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TOI-Billboard Feb. 19, 2005: You too, Peres?

TOI-Billboard Feb. 19, 2005: You too, Peres?

--Introduction: You too, Peres?
--"If there is violence today, it will not be started by us"
report by Adam Keller
--Release, or fair trial
Israeli Human Right groups support Administrative Detainees' demands
--MachsomWatch Report on the Palestinian elections
--The IDF's decision to halt punitive house demolitions, ICAHD comment
--Demolitions are damaging (Ha'aretz editorial, Feb. 18)
--Contemplating Sharm-a-Sheikh, Uri Avnery
--Democracy versus demography, Lev Greenberg
--Gazans and the difficulty to travel from Palestine to Palestine
Amira Hass
--I’d like to be optimistic, Noam Chomsky


Introduction: You too, Peres?

Saturday, Feb. 19. Tomorrow, once more the Sharon cabinet is to hold "a historic vote", giving its definite approval to the evacuation of the Gaza Strip settlements. In last year's "historic vote" the government gave an indefinite approval to the same evacuation - and in between there had been several other occasions also hailed as "historical votes". What they have in common: doves and leftists are requested and required to give blank support to Ariel Sharon "for the sake of peace."

Also tomorrow the cabinet is expected to give its approval to the new route of the "Separation Wall" according to which a mere 7% of the West Bank will be unilaterally annexed by Israel (as compared with 16% under the discredited old map) and "only" some 10,000 Palestinians will be cut off, not many tens of thousands as originally planned. Shimon Peres, Deputy PM and once again Sharon's enthusiastic propagandist, already put his imprimatur on the new plan, defining it as "eminently fair". (The International Court in the Hague has a different opinion on any route biting into the Palestinian territory, but that seems forgotten already...) Meanwhile, the cease-fire ceremoniously proclaimed at Sharm A-Sheikh is holding, at least from the Palestinian side. (No Israelis killed by Palestinian fire since Sharm ; but at least seven Palestinians did get killed. To take the military communiques at face value, some were terrorists on the way to carry out an armed attack, some were not terrorists but "the soldiers sincerely considered them to be ones" and at least one was a sixteen-year old who threw stones at a military patrol and "endangered the soldiers" (sic).

At least, the army now officially recognizes what human rights organizations said for years: that the demolition of houses as a means of intimidating Palestinian militants had the opposite effect. Perhaps they will eventually recognize the same about the use of administrative detentions without trial - though for the time being, the prisoner release announced by the Sharon government as "a goodwill gesture" remains far below the most minimal Palestinian aspirations. More about these matters in the following.

"If there is violence today, it will not be started by us"

report by Adam Keller

The road to Kufr Kadum is long and complicated. We change taxis several times along the way from Tel-Aviv, and pick up international activists at a junction filled with a medley grafitti and half-torn posters (“Free Palestine” in English and Arabic, “Down with the occupation” in Hebrew but also “Death to Arabs and traitors” and “It is G-d’s will: Eretz Yisrael belongs to the Jewish People!” and overall, a giant poster with the smiling face of Palestinian President Abu Mazen).

An army jeep passes in the opposite direction, taking no interest. Then at Hija begins the ordeal which Kadum inhabitants must endure daily: going over the bare track, up hills and down dales, with the car jumping and jouncing and shaking at every pothole and strewn rock along the way. “At least, today the track is passable at all” says our guide. “You should have seen this place a week ago, after the rains. There was a real lake, exactly where we pass now.”

Finally we get to the center of Kadum, at the town hall and post office which form the modest civic center of this 4200-strong community. We alight – some twenty-five activists, mostly young anarchists with t-shirts bearing such slogans as “The Wall must fall!” and “Psychiatric discharge means neither shooting first nor crying afterwards”. Several Machsom Watch women from Jerusalem arrive by a different route, walking much of the way, together with the irrepressible Yafit-Jamila Bisso who came from Syria some ten years ago and whose fluent Arabic makes her a great asset in such contacts. And there is the usual leavening of international activists: Dorothee, a French activist residing in Switzerland, who had now lived long enough at Hares to call it “my village”; Fatima, a Muslim from South Africa; two inhabitants of Stockholm who belong to different international volunteer groups and who met each other for the first time here, in the heart of the West Bank…
Palestinian activists hasten to offer us cold drinks, welcome on this unnaturally warm winter day.

