Category Archives: Discrimination

Israeli judge rules Arabs need "protection" from justice system

Jonathan Cook, The Electronic Intifada, 17 November 2009

An Israeli judge made an historic ruling last week when he decided that an Arab teenager needed “protection” from the justice system and ordered that he not be convicted despite being found guilty of throwing stones at a police car during a protest against Israel’s attack last winter on Gaza.

Prosecutors had demanded that the juvenile, a 17-year-old from Nazareth in northern Israel, be convicted of endangering a vehicle on the road, a charge that carries a punishment of up to 20 years’ imprisonment, as a way to deter other members of Israel’s Palestinian Arab minority from committing similar offenses.

But Judge Yuval Shadmi said discrimination in the Israeli legal system’s treatment of Jewish and Arab minors, particularly in cases of what he called “ideologically motivated” offenses, was “common knowledge.”

In the verdict, he wrote: “I will say that the state is not authorized to caress with one hand the Jewish ‘ideological’ felons, and flog with its other hand the Arab ‘ideological’ felons.”

He referred in particular to the lenient treatment by the police and courts both of Jewish settler youths who have attacked soldiers in the West Bank and who violently resisted the disengagement from the Gaza Strip in 2005, and of religious extremists who have spent many months battling police to prevent the opening of a car park on the Sabbath in Jerusalem.

Abir Baker, a lawyer with Adalah, a legal group for Israel’s 1.3 million-strong Arab minority, said the ruling was the first time a judge in a criminal court had acknowledged that the state pursued a policy of systematic discrimination in demanding harsher punishments for Arab citizens.

“We have known this for a long time, but it has been something very hard for us to prove to the court’s satisfaction,” she said. “Now we have a legal precedent that we can use to appeal against convictions in similar cases.”

The youth was arrested during a protest on a road near Nazareth a few days after Israel launched its operation in Gaza last December.

Dozens of demonstrations took place in Israel during the three-week attack, leading to the arrests of 830 protesters in what human rights groups described as often brutal Israeli police action.

The overwhelming majority of those arrested, say the rights groups, were Arab citizens, despite the participation of Israeli Jews. Adalah reported that 250 protesters were subsequently indicted, almost all of them Arabs and half of them minors.

Judge Richard Goldstone, in his United Nations fact-finding report into the Gaza assault published in September, wrote that he had been “struck” by the fact that despite many counter-demonstrations by right-wing Jews that had turned violent the police appeared to have made “no arrests” in those cases.

He also noted that, according to the information he had seen, most Arab protesters had been refused bail and held in detention for lengthy periods, even in cases where they faced relatively minor charges.

Of the court system, Goldstone concluded that “the element of discrimination between … and differential treatment of Palestinian and Jewish citizens of Israel by the judicial authorities, as reflected in the reports received, is a substantial cause for concern.”

The ruling by the Nazareth juvenile court appeared to confirm those findings.

Shadmi wrote in his verdict that, in recent years, the Israeli authorities had been “working on two fundamentally different enforcement levels in relation to crimes perpetrated by [Israeli] minors.”

He pointed out that in cases of violence by Jewish youths against the security services, legal proceedings were usually frozen or cancelled before the indictment stage. He said he had not heard of a single instance of a Jewish minor being sent to prison for such offenses, even though most Arab minors were convicted and jailed.

The judge admitted that he had nearly been swayed by prosecution demands for a lengthy jail term for the youth, who cannot be named because of his age. But ultimately, he said, he had been persuaded by the defense’s argument that similar cases of “ideological violence” involving Jewish youths — such as settler attacks on soldiers — rarely, if ever, merited jail terms.

“If the state feels that ideological offenses justify relatively forgiving enforcement for minors, then this should be the policy towards all minors regardless of nationality or religion.”

Earlier this year the justice ministry recommended that 40 Jewish settlers convicted of resisting the disengagement from Gaza be pardoned on the grounds that their acts “were prompted by an unusual historical event and that the perpetrators are not felons.” According to Israeli media reports, many of the settlers arrested over the disengagement will never be brought to trial.

Shadmi ordered the Nazareth youth to refrain from committing any offense against the police for two years against a bond of $1,300. In a procedure mainly reserved for juvenile offenses, he sentenced the youth to 200 hours of community service without convicting him.

The verdict was greeted with surprise by the youth’s family. The father told the Israeli media: “Thank God we had a judge like him, who is not motivated by racism. This may lead the state of Israel to understand that it’s time to stop treating the Arab population like enemies.”

The prosecution announced that it would appeal against the decision.

Gideon Fishman, a sociology professor at Haifa University who has made a study of criminal sentencing policies in Israel, said he was not aware of research into discriminatory policies by prosecutors towards juvenile offenders. However, he said he was sure that there was systematic bias.

“The judge is right to raise his voice against a policy that is more lenient towards Jewish offenders. This is a policy being pursued by state prosecutors intentionally and not by accident, and it undermines trust in the system.”

Judge Shadmi referred only to discrimination in sentencing in Israeli criminal courts.

Palestinians from the Occupied Palestinian Territories are tried in Israeli military courts under different legal rules and procedures that have been severely criticized by human rights groups.

Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East (Pluto Press) and Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair (Zed Books). His website is

A version of this article originally appeared in The National, published in Abu Dhabi.

Israelis deny Palestinians roads and water: videos


Posted by realistic bird under Politics, Videos Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Israeli audacity makes one sick to the stomach, they kill, occupy and steal then they accuse the Palestinians of violence and theft! Honestly, how can one steal what he already owns?

Palestinians denied access to water

Israel dubs Palestinian farmers trying in vain to irrigate their lands “water pirates”.

Palestinian farmers in the West Bank, or “water pirates” as Israeli occupation forces prefer to call them, are siphoning off drinking water pipes in an effort to secure water to irrigate their farmland.

Water is an increasingly disputed resource between Israel and the Palestinians…

A World Bank report has accused Israel of using four times more water than Palestinians from the so-called Mountain Aquifer that bridges Israel and the territory and runs along the West Bank.

Israel disputes that claim and says the Palestinians are jeopardising the resource through illegal use.

Palestinians argue they are being denied access in order to force them off their land.

This exclusive report from Al Jazeera shows Israeli occupation forces dismantling a farmer’s water pipes in the agricultural village of al-Baqa.

Badran Jaber, a Palestinian farmer, told Al Jazeera: “We were surprised by a large group of soldiers and settlers who surrounded the entire area. We asked them: ‘why are you doing this and what do you want?’ They refused to speak to us.

“Men who came with the soldiers stormed the field and pulled out all the irrigation pipes, destroying the crops.”

Al Jazeera’s Jacky Rowland reports on how Israeli rules blight the lives of many Palestinians.

Road restrictions for West Bank Palestinians

by Al Jazeera

Roads in the occupied Palestinian Territories are vital arteries connecting West Bank towns and villages.

But major routes have been closed off to tens of thousands of Palestinians, for the benefit of a handful of Israeli settlers.

Now, in the first ruling of its kind, Israel’s supreme court has ordered the army to open up a West Bank highway to Palestinian traffic again.

Nicole Johnston reports from the occupied West Bank.

Why I am not a Zionist


Kevin Coval, The Electronic Intifada, 5 November 2009

Build equality, not walls. (ActiveStills)

Last week I was disinvited from my second Jewish conference in two months for poems I’d written in solidarity with Palestinians, poems that make an unapologetic call for justice. Subsequently, I and the poet I was to read with at the J Street conference, wrote a response to being censored. People from all over the country wrote to us supporting free speech, supporting art as a tool for change, supporting real talk about the degradation of Palestinians, and people wrote to let us know they disagreed. Some more thoughtfully than others.

We decided to hold our reading anyway in Washington, DC during J Street’s inaugural conference at an alternative location. We were hosted by the Busboys and Poets space. The room filled with a spectrum of ideas. We read our poems and during the question and answer period, no one was shouted down. Not the Israeli army refusenik, not the liberal Zionist apologist, not the Palestinian student who asked us to include more about the Palestinian people in our poems, not just the land or idea of nation-state, a point beautifully made and incredibly profound. No one shouted down moderator Laila al-Arian, a brilliant journalist and activist, whose father was a Palestinian political prisoner in America, now freed because of his daughter’s persistence. The crowd was cool and civil, though broad in opinion.

Since the second Palestinian intifada I have thought, written and spoken about these issues, but over the course of these last several weeks, I have arrived at a new beginning. Prior to now, I muddled this issue in complexity. But I have come to realize it is actually simple and clear. I am a Jewish-American man in solidarity with the Palestinian people. I am in solidarity with Israeli and American and All people who work and risk their lives and livelihood for justice. I am not restricted to working within the confines of the Jewish-American community. Justice and resistance to imperialism is a global, human concern for all people. For Jews, yes, but not Jews alone. For Palestinians, yes, but not Palestinians alone. It will take us all to push and demand governments and corporate interests to create fair, equitable living conditions. It will take all peoples to hold history accountable for the atrocities that occur.

This is an analogy. America celebrates Columbus day even though Columbus and American settlers killed, enslaved and pushed indigenous peoples off land they lived on. Tragically, indigenous peoples have been nearly wiped out of existence and pushed to the furthest margins of our culture that revels in amnesia. Main St., mainstream American culture does not expect Native Americans to celebrate Columbus, nor care nor know nor imagine if they do or not. Native Americans are not a demographic population Hallmark cares to account for. It is preposterous to think Jews would celebrate Kristallnacht, the night of glass when SS troops stormed and terrorized their German ghettos. In Israel, Independence Day is called Yom Haatzmaut. Communities gather to play music, dance and watch fireworks. The Chief Rabbinate has declared this day a Jewish holiday in which prayers should be said. But Palestinians remember 1948 and the formation of the State of Israel as al-Nakba, the Catastrophe. A day of murder, displacement and forced Diaspora. A day families are torn apart and ripped away from their homes. A state-sanctioned celebration of their dehumanization and second-class citizenship.

