Tuesday, August 18, 2009

From the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation: "Sheikh Jarrah evictions reveal Israel's apartheid policies"

This post was written by a Young Friend of Sabeel who is now working for the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation in Washington, DC. You can see the original post and other news, commentary, and analysis about changing U.S. policy toward Israel/Palestine to be in accordance with international law and human rights at the US Campaign's blog.

Last week we reported on the eviction of 53 Palestinians, members of the Al-Ghawi and Hanoun families, who were evicted from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem. Joseph Dana, an Israeli-American activist and independent journalist who works with the group Ta'ayush (Living Together), reports on a vigil organized in response to these evictions:
"Last night in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah there was a vigil, a memorial to the families’ homes from which they were evicted. First they were refugees and now they are homeless. After weeks of legal battles, sit-ins and press conferences, several hundreds gathered to acknowledge a critical defeat in the battle over the future of this land and the two peoples who want to live here in peace."
Take a look at Dana's video of the vigil below, and note in particular Rabbi Arik Ascherman discussing the "discriminatory behavior" that these evictions represent just before his arrest at the hands of Israeli military police:

There is a specific term in international law for this type of discriminatory behavior when it comes from the official apparatus of the state. That word is apartheid--a fact not lost on Israeli journalist Gideon Levy, who writes in Ha'aretz:
"We should perhaps thank the court for its scandalous ruling, which not only sparked a justifiable international wave of protest against Israel, but also revealed its true face. "There are judges in Jerusalem," as Menachem Begin said, and they have made it official: apartheid. Ownership rights are for Jews alone."
The 1973 UN Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid defines apartheid as a crime against humanity, not specific to South Africa, consisting of "inhuman acts" designed to impose racial segregation and discrimination on a targeted group. Specific acts falling under the crime of apartheid include denying basic human rights of freedom of movement and residence and the expropriation of landed property in order to create separate reserves and ghettos for the members of a racial group or groups.

Of course, calling apartheid by its name doesn't earn one many friends, as evidenced by the current controversy surrounding the United Church of Canada's resolutions on Israel/Palestine. There are signs that the discourse is changing, however, not the least of which is the decision by President Obama to honor key critics of Israeli apartheid with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Obama is scheduled to present these awards today.

A change in the discourse isn't enough, though. Policies have to change, and we're the ones who have to organize to change them. Find out how by clicking here.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Update from Sheikh Jarrah

This past Monday, a vigil was held in Sheikh Jarrah for the Palestinian families illegally evicted from their homes. Several hundred international, Israeli, and Palestinian activists gathered to protest the eviction. Midway through the protest, it was declared illegal by the Israeli police, the crowd was told to disperse and in the process, Rabbi Arik Ascherman of Rabbis for Human Rights was arrested.

Read the Daily Kos for more information about the demonstration.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

"Israel must allow evicted Arab families to return home" -- Haaretz editorial

The al Ghawi and al Hanoun families are staying across the street in tents from the houses they were illegally evicted from by the Israeli authorities. Refugees for a second time, the families have nowhere to go.

Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper published the following strongly worded editorial regarding the eviction:

The eviction of two Palestinian families from their homes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, in order to replace them with Jewish families, predictably sparked harsh condemnations. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged the government to refrain from such actions, which she described as "provocative."

Sweden, which holds the European Union's rotating presidency, asserted that the evictions were illegal, while UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Robert Serry said they were violations of both the Geneva Conventions and Israel's obligations under the road map peace plan.

The sight of the evicted Palestinian families, who had lived in these houses for decades, paints Israel in the world's eyes as a country that maintains a cruel regime of occupation, oppresses the weak and strives to create political facts in the disputed city under the guise of the "rule of law."

But for all its importance, this international criticism is not what makes the eviction of these families completely unacceptable. A democratic state that strives for peace and justice simply has no right to uproot families who became refugees in 1948. They left homes in West Jerusalem behind them, and were subsequently granted modest accommodations by the Jordanian government. The claim that the houses in Sheikh Jarrah were purchased by Jews in the early 1900s is a double-edged sword that opens a political and legal Pandora's box.

No thinking person will be persuaded that Jews have a sweeping right to return to their homes in East Jerusalem as long as Israeli law not only bars Palestinians from returning to their homes in West Jerusalem, but even evicts them from the houses where they have lived for the last 60 years. The Israel Lands Administration's regulations do not even allow Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem to buy land and houses in many parts of the city.

The least that can be expected of a state that legalized the expropriation of thousands of dunams in East Jerusalem to build 50,000 apartments for its citizens is to once and for all deprive extremists of the right to turn Jerusalem into an obstacle to peace and a stumbling block to reconciliation between the two peoples that inhabit this city.

The government must immediately return the Palestinian residents to their homes in Sheikh Jarrah and cancel the eviction orders that have been issued against additional houses. And the neighborhood's fate must be determined via diplomatic negotiations.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Update on the Sheikh Jarrah evictions: "I have been here 56 years and I have more right to be here than them"

The al Hanoun and al Ghawi families have set up tents across the street from the homes they were illegally evicted from by the Israeli authorities. From the tent the settlers are clearly visible and making audacious displays of their ownership. One settler teenager is smiling as he joyfully rides on his razor scooter under the watchful eye of the Israeli police. The streets that the houses are on have been shut down for the past two days and are guarded by Israeli forces.

There has been a large international and local presence protesting the evictions and committed to standing with the families for the past two days and plan to continue coming to demonstrate their solidarity. However, when the protesters are done for the day and return to their homes, the al Hanoun and al Ghawi families must stay on the street.

The al Ghawi family consists of three brothers and their families. One of the brothers, Naser al Ghawi told us that he wanted to stay in the tent across from his house, he didn't want to move because "we have no where else to go".

His wife, Maysoun said, "I have a been here for 56 years and I have more right to be here than them...I'm going to stay here". In fact, Israel's eviction of the families is in contravention to the Fourth Geneva Convention because their houses are located in occupied East Jerusalem. An occupying force is prohibited from transferring their own people into occupied territory. The confiscation of private property by an occupying force is also forbidden.

When asked where their 20 month old child will be staying tonight, they responded, "the street".

Video, media coverage of Sheikh Jarrah evictions

Israeli American activist Joseph Dana, of the group Ta'ayush, reports on the Sheikh Jarrah evictions on his blog:

Here's an Al Jazeera report on the evictions:

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Approximately 70 Palestinians evicted in East Jerusalem, Sheikh Jarrah -- Israeli Settlers move in immediately

It seems convenient that every news worthy incident is directly followed by house demolitions and home evictions in Israeli occupied territory. Just as the election of Obama was followed by home demolitions in East Jerusalem, the morning after the tragedy of the Tel Aviv shootings, about 70 Palestinians in East Jerusalem were evicted from their homes.

Just before sunrise, under the cover of night, these UN registered Palestinian refugee families were thrown off of the land that the UN bought for them from Jordan in 1956 (before Israel's occupation of East Jerusalem) by the Israeli police force. Hungrily waiting on the sidelines, Israeli settlers moved into the houses almost immediately as the way was clear.

Fortunately, the press was not preoccupied and the cover of night was not sufficient to hide the grave injustice that was committed today. Still more families in this neighborhood face imminent eviction. We ask for your prayers and support for those affected by illegal Israeli expropriation of private Palestinian property. It is more evidence that the Nakba continues today.

BBC article on the evictions

Haaretz article on the evictions

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Separate but Not Equal

For the past few days, the Sabeel International Young Adult Conference participants have been touring around northern Israel visiting Acre, Nazareth, Tiberius, and more.

The Palestinians that the participants met in these areas have a different relationship with the state of Israel from Palestinians living in the West Bank because they have Israeli citizenship. The Palestinian citizens of Israel face different challenges. They do not have the same rights as Jewish citizens.

It is almost impossible for a Palestinian with Israeli citizenship to rent or buy property in Jewish towns and neighborhoods in Israel. Furthermore, Palestinian towns and neighborhoods receive very little funding in comparison to Jewish areas. This population constitutes 19% of the total population of Israel but only receives 5% of governmental development funds and 6% of the salary budget allotted to government employees (teachers are government employees in Israel). Take a closer look at disparities in funding.

Reminiscent of the United States before 1964, Israel's policy of creating a separate school system for Palestinian citizens of Israel is separate and not equal. The Arab state school system is in desperate need of 9,300 classrooms, however, the government has agreed to build only 2,850 new classrooms over the next two years. The Arab state school system lacks the funding that is provided to the Jewish school systems.

Also, the content of the curriculum must be approved by the Ministry of Education which views any information regarding Palestinian culture and history as a threat to the state of Israel. The Palestinians constitute an indigenous population and have a fundamental right to culture as recognized by the The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which clearly states that indigenous peoples have the right not to be subjected to forced assimilation or the destruction of their culture. However, the Israeli Education Ministry banned the work of Palestinian poet, Mahmoud Darwish from curriculum and is now banning the teaching of the Nakba.

Below is a video from a Palestinian Israeli hip hop group. Read the translation of the lyrics below to understand some of the challenges that this community faces.

Also, take a look at how our participants are doing below in a couple photos we've uploaded.