Monday, August 20, 2018

REDFLAG: In Palestine, two heroes of the resistance are finally freed

Dear friends,
my latest article for REDFLAG on the release of my dear friend Nariman Tamimi and her daughter Ahed.  

In solidarity, Kim



Al Jazeera on the arrest of Ahed Tamimi

****

IN PALESTINE, TWO HEROES OF THE RESISTANCE ARE FINALLY FREED

By KIM BULLIMORE
REDFLAG // 15 August 2018



After eight months in an Israeli prison, 17-year-old Palestinian Ahed Tamimi and her mother Nariman Tamimi were released on 29 July.

The Tamimis were arrested in December, after Israeli television screened a video, shot by Nariman, of Ahed and her cousin Nour confronting a heavily armed Israeli soldier who had intruded into the Tamimis’ home. Nour was also arrested, but released after 16 days.

Israel’s culture minister, Miri Regev, a former military spokesperson, was among those who called for retribution against the Tamimis, saying that after watching the video: “I felt humiliated, I felt crushed”.

According to Regev, the footage of a teenage Palestinian girl standing up to an Israeli soldier – which occurred less than half an hour after her 14-year-old cousin Muhammed had been shot in the head by another soldier – was “damaging to the honour of the military and the state of Israel”.

Israeli education minister Naftali Bennet called for Ahed and Nour to “spend the rest of their days in prison”. Prominent Israeli journalist Ben Caspit hailed the soldier’s “restraint” and called for violence against the young women. “In the case of the girls, we should exact a price at some other opportunity, in the dark, without witnesses and cameras”, he wrote.

After Nariman and Ahed were jailed, settlers from the nearby Israeli colony of Halamish, built on land belonging to the residents of Nabi Saleh, the village in which the Tamimis live, staged protests. They carried makeshift coffins and chanted, “Death to Ahed Tamimi!”

Speaking at a press conference near her home on the day of her release, Ahed drew attention to other political prisoners. She was relieved to be home, but said, “My happiness is incomplete because my sister prisoners are not with me”.

Ahed was imprisoned with three other female Palestinian child prisoners: Lama al-Bakri, Hadiya Ereinat and Manar Shweiki.

According to Palestinian political prisoner support group Addameer, there are more than 5,900 Palestinians held in Israel’s prison. Of those imprisoned, 60 are women and 49 are under the age of 16.

Israel is the only country that systematically detains and prosecutes children – between 500 and 700 each year, some as young as 12, according to Defence for Children International-Palestine (DCIP).

Last year, Palestinian child prisoners made up 1,400 of the more than 6,000 Palestinian political prisoners jailed. According to the US State Department, the conviction rate for Israel’s military occupation court is more than 99 percent. Lawyer Gaby Lasky, who regularly acts on behalf of Palestinian prisoners, noted in 2014 that Israel military courts were not “courts of justice” but instead “the long arm of occupation”.

In prison, Palestinian child political prisoners – like Palestinian adults – suffer torture and abuse at the hands of the Israeli state. In its 2016 report “No Way to Treat A Child”, the DCIP documented testimonies of 429 Palestinian child political prisoners.

The research revealed that three-quarters of the children endured physical and psychological violence. Children were threatened, put in isolation and denied food, water and access to the toilet to coerce confessions from them.

A 2014 Jerusalem Post article revealed that Palestinian children were held in outdoor cages overnight, including during snowstorms. It was only after the practice became public that Israel stopped doing it.

Despite their ordeal, Nariman and Ahed remain defiant. Arriving back in Nabi Saleh with her mother, Ahed told the waiting media, “I did nothing wrong that I should regret … the resistance continues until the occupation is removed”.

Friday, August 17, 2018

AHED TAMIMI: "I am a freedom fighter"


Dear friends,
apologies for the delay in posting about the release of my good friend Nariman Tamimi and her daughter Ahed Tamimi.  As you will be aware, both Nariman and Ahed were arrested in December after video footage shot by Nariman of Ahed slapping an Israeli solider who had invaded the yard in front of their home.  Nariman, along with Ahed and her cousin Nour were arrested.  Nour was released after 16 days but Nariman and Ahed have spent the last 8 months in Israel's jails as political prisoners.

Since her arrest Ahed has become very much the face of the Palestinian resistance.  Not only is she a child political prisoner, her courage and defiance in the face of Israel's military occupation have helped shine a light - once again - on not only Israel's apartheid laws but its ongoing oppression of the Palestinian people.
Please find below copies of both Al Jazeera & the Guardian's articles on Ahed and Nariman's release.

In solidarity, Kim

*****

PALESTINIAN TEEN ACTIVIST, AHED TAMIMI, FREED FROM JAIL

Tamimi was arrested after a video of her slapping and hitting two Israeli soldiers went viral.
by





Nabi Saleh, occupied West Bank - Palestinian teen activist Ahed Tamimi, whose eight-month sentence for slapping and hitting Israeli soldiers sparked international condemnation, has been released from Israeli prison .

