30 January 2012

An Essay by a Young Jew as to Why he has Rejected Zionism

Dietrich College News
2012 Martin Luther King, Jr. Writing Awards
Prose: High School
First Place (Tie)

One of the more remarkable signs of the cracks and crisis in the Zionist movement is the growing number of Jewish youngsters prepared to say ‘no’ to the blandishments of Zionism. Who refuse to accept the kith and kin argument that you must not criticise Zionism and Israel because blood is stronger than water, you are betraying your own, the Jewish tribe must protect itself etc.

The old charges of ‘self hatred’ are like water off a ducks back and it is something that is an accusation that simply draws attention to the lack of any intellect or analysis of the Zionist flunkey making it. Appeals to blood mean a lack of reason.

When I ‘came out’ as a Jewish anti-Zionist 40+ years ago there were no role models, no one to inspire you. The only Jews who were anti-Zionist were in far left groups. I joined the International Socialists (now the SWP) which was led by Tony Cliff (Yigal Gluckstein as the fascists never failed to call him) who was a Palestinian Jews expelled by the British for being a communist (with the support of the Zionist ‘trade union’ Histadrut). But Cliff rarely spoke about his experiences and wrote very little too.

The first anti-Zionist pamphlet which I read was the classic ‘Class Nature of Israeli Society’ by Moshe Machover, Haim Hanegbi and Akiva Orr (it was first printed in New Left Review). Although it was wrong in the belief that the incorporation of Palestinian labour from the West Bank and Gaza Strip would result in Israelis being dependent on those they had expelled (Israel today prefers migrant labour from Asia), virtually everything else was spot on.
But Jewish anti-Zionists, of whom I met a few in Brighton and as I became more outspoken nationally, including Liverpool where I established a life-long friendship with American exile, Sam Semoff, were still a rarity.

But the 1982 war changed all that. A few years previously the Jewish Socialists Group had been formed. Although it had originally been set up by an ex-Communist Party member Aubrey Lewis, in order to attract those Jews who were drawn to the New Left it soon veered off in the direction of Bundism. But for the JSG Palestine was never a priority.
Jews for Justice for Palestinians was also set up a few years later and although it was always considered the ‘soft left’ of the anti-Zionist left it undoubtedly contributed to changing the atmosphere.

When the JSG was set up, the Board of Deputies of British Jews held urgent talks about what to do about this challenge!
But today there are hundreds of Jewish youth and not so young who reject Zionism in Britain and in the USA there are major splits appearing. Jewish Voices for Peace has over 100,000 signatures. It has steadily moved towards a Boycott position.

American Jews are in an invidious position because many of them are not recognised as Jews by those who control the rabbinical institutions in Israel. Converts will not be recognised at all, and nor will the offspring of a marriage where the woman is non-Jewish. There is also greater recognition that Israel is a positive liability for Jews today and a growing repugnance against its far-right policies.

It used to be said that Zionism insisted that American Jews leave their liberalism at the door when Israel was on the agenda. However today they can see that their anti-Semitic foes, people like Glenn Back and John Hagee, are the darlings of the Zionist institutions.
This is an interesting essay, written for Martin Luther King day.

Tony Greenstein

By Jesse Lieberfeld 11th grade, Winchester Thurston

I once belonged to a wonderful religion. I belonged to a religion that allows those of us who believe in it to feel that we are the greatest people in the world—and feel sorry for ourselves at the same time. Once, I thought that I truly belonged in this world of security, self-pity, self-proclaimed intelligence, and perfect moral aesthetic. I thought myself to be somewhat privileged early on. It was soon revealed to me, however, that my fellow believers and I were not part of anything so flattering.

Although I was fortunate enough to have parents who did not try to force me into any one set of beliefs, being Jewish was in no way possible to escape growing up. It was constantly reinforced at every holiday, every service, and every encounter with the rest of my relatives. I was forever reminded how intelligent my family was, how important it was to remember where we had come from, and to be proud of all the suffering our people had overcome in order to finally achieve their dream in the perfect society of Israel.

This last mandatory belief was one which I never fully understood, but I always kept the doubts I had about Israel’s spotless reputation to the back of my mind. “Our people” were fighting a war, one I did not fully comprehend, but I naturally assumed that it must be justified. We would never be so amoral as to fight an unjust war. Yet as I came to learn more about our so-called “conflict” with the Palestinians, I grew more concerned. I routinely heard about unexplained mass killings, attacks on medical bases, and other alarmingly violent actions for which I could see no possible reason. “Genocide” almost seemed the more appropriate term, yet no one I knew would have ever dreamed of portraying the war in that manner; they always described the situation in shockingly neutral terms. Whenever I brought up the subject, I was always given the answer that there were faults on both sides, that no one was really to blame, or simply that it was a “difficult situation.” It was not until eighth grade that I fully understood what I was on the side of. One afternoon, after a fresh round of killings was announced on our bus ride home, I asked two of my friends who actively supported Israel what they thought. “We need to defend our race,” they told me. “It’s our right.”

“We need to defend our race.”

Where had I heard that before? Wasn’t it the same excuse our own country had used to justify its abuses of African-Americans sixty years ago? In that moment, I realized how similar the two struggles were—like the white radicals of that era, we controlled the lives of another people whom we abused daily, and no one could speak out against us. It was too politically incorrect to do so. We had suffered too much, endured too many hardships, and overcome too many losses to be criticized. I realized then that I was in no way part of a “conflict”—the term “Israeli/Palestinian Conflict” was no more accurate than calling the Civil Rights Movement the “Caucasian/ African-American Conflict.” In both cases, the expression was a blatant euphemism: it gave the impression that this was a dispute among equals and that both held an equal share of the blame. However, in both, there was clearly an oppressor and an oppressed, and I felt horrified at the realization that I was by nature on the side of the oppressors. I was grouped with the racial supremacists. I was part of a group that killed while praising its own intelligence and reason. I was part of a delusion.

I thought of the leader of the other oppressed side of years ago, Martin Luther King. He too had been part of a struggle that had been hidden and glossed over for the convenience of those against whom he fought. What would his reaction have been? As it turned out, it was precisely the same as mine. As he wrote in his letter from Birmingham Jail, he believed the greatest enemy of his cause to be “Not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who...lives by a mythical concept of time.... Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.” When I first read those words, I felt as if I were staring at myself in a mirror. All my life I had been conditioned to simply treat the so-called conflict with the same apathy which King had so forcefully condemned. I, too, held the role of an accepting moderate. I, too, “lived by a mythical concept of time,” shrouded in my own surreal world and the set of beliefs that had been assigned to me. I had never before felt so trapped.

I decided to make one last appeal to my religion. If it could not answer my misgivings, no one could. The next time I attended a service, there was an open question-and- answer session about any point of our religion. I wanted to place my dilemma in as clear and simple terms as I knew how. I thought out my exact question over the course of the seventeen-minute cello solo that was routinely played during service. Previously, I had always accepted this solo as just another part of the program, yet now it seemed to capture the whole essence of our religion: intelligent and well- crafted on paper, yet completely oblivious to the outside world (the soloist did not have the faintest idea of how masterfully he was putting us all to sleep). When I was finally given the chance to ask a question, I asked, “I want to support Israel. But how can I when it lets its army commit so many killings?” I was met with a few angry glares from some of the older men, but the rabbi answered me. “It is a terrible thing, isn’t it?” he said. “But there’s nothing we can do. It’s just a fact of life.” I knew, of course, that the war was no simple matter and that we did not by any means commit murder for its own sake, but to portray our thousands of killings as a “fact of life” was simply too much for me to accept. I thanked him and walked out shortly afterward. I never went back. I thought about what I could do. If nothing else, I could at least try to free myself from the burden of being saddled with a belief I could not hold with a clear conscience. I could not live the rest of my life as one of the pathetic moderates whom King had rightfully portrayed as the worst part of the problem. I did not intend to go on being one of the Self-Chosen People, identifying myself as part of a group to which I did not belong.

It was different not being the ideal nice Jewish boy. The difference was subtle, yet by no means unaffecting. Whenever it came to the attention of any of our more religious family friends that I did not share their beliefs, I was met with either a disapproving stare and a quick change of the subject or an alarmed cry of, “What? Doesn’t Israel matter to you?” Relatives talked down to me more afterward, but eventually I stopped noticing the way adults around me perceived me. It was worth it to no longer feel as though I were just another apathetic part of the machine.

