Category Archives: Discrimination

Petition seeks expulsion of Palestinian activist from Israeli university

Press release, PACBI, 4 May 2009

The impressive growth of the Palestinian civil society campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel, particularly after its criminal war of aggression on the occupied Gaza Strip, is testimony to the morality and consistency of ordinary citizens and civil society organizations around the world concerned about restoring Palestinian rights and achieving justice for Palestinians.

The most recent achievement of the Israel boycott movement was the adoption of BDS — nearly by consensus — by the Scottish Trade Union Congress, following the example set by the Congress of South African Trade Unions and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.

In despair over their evident inability to stop or even hold back the growing tide of BDS across the globe, Israel apologists have resorted to an old tactic at which they seem to excel: witch hunts and smear campaigns. A self-styled McCarthyist academic monitor group in Israel has launched a petition calling for the expulsion of Omar Barghouti, a founding member of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), from Tel Aviv University, where he is enrolled as a doctoral student. The Israeli campaign urges the university administration to expel Barghouti due to his leading role in the BDS movement that calls for boycotting Israel and all institutions complicit in its occupation and apartheid.

To date, more than 65,000 persons have reportedly signed this right-wing Israeli petition that depicts Barghouti as an “especially strident and persuasive voice” against Israeli colonial and racist policies. Several media columns by Zionist journalists in Israel and the United Kingdom, among others, have tried to use the “revelation” that Barghouti, “now enrolled” at an Israeli university, is politically inconsistent for calling for the boycott of all Israeli academic institutions while he is a student at one of them. Other than the clear dishonesty and underhandedness of these same media in presenting the case as if Barghouti has just — or recently — enrolled in an Israeli university despite themselves having reported years ago that he was already enrolled then, the reports have made some glaring omissions about the Israeli apartheid context, the widely endorsed criteria of the PACBI boycott, and the system of racial discrimination in Israel’s educational system against the indigenous Palestinians.

While consistently calling upon academics around the world to boycott Israel and its academic — and cultural — institutions due to their entrenched collusion in the state’s colonial and apartheid policies, PACBI has never called upon Palestinian citizens of Israel and those who are compelled to carry Israeli identification documents, like Palestinian residents of occupied Jerusalem, to refrain from studying or teaching at those Israeli institutions. That would have been an absurd position, given the complete lack of alternatives available. Successive Israeli governments, committed to suppressing Palestinian national identity in their pursuit of maintaining Israel’s character as a racist state, have made every effort possible to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian university inside Israel. The only choice left to Palestinian students and academics in Israel, then, is to go to an Israeli university or leave their homeland to pursue their studies or academic careers abroad — often not possible due to financial or other compelling reasons. In fact, the Israeli authorities have consistently worked to strip Palestinians from occupied Jerusalem of their Israeli ID cards and thus their residency rights while they study abroad, thereby prohibiting them from returning.

Palestinians in Israel are treated as second-class citizens in every vital aspect of life and are subjected to a system of “institutional, legal and societal discrimination,” as admitted even in US State Department reports on human rights. In the field of education this discrimination is dominant throughout the system, as the following conclusion from a ground-breaking Human Rights Watch study published in 2001 states:

“The hurdles Palestinian Arab students face from kindergarten to university function like a series of sieves with sequentially finer holes. At each stage, the education system filters out a higher proportion of Palestinian Arab students than Jewish students. … And Israel’s courts have yet to use … laws or more general principles of equality to protect Palestinian Arab children from discrimination in education.”

Palestinians, like any people under apartheid or colonial rule, have insisted on their rights, including their right to education, even if the only venues available were apartheid or colonial institutions. Nelson Mandela studied law at the Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg, one of the most notorious apartheid institutes then. Similarly, leaders of the anti-colonial resistance movement in India and Egypt, among many other countries, received their education at British universities at the height of the colonial era.

PACBI has always made a distinction between the forms and range of academic boycott it urges the world to adopt and what Palestinians themselves can implement. The former have a moral choice to boycott Israeli universities in order to hold them accountable for their shameful, multifaceted complicity in perpetuating the occupation and racist policies of the state; the latter are often left with no choice but to use the services of the oppressive state, to which they pay taxes.

Finally, we stress that it is precisely PACBI’s five-year-old record of moral and political consistency and the growing influence of its principles and the campaigns it and its partners have waged around the world that have provoked Zionist anti-boycott forces to try, yet again, to rehash old attacks of inconsistency, failing to understand or intentionally and deceptively ignoring the boycott criteria set by PACBI. We urge all academics, academic unions, cultural figures and cultural associations to adopt whatever creative form of BDS their context allows them. This remains the most effective and morally sound form of solidarity with the Palestinian people in our struggle for freedom, dignity, equality and self determination.