The vendor refuses to take payment for his falafel balls in pita bread. The mayor and his deputy are already waiting to welcome us, discuss details of the coming action and fill us in on the village situation. “It is up to you to decide how far to go with the army and settlers. We have come to offer our solidarity” says the anarchist Yonathan, veteran of countless such actions in the past two years. “If there is violence today, it will not be started by us” answers mayor As’ad Shtawe, a rather young man who got to his position out of being a grassroots Fatah activist. Municipal secretary Abu Arab fills in details on the current situation.

We already knew in general that the settlement of Kdumim has been created astride the only paved road connecting Kadum to the outside world, that the settler security guards deny them passage and the army fully backs the settlers. But we hear more details of what it means in daily life: “The fare in service taxi along the paved road was six Shekels (about $1.5). Now, a taxi going along the mountain tracks where the car is frequently damaged and needs repairs is asking for 26 Shekels ($6.5). For many of us, especially the unemployed, traveling outside the village has become a luxury they can hardly afford. We have become prisoners! Since Sharm A-Sheikh, the army removed the blockage on many other villages. We are happy for them, but why are we discriminated? Just because the Kdumim settlers have a lot of pull with the Sharon government?”

The town square fills up, and the procession forms. Young and old men, some in working clothes and others in neat suits. A contingent of women in the traditional muslim headscarves, and younger women with their heads bare and the brassards of the Palestiniasn Medical Relief Committees. Banners in Arabic and English are held aloft, with some Palestinian national flags. "We welcome our Israeli friends who came to share this struggle with us", came the announcement in Hebrew over the loudspeaker. Many Palestinian marchers glued the round two-flag sticker of Gush Shalom on their shirts. From an open courtyard, a matrone with a brood of children behind her were waiving cheerfully.

Soon we can see the pseudo-European red roofs of the Kdumim settlement - a bit incongruous for people who pretend to be the direct continuation of biblical ancestors. In between, some twenty soldiers block passage, strung in a ragged line across the road and into the olive groves on both sides. This is the moment of decision: going forward would likely be answered with a volley of teargas or worse. It could easily have happened, when the village youths started surging towards the soldiers, chanting "Open Our Only Road!" But mayor and councillors succeed in making them halt and sit down. With the soldiers looking on impassively, mayor Shtawe takes the microphone. "We have not come here for violence, we did come here to deliver a clear message: the closing of our road is illegal, immoral, intolerable. We start the campaign today, it will not end until the road is open."

Gamila Bisso speaks first in Arabic, but shifting suddenly to Hebrew: "Dear soldiers, and also dear settlers listening from your windows. I am speaking to you on behalf of the Israelis here in this demonstration, standing shoulder to shoulder with our Palestinian brothers and sisters. We have not come here to attack you. We do demand that you open the road; that you let pupils go to their schools and sick people to the hospital. We Israelis claim to be living in a democratic state, an enlightened state of law. Segregating roads, separate roads for Jews and for Arabs - a good road for Jews, and a very bad one for Arabs - this is not democracy. It is Apartheid."


Israeli Human Right groups support Administrative Detainees' demands


The following was published Feb. 18 as an ad in Ha'aretz.

The routine use in Israel of "Administrative Detention" is legally and morally unacceptible.
Hundreds languish in prison without trial.
Also after the release of prisoners this week Israel continues to keep about 800 Palestinians under Administrative Detention. They don't know what they are accused of or when they will be released. Their detention is prolongued again and again on the basis of secret evidence presented by the Shabak.
Dec. 19, 2004, the administrative detainees started a strike demanding an end to the policy of prolonging the detentions, and either to release them or to put them on trial. The detainees boycott the court proceedings but the military courts continue simply to confrim the detention orders in their absence.