Tamimi broke down in tears as an emotional crowd welcomed her in the village of Nabi Saleh on Sunday. 
She was released with her mother, Nariman, who was also sentenced to eight months but, like her daughter, served three weeks short of that in line with remission policy. 

Addressing the crowd, Tamimi thanked activists and the media for their support during her prison stay. She said she was "extremely happy" to be "in the arms and embrace of my family" but added that her "happiness is not full" when others are still behind Israeli bars.

"My happiness is not complete without my sisters [Palestinian female prisoners], who are not with me. I hope that they will also be free," she said.

'Leave occupation'

The 17-year-old also relayed messages delivered to her by Palestinian female political prisoners, saying that they "call for national unity inside Palestine; for the people of Palestine to remain strong and united in their resistance; and for everyone to stand with the rights of political prisoners and work for their release".

Tamimi said she was planning to pursue a career in law in order to "hold the occupation accountable".

"In the end I want to say that the power is with the people, and the people will and can decide their destiny and decide the future. Women are a key part of the Palestinian struggle for freedom, and the women’s role will continue to expand, not only in the struggle but by producing new generations that can continue the struggle. We say: 'Leave, leave occupation.'"

For her part, Nariman Tamimi said: "As a parent, I want to say that we shouldn't be afraid of our children and we should support them in whatever they choose to do. They are being killed whether in our homes or resisting in the streets, so support them in resistance."

Speaking to Al Jazeera prior to the release of his daughter and wife, Bassem Tamimi described their release as "a very happy moment".

He added: "We have missed them a lot. But I am also worried because the [Israeli] occupation is continuing and still in our lives."

Bassem's happiness, however, was overshadowed by a heavy heart, as his 21-year-old son, Waed, remains in Israeli detention since being arrested in an overnight raid on his home in May.

International condemnation

Tamimi and her mother were arrested by Israeli forces in December 2017 after a video went viral showing the young woman, then 16, hitting and slapping two armed Israeli soldiers outside her home in Nabi Saleh.

At the time, the teen was reacting to news that her 15-year-old cousin Mohammed had been shot in the face by Israeli forces with a rubber-coated steel bullet earlier in the day, leaving him in critical condition.


 Ahed Tamimi and her mother were arrested in December 2017 [Abbas Momani/AFP]

The teen's arrest drew international condemnation and again put the spotlight on Israel's treatment of Palestinians, especially Palestinian youth.

Tamimi was indicted on 12 charges in Israel's Ofer military court in Ramallah two weeks after her arrest. In March, Tamimi and her mother accepted plea deals that would see them serve eight months in prison, including time served, in exchange for pleading guilty to some of the charges.

Israeli forces initiated a crackdown on Nabi Saleh after the video went viral, arresting residents and shooting dead Ahed's 21-year-old relative Izz al-Din Tamimi during a raid on the village last month.

Tamimi's cousin Mohammed, who is still healing from his injuries, has also been detained by Israeli forces twice since Israeli forces shot the teen in the face.


 Ahed Tamimi greeted by her father, Bassem. Her case drew international condemnation [Nasser Shiyoukhi/AP Photo]

 According to Tamimi's aunt, Manal, who is also a prominent activist in the village, 15 Nabi Saleh residents are still in Israeli custody, four of whom are minors.


Meanwhile, Bassem said he was worried about the safety of his daughter after her release, noting that she had been threatened by right-wing Israeli politicians and settlers.

Earlier this year, Nabi Saleh residents woke up to Hebrew graffiti splashed around the village, some of which read "Death to Ahed Tamimi" and "There's no place in this world for Ahed Tamimi."

Residents believe it was the act of Israeli settlers from the adjacent Halamish settlement, which was built on top of Nabi Saleh's lands.

In another incident, settlers from Halamish demonstrated on a road that divides the village and the settlement, carrying makeshift coffins and chanting "Death to Ahed Tamimi."

Manal, whose two sons Mohammad, 19, and Osama, 23, have continued to be held in Israeli detention since their arrests in January, said she is also worried about how Tamimi will cope with her experience in Israeli prison.
“We are worried about the experiences
 that she’s been through,” Manal said. “In the end, Ahed is a child and what she went through is very difficult. I think she will need some time to be a child again.”

'Inform the world about Israeli prison'

 
 As of June 1, there are more than 290 minors in Israeli custody, according to rights groups [Nasser Shiyoukhi/AP Photo]

Manal said Ahed's imprisonment has "made it so the name Nabi Saleh and the name Tamimi have become global".

However, she hopes that Tamimi's release can shift the international conversation from Nabi Saleh to the experiences of Palestinians in Israeli prisons.

"Now the whole world knows about what's happening here [in Nabi Saleh]," she told Al Jazeera. "But what's important now is for Ahed to inform the whole world about the experiences and treatment of [Palestinian] women and minors in Israeli prison."

