Israel Orders Demolition of Entire West Bank Bedouin Village

 - by Yotam Berger - first published in Haaretz - 

In a rare occurrence, the IDF’s Civil Administration in the West Bank on Sunday distributed some 40 demolition orders in a Bedouin village in Area C, which is under full Israeli civil and military control.

Demolition of a Bedouin home in El Araqib (Negev Desert)
2010 file photo
A few hundred people live in temporary structures without any infrastructure in the Bedouin encampment of Khan al-Ahmar, just east of the settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim. Among the buildings at the site is the “Tire School,” built of worn-out tires, which is used by students from a number of illegal villages in the area.
The structures in the village were built without permits, but the Civil Administration has avoided demolishing them or evacuating the entire village, despite political pressure to do so.

Residents say the issuing of dozens of demolition orders is unprecedented in the area. “All the houses received [demolition] orders,” A’id Khamis Jahalin, a local resident, told Haaretz. “I’m scared. This time is different. Then they gave one [demolition order] or two, but such a blow, it’s something. They gave 42 orders. They gave for everything, there are no structures here in all the area that didn’t receive an order. I spoke with our lawyer, they gave us up to five days [to object], that’s a short time,” said Jahalin.

A Green Olive Delegation delivering needed solar lights
to the Jahalin Bedouin. > > > more details
Israeli authorities confirmed that such a widespread issuance of demolition orders was unprecedented in the area, and this is a declaration of intention in advance of an attempt to evacuate the entire village.
In the past, the Civil Administration has offered residents to move to a permanent location, which the residents say does not meet their needs in terms of Bedouin lifestyle, amount of land and proximity to other Bedouin tribes. The government has avoided any large-scale evacuation of Palestinians in Area C, partly because of the involvement of European and American diplomats.

The Bedouins living in Area C near Ma’aleh Adumim endure harsh conditions and poverty, and the EU has often provided structures in their villages. These buildings have been put up illegally, but the EU makes sure to put a large sticker with the EU flag on all of them. The Civil Administration sometimes removes these structures. The Tire School was built in 2009 by an Italian NGO, and has since become a symbol for the Bedouins in the region.

Last week, the State Prosecutor’s Office informed the High Court of Justice in two cases that the government wanted to postpone the sessions on the demolition of structures in the Bedouin community in the West Bank, in light of the attempts to formulate a new policy on the matter.
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Editorial from Green Olive - The Green Olive Collective has been raising funds and distributing solar lamps to the Jahalin Bedouin who live off the grid in the Judean (Jerusalem) Desert. Their Jewish neighbors live in the beautiful suburban town of Ma'ale Adumim with all modern conveniences which the local Bedouin are denied basic services and have their homes demolished by the Israeli authorities. Here's what you can do:

  1. Write a letter to your nearest Israeli Embassy protesting the inhumane treatment of the Bedouin (suggested text below)
  2. Help the Bedouin by donating solar lamps, or buy one for yourself and we'll donate one in your name. > > More Details here > >
Sample Letter:

To the Israeli Embassy
Re: Demolishing Bedouin Homes

It was with great dismay that I learned that on Sunday 19th February, the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria issued demolition orders to all the homes of the Bedouin Village of Khan al-Ahmar, near Ma’aleh Adumim in the Judean Desert, East of Jerusalem.

The Jahalin Bedouin are living in an area that is traditional for their tribe, and it is outrageous that the Israeli government should seek to move them in order to facilitate the growth of all-Jewish settlements.

Israel claims to be a democracy yet discriminates between residents based on their religion. The Bedouin human rights are being violated and this needs to stop. Please pass this letter to the appropriate authorities.

Sincerely,
-------- ---------

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Land Day Matters - of Mourning and Commemoration

- By Sam Bahour and Fida Jiryis -
First published in +972 -

March 30, 1976 has been commemorated for over forty years as ‘Land Day’ by Palestinians around the world. while the day’s title may evoke images of environmental action or eco-friendly activities, it is a day of mourning and remembrance. On that bloody day, Israeli police and ‘Border Police’ murdered six Palestinian Arab citizens of the state during a protest against the recent expropriation of Arab-owned land in the Galilee area. The stolen land was designated for new Jewish-only settlements.

Palestinians from the Galilee town of Sakhnin
commemorating Land Day, March 30, 2013.
(Photo by: Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)
The Land Day victims were not Palestinians from the occupied territory but citizens of the state, a group that now numbers over 1.6 million people, or more than 20.5 percent of the population. They are inferior citizens in a state that defines itself as Jewish and democratic, but in reality is neither.

