Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Asaf Harel to Israelis: Wake Up and Smell The Apartheid.

Dear friends,
apologies for posting this late. I have been meaning to post this almost two weeks but have been swamped with other work and study.  Hopefully by now many of you will have seen Israel writer, director and comedian Asaf Harel's scathing indictment of Israeli society. In a monologue, Harel on Israeli television implored Israelis  to wake up and smell the apartheid.  In the monologue, Harel pulls no punches saying: "Apartheid has been here for ages ... it's just that we are on its good side, so it doesn't really bother us". 

He went on to point out:  "Israel's most impressive innovation, more than any high-tech project or Rafael weapn, is our amazing ability to ignore what is happening mere kilometres away to our neighbours. A whole people. Transparent. Like it doesn't exist. Not in the news, not online, not on social media and definitely not in the hearts of the people. Nothing".

I have included the full clip of his monologue with translation below, along with an article from Haaretz on his stand.

in solidarity, Kim

In Last Monologue, Israeli Comedy Show Host Implores Israelis to Wake Up and Smell the Apartheid

Asaf Harel's scathing indictment of Israeli society has gone viral.
Haaretz Mar 01, 2017

An Israeli comedy show host's searing indictment of Israeli society has gone viral on social media, raking in over 5,000 shares in the two days since it was posted on the show's Facebook page on Monday.

In the video, Asaf Harel of "Good Night With Asaf Harel" castigates Israelis for ignoring the occupation and claims that Israel is an apartheid state.

"Good Night," which was aired by Channel 10, was one of Israel's most controversial shows on mainstream television in recent years. In one instance, the show was fined after Harel ridiculed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for exploiting his brother's death for political gain.

The episode was "Good Night's" last, as the show was not renewed for another season due to poor ratings, even though the show has gained a strong following on social media.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Haaretz: Jeff Halper detained for "alleged possession of BDS Material".

Dear friends,
news just in that well-known Israeli-American activist, Jeff Halper was detained by Israeli police for "possession of BDS Material".  Please find the full text of the Haaretz article below. As the article notes, even if Halper did have BDS material and even if he was distributing it, he would not have been in violation of any Israeli law, including Israel's anti-BDS laws. Clearly this is a case of harassment and intimidation.

in solidarity, Kim


Jeff Halper, cofounder of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, was held after leading a tour of the E1 area across the road from the Israeli settlement of Ma'aleh Adumim.
 Yotam Berger Haaretz, Mar 13, 2017

Police detained Israeli American left-wing activist Jeff Halper on Monday at the Ma'aleh Adumim settlement, for suspected incitement, saying they acted on a complaint he had "materials related to BDS" in his possession.

Halper, picked up after leading a tour of foreigners to the E1 site across the road from the settlement, was transported by police van to a nearby station then released without being placed under arrest.

Police officers photographed the posters and maps he was holding before freeing him. Halper denies handing out any material related to BDS during the tour, or even discussing the boycott movement.

Handing out such materials would not have been in violation of the law, even a 2011 anti-boycott law according to which a person or an organization calling for the boycott of Israel, including the settlements, can be sued by the boycott's targets without them having to prove that they sustained any damage.

The law also denies a person or a company that declares a boycott of Israel or the settlements eligibility to bid for government tenders. A separate law passed this month entitles Israel to deny entry to pro-BDS activists.

Halper, cofounder of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, told Haaretz he was on a tour with foreign visitors in the territories last Wednesday. He took the group of 15 to a lookout over Area E1, near Ma'aleh Adumim.

"It's a good place to show them this context of where Ma'aleh Adumim is located relative to Jerusalem. It's a regular stop on our tours, this wasn't the first time I was taking a group to this spot," Halper said.

After the tour the tourists boarded a bus headed north and he headed to catch a bus to Jerusalem, but "as I ran toward a bus, I saw police in the area, and I saw them talking and contacting the group. I called the Palestinian driver (of the bus transporting the tourists) and he said he had heard a rumor that we were distributing BDS material."

"Suddenly the bus came to a stop in the Middle of Maaleh Adumim, after two stops, the police boarded the bus and told me, you are being detained, and they took me off the bus," Halper said.

Halper was questioned about the material he had.

"They didn't tell me why I was being detained; they said something about BDS, but no details. They put me into a van, which is unpleasant as it is. They drove me in the direction of the police station. Just when we got to the station they stopped asked me a few questions about what I had in my bag and whether I had any BDS material in the bag.

"We got out of the vehicle and they threw my maps on the van, the maps were of Jerusalem and the greater Jerusalem area. There was also something on which it was written BDS or for BDS, it's something that I use.

"I say that we have no solution to offer and I propose a binational democratic state, so I have the slogan that goes BDS for BDS. It's not a sticker or flyer, but just a map with those words on it.