According to Dawoud Yusef, advocacy coordinator for Palestinian prisoners' rights group Addameer, Palestinian women experience severe mistreatment in Israeli prisons, noting that Israeli guards are "commonly involved in the sexual abuse of female prisoners, whether verbally or physically."

Palestinian women also face extreme forms of neglect in the prisons, such as Israeli prison authorities refusing to provide "necessary sanitary products" to Palestinian female prisoners, Yusef said.

In the case of female minors being held in Israeli prisons, "the things that stand out are the mental effects of such abuses, combined with a sense of shame over the whole ordeal," Yusef added.

According to Addameer, of the 5,900 Palestinians who were being held in Israeli prisons as of June 1, 60 were women and 291 were minors - 49 of whom were under the age of 16.


***

Ahed Tamimi: 'I am a freedom fighter. I will not be the victim'





Day after her release, teenage Palestinian activist says she hopes to become lawyer and lead cases against Israel

  Ahed Tamimi: ‘The experience of being arrested was really hard. This experience added value to my life, maybe it made me more mature. More conscious.’ Photograph: Abbas Momani/AFP/Getty Images

The teenage Palestinian activist Ahed Tamimi has said she used her eight months in prison as an opportunity to study international law and hopes to one day lead cases against Israel in international courts.

“God willing, I will manage to study law,” the 17-year-old from Nabi Saleh in the occupied West Bank told the Guardian a day after her release. “I will present the violations against the Palestinians in criminal courts. And to try Israel for it and to be a big lawyer, and to return rights to my country.”

Tamimi, who rose to global prominence as a child living under military occupation, said she and other Palestinians in her all-female prison unit would sit for hours and learn legal texts. “We managed to transform the jail into a school,” she said.

To an outcry from rights groups, the teenager was arrested in December after slapping and kicking Israeli soldiers on camera outside her home. The soldiers had been deployed at one of Nabi Saleh’s weekly protests, where residents have thrown stones at troops who have responded with teargas, arrests and, at times, live ammunition.

She later accepted a deal in court to plead guilty to assault, incitement and two counts of obstructing soldiers.

“The experience of being arrested was really hard. As much as I try, I cannot describe it,” Ahed said. But she added: “This experience added value to my life, maybe it made me more mature. More conscious.”

Her trial was held behind closed doors. Concerns about her treatment in detention were raised after a video emerged in which a male Israeli interrogator threatened the then 16-year-old, commenting on her body and “eyes of an angel”.

Ahed said her treatment was not unusual. “It was not the first, and it was not a coincidence. This is their style of interrogating,” she said.

Her case has highlighted the arrest and detention of what local human rights groups say are more than 300 Palestinian minors.

Ahed said her experience in jail helped with her ambitions to become an international lawyer. “For example, I was under interrogation. There were violations against me. 
International law says that this should not happen to me,” she said, adding that in another life she would have trained to be a professional footballer.


  Nariman (lef) and Ahed Tamimi (on right), 17, at her home in Nabi Saleh on Monday. Photograph: Abbas Momani/AFP/Getty Images

Nabi Saleh is populated almost exclusively by members of her extended family and is a focus of the anti-occupation movement. Images or videos of Ahed throughout her childhood, often grappling with or staring down soldiers during village protests, have gone viral.

After gaining worldwide attention, the Tamimi family say their daughter has been offered scholarships to study at a university abroad but that she is still deciding.

The Palestinian government has launched several international complaints against Israel, including for alleged war crimes and what it says is a system of governance that amounts to apartheid. Israel has vehemently denied the allegations.

Ahed’s family home is filled with activists and Palestinian officials, who sit drinking coffee in small paper cups on plastic stools outside. Within hours of her release, the teenager met the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas. Two Italian artists were arrested for painting a mural of Ahed’s face of the Israel separation barriers that divides the Palestinian territories.

  One of the two Italian artists works a mural of Ahed Tamimi on the Israeli separation barrier. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Her international recognition infuriated the Israeli government, Ahed said. “They are afraid of the truth. If they were not wrong, they would not be afraid of the truth. The truth scares them. And I managed to deliver this truth to the world. And of course, they’re afraid how far I reached. They always fear the truth, they are the occupier, and we are under occupation.”

Some in Israel believe the focus on and arrest of the teenager was a self-defeating move for the country, while others have praised the soldiers’ apparent restraint and have accuse Nabi Saleh residents of provocations.

Ahed has no regrets about the day she hit the solider, a man she believed had earlier that day shot her 15-year-old cousin in the head with a rubber bullet during a clash. 

She was reunited with her cousin upon release and he was at her home on Monday, a large scar marking his face.

But fame has also taken a toll on a girl who was seen as a local hero before she was in secondary school. “I feel proud that became a symbol for the Palestinian cause in order to deliver the message of Palestinian to the whole world. Of course, it is a heavy burden on me. It’s true; it’s a big responsibility. But I am totally confident that I am for of it.”

