What we had hoped will not be needed..., briefing nr. 12

The Other Israel otherisr at SPAMactcom.co.il
Sun Aug 15 14:21:33 MDT 1999

The Other Israel briefing nr. 12, Tel-Aviv 15.8.1999
Yesterday, a group of Israeli peace activists went to do what we
had hoped will not be needed under the government of Ehud Barak:
rebuild, together with a Palestinian family, a home which our
government had seen fit to declare "illegal" and destroy.
To begin with, there had been positive indications: the 23
laureates of the prestigious Israel Prize - quite a broad
spectrum of political opinions - signing the petition of ACRI
(Association for Civil Rights, acri at actcom.co.il) entitled "Don't
destroy any more houses!" (Ha'aretz, July 13); the very explicit
remarks made by the new Minister of Police - Prof. Shlomo Ben
Ami, eminent historian and social reformer - who pointed to the
fact that Israel had built in East Jerusalem 35,000 housing units
for Jews and not a single one for Arabs, as the direct cause for
the widespread "construction without permits" by East Jerusalem
Arabs; the intention, attributed to PM Barak himself by Yediot
Aharonot (21.7) "to reduce the number of house demolitions as
much as possible."
But it was exactly four days later that military forces,
answerable to Barak in his role as Defence Minister, demolished a
tin shack on a barren hill in the Judean desert - the only home
which the Halaseh family had, after their house on the same spot
had been demolished at the time of Netanyahu. (This hill at
Sawahreh Al-Sharkiya, where the family had lived for about ninety
years, seems to be part of the lands earmarked for further
expansion of the ever-growing Ma'aleh Adumim settlement...) 65-
year old Ibrahim Halasa and his 16-year old daughter were
arrested while offering futile resistance to the forces of law
and order, and spent a week behind bars. At the military court in
the settlement of Beit El, with the tiny room crowded by
activists of ICAHD (Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions)
the judge reprimanded the prosecutor: "You call this girl a
violent criminal? How would you react, if your own house was
being destroyed?". The bail was collected on the spot by the
activists present.
And then, a few days later, another demolition - the houses of
the brothers Ahmed and Mohammed Khalifa at Walaje, a small
village south of Jerusalem which was annexed to Israel in 1967,
and whose inhabitants had ever since been forbidden to build on
their land.
On the morning of July 11, with everybody waiting for the famous
"Millennium Eclipse", the demolition crews arrived at Walaje,
accompanied by large police forces; the demolition set off a
major riot - which became that night a central item in the TV
news, both in Israel and abroad.
The Jerusalem District Commissioner at the Interior Ministry,
Mati Houta - holder of a powerful position which is a leftover
from the British colonial administration - confirmed that there
is no way to build legally in Walaje and suggested that the
inhabitants "go elsewhere" (Jerusalem Post, 12.8.99). The
appointment to the Interior Ministry of Anatoli-Nathan Sharanski,
the world- famous former dissident and human rights activist in
the Soviet Union, seems to have so far effected no change in
house demolition policies.
For his part, Police Minister Ben Ami gave an impassioned reply
to the protest of Adam Keller, a writer of this briefing, who had
studied with Ben-Ami at the Tel-Aviv University Department of
History. The historian turned minister affirmed his complete and
utter opposition to house demolitions, but confessed himself
constrained - however much it pained him - to provide police
protection to demolition crews acting under the legal orders of
other government departments. The minister told of a committee
formed jointly by himself and Justice Minister Beilin, aimed at
examining thouroughly the issue and with a view to providing "a
massive rehabilitation" to Palestinian houses built without
Be that as it may, the people of Walaje have no intention of
waiting passively for favors. Already some time ago, all the
inhabitants of this village signed a covenant, by which the
entire village will offer help - financially and in manpower - to
anybody whose house is demolished. Reconstruction of the two
houses began literally upon the demolition crews' departure, with
the villagers later joined by 25 Israeli volunteers of ICAHD
(halper at iol.co.il), and is proceeding apace. And a major
reconstruction action, there and elsewhere, is planned to
coincide with the visit of US Secreatry of State Albright,
due in the beginning of September.
