Israel News-Haaretz.com

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  • The true story behind this iconic photo that became a symbol of gender equality in the Zionist movement
    The granddaughter of female pioneer seen in shorts in a quarry in Mandatory Palestine reveals that the ’propaganda’ scene was in fact staged
    Ofer Aderet | Jun. 25, 2020 | 2:19 PM
    https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-the-true-story-behind-photo-that-symbolized-gender-equality-in-the
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    Among the handful of surviving photographs depicting female pioneers during the pre-state British Mandate period, one of the best known is a picture of Aviva Alef.

    She was photographed in the summer of 1941 next to an open rail-cart full of rocks at a quarry at Kibbutz Ein Harod. The man who took the image was Zoltan Kluger, one of the greatest photographers in the country at the time, and who documented the Jewish state in the making for various Zionist organizations.

    Over the years, the iconic photo became a symbol of groundbreaking female equality in the Zionist movement. Just this week, however, 79 years after it was taken, Aviva Alef’s granddaughter decided to reveal the true story behind the picture, which is now in the official photography collection of the State of Israel.

    “My grandmother became a symbol of female pioneers against her will,” her granddaughter, Yael Avrahami, told Haaretz.

    Avrahami called the photograph “propaganda.”

    In contemporary Israel, every year when the weather warms up, a controversy resurfaces in the country’s schools over the appropriate length of female students’ shorts. “Someone recalled the picture and retrieved it from the archives,” noted Avrahami, a biblical studies lecturer at the Oranim Academic College of Education in Kiryat Tivon, northern Israel.

    The photo became part of an effort to demonstrate how “things had been different here” at one time, how women went around freely in short-shorts. It turned Avrahami’s grandmother into a symbol to be emulated.

    ‘Rebellious girl’

    “Let me tell you the real story about that picture,” Avrahami wrote Monday on Facebook, recounting how her grandmother, born Lotte Perschak, fled Czechoslovakia at age 17 after the outbreak of World War II. She immigrated to Mandatory Palestine with Youth Aliyah, a Zionist organization that at the time rescued young Jews from Europe and brought them to the Holy Land.

    “Here she was arbitrarily given the name Aviva. She settled at Kibbutz Beit Hashita in the Harod Valley and thought she was coming to an agricultural dorm and that she would return home at the end of the war. A very innocent young girl,” Avrahami wrote.

    But she also quickly discovered less pleasant aspects of the pioneering enterprise that had saved her life at a time when her family was sent to the Theresienstadt concentration camp.

    “In Youth Aliyah, you weren’t allowed to speak your native language. Everyone had to speak Hebrew,” the granddaughter recounted. Aviva was caught speaking Czech with her friend one day, and as a punishment was “exiled” to work in the rock quarry next to the adjacent kibbutz, Ein Harod – “as was befitting for a rebellious girl.”

    The punishment was meted out, Avrahami said, by two adults in charge: Tikva Sarig, a kindergarten teacher, children’s author and the wife of Nahum Sarig (who later became the commander of the Negev Brigade of the pre-state Palmach elite strike force); and Aryeh Ben-Gurion, the nephew of Israel’s first prime minister.

    But unlike male pioneers, and contrary to what the famous photograph suggests, “she didn’t drive rail carts with rocks and didn’t blast rocks. She cooked and did laundry for the male pioneers,” her granddaughter disclosed.

    On the day Kluger arrived to take pictures of the pioneers, “girls’ legs suited him for the picture,” as Avrahami put it – meaning that the iconic photo was staged.

    “Men are less sexy and my grandmother’s legs were legendary,” Avrahami said. “My grandfather once said she had the prettiest legs in the valley.”

    At age 20, Aviva gave birth to a son. That son’s daughter is Yael Avrahami.

    “My grandmother was saved from the horrors of the world war by the pioneering that was forced upon her. But it’s hard to look nostalgically upon the shorts in the picture and think that anything was perfect at the time,” the granddaughter wrote, “that the world saw her for what she was and not for her beautiful legs.

    “The shorts are not the be-all and end-all,” Avrahami added.

    Aviva’s parents didn’t survive the Holocaust. Her brother survived Auschwitz and married a Catholic nurse who had taken care of him, but he died relatively young behind the Iron Curtain.

    Aviva married journalist Yitzhak Avrahami at Beit Hashita and had a son. The couple divorced and Aviva made her way to Kibbutz Ayelet Hashahar, where she married Haim Alef and took his surname. “She would work in various jobs at the kibbutz, including being in charge of purchasing at the grocery. She also worked for many years in the sewing workshop,” Avrahami recounted.

    Aviva Alef died 18 years ago. One of the stories she told her granddaughter has bothered Yael Avrahami to this day.

    “She once told me that they needed to guard the watchtowers in the valley. The immigrant girls, who were afraid to do guard duty alone, were forced ‘to kiss’ male pioneers who would come along to stand guard with them at night. ‘Kissing’ is all she told me. I hope it wasn’t more than that,” Avrahami said.

    #propagande

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  • Israel suspends police phone-tracking for coronavirus quarantine - Israel News - Haaretz.com
    https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-government-freezes-bill-that-would-let-police-track-phones-to-enfo

    Law enforcement now to use surprise home visits, other means, to ensure coronavirus isolation orders are obeyed The government decided to put a hold on efforts to pass legislation allowing police to track the cellphones of people who are required to be in quarantine due to their possible exposure to the coronavirus. As a result, use of “geolocation” ended Wednesday night and police are now to focus on using other isolation enforcement measures, including surprise visits to the homes of (...)

    #algorithme #contactTracing #smartphone #géolocalisation #BigData #COVID-19 #santé #surveillance

    ##santé
    https://www.haaretz.com/polopoly_fs/1.8791771.1587602474!/image/2541422542.jpg_gen/derivatives/headline_1200x630/2541422542.jpg

    https://seenthis.net/messages/847346 via etraces


  • Netanyahu, Likud spread hate of Arab Israelis, U.S. State Department report says - Israel News - Haaretz.com
    https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-netanyahu-and-likud-spread-hate-of-arab-israelis-u-s-state-departm
    https://www.haaretz.com/polopoly_fs/1.7119843.1555329463!/image/329370432.jpg_gen/derivatives/headline_1200x630/329370432.jpg

    The U.S. State Department accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party of promoting hatred against Israel’s Arab citizens in its annual human rights report, published on Wednesday.

    The report also criticized Likud for placing cameras at polling stations in Arab towns and neighborhoods during the general election in April 2019.

    The annual report contains a country-by-country breakdown of important events that impact the human rights situation around the world. This year’s report made headlines because of a semantic change in how it refers to Palestinians who live in East Jerusalem – instead of calling them “Palestinian residents” as in previous reports, they are now “Arab residents” or “non-Israeli citizens,” a move that was criticized by Palestinian leaders.

    #israël #palestine #usa

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  • Israeli police question left-wing activist Jonathan Pollak on suspicion of incitement to terror
    Josh Breiner Feb 24, 2020 - Haaretz.com
    https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-israeli-police-question-leftist-jonathan-pollak-for-suspected-inci
    https://www.haaretz.com/polopoly_fs/1.8585583.1582569578!/image/978862589.jpg_gen/derivatives/headline_1200x630/978862589.jpg

    Left-wing activist and Haaretz employee Jonathan Pollak was investigated Monday morning at the Tel Aviv District Police headquarters on suspicion of incitement to violence and terror, in the wake of an article he wrote that was published in the online edition of Haaretz in Hebrew.

    His investigation is taking place with the approval of the State Prosecutor’s Office, and after the attorney general had reported last week that he was launching a criminal probe against Pollak.

    The investigation was opened due to statements he wrote in a column entitled: “Why I refuse to cooperate with the court.” Acting Attorney General Raz Nazri decided that there is no reason to open an investigation against Haaretz or its editors.

    In an article that was erroneously posted on the Haaretz website in an unedited version, Pollak wrote, among other things: “Yes, we must cross the lines and break the law. Despite the price, we must join the children of the stones and firebombs. We must march in their footsteps.” These sentences were removed from the article shortly after its publication on the website, and did not appear in the print version of the newspaper.

    Pollak’s attorney, Gaby Lasky, said: “The unusual speed with which the Attorney General’s Office ordered an investigation of Jonathan Pollak, and his speedy summons by the police, arouse a strong suspicion that the investigative entities surrendered to the continued pressure of the right and are trying to ‘balance’ the attorney general’s decision to stay the proceedings in the criminal complaint filed by the extremist right-wing organization Ad Kan against Pollak and two other activists.”

    Pollak was released from custody last week, after the attorney general ordered a stay in the proceedings against him and two other activists, saying they were improper. He was arrested due to his refusal to report for hearings regarding the complaint filed against him by Ad Kan. The non-profit organization claims that since 2013, he and the other two activists against whom proceedings were brought – Kobi Snitz and Ilan Shalif – participated in violent demonstrations against Israeli security forces as part of the their activities on behalf of the Anarchists Against the Wall movement.

    Deputy Attorney General Amit Marari wrote in an official legal opinion that enforcing the law is the job of the authorities, and should not be done by representatives of the political camps. “The public interest is that the government authorities are those who will enforce the law in such cases, while taking into account all the relevant considerations, and that enforcement will not be in the hands of the parties to the political dispute that is at the basis of the protest,” she wrote.

    The opinion of the deputy attorney general indicates that the evidentiary basis for the crimes attributed to the three men is missing. In addition, Marari argued that it is not the business of the parties to the proceeding – the Ad Kan organization – since the proceeding is of public rather than private importance. “There is no place for enforcement to be carried out by a private organization. In light of the aforesaid, the request for a stay of proceedings should be accepted,” she wrote.

    #Jonathan_Pollak

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  • App used by Netanyahu’s Likud leaks Israel’s entire voter registry - Israel Election 2020 - Haaretz.com
    https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/elections/.premium-app-used-by-netanyahu-s-likud-leaks-israel-s-entire-voter-registry
    https://www.haaretz.com/polopoly_fs/1.8509709.1581323696!/image/2140582350.jpg_gen/derivatives/headline_1200x630/2140582350.jpg

    The Likud has uploaded the full register of Israeli voters to an application, causing the leak of personal data on 6,453,254 citizens. The information includes the full names, identity card numbers, addresses and gender of every single eligible voter in Israel, as well as the phone numbers and other personal details of some of them.