"They found it and took it, wrote up a summons or something like that, and released me," Halper said.

Halper said the police refused to give him a copy of the ticket or explain what he was suspected of.

In response to a query from Haaretz, the Samaria regional police said:

"There is no investigation into this matter. There was information checked by a patrol once it became clear he committed no violations, he was freed."

Police spokespeople said the suspicion against him is "incitement" but he was released after questioning, and no further investigation was expected to take place.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Israel’s New Travel Ban: A Survival Kit for Activists Stopped at Israel's Airport

Dear friends,
you may have heard about that the Knesset has passed a new law automatically banning supporters of the Palestinian initiated and lead, Boycott Divestment and Sanctions campaign from being able to enter Israel. As a number of commentators have noted, the new law in many way doesn't change things that much - Israel was already able to ban pro-Palestine activists for not only supporting BDS but also just for being pro-Palestine.   However, what this law does do is make it clear (once again), that Israel has no intention of ever ending its apartheid regime, occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people.

Below are two articles from Haaretz: the second discusses the passage of the bill/law, while the first offers some advice to activists in regard to the "travel ban" and new law. While this advice is limited, it is still worth the read.

If any other relevant articles relating to the new law emerge, which might provide a solid analysis, clarity and information about the law, come to light I will post them as well.

In solidarity, Kim

Israel’s New Travel Ban: A Survival Kit for Activists Stopped at Israel's Airport

What happens if you've ever signed a petition condemning the Israeli occupation? This is your survival kit for entry into the country at Ben-Gurion airport.
Judy Maltz: Haaretz: Mar 09, 2017

Pro-Palestinian activists arrested after attempting a 'fly in' protest in Israel's Ben Gurion Airport Daniel Bar-On.

New legislation passed in the Knesset this week would deny entry into Israel to any foreign nationals who openly call for boycotting the country, even if the boycott is restricted to West Bank settlements.

Amendment No. 27 to the Entry Into Israel Law (No. 5712-1952) stipulates that the entry ban will apply to any non-citizen “who knowingly issues a public call for boycotting Israel that, given the content of the call and the circumstances in which it was issued, has a reasonable possibility of leading to the imposition of a boycott – if the issuer was aware of this possibility.” It applies not only to boycotts of Israel, but also to boycotts of any Israeli institutions or “any area under its control” – a clear reference to the settlements.

Does this mean that anyone who ever signed a petition condemning the Israeli occupation could be taken into custody upon landing at Ben-Gurion International Airport? Does it mean that anyone who ever wrote a Facebook post announcing his or her decision to refrain from buying wine produced in the settlements could be sent back home on the next outbound flight? Will foreign nationals arriving at the airport be subject to more scrutiny? And who needs to be concerned?

We asked some legal experts to predict what changes can be expected on the ground, in wake of the new legislation, and to provide some tips for travelers who are worried they might be targeted now. Here’s what they had to say:

      Israel’s new travel ban: A survival kit for activists stopped at Israel's airport Haaretz

What will change in practice now that this new amendment has taken effect?

Under the Entry Into Israel Law, which was enacted in 1952, the Minister of Interior was already authorized to ban individuals from entering the country at his discretion, even if they have already obtained visas. As Oded Feller, an expert on immigration issues at the Association of Civil Rights in Israel notes: “Even before this amendment was added to the law, the Ministry of Interior felt free to detain at Israel’s borders those suspected of opposing Israeli policy, and in certain cases, even to deport them.” That has included not only supporters of an all-out boycott against Israel but even individuals simply critical of the Israeli government.

Such was the case last month when Jennifer Gorovitz, a senior executive at the New Israel Fund, was detained at the airport for 90 minutes and interrogated about her organization’s activities and its funding of various Israeli nonprofits. But as Feller points out, Gorovitz was not the first Jewish visitor to be pulled aside for questioning at the airport. “Other prominent examples that come to mind from previous years,” he said, “are Noam Chomsky and Norman Finkelstein,” both well-known critics of Israel. For this reason, Yadin Elam, another Israeli attorney who specializes in human rights and immigration, believes the new amendment is more declarative than anything else. “Nothing really has changed in practice,” he says. “Before this, the Minister of Interior also had the power to bar entry of individuals who called for a boycott of Israel. The difference now is that the ban is automatic, and the Minister of Interior can, at his discretion, overturn it.” So is there reason to believe more people will be stopped at the airport now? “Only time will tell,” says Feller, “but probably.”

Is supporting a boycott enough grounds for being denied entry into Israel?

Pro-Palestinian protest in New York City. Anadolu Agency

The law does not ban those who support a boycott. Rather, it bans individuals, as well as representatives of organizations, that have issued a public call for a boycott that has “a reasonable possibility of leading to the imposition of a boycott.” Most legal experts say that it will ultimately be left to the courts to define what exactly that entails. Knesset Member Roy Folkman (Kulanu), one of the sponsors of the legislation, has said the ban would not apply to someone who has signed a petition in favor of a boycott. Feller is not convinced. “Once the amendment has been enacted, it will be up to the courts and the authorities to interpret it,” he says. “Folkman is not its interpreter and has no influence on how it will be implemented.”

How will Israeli Border Police know if someone has ever issued a call for a boycott?

Herein lies the big problem with this new amendment to the law, as Elam notes. “It is virtually impossible to implement,” he says. “Sure they have black lists, and they always have. But they also have gray lists. Are they going to start Googling every person on those lists who enters the country? Are they going to force every foreigner to pledge loyalty to the state of Israel when they enter the country or sign a form that they have never called for a boycott?”

Say you get stopped at the airport now, are Border Police allowed to search your bags?

Yes, and this has been true ever since the Entry Into Israel Law was enacted in 1952.  The law doesn’t specify, however, what types of searches are allowed.

Can they ask to search your digital devices?

This is trickier. As Feller notes, cellphones and tablets did not exist 55 years ago when the law was passed. “It could be argued that since the law does not give the authorities the explicit right to pry in this way, that they don’t possess such a right,” he says. “But as we know, when it comes to Israeli immigration authorities, many things are done without specific authorization.” And what should someone do if they are asked to unlock their phones or reveal their passwords to social media? Feller says they have the right to refuse but they should be mindful that they might then be detained or put on the next flight out of the country. Elam calls it a “Catch-22 situation.” “If you hand over your phone, there’s the risk they will see things you don’t want them to see, but if you don’t hand it over, there’s the risk that they’ll think you’re hiding something.”

What precautions should be taken to avoid being detained or sent back home?

For those concerned that things they may have said, signed or written in the past might be used against them now, Elam shares the following advice, which he gives all foreign nationals fearful that they might not be welcomed into Israel: Book a flight on a weekday, rather than a weekend, and on a regular airline, rather than a charter flight. “The reason I say a weekday is that you don’t want to be stuck in a detention facility over the weekend here,” he explains, “and the reason I say a regular airline is that usually they fly back and forth one the same day, while with charter flights, it could take a week until there’s a flight back, and they you’ll be stuck in detention all that time.”

What about those Jews who love Israel but hate the occupation – any special precautions they should take before booking their tickets to Israel now?

Elam says they might want to consider getting a letter from the Israeli consulate near their hometown or a local Jewish leader vouching that they are loyal members of the Jewish community. “Still,” he cautions, “there is really no way to guarantee that they won’t face any problems once they get here.

read more:


Israel's Travel Ban: Knesset Bars Entry to Foreigners Who Call for Boycott of Israel or Settlements
New law doesn't include caveat urged by Justice Ministry: To exempt Palestinians who reside in Israel.

Jonathan Lis: Haaretz: Mar 07, 2017

       A BDS demonstration in southern France, June 2015. George Robert, AP

The Knesset gave its final approval Monday evening to a bill that forbids granting entry visas or residency rights to foreign nationals who call for economic, cultural or academic boycotts of either Israel or the settlements.

The interior minister would be able to make exceptions to this rule if he deems it warranted in a particular case.

The bill, which was enacted into law after it passed its second and third readings, was backed by 46 lawmakers and opposed by 28.

Zionist Union this time imposed coalition discipline against the bill, after it gave its MKs freedom to vote as they choose during its first reading. The Knesset Interior and Environment Committee approved the final wording of the boycott bill, whose goal is to fight the international boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.

It says the entry ban will apply to any person “who knowingly issues a public call for boycotting Israel that, given the content of the call and the circumstances in which it was issued, has a reasonable possibility of leading to the imposition of a boycott – if the issuer was aware of this possibility.”

This definition was copied from a 2011 law that permitted civil lawsuits against BDS activists.

The ban would apply not just to people who call for boycotts against Israel, but also to those who call for boycotts of any Israeli institution or any “area under its control” – i.e., the settlements.

The Justice Ministry urged the Interior Committee to make an exception for Palestinians with temporary residency in Israel, like those admitted under the family unification program, who spend several years as temporary residents before receiving permanent residency.

Exempting these Palestinians from the ban would make it easier for the law to withstand a court challenge, the ministry argued. But the committee rejected this idea.

One of the bill’s sponsors, MK Roy Folkman (Kulanu), said during the debate, “It’s possible to feel national pride and still believe in human rights. It’s possible to defend the name and honor of the State of Israel and there’s no shame in that. This law represents Kulanu as a nationalist socially oriented party that believes in a balance between national pride and human rights.”

Another sponsor, MK Betzalel Smotrich (Habayit Hayehudi), said, “What does this law say, after all? A healthy person who loves those who love him and hates those who hate him doesn’t turn the other cheek.”

The leader of the Joint List, MK Ayman Odeh, strongly criticized the legislation, telling the Knesset of his recent trip to the J Street Conference in the U.S.: "I was in the U.S. two weeks ago, I saw there thousands of Jews who support a boycott of the settlements. These are people who act not against the state but against the occupation.

"I'm against the occupation and for a boycott of the settlements that are a war crime and the theft of land from private individuals. The occupation will end up making Israel a leper everywhere."

MK Dov Khenin (Joint Arab List) said, “Who today doesn’t oppose a boycott of the settlements? Look at the UN, at the EU, at what’s happening in the international community. Do you want to boycott all of them and refuse them entry to Israel? The whole world thinks the settlements are illegal. You are essentially promoting a move that will strengthen the boycott of Israel.”

MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) added, “We’re talking about a law that is against freedom of expression, that constitutes political censorship and is meant to silence people. It’s ostensibly against the boycotters of Israel but it doesn’t make a distinction between Israel and the settlements and it thus serves the BDS movement.”

Jewish Voice for Peace Executive Director Rebecca Vilkomerson responded to the ban saying that "On the same day as the Trump administration signed the second version of an unconstitutional and discriminatory executive order barring visitors from specific Muslim countries, Israel just passed its own discriminatory travel ban barring supporters of nonviolent tactics to end Israel's violations of Palestinian rights.

"My grandparents are buried in Israel, my husband and kids are citizens, and I lived there for three years, but this bill would bar me from visiting because of my work in support of Palestinian rights. I'm very proud to support the BDS movement, and hope that the response to this ban will hasten the day when anyone can travel there freely."

Peace Now said the ban is "neither Jewish nor democratic" and "a clear violation of freedom of expression. Through this law the Bennetyahu government will not prevent boycott but rather, deteriorate Israel's international standing and lead Israel towards international isolation."

Adalah and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) said "the law violates basic democratic rules in that it sets a political position as a reason to prevent foreigners from entering Israel and occupied territory. Those who wish to visit certainly do not have to toe the current Israeli government's position on the issue of occupation.

"The law's damage is expected to be particularly great for tens of thousands of Palestinian families where a member is either a temporary resident or holds only a temporary entrance permit and will now be exposed to having these rights lifted for the expression of a political view." 

Adalah and ACRI had appealed to Knesset members ahead of the law's approval, writing that "the interior minister is not entitled to act like a commissar standing at the gate and deciding for the citizenry and residents of occupied territory who depend on Israeli checkpoints, which viewpoints are entitled to be heard.

"Freedom of speech is not only about the right to speak, but also the right to be exposed to opinions, even opinions that outrage or anger the majority in Israel.

read more:

Saturday, February 25, 2017

We should support the Palestinians, not Israel

Dear friends,
please find below my latest article for Red Flag on Netanyahu's visit to Australia and Malcolm Turnbull's sycophantic welcome of a fellow human rights abuser and war monger.

in solidarity,

We should support the Palestinians, not Israel

Arriving in Australia for a four-day diplomatic visit on Wednesday, 21 February, Benjamin Netanyahu is the first sitting Israeli prime minister to visit Australia.

Netanyahu – who also held Israel’s prime ministership between 1996 and 1999 – is responsible for the ongoing illegal blockade of Gaza, as well as Israel’s brutal military occupation of Gaza, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.

In 2014, he ordered Israel’s 50-day murderous assault on Gaza, which resulted in the deaths of more than 2,250 Palestinians, including almost 1,500 civilians, one-third of whom were children. In addition, more than 11,230 Palestinians were injured, including 3,436 children.

Despite Netanyahu’s well-documented record as a war criminal and human rights abuser, he has been warmly welcomed by Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.

In a sycophantic comment piece published in the Australian on the day of his arrival, Turnbull declared Israel “a miraculous nation”, which had “flourished despite invasion, conflict and an almost complete lack of natural resources, other than the determination and genius of its people”.

He went on to extol Australia’s support for the Zionist state, while condemning those who sought to hold Netanyahu and Israel accountable for war crimes against the Palestinian people. Turnbull not only condemned the UN Security Council’s reaffirmation of the illegal nature of Israel’s colonies on occupied Palestinian land, he also said that his government “deplore[d] the boycott campaign designed to delegitimise the Jewish state”.

The Turnbull government’s enthusiastic welcome of a war criminal and human rights abuser should come as no surprise. Successive Australian governments, after all, have overseen systematic human rights abuses of refugees and asylum seekers and implemented genocidal policies against Indigenous people.

Australia, like Israel, is a settler-colonial state, built on racism, ethnic cleansing and inequalities that are codified in law and built structurally into the economic, social and political system, ensuring that the settler population is legally, socially and politically privileged over the Indigenous population. In 2006, then Israeli ambassador to Australia, Naftali Tamir, in an interview with Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, explained the racist nature of the settler-colonial alliance between the two countries:
“Israel and Australia are like sisters in Asia. We are in Asia without the characteristics of Asians. We don’t have yellow skin and slanted eyes. Asia is basically the yellow race. Australia and Israel are not – we are basically the white race. We are on the western side of Asia and they are on the south-eastern side.”
There is nothing “miraculous” about Israel as a nation. Since its creation in 1948, Israel has been an openly racist state, using both military force and legally sanctioned discrimination to impose an apartheid system both inside the Zionist state and in the Palestinian territories it illegally seized in 1967.

According Adalah, an Israeli human rights organisation for Arab minority rights, there are more than 50 laws that discriminate against Israel’s non-Jewish citizens in areas such as property rights, political activity, education, criminal procedures, employment and marriage.

In addition, Palestinians living in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem endure a regime of more than 3,000 military regulations which “govern” every aspect of life. These military orders, which can be issued at the whim of a military commander, are not made public but can affect Palestinian legal identity, education, employment, healthcare, housing, political activity and freedom of movement.

Israel was created in 1948, as Zionist militias depopulated more than 500 Palestinian Arab villages and towns, forcing more than 750,000 Palestinians to flee to neighbouring countries and internally displacing another 150,000. The Zionist state has never ceased ethnically cleansing Palestinians either inside Israel or in the territories it seized in 1967.

Currently in Israel’s south, more than 80,000 Palestinian Bedouin citizens of Israel from 46 “unrecognised villages” are fighting against Netanyahu’s attempt to ethnically cleanse them from their traditional lands. Despite the majority of these villages being in existence prior to 1948, the Israeli state has repeatedly denied them legal status, excluding them from government maps and the provision of local and national government infrastructure, such as electricity, running water, sewage, telephone lines, as well as educational and health facilities and services.

As a result, the villages are regularly threatened with destruction. One such village, Al-Arakib, which is home to more than 300 people, has been demolished by the Israeli state and rebuilt by its residents more than 100 times, while the village of Umm al-Hiran is currently fighting Israel’s attempt to raze it to the ground in order to establish a Jewish-only township in its place.

Earlier this month, the Israeli parliament approved the “Validation Law”. The law, backed by Netanyahu, allows the Israeli state to expropriate private Palestinian lands in the Occupied West Bank for the construction of illegal Israeli colonies. The law is in violation of both international law and the UN Security Council Resolution passed on 23 December, the same resolution condemned by Turnbull in the Australian.

By condemning both the UN Security Council Resolution and the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign, Turnbull has made it clear that he has no interest in upholding Palestinian rights, international law or supporting a just peace in the Middle East.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Commentary: Australian Labor Party in a tizz over how to save apartheid Israel

Dear friends,
please find below a comment piece by my comrade Rick Kuhn, a founding member of Jews Against Occupation and Oppression, which has been published in Red Flag on the current "debate" on Israel in the Australian Labour Party.

in solidarity,
Labor in a tizz over how to save apartheid Israel
There’s a fight going on inside the Labor Party over the cosmetics of its position on Israel and Palestine. Currently, party leader Bill Shorten, who wants to shake the hand of Israeli prime minister Benyamin Netanyahu while he’s visiting Australia, is sticking with the ALP’s long standing policy.

Whether Labor or the Coalition has been in office, Australian governments have been among the fiercest supporters of apartheid Israel since its creation. Unlike about 138 other countries, Australia has refused to recognise the Palestinian Authority as the government of a Palestinian state. Slavish backing of Israel is mainly a bi-product of the Australia-US alliance, which has long benefited the ruling class here.

In the Australian parliament, the most hard-line supporter of Israel, including of its military aggression, is Labor member for Melbourne Ports, Michael Danby. Danby thinks that the recent legalisation of the theft of even more privately owned Palestinian land on the West Bank, by Israeli colonists, was a bad idea.

But, Danby argues, that there is no reason to recognise a Palestinian state. For Danby and the Israeli authorities, the weaker the PA is, the better.

Some members of the Israeli government also dislike the new law. Although Israel and its Zionist predecessors have been stealing Palestinian land for over a century, they are worried that it is too large and sudden a step. It might provoke a militant response from ordinary Palestinians and create further sympathy for the Palestinian cause.