For this reason alone, I cannot believe in the integrity of the Zionist project. It’s built on bodies and lies. It denies the existence of people and a people. One of its slogans, rooted in the same malicious revisionism as American history and Holocaust denial, is a land without people, for a people without land. Columbus didn’t discover shit. He enacted the desires of empire and the fetishization of “discovery.” The formation of the State of Israel is rooted in blood and deceit, is the same story as all colonies built in the name of imperialism, capitalism and dehumanization. Therefore, I am not Zionist.

I am not pro-Israel because in January Israel murdered more than 1,400 Palestinians. They bombed schools and hospitals. They bulldozed homes and bodies. Israel builds a separation wall, as Germany did, as the United States does between here and Mexico, as the rich do between themselves and the rest of us. I am not a believer in borders. I have been mistaken for Italian, Puerto Rican, Arab and Muslim, but I am a suburban Jew who sought out hip-hop cultural space across red lines and Chicago segregation. I learned borders are to be contended and crossed. Israel believes in borders. Israel practices apartheid. On one side, irrigated lawns and swimming pools in illegal Israeli settlements. On the other side, Palestinian disenfranchisement, denied access to drinking water, medical assistance, jobs, the ability to earn an income or vote in the country that governs them, that limits their movement with passports, checkpoints and curfews and closes them into open-air prisons. I cannot be in favor of these practices, nor the state that enacts them. These practices are to be resisted, protested and pushed against. Those whose bodies are legislated against, contained, detained and maimed by state-sanctioned terror are to be stood with and listened to.

This week has provided clarity. This is not a complex issue. There is the brutality of governments and the need for the liberation of a people, all people. I am a Jewish person who stands with Palestinian people relegated to second-class citizenship and Israeli soldiers who refuse to enact racist militarism. I am not a nationalist; therefore I am not a Zionist. I am against the oppression of any person and people. I am not a builder of walls. I believe in equity and democratic practice, therefore I am not pro-Israel. I am an advocate for truth, justice and reconciliation. I believe in this. I believe in this now. I believe in the work ahead.

Kevin Coval is the author of Slingshots (A Hip-Hop Poetica) and Everyday People and co-founder of Louder Than A Bomb: The Chicago Youth Poetry Festival. He can be reached at kc AT kevincoval DOT com.

The crime of being born Palestinian


Anna Baltzer writing from the occupied West Bank, Live from Palestine

Dawud Fakaah, father of six-month-old Khalid who died at Atara checkpoint outside Ramallah.

21 March 2007

Almost two weeks ago, my friend Dawud, a high school English teacher from Kufr ‘Ain, called me nearly in tears to report the checkpoint hold-up that had cost him his six-month-old son. Shortly after midnight on March 8th, my friend’s baby began having trouble breathing. His parents quickly got a taxi to take him to the nearest hospital in Ramallah, where they hoped to secure an oxygen tent, which had helped him recover from difficult respiratory episodes in the past. As the family was rushing from their Palestinian town in the West Bank to their Palestinian hospital in the West Bank, they were stopped at Atara checkpoint, where an Israeli soldier asked for the father’s, mother’s, and driver’s IDs. Dawud explained to the soldier that his son needed urgent medical care, but the soldier insisted on checking the three IDs first, a process that usually takes a few minutes. Dawud’s was the only car at the checkpoint in the middle of the night, yet the soldier held the three IDs for more than twenty minutes, even as Dawud and his wife began to cry, begging to be allowed through. After fifteen minutes, Dawud’s baby’s mouth began to overflow with liquid and my friend wailed at the soldier to allow them through, that his baby was dying. Instead, the soldier demanded to search the car, even after the IDs had been cleared. At 1:05am, six-month-old Khalid Dawud Fakaah died at Atara Checkpoint. As the soldier checked the car, he shined his flashlight on the dead child’s face and, realizing what had happened, finally returned the three ID cards and allowed the grieving family to pass.

Samaa Fakaah, Khalid’s mother, holds a picture of her baby who died in her arms at Atara checkpoint.

Checkpoints and ID cards. Mention these words and any victim or witness of Apartheid can produce dozens of horror stories like Dawud’s. South Africa employed a similar system with its former Apartheid “Pass Laws,” which the South African Government used to monitor the movement of Black South Africans. Blacks had to carry personal ID documents, which required permission stamps from the government before holders could move around within their country. Similarly, Palestinians in the West Bank are required to carry Israeli-issued ID cards that indicate which areas, roads, and holy sites they are or are not allowed access to. Pass Laws enabled South African police to arrest Blacks at will. Similarly, Israeli occupation forces use ID cards not only to monitor Palestinian movement, but also to justify frequent arbitrary detention and arrest with general impunity. Jewish inhabitants of the West Bank (like all Jewish Israelis) have different ID cards, proclaiming their “Jewish” nationality, granting them automatic permission to access the modern roads and almost all holy sites that most Palestinians are restricted from.

Forty-seven years ago today, on March 21, 1960, hundreds of Black South Africans gathered in Sharpsville, South Africa and marched together in protest of the racist and dehumanizing Apartheid Pass Law system. South African white-controlled police forces fired on the unarmed crowd, killing at least 67 and injuring almost three times as many, including men, women, and children. Witnesses say that most of the people shot were hit in the back as they fled.