 Ahed Tamimi, centre, with her friends at the family home in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh. Photograph: Nasser Nasser/AP

For now, she hopes for a little rest and to decide her next steps, still enjoying the high of leaving prison. “At last, I saw the sky without a fence. I can walk on the street without handcuffs. I can see the stars, the moon. I haven’t seen them for a long time and now I am with my family.”

Yet her 22-year-old brother, Wa’ed Tamimi, is in prison awaiting a sentence for his involvement in confrontations with soldiers. And the conflict is never far away. An Israeli military outpost and settlement can be seen from the garden where she speaks.

“I’m not the victim of the occupation,” Ahed said. “The Jew or the settler child who carries a rifle at the age of 15, they are the victims of the occupation. For me, I am capable of distinguishing between right and wrong. But not him. His view is clouded. His heart is filled with hatred and scorn against the Palestinians. He is the victim, not me. I always say I am a freedom fighter. So I will not be the victim.”

Thursday, August 16, 2018

RED FLAG: Apartheid becomes official in Israel

Dear friends,
please find below my article for Red Flag on Israel's new "nation-state" law.

In solidarity,
Kim

*******
APARTHEID BECOME OFFICIAL IN ISRAEL


By KIM BULLIMORE
REDFLAG // 28 JULY 2018



The Israeli Knesset (parliament) has enshrined decades of apartheid policy, voting 62-55 for the Jewish Nation State Bill. Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu gloated that it was “a defining moment in the annals of Zionism and the annals of the state of Israel”. 
He is not wrong. The lie peddled by Zionists and their supporters that Israel is a model of democracy rather than a discriminatory, racist oppressor state has been exposed once and for all. 
The bill codifies within Israel’s Basic Laws (the country’s de facto constitution) that Israel is the “national home of the Jewish people” and that “the right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people” – denying Palestinians and other non-Jews such a right. 
It strips Arabic of its former status as an officially recognised language of the state, and declares Jerusalem – in violation of international law – the capital of Israel. It also legalises segregated Jewish-only communities and townships. “The state views the development of Jewish settlement as a national value and will act to encourage and promote its establishment and consolidation”, it reads. 
Since its founding in 1948, Israel has used both legal discrimination and military force to ethnically cleanse and oppress the indigenous Palestinian population, imposing an apartheid system inside both the Zionist state and the Palestinian territories seized in 1967. 
Adalah: the Centre for the Arab Minority in Israel notes 65 discriminatory laws in Israel, which ensure the second class status of 1.8 million Palestinians and other non-Jewish citizens. The laws cover such things as land ownership, employment, housing, education, culture, marriage and citizenship. 
The Jewish Nation State law does more than simply reaffirm discrimination. It enshrines discrimination as a “constitutional value” – allowing Israel to continue and extend its oppression of Palestinians. According to Adalah, the new law will entrench “the privileges enjoyed by Jewish citizens, while simultaneously anchoring discrimination against Palestinian citizens and legitimising exclusion, racism, and systemic inequality”.
One of the bill’s sponsors, Avi Dichter, originally introduced it in 2011. After its passing, Dichter – an anti-Arab racist and former head of Israel’s secret police responsible for Shin Bet’s program of extrajudicial murders – clarified its purpose: “We are enshrining this important bill into a law today to prevent even the slightest thought, let alone attempt, to transform Israel to a country of all its citizen[s]”. 
Dichter’s declaration cuts to the heart of Zionism since its inception: the so-called Palestinian demographic threat. An inherently racist and dehumanising concept, it considers the growth of the Palestinian population as a “ticking time bomb” and existential threat to the Zionist state. 
Prior to the establishment of Israel, the primary concern of Zionism was to gain control of the Palestinian homeland, while ensuring that the smallest number of Palestinian Arabs (who made up the overwhelmingly majority of the population) remained. 
After creating a Jewish majority by ethnically cleansing more than 500 villages and forcing more than 750,000 Palestinians into exile in 1948, the Zionist state’s primary concern shifted to the repression of the 150,000 Palestinians left inside the newly formed state and ensuring that they remained an ethnic minority with no national rights. 
In 1967, Israel extended its regime of oppression and repression to another 1.5 to 2 million Palestinians when it illegally occupied East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Golan Heights. Today, the Palestinian population inside Israel, occupied East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza is about the same as the number of Jewish citizens of Israel. 
Because it is an expansionist settler-colonial state, this presents a “demographic dilemma” not only inside Israel. There is a long-held Zionist aspiration to annex the territories seized in 1967 – an aspiration reiterated by the central committee of Netanyahu’s Likud Party on the last day of 2017. In a unanimous vote, the committee called for annexation of the West Bank and for the Likud leadership to work toward “unhindered construction” of settlements and the extension of “Israeli law and sovereignty”.
Netanyahu is emboldened by the ascension of Donald Trump, whose brand of anti-Muslim ethno-nationalism entirely fits with Likud’s hard right Zionist desire to be rid of the “Palestinian problem”.  
Israel has for decades created “facts on the ground” in illegal colonies in the West Bank. But the formal annexation of Palestinian territories occupied in 1967 would mean the Zionist state would have to contend with a Palestinian demand for full equality. 
The Jewish Nation State law therefore has been passed not only to prevent the creation of a bi-national state, enshrining apartheid within Israel. It has been passed also with an eye to ensuring that any expanded Israeli state will privilege the rights of Jewish citizens above those of any Palestinians and other non-Jews.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Israel passes "Jewish-Nation" law & dispenses with any pretense that they aren't an apartheid state.

