr 22nd

@dooolism – Hamas tunnel visa to #Gaza makes European Schengen visa like a walk in the park #justsayin – 9:10 PM Apr 22nd

@dooolism – Not looking good, Hamas minister of tunnels (yes there’s an unofficial official position ) denied our tunnel application to #Gaza – Friday, April 22, 2011 8:23:32 PM

Continue reading “Hilarious! Two Egyptian guys try to get into Gaza via the tunnels, discover Hamas visa policy”

Three flat tires on my car: one Dahiet al-Bariid morning

About ten days ago, as I was headed off to a conference in memory of Ibrahim Abu Lughod at Bir Zeit University (outside Ramallah), I was only able to get about 75 meters to my destination.

Why?

My leased car, which had been parked on the street, suddenly had three flat tires, all at once.

Of course, it was not an accident.

All three tires had the cap removed from the air valve.

Two of the tires, it turned out, had been slashed.

One result: I never got to the conference at Bir Zeit University…

Yes, this is the same neighborhood in Dahiet al-Bariid (on the JERUSALEM side of The Wall) where I received death threats, written (in Arabic) on the windshield and (in English) on the window of driver’s side of the car, in August 2009. [Our earlier report in that is posted here…]

This is about 150 meters or so from the observation towers of the IDF Central Command Headquarters in Neve Yaakov. It is around the corner from Ahmad Tibi’s house. It is up one level from the World Bank office in Jerusalem (East Jerusalem).

Note: Before The Wall came here, they used to say the World Bank was in ar-Ram, and this was the supposedly “neutral” place where the Geneva Initiative people used to meet every month, the Israeli team and the Palestinian team. All that is now gone, long gone…

As The Wall was being constructed, almost all of Dahiet al-Bariid was going to be immured. Most of Dahiet al-Bariid (except for some meters of land down by the road going to Atarot and Qalandia, ending around the “jisr” where the water pipes come from Ramallah) was just outside (but immediately adjacent to) the “Greater Jerusalem Municipality” boundaries drawn unilaterally by Israel after its conquest in the June 1967 war. When it became evident that The Wall would sever the neighborhood from Jerusalem, a number of residents and the Christian institutions in the southern part of the neighborhood petitioned the Israeli Supreme Court to stay in Jerusalem. The Israeli Supreme Court said yes, apparently before I came here, and now takes this decision into account when dealing with any problems in this area. But the Israeli military did not make the changes on the ground that would enact this Supreme Court decision. Even after The Wall was closed here, at the beginning of September 2008, the “ar-Ram” checkpoint still remained in place until mid-February 2009. During that terrible time, there was no way in or out except through that miserable “ar-Ram” checkpoint, which was a particularly and notoriously bad one. Everytime you needed fresh food, or medicine, you had to get in line at the checkpoint, for at least half an hour, and be subject to teeth-grinding, stomach-pain humilation. On the day the “ar-Ram” checkpoint was finally removed, the Commander of Qalandia Checkpoint was there (“Captain Uri”), and I asked him what the status of the neighborhood was, now — was it finally and clearly Jerusalem, I asked? Who said that? he asked. The Israeli Supreme Court, and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, I replied. “No”, he told me, “this is a Kaf ha-Teva” (“manteqa tamas”, or seam zone), “We have to let the negotiators do their work”…

Well, that could take a good long time.

Meanwhile, no law authority comes to this neighborhood, though it seems to be under the jurisdiction of the Israeli police in Binyamina, on the other side of the Hizma checkpoint, on Road 60 in the West Bank — though the police officers there don’t readily admit responsibility, and don’t know the area, because they apparently never come here.

For the moment, that’s all I have to say.