Monthly Archives: November 2011

The Jewish PLO

copied from my Alternative Information Center article here

Abraham Weizfeld is a co-founder of the Alliance of Concerned Jewish Canadians, whose motto is ‘Jews & Arabs Are United, Israel’s Wrongs Must Be Righted’. He was also a founder of the Jewish People’s Liberation Organization. Here, he speaks with the Alternative Information Center (AIC):

 

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Jews who are opposed to Zionism marching in Canada (photo: flickr/Ullyses)

 

Zionism formed in response to European persecution of the Jewish people. Where did it go wrong?

 

Zionism said that the Jews should establish a Jewish nation state in their own name, excluding any other nation, just as the Jews have been excluded from Germany and Europe, because they realized that Jewish liberty in Europe was not feasible. So instead of opposing the exclusionary European nation state, they adopted the same methodology and chose to implement it in their own name, with the alliance of those European nation states, which considered that the Jews didn’t belong in their nation state, and that the Jews should go to their Jewish nation state, and incidentally form an outpost of European colonialism.

 

Zionism was separatist, it wanted to segregate the Jewish people in Palestine. That’s the true origin of Zionism. This has corrupted Jewish spiritual culture, and has destroyed a great part of Jewish political culture, the Yiddish language. Now I am a Yiddish speaker who can speak with nobody. Nobody speaks Yiddish, except the Hasidim.


Instead of Zionism going off and establishing its own nation state on the model of European exclusionary nation states, how could they have stayed and fought persecution?

 

In Poland the Jewish workers’ movement formed a civil rights movement, much like the African Americans did, and they developed it into a political party and a trade union federation called the Jewish Labor Bund. My mother was a member of the Bund and so was her brother, who became a partisan during the Nazi invasion of Russia.

 

This Jewish Bund, which means ‘union’, was of the opinion that the Jewish people who lived in Poland were legitimately Polish, as legitimate as any other Polish person. They had had lived there for over 500 years. They spoke Polish to each other in their home as well as Yiddish. My parents spoke to each other in Polish, not in Yiddish, and with me they spoke Yiddish. They were as Polish as any other Polish person, only they were Jewish as well, they had a dual identity.

 

The Jewish people are one of the least religious nations in the world nowadays…but the Jewish cultural-national identity continues to exist. The Jewish Bund was based on this national identity…The Jewish Bund developed on a civil rights basis as an alternative to Zionism, in fact it was anti-Zionist.  It was devastated both by the Nazis and the Stalinists, but it survived nonetheless, and here I am. I was raised as a Bundist by my mother, who was also an anti-Zionist.


It’s interesting that whereas the Bund sought to maintain a duality between their national identity as Jews, and their full participation in the Polish or Russian class struggle as Poles or Russians, Zionism sought to collapse that duality into a single identity, where the cultural-national identity as Jew immediately coincides with the nationalistic identity as Israeli.

 

The Zionists are so fanatical on that point, their official ideology doesn’t even allow an Israeli national identity to be established. There is only a Jewish identity, though two thirds of the world’s Jewish people do not have a vote on the Israeli elections… That’s why I advocate a Jewish revolution against Zionism, for the independence of the Jewish people from the state of the Zionists. There may be an Israeli nation now, but it is not a Jewish nation. It does not represent the Jewish people.

 

The Jewish Bund was proven correct in its critique of Zionism, in the sense that it was not necessary for Jewish people to run away to Palestine to preserve their identity. Jewish people are not going to lose their identity, they are not going to be assimilated, even though they live in other societies. Jewish people are strong enough to have a dual identity.

 

You can speak more than one language. You can have more than one identity. Humans are not limited to being just one thing. To be Jewish is to be creative, it is to develop new ideas, to adapt new ideas, to learn from other cultures, and to fuse them with what the Jewish people have learned from the various cultures, to develop an internationalist culture which is very dynamic.

 

We have formed an international Jewish opposition to Zionism now. There are various Jewish organizations that are either anti occupation or anti Zionism… Jewish identity has to be asserted in an independent fashion, and Jewish identity has to be rebuilt, without feigning allegiance to the Zionist state, which is artificial and is not representative of the actuality of Jewish culture in any country.

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Palestinian Prisoner Self Education

copied from my Palestine Chronicle article here

Books freed prisoners. (Photo: Rana Way)

On the third floor of the Nablus Municipality Library, there sits a room of over 8,000 books set apart from the rest. Many of these books are very old and tattered; many of them, in lieu of a normal face, are adorned with images taken from old National Geographic or Reader’s Digest magazines. Some are laboriously written by hand. The spines of the books show a variety of languages, from Arabic to English, French and Spanish. ‘The New English Bible’ is flanked by ‘The Great American Revolution of 1776’ on one side and ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ on the other; across the aisle, Edward Said’s ‘Orientalism’ and ‘The Greek Myths’ look on silently, next to ‘Elementary Physics’ and a study of ‘The Chinese Road to Socialism’.