I can obviously never know what it must have been like to be an African-American in the 1950s. I do feel, however, as though I know exactly what it must have been like to be white during that time, to live under an aura of moral invincibility, to hold unchallengeable beliefs, and to contrive illusions of superiority to avoid having to face simple everyday truths. That illusion was nice while it lasted, but I decided to pass it up. I have never been happier.

See also Jewish Rebels Rally Against Zionism

A Jewish State or a Democratic State?

Settler leader Benny Katzover no longer pretends to support democracy

When Rabbi Meir Kahane was elected to the Knesset for Kach, a Jewish Nazi party, Zionists who opposed him feigned shock when he said that Israel could be either a democratic state or a Jewish state. Yet all Kahane was doing was to be honest.

Either Israel is a Jewish state or a democratic state. Is it a state of its own citizens or only its Jewish citizens plus Jews in the rest of the world? The Zionist movement is quite clear about this. One of the most important Zionist organisations, the Jewish National Fund, has had more than its fair share of bad publicity recently.

This is an organisation which, with the Israeli Land Administration, owns and administers 93% of land in Israel. As the JNF only leases or rents land to Jews, it was not happy when in 2005, the High Court ruled in the Kadan case that the Israeli Lands Administration must sell or lease land to Arabs as well as Jews. The JNF was not best pleased as their web site indicates: We are told that:

A survey commissioned by KKL-JNF reveals that over 70% of the Jewish population in Israel opposes allocating KKL-JNF land to non-Jews, while over 80% prefer the definition of Israel as a Jewish state, rather than as the state of all its citizens.

In fact the JNF originally put on their site the sentence that ‘for 2,000 years the Jewish people have not dreamed of a democratic state but a Jewish state.’ but clearly thought better of it. But the reaction of Arieh Eldad MK was to say that ‘Attorney General Menachem Mazuz has violated the declaration of independence by choosing a democratic Israel over a Jewish state.’ Land Decision Slammed - Politicians rage over Attorney General decision to sell JNF land; Shinui and Meretz welcome change

And following this up the Knesset passed the first reading of a JNF Bill by 64-16 (only 10 Jews were among the 16 against) which defined the leasing of land to Jews only as not being discriminatory. As simple as that! A well-known army refuser and pacifist, Jonathan Ben-Artzi, wrote an open letter to members of the Knesset which was printed in Ha’aretz:
‘I`d like to save you some work phrasing the new law regarding purchase of JNF lands. I hope you will be able to appreciate the help.
In May 4th 1939 a law was implemented, forbidding a certain minority in a certain country from purchasing and leasing the majority`s lands in that country. Instead of re-writing this law now, why don`t you translate and implement that law?’
[Ha’aretz Monday, July 23, 2007]
It doesn’t take much effort to work out which country Ben-Artzi is referring to.
But it was realised that the JNF Bill as proposed was too crude and might even be struck down by the High Court. Instead in March 2011 an ‘Acceptance to Communities Bill’ was passed which allows ‘community standards’ committees to reject applicants to live in a town or village based on the prejudices of existing residents. It is clear that this is aimed at Arabs, but other minorities such as single parents, gay couples etc. will be caught.

Today it is recognised openly by the present right-wing Zionist administration that if your key aim is the preservation of a Jewish state, then Arabs inside Israel can never be allowed to form a majority. After all how can you have a Jewish state if the majority of its inhabitants re not Jewish? In 1948 this conundrum was solved by the expedient of expelling ¾ million Arabs from their homes – the Nakba. Today this solution is also desired but at present isn’t politically possible. The alternative is pretty much what we’ve got. A mini-bantustan in the West Bank run by Mahmoud Abbas, his unelected Prime Minister Fayad and the various Palestinian security forces. The solution in other words is a form of ‘autonomy’ which justifies denying 3.5 million Palestinians the vote while continuing to rule over them. In other words Israel runs a nakedly Apartheid state in the West Bank and a more subtle on in Israel itself. That is why those who support a 2 State solution, whether they realise it or not, are doing the work of Zionism for it by advocating a position which reinforces Israel’s position as a ‘Jewish’ state.

But in Israel there is a ‘demographic fear’ not only in respect of the Palestinians of the Occupied Territories but within Israel itself, where there are 1.4 million Arabs. They are not wanted but tolerated for lack of any alternative, though a ‘peace agreement’ would be the signal to transfer most of them to the newly set up Bantustan.

Tony Greenstein

Settler leader Katzover no longer pretends to support democracy

Benny Katzover, one of the founders and prominent leaders of the settler movement, takes off all masks. He declares himself in clear and unambiguous words to be a sworn enemy of democracy, striving to dismantle and destroy the democratic regime in Israel and replace it with a "Jewish" dictatorship of a nationalist – theocratic – racist character. Katzover no longer sees any need to pay even lip service to democracy, as he and his friends did for many years. He now speaks openly and brazenly, without apprehension of being hurt by this candor. He sees and feels that the liquidation of democracy has now become a tangible and realistic option on the Israeli public agenda.

Indeed, it's impossible to go on avoiding a decision. Either the military and settler dictatorship already in existence in the Territories would penetrate into all parts of Israeli society, eliminating what is left of democracy in Israel and eventually bringing about an end of Israel itself - or the sane forces in the Israeli society will rally at the last moment to put an end to the occupation and settlement, maintain and strengthen democracy and achieve peace between Israel, the Palestinians and the Arab World. Between these two choices there can be no bridging and no compromise.

Contact: Adam Keller, Gush Shalom spokesperson 054-2340749

Settler leader: Democracy must be dismantled
Sunday, January 8 2012|Yossi Gurvitz

Haaretz reports that settler leader Benni Katzover calls for dismantling democracy and “bowing to Judaism,” and the leader of the right-wing coalition aids “price tag” activists. Can we discuss the treason of the right yet?

The veteran settler leader, Benni Katzover, was caught (Hebrew) telling some meshigene Chabad paper, “Beit Mashiach”, that
I would say that today, Israeli democracy has one central mission, and that is to disappear. Israeli democracy has finished its historical role, and it must be dismantled and bow before Judaism. All the events nowadays are leading to the realization that there is no other way except putting the Jewish issue before any other issue, and that is the answer to all the situation and the threats.”
Referring to the struggle against gender exclusion, Katzover sailed on the seas of conspiracy, saying, “The leftist activists are cooking timed campaigns against anything that smells of holiness, and they have two goals: One is political – undermining the government and gathering bonuses in public opinion, and the other is to act against all the foundations of Jewish faith.” It’s an interesting look into a leading settler’s world: On the one hand, gender exclusion is “holiness”; On the other, leftists are Erev Rav – Amalekites who pretend to be, or believe themselves to be, Jews, who are seen as such, and yet whose whole existence is undermining “anything that smells of holiness.” Katzover, when asked for comment by Haaretz, confirmed his comments.

Benni Katzover (R) with Yair Lapid on a tour of the West Bank (photo: Yesha Council)
Katzover gains a point for no longer pretending, as most settler leaders still do, that he values democracy. Religious Zionism, as that pig who shows his cloven hoofs so that people will mistake it for a kosher animal, always claimed to support “Jewish democracy.” As anyone who actually studied in that world knows, democracy is described there as a Greek construct, alien to Judaism. When democracy is spoken of, the rabbis kept mentioning the biblical injunction “thou shall not follow a multitude to do evil.” It would be interesting to know how many settler leaders think like Katzover, but do not, as yet, dare say so openly.

This isn’t the only time Katzover was mentioned in the news lately. On Friday, Shahar Ginossar – who is showing himself to be one of the bravest reporters around – demonstrated in “7 Yamim”, Yediot’s weekend supplement, that Katzover, together with Gershon Messica, inspire the “price tag” campaign. The two of them discussed the attacks on the IDF and random Palestinians openly on some internal settlements publications, arguing that without “price tag” attacks, the settlers cannot prevent the removal of illegal outposts. The local council of Shomron, led in the past by Katsover and now by Messica, transferred funds – government funds – to finance what could have led to “price tag” attacks. Messica and Katsover also refrained, time and time again, from denouncing those attacks.

You didn’t have to be a strategic genius to believe that the “price tag” activists, breathlessly described by the media as anarchists over whom the settlement establishment has no control, are in fact Yesha Council of settlement’s special forces. After all, the weapon the Council used to threaten Israelis with for the past 30 years was the “extremists” over which it ostensibly “had no control.” Well, it seems at least some of its members did have control over them.