Dear friends,

as you will be aware Israel has finally passed the "nation state" law which formally enshrines apartheid. The bill has been on the table since 2011 and simply the latest law put in place by the Zionist state to reinforce the every day apartheid already happening on the ground.

I have included below two articles - one from Ben White discussing what the history, political context and political reality of the law, as well as an article from the New York Times which gives a reasonably overview of the law.

in solidarity, Kim 

**********************

Ben White, Middle East Eye, 19 July 2018

The law is only the latest attempt to legislate discrimination against Palestinians
On Thursday, the Israeli government formally passed the "Jewish nation state"law. With the Knesset's summer recess on the horizon, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu managed to pass the law ahead of the break.

"This is a defining moment in the annals of Zionism and the history of the state of
Israel," Netanyahu told the Knesset after the vote.

The initiative has risen to the top of the news agenda in Israel, with high-profile interventions from opponents and supporters. Last Tuesday, President Reuven Rivlin warned in a public letter of what he believes are the dangers inherent in the law - especially an article designed to protect and promote the existence of Jewish-only communities.

Lobbying efforts
Ahead of the vote, a number of Jewish American leaders have strongly urged Netanyahu to reconsider, intensifying their lobbying efforts to prevent the bill's passage.
These responses have, regrettably but predictably, been characterised by a failure to understand or take sufficiently into account how Israel's status as a "Jewish state" has always been reflected in legislation and practice, and, crucially, how this has impacted on Palestinians since 1948.

Many discriminatory laws arealready on the books, and legal ways to create segregated communities in Israel already exist. There is no right to equality, and Israel is not a state of all its citizens. The much-heralded Declaration of Independence is not a constitutional law, and the Basic Law already privileges the protection of a “Jewish state” over equality for non-Jewish citizens.

As a UN special rapporteur put it in 2012, Israeli authorities already pursue "a land development model that excludes, discriminates against and displaces minorities". The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has similarly noted “the enactment of a number of discriminatory laws on land issues which disproportionately affect non-Jewish communities”.

Indeed, the issue of Jewish-only communities, which has dominated recent criticism over the law passed on Thursday, is often debated without reference to the fact that Israel already has hundreds of such segregated communities, thanks to the role of "admission committees".

Traced back to the Nakba
A decade ago, Human Rights Watch reported on how these committees "are made up of government and community representatives as well as a senior official in the Jewish Agency or the Zionist Organisation, and have notoriously been used to exclude Arabs from living in rural Jewish communities".

Such decades-old institutionalised discrimination, which can be traced all the way back to the Nakba, makes a mockery of the claim by the Israel Democracy Institute's Mordechai Kremnitzer that the new law would somehow constitute "the end of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state".

The new law does, however, represent an innovation, both legally and politically, as analysedby legal rights centre Adalah in a new position paper published on Sunday; enjoying the status of a Basic Law, the Jewish nation state law would anchor racist practices in the constitution.
Coverage by Western media has, on the whole, reproduced the lacuna of the law’s Israeli critics. Yet, the omission of the experience of Palestinian citizens in this "Jewish and democratic” state is compounded by an analysis that fails to look deeper into why this legislation is being proposed at all.

The "Jewish nation state" law is not the product of a right-wing tussle between Likud and Jewish Home, or Netanyahu and Naftali Bennett. Rather, tracing the origins of this proposed legislation reveals that it is, in essence, pushback against the efforts by Palestinian citizens over the last two decades to affirm their national identity and demand a state of all its citizens.

Doubling down
Not long after former Shin Bet head Avi Dichter began efforts to pass a "Jewish nation state" bill in 2011, Israeli journalist Lahav Harkov – now news editor of the Jerusalem Post – praisedthe initiative by citing “campaigns to delegitimise Israel on the rise both inside and outside the country”.

Thus, the response from the Israeli political establishment to a mobilised Palestinian citizenry demanding genuine equality has been to double-down on discrimination, and to defiantly and ever-more explicitly assert and legally protect the existence of a “Jewish state”.

But this is not without its advantages, as highlighted by the furore over the new law. For what the draft legislation threatens is not the existence of a “democratic” Israel, but rather critics’ idea of a “Jewish and democratic” state (or at least the plausibility of maintaining this idea).

