Israeli Police – part of the problem

Yesterday, on Salah ed-Din Street (the Champs-Elysees or Fifth Avenue of East Jerusalem, only very crowded, quite delapidated, and not at all chic, unless you like good coffee), it was absolutely crowded with cars and pedestrians in advance of the coming week-long Muslim Eid holiday.

Even at the best of times, people don’t walk on the sidewalks in Palestinian areas. Usually, there isn’t very much of a sidewalk anyway. But, it’s just so much more convenient to walk on the streets.

Women in black robes made of synthetic fabric and embroidered in Turkey or China, with tightly wrapped synthetic scarves, were pushing their multiple young children out out ahead of them, in between parked cars, hoping to make the oncoming traffic stop to let them cross without any moment of waiting.

As is usually on busy days, there were no parking spaces, it was impossible to get close to the already-full parking lots, and there was a solid line of double-parked cars in the right-hand traffic lane.

As is also usual on Fridays during prayer time, when there are a lot of people travelling in their cars to get to Al-Aqsa Mosque, and on the eves of big holidays like the one coming up, there is a special police action to ticket cars. Hundreds of tickets can be issued in one fell swoop.

What happened yesterday is an undercover Israeli police unit, driving an Eldan rented car, swooped right in front of me when I was already in my car, seat belt buckled, and switching gears to move forward in traffic, after I stopped for an extremely brief period of time in front of the Educational Bookshop. The driver was wearing a black t-shirt and black sunglasses. The passenger was in a dark navy blue shirt and trousers, tucked into black combat boots. This was a uniform I had never seen before. He jumped out before his car even stopped, and raced towards me in a frightening and commanding way.

He had two other people he was accosting at the same time. So, he took my passport and walked off to deal with the other cases, and kept me waiting just as if I were at a checkpoint.

Continue reading Israeli Police – part of the problem

The Day After Fayyad tests limits of "Jerusalem"

Yossi Sarid wrote, sardonically, in Haaretz today that Fayyad’s “scheming knows no bounds or fences. After mapping Israeli neglect precisely, he leaped into no man’s land. If Israel will not build and renovate the schools in East Jerusalem, then he will step in to fill the vacuum. If Israel neglects the roads and sidewalks despite repeated complaints, he orders them repaired and paved. And as if that provocative and scandalous interference were not enough, he has the chutzpah to openly celebrate the completion of these works. That won’t do. Netanyahu and Mayor Nir Barkat and Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch will head him off. Fayyad may spend money in our stead, but quietly. The right to noisy celebration is reserved for the Jewish settlers of Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah. Our right to the entire city of Jerusalem has expired, and not only because half of it is Arab and has remained so despite all the cleansing and Judaization efforts. Our right expired because we never genuinely joined it together. Just the reverse: We divided and governed, stole and inherited, and even the new wall we stuck in its heart in order to divide it, Hallelujah”. This is published here.

Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff wrote, in another piece in Haaretz, that “Senior military sources were critical yesterday of Israel’s conduct in the Fayyad visit to East Jerusalem. They said that Israel had made a mistake when it opted to confront the PA prime minister over the visit. ‘Were it not for Israeli objections, no one would have paid attention to Fayyad. But we are the ones who helped him make the rounds of the international media’, the sources said. They noted that Fayyad lives in the Beit Hanina neighborhood of East Jerusalem, and as such is in Jerusalem and its environs all the time in any case … [But] On Monday, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch issued an injunction banning any Palestinian Authority activity inside Israeli territory”. This article added that “Fayyad also promised that the PA will continue its assistance to Palestinian institutions in the city, especially educational institutions, and would help build new schools and offer other services”. It can be viewed in full here.

The Jerusalem Post reported that “In response to Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s dedication ceremony at a PA-renovated school in east Jerusalem on Tuesday, MK Danny Danon (Likud) toured a girls’ high school in the capital’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood to check out school conditions in the area … Danon visited Al- Mamunia Secondary Girls’ School in Sheikh Jarrah, a 10th-12th grade high school with 1,452 students. He was shocked at the small amount of Hebrew the students were learning at municipality schools: Students at Al-Mamunia learn Hebrew for three hours per week, compared to five hours per week for English, and fewer than 10% of the students speak Hebrew at even a basic level … Danon said he would speak to the education minister about looking into increasing Hebrew requirements in Arab schools … Danon had originally planned to be at the same school dedication ceremony as Fayyad to reassert Israel’s sovereignty over the area, but he decided not to enter the area after police reported that there were 400 residents ready to protest his arrival … ‘The fact that he [Fayyad] wants to come and dedicate schools in east Jerusalem is crossing a line, it’s crossing a red line, and I’m happy that we managed to clear up his visit’, said Danon as he stood on a hill overlooking a renovated school in Shuafat, which is on the other side of the security barrier but still within Jerusalem boundaries. ‘But we have to understand that the authority of the Education Ministry and the Public Security Ministry inside these areas in Jerusalem is minimal’ … The Association for Civil Rights in Israel estimates that there is a shortage of at least 1,000 classrooms in east Jerusalem, and says that the Education Ministry and the municipality are not building classrooms fast enough to keep up with the rapidly growing population.” This is posted here.