One day in 2008, Italian artist Beatrice Catanzaro became fascinated with this section of the Nablus Library. “I would return day after day”, she related, “to pour over every detail- how the work was sown, the notations, the drawings.” A librarian, seeing her fascination, told her a story:

“A few years ago an old man asked me for a specific book. [She picks up and shows me a thick hard covered grey book with old yellowish pages.] He started to explore the perimeter of the cover with his fingers, searching in the bookbinding gap. When [I] asked him what he was searching for, the man looked at [me] with a discouraged expression: ‘in prison I use to hide my embroidering needle in the binding of this book’.”

What fascinated Beatrice about this collection? This 8,000-book collection is no ordinary collection, but the Prisoner’s Section of the Nablus Library. Here are gathered books that lived with generations of Palestinian prisoners behind the bars of Israeli prisons. The shelves are adorned with weathered tomes of economic theory, slim volumes of poetry, well-worn novels, textbooks on mathematics and physics, classic works of philosophy and history, and much more. Personal and political annotations, scribbles and drawings adorn these pages, which captivated the hearts and minds of decades of Palestinian prisoners before finding their way, after the closure of two ex-Israeli military detention structures in 1996, to this library.

PFLP leader Abdel-Alim Da’na, who was imprisoned for a total of 17 years between 1970 and 2004, spearheaded PFLP educational programs behind bars to spread the philosophy of resistance to less experienced prisoners. He explains the foundation of prison pedagogy- “everyone, when they enter the prison, must learn to read and to study. Some people, when they enter the prison, cannot read or write, and we put an end to their illiteracy. Some of them are very famous journalists now, some are poets, some are writing in the newspapers and doing research in the universities, some are men in the Palestinian Authority, some are activists!”

Khaled al-Azraq, a refugee from Aida Refugee camp who has been a political prisoner for the last 20 years, testifies that “through the will and perseverance of the prisoners, prison was transformed into a school, a veritable university offering education in literature, languages, politics, philosophy, history and more…Prisoners passed on what they knew and had learned in an organized and systematic fashion. Simply put, learning and passing on knowledge and understanding, both about Palestine and in general, has been considered a patriotic duty necessary to ensure steadfastness and perseverance in the struggle to defend our rights against Zionism and colonialism. There is no doubt that the Palestinian political prisoners’ movement has played a leading role in developing Palestinian national education.”

Khalil Ashour was a Palestinian political prisoner from 1970 to 1982. Years later, he became Director of the Ministry of Local Government for the PA in Nablus until his retirement in 2005. He was also a central figure in Beatrice Catanzaro’s aptly-titled exhibit in the Prisoner’s Section of the Nablus Municipality Library, ‘A Needle in the Binding’.

In conjunction with the exhibit, Khalil Ashour wrote a moving personal testimony called ‘The Palestinian Detainee and the Book’. In accordance with the wishes of Ashour and Catanzaro, it is reproduced here in full ..

The Palestinian Detainee and the Book

By Khalil Ashour

The tragedy of detention is the deprivation of freedom of choice, or the limiting of this freedom to the minimum. If someone imposed their rules on you and oppressed you, you are their subject even if you are not a prisoner. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have lived this tragedy in the Israeli detention centers starting from the year 1967 until now, and the ugliest image of this tragedy was when Palestinian detainees were prohibited from reading and writing. They were allowed only to write letters of ten lines to their families, and if they were to write more than ten lines by one word or more, the prison administration used to tear up the letter. During this period Palestinian detainees used to spend their time in narrating stories they knew and films they had watched before detention.

I recall that a detainee narrated for us the story “Les Miserables” by Victor Hugo, in several chapters. He used to narrate one chapter a day, until he finished the story after two weeks. We used to wait anxiously everyday until nighttime to listen to a new chapter. We all felt as if “Jean Valjean” the hero of the novel, was living among us. The last night we were so sad, as “Jean Valjean”  was leaving our detention center, knowing that we were never to meet him again. And when the moment of separation arrived, a sorrowful silence fell upon us all.

This was our situation in Asqalan prison in the years 1970-1971. However, in Biet Led, in 1972, the prison administration allowed three things: the first one was to allow the “Jerusalem Post” Newspaper into the prison, which is published in English. One of the detainees who is fluent in English used to translate articles and news relevant to our interests as detainees for freedom. The second was distributing Israeli books which explain and defend the Zionist Movement, the Jewish right to Palestine, and that the Palestinian Organizations are a group of “terrorists” who are going to fail, in order to inject detainees’ minds with the Israeli version of the situation, bring despair to their hearts and smash their morale. The third one was that every detainee’s family is allowed to buy two books every month for their detained family member, however, these books were to be approved by the prison’s administration first, in addition to the fact that they should remain in the prison if the detainee is released or transferred to another prison. This is how the first library was established in Beit Led prison.