Meanwhile, a delegation of Gush Shalom (info at gush-shalom.org)
visited the tiny village of Izbit Tabib, east of Qualqilia. This
quiet small place consists of no more then about 20 houses; in
the first half of July, six of these houses were served
simultaneously with demolition orders as being "illegal" - and in
fact, all other houses in the villages are also "illegal" from
the occupation's point of view. It is the misfortune of Izbit
Tabib, where members of a single extended family have lived in
the past hundred years, to be located slightly north of the large
and growing Israeli settlement of Alfey Menashe. The leaders of
that settlement recently (23.7.99) published in the Israeli press
full-page ads offering "A chance to fulfil your dream of a
private home in a green environment at bargain prices... Life is
going to smile at you in this well maintained settlement which
enjoys support from all sides of the political spectrum.(sic!)."
The inhabitants of Izbit Tabib can be contacted via Ibrahim Gharaba
ibrahim at naj.edu.
And for a change, a piece of good news from still another
"unrecognised" Palestinian village - Aqaba, near Toubas in the
north-east of the West Bank: a campaign involving, among others,
the Palestinian Land Defence Committee (ldc at p-ol.com) and the
Israeli Association for Civil Rights (acri at actcom.co.il) forced
the military authorities to restore to the villagers the
electricity pylons which were cut down and removed in a military
raid on the village at July 26, and to permit the villagers to
reinstall their community's rudimentary electrical system (a
system installed by the villages at their own expense, since the
State of Israel in its 32 years of rule did not see fit to
connect the village to the general electricity grid).
There is still pending in the Supreme Court ACRI's appeal against
the army's use of Aqaba as a training ground to its troops - a
practice which had gone on for more than twenty years, had caused
the death of eight villagers and the maiming of more than fifty,
and was revealed to the outside world only last year. The
military authorities are now willing to compromise to the extent
of "avoiding the use of live ammunition within a kilometre of the
village houses"; the energetic ACRI lawyer Netta Amar is holding
out for a court order forbidding any kind of military training in
and around the village, and lifting its status as "a closed
military zone" which had been in force since 1979.
Last Friday, a group of 30 activists from Peace Now
(peacenow at actcom.co.il) held a demonstrative tour of the illegal
"hilltop settlements", some forty of which were created in the
Netanyahu Government's last half year. At the settlement of
Ithamar, near Nablus, they had a heated confrontation with
settlers, and the tour was stopped by the army. Later, settler
leader Ron Nachman called upon his supporters "to break the arms
and legs of the Peace Now people, if they come again". Mossi Raz
of Peace Now answered: "Next week we will come again with more
people, and we will also have Knesset members with us".
The fate of the "hilltop settlements" - and of the settlements in
general - remains unclear. The relevant clause in the Barak
Government's program is so ambiguous as to offer no practical
guide for action, allowing individual ministers to set their own
policies. Ran Cohen, Minister of Trade and Industry from the
peace-oriented Meretz Party, has cut off all government
investments in the settlements' industrial zones, and called upon
Israeli industrialists "not to invest a single penny there" -
echoing the slogans of the settlement boycott campain maintained
in the past two years by Gush Shalom.
To the contrary, the Housing Minister - Rabbi Yitzchak Levy of
the National Religious Party - is putting out at a fast pace
tenders for constructing new housing units at the settlements; in
fact, he is doing it at a pace much faster than during the
Netanyahu Government, according to Peace Now's Settlement
Monitoring Team.
The way the government was set up, the final decision rests with
the Prime Minister personally. And Barak, as always, shows his
hand to nobody; the best which can be gathered, from the rumors
filtering out of the PM's bureau, is that he intends to
eventually dismantle some settlements and keep others, and that
for the time being he wants to to keep all of them intact as
bargaining counters in negotiations with the Palestinians.
All in all, there are plenty of reasons for conscientious young
Israelis to refuse service in an army whose main daily task is
demolition of houses, protection of settlements and other
occupation duties. At the moment, there are three such
incarcerated at Military Prison 4 in Tzrifin, differently
motivated and from different backgrounds. Lotan Raz, at the age
of 18 already a veteran peace activist in Jerusalem and a
"second-generation refuser" (his father Gideon was imprisoned in
1983 for refusing to go to Lebanon), declared to the military
authorities "I cannot in good conscience take part in a system
that oppresses peoples or nations, denies civil liberties and
human rights and carries out immoral and undemocratic actions",
adding that "decision-makers who maintain such policies have lost
the right to demand from me and my peers to kill and be killed."
By contrast, Demitri Sokolik is an immigrant from the Ukraine who
originally joined the army willingly and enthusiastically, and
who came to pacifism through a long gradual process, influenced
by the writings of Oriental sages. His declaration of refusal was
included in poem which he presented to the commanding officer:
"Is this a Palestinian soldier in front of you? No, it is a
fellow creation of the Divine Power... How can I destroy a fellow
being - am I the one who created him?"
And Walid Nafa, from the village of Beit Jan in the Galilee, had
written to the Army Chief of Staff : "I am a Druze. We alone of
all Arabs in Israel are conscripted. We are conscripted like the
Jews, and we are discriminated as Arabs. I am a Druze, and the
Druze are Arabs. I refuse to fight my own people."
For those near enough to attend, there will be a protest
demonstration outside the Defence Ministry in Tel-Aviv at 4.30 PM
on Tuesday, August 17.
Those more far away can send a message via Free_lotahn at email.com,
look for the latest update at http://www.tripod.com/free-lotahn/
and send messages by "snail mail" to Lotan Raz, Serial Number
6963940 as well as to Demitry Sokolik, Serial Number 5220999,
both at Military Prison 4, Military Postal Code 02507, Israeli
Defence Forces. Nafa's prison address not being available,
letters to him will be forwarded by the Druze Initiative
Committee, POB 117, Beit Jan 24990, Israel.
There is no way of knowing with certainty how long the three will
remain behind bars. The usual practice of the army is to impose
on refusers repeated short terms, and finally let go those who
persist. Raz has just begun this trek, Sokolik is now on his
third term, and Nafa - on his eleventh (!).
A campaign is now being waged to have at last a legal recognition
of the right to conscientious objection, intiated jointly by The
Association of Conscientious Objectors (coi at barak-online.net,
The New Profile Movement (ghiller at haogen.org.il) composed of
parents (mostly mothers) who reject their traditional role of
bringing up sons to be soldiers, and the afore-mentioned Druze
Initative Committee. They see a "window of opportunity": Barak
promised the ultra-Orthdox parties to enact a law providing for
military excemptions to religious students who wish to devote
their time exclusively to Holy Studies; failure to provide for
other kinds of objectors to military service would be a flagrant
discrimination, good grounds for an appeal to the Supreme Court.
It remains to tell you that The Other Israel 89/90 (a twenty-page
double issue this time) is out. If you want to see it you can
order a free sample by sending a self-addressed airmail envelope
to The Other Israel, pob 2542, Holon 58125, Israel.
(N.B. North Americans can get it quick and easy through
aicipp at igc.apc.org.)
Selected articles will soon be on
http://members.tripod.com/~other_Israel/ .
NB: email to otherisr at actcom.co.il will only be answered after a
month from now because of summer holiday.
Adam Keller
Beate Zilversmidt
Tel-Aviv, 15.8.99
P.S.: Following is the full text of what was published by Gush
Shalom - in an intensive effort to do more than react and
influence the direction which the new government will take. It
was decided to place policy statements as ads - huge ones and at
huge costs - during two consecutive weeks in Ha'aretz and
Jerusalem Post.
On August 6:
We have voted for you, and we are glad we did.
You promised to bring a comprehensive peace with all our neighbours
- Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese - and we believe that you
really want that.
You promised to achieve the decisive breakthrough on all these
tracks within a year and a half, and this proves that you have
drawn the lesson from the experience of your predecessors. You
have taken to heart the rule that says "you cannot cross an abyss
in two jumps".
We are convinced that you will apply yourself to this task with
energy, courage and logic.
