Two Great Guys

This is what could be called a triumph of substance over style:

Pete Seegar and Jeff Halper - photo from Haaretz

In this photo, American folk singer Pete Seegar and Jeff Halper, American-Israeli head of the Israeli Coalition Against House Demolitions (ICHAD) wear identical ICAHD t-shirts (photo by Elyse Crystal)

Haaretz today published the photo, along with an article by its correspondent Nir Hasson, reporting that Seeger, 90 years old, has been donating some of the royalties of his song Turn, Turn, Turn to support ICAHD’s work for the past ten years. “The banjo-playing Seeger, 90, is considered one of the pioneers of American folk music. He is known for his political activism no less than for his musical achievements. In the 1930s he was involved in the establishment of worker unions, in the 1940s he opposed the war against Germany and in the 1950s he was interrogated by Senator Joe McCarthy over suspicions of belonging to the Communist Party. In recent years Seeger has been involved in efforts to clean up the Hudson River in New York and performed at U.S. President Barack Obama’s inauguration celebration. The lyrics of the song “Turn, Turn, Turn” are the words of King Solomon from the book of Ecclesiastes. ‘All around the world, songs are being written that use old public domain material, and I think it’s only fair that some of the money from the songs go to the country or place of origin, even though the composer may be long dead or unknown’, Seeger said in an interview with Acoustic Guitar magazine in 2002. ‘With ‘Turn, Turn, Turn‘ I wanted to send 45 percent, because [in addition to the music] I did write six words and one more word repeated three times, so I figured I’d keep five percent of the royalties for the words. I was going to send it to London, where I am sure the committee that oversees the use of the King James version exists, and they probably could use a little cash. But then I realized, why not send it to where the words were originally written?’ ” This Haaretz article is posted

Halper is the author of several important pieces of analysis concerning the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza, including “The Matrix of Control” and more recently “Warehousing the Palestinians”. He was the first Israeli to sail on a Free Gaza ship with the aim of “breaking the siege” that Israel has imposed on the Gaza Strip, and tightened severely since an Israeli government decision in September 2007 to label Gaza an “enemy entity” or “hostile territory”, following the Hamas rout of Fatah/Palestinian Preventive Security Forces there in mid-June 2007. Halper was arrested upon his reentry from Gaza to Israel via the Israeli-controlled Erez Crossing. He was jailed overnight, posted bail, but has apparently not been charged in court…

Why are these soldiers laughing? "One can learn a great deal about a country from the way it treats its human rights and pro-democracy activists"

Neve Gordon wrote in a piece published on Wednesday 6 May in The Guardian’s Comment is Free section that “one can learn a great deal about a country from the way it treats its human rights and pro-democracy activists”.


Neve Gordon’s article is about Israeli human rights activist Ezra Nawi, who is a member of Ta’ayush Arab-Jewish Partnership — a sort of Israeli Rachel Corrie (the American who was crushed by an Israeli military bulldozer while trying to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian home in Gaza in 2003.

Except, fortunately, Ezra Nawi was not crushed — though he was arrested, Neve Gordon wrote, while he was “trying to stop a military bulldozer from destroying the homes of Palestinian Bedouins from Um El Hir in the South Hebron region”…

As Neve Gordon explains, “These Palestinians have been under Israeli occupation for almost 42 years; they still live without electricity, running water and other basic services and are continuously harassed by Jewish settlers and the military – two groups that have united to expropriate Palestinian land and that clearly have received the government’s blessing to do so. As chance would have it, the demolition and the resistance to it were captured on film and broadcast on Israel’s Channel 1. The three-minute film (above) – a must see – shows Nawi, the man dressed in a green jacket, not only courageously protesting against the demolition but, after the bulldozer destroys the buildings, also telling the border policemen what he thinks of their actions. Sitting handcuffed in a military vehicle following his arrest, he exclaims: ‘Yes, I was also a soldier, but I did not demolish houses … The only thing that will be left here is hatred’. The film then shows the police laughing at Nawi”.