    Israeli political parties receive personal details of voters before the elections and commit to protecting their privacy, as well as not to reproduce the registry, not to provide it to a third party, and to permanently erase all the information once the election is over.

    The voter registry was uploaded by Likud to the Elector app, which is used by the party to manage Election Day. The firm that developed the application, Feed-b, commented that the vulnerability was a “one-off incident that was immediately dealt with," and that security measures have since been boosted.

    The Likud has yet to respond to a request for comment.

    According to information obtained by Haaretz, as well as Noam Rotem and Ido Kenan of the Cybercyber podcast, a vulnerability in the application allowed for anyone to easily download the entire voter registry. The only known leak of a similar magnitude occurred in 2006, when an Interior Ministry employee stole the population registry and distributed it illegally.

    Haaretz received an anonymous tip about the security lapse, allowing anyone to obtain the leaked information in its entirety without using sophisticated tools. Right-clicking on the Elector app’s home page and choosing “view source” revealed the original code of the internet page. The code revealed all the usernames and passwords of system admins, allowing one to log in and download the registry.

    The anonymous tipper also provided Haaretz with personal details of powerful people in Israel. It is unknown how many people gained access to the data and downloaded it. However, the application has users in various countries abroad, among them the United States, China, Russia and Moldova.

    Dans le paquet, il y aurait les données de personnalités importantes, y compris dans le domaine de la sécurité... #israël

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  • Trump invite Nétanyahou et Ganz pour la présentation de son « plan du siècle » ! sans doute pense-t-il que le problème est de faire la paix entre les deux responsables israléiens ! Exit les Palestiniens !

    Trump’s peace deal could be a green light for Israel’s annexation plan - Israel News - Haaretz.com
    https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-trump-s-peace-deal-could-green-light-israel-s-annexation-plan-1.84
    https://www.haaretz.com/polopoly_fs/1.8407788.1579189453!/image/81447299.jpg_gen/derivatives/headline_1200x630/81447299.jpg

    U.S. President Donald Trump plans to publish his peace plan for Israel and the Palestinians by Tuesday and invite Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz to the White House. We may now, with hindsight, decode some of what transpired in the past week.
    It seems the prime minister and his Kahol Lavan rival both knew what Washington was cooking up. In Netanyahu’s case, this would be no surprise, given his close bond with Trump. But it’s clear Gantz was in the loop as well.

    This explains Netanyahu’s bid to outflank Gantz by again raising the proposal to annex the Jordan Valley. Kahol Lavan had to respond, but it seemed forced and awkward – Gantz’s party was ready for annexation if it was coordinated with the international community.

    https://seenthis.net/messages/822192 via Nouvelles d’Orient


  • Israeli director to helm new HBO-Keshet show about targeted assassinations - Israel News - Haaretz.com

    https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-israeli-director-to-helm-new-hbo-keshet-show-about-targeted-assass
    https://www.haaretz.com/polopoly_fs/1.8412263.1579440754!/image/3946395911.jpg_gen/derivatives/headline_1200x630/3946395911.jpg

    New York-based Israeli film director Yuval Adler will write and direct the first season of a new Israeli-American series based on the book Rise and Kill First, written by Ronen Bergman, industry publication Deadline reported over the weekend.
    Hijacking the Holocaust for Putin, politics and powerHaaretz Weekly Ep. 57

    The bestseller, which tells the history of targeted assassinations carried out by Israeli intelligence agencies, was optioned in 2018, a few months after publication, by the U.S. network HBO and Israel’s Keshet.

    The first season will focus on the joint CIA-Mossad operation to assassinate senior Hezbollah leader Imad Mughniyeh in 2008. The Lebanese-born military commander was assassinated at the age of 46 in a suburb of Damascus, when an explosive device attached to his car went off.

    https://seenthis.net/messages/821544 via Nouvelles d’Orient


  • Israel is rewriting the history of Middle Eastern Jews for propaganda - Israel News - Haaretz.com

    After decades of being virtually absent from historical discourse in Israel, its communities of Jews from Middle Eastern and North African lands are finally getting their due, albeit in a partial and revisionist way
    Lior Sternfeld and Menashe Anzi Dec. 1, 2019 | 11:22 AM | 1

    https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium.MAGAZINE-israel-is-rewriting-the-history-of-middle-eastern-jews-fo
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    Much has already been written about the apparent lack of interest in the rich culture and history of the Jewish communities of North Africa and the Middle East, not to mention the highly problematic nature of lumping together the histories and cultures of Jews of more than 20 different lands in a single simplistic narrative.

    The Jews in the Muslim world, so that narrative goes, lived humiliated lives as second-class dhimmis, just waiting for Zionist redemption. Once Israel was established, they immigrated there en masse – a story that also includes active deportation of Jews.

    This narrative is misleading in many ways. First, it ignores more than a thousand years of Jewish existence in the Muslim world, a reality that was neither good or bad exclusively, but one that included both aspects, and was characterized by complicated relationships with the majority population, with other minorities, and with the local and imperial political structures. This is the nature of all history.

    Second, the narrative denies the possibility that Middle Eastern Jewish communities were actually integral parts of their respective societies, and links the events and transformations those communities experienced to larger historical processes associated with Zionist history in Europe – rather than to developments that took place in the non-Western world.

    Third, this narrative subjugates the religious traditions of Middle Eastern Jews to the way Middle Eastern Jewry and Judaism was imagined by Israel society, while ignoring the immense variety of options that existed in that context as well, during the modern age: Orthodoxy next to local rabbinical traditions, communism with religious elements, Arab or Iranian or Turkish nationalism, and more.

    Can we talk about the immigration of Yemenite Jews the same way that we describe the experiences of the Jews of Morocco or Egypt? Is it accurate to say that Egyptian Jews were forcibly expelled for reasons of anti-Semitism while, in fact, their leaving was part of a much broader policy of the Egyptian government of deporting foreign nationals, and not Jews in particular? Can we ignore the role played by Israel in the deterioration of relations between the Jews and the governments of the region? Did Iraqi Jews leave in the exact same manner as the Jews of Lebanon? The way this story of expulsion on anti-Semitic grounds is being told today suggests a history that’s been unified and simplified.

    In 2014, the Knesset passed a bill making November 30 (the day after the anniversary of the United Nations vote on the partition of Palestine, in 1947) a Remembrance Day for the Departure and Expulsion of Jews from the Arab Countries and Iran. Despite the name, Jews were never expelled from Iran. How do we reconcile the fact that Iran, just like Morocco and Tunisia, for example, still has a small but vibrant Jewish community? And that in Iraq and Egypt, discussions about Jewish history have become part of a vast public national conversation on local culture? Is it correct to echo Francis Fukuyama and declare that Jewish history in the Middle East came to an end with the creation of Israel?

    https://seenthis.net/messages/813814 via Nouvelles d’Orient


  • ’Endless trip to hell’: Israel jails hundreds of Palestinian boys a year. These are their testimonies - Israel News - Haaretz.com

    They’re seized in the dead of night, blindfolded and cuffed, abused and manipulated to confess to crimes they didn’t commit. Every year Israel arrests almost 1,000 Palestinian youngsters, some of them not yet 13
    By Netta Ahituv Mar 16, 2019

    https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium.MAGAZINE-israel-jails-hundreds-of-palestinian-boys-a-year-1.702197
    https://www.haaretz.com/polopoly_fs/1.7021974.1552596713!/image/1702934980.jpg_gen/derivatives/headline_1200x630/1702934980.jpg

    It was a gloomy, typically chilly late-February afternoon in the West Bank village of Beit Ummar, between Bethlehem and Hebron. The weather didn’t deter the children of the Abu-Ayyash family from playing and frolicking outside. One of them, in a Spiderman costume, acted the part by jumping lithely from place to place. Suddenly they noticed a group of Israeli soldiers trudging along the dirt trail across the way. Instantly their expressions turned from joy to dread, and they rushed into the house. It’s not the first time they reacted like that, says their father. In fact, it’s become a pattern ever since 10-year-old Omar was arrested by troops this past December.

    The 10-year-old is one of many hundreds of Palestinian children whom Israel arrests every year: The estimates range between 800 and 1,000. Some are under the age of 15; some are even preteens. A mapping of the locales where these detentions take place reveals a certain pattern: The closer a Palestinian village is to a settlement, the more likely it is that the minors residing there will find themselves in Israeli custody. For example, in the town of Azzun, west of the Karnei Shomron settlement, there’s hardly a household that hasn’t experienced an arrest. Residents say that in the past five years, more than 150 pupils from the town’s only high school have been arrested.

    At any given moment, there are about 270 Palestinian teens in Israeli prisons. The most widespread reason for their arrest – throwing stones – does not tell the full story. Conversations with many of the youths, as well as with lawyers and human rights activists, including those from the B’Tselem human-rights organization, reveal a certain pattern, even as they leave many questions open: For example, why does the occupation require that arrests be violent and why is it necessary to threaten young people.

    A number of Israelis, whose sensibilities are offended by the arrests of Palestinian children, have decided to mobilize and fight the phenomenon. Within the framework of an organization called Parents Against Child Detention, its approximately 100 members are active in the social networks and hold public events “in order to heighten awareness about the scale of the phenomenon and the violation of the rights of Palestinian minors, and in order to create a pressure group that will work for its cessation,” as they explain. Their target audience is other parents, whom they hope will respond with empathy to the stories of these children.
    Haaretz Weekly, Episode 19Haaretz

    In general, there seems to be no lack of criticism of the phenomenon. In addition to B’Tselem, which monitors the subject on a regular basis, there’s been a protest from overseas, too. In 2013, UNICEF, the United Nations agency for children, assailed “the ill treatment of children who come in contact with the military detention system, [which] appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalized.” A report a year earlier from British legal experts concluded that the conditions the Palestinian children are subjected to amount to torture, and just five months ago the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe deplored Israel’s policy of arresting underage children, declaring, “An end must be put to all forms of physical or psychological abuse of children during arrest, transit and waiting periods, and during interrogations.”

    https://seenthis.net/messages/811982 via Nouvelles d’Orient


  • Facebook Sues Israel’s NSO Group Over Alleged WhatsApp Hack
    https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/facebook-sues-israel-s-nso-group-over-alleged-whatsapp-hack-1.8055832

    Facebook is seeking to have NSO barred from accessing or attempting to access WhatsApp and Facebook’s services after hacking spree that targeted journalists, diplomats, activists and others Facebook Inc. on Tuesday sued Israeli cyber surveillance firm NSO Group, alleging it hacked users of messaging platform WhatsApp earlier this year. The hacking spree targeted journalists, diplomats, human rights activists, senior government officials and others, Facebook said in its lawsuit, filed in (...)