Former Labor prime ministers Bob Hawke, a passionate “friend of Israel” for decades, and Kevin Rudd, along with former Labor foreign ministers Gareth Evans and Bob Carr now think that the PA should be recognised. They argue that the continued expansion of Israeli settlements on the West Bank and the latest Israeli land grab run the risk of fatally puncturing the already dissolving illusion of a possible “two state solution” to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

Rudd is fearful of a third Intifada: another Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation.
Recognition, they hope, will be a diplomatic finger slap that prompts the Israeli government to wake up to its own interests and adds to the credibility of the PA.

The illusion of the “two state solution” was used to justify the establishment of the PA in 1994, as Israeli’s out-sourced police force to discipline the Palestinian people, and to urge it to make ever greater concessions to Israel’s demands.

Israel and its backers attribute the lack of progress towards the establishment of a Palestinian state to the bad faith of the PA.

Yet, under the cover of the “two state illusion”, the annexation of Palestinian land on the West Bank, all of it already entirely under Israeli military control, has not slowed but expanded.

Hawke writes that he supports both the Palestinian “aspiration to be fully free” and “the right of Israel to exist as a state behind secure and recognised borders”. These are totally incompatible. While Israel exists, neither its second class Palestinian citizens, nor the Palestinians of the West Bank, Gaza and the diaspora can have full civic rights, including to their land, let along democratic control over their lives.

The squabble in the Labor Party over how to best back Israel reflects growing global sympathy, crucially from ordinary people rather than governments, for the Palestinians. It’s sign of desperation and isolation that Netanyahu is coming to this pissy middle power on the other side of the planet. He is the first sitting Israeli prime minister to do so.

Increased recognition of the repressive PA as a state is symbolic of this shift. But it won’t satisfy the aspirations of Palestinians for freedom.

Only a democratic state made up of all those now living within the borders of historic Palestine, together with the Palestinian diaspora, can achieve that goal.

PHOTOS: Melbourne Says No To Netanyahu

Dear friends,
please find below some photos from the Melbourne Says No To Netanyahu which took place on 19 February, a few days before Netanyahu arrived in Australia which began on 22 February.

In September 2016, Australian Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop visited Israel and officially invited Netanyahu to come to Australia in early 2017 saying that she wanted to "reaffirm our absolute enduring commitment to the state of Israel and our friendship" and that she believed that "the Australian public would warmly embrace you, welcome you".

As Prime Minister, Netanyahu has been responsible for Israel's illegal blockade of Gaza, as well as Israel's ongoing occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Golan Heights.

In 2014, Netanyahu ordered Israel's 50 day murderous assault on Gaza, which resulted in the death of more than 2,250 Palestinians, including almost 1,500 civilians, one third of whom were children, along with 299 women. In addition, more than 11,230 Palestinians were injured, including 3,436 children and 3.540 women. Amongst those killed were 142 Palestinian families, who made up 742 of the fatalities.

During the murderous assault Netanyahu ordered more than 6,000 airstrikes and the firing of more than 50,000 tank and artillery shells on the imprisoned population of Gaza.

In July 2014, Netanyahu also confirmed that Israel had no intention of ending its illegal occupation and oppression of more than 4.5 million Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

While Julie Bishop and the Liberals, who supported Israel's assault on Gaza and the US's bloody wars in the Middle East, continue to carry out human rights abuses against refugees and asylumseekers and Australia's Indigenous community, are happy to welcome a fellow war criminal and human right abusers, we weren't and decided to give Netanyahu the real welcome that a war criminal and human rights abuser he deserves.

Sydney also held a much larger rally during his actual visit. I will post photos as soon as possible.

In solidarity, Kim



Thursday, February 16, 2017


Dear friends,
Israeli Prime Minister and War Criminal will be visiting Australia in the next week. There are protests being organised in a number of cities, including Melbourne and Sydney.  Here are the details for the Melbourne rally, which is happening on this coming Sunday (19 February)

in solidarity, Kim

2pm, Sunday 19 FEBRUARY


 Australian Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop in early September visited Israel, where she met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Bishop invited Netanyahu to officially visit Australia in early 2017 saying that she wanted to "reaffirm our absolute enduring commitment to the state of Israel and our friendship" and that she believed that "the Australian public would warmly embrace you, welcome you".

As Prime Minister, Netanyahu has been responsible for Israel's illegal blockade of Gaza, as well as Israel's ongoing occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Golan Heights.

In 2014, Netanyahu ordered Israel's 50 day murderous assault on Gaza, which resulted in the death of more than 2,250 Palestinians, including almost 1,500 civilians, one third of whom were children, along with 299 women. In addition, more than 11,230 Palestinians were injured, including 3,436 children and 3.540 women. Amongst those killed were 142 Palestinian families, who made up 742 of the fatalities.

During the murderous assault Netanyahu ordered more than 6,000 airstrikes and the firing of more than 50,000 tank and artillery shells on the imprisoned population of Gaza.