Will the Yesha Council cast out Katzover and Messica? That’s a funny one. Its disavowal of “price tag” attacks is only meant to preserve its normal position as the political arm of Jewish terrorism. It’s time to remind people that the legendary Yesha leader, Ze’ev “Zambish” Hever, is a convicted terrorist. In the early 1980s, he tried to blow up a Palestinian activist, Dr. Ahmed Natsha. The device didn’t go off, and due to “health concerns,” Hever – then called Friedman – got off with just 11 months in prison. Hever’s terrorist past didn’t harm him any, and that’s an understatement. At the time, of course, the leadership of Gush Emunim spoke of “extremists” just as it does now, while trying to conceal the metaphoric hissing fuse coming out of its pocket.

Yesha Council’s quiet support of Jewish terrorism is not limited to attacks on Palestinians. In January 1996, two months after the Rabin assassination, a yarmulka-wearing young man, Ohad Bart, tried to run Meretz minister Yossi Sarid’s car off the road. He was then a Bnei Akiva instructor. He kept his status – which he would have lost had he been caught eating in a non-kosher restaurant – and ten years later, in 2006, he was a Yesha Council functionary and a Knesset candidate on behalf of Ha’Ichud Ha’Leumi, a settler party.
We’re not finished yet. Katzover and Messica, along with their local council, may have inspired and supported “price tag” attacks, but today we learned (Hebrew) that the pogromchiks had a very prominent collaborator: MK Ze’ev Elkin, the chairman of the coalition. He does not deny passing information to “price tag” people telling them where the army was not planning to act, enabling them to deploy their forces in a more accurate manner.

Now, Elkin is obviously not a spy, just as the “price tag” people who gathered information on the army’s activities aren’t. The question whether Elkin is a traitor, however – in the moral sense of the word, not, naturally, the legal one – is more complicated. Elkin took an oath to maintain “loyalty to the State of Israel and to faithfully execute [his] calling in the Knesset.” When he gave information to the “price tag” people, which was supposed to derail military activity ordered by the lawful government, did he commit treason, or not? Let’s just say that Elkin is lucky to be a Jew and not an Arab; Otherwise the Knesset would already be discussing the removal of his immunity. As he is a Jew, it’ll be a surprise if even the Ethics Committee bothers itself with his perfidy.

So: We have a senior Yesha Council operative saying Jewish democracy must be dismantled or killed, while conspiring with another to support “price tag” attacks – aided and abetted by the leader of the right-wing coalition. Isn’t it time we asked some hard questions about the loyalty of the right, particularly the religious right, to Israeli democracy?

Settler leader calls democracy an obstacle to Israel's higher calling

Veteran settler leader Benny Katzover: 'We didn't come here to establish a democratic state.'
By The Associated Press

Israel's democracy has long been a point of pride for its citizens, setting the country apart in a region of autocratic governments. But veteran settler leader Benny Katzover says democracy is getting in the way of what he believes is a higher purpose.

Katzover has been at the forefront of a religiously inspired movement to take over the West Bank, helping build a network of settlements over four decades that are now home to hundreds of thousands of Israelis.

Today, he argues that democratic principles, such as equality before the law, have become an obstacle to deepening Jewish control over all of the biblical Land of Israel - though he stops short of calling for dismantling Israel's democratic institutions. They are disintegrating on their own and losing legitimacy in the eyes of the public, he believes.

"We didn't come here to establish a democratic state," Katzover says. "We came here to return the Jewish people to their land."

Katzover's comments appear to reflect a growing radicalization among some right-wing religious groups, coming at a time of a rise in attacks on Palestinians by vigilante settlers and an increase in complaints by liberal Israelis that the country's right-wing parliament and government have launched an unprecedented attack on the pillars of democracy.
Katzover, 64, led the first group of settlers into the northern West Bank in the 1970s and helped establish the settlement of Elon Moreh in 1980. Like other prominent settlers, he has been a confidant and informal adviser to a string of prime ministers over the years.

"Across the country, these ideas, that democracy needs dramatic change, if not dismantling then at least dramatic change, these ideas are very widespread," he says.

The mainstream settlers' umbrella group, the Yesha Council, distanced itself from Katzover's comments, first made in a small ultra-Orthodox publication and picked up by Haaretz earlier this month. The Yesha Council was firmly committed to democratic principles, said its chairman, Dani Dayan.

Yair Sheleg of the Israel Democracy Institute said the radicalization of hardline settlers accelerated after Israel's 2005 withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. Israel uprooted nearly two dozen settlements, including four in the northern West Bank, and the operation was deeply traumatic for the settler movement.

Sheleg said he was surprised by Katzover's tough tone, if not the content of his remarks. "We should be very worried," he said. "Benny Katzover was considered to be historically one of the mainstream leaders of the settler movement, and this really illustrates the way, the very far way, those mainstream settler leaders went."

29 January 2012

McCarthyism in Israel - Human Rights is a Crime

I’m reminded of Marx’s saying when news reaches me of yet another assault of human rights in Israel. ‘A nation that oppresses another nation will not itself be free.’ In the cause of the virulent and racist nationalism that stalks Israel, all dissent from Israel’s small left is being silenced in the cause of ‘national unity’ ‘Zionist goals’ an ‘existential threat’ and all the other manifestations of the mentality of a siege state.

You justify limitations on freedom in the cause of the national good (following on from good ol’ misunderstood Adolf) and you end up with no freedoms at all.

Israel has set itself on a course, the end of which will be that even the tokens of democracy that remain will be extinguished by the McCarthyist atmosphere that has taken hold. And because Israel is a settler state, there is no mass left-wing or working class politics there. Any alternative movements, like that of the tent protests, took place outside the political mainstream – although Israeli Labour tried to jump on the bandwagon.

Tony Greenstein

Israel Education Ministry blasts school for taking students to human rights march
Haaretz 30.12.11

'The students carried signs against racism, house demolitions, etc., which violates the director general's circular [i.e. ministry regulations],' ministry tells school.

By Talila Nesher

The Education Ministry reprimanded the Arara High School and demanded clarifications after the school participated in a human rights march in Tel Aviv at the beginning of the month.

"The students carried signs against racism, house demolitions, etc., which violates the director general's circular [i.e. ministry regulations]," stated the letter sent to the school.

"This was a praiseworthy initiative by the students as part of their assignment in civics class," countered one of the school's teachers. "What better way to express civic involvement and internalize the material?"

A bus with students from the tenth, eleventh and twelfth grades went to the march, which was sponsored by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, on Friday three weeks ago, another teacher said. All the students had approval from their parents and all the students chose to participate, with the encouragement of the student council.

"It was a celebration of human rights," the teacher said. "There were students who said at the end of the march that this was one of the most important and significant days in their lives."

"A thousand civics classes couldn't give what that hour they spent there could," she added.

But in its letter to the school, the ministry objected to the fact that "the students participated in a demonstration in the framework of a civics lesson on the subject of human rights" and carried placards, saying this goes against ministry regulations. It therefore asked the ministry's regional supervisor and the school's supervisor to deal with the matter and report back to the ministry.

The signs were prepared by the students at their own initiative, said one of the school's senior staff members. "The signs were against racism, for peace, equality and social justice. Did anyone thereby say that the state is racist?"

In its response to the ministry, the school quoted Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar's message in honor of International Human Rights Day in November: "Your role as educators, who serve as guides for your students, is to teach them that alongside protecting and defending human rights, there is an expectation that they demonstrate involvement and personal responsibility," Sa'ar wrote then.

No comment had been received from either the ministry or ACRI as of press time on Tuesday night.

Jonathan Cook Jul 11, 2010

NAZARETH // Hundreds of Israeli college professors have signed a petition accusing the education minister of endangering academic freedoms after he threatened to "punish" any lecturer or institution that supports a boycott of Israel. The backlash against Gideon Saar, a member of the prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party, comes after a series of moves suggesting he is trying to stamp a more stridently right-wing agenda on the Israeli education system.

The education minister has outraged the 540 professors who signed the petition by his open backing of a nationalist youth movement, Im Tirtzu, which demands that teachers be required to prove their commitment to right-wing Zionism. Two of Mr Saar's predecessors, Yossi Sarid and Yuli Tamir, are among those who signed the petition, which calls on the minister to "come to your senses … before it's too late to save higher education in Israel". Mr Saar's campaign to "re-Zionise" the education system, including introducing a new right-wing Jewish studies syllabus and bringing soldiers into classrooms, has heightened concerns that he is stoking an atmosphere increasingly hostile to left-wing academics and human-rights activists.

Neve Gordon, a politics professor at Ben Gurion University in Beersheva who called for an academic boycott of Israel last year, has reported receiving death threats, as has a school teacher who refused to participate in Mr Saar's flagship programme to encourage high-school recruitment to the IDF. Daniel Gutwein, a professor of Jewish history at Haifa University, said: ""A serious red flag is raised when the education minister joins in the de-legitimisation of the academic establishment. This is a method to castrate and abolish Israeli academia."

Mr Saar's sympathies for Im Tirtzu were first revealed earlier this year when he addressed one of its conferences, telling delegates the organisation would be "blessed" for its "hugely vital" work. The youth movement emerged in 2006 among students demanding that the government rather than ordinary soldiers be held to account for what was seen as Israel's failure to crush Hizbollah during that year's attack on Lebanon. It has rapidly evolved into a potent right-wing pressure group.

Its biggest success to date has been a campaign last year against Israeli human rights groups that assisted a United Nations inquiry led by Judge Richard Goldstone in investigating war crimes committed during Israel's assault on Gaza in 2008. The human rights organisations are now facing possible government legislation to restrict their activities. Im Tirtzu's latest campaign, against what it calls "the reign of left-wing terror" in the education system, was backed by Mr Saar during a parliamentary debate last month. He told MPs he took very seriously a report by the movement claiming that anti-Zionist professors have taken over university politics departments and are silencing right-wing colleagues and students.

Mr Saar also warned that calls for boycotts against Israel were "impossible to accept" and that he was talking to higher education officials about taking "action" this summer, hinting that he would cut funds for the professors involved and their institutions. Yossi Ben Artzi, the rector of Haifa University and the most senior university official to criticise Mr Saar, warned him against "monitoring and denouncing" academics. He added that the Im Tirtzu report "smells of McCarthyism".

The universities are already disturbed by a bill submitted by 25 MPs last month that would make it a criminal offence for Israelis to "initiate, encourage, or aid" a boycott against Israel and require them to pay compensation to those harmed by it. The bill is likely to be treated sympathetically by the government, which is worried about the growing momentum of boycott drives both internationally and in the occupied West Bank. Mr Netanyahu has called the emergence of a boycott movement inside Israel a "national scandal".

Prof Gordon, who wrote a commentary in the Los Angeles Times a year ago supporting a boycott, said Im Tirtzu had contributed to a growing "atmosphere of violence" in the country and on campuses. Hundreds of students at his university have staged demonstrations demanding his dismissal. He was also recently sent a letter from someone signing himself "Im Tirtzu" calling the professor a "traitor" and warning: "I will reach Ben Gurion [University] to kill you."

Prof Gordon said: "I have tenure and Im Tirtzu cannot easily get me fired. But they are trying to become the 'guards at the gate' to make sure other academics do not follow in my path." He cited the recent case of Assaf Oren, a statistics lecturer and peace activist who had been told he was the leading candidate for a post in Ben Gurion's industrial engineering department until right-wing groups launched a campaign against him. Also in the sights of education officials are hundreds of Arab nursery schools, many of them established by the Islamic Movement, that have been accused of sowing anti-Israeli hatred in the minds of Arab children in Israel.

Mr Saar appointed a special committee last month to inspect the schools and shut them down if they were found to be teaching "anti-Israel" material. Arab MPs have called the claims "ridiculous", pointing out that the schools were set up after the education ministry failed to build nursery schools in Arab communities.

Successful Action Against Waitrose in Brighton today

B&Q Visited to Stop Them Selling Keter Plastics from Israel

Today a group from the Brighton Palestine Solidarity Campaign visited Waitrose supermarket in Western Road to persuade its customers not to buy Israeli produce.

After a lively demonstration inside the store, the group continued leafleting and demonstrating outside.

Waitrose stocks assorted herbs, avocados, cucumbers, peppers, potatoes and citrus fruit from Israel - all of which produce is available from other sources.

The group received support from many customers who agreed that money spent on Israeli produce goes to bolster the Israeli economy which invests heavily in armaments to suppress the Palestinian and kill innocent civilians.

Many people were also aware that Israel itself has all the hallmarks of an apartheid state - denying equal rights to its Palestinian citizens with some 30 laws discriminating against them.

Waitrose supermarkets have refused to even consider banning goods from illegal settlements, as have sainsbury and Tesco.

So next time you shop boycott israeli goods and tell them why you are doing it

This morning a group of BDS activists visited B&Q on the Lewes Road in Brighton to speak to them about their sale of Keter Plastic products.

In 2005 Palestinian civil society called for a BDS movement against Israel until it complied with international law and ended its human rights abuses. Israel destroys Palestinian lives, homes and livelihoods on a daily basis. It is continuing its construction of settlements and the apartheid wall in the West Bank despite these actions being declared illegal under international laws. Nor will it lift its suffocating blockade of the Gaza Strip.

In Brighton, Palestinian Solidarity activists have now turned their attention to Keter Plastics. Keter Plastic is a large Israeli manufacturer of plastic products such as garden and indoor furniture, tool boxes and storage products. The products are widely available throughout the UK and several lines are stocked in the DIY superstore.

Keter has a factory in the illegal industrial settlement of Barkan, in the occupied West Bank. Here, as in settlement industrial zones across the region, some of the most harmful and polluting Israeli industries take place, exploiting the captive Palestinian workforce.

As well as being built on stolen land, the environmental effects of these industrial zones has a devastating impact on Palestinian communities. The Barkan settlement dumps industrial waste and sewage into the Al Matwi Valley – contaminating a vital water source for local Palestinian villages.

The manager took our letter and said that he had heard that head office was phasing out Keter products. We will write to head office and try to check out the veracity of this.

Keter products are also sold in Robert Dyas, Argos, Toys R Us and more

For more on Keter info see

Letter handed into B&Q store manager:
28th January 2012

Dear Sir/Madam,

We are writing to inform you that your store is stocking goods sourced from an illegal Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank, which has been declared illegal under international law.
Keter Plastic is a large Israeli manufacturer of plastic products such as garden and indoor furniture, tool boxes and storage products. The products are widely available throughout the UK and several lines are stocked in B&Q Brighton.

Keter Plastic has a factory in the illegal industrial settlement of Barkan, in the occupied West Bank. Here, as in settlement industrial zones across the region, some of the most harmful and polluting Israeli industries take place, exploiting the captive Palestinian workforce.

As well as being built on stolen land, the environmental effects of these industrial zones has a devastating impact on Palestinian communities. The Barkan settlement dumps industrial waste and sewage into the Al Matwi Valley – contaminating a vital water source for local Palestinian villages.

In 2006 Palestinian civil society called for a global BDS movement against Israel until it complied with international law and ended its human rights abuses. Israel destroys Palestinian lives, homes and livelihoods on a daily basis. It is continuing its construction of settlements and the apartheid wall in the West Bank despite these actions being declared illegal under international laws. Nor will it lift its suffocating blockade of the Gaza Strip.

The BDS movement has had several successes in recent years in targeting businesses which operate unlawfully, profit from the military occupation of the Palestinian territories and contribute to the abuse of Palestinians' human rights.

We ask you to stop selling Keter Plastic goods and, as a person of conscience, to support the call to boycott Keter Plastics and other Israeli goods.

28 January 2012

The Government Dismantles Disability Living Allowance

Q Can the over-65s no longer get the mob­ility component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA), or is it meant only for new claimants and those already getting the DLA higher rate mobility component? Can those in care still receive it? Also, are children and over-65s to be assessed or is it only for people of working age?

Neil Coyle of Disability Alliance says:

The Government’s Welfare Reform Bill will abolish DLA for working age adults (16-64 years of age). People over 65 but receiving DLA appear to have avoided this round of cuts. Working-age disabled people will need to be re-assessed for the new “PIP” benefit, the Personal Independence Payment. The Government’s aim in introducing the PIP is to cut 20 per cent of DLA costs by 2015-16, a saving of £2.1 billion. They are hoping to do this by paying £675 million for a new assessment process to ensure the PIP is not accessed by as many people as DLA.

The PIP will also have no equivalent low-rate care payment, meaning that the 643,000 people receiving this support from DLA are now at risk of losing help. However, the Welfare Reform Bill does include provisions automatically to end PIP payments at the point when someone retires or turns 65 (whichever is higher). This means that people receiving PIP would have to apply for Attend­ance Allowance (AA). AA provides no mobility support and, if enacted, this change could see thousands of older disabled people losing support and the ability to stay independent. The changes also mean that a 61-year-old man who has recently qualified for DLA may face a new PIP test in two years’ time and a further AA assessment when he reaches 65, with potential cuts to support and independence with each new assessment. At Disability Alliance, we think the new PIP test will waste public resources. The Government’s plans may have knock-on costs during this tough economic period, through rising (but avoidable) NHS use, increased demands on council support and losses to the Treasury from disabled people and carers being forced to reduce or give up work.

Q Having recently had pins put in the top two or three verte­brae to stabilise my neck, I can no longer move my head in any direction, which makes it very difficult to carry out normal activities. Whom can I contact to see if I am eligible to be registered disabled? If I am, what does this entitle me to, and how do I go about getting my entitlement?

Agnes Fletcher says:

“Registered disabled” is a bit of a misleading term,

Elaine. Our experiences as disabled people are so varied that we are eligible for different things, and there’s no one definitive definition of what it means to be disabled.

I’ll give you a few examples. The Equality Act has a very broad definition, including those perceived to be disabled and those associated with a disabled person (e.g. a parent or partner). That’s because discrimination on grounds of disability happens in all sorts of ways to all sorts of people.

The situation for financial benefits is different, with far narrower criteria for determining who is eligible. The main ones you could look into are

• disability living allowance, to meet the extra costs of being disabled (such as getting around by taxi or someone to help you with shopping or cleaning the house)

• employment support allowance, if you’ve been in work but currently aren’t able to work

• disability-related income support benefits, which are means tested.

If you want to look into claiming any of these, visit:

You might be eligible for a Blue Badge. This would currently be either via receiving the higher rate mobility component of Disability Living Allowance or because you can’t walk more than around 100 metres. If you want to look into getting a Blue Badge, visit:

Finally, you could be entitled to some help with personal care in your home from your local authority’s social services department. For this, visit

Why not get in touch with your local disabled people’s organisation (do an internet search or look in the phone book). You may find it helpful to be in touch with people with similar experiences and you can pick up lots of useful advice too.

“The PIP will also have no equivalent low-rate care payment, meaning that the 643,000 people receiving this support from DLA are now at risk of losing help. However, the Welfare Reform Bill does include provisions automatically to end PIP payments at the point when someone retires or turns 65 (whichever is higher). This means that people receiving PIP would have to apply for Attend­ance Allowance (AA). AA provides no mobility support and, if enacted, this change could see thousands of older disabled people losing support and the ability to stay independent. The changes also mean that a 61-year-old man who has recently qualified for DLA may face a new PIP test in two years’ time and a further AA assessment when he reaches 65, with potential cuts to support and independence with each new assessment. “

Disabled activists and UK Uncut join to oppose ‘cruel and unnecessary’ welfare bill

On Saturday 28 January, activists from Disabled People Against Cuts, Disabled People's Direct Action Network and UK Uncut will occupy an area of central London in a ‘daring and disruptive’ act of civil disobedience in opposition to the government’s Welfare Reform Bill which is currently being debated in the Lords.

The activists are angry about the impact that the proposed Welfare Reform Bill will have on poor and disabled people. Recent reports have shown that as a result of the bill 500,000 families stand to lose their homes while others will become ‘imprisoned in them’. Nearly half a million people would lose their Disability Living Allowance, including disabled children. People with terminal illnesses would be forced into work, and 3.2 million will be put through demanding tests that have already pushed some to take their own lives. According to their own research, the government’s flagship reform will push 100,000 children into poverty.

The government has defended the bill on the grounds that it needs to cut the deficit. However, the activists point out that much greater amounts of money are lost through tax dodging by the super-rich each year, money which could instead continue current welfare provision. In January, Private Eye revealed a further £2 billion tax dodge by Vodafone, in addition to the £6 billion scam revealed in 2010(8). The most recent dodge by Vodafone is greater than the cuts to Disability Living Allowance, which will affect half a million people.

The bill continues to be debated in the Lords, but will have to return to the House of Commons, where MPs will vote on peer's amendments to the bill. In spite of strong criticism of the bill from disabled peers, David Cameron has already sworn that he will call on coalition MPs to overturn the amendments.

The target of the secret action is not being pre-announced, with UK Uncut only calling on people to travel to Holborn tube station in central London with a charged Oyster card, ready to travel to a secret location. The exact details of where the action is expected to be leaked through Twitter.

Richard Whitehurst of DPAC said:

“These vicious cuts have already led to at least 31 disabled people committing suicide and many more are now talking about it as they feel they have no future. In the 21st century, in one of the richest nations in the world, disabled people should not be forced to live in fear every day of their lives.

Cuts to disabled people's benefits and services will not save money but will ultimately cost the taxpayer far more as pushing disabled people into destitution and withdrawing care services will lead to an increased demand for NHS care. With the cap on benefits some single disabled people living in London will be left with only £25 a week to meet all their needs for food, heating and all other costs after paying their rent."

Sarah Evans of UK Uncut said:

“British people are proud of the welfare state because it has provided for the 99% for over 60 years. This bill will remove vital lifelines and force people into deeper poverty, making many prisoners in their own homes. This Bill is simply not needed or wanted by anyone. There are alternatives- we can afford a fair welfare system that provides for all."

“Instead of taking serious action against rich companies tax dodging and their ‘fancy corporate lawyers’ David Cameron is instead choosing to make the poorest and most isolated pay for the economic crisis they didn't cause. At least £25 billion of tax is avoided every single year by super rich companies and individuals, far more than the government hopes to save through this devastating bill. The welfare reform bill is cruel and unnecessary and it must be stopped.”

Tel: UK Uncut Media Phone: 07415063231 / DPAC: 01926842253 http://twitter.com/ukuncutEmail ukuncut@gmail.com

Why US Republican Candidates Support Israel

Fri Jan 27, 2012 5:51PM GMT
Interview with Ralph Schoenman,

In a US Republican debate candidates Romney and Gingrich vent disinformation to demean the people of Palestine as they vie for Israeli lobby favoritism.

Press TV has interviewed Ralph Schoenman, Author of the Hidden History of Zionism from Berkeley about the entities that financially support Romney and Gingrich in their presidential campaign and how these financier's imperialist interests are being played out in the Republican debates. What follows is an approximate transcript of the interview.

Press TV: Interesting comments coming out of debate in Florida. What do you make of it? It seems that Romney and Gingrich were basically trying to top each other almost as if they are running for prime minister of Israel instead of president of the US.

Schoenman: Actually, all of these candidates are basically front-men for the structure of power in the US, intimately linked to finance and corporate capital and to the military itself. The principal advisers of both Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney have close ties to the military industrial complex.

In fact, their national security advisers service corporations that have something like 7.3 billion dollars in contracts and benefit directly from the militarization of the Middle East, from military aid to Israel and from the general imperial onslaught on peoples of the region.

Specifically, the Adelson family that is financing Newt Gingrich, made its money out of corruption namely the bribing of people in Macao for the building of casinos. They are billionaires and have given over ten million dollars to Gingrich in the recent campaign - having previously funded Binyamin Netanyahu and his election campaigns in Israel.

These are people who are linked to the same corporate and financial apparatus that sustains Barak Obama and his administration in power.

A key advisor, for example, of Mitt Romney is Cofer Black and another is Rabbi Dov Michael Zakheim who ran Pentagon operations, notably computer ground control of aircraft, for the Bush Administration. Cofer Black is the person long associated with the CIA program of torture and assassination and is one of the principal figures in Blackwater-XIE, the mercenary apparatus that has sustained operations for Central Intelligence as a private contractor.

Indeed there are as many troops in Afghanistan that are mercenary troops run by the likes of Blackwater, directed by such as Cofer Black, as there are formal troops of the US government itself.

Press TV: If you were to talk to the average American trying to figure out what's going on and later on in November whom to vote for are you saying that it really does not make a difference because they are all coming from the same basic apparatus with the same perspective?

Schoenman: Yes. That's long been understood in the US. The two parties are what we call the one big property party with two names. It's financed by the same apparatus and they're all intimately linked to the Pentagon and to the corporations that benefit from military contracts and from imperial control over resources of the peoples of the world.

As I say, the key advisors of both Gingrich and Romney have the most intimate ties with the military industrial complex and with corporations that receive billions of dollars of benefit.

Now, in the case of Romney, in this particular debate he declaimed that Hamas is led by people who want to exterminate all Jews and who launched "thousands" of rockets upon Israel, both statements that are patently absurd and false.

He announced in this debate that he would immediately move the US embassy to Jerusalem and recognize Israel as an exclusively Jewish state.

These political flacks for corporate capital are falling over each other in competing to sustain the legitimacy of the Zionist state and its most aggressive posture and to demean and, in racist terms, to denigrate the Palestinian people.

Israeli Military Arrest Patient for Purposes of Torture

There doesn’t seem to be any depths to which ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’ can sink. This includes arresting a patient, en route to a hospital for surgery. No doubt this is the ‘civilisation’ that Ehud Barak spoke of when he spoke of the ‘villa in the jungle’

Tony Greenstein

IOF Arrest Patient at Beit Hanoun (Erez) Crossing in the Northern Gaza Strip

Ref: 10/2012Date: 23 January 2012Time: 11:00

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) strongly condemns arresting a Palestinian patient from the Gaza Strip by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) at Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing. The patient was heading to a hospital in the West Bank for medical treatment. PCHR is concerned that he may be subjected to torture, especially as he was supposed to undergo a surgery.

According to investigations conducted by PCHR, IOF arrested Bassam Sha'ban Fu'ad Raihan, 24, from Jabaliya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip on 19 January 2012, as he was traveling to al-Mezan Hospital in Hebron through Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing to undergo surgery. In her testimony to PCHR, the patient's aunt and companion, Na'ima Fu'ad Sha'ban Raihan, 49, said that the Israeli officer at Beit Hanoun crossing informed her that Bassam was arrested, gave her Bassam's belongings and ordered her to return to Gaza. Sha'ban Fo'ad Raihan, 50, the patient's father, said that he received a phone call from IOF informing him that his son is detained in Ashkelon prison. The patient has been detained so far.

PCHR believes that the policy adopted by IOF to arrest patients is a serious violation of international humanitarian law. Furthermore, it is a form of cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment, especially as it is part of the illegal closure imposed on the Gaza Strip that aggravates the suffering of patients whose treatment is not available in the Gaza Strip hospitals.

It should be noted that IOF positioned at Beit Hanoun crossing arrested two patients from the Gaza Strip while they on their way to West Bank hospitals for medical treatment in November 2011.

In light of the above, PCHR:

1. Strongly condemns the continued arrests of Palestinian patients by IOF in their medical treatment journeys. PCHR calls for the immediate release of all patient prisoners and to ensure not to endanger their lives. Besides, it holds IOF responsible for any deterioration of their health conditions while in detention;

2. Stresses that targeting patients, exploiting their need for medical treatment at hospitals in Israel or the West Bank and blackmailing them constitute serious illegal actions;

3. Calls upon the international community, including the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention, to fulfill their obligations and stop violations of international law committed by IOF against the Palestinian civilians.

For more information please call PCHR office in Gaza, Gaza Strip, on +972 8 2824776 - 2825893
PCHR, 29 Omer El Mukhtar St., El Remal, PO Box 1328 Gaza, Gaza Strip. E-mail: pchr@pchrgaza.org, Webpage http://www.pchrgaza.org/

Israel Arrests Palestinian Patient

The Israeli regime continues to impose punishing pressures on Palestinian residents in the besieged Gaza Strip, arresting a patient seeking to leave the enclave for medical treatment.

Aed Zeyadeh was arrested last week by Israeli authorities as he was about to depart Gaza for treatment, a Press TV correspondent reported on Monday.

“My children and I were totally dependent on my husband and all of a sudden he is not here, and now we have to wait five years to see him again,” said Zeyadeh's wife.

The health ministry of the Palestinian movement of Hamas has condemned the arrest and indictment of Zeyadeh.

Yousef Modallal of the Hamas health ministry said the detention of Zeyadeh proves Israel's ill-treatment of Palestinians at crossings and checkpoints.

“Zeyadeh wanted to receive treatment in the West Bank but was arrested even after being granted an exit permit by the Israeli security agency. This shows that the permit was nothing but a bait to lure him into prison,” Modallal added.

There has been a climb in the number of Palestinian patients arrested by Israeli forces at the Erez crossing in northern Gaza in recent months, according to the Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations Network (PNGO).

“Not only our patients are humiliated at the Erez crossing, but they are also being arrested now and then. The number of arrests continues to increase. We call on the international community to step in and put an end to sufferings of people in Gaza,” said Amjad al-Shawwa of PNGO.

The Israeli regime laid an economic siege on the Gaza Strip in June 2007 after the democratically-elected Hamas lawmakers took over the administration of the enclave.

The blockade has had a disastrous impact on the humanitarian and economic situation in the impoverished territory.

The Tel Aviv regime denies some 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza their basic rights, including the freedom of movement and their rights to appropriate living conditions, work, health and education.

Activists resisting Palestinian home demolitions face ‘IDF Price Tag' attack

This is just another example of the horrors of Israel's occupation of the West Bank. The repeated demolition of Palestinian homes, under Regulations inherited from the British. At the time, when they were used by the British against (occasionally) the Zionist terrorists, they were denounced as 'Nazi laws'. This is a good description. Laying to waste the homes of civilians and making them homeless is what happened between 1933 and 1941 to Jews in Germany and Austria.

The Zionists have had very good teachers.

Tony Greenstein

The Demolition of Beit Arabiya

It has become commonplace among violent West Bank settlers to randomly attack Palestinian mosques, homes, olive orchards and individuals in order to send a message to other Israelis. They are called “Price Tag” attacks, after the “signature” the settlers leave scrawled on the walls of the burnt-out buildings. In the dark of night this past Monday, January 23, the IDF carried out its own Price Tag assault on ICAHD, the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions.

At 11:30 p.m. on that cold, rainy night, I got a panicky phone call from Salim Shawamreh, a Palestinian man from the West Bank town of Anata whose home has been demolished by the Israeli authorities four times and rebuilt as an act of resistance each time by ICAHD. “Army bulldozers are approaching my home,” he cried.

"Now they’re beginning to demolish it!”

As has become routine, I alerted our activists, plus journalists and foreign diplomats, and we rushed out to Anata. We knew we could not save the homes, but we could resist; stand in solidarity with the families, soaked, with their belongings, in the rain; document what was happening and broadcast this latest war crime to the world. It was another of those thousands of attacks on Palestinians that occur daily but never reach the newspapers – probably because there are so many and they are so routine by now that they are not, in fact, “news.”

By the time we reached Salim’s house – which we rebuilt in 2003 and have called Beit Arabiya ever since, the “house of Arabiya,” home to Salim’s wife and mother of their seven children – it was gone. Salim himself was afraid to go down the hill to see it because of the soldiers, but I ran down. Even in the dark and rain I could see the ruins of the home, and the family’s belongings that had been thrown out. But I couldn’t tarry. The bulldozers had moved up the hill and were in the process of demolishing a Jahalin Bedouin enclave there – part of the Jahalin tribe that was being removed and relocated on top of the Jerusalem garbage dump near Abu Dis.

Our activists were already there, scuffling with the army and trying to reach the bulldozer to hamper its destruction. The soldiers, claiming that this was a “closed military area” but unable to produce any proper military order, attacked the activists physically and verbally. Itay Epshtain, ICAHD’s Co-Director, was hit with a gun and thrown to the ground. All the while, the soldiers cursed at “the anarchists and leftists.” One yelled at Rabbi Arik Aschermann from Rabbis For Human Rights to take of his skullcap because “he was a disgrace to Judaism.” But it was the women who received the most violent verbal abuse, in addition to physical. “May the Arabs here rape you!” one soldier yelled at an activist.

In the end, Beit Arabiya, six Jahalin homes and most of their animal pens were demolished before the army left. The bulldozer, protected by dozens of troops, belonged to a commercial contractor who was paid well for the demolitions by the Civil Administration, Israel’s military government in the West Bank that uses the word “civil” to downplay its military connections, and to make it appear that demolitions of “illegal” Palestinian homes are simply part of “proper administration.”

After staying with the families and promising to rebuild, we finally left to send out press releases; put out information on our website and social media; and begin mobilizing activists abroad and, through them, governments and UN bodies. Only when we returned early in the morning did we learn that yet another house had been demolished: that of the Abu Omar family, a family of 17 people who lived in a home that had been demolished last year, which ICAHD had rebuilt in our 2011 summer rebuilding camp. We had thought the bulldozer and soldiers had left for the Border Police base on the hill opposite Beit Arabiya and the Jahalin, but in fact they had only gone around Anata. At 3:30 a.m. they pounced on the Abu Omar family, forced them out of their home, removed their belongings and demolished it. The family was so dazed by the sudden violence, terror, confusion and need to protect the terrified children that they hadn’t even thought of phoning us.
The IDF attack on three sites that for years have been identified with ICAHD’s resistance activities was clearly an official, government-sponsored, violent Price Tag assault on Palestinians in order to “send a message” to ICAHD. Out of the tens of thousands of demolition orders outstanding in the Occupied Territory, they chose these three. In fact, the “message” had already been delivered. Already at the second demolition of Beit Arabiya in 1999, Micha Yakhin, the Civil Administration official responsible for overseeing the demolitions in that part of the West Bank, told me: “We will demolish every home you rebuild.”

ICAHD has rebuilt 185 demolished Palestinian homes in the past 15 years, all as acts of political resistance – not humanitarian gestures – all funded by donations. We will rebuild the homes demolished Monday night as well. The coming together of Palestinian families and community members, Israeli activists and international peace-makers to rebuild homes is one of the most significant forms of resistance, solidarity and mobilization. But Israel demolished 200 homes last year alone in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, of more than 26,000 Palestinian homes in the Occupied Territory since 1967. Resistance cannot keep pace with the massive Price Tag assault that is the Israeli Occupation.

Jeff Halper is the Director of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD)

25 January 2012

Israel’s Torture of Palestinian Children

The Beasts of Al Jalame – Electric Shocks Help the Children to Co-operate

It prides itself on being ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’ with the world’s ‘most moral army’ but like all armies of occupation there is little that they are not capable of when it comes to violating basic human rights. And after 45 years they have honed their expertise in cruelty down to a fine art.

But even the animals that make up Israel’s Occupation Forces have excelled themselves in devising methods of torture of Palestinian children. Not merely striking, shackling, using electric shock torture, stress positions etc. In other words the normal methods of torture used by the occupation forces. Children are also imprisoned in isolation for weeks and months. Solitary confinement is, in itself, a form of torture as is the use of sleep deprivation.

And if not satisfied with their hidden methods of cruelty, the children are brought into court shackled and chained, like armed convicts. But it is in accordance with the law, according to Israel’s equivalent of Dr Goebbels, Mark Regev.

So a simple question. When was the last time that Jewish children were imprisoned in solitary confinement and beaten for having thrown stones? As the report of the demonstrations in Beit Shemesh against the attempts of Orthodox Jews to segregate the sexes and make young girls dress ‘modestly’, in response to attacks on an 8 year old girl Naama, ‘extremists have heckled and thrown eggs and rocks at journalists descending on town.’

Yet the Police haven’t arrested and thrown into solitary confinement even the adult stone throwers. Unlike the West Bank, live ammunition isn’t used against the demonstrators, on the contrary. Orthodox demonstrators in Jerusalem and elsewhere are treated with kid gloves. Perhaps more than anything else, this demonstrates the inherent racism in Israeli society (since live ammunition is used against Israeli Arabs’ demonstrations).

This also throws into question the role of the International Committee of the Red C
ross. In Nazi Germany the Red Cross were used to provide a seal of approval for the concentration camp system by allowing itself to be shown round the 'model' camp at Thereinstadt (most of the inmates had been shipped to Auschwitz). They likewise visited the Czech children's camp at Auschwitz, which was exterminated shortly after the visit. Israel is now using the IHRC, like the Americans did at Guantanamo, to 'kosher' the torture of children. Hard questions need to be asked about the Red Cross, and their pledge not to reveal details of what they see, when the torturers use them as an alibi.

Tony Greenstein

Special report: Israel's military justice system is accused of mistreating Palestinian children arrested for throwing stones

Harriet Sherwood in the West Bank 23rd January 2012

The room is barely wider than the thin, dirty mattress that covers the floor. Behind a low concrete wall is a squat toilet, the stench from which has no escape in the windowless room. The rough concrete walls deter idle leaning; the constant overhead light inhibits sleep. The delivery of food through a low slit in the door is the only way of marking time, dividing day from night.

This is Cell 36, deep within Al Jalame prison in northern Israel. It is one of a handful of cells where Palestinian children are locked in solitary confinement for days or even weeks. One 16-year-old claimed that he had been kept in Cell 36 for 65 days.

The only escape is to the interrogation room where children are shackled, by hands and feet, to a chair while being questioned, sometimes for hours.

Most are accused of throwing stones at soldiers or settlers; some, of flinging molotov cocktails; a few, of more serious offences such as links to militant organisations or using weapons. They are also pumped for information about the activities and sympathies of their classmates, relatives and neighbours.

At the beginning, nearly all deny the accusations. Most say they are threatened; some report physical violence. Verbal abuse – "You're a dog, a son of a whore" – is common. Many are exhausted from sleep deprivation. Day after day they are fettered to the chair, then returned to solitary confinement. In the end, many sign confessions that they later say were coerced.
These claims and descriptions come from affidavits given by minors to an international human rights organisation and from interviews conducted by the Guardian. Other cells in Al Jalame and Petah Tikva prisons are also used for solitary confinement, but Cell 36 is the one cited most often in these testimonies.

Between 500 and 700 Palestinian children are arrested by Israeli soldiers each year, mostly accused of throwing stones. Since 2008, Defence for Children International (DCI) has collected sworn testimonies from 426 minors detained in Israel's military justice system.
Their statements show a pattern of night-time arrests, hands bound with plastic ties, blindfolding, physical and verbal abuse, and threats. About 9% of all those giving affidavits say they were kept in solitary confinement, although there has been a marked increase to 22% in the past six months.

Few parents are told where their children have been taken. Minors are rarely questioned in the presence of a parent, and rarely see a lawyer before or during initial interrogation. Most are detained inside Israel, making family visits very difficult.

Human rights organisations say these patterns of treatment – which are corroborated by a separate study, No Minor Matter, conducted by an Israeli group, B'Tselem – violate the international convention on the rights of the child, which Israel has ratified, and the fourth Geneva convention.

Most children maintain they are innocent of the crimes of which they are accused, despite confessions and guilty pleas, said Gerard Horton of DCI. But, he added, guilt or innocence was not an issue with regard to their treatment.

"We're not saying offences aren't committed – we're saying children have legal rights. Regardless of what they're accused of, they should not be arrested in the middle of the night in terrifying raids, they should not be painfully tied up and blindfolded sometimes for hours on end, they should be informed of the right to silence and they should be entitled to have a parent present during questioning."
Mohammad Shabrawi from the West Bank town of Tulkarm was arrested last January, aged 16, at about 2.30am. "Four soldiers entered my bedroom and said you must come with us. They didn't say why, they didn't tell me or my parents anything," he told the Guardian.

Handcuffed with a plastic tie and blindfolded, he thinks he was first taken to an Israeli settlement, where he was made to kneel – still cuffed and blindfolded – for an hour on an asphalt road in the freezing dead of night. A second journey ended at about 8am at Al Jalame detention centre, also known as Kishon prison, amid fields close to the Nazareth to Haifa road.

After a routine medical check, Shabrawi was taken to Cell 36. He spent 17 days in solitary, apart from interrogations, there and in a similar cell, No 37, he said. "I was lonely, frightened all the time and I needed someone to talk with. I was choked from being alone. I was desperate to meet anyone, speak to anyone … I was so bored that when I was out [of the cell] and saw the police, they were talking in Hebrew and I don't speak Hebrew, but I was nodding as though I understood. I was desperate to speak."

During interrogation, he was shackled. "They cursed me and threatened to arrest my family if I didn't confess," he said. He first saw a lawyer 20 days after his arrest, he said, and was charged after 25 days. "They accused me of many things," he said, adding that none of them were true.

Eventually Shabrawi confessed to membership of a banned organisation and was sentenced to 45 days. Since his release, he said, he was "now afraid of the army, afraid of being arrested." His mother said he had become withdrawn.

Ezz ad-Deen Ali Qadi from Ramallah, who was 17 when he was arrested last January, described similar treatment during arrest and detention. He says he was held in solitary confinement at Al Jalame for 17 days in cells 36, 37 and 38.

"I would start repeating the interrogators' questions to myself, asking myself is it true what they are accusing me of," he told the Guardian. "You feel the pressure of the cell. Then you think about your family, and you feel you are going to lose your future. You are under huge stress."

His treatment during questioning depended on the mood of his interrogators, he said. "If he is in a good mood, sometimes he allows you to sit on a chair without handcuffs. Or he may force you to sit on a small chair with an iron hoop behind it. Then he attaches your hands to the ring, and your legs to the chair legs. Sometimes you stay like that for four hours. It is painful.
"Sometimes they make fun of you. They ask if you want water, and if you say yes they bring it, but then the interrogator drinks it."
Ali Qadi did not see his parents during the 51 days he was detained before trial, he said, and was only allowed to see a lawyer after 10 days. He was accused of throwing stones and planning military operations, and after confessing was sentenced to six months in prison.The Guardian has affidavits from five other juveniles who said they were detained in solitary confinement in Al Jalame and Petah Tikva. All confessed after interrogation.

"Solitary confinement breaks the spirit of a child," said Horton. "Children say that after a week or so of this treatment, they confess simply to get out of the cell."

The Israeli security agency (ISA) – also known as Shin Bet – told the Guardian: "No one questioned, including minors, is kept alone in a cell as a punitive measure or in order to obtain a confession."

The Israeli prison service did not respond to a specific question about solitary confinement, saying only "the incarceration of prisoners…is subject to legal examination".

Juvenile detainees also allege harsh interrogation methods. The Guardian interviewed the father of a minor serving a 23-month term for throwing rocks at vehicles. Ali Odwan, from Azzun, said his son Yahir, who was 14 when he was arrested, was given electric shocks by a Taser while under interrogation.
"I visited my son in jail. I saw marks from electric shocks on both his arms, they were visible from behind the glass. I asked him if it was from electric shocks, he just nodded. He was afraid someone was listening," Odwan said.
DCI has affidavits from three minors accused of throwing stones who claim they were given electric shocks under interrogation in 2010.

Another Azzun youngster, Sameer Saher, was 13 when he was arrested at 2am. "A soldier held me upside down and took me to a window and said: 'I want to throw you from the window.' They beat me on the legs, stomach, face," he said.

His interrogators accused him of stone-throwing and demanded the names of friends who had also thrown stones. He was released without charge about 17 hours after his arrest. Now, he said, he has difficulty sleeping for fear "they will come at night and arrest me".
In response to questions about alleged ill-treatment, including electric shocks, the ISA said: "The claims that Palestinian minors were subject to interrogation techniques that include beatings, prolonged periods in handcuffs, threats, kicks, verbal abuse, humiliation, isolation and prevention of sleep are utterly baseless … Investigators act in accordance with the law and unequivocal guidelines which forbid such actions."
The Guardian has also seen rare audiovisual recordings of the interrogations of two boys, aged 14 and 15, from the village of Nabi Saleh, the scene of weekly protests against nearby settlers. Both are visibly exhausted after being arrested in the middle of the night. Their interrogations, which begin at about 9.30am, last four and five hours.

Neither is told of their legal right to remain silent, and both are repeatedly asked leading questions, including whether named people have incited them to throw stones. At one point, as one boy rests his head on the table, the interrogator flicks at him, shouting: "Lift your head, you." During the other boy's interrogation, one questioner repeatedly slams a clenched fist into his own palm in a threatening gesture. The boy breaks down in tears, saying he was due to take an exam at school that morning. "They're going to fail me, I'm going to lose the year," he sobs.

In neither case was a lawyer present during their interrogation.

Israeli military law has been applied in the West Bank since Israel occupied the territory more than 44 years ago. Since then, more than 700,000 Palestinian men, women and children have been detained under military orders.

Under military order 1651, the age of criminal responsibility is 12 years, and children under the age of 14 face a maximum of six months in prison.

However, children aged 14 and 15 could, in theory, be sentenced up to 20 years for throwing an object at a moving vehicle with the intent to harm. In practice, most sentences range between two weeks and 10 months, according to DCI.

In September 2009, a special juvenile military court was established. It sits at Ofer, a military prison outside Jerusalem, twice a week. Minors are brought into court in leg shackles and handcuffs, wearing brown prison uniforms. The proceedings are in Hebrew with intermittent translation provided by Arabic-speaking soldiers.

The Israeli prison service told the Guardian that the use of restraints in public places was permitted in cases where "there is reasonable concern that the prisoner will escape, cause damage to property or body, or will damage evidence or try to dispose of evidence".

The Guardian witnessed a case this month in which two boys, aged 15 and 17, admitted entering Israel illegally, throwing molotov cocktails and stones, starting a fire which caused extensive damage, and vandalising property. The prosecution asked for a sentence to reflect the defendants' "nationalistic motives" and to act as a deterrent.

The older boy was sentenced to 33 months in jail; the younger one, 26 months. Both were sentenced to an additional 24 months suspended and were fined 10,000 shekels (£1,700). Failure to pay the fine would mean an additional 10 months in prison.

Several British parliamentary delegations have witnessed child hearings at Ofer over the past year. Alf Dubs reported back to the House of Lords last May, saying: "We saw a 14-year-old and a 15-year-old, one of them in tears, both looking absolutely bewildered … I do not believe this process of humiliation represents justice. I believe that the way in which these young people are treated is in itself an obstacle to the achievement by Israel of a peaceful relationship with the Palestinian people."

Lisa Nandy, MP for Wigan, who witnessed the trial of a shackled 14-year-old at Ofer last month, found the experience distressing. "In five minutes he had been found guilty of stone-throwing and was sentenced to nine months. It was shocking to see a child being put through this process. It's difficult to see how a [political] solution can be reached when young people are being treated in this manner. They end up with very little hope for their future and very angry about their treatment."

Horton said a guilty plea was "the quickest way to get out of the system". If the children say their confession was coerced, "that provides them with a legal defence – but because they're denied bail they will remain in detention longer than if they had simply pleaded guilty".

An expert opinion written by Graciela Carmon, a child psychiatrist and member of Physicians for Human Rights, in May 2011, said that children were particularly vulnerable to providing a false confession under coercion.

"Although some detainees understand that providing a confession, despite their innocence, will have negative repercussions in the future, they nevertheless confess as the immediate mental and/or physical anguish they feel overrides the future implications, whatever they may be."
Nearly all the cases documented by DCI ended in a guilty plea and about three-quarters of the convicted minors were transferred to prisons inside Israel. This contravenes article 76 of the fourth Geneva convention, which requires children and adults in occupied territories to be detained within the territory.

The Israeli defence forces (IDF), responsible for arrests in the West Bank and the military judicial system said last month that the military judicial system was "underpinned by a commitment to ensure the rights of the accused, judicial impartiality and an emphasis on practising international legal norms in incredibly dangerous and complex situations".

The ISA said its employees acted in accordance with the law, and detainees were given the full rights for which they were eligible, including the right to legal counsel and visits by the Red Cross. "The ISA categorically denies all claims with regard to the interrogation of minors. In fact, the complete opposite is true – the ISA guidelines grant minors special protections needed because of their age."

Mark Regev, spokesman for the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, told the Guardian: "If detainees believe they have been mistreated, especially in the case of minors … it's very important that these people, or people representing them, come forward and raise these issues. The test of a democracy is how you treat people incarcerated, people in jail, and especially so with minors."

Stone-throwing, he added, was a dangerous activity that had resulted in the deaths of an Israeli father and his infant son last year.

"Rock-throwing, throwing molotov cocktails and other forms of violence is unacceptable, and the security authorities have to bring it to an end when it happens."
Human rights groups are concerned about the long-term impact of detention on Palestinian minors. Some children initially exhibit a degree of bravado, believing it to be a rite of passage, said Horton. "But when you sit with them for an hour or so, under this veneer of bravado are children who are fairly traumatised." Many of them, he said, never want to see another soldier or go near a checkpoint. Does he think the system works as a deterrent? "Yes, I think it does."

According to Nader Abu Amsha, the director of the YMCA in Beit Sahour, near Bethlehem, which runs a rehabilitation programme for juveniles, "families think that when the child is released, it's the end of the problem. We tell them this is the beginning".

Following detention many children exhibit symptoms of trauma: nightmares, mistrust of others, fear of the future, feelings of helplessness and worthlessness, obsessive compulsive behaviour, bedwetting, aggression, withdrawal and lack of motivation.

The Israeli authorities should consider the long-term effects, said Abu Amsha. "They don't give attention to how this might continue the vicious cycle of violence, of how this might increase hatred. These children come out of this process with a lot of anger. Some of them feel the need for revenge.

"You see children who are totally broken. It's painful to see the pain of these children, to see how much they are squeezed by the Israeli system."