Through its crudeness, the law threatens Israel’s ability to continue long-standing, institutionalised discrimination with no international cost, a prospect flagged through the warnings of Israel’s attorney general and Jewish American leader Rabbi Rick Jacobs.

Demographic war
"The true face of Zionism in Israel," wrote Orly Noy in +972 magazine last week, is “an inherent, perpetual demographic war against its Palestinian citizens. If Israel seeks to be Jewish and democratic, it needs to actively ensure a Jewish majority.”

The "Jewish nation state" law is part of this historic and ongoing demographic war - one that is testimony to the activism of Palestinian citizens and an effort to stifle it.

As Israel consolidates the de facto single state between the river and the sea, this won’t be the last attempt to see the apartheid reality on the ground further reflected in legislation.
- Ben White is the author of the new book Cracks in the Wall: Beyond Apartheid in Palestine/Israel. He is a freelance journalist and writer and his articles have been published by Al Jazeera, al-Araby, Huffington Post, the Electronic Intifada, the Guardian's Comment is Free and more.

By David M. Halbfinger and Isabel Kershner
July 19, 2018 New York Times

  • JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has long demanded that the Palestinians acknowledge his country’s existence as the “nation-state of the Jewish people.” On Thursday, his governing coalition stopped waiting around and pushed through a law that made it a fact.
In an incendiary move hailed as historic by Mr. Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition but denounced by centrists and leftists as racist and anti-democratic, Israel’s Parliament enacted a law that enshrines the right of national self-determination as “unique to the Jewish people” — not all citizens.
The legislation, a “basic law” — giving it the weight of a constitutional amendment — omits any mention of democracy or the principle of equality, in what critics called a betrayal of Israel’s 1948 Declaration of Independence, which ensured “complete equality of social and political rights” for “all its inhabitants” no matter their religion, race or sex.

The new law promotes the development of Jewish communities, possibly aiding those who would seek to advance discriminatory land-allocation policies. And it downgrades Arabic from an official language to one with a “special status.”

Since Israel was established, it has grappled with the inherent tensions between its dual aspirations of being both a Jewish and democratic state. The new law, portrayed by proponents as restoring that balance in the aftermath of judicial rulings that favored democratic values, nonetheless struck critics as an effort to tip the scales sharply toward Jewishness.

Its passage demonstrated the ascendancy of ultranationalists in Israel’s government, who have been emboldened by the gains of similarly nationalist and populist movements in Europe and elsewhere, as Mr. Netanyahu has increasingly embraced illiberal democracies like that of Hungary — whose far-right prime minister, Viktor Orban, arrived in Jerusalem for a friendly visit only hours before the vote.

With the political opposition too weak to mount a credible threat, and with the Trump administration providing a never-before-seen degree of American support, Mr. Netanyahu’s government, the most right-wing and religious coalition in Israel’s 70-year history, has been pressing its advantages on multiple fronts.

It has sought to exercise more control over the news media, erode the authority of the Supreme Court, curb the activities of left-wing advocacy groups, press ahead with moves that amount to de facto annexation of parts of the West Bank, and undermine the police by trying to thwart or minimize the effect of multiple corruption investigations against the prime minister.

The police have already recommended that Mr. Netanyahu be charged with bribery in two inquiries.

But none of these expressions of raw political power has carried more symbolic weight than the new basic law.

This is a defining moment in the annals of Zionism and the annals of the state of Israel,” Mr. Netanyahu said after the bill was enacted in the early morning after hours of impassioned debate, just before the Knesset, or Parliament, went into summer recess.
We have determined in law the founding principle of our existence,” he said. “Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people, and respects the rights of all of its citizens.”

Opponents say the law will inevitably harm the fragile balance between the country’s Jewish majority and Arab minority, which makes up about 21 percent of a population of nearly nine million.

If the new law was meant to give expression to Israel’s national identity, it exposed and further divided an already deeply fractured society. It passed in the 120-seat Parliament by a vote of 62 to 55 with two abstentions. One member was absent.

Moments after the vote, Arab lawmakers ripped up copies of the bill while crying out, “Apartheid!” Ayman Odeh, the leader of the Joint List of predominantly Arab parties, which holds 13 seats and is the third-largest bloc in Parliament, waved a black flag in protest.
The end of democracy,” declared Ahmad Tibi, a veteran Arab legislator, charging the government with demagogy. “The official beginning of fascism and apartheid. A black day (another black day),” he wrote on Twitter.

Yael German, a lawmaker from the centrist opposition party Yesh Atid, called the law “a poison pill for democracy.”

The law is now one of more than a dozen basic laws that together serve as the country’s Constitution and can be amended only by a majority in the Knesset. Two others, on human dignity and on liberty and freedom of occupation, both enacted in the 1990s, determine the values of the state as both Jewish and democratic.

The basic laws legally supersede the Declaration of Independence and, unlike regular laws, have never been overturned by Israel’s Supreme Court.