Signed by:
Physicians for Human Rights, B'tselem, Hamoked, Adallah, Public Committee Against Torture, Rabbis for Human Rights


MachsomWatch Report on the Palestinian elections

by Tsilli Goldenberg & Ofra Ben-Artzi

(...) minimal signs on the ground [of the freedom of movement], since this basic human right is well buried under the deeply rooted and branched system of occupation. These elections were probably "effective", as PM Ariel Sharon declared, but, by definition, they were neither "fair" nor "free" as he promised.

[The quote is part of the conclusion of the detailed report based on observations of more than 100 MachsomWatch women who on Jan. 9, monitored 20 checkpoints and their surroundings in the West Bank as well as the polling stations in Jerusalem - during the PA presidential elections.]

full text:

The IDF's decision to halt punitive house demolitions

Press release The Israeli Committee Against House Demoltions (ICAHD February 18, 2005

The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) welcomes the decision of the Israeli Army to halt its policy of demolishing Palestinian houses either as punishment for acts of violence or as a deterrent measure. This policy constituted a clear violation of international law, both because it by-passed due process of law in cases where perpetrators were punished before being tried and because it constitutes collective punishment against the families of perpetrators who are innocent of any crime. The IDF committee recommending the cessation of punitive demolitions did so only because, in its evaluation, demolitions generate more resistance than deterrence among the Palestinians. It would have been gratifying had human rights and international law received even a gratuitous nod. Still, any reduction in the policy of house demolitions is to be welcomed.

That said, it is important to point out that punitive demolitions represent only a small part of house demolitions. The IDF claims to have demolished 270 Palestinian homes under this policy; B’tselem reports 672 homes. This type of demolition, then, represents only 5-15% of the 4000-5000 Palestinian homes demolished during the four years of the Intifada– only 3-5% of the 12,000 homes demolished in the Occupied Territoriessince 1967. Fully 60% of the Palestinian homes demolished during the Intifada were destroyed in military operations according to B’tselem; this type of demolition, too, will hopefully stop as military operations cease. The other 25% of homes demolished – more than 1000 homes of innocent Palestinian civilians with no connection to violence or resistance – were demolished by court order because the families were unable to obtain building permits. This last type of demolition, intended to confine the Palestinian population to small enclaves in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, continues apace.

see also:
Demolitions are damaging (Ha'aretz editorial, Feb. 18)

Under a future settlement that will include the rebuilding of the territories, there is place for Israel to offer compensation to Palestinian civilians whose homes were destroyed during the course of the army's operations.

Contemplating about Sharm-al-Sheikh

Uri Avnery

(...) the demonization of Arafat has by no means stopped after his death. On the contrary, it goes on with great fervor. The Left and the Right in Israel, in heart-warming unity, declare in almost every article and TV talk-show that Arafat was the great obstacle to peace. Not the occupation. Not the settlements. Not the policy of Netanyahu-Barak-Sharon. Only Arafat. Fact: Arafat died and hopla – there is a conference.

full text:


Democracy versus demography

Lev Greenberg

"It is difficult to change a discourse, but the problem is that it is even more difficult to dismantle an occupation's apparatus without dismantling the discourse, the language and myths that justify and perpetuate it."



Gazans and the difficulty to travel from Palestine to Palestine

A matter of principle - Amira Hass

The four students, who were asked to sign a promise that they will return to Gaza at the end of their studies, have, in effect, given up in advance their right to choose their place of residence within the PA, to look for work in the West Bank, to start a family there. For them this is a personal decision. But for Bir Zeit University, as a national institution, it is a matter of principle, and it's no wonder that the university as an institution cannot agree to cooperate with the Israeli blow to basic human rights. It could be interpreted as giving a hand to Israel's plan to bring about a final separation between the Gazans and their fellow Palestinians in the West Bank.

I’d like to be optimistic

Noam Chomsky on US-Israel Strategic Relations

"I’d like to be optimistic, and will leap at any straw in the wind. But so far I see nothing real."

© Scoop Media

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