    #NSO #WhatsApp #Facebook #Pegasus #smartphone #spyware #écoutes #hacking #surveillance #activisme #journalisme (...)

    ##AmnestyInternational
    https://www.haaretz.com/polopoly_fs/1.8055849.1572378046!/image/2772380254.jpg_gen/derivatives/headline_1200x630/2772380254.jpg

    https://seenthis.net/messages/808537 via etraces


  • Israel is turning an ancient Palestinian village into a national park for settlers
    Gideon Levy and Alex Levac Oct 24, 2019 6:33 PM - Haaretz.com
    https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-israel-is-turning-an-ancient-palestinian-village-into-a-national-p
    https://www.haaretz.com/polopoly_fs/1.8024405.1571931644!/image/843633295.jpg_gen/derivatives/headline_1200x630/843633295.jpg

    The unbelievable story of a village outside Jerusalem: from its destruction in 1948 to the ticket issued last week by a parks ranger to a descendent of its refugees, who had the gall to harvest the fruits of his labor on his own land

    Thus read the ticket issued last Wednesday, during the Sukkot holiday, by ranger Dayan Somekh of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority – Investigations Division, 3 Am Ve’olamo Street, Jerusalem, to farmer Nidal Abed Rabo, a resident of the Jerusalem-area village of Walaja, who had gone to harvest olives on his private land: “In accordance with Section 228 of the criminal code, to: Nidal Abed Rabo. Description of the facts constituting the offense: ‘picking, chopping and destroying an olive tree.’ Suspect’s response: ‘I just came to pick olives. I pick them and put them in a bucket.’ Fine prescribed by law: 730 shekels [$207].” And an accompanying document that reads: “I hereby confirm that I apprehended from Nidal Abed Rabo the following things: 1. A black bucket; 2. A burlap sack. Name of the apprehending officer: Dayan Somekh.”

    Ostensibly, an amusing parody about the occupation. An inspector fines a person for harvesting the fruits of his own labor on his own private land and then fills out a report about confiscating a bucket, because order must be preserved, after all. But no one actually found this report amusing – not the inspector who apparently wrote it in utter seriousness, nor the farmer who must now pay the fine.

    Indeed, the story of Walaja, where this absurdity took place, contains everything – except humor: the flight from and evacuation of the village in 1948; refugee-hood and the establishment of a new village adjacent to the original one; the bisection of the village between annexed Jerusalem and the occupied territories in 1967; the authorities’ refusal to issue blue Israeli IDs to residents, even though their homes are in Jerusalem; the demolition of many structures built without a permit in a locale that has no master construction plan; the appropriation of much of its land to build the Gilo neighborhood and the Har Gilo settlement; the construction of the separation barrier that turned the village into an enclave enclosed on all sides; the decision to turn villagers’ remaining lands into a national park for the benefit of Gilo’s residents and others in the area; and all the way to the ridiculous fine issued by Inspector Somekh.

    This week, a number of villagers again snuck onto their lands to try to pick their olives, in what looks like it could be their final harvest. As it was a holiday, they hoped the Border Police and the parks authority inspectors would leave them alone. By next year, they probably won’t be able to reach their groves at all, as the checkpoint will have been moved even closer to their property.

    Then there was also this incident, on Monday, the Jewish holiday of Simhat Torah. Three adults, a teenager and a horse arrived at the neglected groves on the mountainside below their village of Walaja. They had to take a long and circuitous route; they say the horse walked 25 kilometers to reach the olive trees that are right under their noses, beneath their homes. A dense barbed-wire fence and the separation barrier stand between these people and their lands. When the national park is built here and the checkpoint is moved further south – so that only Jews will be able to dip undisturbed in Ein Hanya, as Nir Hasson reported (“Jerusalem reopens natural spring, but not to Palestinians,” Oct. 15) – it will mean the end of Walaja’s olive orchards, which are planted on terraced land.

    The remaining 1,200 dunams (300 acres) belonging to the village, after most of its property was lost over the years, will also be disconnected from their owners, who probably won’t be able to access them again. An ancient Palestinian village, which numbered 100 registered households in 1596, in a spectacular part of the country, will continue its slow death, until it finally expires for good.

    Steep slopes and a deep green valley lie between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, filled with oak and pine trees, along with largely abandoned olive groves. “New” Walaja overlooks this expanse from the south, the Gilo neighborhood from the northeast, and the Cremisan Monastery from the east. To the west is where the original village was situated, between the moshavim of Aminadav and Ora, both constructed after the villagers fled – frightened off by the massacre in nearby Deir Yassin and in fear of bombardment.

    Aviv Tatarsky, a longtime political activist on behalf of Walaja and a researcher for the Ir Amim nonprofit organization, says the designated national park is supposed to ensure territorial contiguity between the Etzion Bloc and Jerusalem. “Since we are in the territory of Jerusalem, and building another settler neighborhood could cause a stir, they are building a national park, which will serve the same purpose,” he says. “The national park will Judaize the area once and for all. Gilo is five minutes away. If you live there, you will have a park right next door and feel like it’s yours.”

    As Tatarsky describes the blows suffered by the village over the years, brothers Walid and Mohammed al-‘Araj stand on a ladder below in the valley, in the shade of the olive trees, engrossed in the harvest.

    Walid, 52, and Mohammed, 58, both live in Walaja. Walid may be there legally, but his brother is there illegally, on land bequeathed to them by their uncle – thanks to yet another absurdity courtesy of the occupation. In 1995, Walid married a woman from Shoafat in East Jerusalem, and thus was able to obtain a blue Israeli ID card, so perhaps he is entitled to be on his land. His brother, who lives next door, however, is an illegal resident on his land: He has an orange ID, as a resident of the territories.

    A sewage line that comes out of Beit Jala and is under the responsibility of Jerusalem’s Gihon water company overflows every winter and floods the men’s olive grove with industrial waste that has seriously damaged their crop. And that’s in addition, of course, to the fact that most of the family is unable to go work the land. The whole area looks quite derelict, overgrown with weeds and brambles that could easily catch fire. In previous years, the farmers would receive an entry permit allowing them to harvest the olives for a period of just a few days; this year, even that permit has not yet been forthcoming.

    The olives are black and small; it’s been a bad year for them and for their owners.

    “We come here like thieves to our own land,” says Mohammed, the older brother, explaining that three days beforehand, a Border Police jeep had showed up and chased them away. “I told him: It’s my land. They said okay and left. Then a few minutes later, another Border Police jeep came and the officer said: Today there’s a general closure because of the holiday. I told him: Okay, just let me take my equipment. I’m on my land. He said: Don’t take anything. I left. And today I came back.”

    You’re not afraid? “No, I’m not afraid. I’m on my land. It’s registered in my name. I can’t be afraid on my land.”

    Walid says that a month ago the Border Police arrived and told him he wasn’t allowed to drive on the road that leads to the grove, because it’s a “security road.” He was forced to turn around and go home, despite the fact that he has a blue ID and it is not a security road. Right next to it, there is a residential building where a Palestinian family still lives.

    Some of Walaja’s residents gave up on their olive orchards long ago and no longer attempt to reach their lands. When the checkpoint is moved southward, in order to block access by Palestinians to the Ein Hanya spring, the situation will be even worse: The checkpoint will be closer to the orchards, meaning that the Palestinians won’t be permitted to visit them.

    “This place will be a park for people to visit,” says Walid, up on his ladder. “That’s it; that will be the end of our land. But we won’t give up our land, no matter what.” Earlier this month, one local farmer was detained for several hours and 10 olive trees were uprooted, on the grounds that he was prohibited from being here.

    Meanwhile, Walid and Mohammed are collecting their meager crop in a plastic bucket printed with a Hebrew ad for a paint company. The olives from this area, near Beit Jala, are highly prized; during a good year the oil made from them can fetch a price of 100 shekels per liter.

    A few hundred meters to the east are a father, a son and a horse. Khaled al-‘Araj, 51, and his son, Abed, 19, a business student. They too are taking advantage of the Jewish holiday to sneak onto their land. They have another horse, an original Arabian named Fatma, but this horse is nameless. It stands in the shade of the olive tree, resting from the long trek here. If a Border Police force shows up, it could confiscate the horse, as has happened to them before.

    Father and son are both Walaja residents, but do not have blue IDs. The father works in Jerusalem with a permit, but it does not allow him to access his land.

    “On Sunday,” says Khaled, “I picked olives here with my son. A Border Police officer arrived and asked: What are you doing here? He took pictures of our IDs. He asked: Whose land is this? I said: Mine. Where are the papers? At home. I have papers from my grandfather’s time; everything is in order. But he said: No, go to DCO [the Israeli District Coordination Office] and get a permit. At first I didn’t know what he meant. I have a son and a horse and they’ll make problems for me. So I left.”

    He continues: “We used to plow the land. Now look at the state it’s in. We have apricot and almond trees here, too. But I’m an illegal person on my own land. That is our situation. Today is the last day of your holiday, that’s why I came here. Maybe there won’t be any Border Police.”

    “Kumi Ori, ki ba orekh,” says a makeshift monument in memory of Ori Ansbacher, a young woman murdered here in February by a man from Hebron. Qasem Abed Rabo, a brother of Nidal, who received the fine from the park ranger for harvesting his olives, asks activist Tatarsky if he can find out whether the house he owns is considered to be located in Jerusalem or in the territories. He still doesn’t know.