As Neve Gordon explains in his piece, Ezra Nawi is a Jewish Israeli of Iraqi descent who speaks fluent Arabic. a gay man in his fifties and a plumber by trade [and well-known in Israeli human rights circles]. Nawi was accused of assaulting a policeman during the demolition shown on this film, and recently convicted in an Israeli court, He now faces a jail sentence that he is due to start serving in July. This article can be viewed in full here.

More on Israel's use of D-9 bulldozers

I overlooked this story, about a month ago, by Bradley Burston in Haaretz on Friday, 17 March, entitled: “Who remembers the name Rachel Corrie?”

Burston answers his own question: “In Israel, hardly anyone. But to many a pro-Palestinian American or Briton – and to many of their pro-Israeli antagonists – the mere mention of the name is enough to make the blood boil”.

The article was written on or about the third anniversary of her being crushed to death by an IDF bulldozer while attempting to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian house in the southern Gaza Strip. But, Burston’s article is as much if not more about the instrument of her death — as he wrote, “a mammoth IDF armored bulldozer”, a “behemoth” — than about Rachel Corrie herself.

Continue reading More on Israel's use of D-9 bulldozers

"Some 24,145 Palestinian homes have been demolished in the Occupied Territories since 1967"

The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICHAD) “estimates that some 24,145 Palestinian homes have been demolished in the Occupied Territories since 1967, based on information gleaned from the Israeli Ministry of Interior, the Jerusalem Municipality, the Civil
Administration, OCHA and other UN sources, Palestinian & Israeli human rights groups, Amnesty
International, Human Rights Watch, our field work and other sources. Last updated on 7 April 2009″. The ICAHD report can be read in full here.

ICAHD says, in that report, that punitive demolitions are when “houses [are] demolished as punishment for the actions of people associated with the houses. The actions in questions have been everything from political organizing to attacks on Israeli civilians. This policy was suspended by the IDF in February, 2005 after it reached the conclusion that rather than deterring attacks, punitive demolitions only enflame the people and lead to more attacks. The practice was resumed on 19 January 2009”.
Continue reading "Some 24,145 Palestinian homes have been demolished in the Occupied Territories since 1967"

European States criticize threatened Israeli house demolitions in Silwan

Is the Quartet coming apart?

One of the Quartet’s four members — the European Union — is keeping up a sustained post-Gaza-war resistance to Israeli policies in East Jerusalem.

Meanwhile, the Israeli threats in recent weeks to demolish over a hundred Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem (88 in Silwan, 55 in Shua’fat refugee camp, 27 in Wadi Joz/Sheikh Jarrah, 5 + 10 more in Abu Tor) makes the situation look like the Gaza war, but in slow motion.

Some Palestinians are annoyed at the attention being showered on the continuingly-awful situation in Gaza, complaining that it is designed to distract attention from what is happening in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Both situations are equally compelling, of course.

There are also mutual recriminations between West Bankers and East Jerusalemites, each accusing the others of doing nothing effective to stop the encroaching threats.

Or, perhaps the Quartet is not divided — maybe the members are simply dividing up their responsibilities — the U.S. is taking the lead on Gaza (sort of, and very conditionally — only $300 million of the recently-pledged money for rehabilitation and reconstruction would go to Gaza, and only if U.S. policy aims are respected … while $600 million would apparently go to the West Bank), while the EU is taking the lead on East Jerusalem… [However, the U.S. has held a couple of meetings with Palestinian Authority figures in East Jerusalem.]

The EU today issued a statement today saying that it is is “deeply concerned” about the threat of demolition to 88 homes in Silwan, just outside the walls of the Old City in East Jerusalem. The EU said that this “would be the largest destruction of Palestinian houses in East Jerusalem since 1967 … Demolition of houses in this sensitive area threatens the viability of a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement, in conformity with international law”.