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Israel Continues to Persecute Its Palestinian Citizens


Hala J. Gores

Israeli writer Zvi Raanan said in a recent In My Opinion piece (“Misguided views on Israel,” April 12) that he opposes discussion of Israel’s “perceived past sins.”

No, Mr. Raanan, the expulsion in 1948 of more than 750,000 Palestinian men, women and children, including some of my relatives — and the killing and maiming of thousands more — because they were not Jewish, is not a “perceived sin.” It is a historical fact documented by many, including Israeli historians. It is the core injustice of the region and one that occurred within the lifetimes of many people still living today. Moreover, Israel’s continuation of this ruthless policy of ethnic exclusion is at the center of today’s conflict.

Raanan states that “Arabs who still live in Israel [the small remnant who were not forced out in 1947-49] are rightful citizens of Israel.”

First of all, please stop denying us our name — we are Palestinians. Secondly, we are systematically discriminated against by Israel. More than 20 Israeli laws favor Jews over Palestinian citizens of Israel. I grew up in a Christian family in Nazareth. My family had lived there for generations; I grew up with elders telling me stories of ancestors who heard in person the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.

When I was 10, my family left Israel for Oregon (sponsored by relatives who lived in St. Helens) because of the oppression we faced as Christian Palestinians in the Jewish state. At the airport, I was taken away from my mom, who had no power to intercede, and placed in a small room, and there, terrified and humiliated, was strip-searched by an Israeli official. Such strip searches were common for Christian and Muslim “rightful citizens” of Israel; they still occur today.

In Israel, there are more than 50 villages inhabited by Palestinians that have been there for centuries. Israel has decreed these “unrecognized villages” and notified the families that their homes will be demolished because they were “built illegally.” Thousands of homes of Palestinians who are Israeli citizens have been destroyed. Although these villagers are citizens of Israel, they receive no state services such as electricity, running water, sewer, access roads, health or educational facilities.

Similarly, thousands of Palestinian citizens of Israel have been decreed “present absentees,” Israel’s Orwellian phrase for Palestinians whose land and homes Israel has confiscated for Jewish-only habitation.

Raanan proposes a solution to Mideast violence that he claims is “mutually beneficial” but that tilts heavily toward Israel — at the expense of both Palestinians and Americans.

Raanan claims that a previous op-ed column by Alison Weir, director of the nonprofit group If Americans Knew, is misinformed, but fails to point out any inaccuracies in her piece (“The truth about Israel,” April 5).

He also terms it “vicious,” apparently because she suggests that American taxpayers stop funding Israeli brutality that, most recently, killed 1,417 Gazans in three weeks. During this period, Palestinian resistance groups killed nine Israelis, six of them soldiers — and this occurred only after Israel had repeatedly broken the cease-fire.

While the news media focus on the one Israeli kidnapped by Palestinians (a captured soldier), they fail to report that Israel has kidnapped thousands of Palestinian men, women and children, and that 11,000 are being held in abusive Israeli prisons; the Times of London first exposed Israel’s regular use of torture 30 years ago.

It is time for American taxpayers to refuse to allow our tax money to be used in Israel’s failed, tragic and self-destructive policies that fund criminal actions. Only when Israel no longer has a blank check from Americans will Israeli leaders finally negotiate in good faith to find a fair and lasting peace for all the peoples of our holy land.

Hala J. Gores, an American citizen, is a Palestinian Christian. She is an attorney and lives in Portland. Reach her at


Posted by JNOUBIYEH at 12:44 PM 0 comments

Reinstate the Palestinian Arab railworkers in Israel to their jobs


By Guest Post • Apr 30th, 2009 at 21:59 • Category: Action Alert, Israel, Newswire, Petitions, Resistance, Zionism

International Campaign in Solidarity with Palestinian Arab Railway Workers in Israel

Respect ILO Convention 111 against all forms of discrimination at work

We bring to the attention of all workers, of all trade unions and their members, the following appeal sent to us by the trade union organisation Sawt el-Amel, based in Nazareth.

The measures taken against the Palestinian Arab railworkers in Israel contravene every provision of international law against discrimination in whatever form, and especially the provisions of ILO Convention 111 on discrimination at work, which Israel has ratified and which stipulates: Each Member for which this Convention is in force undertakes to declare and pursue a national policy designed to promote, by methods appropriate to national conditions and practice, equality of opportunity and treatment in respect of employment and occupation, with a view to eliminating any discrimination in respect thereof. (Article 2)

For equal rights, against the discrimination being directed at Palestinian Arab workers

Endorse the Sawt el-Amel appeal as widely as possible.

12 April 2009


This appeal was developed in cooperation with Arab railway workers

who have been sacked as a result of this policy.

Support Arab railway workers in Israel in their struggle to keep their jobs!

Call on Israel Railways to revise its new policy requiring army service as an employment condition!

This policy is clearly discriminatory: it disqualifies Arab workers because Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel are exempt from service in the Israeli army.