However, cultural life in Nablus prison was rather different. The prison was managed by the Jordanian Police before 1967, there was a small library of tens books in this prison. Most of the books were novels, poetry and few school books that talk about the Jordanian History. However books that address philosophy or politics were originally prohibited in the Jordanian Reign. A remarkable improvement occurred during one of the Red Cross’s visits near the end of the year 1972, the delegation handed us a long list of the books that are allowed and approved by the prison’s administration. The list was distributed to the detainees to choose whatever they wanted, it included books about Marxism, Leninism, Communist theory, and Socialist thought. It was a golden opportunity for the Popular Front and democratic front organizations’ members, as their leaders say that they are leftist organizations that defend laborers’ rights, and lead the proletariat revolution from the inside of the Palestinian national movement and Arab nationalism. This was the first time that the communist books were seen in prisons.

Every time a delegation from the Red Cross used to visit the detainees, the number of red books increased, as well as religious books, especially those authored  by Hassan Al-Banna, Sayed Qotob and his brother Mohammed Qotob, as well as Mohammed Al-Ghazali.  Those authors were the founders and poles of the Muslim Brotherhood that was established in Egypt in 1928.

Based on these books, the thoughts that lie within their pages, and according to their viewers and readers, three intellectual trends appeared and spread among detainees. 1. A patriotic and national movement 2. A communist and socialist movement 3. A religious and Salafi movement. Fruitful and rich discussions and debates occurred between these three parties, which improved the intellectual and cultural level of the detainees. These movements also influenced residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as its ideas spread among the populace, especially amongst university students and educated people. When the communist and socialist movements disintegrated as a result of the fall of the Soviet Union after the year 1989, the leftist parties and organizations suffered from a sever tremor, and a deep shock, as they started flopping aimlessly searching for an identity, which resulted in the spread of the Religious and Salafi movement’s values, thus gaining more popularity, as it found itself more free to compete with the national movement.

In addition, books’ spread in Israeli prisons, and the variation in its genres and subjects, opened new horizons for the detainees; even those who were illiterate, mastered reading and writing. Detained students completed their education, became Tawjihi degree holders, and joined universities after they were released. Those who were interested in language learned Hebrew, English and French. Those with little knowledge read books about geography, history, economy, politics, philosophy, astronomy, religion, and literature. This is how Palestinian detainees turned prisons, through reading and writing into active and living workshops, as a room in any prison used to be calm at time allocated for reading and noisy when holding sessions and conducting debates, regardless of the number of inmates. In order to test erudition and level of knowledge, they used to conduct a weekly “question & answer” tournament, and award the winning team. As a result of this tournament, the spirit of competition spread among detainees, they started reading more, and copying books to send to other prisons that lacked them. It is known that copying books helps in memorizing more than reading. Translations also became common from Hebrew or English into Arabic. Detainees used to hold a special meeting to listen to translated articles’, which used to be read by the translator himself. They even held meetings in order to listen to translated literature.

One of the cultural activities also was that a group of detainees worked on preparing and distributing magazines, where they would hand write their articles in notebooks. Here one can see how the desire for learning, reading new books and self-education, was spread amongst detainees, as it was their priority. Books played a pioneering role in the significant change in detainees’ lives and hearts, and the clear evidence was that detainees were different when they were released; different than how they were several years ago when they were arrested. They occupied important and influential positions in society after they were released, in fact, some of them were top students at universities, and some of them went on to complete their MA and PHD degrees.

It is natural for detainees to pursue any mean in order to free themselves from imprisonment, and search for a way to escape from their harsh and bleak reality. Those who are deprived of bread dream of bread, and those who are deprived of freedom seek freedom. The Palestinian prisoner resorted to books in order to dream and free themselves through words as well as to escape to an alternative to their lived reality. If the book was a novel, the prisoner lives with its characters and moves amongst them from one place to the other, eavesdrops on their discussions, experiences their feelings, and walks around in their homes. This feeling creates another life for the prisoner, another world, and another reality.

Hence, books transferred and freed prisoners, even if it was temporary, it is the path to their salvation, as it also brings new ideas to the reader, and new beliefs, it introduces us to different lived experiences, which leads to a widening of horizon and an openness towards difference. The more books a human reads, the more minds he tackles and deals with, the more he enriches his knowledge.

A book is a spring of knowledge that quenches the intellect’s thirst for learning, blessed are those minds that are forever thirsty.