But, Mr. Prime Minister, we are worried by the peace plan that
you have in mind, and that is reflected in the "red lines"
proclaimed by you. Even if you do succeed to impose a plan like
that on the Palestinians, by exploiting the present superiority
of Israel, such a peace will not last "for generations".
We do not need a "permanent settlement", we need real peace.
Real peace cannot be based on a border that tears away further
territory from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, which together
amount for only 22% of mandatory Palestine. The Green Line must
be the basis of peace.
Real peace cannot come into being, if "settlement blocs" will be
stuck like daggers into the body of the Palestinian state. The
settlements, sitting as they do on the land and water reserves of
the State of Palestine, will serve as a daily reminder of a
diktat imposed by force. Not only the political attitudes of the
Palestinian people must be taken into account, but also their
feelings, anxieties and hopes. To ignore these would be a serious
Either peace or settlements. You can't have both.
Real peace cannot be created while the occupation of the
Palestinian part of Jerusalem continues, cutting the inhabitants
of the West Bank off from their economic, social and religious
center. Jerusalem must be the capital of both Israel and
Moreover, the fate of Jerusalem does not concern the inhabitants
of this country only. Hundreds of millions of Arabs, a billion of
Muslims will never reconcile themselves to Israeli rule over the
holy mosques.
Jerusalem has also a unique importance for hundred of millions of
Christians, members of dozens of different churches on five
continents. Trying to maintain exclusive Israeli rule over
Jerusalem is a provocation to the whole world.
Peace is real if the great majority on both sides accepts it
whole-heartedly as a fair compromise. The logic of the brain is
not enough, the logic of the heart is needed too.
Mr. Prime Minister, you are now making history. Do not miss the
pob 3322
Tel-Aviv 61033
(also for checks)
and on August 13
The 100-year old Israeli-Palestinian conflict will not come to an end
without the solution of the refugee problem. An agreement with a
half of the Palestinian people, that will leave the other half outside
the range of peace, will not bring real and lasting peace.
There is no solution without agreement in principle by the
Government of Israel to the Right of Return - a right anchored in
human morality and international law.
In this respect, there is no difference between a refugee uprooted by
the events of the war itself and a refugee actually evicted by the
Israeli forces, between a refugee of 1948 and a refugee of 1967,
between the refugees themselves and their descendents. All of
them have been prevented from returning.
The right of return assures every Palestinian refugee free choice
between repatriation to Palestine and compensation.
(1) Refugees who will opt for repatriation will return to the
State of Palestine and be resettled there with the assistance of
the international fund for Palestinian refugees.
The State of Palestinian will have the right to enact a Law of
Return that will guarantee the absolute right of every
Palestinian to settle there. It will also have the right to grant
Palestinian citizenship and issue Palestinian passports to all
Palestinian refugees, wherever they live, as a first or second
(2) Refugees who will opt for compensation instead of
repatriation will receive generous compensations for property
left in Israel, as well as for past suffering and lost
opportunities. Compensations will be financed by the
international fund for Palestinian refugees.
(3) As a symbolic act, and in order to heal the historic wound,
the State of Israel will allow for the return of a number of
refugees to Israeli territory. The actual number and categories
of the returnees, the time- table and modalities of absorption,
will be subject to negotiations.
It is understood that a tragedy cannot be remedied by creating
another tragedy, and that a refugee problem cannot be solved by
creating another one. Therefore, Israelis will not be evicted
from their homes and land in order to enable Palestinian refugees
to return to them. The Palestinian returnees to Israel will be
resettled like new citizens.
An international fund for Palestinian returnees, with Israeli
participation, will be set up for financing the whole operation.
Both sides will solemnly declare that with the implementation of
the agreement, the Palestinian refugee problem will be solved.
In the framework of a comprehensive peace in the region,
including all the Arab countries, fair compensations should be
granted also to Jews who had to leave property behind in these
countries. But the Palestinian refugees and their problem, and
the fulfillment of Israeli-Palestinian peace could not and should
not have to wait for the achievement of full peace with such
countries as Irak.
info at gush-shalom.org; http://www.gush-shalom.org

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