In March 2009, Israel Railways, a state-owned company, launched a new policy denying employment to railroad crossing guards who have no permit to carry weapons – that is: who have not served in the Israeli army. This policy will lead to the lay-off of around 150 Arab railway workers who monitor and maintain Israel’s level crossings. Israel Railways explicitly stated that the new employment policy is designed to give priority to young army veterans.

Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel have always been extremely underrepresented in Israel’s public sector (including state-owned companies), and despite existing anti-discrimination laws only about 5% of civil servants are Arabs, while they make up almost 20% of the overall population. Exclusion of Arabs from the public sector is mainly a result of Israel’s state security policies, which deny Arabs who have not served in the Israeli army and do thus not have a permit to carry weapons access to employment in public administration and services (such as: communication, water, electricity, public transport and port authorities, fire brigades etc.). This strong focus on state security is also reflected in the biographies of executive officers in Israeli government-owned companies.

Yitzhak ‘Haki’ Harel, general manager of Israel Railways, for instance, is a Major General in the Israeli army (IDF). He retired from the army in August 2006, shortly after the July War on Lebanon, and has headed the company since 2007.

Israel Railways’ new policy is an instructive example of the way Arab workers are systematically excluded from the Israeli labour market: firstly, it shows that state security takes absolute preference over personal safety and security in Israel’s employment policy; secondly, it reveals that these security concerns are used to camouflage double standards in favour of Jewish Israeli workers because a) the job of crossing guard has so far not required bearing arms, b) other railway workers, such as train drivers, are not addressed by the new policy, and c) some positions are reserved for “minorities who did not serve in the army”. This allows the conclusion that army service is in fact an irrelevant employment condition. At this point, it should be noted that the new policy also excludes recent immigrants, ultra-orthodox Jews, disabled persons and conscientious objectors.

On April 7, 2009, the Tel Aviv Labour Court suspended the dismissal of the railway workers until the next court hearing on April 19, 2009. However, workers told Sawt el-Amel that Israel Railways has already started recruiting new crossing guards. On April 8, 2009, Israel Railways responded to Sawt el-Amel’s enquiry about the new employment policy, reaffirming that the policy decision is based on ‘practical and security considerations’ and does not aim to ‘discriminate against minorities’.

On the whole, Israel Railways’ new employment policy should be seen both as a continuation of Israel’s long-standing strategy to exclude Arab workers from the labour market and as an assault on all economically and socially marginalised groups in times of growing economic crisis.

What you can do:

1) Endorse the appeal: Fill in the ‘Endorse the Appeal’ form below and send it to:

2) Forward the appeal to your colleagues and friends

3) Encourage your organisation/branch to endorse the appeal; attach your organisation’s logo to the email

4) Write a protest letter to Israel Railways. Copy-paste the sample letter below or write your own message to:

Yitzhak Harel, CEO

Israel Railways

Fax: +972 (0)3 6937480


CC your email/fax to Sawt el-Amel/The Laborer’s Voice:

Fax: +972 (0)4 6080917


Tel.: +972 (0)4 6561996

Postal address: PO Box 2721, Nazareth 16126, Israel


Sample letter to Israel Railways:

Dear Mr Yitzhak Harel,

I am concerned about Israel Railways’ new policy requiring army service and weapons training as an employment condition for guards at level crossings. Since Arab citizens of Israel are exempt from obligatory army service, it can be assumed that all or most Arab crossing guards will be laid off as a consequence of this policy decision.

This contradicts the fundamental right of workers to equality and non-discrimination in employment, and consequently, the policy should be revised.

I would much appreciate to hear your position on this issue.


Initiators of this appeal:

Taher Jayousi, railworker; Assad Salami, railworker; Ibrahim Nasrallah, railworker; Luqman Salami, railworker; Mustapha Matani, railworker; Karim Qadi, railworker; Ali Rabus, railworker; Yussef Nasrallah, railworker; Amir Hamoudi, railworker; Ahmad Hamoudi, railworker; Sawt el-Amel/The Laborer’s Voice; Jibran Naddaf, Chairperson of Sawt el-Amel; Wehbe Badarne, Director of Sawt el-Amel; Marie Badarne, International Relations Sawt el-Amel; Fakher Badarne, Young Workers Sawt el-Amel; Auni Banna, advocate, Sawt el-Amel Board Member; Haifa Shehadi, Sawt el-Amel Board Member; Maha Krayyem, Sawt el-Amel Women’s Programme;

Support the fight by the Sawt el-Amel trade union and the railworkers

Send your financial support to FSFN

LCL Account no.30002-00441-0000008791R-5

IBAN : FR89 3000 2004 4100 0000 8791 R05/BIC : CRLYFRPP

‘Democratic’ racism (Brilliant Article)

April-26-09, 11:08:01 AM AbzGo to full article

Jonathan Cook

The State of Israel is both “democratic and Jewish”, a first-ever Israeli constitution is set to declare. In a two-part article Jonathan Cook lays open a contradiction in terms

An Israeli Knesset committee is currently formulating a constitution for Israel — the first such attempt in its 56 years. The task was abandoned early in the state’s history, after the country’s founding fathers feared that giving a precise definition to the state’s character would tear apart the fragile consensus between secular and religious Jews and that a Bill of Rights would enshrine in law rights it wanted to deny the Palestinians. Instead, the founding document of the state, the Declaration of Independence, made a promise: that Israel would “uphold the full social and political equality of all its citizens, without distinction of religion, race or sex”.