A book is a new world – we add to the world we know a space for another. The book is a transformation tool from a state to a better one, if we listened carefully to what it says and comprehended what it means. A book does not redeem humans from illiteracy, ignorance, delusion and myth only, it redeems one from corruption, bad manners, bad behavior, narrow mindedness, and bias.

Books reveal your true self, guide you to what you will become, and illuminate your world just like the sun lights your day. There are two truths in this world, the first is God which is a permanent truth, and the second; the world, is temporary. We came to this life to read the second truth in order to understand the first, and those who do not know are the ones who do not read.

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Community Building In The Face of Israeli Occupation

copied from my Alternative Information Center article here

While the Palestinian-led weekly demonstrations against the separation barrier are an important and visible part of non-violent resistance, a children’s community center in Burin fights the occupation on a daily basis just by opening its doors, sometimes for as little as half an hour.

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Residents of Burin build their community children’s center, which is named for Bilal al Najjar. (Photo: Ghassan Najjar)

In the West Bank village of Burin near Nablus, local youth are building a new children’s center to foster hope in their community.

 

Burin’s 4,000 inhabitants live in a valley, surrounded on all hilltops by Israeli settlements — Yitzhar, Har Bracha, Givat Arousna, and a Yitzhar “outpost.” The children and adults of Burin live, day and night, in constant fear of settler attacks and army raids.

 

21-year-old Ghassan Najjar is the director of Burin’s Bilal Alnajjar Community Center, built in 2008 and named after a villager who died in 1984 while he was being interrogated by the Israeli army.

 

“The youth here are lost,” he says. “There is no outlet for their frustration. The gym that was once open was closed. The boy’s playground is large, but people are too afraid to play there because of the constant army presence in the area…the girl’s school is tiny, and looks like a jail because of all the bars that are up- a caged-up area is the only place where they can play.”

 

In 2005, when they were teenagers in the village, Ghassan and 25 of his friends committed themselves to building a community center. “We wanted to get the youth away from a life of hanging around, smoking cigarettes and doing nothing…we wanted this center to be their outlet, to give them hope.”

 

The teenagers went from door to door raising funds. “People were skeptical at first”, Ghassan remembered. “They would disregard what we were doing, or brush it off, and say ‘how can that help?’ But we were determined.”

 

When the Bilal Alnajjar Community Center was finally established in 2008, the Israeli army began to crack down. From 2008 to 2010, Israeli soldiers targeted the center for harassment, invasion, and vandalism, usually at night.

 

“From 11 pm to 4 am”, Ghassan says, “everyone in Burin knew this village was for the Israeli army… they would break down the doors, break the computers, and trash the center. They would come and go as they pleased, and hang around, and do whatever they want. But this is something that we came to expect. We used to get upset when they harassed our center, but we continued.”

 

In 2010, 22 of the 25 organizers were arrested while cleaning the streets of Burin, and sentenced to a year in prison. While in prison, Burin’s younger generation took on the responsibility of maintaining the community center. One of these young men, who wished to remain anonymous, insisted that “we were dedicated to keeping the center open. It is very important to us. We made sure to open it every day, even if only for half an hour, just to show that we were going to keep it open.”

 

Now, the young men of Burin are building a new children’s center to better serve as a safe haven for Burin’s children. “There are 112 children here who still have nowhere to go”, relates Ghassan. “They don’t want to stay home and sit with their family, they want to go out and have some fun, but they can’t really play in the streets because of fear of army raids and settlers. So they come and hang out in the center but it is small and there is nowhere to play. There is only space to sit and talk.”

 

At the new children’s center, which is currently under construction, the people of Burin hope to maintain extensive athletic, recreational and educational facilities. Villagers have reported seeing Israeli soldiers enter the construction site at night, but they are not deterred. “Once the center is up we expect soldiers to come, this is normal for us. They can enter as much as they like, we will just continue, and renew whatever they destroy.”

 

Ghassan, along with the other directors of the Bilal Alnajjar Community Center, are optimistic. “We have a lot of hopes and dreams. We are still young, we are 21, and we hope to educate the ones younger than us to take over the center. We are not dictators, we will one day move on, but we hope that the young people of this village will keep it up, so Burin can remain strong in spirit.”

 

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'A Jew, Not A Zionist': Interview with Rabbi Meir Hirsch, leader of Neturei Karta Palestine

reprinted from my MondoWeiss article here

(image from http://www.palestinemonitor.org/?p=1652)

Last week I interviewed Rabbi Meir Hirsch, leader of Neturei Karta Palestine, at his home in the Orthodox neighborhood of Mea Sharim in Jerusalem. Mea Sharim is a tight, crowded maze of a neighborhood with windy, dirty, dimly lit streets. Walking down a cobblestone pathway at night, with Orthodox men, women and children hurrying by on all sides, with cats scurrying in and out of dumpsters, with a yeshiva to the left and a kosher slaughterhouse to the right, one can sometimes get a flashback to a past life in an 18th-century Russian shtetl.