    “Welcome to Nahal Refaim National Park,” says a sign next to the current Walaja checkpoint. Its successor is already being built but work on it was stopped for unknown reasons. If and when it is completed, Ein Hanya will become a spring for Jews only and the groves on the mountainside below the village of Walaja will be cut off from their owners for good. Making this year’s harvest Walaja’s last.

    https://seenthis.net/messages/807722 via Loutre


  • An anti-Zionist movement that promoted Judaism as a secular culture shuts its doors - Israel News - Haaretz.com

    They believed in a just society and wanted to teach Palestinians Yiddish. The Bund’s center in Israel closes, marking the end of a movement that offered a radical alternative to mainstream Zionism
    By Shany Littman Sep 19, 2019

    https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium.MAGAZINE-an-anti-zionist-movement-that-promoted-judaism-as-a-secul
    https://www.haaretz.com/polopoly_fs/1.7865753.1569196482!/image/2948405108.jpg_gen/derivatives/headline_1200x630/2948405108.jpg

    The first thing that a clearly agitated Eran Torbiner did, when we met to talk about the Bund movement, was to hand me a poster he’d removed from the door of Beit Brit Ha’avodah in central Tel Aviv, until recently the home of the Workmen’s Circle movement’s Israel branch. Torbiner had passed by there in the morning, as he does occasionally, still trying to come to terms with the fact that the place where he spent so many hours with his beloved friends, who themselves are now no longer alive, and where he shot his documentary film “Bunda’im” (Bundists) – had shut its doors for good.

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    The poster is an announcement for a workshop on the subject of Yiddish art songs, which was, as it happens, was to be held at Tzavta, a Tel Aviv culture venue. What infuriated Torbiner was the illustration on the poster: a map of the Land of Israel with a Star of David flag, situated in the center of a map of the world, with arrows leading to it from far and wide. The caption, in Yiddish: “Wohin? Aheim!” – “Where to? Home!”

    “It’s a desecration of the Bund’s name,” he fumes. “If any of them had seen this on the door, they would have died again.” For Torbiner, almost every element of the poster is wrongheaded. To begin with, the depiction of “Greater Israel,” which is marked as the only home for the Jews, and for the Jews alone. “The people in the Bund always talked about the injustice done to the Palestinians,” he explains. “It was a deep and thoroughgoing socialist, radical, secular, left-wing movement.” Moreover, the idea that Jews from around the world should come to Israel conflicts with the Bundist conception of doikayt, or “hereness,” by which every Jew should be capable of maintaining his culture in the country he lives in, with no advantage to Israel. As for the semi-official National Authority for Yiddish Culture, whose logo is at the top of the poster, some of its officials don’t even speak Yiddish, Torbiner says, and that, too, is a desecration.

    But the unkindest cut of all for Torbiner in the poster is the logo of Beit Shalom Aleichem (Shalom Aleichem House), the organization to which the Bundists transferred ownership of their two floors in a building on Kalischer Street, in the Nahalat Binyamin neighborhood, and which decided to shut it down a few months ago. The books from the rich Yiddish library housed there for 60 years were moved to Shalom Aleichem House, on Berkowitz Street, and the Workman’s Circle activities – biweekly meetings, lectures, a choir and more – were discontinued.

    Things could have been done completely differently, says Torbiner says, even though the last of the Bundists in Israel, journalist Itzhak Luden, died two years ago, at age 95.

    https://seenthis.net/messages/803114 via Nouvelles d’Orient


  • Israel’s war of attrition on a Christian Palestinian town

    Amira Hass | Sep 21, 2019 8:09 PM Haaretz.com
    https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-israel-s-war-of-attrition-on-a-christian-palestinian-town-1.784378
    https://www.haaretz.com/polopoly_fs/1.7845463.1568623889!/image/1630556940.jpg_gen/derivatives/headline_1200x630/1630556940.jpg An Israeli machinery demolishes a Palestinian building housing an apartment and a restaurant in Beit Jala in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on August 26, 2019.\ MUSSA ISSA QAWASMA/ REUTERS

    An Israeli outpost has been established in the middle of a World Heritage site, igniting mutual suspicions among the local people. Small wonder a recent protest did so poorly

    Around 50 people came out to demonstrate a week ago Sunday against the new Israeli outpost on the lands of Beit Jala, a Palestinian Christian town in the Bethlehem Governorate of the West Bank. The outpost is being built a few meters above the site where Israel’s High Court of Justice recently approved the razing of the Qassiyeh family’s restaurant and house.

    The low number of protesters, one of them said, may indicate that the town’s people deem the protest a lost cause: They assume they can’t prevent the destruction of their gem of a landscape in the Al-Makhrour valley, virtually their only refuge from the claustrophobic urban enclave of the Bethlehem area.

    Another possible reason for the low attendance is that more efforts have been invested lately in the attempts to solve the unreported crisis that followed the demolition. This has brought to the surface suspicion and hostility between Muslims and Christians, between original residents and refugees and between residents and the Palestinian Authority. It includes masked men, pepper spray, arson and talk about a “land-buyers’ mafia.” The crisis has revealed an exhausted community keeling under Israel’s looming construction plans.

    In June, when settlers first came to level a plot at the top of a green hill and fence it in, Beit Jalans were astonished to find that one of their own may have sold a Jew seven plots of land in the region about 50 years ago. The seller has long since left the country. His family – undoubtedly patriotic – is shocked by the discovery or the suspicion. After all, when a Jew buys land in the heart of the West Bank, Israel makes sure to make it, sooner or later, a de facto sovereign extension, a springboard to broaden Israeli control in the ever dwindling Palestinian space.

    https://images.haarets.co.il/image/upload/w_640,q_auto,c_fill,f_auto/fl_any_format.preserve_transparency.progressive:none/v1568621327/1.7845501.1499769609.jpg The new settlement outpost in Beit Jala, this week. Credit Olivier Fitoussi

    At some stage, the Jew who apparently bought the plots sold them to the Jewish National Fund and they were registered as belonging to Himenuta, the JNF subsidiary running the fund’s land. The cautious words “may” and “apparently” are needed here, because land purchases by Jews in the West Bank are not an innocent act, and quite a few forgeries have been discovered over the years. By the time matters are sorted out in Israeli courts, the outpost can turn into a prosperous Jewish neighborhood.

    One could legitimately wonder why the JNF remembered only now to claim the land. When did it buy the land? Was it bought by a front pretending to be a private citizen? All this remains unclear.

    The religious demon

    Some say it was discovered in 2017, or at least suspected, that land had been sold to a Jew. The Qassiyeh family, which has been cultivating one of the seven plots for decades, was waging a legal battle against the Civil Administration’s demolition orders for the restaurant and house. Suddenly, in 2017, Himenuta entered the picture, claiming that the land belongs to it. It’s hard to obtain accurate, full details from everyone involved. But apparently the scope of Himenuta’s claims in the Al-Makhrour valley wasn’t yet clear three years ago.

    On August 26, the Civil Administration razed the restaurant for the third time, as well as the house built by the Qassiyeh family. In his grief, Ramzy Qassiyeh, the head of the family, held a large wooden cross with the Virgin Mary’s picture at the top while the bulldozers demolished the structures. He said in a video that neither the Muslims nor the Jews would drive them away.

    https://images.haarets.co.il/image/upload/w_640,q_auto,c_fill,f_auto/fl_any_format.preserve_transparency.progressive:none/v1568621418/1.7845508.2742464051.jpg Ramzy Qassiyeh holds a large wooden cross with the Virgin Mary’s picture at the top in a protest against the demolition by Israeli forces of his family’s restaurant and house, on August 26, 2019. AFP

    By “Muslims” one may assume he meant the PA and senior Fatah officials, especially some born in the area’s refugee camps. The video went viral and the anger spread accordingly. Old tensions between the refugees and native Beit Jalans flared up again.

    Then came an apology. But a few days later a pickup truck containing masked, probably armed, people came to the Qassiyeh’s plot, where they insist on staying, despite the demolition. They say the masked men wanted to kill Ramzy and maybe his son. Whether the men really wanted to kill him, they sprayed the family with pepper spray and disappeared after an Israeli army unit showed up. Who called the unit remains unclear.

    At the same time, up the path, Israeli earth-moving equipment was preparing the undisturbed ground in a second plot for the new outpost. Palestinian news sites reported the appearance of the new outpost, but not the attack by the people in the pickup truck. The news of the attack spread gradually.

    “People are angry at the video and the talk against Muslims,” a resident of the Deheisheh refugee camp said. “Whatever the reason, it’s not done,” a Muslim resident of Beit Jala said.

    People in Beit Jala say that some parts of Al-Makhrour are owned by people from out of town; that is, Muslims, mainly from refugee camps. But who said refugees may not buy land and cultivate it? So many Beit Jala residents have left the country, why shouldn’t others look after the land and trees? The problem is that some sales weren’t kosher, apparently. Local residents of Beit Jala indeed say that a “mafia” of people – both Muslim and Christian – with social and political power is involved in the transactions.

    https://images.haarets.co.il/image/upload/w_640,q_auto,c_fill,f_auto/fl_any_format.preserve_transparency.progressive:none/v1568620437/1.7845442.3584747817.jpg A Palestinian woman argues with an Israeli border policewoman over the Israeli demolition of a building, in Beit Jala in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, August 26, 2019.\ MUSSA ISSA QAWASMA/ REUTERS

    The PA has an orderly land registry to expose forgeries. At least in one case, I was told, a forgery was found, but it did no good – the people holding the land didn’t leave. This may partially explain the Qassiyeh’s complaints.

    In the plot near the Qassiyeh and the new outpost a small stone structure was set on fire at the beginning of last week. The plot’s owner is a resident of a refugee camp. Who wanted to set it on fire? Who was capable of it? The mutual suspicions inflamed the tensions.

    All this happened just when the Palestinian government announced that the local councils would start to expand their master plans without taking into consideration whether the land in question was in area A, B or C. But the events in Al-Makhrour show that Beit Jala, like any other Palestinian village or town, have no control over the land that Israel classifies as in Area C; Israel does whatever it likes there.

    The PA has so little control that the Qassiyehs hired their own attorneys and are replacing them one after the other as if the land problem were the family’s private business rather than a national Palestinian issue that should be handled by PA lawyers.

    In 2001, at the beginning of the second intifada, when Palestinian gunmen shot at Gilo in Jerusalem, the army shelled and destroyed the Qassiyehs’ house in Beit Jala. The PA partially compensated the family for the damage and the Qassiyeh brothers built a new home there.

    https://images.haarets.co.il/image/upload/w_640,q_auto,c_fill,f_auto/fl_any_format.preserve_transparency.progressive:none/v1568621744/1.7845527.1358840081.jpg The entrance to the new settlement outpost in Beit Jala, September 2019. Credit : Olivier Fitoussi

    Ramzy Qassiyeh has West Bank residency status. His wife Michelle and their children are Israeli citizens with voting rights. Michelle was born in Jerusalem to a refugee mother from the village of Ein Karem who as a child lived in a Jerusalem monastery, and to a French father from Lebanon. A few years ago, her mother moved to live near her daughter in Beit Jala and has Alzheimer’s disease, Michelle Qassiyeh says.

    “When we bring her here, to Al-Makhrour, she thinks she’s in Ein Karem and asks to go to her home there,” Michelle says.

    Ancient terraces and much more

    Al-Makhrour is a farming area of some 3,000 dunams (740 acres), characterized by ancient terraces, olive groves, vineyards, fruit trees, archaeological sites and a traditional irrigation system. It boasts ancient agricultural stone structures, clear air and “the best olive oil in Palestine.”

    In 2014 the region was declared a World Heritage site. “Palestine, land of Olives and Vines – Cultural Landscape of Southern Jerusalem, Battir,” the UNESCO document says. The declaration was seen as a Palestinian

    achievement in the efforts to prevent the construction of the separation barrier, which threatened to destroy the terraces and landscape.

    https://images.haarets.co.il/image/upload/w_640,q_auto,c_fill,f_auto/fl_any_format.preserve_transparency.progressive:none/v1568620229/1.7845440.714230412.jpg A demonstrator holding a Palestinian flag gestures in front of Israeli forces during a protest against Jewish settlements near Beit Jala in the Israeli-occupied West Bank September 8, 2019.\ MUSSA ISSA QAWASMA/ REUTERS

    The Al-Makhrour area connects al-Khader, Beit Jala, Husan, Battir and al-Walajeh, most of whose farming lands were torn from it for the settlement of Har Gilo, the separation barrier and the road along it, and a park for Israelis only. The new Route 60 that bypasses Bethlehem, and the tunnels built in the ‘90s obstruct the landscape’s agricultural and historical continuity.

    Recently Israel expropriated more land from Al-Makhrour and Beit Jala in order to widen the road bypassing Bethlehem and the tunnels, which Palestinians are forbidden to travel on. These are meant to shorten the travel time between the Gush Etzion settlement bloc and Jerusalem.

    This is why an agricultural outpost on top of one of Al-Makhrour’s hills is so threatening. On September 5, two Israeli youths with long side curls asked a French journalist and myself to leave the plot. An adult who joined them also asked us to leave, but was ready to talk outside the gate.

    “Three people are here permanently, with a few volunteers,” he said, while his silent wife looked at us from a distance. He said he was from the settlement of Elon Moreh and had leased the land from Himenuta. “I went to the JNF and looked for land,” he said. “They showed me a few places and this is the one I chose.” (Haaretz’s Yotam Berger has reported that the settlement of Neveh Daniel is behind the lease.)

    He said the demolition below had nothing to do with it. “My relations with the neighbors are good. Others, not from here, uprooted the olive trees we planted three months ago.”

    But he added, “We’ll be here for the next 50 years.” Why 50 and not 100? I asked, and he replied: “Because the lease is for 50 years.”

    #colonialisme_de_peuplement
    #Beit_Jala

    https://seenthis.net/messages/802971 via Loutre


  • The religious activists waging a ‘holy war’ against Israel’s arms exports - Israel News
    The country’s sale of weaponry to murderous regimes goes against all Jewish religious teachings, charge members of No 2 Arms — and they are fighting back
    Patty Nieberg

    https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-the-religious-activists-waging-a-holy-war-against-israel-s-arms-ex
    https://www.haaretz.com/polopoly_fs/1.7832008.1568210371!/image/155412042.jpg_gen/derivatives/headline_1200x630/155412042.jpg

    The 40-year-old woman heckling former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon is probably the least likely advocate you could imagine calling for restrictions on Israel’s arms sales to morally questionable regimes like Myanmar.

    Esther Merchavy, an Orthodox mother of six, is not subtle as she wages her war on Israel’s arms industry. Looking Ya’alon dead in the eye, at a public event in Tel Aviv last month, she defiantly asks him: “Why does Israel send arms to a country known for its human rights abuses against the Rohingya minority?”

    Ya’alon ignores her question and the roving microphone is soon wrested away from her. But that proves no deterrent to Merchavy, who continues to fire off questions, yelling over the crowd. Event coordinators scold her for promoting her own platform, while others in the audience shout “You made your point!”

    Someone calls Merchavy selfish, to which she responds: “I’m not selfish — the people in Myanmar are more important than him,” referring to the Kahol Lavan Knesset candidate and former Israel Defense Forces chief of staff on stage.

    For the modestly dressed activist, part of the reason this issue is so vexing is that it violates her Jewish beliefs. According to Merchavy, Israel’s arms sales to murderous regimes falls under the halakhic principle of pikuach nefesh: The duty to save human life, which overrides almost all other obligations in Jewish religious law.

    “For me, there is no Torah at all and no believing in God at all — this is worthless if you’re doing such a crime,” she tells Haaretz at the event. “It’s not only for the children who are getting killed in South Sudan, Myanmar, Cameroon, Burundi, Congo and the Philippines. It’s pikuach nefesh for us, because we are killing our souls.”

    Merchavy is a member of No 2 Arms, an activist group that wants increased regulation over Israeli arms sales in order to prevent trade that it believes perpetuates war crimes and violates human rights. Formed in 2017, the group is comprised of about 20 activists from across the political spectrum.
    A representative of Myanmar’s military at the Israel Defense and Homeland Security Expo in Tel Aviv, June 4, 2019.
    A representative of Myanmar’s military at the Israel Defense and Homeland Security Expo in Tel Aviv, June 4, 2019.\ Moti Milrod

    Its founder is Eli Yosef, a religiously observant settler from Ma’aleh Adumim. Yosef began his own protests in January 2015 with the goal of combating an industry that totaled some $9.2 billion in export sales in 2017, according to Defense Ministry figures.

    Although the group is small in number, it has made its presence known in recent years — for example, by interrupting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech at the annual Bible quiz last year, regular demonstrations outside the Knesset and countless interruptions of events attended by politicians.

    Merchavy recounts how she was removed from a different event this month after confronting former Education Minister Naftali Bennett, Habayit Hayehudi Chairman Rafi Peretz and Yamina leader Ayelet Shaked. After she was asked to leave the premises, Merchavy quickly went to a nearby shop, bought a T-shirt and removed her head scarf, in order to reenter and resume her protest. She was then removed for a second time.

    One politician who has become a major target for the group is Ehud Barak, who has faced allegations — which he has consistently and strongly denied — that he took millions in bribes from arms dealers while serving as the Israeli defense minister earlier this decade.

    The activists point to their success in persuading former Likud lawmaker Yehudah Glick and Meretz MK (and former leader) Tamar Zandberg to raise the matter in the Knesset in 2016. They also boast of getting rabbis from the religious Zionist Tzohar organization and Beit Hillel — which envisions an Israel governed by Jewish religious law — to support their cause.

    Their next goal is to organize a large demonstration on the first day of the new Knesset following next week’s election — which No 2 Arms’ leader, a former member of the religious Zionist Habayit Hayehudi party, says he will not be participating in.

    “I personally am right-wing, but I will not vote in this election for nobody [sic], because there’s not one single political party that’s prepared to give me the feeling that I’m a human being,” he says.

    https://seenthis.net/messages/801618 via Nouvelles d’Orient


  • Israel demolishes 70 homes in Palestinian-controlled East Jerusalem neighborhood Haaretz.com
    Un pas supplémentaire dans la politique coloniale israélienne

    Forces deploy at dawn days after top court approves order to evict Wadi Hummus residents, in a move activists are concerned sets a precedent to affect thousands
    Amira Hass and Jack Khoury Jul 22, 2019

    https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-israel-begins-demolition-of-homes-in-palestinian-controlled-east-j
    https://www.haaretz.com/polopoly_fs/1.7547685.1563782108!/image/990547188.jpg_gen/derivatives/headline_1200x630/990547188.jpg

    Israeli forces began Monday demolishing buildings in an East Jerusalem neighborhood under the control of the Palestinian Authority, following a legal challenge to the Defense Ministry-issued order to evacuate apartments deemed too close to the West Bank separation barrier, which runs through the city.

    Israeli and international activists said Israeli forces deployed in the neighborhood at dawn, evacuating one family from one of the buildings, as well as activists who protested the move.

    Two hours prior to the demolition, activists say they saw Israel Defense Forces’ soldiers placing explosives in an eight-stories building set for demolition. Later, the forces removed furniture and vehicles that were parked next to the buildings.

    >> Once again, Israel’s courts collaborate with government anti-Arab housing policy | Analysis

    Aviv Tatarsky, a researcher for the left-wing Ir Amim organization, blasted the move, saying: "In the name of the demographic war waged against East Jerusalem residents, the State of Israel is withholding approval of construction plans allowing those residents to legally build within the city.

    “Residents who didn’t want to build without a permit, sought a creative solution and were granted construction permits from the Palestinian Authority to build in areas and A and B where Israel doesn’t have any authority concerning construction plans. The Israeli insistence to prevent this solution is a very cruel act,” Tatarsky added.

    “I built this house stone by stone. It was my dream to live in this house. Now I am losing everything,” said Fadi al-Wahash, 37, his voice breaking as a bulldozer destroyed his unfinished three-floor house.
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    “I had a permit to build from the Palestinian Authority. I thought I was doing the right thing,” he said.
    Palestinian family evacuated from its home in Wadi Hummus neighborhood, East Jerusalem, July 22, 201

    Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said 700 police and 200 soldiers were involved.

    “Despite an order from the military commander, the residents there are making their own law, building. There are hundreds of illegal structures,” he told Israel’s Army Radio.

    “To my regret there is no sufficient governance there. But it is not just that there are hundreds of structures there — several dozens of them sit almost on the route of the separation fence, endangering the security forces that operate there.”

    Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said the Palestinians would complain to the International Criminal Court about the demolitions in Sur Baher.

    “The cabinet condemns this grave aggression. This is a continuation of the forced displacement of the people of Jerusalem from their homes and lands — a war crime and a crime against humanity,” Shtayyeh said.
    Israeli security forces prepare to demolish homes in East Jerusalem, July 22, 2019.
    Israeli security forces prepare to demolish homes in East Jerusalem, July 22, 2019. AFP

    The United Nations and France also issued condemnations of the demolition.

    In June, Israel’s High Court of Justice has ruled in favor of the demolition of 13 large buildings in the Wadi Hummus neighborhood, located on the outskirts of Jerusalem.

    It is on the edge of the Palestinian village of Sur Baher, in southeast Jerusalem. Unlike the rest of the village, this neighborhood lies beyond the city’s municipal boundaries, in the West Bank. Most of the area it occupies is designated as part of Area A – i.e., under the control of the Palestinian Authority.

    Sur Baher residents say Wadi Hummus is the only area that remains for future expansion of the village, which is surrounded by the fence and Jewish neighborhoods.

    The Defense Ministry instructed to demolish some 70 apartments, citing concerns over their proximity to the separation fence, which it said made them a security threat. Two out of the 13 buildings set for demolition are populated with some 17 residents.
    Israel prepares to demolish homes in East Jerusalem neighborhood of Wadi Hummus, July 22, 2019.
    Israel prepares to demolish homes in East Jerusalem neighborhood of Wadi Hummus, July 22, 2019. AFP

    Jamie McGoldrick, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator, and other UN officials called on the Israeli authorities last week to halt the demolition plans. The European Union issued a statement saying: “The continuation of this policy undermines the viability of the two-state solution and the prospect for a lasting peace.”

    On Sunday, the court rejected a petition to postpone the demolition, which Palestinian activsts are concerned sets a precedent that will enable the demolition of thousands of buildings across the West Bank, effectively annulling the legal protection residents of other PA-controlled areas have.

    “Some families put everything they have to put a roof over their heads, and it’s all being ruined in front of their eyes in this despicable crime committed by Israel,” community organizer Hamada Hamada told Haaretz.

    “Large forces entered after 2 A.M. to the neighborhood, preventing any access to the homes and forcefully removing the residents as well as dozens of activists who were present at the scene, evacuating them while women and children were heard screaming in the background,” Hamada added.

    Palestinian officials say some of the threatened structures lie within areas that they should control. The Palestine Liberation Organization issued a statement accusing the Israeli court of aiming “to set a precedent to enable the Israeli occupying forces to demolish numerous Palestinian buildings located in close proximity” to the barrier.

    The office of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas released a statement saying that "Israel bears the full responsibility for the dangerous escalation in Sur Baher, which is part of the implementation of the “deal of the century” whose goal is to bury the Palestinian issue."

    According to the statement, Abbas has approached international and Arab officials in order to halt the demolitions.

    Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat said “We will not renounce our lands, and everything that was demolished will be rebuilt.”

    “The demolition is an implementation of the Bahrain conference and we have thousands of documents and petitions filed to the International Court of Justice in The Hague against Israel,” he said in reference to the economic peace conference in Bahrain sponsored by the United States that took place in June.

    Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said “The demolition of buildings in Sur Baher by the authorities of the occupation is a despicable crime, which is a direct result of the Bahrain Conference and the warm relationship between Israel and some Arab nations.”

    The Israeli military had no immediate comment on Monday, but a statement last week by Israel’s military-run civil administration in the West Bank said enforcement would be pursuant to “operational considerations” and “state policy.”

    The International Court of Justice in The Hague issued an advisory opinion in 2004 that building the barrier on occupied territory was “contrary to international law.”

    Israel dismissed the non-binding decision as politically motivated and says the barrier played a key role in drastically reducing the number of attacks, which peaked in 2002 and 2003 during the Second Palestinian uprising known as the Al-Aqsa Intifada.

    The West Bank separation barrier, which was being built since 2003, was intended to pass through Sur Baher, but its route was changed due to residents’ campaign.Thus Wadi Hummus ended up on the Israeli side of the barrier, although legally it part of the West Bank and under the PA’s authority.

    Many buildings were erected in the neighborhood over the last decade or so, most occupied by young couples and families from the village. The buildings set for demolition have some 100 apartments, 20 of which are tenanted and the rest are under construction.

    Building permits for the construction were issued by the PA’s planning ministry. However, seven years ago, the Israel Defense Forces Central Command issued an injunction banning construction of buildings within 250 meters of the separation barrier.

    Locals say the order was not publicized and they had no knowledge of it, and that in any case, it is the PA that has planning authorization in the area.

    Reuters contributed to this article.
    Amira Hass

    Amira Hass

    Haaretz Correspondent

    https://seenthis.net/messages/793957 via Nouvelles d’Orient


  • No Palestinians, no Israelis, maybe even no journalists: What’s left of Kushner’s Bahrain summit - Israel News - Haaretz.com

    The White House’s initial sense of euphoria about Arab participation at its economic workshop on June 25 has eroded, much to the (unspoken) relief of Jerusalem
    Amir Tibon and Noa Landau (Washington) Jun 18, 2019

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    WASHINGTON - With just a week to go before the Bahrain conference convenes to discuss the economic chapter of the Trump administration’s Middle East peace plan, things are looking increasingly gloomy for the U.S. team led by Jared Kushner.

    The White House had surprised journalists in Washington and Israel on an otherwise boring Sunday last month when it announced that the workshop would take place in the Gulf state on June 25-26. That announcement created a temporary sense of momentum behind the so-called deal of the century, and the small team working on the plan viewed Bahrain’s sponsorship of the event as a major achievement.

    But there have been a series of setbacks since then. The Palestinian Authority is boycotting the conference and has succeeded in convincing Palestinian business leaders not to attend as well. Russia and China — two of the most important economic players in the new Middle East — aren’t expected to attend, while Arab countries such as Iraq and Lebanon have also announced they won’t be participating.

    https://seenthis.net/messages/788010 via Nouvelles d’Orient


  • Comment les services de renseignement israéliens collaborent à la lutte contre #BDS à travers le monde

    Mossad involved in anti-boycott activity, Israeli minister’s datebooks reveal - Israel News - Haaretz.com

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    The datebooks of Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan for 2018 reveal that he cooperated with the Mossad in the fight against the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.

    The diaries, which were released in response to a Freedom of Information request, show that Erdan met with Mossad head Yossi Cohen about “the struggle against the boycott.” The request was made by the Hatzlaha movement, an organization promoting a fair society and economy, to all ministers, deputy ministers and ministry directors-general.

    Officials in the Strategic Affairs Ministry are proud of their work with the state’s security agencies, but hide the content and full scope of these activities on grounds that if these would be revealed, it would undermine the covert efforts being made against BDS and its leaders. Officials in Erdan’s office said that the meeting with Cohen was merely a “review,” but sources familiar with the ministry’s activities told Haaretz that the ministry indeed cooperates with the Mossad.

    Erdan’s datebooks also show meetings with the head of the National Security Council and the head of the NSC’s intelligence branch, as well as meetings with representatives of numerous Jewish organizations, including the American Jewish Committee, B’nai B’rith, the American Jewish Congress, the umbrella organization of French Jewry, the U.S. Reform Movement and others. There are also logs of various meetings and phone calls that Erdan’s chief of staff held with foreign leaders and diplomats, as well as meetings with settler leaders, including the heads of the Samaria Regional Council and the Hebron Hills Regional Council.

    Many of Erdan’s meetings in 2018 were devoted to establishing a public benefit corporation which at first was called Kella Shlomo but whose name was later changed to Concert. Its aim was to covertly advance “mass awareness activities” as part of “the struggle against the campaign to delegitimize” Israel globally. This corporation, which received 128 million shekels (about $36 million) in government funding and was to also collect 128 million shekels in private contributions, is not subject to the Freedom of Information Law.

    In early 2018 Haaretz published the list of shareholders and directors in the company, which include former Strategic Affairs Ministry director general Yossi Kuperwasser; former UN ambassador Dore Gold, a former adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; former UN ambassador Ron Prosor; businessman Micah Avni, whose father, Richard Lakin, was killed in a 2015 terror attack in Jerusalem; Amos Yadlin, who heads Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies; Miri Eisin, who served as the prime minister’s adviser on the foreign press during the Second Lebanon War; former National Security Council chief Yaakov Amidror; and Sagi Balasha, a former CEO of the Israeli-American Council.
    Demonstrators wear shirts reading “Boycott Israel” during a protest in Paris, Dec. 9, 2017.
    Demonstrators wear shirts reading “Boycott Israel” during a protest in Paris, Dec. 9, 2017. AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu

    According to a government resolution, the funding was granted to implement part of the ministry’s activities related to the fights against delegitimization and boycotts against the State of Israel. It says the company would raise the private portion of its financing for the initiative from philanthropic sources or pro-Israel organizations. A steering committee was to be appointed for the initiative to comprise representatives of the government and the other funding partners.
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    According to a ministry document revealed by The Seventh Eye website, the organization was expected to carry out mass awareness activities and work to exploit the wisdom of crowds, “making new ideas accessible to decision-makers and donors in the Jewish world, and developing new tools to combat the delegitimization of Israel.”

    Elad Mann, Hatzlacha’s legal adviser, said, “Revealing the date books of senior and elected officials is crucial to understanding how the government system works and it has great value taken together with other details of information. This is how to monitor the government and its priorities or the actions it takes with more efficiency and transparency.”

    Erdan’s office said that he “met during this past term with heads of the security echelons to give them a survey of the ministry’s activities in the struggle against the delegitimization and boycott of Israel.”

    Josh Breiner contributed to this report.

    https://seenthis.net/messages/786777 via Nouvelles d’Orient


  • Une page oubliée de l’histoire : comment 12 000 volontaires palestiniens se sont battus aux côtés des Britanniques durant la seconde guerre mondiale.

    12,000 Palestinians fought for U.K. in WWII alongside Jewish volunteers, historian finds - Israel News - Haaretz.com
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    In 2015, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sparked an uproar when he claimed that Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini was the one who’d urged Hitler to annihilate the Jews. In the wake of the criticism this elicited, Netanyahu said his intention was not to absolve Hitler of responsibility for the Holocaust, but to note that “the Mufti played an important role in the Final Solution.”

    But it turns out that there was another side to the story that also escaped mention by Netanyahu, the historian’s son: the forgotten role played by thousands of Palestinians who did not heed the Mufti of Jerusalem’s call to support the Axis countries, and went so far as to take up arms to fight the Nazis, often shoulder to shoulder with young Jews from Mandatory Palestine.

    Professor Mustafa Abbasi, a historian at Tel Hai Academic College, has spent years tracing their story. Having recently published an academic article on the subject, this week he suggested an opposite narrative to the one that Netanyahu put forward. The prime minister had sought to paint the Palestinians as supporters of the Third Reich, but Abbasi says, “The Mufti did not find a receptive audience among the Palestinians for his call to aid the Nazis. Not at all.”

    >> Read more: Moments before their fatal mission, Jewish WWII soldiers took these incredible photos of Egypt ■ 76 years later, stories of Jewish soldiers killed in Nazi bombing can finally be told

    The subject of Abbasi’s research is unusual. Many studies have been published about Jewish volunteerism in the war against the Nazis, which reached a peak with the formation of the Jewish Brigade. But “the thousands of Arab volunteers are hardly mentioned and sometimes the record is often distorted,” Abbasi says.

    In an article in the latest issue of the periodical Cathedra (“Palestinians Fighting the Nazis: The Story of Palestinian Volunteers in World War II”), he explains why these Palestinian fighters have been left out of the history books.

    On the one hand, Zionist historians naturally placed an emphasis on the role played by Jewish volunteers in the fight against the Nazis. On the other hand, their Palestinian counterparts were focusing on the struggle against British rule and were not eager to glorify the names of those who cooperated with Britain not so many years after the British put down the Arab Revolt of 1936-1939, and thereby indirectly helped the Jews establish a state.
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    “Neither side wished to highlight this subject,” says Professor Abbasi. “But I think it’s the historian’s job to be faithful to the sources and to try to describe history as it was, without being hostage to any national narrative that would limit him and prevent him from writing history freely.”
    Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem
    Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, greeting Muslim Waffen-SS volunteers with a Nazi salute, November 1943. Bundesarchiv / Wikimedia Commons

    One has to wonder why no organization was ever established to commemorate the actions of these Palestinian volunteers. “Many of them were killed and many others are still listed as missing. But no memorial has ever been established for them,” says Abbasi. In fact, the records of the Palestinian volunteers, along with much of their personal archives and papers, have disappeared, much of it lost in the War of Independence.

    Over the last few years, Abbasi was able to learn of their story in Palestinian newspapers from the Mandate era, in memoirs and personal journals, and through interviews he conducted with a few of the last remaining volunteers who are still alive. He also collected material from various British archives, from the Zionist Archive, and the archives of the Haganah and the IDF.

    Abbasi estimates that about 12,000 young Palestinians enlisted in the British Army in World War II. Hundreds became POWs, many others (the exact figure is unknown) were killed. “Compared to other peoples, this is not an insignificant number,” he says, and also points out that, unlike other groups, the Palestinians volunteered for the British Army from the first stage of the war.

    Initially, the Palestinian and Jewish volunteers served in mixed units. “They received training and drilled at the same bases and in many instances fought shoulder to shoulder, and were also taken prisoner together,” says Abbasi. And as reported here two years ago, the proximity of the Jewish and Palestinian fighters sometimes led to unusual outcomes, as in the case of Shehab Hadjaj, a Palestinian who enlisted in the British Army, was taken prisoner in Germany and died in 1943. To this day, he is listed at Mount Herzl as “a casualty of Israel’s wars” because someone mistakenly thought his surname indicated that he was Jewish.

    “Relations among the fighters were generally good, and if there was any friction it was mainly over service conditions, like mail and food,” Abbasi says. However, there were certain key differences between the two groups, too. For example, while the Jews were united in their goal of fighting the Nazis to promote the establishment of the Jewish state, the Palestinians “had no clear national agenda,” Abbasi writes. For this reason, unlike the Jews, they did not seek to form separate Palestinian units and there was no “Palestinian Brigade” parallel to the Jewish Brigade, in which thousands of Jews from Mandatory Palestine served.

    So who were the Palestinians who volunteered for the British Army to fight the Nazis? Abbasi says they mostly came from the Palestinian elite and that, contrary to what many think, represented “an important and central part of the Palestinian public.” A part of the public that believed it was necessary to stand by Britain at this time, and to temporarily put aside the Palestinian national aspirations – akin to the Jewish idea to “fight Hitler as if there were no White Paper, and fight the White Paper as if there were no Hitler.”

    They did this at a time when the Mufti of Jerusalem had left Palestine for exile in the Arab countries and Europe, where he met with Hitler and congratulated the Muslim volunteers of the Free Arab Legion – an Arab unit established in the army of Nazi Germany. “He left Palestine for a decade in 1937. What kind of leader abandons his people at such a time?” Abbasi wonders. “He had no influence on the public. He was detached and the public was already tired of him and his methods. They didn’t see him as a leader,” he says. “Anyone who says differently is distorting history,” he adds in a not so subtle dig at certain politicians.

    In his research, he documented pro-British propaganda conferences that were held from 1940 on in Abu Dis (next to Jerusalem), in Jenin, in villages in the Nablus area, in Tul Karm and in Lod. Among the supporters of Britain’s fight against the Nazis were the mayors of Nablus and Gaza. Radio Palestine broadcast the comments of an Egyptian writer who said, “The war is between the lofty and humane values represented by England and the forces of darkness represented by the Nazis.”
    Britain’s then-Home Secretary Winston Churchill, right, escorted by High Commissioner Herbert Samuel in Jerusalem during the British Mandate era, March 1921.
    Britain’s then-Home Secretary Winston Churchill, right, escorted by High Commissioner Herbert Samuel in Jerusalem during the British Mandate era, March 1921.GPO

    Motivations for volunteering were varied. “Some did it for ideological reasons, out of opposition to the Nazi ideology and loyalty to the British and the values that they represented,” says Abbasi. This motivation was common among upper middle class and highly educated Palestinian volunteers from urban backgrounds. Rural Palestinians were motivated largely by financial reasons. “And there were also those who were seeking adventure and wanted a chance to travel abroad,” he says.

    Abbasi found that some Palestinian women also volunteered to fight the Nazis. Almost 120 young women did so as part of the

    Auxiliary Territorial Service, the women’s branch of the British Army, alongside Jewish women. A British recruiting poster in Arabic, published in the Falastin newspaper in January 1942, read: “She couldn’t stop thinking about contribution and sacrifice, she felt ongoing pride and exaltation of spirit – when she did what she saw as her sacred duty for her nation and its sons. When your country is crying out to you and asking for your service, when your country makes it plain that our Arab men need your love and support, and when your country reminds you of how cruel the enemy is – when your country is calling you, can you stand by and do nothing?”

    Abbasi is one of the only researchers in Palestinian society who is studying this area, which was also the subject of a 2015 article by Dalia Karpel in Haaretz Magazine. He came to it thanks to his maternal grandfather, Sa’id Abbasi, who was one of the volunteers in the British Army during the war. “The family didn’t talk about it, until one day when I asked my grandmother why there was such a big age difference between her children,” he says. “Her answer was: ‘Don’t remind me of the time your grandfather left me for so many years.’” Abbasi decided to find out more about that time, and came to see that his family story was part of his people’s history.

    In the future, he hopes, the original material he has collected will be developed into a book that, for the first time, will tell the optimistic story of a rare moment in history in which Jews and Palestinians joined forces for a lofty shared goal.
    Ofer Aderet

    Ofer Aderet

    Haaretz Correspondent

    https://seenthis.net/messages/784533 via Nouvelles d’Orient


  • Comment Israël arme les dictatures à travers le monde

    Arming dictators, equipping pariahs: Alarming picture of Israel’s arms sales - Israel News - Haaretz.com

    Extensive Amnesty report cites Israeli sales to eight countries who violate human rights, including South Sudan, Myanmar, Mexico and the UAE ■ Amnesty calls on Israel to adopt oversight model adopted by many Western countries ■ Senior Israeli defense official: Export license is only granted after lengthy process
    Amos Harel
    May 17, 2019 5:59 AM

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    A thorough report by Amnesty International is harshly critical of Israel’s policies on arms exports. According to the report written in Hebrew by the organization’s Israeli branch, Israeli companies continue to export weapons to countries that systematically violate human rights. Israeli-made weapons are also found in the hands of armies and organizations committing war crimes. The report points to eight such countries that have received arms from Israel in recent years.

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    Often these weapons reach their destination after a series of transactions, thereby skirting international monitoring and the rules of Israel itself. Amnesty calls on the government, the Knesset and the Defense Ministry to more tightly monitor arms exports and enforce transparency guidelines adopted by other Western countries that engage in large-scale weapons exports.

    In the report, Amnesty notes that the supervision of the arms trade is “a global, not a local issue. The desire and need for better monitoring of global arms sales derives from tragic historical events such as genocide, bloody civil wars and the violent repression of citizens by their governments …. There is a new realization that selling arms to governments and armies that employ violence only fuels violent conflicts and leads to their escalation. Hence, international agreements have been reached with the aim of preventing leaks of military equipment to dictatorial or repressive regimes.”

    >> Read more: Revealed: Israel’s cyber-spy industry helps world dictators hunt dissidents and gays

    The 2014 Arms Trade Treaty established standards for trade in conventional weapons. Israel signed the treaty but the cabinet never ratified it. According to Amnesty, Israel has never acted in the spirit of this treaty, neither by legislation nor its policies.