Qalandia – you have to see it to believe it…

…but you still won’t really feel the oppressive heat pounding down under the sun’s rays …

Machsom Watch  [Checkpoint Watch] – a group of Israeli women against the occupation and for human rights, who monitor the situation at Israeli military checkpoints and Israeli military courts in the occupied Palestinian West Bank – have put together this extraordinary video of Palestinian women in an extreme situation, who are being treated as… well, not quite as human beings.

One of the videos they have posted on their site shows the situation in the women’s line — the women’s line: yes, women and men are separated by the Israeli forces even before going into the Checkpoint area — at the disgraceful Qalandia Checkpoint between Jerusalem and Ramallah on a Friday in Ramadan last year, September 2009.

In Ramadan, adults fast — and abstain even from water — from two hours before dawn until sunset.

These women are trying to get from their homes all over the central and northern West Bank, into Jerusalem, to pray at the third holiest site in Islam, which is Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Old City of East Jerusalem.

During Ramadan, the Muslim faithful long to pray in Al-Aqsa.

This documentary is mesmerizing — and horrible to watch.

The crowding, pushing, shoving, and general pandemonium would have been completely unbearable by themselves. But it was also near 100 degrees in the blazing heat.

Because the women are wearing long and heavy clothing, as well as tight headcoverings, the intense heat at midday would be quite unbearable. And, they are fasting, so they will not drink water.

If it is possible to say one part was worse than another, the worst part was at the end, when the women who could not get through Qalandia Checkpoint lined up to pray in the little shade there was, created by The Wall… facing Jerusalem, right up against The Wall.

It’s on the Machsom Watch website, here — scroll down the page to the report dated 17/09/2009.

But, when I tried to watch this video on Youtube, here, to get the correct code to embed it on this page, I found this warning, instead: “This video or group may contain content that is inappropriate for some users, as flagged by YouTube’s user community“…

A Machsom Watch video.
Filmed by Hadass Shuve and Merav Amir.
Edited by Hadass Shuve.
Translation from Arabic by Hasan Masri.

The Elders visit Sheikh Jarrah

The Elders delegation visiting the region visited the weekly Friday demonstration in Sheikh Jarrah today, and former U.S. President Jimmy Carter said, according to a report in Hazaretz, that “the eviction of Palestinians from their homes might be in accordance with Israeli law, but is against international law”.

Continue reading The Elders visit Sheikh Jarrah

The Elders … in Silwan

A delegation of The Elders, headed by Mary Robinson and including Jimmy Carter [see our previous posts here] visited Silwan, a hotspot in East Jerusalem just outside of the walls of the Old City of East Jerusalem, and downwind of two major Islamic sites — Al Aqsa Mosque, and the Dome of the Rock — is a volatile hotspot where thousands of Palestinians are living under threat of eviction as two settler groups literally dig in to try to discover and track King David’s presence in ancient times.

A few hundred Israeli settlers are protected by armed semi-private security guards who are not supervised by the police or military, and several Palestinian deaths by gunfire from these guards have caused disturbances there this year.

Both Carter and Robinson expressed hope that East Jerusalem would become the capital of a future Palestinian state.

An Associated Press correspondent has filed a “pool report” for the Foreign Press Association in Israel (FPA) describing the visit — during which Algeria’s former Foreign Minister Lakhdar Brahimi (a UN official from time to time) was apparently not present.

According to Nuha + Khader Musleh’s very useful summary of the Palestinian press today, The Elders delegation was received by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on Wednesday. [Too bad that it is so difficult, even impossible, to get useful information from the Presidential press office or any other Palestinian source for official information …]

Continue reading The Elders … in Silwan

Trying to understand: some Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem

Here is an informative — though not exhaustively, and not completely up to date either [there is no mention of Sheikh Jarrah or Silwan, two real hotspots over the last year and more] — put together by The Palestine Center in Washington D.C.:
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Lesley Stahl’s report for the CBS news program 60 Minutes was about Silwan, last Sunday, and can be viewed here, or via the Mondoweiss blog, here.