A document recently obtained by the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICHAD), which is described as a statement [it looks like a draft] by EU heads of mission in Ramallah and East Jerusalem, says that “East Jerusalem is of central importance to the Palestinians in political, economic, social and religious terms. Several inter-linked Israeli policies are reducing the possibility of reaching a final status agreement on Jerusalem, and demonstrate a clear Israeli intention to turn the annexation of East Jerusalem into a concrete fact: (1) the near-completion of the barrier around east Jerusalem, far from the Green Line; (2) the construction and expansion of illegal settlements, by private entities and the Israeli government, in and around East Jerusalem; (3) the demolition of Palestinian homes built without permits (which are all but unobtainable); (4) stricter enforcement of rules separating Palestinians resident in East Jerusalem from those resident in the West Bank, including a reduction of working permits; (5) and discriminatory taxation, expenditure and building permit policy by the Jerusalem municipality … Israel’s activities in Jerusalem are in violation of both its Roadmap obligations and international law. We and others in the international community have made our concerns clear on numerous occasions, to varying effect … Palestinians are, without exception, deeply alarmed about East Jerusalem. They fear that Israel will ‘get away with it’, under the cover of disengagement. Israeli actions also risk radicalising the hitherto relatively quiescent Palestinian population in East Jerusalem”.
Continue reading European States criticize threatened Israeli house demolitions in Silwan

Jerusalem – "illegal annexation being pursued by practical means"

Israel is moving with great speed on all fronts to change the situation on the ground in its favor. But the situation for Palestinians is increasingly untenable, and the pressure building up is intense.

A report on “Jerusalem and the Middle East Peace Process, prepared by European Union Heads of Missions [apparently in Jerusalem], and dated December 2008, was leaked/released today by the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICHAD), and it is damning: “Long-standing Israeli plans for Jerusalem, now being implemented at an accelerated rate, are undermining prospects for a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem and a sustainable two-state solutionIsrael is, by practical means, actively pursuing the illegal annexation of East Jerusalem“, the report states.

And, it charges that “Israel’s actions in and around Jerusalem constitute one of the most acute challenges to Israeli-Palestinian peace making … Settlement building in and around East Jerusalem continues at a rapid pace, contrary to Israel’s obligations under international law and the Roadmap, which were reaffirmed at Annapolis…
Continue reading Jerusalem – "illegal annexation being pursued by practical means"

Most Israeli demonstrators released – but barred from Jabel Mukaber for now

Five of the 22 Israeli demonstrators – now being referred to in Israeli press reports as “extreme rightwing” – arrested for rioting in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Jebal Mukaber on Sunday evening, are still being held “until further notice”, police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said on Tuesday morning.

He said that another five who are under the age of 16 are being held for an additional 24 hours. The other 12 have been released, Rosenfeld said – but they have been ordered by the Jerusalem District Court to stay away from the Jebal Mukaber neighborhood until further notice. “If we see them there, we’ll arrest them immediately, and they will be brought to Court again, but their status will obviously have been changed”.

It is not yet clear if any of those arrested are being been charged with criminal acts.

Protest leaders had earlier said they would persist until they were successful in their efforts to destroy the home and expel the family of the man who attacked a West Jerusalem yeshiva some ten days ago, killing eight students there.

The attacker, Alaa Abu Dheim, was himself shot and killed by a gun-carrying student and someone living near the yeshiva. Abu Dheim’s body was not released for burial until a week later, in order to avoid any ceremony, and was interred under police supervision at 3 am last Thursday morning, with only his father and brothers present.

The demonstrators, who had announced their intentions several days in advance, broke through, or supposedly outflanked, a massed, deployed and supposedly-prepared police force. They managed to throw stones at houses belonging to a number of residents of Jebal Mukaber, breaking windows, rooftop solar water heaters, and car windows — and they injured several Israeli policemen.

They also appeared to incite hatred and fear in an already fraught environment.

According to the Jerusalem Post, the protestors marched through the streets of the village, carrying signs baring the words, ‘Enemies don’t earn livings’, ‘Expel the Arab enemy’, and ‘Israel for Israelis’, while chanting ‘Death to Arabs’.”