Almost fifty years after the Sharpsville Massacre, pass laws still plague the lives of the oppressed. Every day I meet West Bank Palestinians living without permits and ID cards, either because Israel never granted them residency on their land, or because soldiers or police confiscated their IDs as punishment or just harassment. I recently interviewed the family of Ibrahim, a twenty-year-old veterinary student who was arrested three years ago for the crime of not having an Israeli-issued ID card. Ibrahim’s parents were born and raised in the West Bank and own land in their small village of Fara’ata, where I interviewed them. In 1966, as newlyweds, the couple moved to Kuwait where they began working abroad. The year after, Israel occupied the West Bank and shortly after took a census. Any Palestinians who were not recorded due to absence — whether studying abroad, visiting family, or anything else — became refugees. Israel, the new occupier, stripped Ibrahim’s parents and hundreds of thousands of other Palestinians of their right to return to their homes and land, and effectively opened up the West Bank to colonization by any Jews who were willing to come.

At a West Bank checkpoint a Palestinian man holds his ID up to the glass for an Israeli soldier to see.

Israel’s census strategy of 1967 bears a striking resemblance to the Absentee Property Law that Israel employed after the 1948 expulsions. According to
Passia, the law “defines an ‘absentee’ as a person who ‘at any time’ in the period between 29 November 1947 and 1 Sept 1948, ‘was in any part of the Land of Israel that is outside the territory of Israel (meaning the West Bank or the Gaza Strip) or in other Arab states’. The law stipulates that the property of such an absentee would be transferred to the Custodian of Absentee Property, with no possibility of appeal or compensation. From there, by means of another law, the property was transferred, so that effectively the property that was left behind by Palestinian refugees in 1948 (and also some of the property of Palestinians who are now citizens of Israel) was transferred to the State of Israel.” To this day, the Jewish National Fund (JNF), which inherited much of the refugees’ land, combined with the Israeli state owns about 93 percent of the land of Israel. This land is exclusively reserved for the Jewish people and almost impossible to obtain for Palestinian citizens of Israel or the owners of the land themselves: the 1947-1948 refugees.

When I say 93 percent of “the land of Israel,” I am implying land within the internationally recognized 1967 borders of Israel, unlike the text of the 1950 Absentee Property Law itself, which defines “the Land of Israel” as all of Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip together. This was long before 1967, but makes the territories’ occupation less than two decades later either a tremendous coincidence or entirely unsurprising.

To this day, Palestinians like Ibrahim’s parents who were in the wrong place during the 1967 occupation and census — and their children — must apply for what is called “family reunification” from the Ministry of the Interior in order to legally reside in their own homes and villages. Passia writes, “the decision to grant or deny these applications is, according to Israeli Law, ultimately at the discretion of the Interior Minister, who is not required to justify refusal. In May 2002, Israel suspended the processing of family reunification claims between Palestinian citizens of Israel and Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza to prevent the latter from acquiring Israeli citizenship, arguing that the growth in the non-Jewish population of Israel due to family reunification was a threat to the ‘Jewish character’ of the state.”

Family reunification applications not involving citizens of Israel were also frozen last year after the Hamas election, including the claims of Ibrahim and his family. The family returned legally to the West Bank in 1998 when Oslo projected Palestinians would have their own state, but when Israel’s occupation and settlement only accelerated, Ibrahim and his parents and five siblings were left with even fewer rights than the Palestinians with West Bank residency. Although the Palestinian Authority and DCO agreed that Ibrahim’s family could live in their village (and even provided them free education and health care), they still needed permission from Israel.

Ibrahim began veterinary school at An-Najah University in 2000, but had to commute over the Nablus hills since soldiers manning the checkpoints would never allow him to enter the city without an ID card. On March 23, 2004, during Ibrahim’s last semester before graduation, the Israeli Army caught him walking to school inside Nablus and put him in prison. This Friday marks three years exactly that Ibrahim — now 23 — has been in jail, his only crime that he has no Israeli-issued ID card. The first year Israel imprisoned Ibrahim within the West Bank, but the past two years he was held within Israel, a violation of international law — occupiers cannot hold prisoners and detainees from the occupied population in the occupying power’s land, because of how severely it limits prisoners’ rights. Indeed, Israel’s policy of generally imprisoning Palestinians in Israel means that their families often cannot visit them without permits to enter Israel, and they cannot even have a Palestinian lawyer since the lawyers from the West Bank and Gaza don’t have permits to practice law in Israel. Ibrahim’s father, for example, is a lawyer but can do nothing to help his son without an ID, let alone an Israeli license to practice law. Since he returned from Kuwait he has worked as a shepherd, since he can’t safely go anywhere outside his village without an ID.

Ibrahim’s situation is worse than most. Since his family has no ID cards they cannot even apply to enter Israel to visit him. Even Ibrahim’s sister, who obtained an ID via her husband back when Israel sometimes granted residency through marriage, cannot visit her brother since it is impossible to prove to Israel her relation to a person with no official name or identity.

“Nobody from the family has seen Ibrahim in two years,” his mother Hanan told me with my hand in hers after the report interview ended. “I send him gifts and receive news via the mother of another West Bank inmate in the same jail, a friend who occasionally gets permission from Israel to visit her son. Ibrahim is not even allowed the use the phone.” Hanan began to cry. “He’s the first thing I think about when I wake up and the last thing before I go to sleep. I cannot bear to imagine him there in prison, perhaps for the rest of his life, knowing how much he must be suffering, knowing that I can do nothing to help him. He did nothing wrong. His only crime is that he was born a Palestinian.”

Hanan has six children total, three of whom decided to settle in Jordan, where they could enjoy citizenship (Palestinians in the West Bank before 1967 had Jordanian ID cards), and Hanan hasn’t seen them in nine years. She wept again as she told me she has grandchildren and sons and daughters-in-law that she’s never met. Even if she wanted Jordanian citizenship now, she’s lost her chance having stayed outside Jordan for so long. And the family members who returned to claim their land and rights in the West Bank are now stateless, like so many millions of other Palestinian refugees in the diaspora.

Soldiers enclose and search a Palestinian man at Atara checkpoint.

In recognition of the tragic events of the 1960 Sharpsville Massacre, the UN declared May 21st the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, pushing states around the world to redouble their efforts to combat all types of ethnic discrimination. Yet within Israel, a member of the United Nations, ethnicity still determines nationality (there is no Israeli nationality: Palestinians are “Arabs,” Jews are “Jewish”), resource allocation, and rights to own JNF and state land. There are discriminatory laws separating Palestinian families in Israel and threatening to revoke Palestinians’ Israeli citizenship and Tel Aviv University Medical School just announced a rule that defacto targets Palestinian prospective students.

In the rest of the so-called “Land of Israel,” the ethnic discrimination is much worse, from segregated roads to separate legal systems. I know what Israel will say: this is only self-defense. On some level this is correct: if Israel desires control the territory that it has for more than two-thirds of its history, and to remain the state exclusively of the Jewish people, and to be democratic as well, it must find a way to create a Jewish majority on a strip of land in which the majority of inhabitants are not Jewish. There are only so many possible solutions: there’s forced mass transfer (as was tried successfully in 1948, and is currently advocated by Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Avigdor Lieberman), there’s mass imprisonment (10,000 plus Palestinians are being held in Israeli jails as I write), there’s genocide … or there is apartheid. The more humane alternatives of Israel withdrawing to the 1967 borders or becoming a state of all citizens are not even on the bargaining table.

Apartheid and segregation failed in South Africa and the United States and they will fail in Israel and Palestine. Ethnocentric nationalism failed in Nazi Germany and it will fail in Zionist Israel. But until they do, the Ibrahims and baby Khalids of Palestine are counting on you and me to do something, to say something, since they themselves cannot. Silence is complicity. We cannot wait for things to get worse. The ethnic cleansing and apartheid have gone on long enough.

All images by Anna Baltzer.

Anna Baltzer is a volunteer with the International Women’s Peace Service in the West Bank and author of the book, Witness in Palestine: Journal of a Jewish American Woman in the Occupied Territories. For information about her writing, photography, DVD, and speaking tours, visit her website at

25 March 2007 .

Settler Colonialism: Return to the Middle Ages

Action urged against Israel’s ‘discriminatory water policies’

By Hani Hazaimeh

AMMAN – The National Centre for Human Rights (NCHR) on Saturday urged international human rights agencies to expose Israel’s practices that aim to deny Palestinians the right to have access to clean water.

In a statement issued yesterday in response to a recently issued report by Amnesty International (AI), the NCHR said the report represents “a cry for justice and rings the bell for the international community to take immediate action to put an end to Israel’s unilateral measures in the occupied territories”, such as preventing the Palestinians from developing water resources by expropriating their underground water sources, as well as demolishing houses, water grids and field crops.

In its October 27 report, AI accused Israel of denying Palestinians the right to access adequate water by maintaining total control over the shared water resources and pursuing discriminatory policies, adding “these unreasonably restrict the availability of water in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) and prevent the Palestinians developing an effective water infrastructure there”.

“The facts on the ground in the occupied lands reflect the serious and critical violations to human rights in general and the Palestinians in particular by the Israelis. Their unacceptable policies and practices contradict all international agreements and covenants they have ratified such as the right to life, right to equality, right to adequate living conditions and the right to have clean and safe drinking water,” the NCHR said.

The NCHR referred in its statement to articles 3 and 56 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which call on the occupying country to secure good living conditions for the occupied people, including healthy and clean drinking water, adding that Article 54 of the first additional protocol (1977) to the Geneva Conventions prohibits the destruction or removal of food, water and other resources needed for survival.

“Israel allows the Palestinians access to only a fraction of the shared water resources, which lie mostly in the occupied West Bank, while the unlawful Israeli settlements there receive virtually unlimited supplies. In Gaza, the Israeli blockade has made an already dire situation worse,” said Donatella Rovera, AI’s researcher on Israel and the OPT, said in a press release posted on the website of the London-based organisation.

The report revealed the extent to which Israel’s discriminatory water policies and practices are denying Palestinians their right to access to water.

“Israel uses more than 80 per cent of the water from the Mountain Aquifer, the main source of underground water in Israel and the OPT, while restricting Palestinian access to a mere 20 per cent,” the report said, adding that the Mountain Aquifer is the only source for water for Palestinians in the West Bank, but only one of several for Israel, which also takes for itself all the water available from the Jordan River.

“While Palestinian daily water consumption barely reaches 70 litres a day per person, Israeli daily consumption is more than 300 litres per day, four times as much,” the report said, highlighting that in some rural communities, Palestinians survive on barely 20 litres per day, the minimum amount recommended for domestic use in emergency situations.

Amnesty added that some 180,000-200,000 Palestinians living in rural communities have no access to running water and the Israeli army often prevents them from even collecting rainwater, pointing out that Israeli settlers, who live in the West Bank in violation of international law, have intensive irrigation farms, lush gardens and swimming pools.

“Numbering about 450,000, the settlers use as much or more water than the Palestinian population of some 2.3 million,” according to the report.

In the Gaza Strip, the report noted, 90 to 95 per cent of the water from its only water resource, the Coastal Aquifer, is contaminated and unfit for human consumption, yet Israel does not allow the transfer of water from the Mountain Aquifer in the West Bank to Gaza.

“Over more than 40 years of occupation, restrictions imposed by Israel on the Palestinians’ access to water have prevented the development of water infrastructure and facilities in the OPT, consequently denying hundreds of thousands of Palestinians the right to live a normal life, to have adequate food, housing, or health, and to economic development,” said Rovera.

Amnesty said Israel has also imposed a complex system of permits that the Palestinians must obtain from the Israeli army and other authorities in order to carry out water-related projects in the OPT, adding that applications for such permits are often rejected or subject to long delays.

In rural areas, Palestinian villagers are continuously struggling to find enough water for their basic needs, as the Israeli army often destroys their rainwater harvesting cisterns and confiscates their water tankers, the report said, underlining that irrigation sprinklers water the fields in the midday sun in nearby Israeli settlements, where much water is wasted as it evaporates before even reaching the ground.

“Israel must end its discriminatory policies, immediately lift all the restrictions it imposes on Palestinians’ access to water, and take responsibility for addressing the problems it created by allowing Palestinians a fair share of the shared water resources,” Rovera added.

Educating Children in War Zones – Israeli Arab Schools Get Only Half the Funding of Their Jewish Counterparts




Educating children in a conflict zone is no simple matter. More often than not, those responsible for the curricula succumb to the masters of war and adopt a pedagogical approach that exacerbates rather than diffuses strife. Israel, unfortunately, is no exception.

Consider the way Jewish and Palestinian children are educated. Segregation in the classroom is the rule so that Jewish and Palestinian children only rarely mix. This strict segregation exists despite the fact that the Palestinians are citizens of Israel, comprising 19.5 percent of Israel’s population–around 1.37 million people–and 25 percent of all school children. Unlike the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, these Palestinians vote and pay taxes like Jewish citizens.

Notwithstanding their incorporation into the citizen body, Palestinian citizens do not enjoy full equality. In comparison to their Jewish counterparts, Arab schools receive half the per capita budget. It is therefore not very surprising that Palestinian students have the highest dropout rates and lowest achievement levels in the country.

Equality in education is reserved to the uniformity of the school curriculum, particularly the texts dedicated to teaching the history of the Israeli state. The existing history textbooks adopt the Zionist historical narrative, erasing all trace of the Palestinian nakba (Arabic for “catastrophe”, referring to the events of 1948, when approximately 750,000 Palestinians out of a population of 900,000 either fled or were expelled from their homes). Furthermore, these textbooks emphasise the significance of the Land of Israel for Jews and attempt to prove that the State of Israel could only have been created in historical Palestine, while simultaneously portraying the connection between the Arabs and Palestine as purely incidental. Along similar lines, the study of literature in the Arab schools is oriented toward Zionist portrayals and is conspicuously lacking in any patriotic or nationalistic Palestinian sentiments.

It is, no doubt, a truism that public schools in modern liberal democracies inculcate their students with the dominant national worldview. In the US, for example, children still recite the pledge of allegiance and in France children sing La Marseillaise. But while the public schools in these democracies are today more willing to provide students with a multicultural curriculum that includes the historical narratives of those who have been oppressed and marginalised over the centuries, Israel is arguably becoming less tolerant to any pedagogy that challenges the dominant Zionist national narrative.

This increasing intolerance does not bode well for the future of the Israeli-Palestinian relationship. It has therefore become more urgent than ever to consider alternative educational models.

Since educating for tolerant thinking within a conflict zone is no easy task, there are very few such projects in Israel. The bilingual Arab-Jewish Hagar School in Beer-Sheba is the only one of its kind in Israel’s southern region–a region that is home to over half a million people, 25 percent of whom are Palestinian citizens. While Hagar is a public school supported by the Ministry of Education, it is also the exception that proves the rule.

Hagar’s uniqueness stems from the fact that it has created a venue in which Jewish and Arab children not only mix (each ethnic group makes up 50 percent of the student body) but learn together in an atmosphere of mutual respect. Currently 67 children, nursery through first grade, attend this bi-lingual school, whose commitment to equality informs every aspect of its educational agenda.

To ensure that Hebrew and Arabic are awarded equal status, for example, two teachers, one Jewish and the other Arab, are present in every classroom. By creating a bilingual space that encourages direct contact with the heritage and customs of the different cultures, Hagar promotes tolerance, while being sensitive to nurture the personal identity of each child and each tradition. Thus, by the time the children are old enough to learn that there are two conflicting national narratives, both of which will be taught, they already have the necessary emotional and intellectual tools to deal with conflict through dialogue.

Hagar is an educational island that is expanding against all odds. Indeed, the school’s achievements within the current political context–especially following the assault on Gaza and the sporadic missile attacks on Beer-Sheba–are astonishing. But ongoing local support and international financial assistance are necessary to guarantee the future success of this educational space–a space that is actively translating a pedagogy of mutual respect into practice within a conflict zone.

Catherine Rottenberg is a founding member of Hagar and sits on its pedagogic committee.

Neve Gordon is chair of the department of politics and government at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and author of Israel’s Occupation (University of California Press, 2008).

Distributed by Common Ground News Service.

Posted by JNOUBIYEH at 7:15 PM

HANIEH: Arab Jews


October 17, 2009


by Adam Hanieh – – 16 October 2009

The official ideology of Israel, Zionism, has always portrayed itself as a liberation movement for all Jews. But although Zionism claims to offer a home for all Jews, that home has never been offered equally.

The question of Arab Jews strikes at the heart of the Zionist contradiction — an attempt to build an anti- Arab, exclusively Jewish state on Arab lands.

From the early days of the Zionist project, large numbers of Jews from neighbouring Arab countries were brought to Palestine. Ostensibly they were “returning home”, but in reality they came as cheap labour for their European counterparts (Ashkenazi Jews).

These Arab Jews were given the name Mizrahim (the eastern ones).

Official Israeli history presents the emigration of Mizrahi as a result of anti-Semitism within the countries where they lived or a religious devotion to the land of Palestine. This account forgets the economic interests of the Ashkenazi Zionists and the long and largely untroubled relationship between Mizrahi Jews and the other Arabs with whom they lived.

Mizrahim had lived in North Africa and the Middle East for millennia, and the vast majority were opposed to creating a Jewish state in Palestine. The Iraqi Jewish leadership, for example, cooperated with the Iraqi government to stop Zionist activity in Iraq; the chief rabbi published an open letter denouncing Zionism.

In 1920, Palestinian Jews signed anti-Zionist petitions denouncing Ashkenazi rule.

It is now well documented that Zionist underground cells planted bombs in Jewish centres to create hysteria amongst Iraqi Jews, hoping to encourage a mass exodus to Israel. On January 14, 1951, a bomb was thrown into an Iraqi synagogue, killing four people.

Of course these acts of terror by the Zionist movement did not happen in isolation from the corrupt Arab governments of the time, most of which were supported by the British, who had overtly backed the Zionist movement with the Balfour declaration of 1917.


The Mizrahim who arrived in Israel landed in corrugated iron transit camps where Israeli officials attempted to strip them of their “Arabness” by getting rid of their “unpronounceable” Arab names and replacing them with good “Jewish” names.

Most ended up in agricultural work, 10-12 hours a day in conditions of disease and squalor. Their high death rate was explained by one Zionist official as a “common and natural thing”.

One particularly damning example of the European approach to Mizrahim was the infamous “kidnapped children of Yemen” affair. Doctors, social workers and nurses worked together to kidnap 600 Yemeni-Jewish babies, telling their parents they had died and giving them to childless Ashkenazi couples.

A massive protest rally was held in 1986 to demand the truth, but it was ignored by the Israeli media. A few months later, Israeli television produced a documentary which blamed a bureaucratic system for spreading rumours and perpetuated the myth of Mizrahim as careless parents.

Today Mizrahim constitute around 50% of the Israeli population. Palestinian Arabs make up another 20%, so the total non-European population is about 70%. This rises to 90% with the inclusion of Palestinians from the occupied territories, making clear the colonial nature of Israel.

Mizrahim and Palestinian Arabs make up the vast majority of the Israeli working class, concentrated in lower paid sectors and largely ignored by the official trade union movement, the Histadrut.

Early protests

Such experiences have naturally led to protest. In 1959 a widespread rebellion began in a neighbourhood of Haifa called Wadi-Salib. It was crushed by the Israeli military.

A significant stage of the Mizrahi movement arose in the ’70s with the Black Panther movement. The Panthers took a revolutionary outlook from the black struggle in the US and Marxist movements in Latin America. They called for the destruction of the regime and a state that did not discriminate on the basis of religion, origin or nationality.

In May 1971 a demonstration of tens of thousands was organised by the Panthers against police repression. Some 170 activists were arrested and 35 were hospitalised through clashes with the police.

The Panthers were the first Mizrahim to make links with the Palestinian movement, even conducting talks with the then outlawed PLO.

Another Mizrahi movement known as the Tents movement developed. These activists protested against the squalid housing conditions of Mizrahim by squatting in vacant apartments in wealthy Ashkenazi suburbs and erecting large tent camps.

They drew links between the billions spent in the occupied territories to build settlements and the underprivileged neighbourhoods in which Mizrahim were forced to live.

The Zionist left in Israel, which consists mostly of western educated Ashkenazi, likes to portray Mizrahim as right wing, uncritical and easily swayed by populist demagogues.

The leaders of Peace Now, whose membership is almost exclusively Ashkenazi, scapegoat Mizrahim for “supporting the occupation”, “turning Israel into an anti-democratic state” and being “obstacles to peace”. These attitudes obscure important points.

Firstly, the policies of occupation and war have been designed and implemented by Ashkenazi, who have until recently dominated Israeli politics.

Secondly, the leaders of all the right-wing parties are Ashkenazim. It is true that a relatively large proportion of Mizrahim vote for Likud, but this has less to do with Likud’s policies towards Palestinians and more to do with the social devastation caused by years of rule by the Labour Party, the traditional party of Ashkenazi Zionism.

Thirdly, significant acts of solidarity with Palestinians initiated by Mizrahi have been erased from the history books.

Mizrahi and Likud

In the 1981 elections, Likud came to victory because of its image as the party of Mizrahim which would end Labour Party rule.

The leader of Likud, ex-paramilitary thug and Ashkenazi Zionist Menachem Begin, cultivated this image through cooption of many of the leaders of the Black Panthers and Tents movement.

Begin’s second in command was David Levi, a Mizrahi who knew how to use the Panthers’ rhetoric, but emptied of content. Levi ever since has used Mizrahi protests while preventing them from going too far.

During the Likud period in power, 1977-92, the social gap between Ashkenazi and Mizrahi did not narrow. Today David Levi continues as leader of his own party, Gesher, in the coalition government of Benyamin Netanyahu.

During the mid-’80s another reflection of Mizrahi discontent arose with the creation of the Shas party. Shas arose as a rebellion by ultra-orthodox Mizrahim who were studying in the Ashkenazi rabbinical schools.

Ultra-orthodox society is openly racist against Mizrahim, and Shas wanted to change this through establishing its own party and education system. Shas now wields important political power and currently has 10 seats in parliament.

It represents a false attempt to solve Mizrahi oppression by focusing solely on religion. However, it does reflect Mizrahi discontent with both Labour and Likud politics; one estimate puts four out of 10 Shas seats as due to the support of non-orthodox Mizrahi.

A new generation

Recently some developments in Mizrahi politics identify the root cause of Mizrahi oppression as the Zionist state and stress the need to build links with Palestinians.

One section of this movement is the Democratic Rainbow Movement, which is beginning a struggle over public lands.

Some 93% of Israeli territory is classified as state land, most of which was stolen from Palestinians who were expelled in 1948. Since the early ’90s, Labour and Likud have been attempting to privatise this land and public housing.

Most Mizrahi, who tend to live in the lowest standard public housing, will have no chance of owning their own apartments. However, the Kibbutz and Moshav communities (dominated by Ashkenazi) are being provided with free apartments under the legislation.

In the past, Mizrahim were often forced to live in development towns and settlements near the Israeli border or often within the occupied territories. As Israeli control has expanded, these areas have become prime real estate, leading to the eviction of Mizrahi and an influx of Ashkenazi.

This is particularly true of Jerusalem, where Israeli yuppies are now moving into settlements once populated by Mizrahi.

The Mizrahi movement inevitably comes up against the question of Palestinian rights. Rather than seeing their struggle as one for a “bigger slice of the Zionist pie” many Mizrahi believe the struggle must be a joint one.

Another Mizrahi movement is HILA, the Public Committee for Education in the Underprivileged Neighbourhoods. HILA works with activist parents in an attempt to reveal the distortions about Mizrahi history taught in Israeli schools.

Other groups have been established on universities and high schools that bring together Palestinian and Mizrahi youth. One of these groups, Tzah, organised a protest in April against a racist textbook used in the Hebrew University.

A founder of Tzah and a current leader of Hila, Shiko Behar, has written extensively on the real Mizrahi history, including opposition to Zionism and in support of Palestinian rights.

These activists also reject the attempt by Likud and Shas to speak for the Mizrahim. As one Mizrahi activist told Green Left, “We need to liberate Mizrahi and Arab-Jewish identity from the Zionist framework — and that means the framework of Likud and Shas as well”.

Adam Hanieh is a Palestinian-Australian who has lived in the West Bank town of Ramallah for several years. He is a researcher and human rights worker in Ramallah, the West Bank. He is the research and international advocacy coordinator for defense for Children International/Palestine Section, a Palestinian child rights nongovernment organization based in Ramallah since 1992. He is also a member of the Palestinian human rights organisation Addameer <; (”conscience”)

Hanieh is the former Birzeit University webmaster (1998-2000) and is currently (2002) working as a consultant for the United Nations Development Program. Hanieh is currently completing a Masters Degree in Regional Studies at Al Quds University, Jerusalem.