Monday 21 June 2010
Ram Cohen, principal of the Aleph High School in Tel Aviv, was summoned to appear before the Knesset Education Committee and the Minister of Education, Mr. Gideon Saar, today, as Cohen explained in an article published in YNet, “following my unequivocal words to my students, condemning the 43 year-old occupation and rule over the life of the Palestinian people …
Cohen’s letter continued: “Being at the storm center of controversy, I was recently obliged to introduce for discussion at our school a spectrum of opinion for and against our presence in the Occupied Territories, and I must admit that this was very difficult for me. When I believe that our country does not respect International Law and its own laws, nor does it have proper regard for human rights – I frankly find it hard to admit into the school representatives of views which support the status quo. Since the expulsion from Paradise it is our duty to distinguish right from wrong. It is my duty to point out the wrong, and to strongly condemn it. Those who demand that I prepare students for recruitment should know that my duty is also to tell them that they would enter a territory which was occupied 43 years ago, in which human rights are being shamefully violated on a daily basis by means of our military superiority. In future, these children will have to account for themselves, and they will ask if their school has revealed to them the terrible secret called occupation. Yes, occupation. An occupation, not a liberation, not a return to an ancestral land … Wherever there is a conflict, any decision will be a political decision. When I decided seven years that this school would teach Arabic rather than French, that was a political decision. The same when I decided that school hikes will not include the `City of David` settlers.** [his footnote ** The settlers group known as `Elad` have established themselves at Silwan Village, directly south of the Old City of Jerusalem, where they claim King David had his palace 3000 years ago, with the proclaimed aim of `Judaising` it. They have expelled Palestinian residents from several home and took them over, and the `archeological` diggings conducted by settlers undermine the foundations of many other houses. The `National Park` maintained by the settlers is recommended by the Ministry of Education as a venue for school hikes]”… This article was translated from the Hebrew original by Adam Keller and is posted here.
Also Monday, elsewhere in Jerusalem, the Jerusalem municipal planning committee approved a plan to raze 22 Palestinian homes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan (Bustan area) to make room for expansion of the City of David tourist complex. Reports said that the municipal planning committee declined to consider counterproposals from Silwan residents. However, reports also suggested that alternate building plots would be made available in the area for the displaced families to build new homes. There was no indication, however, that the families would be able to build new homes and move before their present lodgings are destroyed (unlike the considerate arrangements made for settlers in the West Bank “outpost” of Migron, who will leave only after new homes are built for them and all infrastructure complete in the settlement of Adam, which is expected to take at least three years). There is also no indication of whether there would be expedited permits for the families facing demolition of their homes. The U.S. State Department spokesman said today that the U.S. was “worried” about this development, because it “undermined trust” … According to an explanation on a Hagit Ofran’s blog, there were actually two measures on the table at the Jerusalem municipal planning committee meeting today: “The first is for the King’s Garden / Bustan. This is the project that Mayor [Nir] Barkat announced a couple of months ago, then delayed after pressure from Bibi. This plan is to redevelop the Bustan area of Silwan in line with the settlers’ aspirations – to demolish some 88 Palestinian homes which were built without permits, and to create a Park which should be park of the City of David Park that was already established in Silwan. Barkat promises to allow the Palestinians to build alternative housing nearby but there are many doubts as for the possibility to implement the construction (see more here). The second is a plan for the adjacent area of Silwan, where Beit Yehonaton is located. The plan would re-zone the area to permit the post-facto legalization of Beit Yehonaton (which was not only built illegally, but cannot be legalized under current zoning regulations). Barkat claims that the plan is good for the Palestinians, since it will also theoretically make it possible for Palestinians in the area to get permits, too. But similar experiences in the past raise serious doubts about this promise (and even if it were serious, it means that Barkat is holding permits for the Palestinians hostage to them agreeing to the settlers’ demands.)” This is posted here.