The demonstrators had gathered at a scenic spot with a touristic restaurant in south Jerusalem called the Promenade, located in a neighborhood that was a no-man’s land from 1948 until 1967, but is now a Jewish residential and commercial district. It is near the Government House, a stately building with a rose garden and palm trees that was built to serve as the seat of the British administration during the pre-1948 Mandate period, and which since has housed various offices of the United Nations. It is now the base of the UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO).

Jebal Mukaber is just a short walk down the hill.

It is one of the East Jerusalem neighborhoods that have been divided by Israeli military construction of The Wall. The Abu Dheim family home the demonstrators were seeking to destroy is located on the Jerusalem side.

Prior to the well-publicized demonstration, the Jerusalem Post reported that “police raised their level of alert and reinforcements were in place around Jebel Mukaber … Police said Sunday that they would allow the activists to hold a protest on the promenade in Armon Hanatziv, but vowed to stop anyone attempting to march toward Jebel Mukaber”.

Israel’s YNet website reported that a senior police official admitted: “We were surprised by the intensity of the riots … There was marked violence towards police personnel and local residents, and protestors stormed their way into the village using stones, fire crackers and anything else they could get their hands on”.

Fatmeh al-‘Ajou, an attorney with Adalah, an Israeli organization working for Arab Minority Rights, said that “I am surprised that you are surprised [at the lack of official Israeli statements calling for restraint or cooling the situation] – this is very consistent with Israel’s overall policy concerning Palestinians”.

Al-‘Ajou said that “For us, East Jerusalem is occupied territory … and the minute the State claimed that East Jerusalem is annexed, the people there should be protected under law and under the Geneva conventions”. And, she said, “Israel claims that there is a war between Palestinians and Israelis, but this is not supposed to include its Palestinian/Israeli Arab citizens or East Jerusalem Residents … But, for them, the residents of East Jerusalem are the same as Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza”.

Residents of East Jerusalem have a niche position. Like Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, East Jerusalem Palestinians are for the most part stateless. They do have the valuable but tenuous status of “legal residents”, and they carry the important “blue” ID card conferring the right to reside, to work and to travel.

Few East Jerusalem Palestinians are full citizens of Israel. That option was more freely offered in earlier years, and while the numbers of East Jerusalem Palestinians applying for full Israeli citizenship have reportedly increased in recent months, requirements have become much more stringent. Many East Jerusalem Palestinians also have a special Jordanian passport of limited duration which permits travel, but which does not actually mean real citizenship.

Al-‘Ajou said that Adalah had not yet taken any action concerning the family house in Jabel Mukaber: “As far as I know, there is no decision (yet) to destroy the house – but given the statements that have been made by various senior Israeli government officials, she expects there will be – “And at that time we will deal with it.”

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) did, however, do something. Melanie Takefman, ACRI’s International Communication Coordinator, said that a letter had been sent to Minister for Internal Security Avi Dichter last Thursday, saying that destruction of the house would be a violation of the family’s basic rights, including their right to dignity – and, as a measure of collective punishment, would also be a violation of international law. There has not been any response, Takefman said, but the house has not been destroyed – and for that, she said, ACRI is happy.

YNet reported on Sunday, before the demonstration, that “the political and legal arenas continue to engage in the question whether the terrorist’s house should be destroyed. Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that he supported the demolition of the house, and Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter issued an order for its demolition. However, Colonel (res.) Ilan Katz, the former deputy chief military prosecutor, told Ynet that ‘there would be a legal difficulty in destroying the house, due to a decision made by a military committee in 2005 that the effectiveness of the deterrence in such cases has worn out’.”

Adalah senior attorney Orna Kohen said in a phone interview with this reporter on Monday: “I agree with you that the situation is very dangerous. There is ongoing incitement, but this is nothing new, and the Israeli political leadership is staying silent, and by that is giving legitimacy to the incitement”.

Despite the promises made in the 1948 Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel, and despite Israel’s ratification of a number of international human rights conventions, Kohen said, “There is the reality – there is not just incitement, or the silence of the politicians, but also active actions, such as the reality of discrimination based on ethnicity, since Day One, and it doesn’t get much better”.