In July 2014, Netanyahu also confirmed that Israel had no intention of ending its illegal occupation and oppression of more than 4.5 million Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

While Julie Bishop and the Liberals, who supported Israel's assault on Gaza and the US's bloody wars in the Middle East, continue to carry out human rights abuses against refugees and asylumseekers and Australia's Indigenous community, may welcome a fellow war criminal and human right abusers, we are calling on all people of conscience and supporters of human rights to give Benjamin Netanyahu the real welcome he deserves when he arrives in Australia.

Please join us at 2pm @ Sunday 19th February at the State Library of Victoria in Melbourne to protest the visit of a war criminal to Australia , as well as the Turnbull and Liberal government's continued support for Israel's illegal occupation and war crimes against the Palestinian people.

Please invite friends, family and other supporters and share this event with your networks and on your social media.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

WITHOUT SHELTER - Photography by Mats Svensson

Dear friends,
please find below a selection of hauntingly beautiful photographs by Mats Svensson from his Without Shelter photo collection about the Palestinian village of Lifta, which was ethnically cleansed in 1948 by Zionist terror groups.
I have include below the photos, an article from Electronic Intifada published in 2005 on the ethnic cleansing of the village.

Israel's Haaretz newspaper in 2012 noted that Lifta, is the only "abandoned" (ie. ethnically cleansed" village inside the Green Line which has not been destroyed or repopulated by the Israeli state. It's former Palestinian residents are currently fighting to stop it being destroyed completely (see fulll article below). In 2012, an Israeli court delayed the building of luxury homes.

At the time, Sami Ershied argued on behalf of the former villagers:
Given that Lifta is an abandoned village and its original owners live as refugees only a few hundred meters away, no construction should be done there, certainly not construction that will destroy the village and totally divest the original residents of their rights"

in solidarity, Kim


WITHOUT SHELTER - Photography by Mats Svensson

On the morning of Friday, February 25, 2005 a group of approximately 300 Israelis, Palestinian refugees and international activists gathered near the highway leading out of Jerusalem towards Tel Aviv. In the valley below lay the ruins of the ancient Palestinian village of Lifta. The event was part tour, part protest, and part homecoming. It had different meanings for each of the groups involved.

The organization responsible for planning the event, Zochrot (Hebrew for “Remembering”) takes Israelis on tours of depopulated and partially destroyed Palestinian villages. They bring Palestinian refugees to tell the stories of their village and plant signs in Arabic and Hebrew that explain what happened there. This event, however, was also a protest aimed at stopping the impending demolition of what remains of Lifta.

The village is scheduled to be removed and/or “renovated.” The demolition of Lifta, sponsored by the Israel Lands Administration, is part of the Israeli government’s development plan for West Jerusalem. It calls for the construction of 243 villas (each 200 m2), a hotel, museum and Synagogue. The heart of Lifta’s old city will be renovated and turned into a trendy mall for high-priced Israeli crafts and other goods.

For the Palestinian refugees who came on Friday, however, the event was primarily an opportunity to visit their village. To be sure, they accompanied the marchers and carried signs protesting the demolition plans, and they participated in Zochrot’s program by sharing their stories and knowledge of Lifta and their life before 1948.

Most of the refugees, however, left the group and wandered the ruins of the village. Most went first to their family homes. They brought their children and relayed small anecdotes about the houses. They cleaned rubbish from the inside and the front stoop and sat silently inside the houses or outside the doors.

“We are only able to visit the village about once a year,” a refugee man told me as he held his baby and gazed out the window of his family’s home, “It is too dangerous to come alone because of the [Israeli] settlers that are usually here, so we have to wait for a group before we can come.”

Indeed, many Palestinian refugees from Lifta are not allowed to visit at all. The people who came on Friday lived in East Jerusalem, meaning they could travel to the village without passing through any Israeli checkpoints. Many of Lifta’s villagers, however, fled farther into the West Bank and beyond. Israel does not permit them to pass through the checkpoints and their village remains a cloudy reality passed down through the generations in stories and memories.

Lifta is not unique. Like 417 other Palestinian towns and villages, Lifta was forcibly depopulated and ethnically cleansed in 1948 to make way for the state of Israel.[1] In fact, in many ways, to tell the story of Lifta is to tell the story of Al Nakba, the Palestinian “Catastrophe” of 1948.

Depopulating Lifta
According to the refugees from Lifta, the village was once one of the largest and wealthiest communities in the Jerusalem region. The beauty of the old homes still standing upon the overgrown hillside pays tribute to that prosperous past. In fact, Lifta’s lands once covered 8,743 dunum (8.7 km2) and stretched from the hills west of Jerusalem right up to the gates of the old city itself. The population of the village in 1948 was approximately 2,550 (including 2,530 Muslim and 20 Christian Palestinians). Like most Palestinian villages, many of Lifta’s residents were dependent on agriculture and cultivated 3,000 dunums (3 km2) of land, including 1,500 olive trees.[2]

According to research compiled by Palestine Remembered, Lifta was originally a Canaanite village and during Biblical and Roman times it was known by the name Nephtoah. In the Byzantine period it was called Nephtho, and the Crusaders referred to Lifta as Clepsta. Before 1948, the village had been continuously inhabited for well over 2,000 years.