Lesley Stahl’s reporting included an extra, separate, segment on Silwan’s Beit Yonathan — an illegal 7-story building, built by, and housing, Israeli settlers — which is now under demolition orders: here.

Here is a graphic of East Jerusalem – including the Old City – and the neighborhoods sucrrounding it, from The Wonk Room blog. The graphic accompanies a guest post by Jerusalem-based Israeli activist, writer and filmmaker, Joseph Dana (Ibn Ezra), who is now on a visit to the U.S., about the CBS TV 60 Minutes segment on Silwan.  The dotted green line on the left of the graphic is the Green Line (which marked the separation between Israeli and Jordanian forces between 1948 and the June 1967 war), which now roughly indicates the separation between East and West Jerusalem :

graphic of East Jerusalem including Old City from The Wonkroom blog

In his guest post, Dana wrote:
“Silwan is a dangerous neighborhood. Not only because of the simmering political tensions between the Palestinians and the Jewish settlers occupying houses in the city, but also because the neighborhood is one of the centers of the drug trade. But of all the cities and villages in the West Bank, the Palestinians of Silwan have a reputation as being on the forefront of resistance to Israel’s steady takeover of Palestinian land … Silwan is located in East Jerusalem’s holy basin, which encompasses the north, east and south of the Old City. Over the past five years, the Israeli government has been encouraging Jewish settlers to settle in the holy basin..

Continue reading Trying to understand: some Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem

Price tag?

The first formal announcement has come from the Israeli government — from its Ministry of Housing — that it is issuing new tenders for housing construction that will include some 238 housing units in two East Jerusalem settlements (Ramot and Pisgat Zeev). These are part of a package of some 4,000 housing units in various locations.

This move was reportedly approved by Israel’s Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu.

UPDATE + CORRECTION: Hagit Ofran, who monitors Israel’s settlements for Peace Now, has written on her blog, here. that “The actual tenders themselves haven’t yet been published and no potential buyers can offer their proposals yet; this was only an announcement by the ministry on the intentions, which can still be stopped. While the tenders have not yet been published, we do have a sense of what they might be. The 158 units in Ramot are probably the implementation of Town Plan No. 5330, in the Ultra Orthodox part of Ramot (the Ramot Polin neighborhood). The 80 units in Pisgat Zeev, are probably some ‘left overs’ from previous tenders which failed. On June 2008 the Ministry of Housing published tenders for 763 units in Pisgat Zeev. These tenders were only partially successful. Out of the 763 only 468 units were sold. In December 2009, Netanyahu allowed for the re-publication of the tenders for those units that were not sold in the original tenders. The 80 units now being announced are as far as we understand part of those that were not sold”.

So, is this just tough negotiating? …

She speculates, but says she believes her government is trying to fool the world.

In her post, Hagit writes that “It seems likely that the decision to announce these tenders right now, when the world’s attention is focused on Netanyahu’s refusal to renew the settlement moratorium in the West Bank (which did not include East Jerusalem), is more than anything a political statement. At best, it is showing that Israel still doesn’t understand the destructive effect of construction in settlements on the ability to continue negotiations. At worst, it is showing that the government of Israel is deliberately trying to damage the talks. In addition, it could also be a message from Netanyahu to the Israeli right – part of an effort to ease the pressure on him regarding the continuation of the freeze”.

It is also pressure that Netanyahu can either try to excuse away (as the previous Israeli government did with former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the relocation of the Israeli police station from Ras al-Amoud, in East Jerusalem, to the area known as “E-1”, on the outskirts of Maale Adumim, on the way to the Dead Sea. It was announced, Condi protested, Israeli officials said it would take years — and then it was moved within a few months.

Hagit recalls, in her blog post, another parallel: “As I was reading the reports on the new tenders announced by the Ministry of Housing, I had an slight feeling of deja vu. Last December, the housing ministry made similar announcement regarding the plan for marketing in the upcoming year. This plan included 198 units in Pisgat Zeev and 377 units in Neve Yaacov in East Jerusalem. When the press and the world criticized Israel for that, some argued that it was only an announcement, not the actual publication of tenders. A few months later, in March, the tender of Neve Yaacov was officially issued and published. As we were quoted in the Israeli media criticizing those tenders, I got an angry phone call from the spokesman of the Ministry of Housing. ‘Why did you tell the media that we published a new tender in Neve Yaacov?’, he asked me. I tried to explain that I have the publication in my hand, but he said: ‘this is not new, we published it already last December’. Reading the reports in the media today, I think that it was not by accident. The publication today was somewhat vague. Some of the journalists say that the tenders were announced as part of a yearly plan, and some say they were actually issued. Politically, the devastating impact of this publication on the peace efforts are quite similar whether it would have been actually issued or if it was only announced. However, I believe that the ambiguity of the announcement is a way of the government of Israel to try to fool the world. Today they can claim: ‘It’s not issued yet, it’s only an announcement’, and when it will be officially issued and published (god forbid), they will say: ‘this is not new, don’t make a fuss’.” …

But, some countries may even be imposing their own “price tag” on Israeli settlement activities, particularly in East Jerusalem.