On that dreadful day 38 years ago, in response to Israel’s announcement of a plan to expropriate thousands of acres of Palestinian land for “security and settlement purposes,” a general strike and marches were organized in Palestinian towns within Israel, from the Galilee to the Negev. The night before, in a last-ditch attempt to block the planned protests, the government imposed a curfew on the Palestinian villages of Sakhnin, Arraba, Deir Hanna, Tur’an, Tamra and Kabul, in the Western Galilee. The curfew failed; citizens took to the streets. Palestinian communities in the West Bank and Gaza, as well as those in the refugee communities across the Middle East, joined in solidarity demonstrations.

In the ensuing confrontations with the Israeli army and police, six Palestinian citizens of Israel were killed, about 100 wounded and hundreds arrested. The day lives on, fresh in the Palestinian memory, since today, as in 1976, the conflict is not limited to Israel’s illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip but is ever-present in the country’s treatment of its own Palestinian Arab citizens.

The month following the killings, an internal government paper, written by senior Interior Ministry official Yisrael Koenig, was leaked to the press. The document, which became known as the Koenig Memorandum, offered recommendations intended to “ensure the [country’s] long-term Jewish national interests.” These included, “the possibility of diluting existing Arab population concentrations.”

Israel has been attempting to “dilute” its Palestinian population − both Muslims and Christians − ever since.

Thirty-eight years later, the situation is as dire as ever. Racism and discrimination, in their rawest forms, are rampant in Israel, and are often more insidious than physical violence. Legislation aimed at ethnically cleansing Palestinians from Israel is part of public discourse. Israeli ministers do not shy away from promoting “population transfers” of Palestinian citizens − code for forced displacement.

Israel’s adamant demand that the Palestinians recognize it as a “Jewish state” leaves them in a situation of having to inherently negate their own existence and accept the situation of inferiority in their own land. Recent efforts in the Knesset to link loyalty to citizenship threaten to target organizations and individuals who express dissent and even the revocation of citizenship, a practice unheard of in other countries.

Budgets for health and education allocated by the Israeli government to the Arab sector are, per capita, a fraction of those allocated to Jewish locales. Although hundreds of new Jewish towns and settlements have been approved and built since Israel’s creation, the state continues to prevent Arab towns and villages from expanding, suffocating their inhabitants and forcing new generations to leave in search of homes. Palestinians living in Israel are heavily discriminated against in employment and wages.

Memorial commemorating the deaths during the events of 1976.
Annual Land Day commemoration in Sakhnin, March 30th, 2007.
(Photo by Activestills.org)
The message is clear: Israel has failed, abysmally, in realizing its oft-cried role as “the only democracy in the Middle East” with such discriminatory policies and a culture of antagonism and neglect vis-a-vis a fifth of its citizens. The original Land Day marked a pivotal point in terms of how Palestinians in Israel − living victims of Israel’s violent establishment − viewed their relations with the state. Today, with no resolution in sight to the historic injustices inflicted upon them, Palestinians in Israel and elsewhere use this day to remember and redouble their efforts for emancipation.

The names of the six victims of Land Day are written on the front of a monument in the cemetery of Sakhnin, accompanied by the words: “They sacrificed themselves for us to live … thus, they are alive − The martyrs of the day of defending the land, 30 March 1976.” On the back of the monument are the names of the two sculptors who created it: one Arab, one Jewish. Maybe it is this joint recognition of the tragedy of Palestinians that is required in Israel to get us beyond the chasm of denial.

Many of us born and raised outside Palestine voted with our feet to return to the land of our fathers and join the struggle. We support the Land Day commemoration both to provide a vehicle for mourning and loss, and just as importantly, to appeal to the democratic instincts of Jews in Israel and worldwide, to understand that one cannot separate the free ownership of land with other freedoms and rights in democratic societies. It is one package, and the only one that will bring a lasting peace to our country.
_________________________

Sam Bahour is a Palestinian business consultant from the Palestinian city of El Bireh. He blogs at www.epalestine.com
Fida Jiryis is a Palestinian writer from the Arab village of Fassuta in the Galilee. Her website is www.fidajiryis.net. Sam and Fida were both born in the Diaspora and relocated to their family’s hometowns in Palestine and Israel, respectively.

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The Halakhic State of Israel. Is it coming? Is it here?

 - by Fred Schlomka - 

A new religious phenomenon has arisen in Israel during the past few years. The movement known as ‘Haredi Leumi’ or National Ultra-orthodox (חרדים לאומיים) is gaining adherents daily, and is developing into a major force in shaping the future of the country. The combination of religious zealotry, fundamentalism and radical nationalism is setting the stage for the transformation of Zionism from its secular origins into a unyielding religious/authoritarian ideology.

The Israeli academic, author, and human rights activist, Israel Shahak, predicted this development over two decades ago. His warnings were ignored. His writings ridiculed, and his opinions relegated to the sidelines of national life. Yet Shahak’s prognosis has emerged as a new reality in Israel.