In the few blocks around Rabbi Hirsch’s home, the Neturei Karta stronghold in the center of Mea Sharim, one starts to see Palestinian flags scrawled on the walls, with slogans like ‘No Zionists Allowed’, ‘Zionism is Dying’ and ‘Arabs are Good’ graffiti’d in Yiddish, then crossed out, then graffiti’d again. Rabbi Hirsch’s doorbell reads ‘A Jew Not a Zionist’.

An excellent interview detailing Rabbi Hirsch and Neturei Karta’s political views can be found here-http://www.palestinemonitor.org/?p=1652. Also be sure to visit Neturei Karta’s website, www.nkusa.org!

When did your family come here?

Meir Hirsch: I am the fifth generation in this land. My family came 150 years ago from Russia. Then, Aliyah as a term, like Zionism, did not exist. People outside of Israel aspired to get to Israel in order to better worship God. When Mea Sharim was made 145 years ago, it was a wilderness at first! There were animals roaming around, people had to lock their doors!

When the Orthodox community saw waves of European secular Zionists coming, how did they feel?

The Balfour Declaration of 1918 made the people here, especially the orthodox families, very upset. There was an objection from the ultra Orthodox community, which was the majority, specifically in Jerusalem but in other parts as well. Jacob Israel de Haan was a secular Jew who became religious, and came here from Poland. He came to Palestine and at first he went to the Mizrahi movement, but was not content with their version of religion and connected with [WHO] the Chief Rabbi of the ultra-Orthodox. Because of his diplomatic connections he almost got the Balfour Declaration canceled- he had connections with Arabic leaders and British leaders. The Zionist leaders, because they saw that he was about to succeed, decided to assassinate him. When he was coming back from Maariv (evening) prayer, they shot and killed him. That led to the foundation of the Neturei Karta movement to continue to resist the Zionist movement.

De Haan was trying to make a bi-national state?

He was trying to undo Zionist aspirations towards statehood. The Zionists were progressing with their project and the Arabs were very much worried that the Zionists were trying to take their land. He met with King Abdallah of Jordan who promised him that Jews would have no problems living in Jordan or wherever he may rule, as long as they didn’t have any aspirations for political dominance.

Could you call de Haan a cultural, rather than a political Zionist?

He was anti-Zionist! He was completely detached from Zionism. All along Neturei Karta has been completely detached from Zionism in any form.

Where does the name come from?

Neturei Karta means ‘Guardians of the City’, it is an Aramaic term from the Talmud. It basically means to guard the city from Zionism entering the culture.

I lied to you, I actually know where the name comes from! [Taken from www.nkusa.org- Neturei-Karta is the Aramaic term for “Guardians of the City. The name Neturei-Karta originates from an incident in which R. Yehudah Ha-Nassi (Rabbi Judah the Prince) sent R. Hiyya and R. Ashi on a pastoral tour of inspection. In one town they asked to see the “guardians of the city” and the city guard was paraded before them. They said that these were not the guardians of the city but its destroyers, which prompted the citizens to ask who, then, could be considered the guardians. The rabbis answered, “The scribes and the scholars,” referring them to Tehillim (Psalms) Chap. 127. (Jerusalem Talmud, Tractate Hagiga. 76c).] So the Zionists in this metaphor are the armed guards of the city, and Neturei Karta represents the scribes and scholars who keep the truth alive?

Well in the passage, the armed guards were the Romans who had conquered Jerusalem, so they actually were the ‘destroyers’.

A (Hirsch’s wife, who wished not to be named): This passage is referring to the time of the destruction of the Second Temple. Then, the scribes and the scholars literally were the guardians of the city in that, through the merit of their Torah learning, they watched over the city. But the name ‘Neturei Karta’ does not mean they are guarding over the city physically, but ideologically- they are guarding the city of Jerusalem from the ideas of Zionism.

MH: There were also ‘destroyers’ of the city who were not Roman. In the time of the 2nd temple’s destruction, there were a group of Jews called Beriyonim, the ‘Bullies’, the family of Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai. They resisted the Romans, they decided not to surrender to the Romans at all. They were called Haruvei Karta, the Destroyers of the City. While everyone else accepted the Romans, they were adamant about not surrendering. And that is why the Romans destroyed the Temple, because of this resistance.

There’s a growing movement of reform and secular Jewish opposition to Zionism, in Israel and around the world. What is the relationship between this movement and Neturei Karta’s Orthodox opposition to Zionism?

The difference is that secular Jews are opposed to Zionism for humanitarian ideals which are basically Gentile, while Neturei Karta’s objection to Zionism, though it is also because of the humanitarian ideas, is drawn from religious commands. This is why our objection is much stronger, because it is based on religion.