In the years leading up to the 1948 war, however, the village fell under attack by Jewish militias operating in the area. On the 28th of December, 1947 six people were gunned down in the village coffeehouse, by members of two Jewish militias, the Stern Gang (whose commander, Yitzhak Shamir, later became Prime Minister of Israel) and the Irgun (whose commander, Menachem Begin, also later served as Prime Minister of Israel).[3] Some of Lifta’s residents sold their property to European investors eager to acquire more land for Jewish settlement. Many more left early on. According to the descendents of the villagers, however, a significant number remained in Lifta into the first months of 1948.

The 1948 war which led to Israel’s declaration of independence in May 1948, started gradually. Jewish settlers were well organized and highly armed. The Jewish fighting forces included the Haganah (the official army of the Jewish settler community in Palestine) as well as several more radical militias (including the Stern Gang and Irgun). The militias were active in the area west of Jerusalem where Lifta was located.

Lifta was harassed by Stern Gang and Irgun militants through December 1947 and January 1948. One of the refugees who returned to the village last Friday, relayed the story he was told about the attack on Lifta:

In late January or early February, the Stern Gang and Irgun attacked and seized the neighboring village of Qaluba and then invaded Lifta from the West. They occupied Lifta’s new town and the remaining residents took refuge in the old town in the valley. The village was cut-off from the west and anyone trying to leave was killed. The villagers resisted but were defeated after 9 or 10 hours of fighting.

By the time the entire village was occupied, most of the people had already left Lifta and fled into the West Bank, the rest were taken by truck and dumped in East Jerusalem. By February 1948, Lifta had been completely depopulated.[4] The Stern Gang and Irgun occupied the houses and broke holes in the roofs to ensure that they would be uninhabitable if the residents attempted to return.
Lifta and Al Nakba

The story of Lifta was repeated in numerous villages throughout Palestine in 1948. At least 418 villages were ethnically cleansed in the same way.[5] In fact, the evacuation of Palestinian villages was a matter of policy for the Jewish fighting forces. Israeli historian Benny Morris explains that “in the months of April-May 1948, units of the Haganah [the predecessor to the Israeli Army]… were given operational orders that stated explicitly that they were to uproot the villagers, expel them and destroy the villages themselves.”[6]

Lifta, however, is unique in the fact that it was completely depopulated in February, at least two months before the war was in full-swing, and three months before Israel’s declaration of independence. In April of 1948, the Jewish forces were fighting several armies from newly independent Arab states. The Jewish settlers enjoyed substantive advantages in the war. Aside from possessing newer weapons and technology, they also outnumbered their Arab counterparts by a margin of two to one.[7] It was in this context that, the leader of the Jewish forces, David Ben-Gurion, commanded his fighters to “adopt the method of aggressive defense; with every [Arab] attack we must be prepared to respond with a decisive blow: the destruction of the [Arab] place or the expulsion of its residents along with the seizure of the place.”[8]

One of the most brutal incidents of the war occurred in April in the village of Deir Yassin, near Lifta. On April 9, the same militias which had earlier attacked Lifta (the Stern Gang and Irgun) invaded Deir Yassin. In the fighting that ensued, approximately 250 Palestinian villagers were massacred.[9] The Palestinian resistance fighters were taken in truck to East Jerusalem and shot. The massacre contributed to the flight of neighboring communities also threatened with destruction. In fact, Benny Morris has documented at least 24 massacres of Palestinian civilians during the 1948 war.[10]

By the end of the war Jewish forces controlled 77% of historic Palestine which became the state of Israel and 750,000 Palestinian civilians had been forced to flee their homes. Today, there are over 5 million Palestinian refugees, the descendants of the original 750,000. For these 5 million, and many other Palestinians, Al Nakba stands as the defining moment in their national identity.

The story of Lifta is only one among 418 stories of villages that only exist in memory. Unlike many of the depopulated villages, however, the buildings of Lifta were not demolished but still stand as a testament to the existence of the once affluent Palestinian village. If Israel’s plan proceeds even these remnants will be gone, wiped away in the favor of plush villas. In the meantime, Lifta’s refugees are waiting to return to their village, to rebuild their homes and to once again live in the 2,000 year old village they call home.

Jacob Pace lives in Beit Sahour and works with the Applied Research Institute-Jerusalem (ARIJ) in Bethlehem. His reports and photos are available online at