Dan Yakir, chief legal counsel for the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, said that while largely only declaratory, the new law “will give rise to arguments that Jews should enjoy privileges and subsidies and rights, because of the special status that this law purports to give to the Jewish people in Israel.”

In that regard,” he added, “this is a racist law.”
He noted that a right to equality in Israel had been derived, by interpretation of the Israeli Supreme Court, from the Basic Law on Human Dignity, but that the new law was explicit in elevating the status of Jews.

There is a plausible argument that the new basic law can overrule the right of equality that is only inferred, and is not specified anywhere in our constitution,” he said.

Adalah, a legal center that campaigns for Arab rights in Israel, warned that the law “entrenches the privileges enjoyed by Jewish citizens, while simultaneously anchoring discrimination against Palestinian citizens and legitimizing exclusion, racism, and systemic inequality.”

Some supporters lamented that many of the law’s more polarizing clauses had been diluted to assure passage. Critics decried it as a populist measure that largely sprang from the perennial competition for votes between Mr. Netanyahu’s conservative party, Likud, and political rivals to its right.

I don’t agree with those saying this is an apartheid law,” said Amir Fuchs, an expert in legislative processes and liberal thought at The Israel Democracy Institute, an independent research group in Jerusalem. “It does not form two separate legal norms applying to Jews or non-Jews,” he said.

But he added, “Even if it is only declarative and won’t change anything in the near future, I am 100 percent sure it will worsen the feeling of non-Jews and especially the Arab minority in Israel.”

The law, which also was subtly changed where it addresses the Jewish diaspora to mollify ultra-Orthodox leaders, who feared it could promote Jewish pluralism in Israel, also drew protests from overseas.

We will use all of the legal means available to us to challenge this new law and to promote Reform and Progressive Judaism in Israel,” said Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the New York-based Union for Reform Judaism.

Many North American Jews have grown increasingly alienated from Israel over the Netanyahu government’s hawkishness and coercion by the strictly Orthodox state religious authorities. They remain angry nearly a year after Mr. Netanyahu reneged on an agreement to improve pluralistic prayer arrangements at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, once a hallowed symbol of Jewish unity, and promoted a bill enshrining the Orthodox Chief Rabbinate’s monopoly over conversions to Judaism in Israel.

The new law stipulates that Hebrew is “the state’s language” and demotes Arabic to “special status,” though it is a largely symbolic sleight since a subsequent clause says, “This clause does not harm the status given to the Arabic language before this law came into effect.”

Another highly divisive clause in the draft version, which experts said would have opened the door to legalized segregation, was replaced by one declaring “the development of Jewish settlement as a national value” and promising “to encourage and promote its establishment and consolidation.”

Some critics argued the replacement clause was even worse, because while the previous version allowed for separate but equal communities, the new one could be interpreted to allow for discrimination in the allocation of resources.

Proponents of the new law cite continuing demographic threats: Some in Israel’s Arab minority are demanding collective rights and already form a majority in the northern Galilee district. Others view it as a largely pointless expression of nationalism that lays bare basic insecurities in a hostile region and will serve only to fan tensions at home and beyond.
Avi Shilon, an Israeli historian who teaches at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and New York University’s campus in Tel Aviv, noted that Mr. Netanyahu and Likud were the ideological heirs of the right-wing Zionist Revisionist movement of Zeev Jabotinsky, which believed that words could shape reality.

That view is in contrast with those held by the Labor Zionist founders of the state, led by David Ben-Gurion, the first prime minister, who placed more faith in deeds and actions.
The great spirit of Ben-Gurion and the founding fathers was that they knew how to adjust to the times,” Mr. Shilon said. “Mr. Netanyahu and his colleagues are acting like we are still in the battle of 1948, or in a previous era.”

A former Labor Party legislator, Shakeeb Shnaan, a member of Israel’s small, Arabic-speaking Druze community, whose men are drafted for compulsory service in the military, pleaded emotionally for the bill’s defeat. His son was one of two Druze police officers killed in a shooting attack a year ago while guarding an entrance to Jerusalem’s holiest site for Jews and Muslims. The perpetrators were Arab citizens of Israel.

The state of Israel is my country and my home, and I have given it what is most dear to me, and I continue, and I will continue, to serve it with love,” he said, before adding: “The nationality law is a mark of Cain on the forehead of everyone who votes for it.”

Friday, June 29, 2018

Birthright Participants Walk Off Trip to Join Anti-occupation Tour


Dear friends,
please find below a news article from Haaretz discussing the Talgit-Birthright program.  As many of you will be aware of Talgit-Birthright is funded by mulimillionaire hard right Zionist, Sheldon Adelson. The program is NOT apolitical.

It was set up to encourage young American Jews to make Aliyah. All of this is done within the frame work of the Zionist world view. As a result, the program actively downplays Israel's illegal military occupation of Palestine and the human rights abuses and war crimes carried out against Palestinians by the Zionist state.