    “There are functioning models of correct and moral-based monitoring of weapons exports, including the management of public and transparent reporting mechanisms that do not endanger a state’s security or foreign relations,” Amnesty says. “Such models were established by large arms exporters such as members of the European Union and the United States. There is no justification for the fact that Israel continues to belong to a dishonorable club of exporters such as China and Russia.”

    In 2007, the Knesset passed a law regulating the monitoring of weapons exports. The law authorizes the Defense Ministry to oversee such exports, manage their registration and decide on the granting of export licenses. The law defines defense-related exports very broadly, including equipment for information-gathering, and forbids trade in such items without a license.
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    The law does not include a clause limiting exports when there is a high probability that these items will be used in violation of international or humanitarian laws. But the law does prohibit “commerce with foreign agencies that are not in compliance with UN Security Council resolutions that prohibit or limit a transfer of such weapons or missiles to such recipients.”

    According to Amnesty, “the absence of monitoring and transparency have for decades let Israel supply equipment and defense-related knowledge to questionable states and dictatorial or unstable regimes that have been shunned by the international community.”

    The report quotes a 2007 article by Brig. Gen. (res.) Uzi Eilam. “A thick layer of fog has always shrouded the export of military equipment. Destinations considered pariah states by the international community, such as Chile in the days of Pinochet or South Africa during the apartheid years, were on Israel’s list of trade partners,” Eilam wrote.

    “The shroud of secrecy helped avoid pressure by the international community, but also prevented any transparency regarding decisions to sell arms to problematic countries, leaving the judgment and decision in the hands of a small number of people, mainly in the defense establishment.”

    The report presents concrete evidence on Israel’s exports over the last two decades, with arms going to eight countries accused by international institutions of serious human rights violations: South Sudan, Myanmar, the Philippines, Cameroon, Azerbaijan, Sri Lanka, Mexico and the United Arab Emirates. In some of these cases, Israel denied that it exported arms to these countries at specifically mentioned times. In other case it refused to give details.
    Israeli security-related exports

    In its report, Amnesty relies on the research of other human rights groups, on documentation published in the media in those eight countries, and on information gathered by attorney Eitay Mack, who in recent years has battled to expose Israel’s arms deals with shady regimes. Amnesty cross-checks descriptions of exported weapons with human rights violations and war crimes by those countries. In its report, Amnesty says that some of these countries were under sanctions and a weapons-sales embargo, but Israel continued selling them arms.

    According to the organization, “the law on monitoring in its current format is insufficient and has not managed to halt the export of weapons to Sri Lanka, which massacred many of its own citizens; to South Sudan, where the regime and army committed ethnic cleansing and aggravated crimes against humanity such as the mass rape of hundreds of women, men and girls; to Myanmar, where the army committed genocide and the chief of staff, who carried out the arms deal with Israel, is accused of these massacres and other crimes against humanity; and to the Philippines, where the regime and police executed 15,000 civilians without any charges or trials.”

    Amnesty says that this part of the report “is not based on any report by the Defense Ministry relating to military equipment exports, for the simple reason that the ministry refuses to release any information. The total lack of transparency by Israel regarding weapons exports prevents any public discussion of the topic and limits any research or public action intended to improve oversight.”

    One example is the presence of Israeli-made Galil Ace rifles in the South Sudanese army. “With no documentation of sales, one cannot know when they were sold, by which company, how many, and so on,” the report says.

    “All we can say with certainty is that the South Sudanese army currently has Israeli Galil rifles, at a time when there is an international arms embargo on South Sudan, imposed by the UN Security Council, due to ethnic cleansing, as well as crimes against humanity, using rape as a method of war, and due to war crimes the army is perpetrating against the country’s citizens.”

    According to Amnesty, the defense export control agency at the Defense Ministry approved the licenses awarded Israeli companies for selling weapons to these countries, even though it knew about the bad human rights situation there. It did this despite the risk that Israeli exports would be used to violate human rights and despite the embargo on arms sales imposed on some of these countries by the United States and the European Union, as well as other sanctions that were imposed by these countries or the United Nations.

    In response to letters written to the export control agency, its head, Rachel Chen, said: “We can’t divulge whether we’re exporting to one of these countries, but we carefully examine the state of human rights in each country before approving export licenses for selling them weapons.” According to Amnesty, this claim is false, as shown by the example of the eight countries mentioned in the report.

    Amnesty recommends steps for improving the monitoring of defense exports. It says Israel lags American legislation by 20 years, and European legislation by 10 years. “The lack of transparency has further negative implications, such as hiding information from the public,” Amnesty says.
    File photo: Personnel of the South Sudan People’s Defence Forces (SSPDF), assigned as South Sundan’s presidential guard, take part in a drill at their barracks in Rejaf, South Sudan, April 26, 2019.
    File photo: Personnel of the South Sudan People’s Defence Forces (SSPDF), assigned as South Sundan’s presidential guard, take part in a drill at their barracks in Rejaf, South Sudan, April 26, 2019.Alex McBride/AFP

    “The concept by which the Defense Ministry operates is that it is not in the public interest to know which countries buy weapons here, how much and under what conditions. This is an erroneous conception that stems from the wish to conceal, using the well-worn cloak of ‘issues of state security and foreign relations’ as an excuse,” it adds.

    “The veil of secrecy makes it hard to obtain data. In our humble opinion, the information we have gathered and presented in this report is the tip of the iceberg. Most of the evidence is based on official reports issued by the recipient states, such as the Facebook page of the chief of staff in Myanmar, or the site of the Philippine government’s spokesman.”

    The authors say attempts to maintain secrecy in an era of social media and global media coverage are absurd and doomed to fail.

    “Let the reasonable reader ask himself if the powers that sell weapons are concerned about harm to state security resulting from making the information accessible, or whether this is just an excuse, with the veil of secrecy protecting the interests of certain agencies in Israel.”

    Amnesty says Israel ranks eighth among the exporters of heavy weapons around the world. Between 2014 and 2018, Israel’s defense exports comprised 3.1 percent of global sales. Compared with the previous four years, this was a 60 percent increase. The three largest customers of heavy weapons sold by Israel are India, Azerbaijan and Vietnam.

    But the report says defense industries are not the largest or most lucrative contributors to Israeli exports. According to the Defense Ministry, defense exports comprise 10 percent of Israel’s industrial exports. “Defense-related companies in Israel export to 130 countries around the world,” the report says. “Of these, only a minority are countries designated by the UN and the international community as violators of human rights.”

    These are mostly poor countries and the scope of defense exports to them is small compared to the rest of Israel’s exports. According to Amnesty, banning exports to the eight countries would not sting Israel’s defense contractors or their profits, and would certainly not have a public impact. “There is no justification – economic, diplomatic, security-related or strategic – to export weapons to these countries,” the report says.

    Amnesty believes that “the situation is correctable. Israel’s government and the Defense Ministry must increase their monitoring and transparency, similar to what the vast majority of large weapons exporters around the world do except for Russia and China.”

    According to Amnesty, this should be done by amending the law regulating these exports, adding two main clauses. The first would prohibit the awarding of licenses to export to a country with a risk of serious human rights violations, based on international humanitarian law.

    The second would set up a committee to examine the human rights situation in any target state. The committee would include people from outside the defense establishment and the Foreign Ministry such as academics and human rights activists, as is customary in other countries.

    “Monitoring must not only be done, it must be seen, and the Israeli public has every right to know what is done in its name and with its resources, which belong to everyone,” the report says.

    A policy of obscurity

    A senior defense official who read the Amnesty report told Haaretz that many of its claims have been discussed in recent years in petitions to the High Court of Justice. The justices have heard petitions relating to South Sudan, Cameroon and Mexico. However, in all cases, the court accepted the state’s position that deliberations would be held with only one side present – the state, and that its rulings would remain classified.
    File photo: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to a military commander along the Gaza border, southern Israel, March 28, 2019.
    File photo: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to a military commander along the Gaza border, southern Israel, March 28, 2019.Itay Beit On/GPO

    Monitoring of exports has substantially increased since the law was passed, the official said. The authority endowed to the Defense Ministry by this law, including imposing economic sanctions, prohibition of exports and taking legal action against companies, are more far-reaching than in other countries.

    “The process of obtaining an export license in Israel is lengthy, difficult and imposes onerous regulations on exporters," he added. “When there is evidence of human rights violations in a country buying arms from Israel, we treat this with utmost seriousness in our considerations. The fact is that enlightened states respect the laws we have and are interested in the ways we conduct our monitoring.”

    He admitted that Israel does adopt a policy of obscurity with regard to its arms deals. “We don’t share information on whether or to which country we’ve sold arms,” he said. “We’ve provided all the information to the High Court. The plaintiffs do receive fixed laconic responses, but there are diplomatic and security-related circumstances that justify this.”

    “Other countries can be more transparent but we’re in a different place,” he argued. "We don’t dismiss out of hand discussion of these issues. The questions are legitimate but the decisions and polices are made after all the relevant considerations are taken into account.”

    The intense pace of events in recent months – rounds of violence along the Gaza border, Israel’s election, renewed tension between the U.S. and Iran – have left little time to deal with other issues that make the headlines less frequently.

    Israel is currently in the throes of an unprecedented constitutional and political crisis, the outcome of which will seriously impact its standing as a law-abiding state. If Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu succeeds in his plan to halt all legal proceedings against him, legislating an immunity law and restricting the jurisdiction of the High Court, all other issues would pale in comparison.

    There is some logic to the claim that Israel cannot be holier than thou when it comes to arms sales in the global market, and yet, the Amnesty report depicts a horrific image, backed by reliable data, but also makes suggestions for improvement that seem reasonable.

    Numerous reports over the last year show that the problem is not restricted to the sale of light weapons, but might be exacerbated by the spread of cyberwarfare tools developed by Israel and what dark regimes can do with these. Even if it happens through a twisted chain of sub-contractors, the state can’t play innocent. Therefore, it’s worthwhile listening to Amnesty’s criticism and suggestions for improvement.
    Amos Harel

    https://seenthis.net/messages/781514 via Nouvelles d’Orient