In addition, Kohen explained, “There is a legal authority which enables the government, under defense regulations kept since the Mandatory period, to ‘confiscate or to destroy a house’. This is under Article 119 of the 1945 Time of Emergency regulations which apply both in Israel and in the occupied territory – and, yes, there is still an on-going state of emergency, ever since 1948, and this is renewed by the Knesset every year. In this case, it would be the GOC Home Front Commander Major General Ya’ir Golan, who has the power to make the decision to destroy the Jebal Mukaber home”.

So, she said, “To the question ‘Is there authority?’, the answer is Yes – a very terrible one, which allows a very drastic and undemocratic and unjust measure”.

Kohen noted, however that this the destruction of homes under this measure (as distinct from house demolitions due to supposed to violations of administrative requirements to have proper building permits which are extremely difficult to obtain in the first place) has not been done for many years in Israel, except, she said, sometimes in East Jerusalem – while there has been massive use of this regulation to destroy homes in the West Bank.

House demolitions such as the one in Bethlehem immediately after the attack on the yeshiva was justified by saying it was part of a military operation, Kohen explained, as when the IDF was trying to arrest a suspect, or as part of a “targeted killing” – and this, she said. “would be an administrative measure”.

However, she emphasized, “it is not supposed to be used as a punishment, but only as a preventive measure”. And therein lies the probable present dilemma for Israeli decision-makers, she speculated, because in 2005 “an IDF military expert committee reported that house demolition is not effective, because it is not really working as a preventive measure”. So, Kohen said, it would be difficult for the military to say now it is destroying a house as a preventive measure “after their own experts said it does not prevent anything”.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has (still) said nothing.

Asked about the apparent absence of condemnation by the Israeli leadership of the vigilante threats made by the demonstrators to take matters into their own hands, Prime Minister Olmert’s spokesman Mark Regev told this reporter that the Prime Minister had indeed made a statement at the beginning of the first weekly cabinet meeting (on 9 March) held after the attack on the Mercaz HaRav yeshiva – but before the demonstrators announced their plans. That statement, however, which is posted on the Prime Minister’s website, does not however make any apparent appeal for calm and public order.

Regev said that of course it is clear that the Prime Minister is totally opposed to vigilante action, or any attempts by anyone to take the law into their own hands.

And, Regev also said, the Prime Minister didn’t need to speak out on the planned demonstration, because “it was a police matter”.

But former police officials have said the police handling of the demonstration was inadequate.

According to Haaretz: “Former Jerusalem district police commander Mickey Levy criticized the police force for failing to prevent the confrontation. He told Army Radio Monday that it is inconceivable that the police was taken by surprise with a demonstration that was advertised well in advance on posters across Jerusalem … Appropriate preparation was called for in order to prevent the violent demonstration’, Levy said in an interview”.

YNet reported that “Former commanders of the Jerusalem District police harshly criticized Monday the police’s poor treatment of Sunday’s riots …”There was enough time to prepare for the events in Jabel Mukaber and it was clear to everyone what was going to happen,” retired police commander Arieh Amit stated. “This incident was simply poorly handled.” Amit slammed claims by police officials that forces were “surprised by the intensity of the riots,” pointing to the fact that the protestors published their intentions to march on the neighborhood beforehand. “Yesterday’s failure reflects a combination of a lack of experience and a lack of motivation on the officers’ part,” he stated. According to the former police commander, “In recent years right-wing activists have accumulated ‘operational experience,’ many of them served in elite units, they are familiar with the security forces’ way of thinking and manage to outsmart them.”

And, the Jerusalem Post wrote that “Another former Jerusalem police chief, retired Commander Mickey Levy, was also astonished to hear of the police’s poor preparedness for the violence. ‘This is unlike the Jerusalem District, which has immense experience in preparing for demonstrations. This is the city where the greatest number of rallies is being held, and the officers should have plenty of experience… I sincerely hope that an operational inquiry will be launched to examine the events’. Levy warned that permitting riots of this nature to develop ‘is simply unthinkable. This would lead us to anarchy, we cannot allow it’.”