The best way to conceptualize the development of a Jewish religious state, is to imagine a Judaic version of Iran or Saudi Arabia. These countries base their legislation on Sharia Law. Similarly Israel may well develop into a state that bases it’s laws on the Jewish version of Sharia, known as ‘Halakha’, Jewish religious law (הֲלָכָה).

All Orthodox Jews follow Halakhic Law, regardless of the country where they live. It is a highly structured framework within which religious Jews live their lives. The practice includes submission to Halakhic courts, which, like Sharia, are voluntary in Western democracies, yet mandatory in Israel. The Israeli religious courts already have coercive legal powers, which penetrate deeply into the lives of Israel's citizens.

The first Israeli government empowered both Sharia and Halakhic courts with legal jurisdiction over the Muslim and Jewish populations of the country. This power, at least for the Jewish religious authorities, is steadily increasing.

The Israeli Jewish religious landscape is complex, ranging from a tiny minority of mostly liberal Americans who attend private Reform and ‘Masorti’ or Conservative (מָסָרתִי) synagogues, to the various orthodox and Ultra-Orthodox denominations that are sanctioned and largely financed by the government.

Some of the Jewish religious sects have donned the mantle of Zionism in contrast to the often vehement opposition to the idea of a Jewish State by virtually all religious Jews during the ideology’s early development. Nationalist sentiment among religious Jews grew dramatically in the aftermath of the 1967 Six-day War. Religious Zionism awakened, and the subsequent Occupation enabled access to the biblical sites in Jerusalem, Hebron, Shilo, Nablus, and more. The heartland of ‘Eretz Israel’, the Land of Israel (אֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל) became available for Jewish settlement, and the population of East Jerusalem and the West Bank (Judea & Samaria) continues to grow at a rapid pace, now numbering over 650,000 Israeli Jews. The settler population is growing at over 5% per year, about double the rate of the Israeli population as a whole. An ever increasing proportion of settlers are religious Jews.

Most of the early settlers, and the people driving the movement today, are known as the ‘Dati Leumi’ or National Religious (דָּתִי לְאוּמִּי). They generally look and dress like the secular population with the exception of wearing a ‘kippa’ (כִּיפָּה) or yalmuke for the men, and modest dress, including the covering of the hair with a hat or scarf for the women. The National Religious are fervent Zionists who serve in the army and form the core of the most radical settler movements. They often send their children to military high schools and as a result, the proportion of religious career officers in the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) is much higher than their percentage in the general population. According to the Israeli military journal, Ma'arachot, the percentage of religious military officers jumped from 2.9% in 1990 to 31.4% in 2007. The Israeli bureau of Statistics reports that in 2007 the National Religious population was just 15% of the total. Thus they are represented in the Israeli military by more than double their numbers in the general population. This trend is reflected in Israel’s Knesset (Parliament), government and ministries, where religious politicians and bureaucrats are now ubiquitous.

This troubling development is further compounded by the rise of the Haredi Leumi, the Nationalist Ultra-orthodox population, who have more extreme fundamentalist religious views. However unlike other Ultra-orthodox Jews, they have grafted on a nationalist component, serve in the military and often make common cause with their Dati Leumi or National Religious cousins in matters concerning the settlements and Occupied Territories.

Both Orthodox, and the Ultra Orthodox Jews (and their Christian Evangelical allies) have been instrumental in mainstreaming the idea of building the Third Temple. Organizations such as the ‘Temple Mount Faithful’ and the ‘Temple Institute’ in Jerusalem are growing rapidly. Where once these groups were largely ridiculed and marginalized in Israeli society, today Knesset members and government ministers make public announcements in support of rebuilding the Temple, and attend these organizations’ events. Other influences include an increase in the teaching and practice of Judaism in state ‘secular’ schools, and a recent massive increase in school field trips to Jewish religious sites in the Occupied Territories, such as Abraham’s Tomb in Hebron, and the ancient site at Shilo.

This phenomenon will have two primary ramifications for Israeli and Palestinian society. First, the ongoing and accelerating increase in the settlement population is cementing the demise of the two-state solution. Secondly the laws and regulations governing Israeli society will increasingly be based on biblical edicts and Halakhic Religious Law.

The combined effect will likely be catastrophic. Israel may descend into the same morass that afflicted medieval Europe and some of today’s Islamic regimes.  Modern societies cannot be governed by intolerant religious dogma developed thousands of years ago, without undermining the freedoms and principals of fair play, pluralism, and human rights that have evolved in the modern era.

Israelis are doing nothing to reverse this trend, and indeed are mostly participating eagerly in the evolution of a society within which many of them eventually may not have a place.
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Fred Schlomka is an Israeli businessman and the Managing Partner of the Green Olive Collective Inc. 

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