The Israeli human rights organization Adalah has filed a motion with the Israeli Supreme Court to prevent the imminent “deportation” — whatever that means — from Jerusalem by the end of this month of four Hamas-affiliated politicians (some of them just released from four years in jail following their election to the Palestine Legislative Council in January 2006). (Will they be sent to Gaza? or just to Ramallah?) In any case, the Interior Ministry has ordered their Jerusalem residency rights revoked. Adalah says that three of them are Palestinian parliamentarians from the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) – Muhammad Abu-Teir [who was supposed to leave Jerusalem by 19 June], and Mr. Ahmad Attoun and Muhammad Totah – as well as the former Palestinian Minister for Jerusalem Affairs, Khaled Abu Arafeh [who are supposed to leave Jerusalem on 3 July], all elected on the Change and Reform political party list in 2006 and permanent residents of Jerusalem … Apparently the deportation decision dates to just after the 2006 election, and Adalah explains that it was based on the fact that the men have been residents of Israel [which effectively annexed East Jerusalem after its victory in the 1967 war], but they were then elected to membership in the PLC, a “foreign parliament”, which indicated that their allegiance was to the Palestinian Authority… East Jerusalem Palestinians have been given the right, under the Oslo Accords, to vote in Palestinian Authority elections (though there are multiple practicle obstacles). East Jerusalem Palestinians also have the right to vote in Jerusalem municipal elections (but, because they are permanent residents though not citizens, they cannot vote in Israeli national elections). In practice, however, most East Jerusalem Palestinians boycott the municipal elections because they do not want to be seen as accepting the occupation. Adalah noted, in its submission to the Supreme Court, that “It was only after the petitioners were elected, and because the election results were not welcomed by the government of Israel, that it decided to cancel their residency status, thereby severely violating their rights. The cancellation of residency and deportation due to “breach of trust” is an extreme and sweeping measure that does not meet the test of proportionality. It is a draconian measure that is characteristic of dark and totalitarian regimes. There are many means less severe than revoking residency status that are available to the state under the criminal law, which is the sole suitable means to denounce prohibited actions, as long as there is evidence of a criminal act. The wide authority to cancel residency, with which the Interior Minister believes he is invested, should not be accorded to any single person, the organizations argued. This authority may only lie with the judiciary, which operates according to explicit primary legislation, in which clear criteria and a framework for the hearing of arguments are stipulated”. This is posted on the Adalah website here. The Palestine Legislative Council hasn’t been able to meet for years — the Israeli authorities arrested so many of the Hamas-affiliated elected members that the PLC could not have a quorum to hold a meeting… However, on Sunday, the Supreme Court apparently let the deportation order against Muhammad Abu-Teir, pending some other decision…
Separately, Ma’an News Agency reported that the Jerusalem Center for Social and Economic Rights says that at least two teenagers known to have been involved in East Jerusalem protests against Israeli settlers, home evictions and planned demolitions, received unofficial warning from Israeli intelligence officers. The two were told they would be deported if they continue to ‘incite’ against the state of Israel”. According to the same report, East Jerusalem Fatah leader Hatem Abdel Qader has also been threatened with losing his residency rights… This report is posted here.
Haaretz has published a Reuters report in which UNRWA spokesperson Christopher Gunness said that “Israel’s Gaza blockade became a blockade against the UN”. The brilliant and charming Gunness, formerly with BBC where we met more than two decades ago, told Reuters on the sidelines of a conference in Cairo that: “We need to have the blockade fully lifted … The Israeli strategy is to make the international community talk about a bag of cement here, a project there. We need full unfettered access through all the crossings”. According to Reuters, “Gunness said he was not confident that the new Israeli system would resolve the difficulties UNRWA has faced determining what can get through the blockade. ‘The list of restricted goods is a moving target. We are never told this is banned and that is banned’, he said. ‘Israel’s blockade became a blockade against the UN’. Gunness said Israel must open the Karni cargo terminal north of Gaza, which is large enough to allow industrial-scale cargoes of cement, building materials and aid. Instead, trucks are routed to a narrower crossing [i.e., Kerem Shalom, see our earlier post here]. This Reuters report is posted on the Haaretz website here.
The IDF announced that [only] 97 truckloads of goods arrived at its border crossings with Gaza today, although it announced yesterday that it was increasing the capacity of Kerem Shalom effective immediately, so that it could receive 130 truckloads a day of goods destined for Gaza. Before the Israeli government authorized military–administered punitive sanctions against Gaza, there were between 400 and 600 truckloads of goods crossing into Gaza each day.
Meanwhile, the Quartet issued a statement saying that “the current situation in Gaza, including the humanitarian and human rights situation of the civilian population, is unsustainable, unacceptable, and not in the interests of any of those concerned”. It added that while it welcomed the Israeli announcement of a new policy, it would wait to see “the elaboration of further details and modalities of implementation”. The Quartet also noted that “much work remains to achieve fully the solution stated above, and, in consultation with the concerned parties, it will monitor closely the implementation of the policy in all its aspects. It will actively explore additional ways to improve the situation in Gaza, encourage involvement of the PA at the crossings and promote greater commerce between the West Bank and Gaza”. And, the Quartet said, it is working “to effect a fundamental change in policy in Gaza”.
On the other hand, the Quartet said it “recognizes that Israel has legitimate security concerns that must continue to be safeguarded, and believes efforts to maintain security while enabling movement and access for Palestinian people and goods are critical. The Quartet commits to work with Israel and the international community to prevent the illicit trafficking of arms and ammunition into Gaza. It urges all those wishing to deliver goods to do so through established channels so that their cargo can be inspected and transferred via land crossings into Gaza. The Quartet emphasizes that there is no need for unnecessary confrontations and calls on all parties to act responsibly in meeting the needs of the people of Gaza”. In addition, the Quartet called for “an end to the deplorable detention of Gilad Shalit”.