There has been efforts over the years by young dissident Jewish activists to foster more honest engagement via Birthright in regard to the reality of Israel's military occupation and apartheid regime, including setting up alternative tour programs to allow young Jews who participated in Birthright to visit the Occupied West Bank to see for themselves the reality of Israel's occupation.

The walk out of five participants from a recent Birthright Tour has made the news in Israel mainly because there is an increasing concern within Zionist circles that more and more young Jews are not falling behind the Zionist narrative as they once did.  For more information on this see:

As Israel turns 70, many young American Jews turn away

Young American Jews Increasingly Turning Away From Israel, Jewish Agency Leader Warns

In solidarity,
Kim
***


Five participants left the program in public protest in order to visit Hebron and Bethlehem with Breaking the Silence: 'Israel tour is one-sided' ■ Birthright: We're apolitical and reject promotion of any agenda
 
Taly Krupkin
Jun 28, 2018 Haaretz

 Illustration, Birthright participantsBirthright

A group of five American Jews visiting Israel as part of the Birthright Israel program left the trip Thursday in protest of the program's treatment of the occupation and joined a tour of Hebron led by anti-occupation army veterans' group Breaking the Silence.

The group split off from the rest of the tour on the eighth day of their trip. One of those who left the group said that Birthright, the organization that brings young Jewish adults on free, 10-day visits to Israel, "is not providing the kind of education that we really need... and is telling a one sided story. This is not fair, and we deserve the truth."

The five young Americans live-streamed the incident on Facebook, where they are seen leaving the bus and arguing with their guide and with fellow participants. They also published a statement on a Twitter account.

Following the incident one of the five people who walked off, Sophie Lasoff, 24, told Haaretz that she wanted to participate in Birthright due to its significant place in the American Jewish community, and that she and her friends did not initially plan to leave the Birthright program.

(for full text of statement, see end of blog article)
 
 
“I wanted to give Birthright a chance”, says Lasoff. “We didn’t want to do something like that, but we felt that it was the right thing to do.”
Lasoff told Haaretz that the members of the group did not know each other before the trip to Israel, and did not plan the action beforehand. She explained that they felt disappointed with the program's treatment of the occupation, and therefore contacted Breaking the Silence, an Israeli veterans organization that collects testimonies from Israeli soldiers about their service in the territories, and coordinated to join their tour of the West Bank.

Another woman who left the tour, Katie Anne, claimed on the live stream that "Birthright gave us a map of Israel that does not denote the West Bank [even though] the director of our Birthright organization admitted that the majority of maps in Israel do include [it]. They keep saying they're apolitical but this is clearly to the right."

Anne added: "We love our Jewish community and that's why it's so hard for us to see Birthright systemically miseducating it. We cannot stand this injustice."

After leaving the Birthright bus, the group visited Hebron and Bethlehem.

This week, IfNotNow, an anti-occupation movement led by young U.S. Jews, launched a new campaign targeting the Birthright program. The campaign, called, #NotJustAFreeTrip, seeks to "pressure Birthright to tell the truth about the Israeli occupation to its 40,000 young Jewish participants". IfNotNow activists have been gathering in airports in the U.S. to engage with participants as they leave on Birthright trips, encouraging them to question the tour guides about the occupation.

Yonah Lieberman, spokesperson for IfNotNow, told Haaretz that members of his group met the group who left for the Birthright trip as they were flying to Israel from JFK airport in New York last week.

In response to the protest, Birthright said that it is "an apolitical project and the leading educational initiative in Israel." The organization added that "since we respect our participants' abilities to form their own opinion, we reject the promotion of any agenda and any attempt at manipulation of provocation by any political side."

In November, Haaretz reported that Birthright's education department instructed its trip providers to stop including meetings with Israeli Arabs on their itineraries.

Birthright mandates that all of its trips include meetings with Israeli soldiers. Haaretz also reported last year that Birthright is promoting a free stay for participants who extend their time in Israel beyond the 10 days offered if they choose to remain at a hostel in Jerusalem’s Old City run by an extremist rabbi aligned with radical factions of the settler movement who encourages those who stay with him to volunteer at illegal Israeli outposts in the West Bank.


Sheldon Adelson and Dr. Miriam Adelson attending Birthright's 18th anniversary gala in New York, April 15, 2018.Michael Priest Photography
 
Birthright’s single largest donor today is casino-magnate Sheldon Adelson, a major supporter of the Republican Party and of Israel’s right-wing government. Adelson and his associates have long insisted, however, that he does not intervene in any way in Birthright's itineraries.

In April, 150 students protested a Birthright annual gala in New York.

Breaking the Silence has faced severe criticism by the Israeli government, including attempts to silence the group through legislation.

Protesters from Jewish Voice for Peace outside the Birthright gala event in New York, April 15, 2018.Ben Lorber, Jewish Voice for Peace
 
FULL TEXT OF STATEMENT ISSUED VIA TWITTER: