From the website VisualizingPalestine. This map depicts bus the segregated system of roads in the occupied territories, allowing Israelis (cars with Israeli license plates) freedom of movement and access to Jerusalem.
From the website VisualizingPalestine. This map depicts bus routes that run between West Jerusalem and West Bank Settlements, allowing Israeli Settlers freedom of movement and access to Jerusalem.
A friend of mine just informed me via twitter that this “infographic is very inaccurate: missing many bus lines while including ones that were shut down years ago.”
A brief introduction to the March 2012 United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA): In recent years, Israeli settler activity in the West Bank has significantly impaired Palestinian access to, and use of, a growing number of water springs. Springs are the single largest source of water for irrigation in the West Bank and an important coping mechanism for communities not connected to a water network, or poorly supplied, to meet domestic and livelihood needs. The main methods used by settlers to that end have been intimidation and threats, and the erection of fences around the targeted areas. This phenomenon comes in the context of Israel’s longstanding policy of settling its civilian population in the occupied Palestinian territory, in violation of international humanitarian law.
B’Tselem is the preeminent Israeli human rights organization and information center for human rights in the Occupied Territories. B’Tselem endeavors to document and educate the Israeli public and policymakers about human rights violations in the Occupied Territories, combat the phenomenon of denial prevalent among the Israeli public, and help create a human rights culture in Israel. B’Tselem is the Hebrew word ofr “in the image of,” and is also used as a synonym for human dignity. The word is taken from Genesis 1:27 “And God created humans in his image. In the image of God did He create him.”
In 2011, volunteers in B’Tselem's camera project filmed over 500 hours of footage in the West Bank. This is two minutes collected from it, in order to sum up the passing year.
Himnuta, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Jewish National Fund in Israel (KKL-JNF), planned to evict the Sumarin family from their home in Silwan, a neighborhood of East Jerusalem on November 28. The Sumarins, a family of twelve, including five children, a pregnant mother, and a grandfather on dialysis, have lived in their home for more than forty years.
Due to public outcry, led by Rabbis for Human Rights-North America (RHR-NA), Rabbis for Human Rights (RHR) in Israel, and our supporters, the Jewish National Fund announced on November 24 it was delaying the eviction of the Sumarin family.
Now we must redouble our efforts to convince the Jewish National Fund to cancel the eviction permanently.
Click this link to sing the RHR petition!
I don’t always agree with JVP’s tactics, but as usual I think their message is spot on. As I get ready for Yom Kippur and starting a new year, I am going to keep the message of this video in the front of my mind. I am young, Jewish and proud. For those who observe the hag, I hope you have a meaningful fast.
Many people have been writing a lot of pieces expressing a wide range of opinions on the upcoming Gaza Flotilla. As is par for the course with anything relating to Israel I can predict with very high accuracy what a particular article or opinion piece is going to say based solely on the name in the by-line. People have their perspectives, their world views, and rarely do any of the folks who grapple with these issues on a regular basis surprise me. That’s fine, except everyone seems to be missing what I think the central issue with this second flotilla really is; the question of its goals and the mission it is actually seeking to accomplish.
Let me explain. I’m not talking about whether the flotilla is “good” or “bad”. I’m not talking about whether it is over hyped and has too much media exposure. And I’m not talking about whether it is too explicitly pro-Palestinian. The question that concerns me is if the mission of this flotilla is to deliver humanitarian aid, be a high profile international protest, or an attempt at both.
The question matters. It has implications that reach far beyond the shores of Gaza and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And for me, clarity on this issue is critical for understanding what the flotilla is and what value it ultimately creates.
To get at this question we first need to address what good humanitarian aid looks like. I have been fortunate enough to study humanitarian aid; its best practices, successes and failures, and core principles, at the graduate school level from a leading aid practitioner. My teacher, who has her M.D. in Emergency Medicine a M.P.H. in Public Health and a M.P.H. in Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and has been on the ground providing aid throughout Africa, in post-tsunami Indonesia and in post-earthquake Haiti. Without exaggeration, she is one of the best in the world, though she is much too modest to ever say so herself.
I’m providing a truncated resume to add the appropriate weight and correctness to what she taught me about humanitarian aid. Not all of what I learned about providing aid is relevant to the case of the flotilla, but several very important aspects are.
- Aid workers should never, ever, under any circumstances, be armed. During the first flotilla some of the participants were armed to various extents, from metal pipes to knives and perhaps even guns. Being armed does not make an aid worker safer; it puts them in greater danger. It also calls into question the humanitarian nature of their mission and if they are doctors their ability to uphold the Hippocratic Oath.
- Aid workers should never, ever, under any circumstances, take sides in a political conflict. Doing so can lead to several problems including being used as pawns in a conflict and only providing aid to one party to a conflict. Aid workers need to remain impartial so that they can be of assistance to all those in need.
- Humanitarian aid should address the specific needs of a particular situation and be tailored to provide what is actually needed. It should also be as efficient and effective as possible, which often means working in coordination with local governments. Humanitarian aid can be temporary shelter, building supplies for construction, food, clean water, sanitation facilities and medicine just for starters. Effective aid cannot be delivered without local government permission at the very least and coordination and co-implementation in the best cases.
It is important to keep all of this in mind when assessing if this second flotilla is an aid mission and if it has a legitimate chance of actually providing much needed aid to the people of Gaza.
The second aspect of this question is what international protest looks like. I’m a rabble rouser by nature. I have no tolerance for injustice and discrimination and I’m a big believer in the power and value of non-violent political protest by “the people”. It’s important to speak truth to power and fight the powers that be for justice and equality. If that came off as cheesy or too earnest, I apologize; I am truly sincere in this stance and world view.
The Israeli blockade of Gaza by land, sea, and air is cruel and unjust. The policy is mostly about punishing an entire population of roughly 1.6 million people; not preventing terrorism. Such a total blockade creates a level of control that calls into question Israel’s assertion that it is no longer occupying Gaza. The blockade has created a preventable humanitarian crisis and the people of the world have a right to protest this policy. I oppose the blockade policy and I’m not afraid to say it. Non-violent political protest in the face of injustice and suffering is not only legitimate; it’s perhaps the most important type of action that people of conscious can take. And for non-violent actions of protest to be really effective they have to be high profile, they have to create controversy, they have to shine a light on the hypocrisy and injustice that they oppose.
Clearly, humanitarian aid missions and high profile political protests are very different things. They have different goals and different modus operandi. I believe that both are valuable for making the world a better place. But I also believe that they are distinct for a reason and that trying to combine them into one operation will result in the failure of both sets of goals.
If the primary goal of the flotilla is to deliver aid, then it should make sure none of the flotilla participants are armed in any way. It should do everything in its power to avoid armed conflict. It should bring as much as the needed aid items as possible and not waste cargo space with letters of peace and hope. It should pressure the Israeli authorities to deliver aid in an effective and timely matter but at the same time coordinate the relief effort with the government. If the goal is to be an aid mission the flotilla should conduct itself according to international standards and best practices of aid missions, and it should do so not only to increase its chances of success but also to avoid putting future aid missions around the world in danger by confusing the purpose of an aid mission with something else.
If the primary goal of the flotilla is to protest an unjust policy, then it should not even attempt to run a military blockade with humanitarian supplies. It should focus all its messaging on human rights, the occupation, and on Israeli policies. It should train all flotilla participants in non-violent protest techniques. And most of all, it should be up front and explicit that it is trying to make a point, stir the pot, cause a ruckus, and ultimately challenge injustice in order to bring it to an end. It’s a noble goal. It’s a legitimate goal. And if it is the goal then the flotilla organizers and participants need to own it; not conflate it with a separate and distinct type of mission.
Which brings me back to the original question, what is this second flotilla trying to be; an aid mission or a high-profile protest? It can’t be both. It has to choose.
I freely admit that this I did not write this quiz, and that in fact I’m lifting it from one of my favorite blogs: +972. The quiz was written by Roi Maor, an activist for social rights and human rights in Israel and Palestine, living in Tel Aviv who has written several human rights reports and op-eds in ynet, Ha’aretz and the Jerusalem Post. Roi has also volunteered and worked for several Israeli NGOs, including Yesh Din and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and is currently Director of International Relations in Bimkom – Planners for Human Rights. I enjoyed taking this quiz, I’m such a nerd I consider it a fun mind game, and scored a 3 on it. Give it a whirl and see what you think.
Question 1: How often do you talk about the Palestinian issue?
A. Incessantly, even when asked about Peru or Japan.
B. Only when I have something new and substantial to say.
C. Only when I am cornered by a pack of ravenous journalists.
D. What issue?
Question 2: How will you vote in the UN on a Palestinian state?
A. In favor of recognition; then I plan to rest for a decade.
B. I will do everything in my power to avoid this immensely difficult choice.
C. Against recognition. I am part of the moral majority, and will burn down the UN building if the rest of the world votes against me.
D. I have bigger fish to fry.
Question 3: What is your recipe for ending the occupation?
A. More peace talks – it can’t possibly fail.
B. Build institutions for a Palestinian state.
C. Put pressure on Israel to end it.
D. Stop calling it the occupation.
Question 4: What should policy towards Israel look like?
A. Shower it with unconditional largesse.
B. Demand a partial and temporary settlement freeze.
C. Harshly criticize the occupation and other violations of human rights.
D. Make vague, non-credible threats about sanctions.
Question 5: What is your position on the 1967 borders?
A. Best we can do.
B. The basis for a future border, with mutually agreed land swaps.
C. Sure, but Israel can annex the settlements blocks and the Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem.
D. Auschwitz borders.
Question 1: a – zero points for prioritizing talk over action; b – one point for being serious; c – zero points for evading the issue; d – minus one point for utter callousness.
Question 2: a – zero points for focusing on pointless symbolism; b – zero points for taking yourself way too seriously; c – minus one point for making no sense; d – one point for having the right priorities.
Question 3: a – really? zero points; b – 0.1 points for at least trying; c – one point for fingering the culprit; d – minus one point for distorting reality.
Question 4: a – minus one point for being counterproductive; b – zero points for missing the point; c – one point for keeping your eye on the ball; d – zero points for bluffing.
Question 5: a - one point for realism; b – zero points for vagueness; c – minus one point for contradicting yourself; d – minus one point for baseless hyperbole.
Now total the points:
If you got less than minus two points, you are strongly pro-occupation.
If you got exactly minus two points, you are the Obama administration.
If you got between minus one point and plus one point, you are vaguely against the occupation, but have no intention to do anything effective about it.
If you got more than one point, you are on the right path to oppose the occupation. Also, who are you and why haven’t we heard from you?
Prior to last week I’d never heard of Ras al-Amud. That’s not surprising. As an American Jew, I was not meant to. I was not meant to know that Ras al-Amud even existed, because to know that it exists, that it is a Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem that is located just south of the old city and overlooks Silwan and Abu Dis, and that in 2003 it had a population of 11,922, is to admit that Palestinians have a legitimate claim and right to Jerusalem. As an American Jew I’m not “supposed” to know that. It’s another part of the Occupation; a way of trying to hide something you don’t want known, a way of trying to make people and neighborhoods invisible and of making identities disappear. Two years ago I had never heard of Silwan, though I had actually been to the neighborhood several times, so to say I know where Ras al-Amud is because I know where Silwan is already means I know way more than the powers that be ever wanted me to.
Last week the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement held two demonstrations in Ras al-Amud (two years ago I had not heard of Sheikh Jarrah either, in spite of the fact that it was the neighborhood at the foot of the University I’d studied at and neighborhood I’d lived in for a year and a half, and in spite of the fact I’d been through the neighborhood countless times on buses and in taxies). These non-violent demonstrations were in protest of the ground breaking of a new settlement in the heart of Ras al-Amud, called Maaleh David, which had just been approved by the municipality and of the existing settlement Maaleh Zeitim to which it will not only be adjacent but also connected to by a bridge. Maaleh Zeitim is already the largest settlement in any of the Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, with more than a hundred housing units. The addition of Maaleh David alongside it serves to highlight the Israeli government policy of moving Jews into areas that are populated by Palestinians to inhibit the ability of that region from being exclusively Palestinian and thus preventing it from being part of a future Palestinian state. It’s the “facts on the ground” method; if we build it the world can’t possibly ask us to give it up in the future.
I’ve been following developments in Ras al-Amud for a week now. The second of the two demonstrations last week turned violent when police used unprecedented force against Israeli demonstrators. It is standard operating procedure for the Israeli police and army to use violence when putting down non-violent Palestinian protests, but the use of batons and tasers by police against Israelis was entirely new.
These events are significant on multiple levels: the strategy of solidarity, the tactic of civil disobedience and the recognition and acceptance of another’s identity, all of which are important for ending the Occupation. While it is disturbing to know that police used violence to put down the peaceful demonstration of its own citizens, what is more significant is the fact that these demonstrations are occurring. The work of the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement is what its name indicates; based on solidarity, the solidarity of Israelis with Palestinians, of West Jerusalemites with East Jerusalemites, of residents of a city standing together in voicing their opposition to unjust policies and laws. So, first and foremost, the events in Ras al-Amud and Sheikh Jarrah are significant because they are based on solidarity.
Second, the conversations of many involved in the protests are once again focusing on civil disobedience. Many of the members of the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement have already been arrested, some multiple times, for their non-violent demonstrations. The decisions to break a law, risk bodily harm, and get arrested cannot be taken lightly. Civil disobedience is the breaking of laws. Specifically, it is the breaking of unjust laws because of a recognition that certain laws sometimes work to stymie justice and that there is a moral justification to break those laws in order to pursue justice. Technically, a sit-in that blocks the entrance to a settlement is illegal. So last week when Israelis and Palestinians sat down together in the road to block the entrance of a settlement, a settlement that was built to purposely fracture the Palestinian community of Ras al-Amud, a settlement that violates Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention to which Israel is a party, they were breaking the law. Six protestors were arrested.
Solidarity and civil disobedience are extremely important. They are two of the tools of justice. And the weekly Friday protests in Sheikh Jarrah and now perhaps Ras al-Amud are steeped in both.
But Solidarity and civil disobedience in the face of injustice are not the only reasons why these protests are important, they are also important because they reaffirm the names of people’s communities and by extension their identities. In 1998 when I was 18 I did not know that Sheikh Jarrah existed because I was told not to ride the bus line that went thorough that “dangerous, dirty village where terrorists live”. In 2000 when I was 21 I did not know that Sheikh Jarrah existed because when I asked what that area was and who lived there I was told “don’t worry about it, it’s just some unimportant Arab village”. But in the summer 2009 when I was 30 I slept in the houses of Mahar Hanoun and Nasser al-Ghawi and their families. I slept in their homes because even though they had legitimate legal deeds to their homes they were going to be evicted. I slept in their homes because Israeli police carry out evictions in the middle of the night and the hope was that if internationals were in the houses it would deter the families’ evictions. They welcomed me, an American Jewish woman, to stand in solidarity with them against the court-ordered and yet unjust prospect of being made homeless because they are not Jews. I slept in their homes, and learned that their homes were in a neighborhood called Sheikh Jarrah, and in the middle of the night of August 1, 2009 (early in the morning of August 2, 2009), on a night when I was in my bed in my apartment in the neighborhood of French Hill, the Hanoun and al-Ghawi families were evicted from their homes. I spent the rest of the month standing in solidarity with the families as they protested outside of their own homes, homes that Israeli settlers now occupied.
For 11 years the name Sheikh Jarrah had been hidden from me, divorced from the place it represented, and in a very Orwellian way disappeared from people’s consciousness. But not all people’s consciousness, just some; the Hanouns and the al-Ghawis and the other residents of Sheikh Jarrah knew what their neighborhood was called; the name had been erased for me and other Jews so that we would not know. Just like until last week the name Ras al-Amud had been erased for me and others.
It is important to talk about Ras al-Amud because solidarity is a powerful strategy for just change. It is important to talk about Ras al-Amud because civil disobedience is a powerful tactic for just change. And it is important to talk about Ras al-Amud because though some would like to keep the name Ras al-Amud hidden and rename the area other things like Maaleh Zeitim and Maaleh David, they cannot change the fact that Ras al-Amud exists. Last week the news broke, and in solidarity, and with the use of civil disobedience, the protesters were heard, and a name entered the consciousness of a larger audience.