The secular and reform anti-Zionist movement shares with Orthodox opposition a valorization of diasporic Judaism, but for different reasons- secular Jews feel happy and productive in their various countries, whereas for the Orthodoxy diaspora is our God-given lot until the coming of Messiah….

There is a similarity, but there is a fundamental difference because again, the Orthodox argument is based on a divine command to stay in the diaspora, while the secular Jewish ideas are based on humanitarian values.

What’s the difference between humanitarian moral ideas and divinely commanded moral ideas?

In Syria people are resisting the totalitarian regime. A humanitarian person would object to what’s going on, and would care about what’s going on there. However, in Israel the state is using religious symbols to justify oppression. For example its name, Israel, is the name given to Jacob in the Torah. Whereas anyone would care about humanitarian catastrophes going on in Syria, this is the basis of Neturei Karta’s objection to the religious aspect of Israel’s crimes.

Would you compare the State of Israel to the Jewish people’s sin of worshipping the Golden Calf?

It is much worse than worshipping idols, because while you are worshipping the Golden Calf, you are a Jew who worships wrongly, who worships other Gods. But Zionism comes in order to fundamentally remove the roots of Judaism, it aims to destroy the Jewish people.

A: Zionism claims the Jews need a nationalistic state, they need a land and a language like all other countries. Jews are not based on a land and a language, they are based on following God’s commandments, whether they live in Russia or England or anywhere.

I want to ask about the Three Oaths. (Talmudic passage cited by religious Jews as forbidding a Jewish state in Palestine)

One of them is ‘do not rebel against the nations of the world’- when the Jewish people are in diaspora, they should not rebel against the powers-that-be. The second one is ‘do not go up the wall’. ‘Go up’ is ‘aliyah’. There is no problem with living in the land of Israel, but Jews should not make a pilgrimage, we should not go there en masse. The third one is do not hurry the end- there should be redemption at the end of days, but there is nothing we can do to rush it.

I am curious- one of the Three Oaths is that Jews should not rebel against the nations of the world. Many revolutionary Communists, socialists, anarchists, etc. of the 19th and 20th centuries were Jewish. Were they violating the Oath by rebelling against states?

That is true, but the ones who did that were not Jews. They were fully secular, and therefore not part of the Jewish people anymore. So it was not against the divine command anymore, because they did not do it as Jews.

It is often said that the Messiah will come only and exactly when the world falls completely to pieces. Is the existence of Israel and its effects upon the world a sign that, because things are getting so bad, the Messiah will come soon?

We are not prophets, so we do not know! According to the Torah, the Zionist State of Israel should not exist, so it will be unmade.

The Book of Joshua details the migration of the Jewish people out of the desert into the land of Israel, and their slaughter and expulsion of the land’s inhabitants. What do you think of those who justify the modern-day creation of the state of Israel by citing this biblical precedent?

Because Zionism is coming to destroy the Jewish people, they have no right to do this. Attempting to come and use a Biblical ideal to justify their actions is blasphemous, it is like mixing light and dark.

Some religious Zionists say that Palestinians are descended from Amalek, the so-called eternal enemy of the Jewish people. What do you say to this? [Deuteronomy 25.17-19- “Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you came out of Egypt, how he attacked you on the way when you were faint and weary, and cut off your tail, those who were lagging behind you, and he did not fear God. Therefore when the Lord your God has given you rest from all your enemies around you, in the land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance to possess, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven; you shall not forget.“]

This is brainwashing propaganda by the Israeli Zionist media machine. It has nothing to do with Torah. Zionists are actually Amalek! The Chofetz Chaim said that he who goes against Judaism is from the seed of Amalek! And so therefore Zionists are from the seed of Amalek.

Something else I’ve heard is that the Arab world hates the state of Israel because of a deep-seated Muslim hatred of Jews, turning the Israel-Palestine conflict into a ‘holy war’ between Islam and Judaism.

This is a very big distortion of history. If you go throughout 3000 years of history, the big persecutions of Jews were always in Christian, not in Muslim countries. The classic example is the deportation from Spain, where Jews, deported from Christian Spain, found refuge in Muslim countries. But you don’t have to go that far- in the Holocaust time, Jews found safe havens in many Muslim countries.

How is Neturei Karta received by the rest of the Orthodox community?

Almost all Orthodox Jews reject Zionism, and this is why almost none of them enlist in the army. Although many receive funds from the government and involve themselves in the politics of the Zionist state, they reject Zionism’s ideals. The impression is that Orthodoxy supports Zionism but this is not true. They cooperate, they go hand in hand with it but they do not agree with it ideologically. They have gotten used to it. But the difference between them and Neturei Karta is that we desire to have contact with Muslim people and Palestinian leaders.