Read Part one here

and Part Two here

The irony of the Anti-Racists

do you see any difference ??

Many organisations are fighting against
Racism and Anti-Semitism
those two different and distinct entities ??

Why ??

Anti-Semitism not Racism ??
are Semites not a Race ??
Semites are a “special-race” ??
those called Semites are not semites , at all ??
therefore not a race …..

Hitler’s friends called them Semites
but actually they were a mixture of Ashkenazim ,
Slavonic, Nordic, Germanic ,Turkmanic.. …
anything else , but not Semites !!!

It is like a law which would claim to be
anti-Crime and anti-Rape
as if rape were not a crime….!!
or a spray, being
anti-insects and anti-mosquito’ s….!!

My personal opinion is that
those calling themselves Semites
are not semites
and those calling themselves
were themselves , once ,
those cultures and civilisations
that have
practised racism and have benefited of it.

And the irony of this all ,
is that those” today’s semites ” are issued
from those cultures and those civilisations
which were the racists , the last 500 years !!!

And finally ,

what if ??
a semite becomes a racist ??
what if ??
a semites became racists and established
the Stae of Israel ??
what if ??
a semite became racist and established
the Stae of Israel , and is still discrimating
his own victims ???

Shall we not dare to call them racists ,
only because they are semites ???

Shall we not dare to call him racist ,
only because he is semites,
and his accuser is a Iranian
who would like to build Atom-energy ??

Ahmadinejad is not an Anti-Semite ,
his grand-father the Emperor of Persia
released the Jews from the captivity in Babylon,
remember ??

Raja Chemayel
holding a mirror at the West

Posted by Тлакскала at 10:43 PM

What credibility is there in Geneva’s all-white boycott?


The Iranian president’s repugnant rhetoric doesn’t give Israel’s sponsors the right to cry foul when it’s called racist

Seumas Milne

Seumas Milne

What do the US, Canada, ­Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Italy and Israel have in common? They are all either European or European-settler states. And they all decided to boycott this week’s UN ­conference against racism in Geneva – even before Monday’s incendiary speech by the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad which triggered a further white-flight walkout by representatives of another 23 European states.

In international forums, it’s almost unprecedented to have such an ­undiluted racial divide of whites-versus-the-rest. And for that to happen in a global meeting called to combat racial hatred doesn’t exactly augur well for future international understanding at a time when the worst economic crisis since the war is ramping up racism and xenophobia across the world.

Didn’t Canada or Australia have anything to say about the grim condition of their indigenous people, you might wonder, or Italy and the Czech Republic about violent attacks on Roma people? Didn’t any of the boycotters have a contribution to make about the rampant Islamophobia, resurgence of anti-semitism and scapegoating of migrants in their countries over the last decade?

The dispute was mainly about Israel and western fears that the conference would be used, like its torrid predecessor in Durban at the height of the Palestinian intifada in 2001, to denounce the Jewish state and attack the west over colonialism and the slave trade. In fact, although it was the only conflict mentioned in the final Durban declaration, the reference was so mild (recognising the Palestinian right to self-determination alongside Israel’s right to security) that the then Israeli prime minister, ­Shimon Peres, called it “an accomplishment of the first order for Israel”.

In this week’s Geneva statement, Israel isn’t mentioned at all. But the US bizarrely still used its reaffirmation of the anodyne Durban declaration to justify a boycott, to the anger of African American politicians such as Jesse Jackson and Barbara Lee, who chairs the US Congressional Black Caucus. In fact, like the other boycotting governments, the US administration had been intensely lobbied by rightwing pro-Israel groups, who had insisted long in advance that the conference would be a “hatefest”.

Ahmadinejad’s grandstanding played straight into that agenda. The most poisonous phrases in the printed version of his speech circulated by embassy officials referred to the Nazi genocide as “ambiguous and dubious” and claimed Zionist “penetration” of western society was so deep that “nothing can be done against their will”. That a head of state of a country of nearly 70 million people is still toying with Holocaust denial and European antisemitic tropes straight out of the Tsarist antisemitic forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, is not only morally repugnant and factually absurd. It’s also damaging to the Palestinian cause by association, weakens the international support Iran needs to avert the threat of attack over its nuclear programme, and bolsters Israel’s claims that it faces an existential threat.

But, perhaps as a result of an appeal by the UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, Ahmadinejad dropped those provocations at the last minute. What in fact triggered the walkout of European Union ambassadors was his reference to Israel as a “totally racist regime”, established by the western powers who had made an “entire nation homeless under the pretext of Jewish suffering” and “in compensation for the dire consequences of racism in Europe”.

The rhetoric was certainly crude and inflammatory. Britain’s foreign secretary David Miliband called it “hate-filled”. But the truth is that throughout the Arab, Muslim and wider developing worlds, the idea that Israel is a racist state is largely uncontroversial. The day after Ahmadinejad’s appearance, the Palestinian Authority foreign minister, Riyad al-Maliki, echoed the charge in the conference hall, describing Israeli occupation as “the ugliest face of racism”. It’s really not good enough for Britain’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Peter Gooderham – who led the Ahmadinejad walkout – to say of the charge of Israel’s racism, “we all know it when we see it and it’s not that”.

This is a state, after all, created by European colonists, built on the ethnic cleansing of the indigenous population, whose founding legal principles guarantee the right of citizenship to any Jewish migrant from anywhere in the world, while denying that same right to Palestinians born there along with their descendants. Of course, Israel is much else besides, and the Jewish cultural and historical link with Palestine is a ­profound one.

But even those Palestinians who are Israeli citizens face what the then Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert last year called “deliberate and ­insufferable” discrimination by a state which defines itself by ethnicity. For Palestinians in the occupied territories, ruled by Israel for most of the state’s existence, where ­ethnic segregation and extreme ­inequality is ruthlessly enforced, the situation is far worse – even without the relentless military assaults and killings. And Israel now has a far-right ­government whose foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, has said 90% of Israel’s Arab citizens have “no place” in the country, should be forcibly “transferred”, and only be allowed citizenship in exchange for an oath of loyalty to Israel as a Zionist Jewish state.

But if Lieberman had turned up to speak at the Geneva anti-racism conference, who believes that western delegates and ambassadors would have staged a walkout? Of course, there’s a perfectly ­reasonable argument to be had about the nature of Israel’s racism and whether it should be compared to apartheid, for example. But for western governments to hold up their hands in horror when Israel is described as a racist state has no global credibility whatever.

Israel’s supporters often complain that, whatever its faults, it is singled out for attack while the crimes of other states and conflicts are ignored. To the extent that that’s true in forums such as the UN, it’s partly because Israel is seen as the unfinished business of European colonialism, along with the Middle East conflict’s other special mix of multiple toxins. The Geneva boycotters, fresh from standing behind Israel’s carnage in Gaza, are in denial about their own racism – and their continuing role in the tragedy of the Middle East.

Racist Western countries boycott Anti Racism Forum in Geneva

April-20-09, 8:56:59 PM Nephilim70Go to full article

Australia and the Netherlands have joined the US, Italy Israel and Canada in boycotting a major UN conference on racism, where Irans leader was a keynote speaker.

The Most racist countries in the world have decided that they should avoid the most important forum about racism in Geneva following to boycott in Durban.
Mainstream Media took this opportunity to re-ignite the lie that Ahmedinahjad wants to “wipe Israel off the map:” in every Western Story… here here

The Iranian leaders comments addressing the Racist forum crowd were as follows:

“In the name of God the compassionate, The Merciful, (Cue Israeli clowns abusing Ahmedinajhad) May he bestow upon his prophets, praise be upon Allah the almighty who is just, kind and compassionate, may he bestow upon his prophets his blessings and his grace from Adam to Noah Abraham, Moses Jesus Christ and his last prophet Mohammed. Following the World War 2 they resorted to military aggression, to make an entire nation homeless under the pretext of Jewish sufferings and they sent migrants from Europe the United States and from other parts of the world in order to establish to establish a totally racist Govt in the occupied Palestine.

(Cue Idiot diplomats to walk out.. cue amplified cheering and clapping of Zionist lobby groups ) And in fact in compensation for the dire consequences of racism in Europe (edited Cheering ceases) ok please thank you. And in fact in compensation for the dire consequences of racism in Europe They help to bring to power the most cruel and repressive racist regime in Palestine.”

Ki Ban Moon began proceedings by stating the key nations WHO SHOULD be there were not:
“Some nations who by rights SHOULD be forging a path to a better future are not here,,

Read more Western Propaganda:
A UNITED Nations conference on racism was to begin in Geneva last night, amid concern it could become an anti-Semitic forum.

Walkout at Iran leaders Speech (With Video)


Speaking after the walk-out, Mr Ahmadinejhad said countries boycotting the summit are doing so out of “arrogance and selfishness.”
Read more and see video here:

In his statement on BBC video Ahmedinejhad said:

Some countries did not participate in the meeting or they left the meeting. I should announce here, loudly my regret for that. firstly the main issue of the main agenda of the conference is racism. Are they supporting racism or racial discrimination? So why? Shouldn’t they participate in a conference which is aimed at discussing and eliminating racism. …..” More….

Personally THIS action by racist Western Governments shows their agenda very clearly that they do not wish to address RACISM against PALESTINE. But will cheer loudly when critics of Israel are called racist. Hypocrisy at its worst in the corrupted halls the US puppet group called the United Nations. A group founded to justify and establish the very existence of the illegal state of Israel.


Wretched conditions for Syrian workers

Report, The Electronic Intifada, 14 April 2009

A Syrian worker takes a break. Syrians in Lebanon remain the last unregulated labor force. (Brooke Anderson/IRIN)

BEIRUT (IRIN) – Rights and labor groups say almost all the estimated 300,000 Syrians working in Lebanon have no official status, often endure dangerous conditions, and earn about $300 a month doing jobs shunned by most Lebanese.

In 2006, the Labor Ministry issued just 471 work permits to Syrian nationals, meaning the remainder worked unregistered. According to 2008 research by Beirut-based InfoPro, over 75 percent of Syrians in Lebanon work in construction, 15 percent are cleaners and trash collectors, and 10 percent street vendors.

About 15 percent of Syria’s workforce is in Lebanon. They often either live on the construction site where they work or share tiny flats with a dozen other workers.

Rene Matta, general manager of Matta Contracting, a Lebanese company whose workforce is 70 percent Syrian, said Syrian labor in Lebanon “should be more organized, so that people aren’t oppressed.”

Anti-Syrian sentiment has existed in Lebanon ever since the two countries gained independence from France in the 1940s and Syrians worked in agriculture, creating an influx of Muslims that many Christian Lebanese saw as a threat to their country’s sectarian balance.

Syrian workers became the victim of an unprecedented low in relations between the two countries in the wake of the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri which many Lebanese blamed on Damascus and which forced Syria to withdraw its military from Lebanon, ending two decades of direct control over its smaller neighbor.

Many Syrians in Lebanon have been attacked, robbed, beaten and sometimes killed over the past four years.

Despite the recent opening of an embassy in Beirut, few Syrian laborers in Lebanon think their labor rights and personal safety will be protected any time soon.


“If something happened to me, who would I complain to?” asked Eide, an 18-year-old Syrian construction worker who has been living and working in Lebanon for 10 months. Eide said he lives in daily fear of attack by anti-Syrian Lebanese gangs: “It’s not unusual for Lebanese to ask for our ID cards on the street and then take our money because we’re Syrian.”

Mohammed, a Syrian now working as a janitor in a Beirut restaurant, said he had to leave his job last summer because of poor working conditions. After working for several months as a cleaner at a swimming pool, Mohammed told his boss the chemicals he was using were damaging his skin. He said he was sacked on the spot and not paid his final salary.

All Syrian workers interviewed requested that only their first names be published, fearing reprisals for speaking out.

“Socioeconomic racism”

Nadim Houry, senior researcher for Human Rights Watch (HRW) in Beirut, refers to the Syrian-Lebanese migrant labor phenomenon as a “marriage of convenience” for the two countries.

Many Lebanese companies save money by hiring Syrian workers, whose contracts can be terminated at any time but who can enter Lebanon without a visa.

“It’s part of Lebanon’s history,” said Houry. “Syrian workers have become scapegoats because they’re perceived as weak. There is an issue of discrimination in Lebanon towards those of lower socioeconomic status. They look down upon poor people from rural areas. It’s a sort of socioeconomic racism.”

In its 2 January edition, Al Akhbar, one of the few Lebanese newspapers to regularly cover the issue, reported that a Syrian worker was robbed at gunpoint by a member of the Lebanese military in civilian clothing. In late December 2008, the same newspaper reported a Syrian had been killed during a robbery near Byblos. In the same month, a Syrian worker of Kurdish origin was found hanged in his own shoe shop in Bar Elias in the Bekaa Valley, eastern Lebanon.

Many incidents go unreported. In interviews with 10 Syrian workers at construction sites throughout Beirut, all said they had been victims of robberies and occasional beatings by Lebanese; all said it had been because they are Syrian; none said they had reported the incidents to the authorities.

“I don’t have any Lebanese friends. I never have,” said one Syrian construction worker. “Why should I? They don’t like us.”

This item comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian news and information service, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. All IRIN material may be reposted or reprinted free-of-charge; refer to the copyright page for conditions of use. IRIN is a project of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Um Al-Faham citizens clash with Israeli police escorting far-right march


[ 24/03/2009 - 10:51 AM ]

UM AL-FAHAM, (PIC)– Israeli policemen, escorting a march for far-right activists in Um Al-Faham, on Tuesday fired rubber bullets and teargas canisters and opened water cannons at Arab citizens who blocked their way into the city.

Sheikh Ra’ed Salah, the leader of the Islamic Movement in 1948 Palestine, told Al-Jazeera TV that a number of citizens were injured in the process, and charged the police with blocking access to the wounded citizens.

He stressed that the Israeli oppression of Palestinians started ever since the occupation of most of Palestine in 1948, charging the Zionist fanatics with maintaining a policy of religious and racial discrimination against the Palestinians and with trying to force the Palestinians to abandon their lands.

Salah said that Arabs from various areas of Palestine occupied in 1948 came to Um Al-Faham in solidarity with this city in a reflection of a unanimous stand in defense of Arab destiny and future and in rejection of the attempts to force them out of their ancestral land.

The city’s municipality had declared general strike in protest over the far-right march at the outskirts of Um Al-Faham led by the leader of the terrorist Kach movement, Baruch Marzel, which was escorted by 2,500 Israeli policemen.

The Hebrew radio said that the Israeli police turned the city into military barracks to protect the march.

In a related issue, a report by Musawa (equality) center for Arab citizens’ rights in Israel has disclosed that racial dissemination against those citizens was on the rise.

It said that the center monitored 270 assaults on Arabs since start of 2009 compared to 166 assaults in the entire year of 2008.

Clashes between Palestinians and Settlers in Umm al-Fahm
Hanan Awarekeh

24/03/2009 Occupied Palestinian town of Umm al-Fahm witnessed on Tuesday fierce clashes between Palestinian residents and Israeli settlers protesting a march by far-rightists who tried to enter the town amidst the protection of the Israeli occupation police.

The Palestinian residents, led by Arab leaders and MPs, and along with hundreds of Palestinian residents of the neighboring towns gathered at the town’s entrance to prevent the settlers from marching into the city and waving Israeli flags during the march.

Earlier Tuesday, more than 2,500 Israeli police officers deployed in and around Umm al-Fahm, ahead of the rally, for which the far-rightists had received High Court approval. Israeli Police used stun grenades and tear gas against the Palestinian residents, and even had undercover officers among the crowd who detained some of the rioters.

The clash erupted after police arrested three Israeli Arabs who had scuffled with officers. The detainees had gathered for a counter-demonstration held by Umm al-Fahm residents.

On Monday, in Umm al-Fahm, a small group of protesters set up a vigil outside the town’s police station, calling for the procession to be banned.

Umm al-Fahm mayor Sheikh Khaled Hamdan said at a press conference on Monday that residents will prevent the right-wingers from entering their town, and will use force if necessary. “We have no desire for clashes,” he said, “and we are not planning on confrontations with the marchers or the police. Our position is that we will try to block them with our bodies, but peacefully and quietly.”

Meanwhile, a general strike has been called in Umm al-Fahm for Tuesday. Businesses, schools and government offices will be closed to protest the rightist march. MK Afu Aghbaria (Hadash) also called on the Israeli left to join the counter-demonstrations in the city. He said that the incoming government could adopt a similar approach to Israeli Arabs as the rightist marchers. “When they attack Umm al-Fahm, they attack the entire Israeli-Arab population. We will protect our town and our homeland,” he said.

The city’s residents faced Ben-Ari and Ben-Gvir, furious over the parade. “This is a sad day for me. The police are giving shelter to the most racist person in Israel,” said one of them, Muhammad Talas. “I’m not against Jews. We love those who love us and hate anyone who hates us, and what is happening here is the Right’s policy.”

One of the Arab protestors complained about the Israerli police’s policy. “What can I say? You see for yourselves how the police defend the settlers instead of defending the city’s residents.”

Arab MKs who came to the city said Israeli occupation police made excessive use of force and called for the prosecution of “the racists who came to provoke”.

Hadash Chairman Mohammad Barakeh said after seeing one of the residents hurt and collapse, “We are witnessing police who are easy on the trigger. Instead of preventing provocations, they attack the people who came to defend their town. It’s clear to everyone that the demonstration is aimed at uprooting Umm al-Fahm’s residents.”

“This is not just a simple provocation,” the head of the Islamic Movement Sheikh Raed Salah said, adding Israel’s extreme right wanted to “legitimize the transfer” of Israeli Arabs from the country. “We have to fight to stay here and we must prevent by all means Marzel and company from entering into Umm El-Fahm.”



March 22, 2009 at 6:56 am

Arab identity under threat

Omar Karmi

JERUSALEM // There is one spot in Jerusalem’s Old City that is particularly illuminating. From there, above the spice market and amid the stone cupolas of the surrounding roofs, the modern layout of the city reveals itself and indicates a possible future.

Below are the markets, traditionally three: one for spices, one for oil and one for clothes. Today, of course, with the exception of the spice market, most are mixed and almost anything is available.