The U.S., however, stated publicly only that it was “disappointed”.

UPDATE TWO:  U.S. State Department spokesperson Philip Crowley told journalists in Washington on Friday that: “We were disappointed by the announcement of new tenders in East Jerusalem yesterday. It is contrary to our efforts to resume direct negotiations between the parties”.

Asked if the U.S. had been “inforrmed ahead of time about their plans”, Crowley replied: “Yes”.

Asked to respond to information from “an Israeli official” that “there is a tacit understanding between the U.S. and Israel regarding this issue”, Crowley replied: “The Government of Israel is well aware of our concerns about this”.

UPDATE: Haaretz reported Saturday evening that the Israeli Prime Minister’s office said: ” ‘We have already said in the past that there is no longer a settlement freeze in Jerusalem’, the PMO said. ‘Regarding the relationship with the United States, they received notification of the plan before we announced it’. Sources in the Prime Minister’s Office also noted that even though the White House did not approve of the plans for further settlement construction, opposition to the settlements has been a U.S. policy for 40 years already. Over the weekend, sources in Netanyahu’s office said that as opposed to the time Israel announced new building plans during U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden’s visit and caused an international uproar, this time Netanyahu was well aware of the plans and approved them before the announcement was made”. This is published here.

Continue reading Price tag?

76 Palestinian stone-throwers arrested in East Jlem, 27 indicted, for throwing stones

In the context of an article about an urgent (and sometimes ugly) Knesset debate Monday about Palestinian children in East Jerusalem throwing stones, the Jerusalem Post reported that “In the past six months, the police have arrested 76 people for rock throwing incidents in Jerusalem. Thirty were youth, between the ages of 12-18, and 46 were adults. Of those arrested, 17 youth and 10 adults were served with indictments. Some of the youth are in detention, some are under house arrest. A representative of the Jerusalem police insisted that the police are doing everything possible to halt the rock throwing incidents, but the young age of the rock throwers makes stopping them difficult“.   This is posted here.

14-month old child dies of tear gas inhalation in East Jerusalem + more

A 14-month old boy died of tear gas inhalation in the Isawiyya neighborhood of East Jerusalem on Friday. The toddler was apparently at home when the tear gas was fired [by Israeli Border Police], though Israeli media reports misleadingly suggest that the child died “during a riot”. YNet is also reporting here that “a possibility that the infant’s death was accidental – as a result of a gas leak at his home – is also being investigated”. An Israeli police spokesperson told the media that no report of an infant’s death has been received.

[And, a 20-year old fishermen was reported killed by Israeli fire on the Gaza coast on Friday.]

Earlier in the week, two men were killed in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan at 4 a.m. on Wednesday. A private Israeli security guard driving alone in the neighborhood said he felt threatened and feared for his life when he came upon the men, and fired.

Normally, people should be able to be out on the streets at 4 a.m. without fear of being shot and killed as a suspected threat. One victim had a criminal record — and a screwdriver and a knife in his pocket — YNet reported.

But, there has been no call yet for any investigation into this killing.
UPDATE on SUNDAY 26 SEPTEMBER: Lisa Goldman has just reported in +972 magazine that the Association for Civil Rights in Israel has formally requested a [police only?] investigation. Her article is posted here.

A spokesperson for the private security agency which employed the man who did the shooting told YNet that “The guards asked for permission to use crowd dispersal means, but were turned down, so the only weapon left is a pistol … The security guards’ job is to safeguard the [n.b. – Jewish] residents’ lives and property. They should not have to deal with disturbances.” This is posted here.

Continue reading 14-month old child dies of tear gas inhalation in East Jerusalem + more

"Qalandia is a parking lot"

The third day of the Eid, and a repetition of the situation that happened on the two previous days — no adjustment, no improvement, no responsibility taken by anybody.

This was predictable, and preventable — but nobody did anything.

Qalandia is again a parking lot in the mornings, and in the evenings, and at some times in between as well.

Again, anyone who has to move in or around or — God help them, through — Qalandia will experience the Eid from hell…