How old were you when your father visited Yasser Arafat in Ramallah? What was it like?

I was 15 or 16. Even when Arafat was living in Tunisia my father went to him and explained that Judaism and Zionism are two opposite ideas, and that Neturei Karta aims to support the right of Palestinians to receive their national home in Palestine. I met Arafat in Ramallah and the Gaza Strip. It was very important for me, and a few days later, when Arafat spoke at the UN, he said he knew the difference between Judaism and Zionism. This was very important for me.

Were you or your father condemned by the Jewish community for this?

Of course there were objections, by settlers for example, to these meetings, but of course we don’t really care.

So you are carrying on your father’s message!

Yes.

Why is this important for you?

Zionist actions are creating a lot of hatred against the Jews, and it is important for us to make it very clear to Palestinian leaders that true Jews are anti-Zionist, to try to prevent as much as possible this misunderstanding.

There are some Orthodox Jews who simply ignore the State of Israel, refuse to pay taxes, etc. but Neturei Karta actively vocalizes and demonstrates opposition. What is the importance of this?

It is very important to be active against Zionist actions, because they are harming both Jews and the rest of the world. So it is important to maintain vocal opposition, to dispute the Zionist agenda and make it understood that the Zionists are not really the Jewish voice.

Do you go to the Kotel (Western Wall)?

Never.

Why not?

Because it has been occupied by the Zionist state, and I do not recognize this occupation.

It must be difficult for you, because it is one of the holiest places in Jerusalem!

It is hard, because it is only five minutes away from here by foot!

What do you think of international Neturei Karta members who refuse to even set foot in Israel for the same reason?

It is equally important, I believe, to be able to declare opposition from within here, to speak out against Zionist actions.

Do you think that the State of Israel will disappear and become another stain in Jewish history, like Sabbatai Tzevi or any other idol worship in the past?

Exactly.

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'An Interview with a Former Zionist'- My Beautiful Voice On South African Radio

I gave this interview sitting in bed at 9 in the morning to a South African Islamic radio station. I wouldn’t call myself a ‘former Zionist’ really, though I suppose I did write that in this blog’s ‘About’ section…

http://www.ciibroadcasting.com/2011/11/23/an-interview-with-a-former-zionist-ben-lorber/

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Settlers & Supporters Descend on Hebron to Assert Jewish Sovereignty

from my MondoWeiss article here

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Settlers and supporters celebrate in front of shuttered Palestinian stores in Hebron’s Old City (with protection from the Israeli military). (Photo: Alistair George)

“So the field of Ephron in Machpelah, which was to the east of Mamre, the field with the cave that was in it and all the trees that were in the field, throughout its whole area, was made over to Abraham as a possession in the presence of the Hittites, before all who went in at the gate of his city. After this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah east of Mamre (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan. The field and the cave that is in it were made over to Abraham as property for a burying place by the Hittites.” – Genesis 23:17-20

Over 1000 American and International Zionists joined 700 extremist settlers in Hebron this weekend to celebrate the reading of this Torah portion detailing Abraham’s biblical purchase of Hebron land, as a means to assert sovereignty over the Palestinian residents of Hebron.

On Friday, many Zionist visitors camped in tents on Israeli-controlled Shuhada Street. Inebriated from the Shabbat festivities, the visitors harassed local Palestinians throughout the night. On Saturday, soldiers stationed themselves through the streets of Hebron’s Old City, forcing the shutdown of Palestinian shops, while swarms of visitors were treated to an extensive settler-guided tour championing the Jewish roots of Old Hebron. In what was advertised by the Hebron Committee as “the most unforgettable Jewish experience of a lifetime”,  throngs of young, mostly American males clapped and chanted ‘Am Yisrael Chai’ (‘life to the people of Israel’) and other nationalistic chants, while  Palestinian residents were forced to the sidelines of their own streets and kept there by soldiers. Throughout the day, 7 international activists and 2 Palestinians were arrested.

The Zionist visitors paraded down the market streets of an Old City that is no stranger to hardship. Since the now-500 (at least) Israeli settlers and now-2000 (at least) Israeli soldiers have shut down Shuhada Street, the economic heart of both Hebron and the entire Southern West Bank- a process, beginning in the 1980s and culminating after the Second Intifada, which has turned the once-bustling marketplace into a ghost town, and has caused the abandonment of over 1000 abandoned housing units and over 1800 shops and storefronts- Hebron’s Old City, whose narrow and crowded market streets surround and interpenetrate the now-inaccessible Shuhada Street, has fallen under the oppressive control of the Israeli military, and is frequently harassed by soldiers and attacked by settlers. Every day, the soldiers survey the marketplace from rooftop watchtowers, sweep through its streets in unannounced middle-of-the-day raids, and close down its passageways with razor-wire roadblocks for no announced reason; the settlers spit at the heads of its shoppers and salesmen from the heavily-protected windows and openings of their adjacent apartments and schools, and drop blunt objects, from stones, to chairs, to water bottles filled with heavy sand, to knives, onto the market streets, hoping they will hit the goods and the people below.