East of here lie the Muslim quarter, the largest and most populous in the Old City, and the Christian quarter. West, and up the hill Jerusalem is built on, lie the Armenian and Jewish quarters. The latter is built atop a superstructure to allow archaeologists to excavate the Roman city that lies at the bottom, metres below today’s city.

With its own municipal development plan in place since 1969, the Jewish quarter and its modern buildings are expanding, out and over the city. Another layer is being added on top of the many below. Jerusalem is changing character, yet again, in the hands of new rulers.

“The Israelis want this city to be a Jewish city,” said Yasser Qous, a guide who runs alternative tours around the Old City. “But the history of Jerusalem is far too complex to narrow it down to one people. The city must remain diverse and open, a spiritual centre for three religions and home to dozens of peoples.”

The drive to preserve Jerusalem’s Arab identity is one of the strategic objectives behind the Arab League’s decision last year to name Jerusalem “Capital of Arab Culture, 2009″. The official opening of the celebration was yesterday, delayed because of the war on Gaza. With no official Palestinian presence in Jerusalem allowed by Israel, Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, had to give the opening speech in nearby Bethlehem.

Israel has also expanded its police presence, always strong, in the Old City to prevent any official celebrations from taking place. Avi Dichter, the internal security affairs minister, signed a number of injunctions in recent days, banning a series of cultural events scheduled to take place in the city as part of the celebrations.

Under the interim agreements signed by Israel and the PLO, the Palestinians were allowed only one official presence in Jerusalem, the Orient House, which was shut down by Ariel Sharon’s government in 2001 and has not been allowed to reopen.

Mr Qous, an Old City resident who has been arrested 12 times since he was a teenager, was not surprised that Israel would seek to prevent the cultural events from taking place.

“I think we [Palestinians] need to realise that we have lost the military and political battles. What is left now is the cultural battle. The Israelis realise this and we must, too, before it is too late, before the multilayered history of Jerusalem is buried by an Israeli sovereignty that recognises and explores only Jewish history.”

But before engaging that battle Palestinians need to get their house in order. Two committees were set up to organise events across historic Palestine to mark Jerusalem’s status as capital of Arab culture, one by the PA under Mr Abbas and one by the Hamas government in Gaza.

Ossama al Issawi, the Hamas minister of culture, proposed they work together in the hope that “culture might unite that which politics have divided”. But with unity talks floundering in Cairo, it has not happened, and Hamas will stage its own events in Gaza, the PA in the West Bank, while Israel has banned celebrations in Jerusalem and Nazareth.

Such divisions reflect themselves negatively among the younger generation in Jerusalem who are in danger of losing their identity, Mr Qous said.

“They have Israeli IDs, and most go to schools where they teach an Israeli curriculum that does not teach them about their own history. They are losing their identity and we are forgetting our history.”

The focus, Mr Qous said, should be on sustainable development of different sectors for Jerusalem’s Palestinian residents. He would like to see investment first and foremost to ensure that Palestinians can afford to stay in their houses. Israeli taxation law has made property expensive and Palestinians belong to the poorest sector of Israeli society, and risk eviction if they cannot pay.

He recognises, however, that this could be tricky. First, he said, it would have to be done through private hands, since Israel would not allow any official outside funding for such a purpose. Second, it would be hard to persuade official Arab or Palestinian sources to fund taxation for an Israeli municipality of Jerusalem whose jurisdiction over the Old City and the eastern part is illegal under international law.

“It’s like the issue of voting [in municipal elections]. If you do, you are implicitly recognising an illegitimate authority. If you don’t, you have no voice. It’s complex.”

The population of the Old City is still overwhelmingly Palestinian. Of about 35,000 residents, 92 per cent are either Muslim or Christian. But the Israeli municipality has long been mulling a development plan that seeks to decrease population numbers there in an effort, officials say, to preserve the city.

It is a plan that Mr Qous has nothing but disdain for.

“Everything here is political. The Israelis want Palestinians out to erase Jerusalem’s Arab history. This city is a living city. They want to turn it into a museum, where the only exhibits are the ones they want to show.”

The Arab League’s decision to designate Jerusalem as the capital of Arab culture was partly prompted by such concerns and intended to raise awareness of the matter in the Arab world and among Palestinians.

The PA committee in charge of the celebrations has secured funding for 11 projects in the Old City to rehabilitate and restore cultural centres, community clubs, public theatres and Arab housing.

Critics worry that it is too little too late.

“I do not like seasonal events or celebrations,” said Albert Aghazarian, an Armenian historian and Old City resident. “Jerusalem needs concerted and continued support and development in order to preserve its character. With this [capital of Arab culture], the danger is Arab countries can say in 2008 that they will do something in 2009, and in 2010 that they did something last year.”

Source via Uruknet