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Settlers march in Hebron’s Old City (Photo: Alistair George)

While a few of this weekend’s visitors were respectful to Palestinian shop owners and residents, many were outright hostile. Mohammed Awawdeah owns a small shop in the old city, selling glass bottles filled with intricate colored sand patterns. Some of his bottles were smashed by a passing settler. “He came and broke my stuff,” Awawdeah says. “I told the police but they are not here for us, they are here for the settlers…I am not even angry for my stuff, I’m angry at the soldiers who let them do this”. The Israeli police have taken the details of the incident and said that they intend to carry out an investigation.

Hamday Dwaik decided to close his bakery in the old city, since his shop was targeted by settlers during the event last year. “The settlers don’t want me to open. If I open they will throw my products on the ground, no one will buy it”.

Laila Slemiah, who works in Women In Hebron, a woman’s collective in the old city selling kiffiyehs and embroidery, was determined not to close her shop. “I know I won’t have any business today,” she said, “but I have to stay open. I’m not scared of them.”

The shopkeepers of Hebron’s Old City struggle under this occupation with a spirit of steadfastness and resilience. “If I see the occupation,” says Nawal Slemiah, Laila’s sister and founder of Women in Hebron, “if I see the soldier pass, I don’t care so much about their guns. l I feel angry when I see them with their guns, but also they are nothing, it is as if I didn’t see them. In my eyes they are silly people. They are strong because of their weapons, but we are strong in our mind.”

 

As this event is touted by the Zionist community as a Biblically-ordained ‘return to the homeland’, an organization called Project Hayei Sarah has been founded in the U.S. and Israel, offering alternative interpretations of Abraham’s Biblical relationship to Hebron that challenge the attempted Zionist appropriation of this legend to legitimize territorial conquest.

Here is one impassioned plea for justice, from Rabbi Jill Jacobs-

A group of Jews stands in a small park. Across from us two Palestinian children are playing soccer in the street. The ball rolls into the park. A member of our group kicks it back. ‘That’s lucky fur the children, the park is off limit to Palestinians…’ A row of closed storefronts stands where the lively Palestinian market used to be. The graffiti on the metal doors proclaims ‘death to Arabs’, and warns Palestinians that ‘the death chamber awaits’. Bizarrely, one mural shows a smiling Haredi man saying ‘keep smiling’…what a contrast to the Hebron of the torah. There, the city is  a place of compassion, a place where people of different families, tribes and backgrounds come together…it is a place where Abraham introduces himself as a  stranger, a resident alien, and who is welcomed by the residents of the city…a place where Abraham’s estranged sons, Isaac and Ishmael, come together to bury and to mourn for their father….Today, Hebron is just one extreme symptom of the broad systemic violations of human rights that are required to maintain Israel’s occupation of Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. It is also a city that to both Jewish and Muslim traditions was once a shining example of human coexistence.  This week, as we read Parsha Havei Sarah, the story of Sarah’s burial in the city of Hebron, I hope and pray that we can all do our part to make Hebron once again a city of compassion, friendship, and coexistence.

Today, the sons of Isaac and the sons of Ishmael, recognized by all monotheisms as the Jews and the Muslims, respectively, still come together to mourn their father in Hebron. Housed within a half-mosque, half-synagogue compound, Abraham’s Tomb sits in a circular vault, surrounded by a synagogue window on one side and a mosque window on the other. Gazing through each of their windows at the tomb of their father, the two faiths awkwardly look at each other out of the corner of their eye, through a narrow, slanted, indirect, sidelong, askew line of sight. “How sweet and pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1) A plastic screen separates the two windows, to prevent the two brothers from throwing shit at each other over their father’s grave.

 

 

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Israeli Army Steps up Attacks on Palestinian Water

a longer version of my Alternative Information Center article here

Speaking to the American Congress in May, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remarked that Israel would maintain a long-term presence in the West Bank’s Jordan Valley. In the months that followed, the Israeli army stepped up its attacks on the water wells of the Palestinians who live there.

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 Israeli forces destroy a water container in the West Bank (photo: Morrison World News)

The last two months have seen a steady stream of IOF attacks on Palestinian water wells in the West Bank and the Jordan Valley, a troubling trend that warrants bringing the issue of Palestinian water rights once again into the spotlight.

On October 13, farmers received demolition orders on several water wells in Kufr al-Deek, a village in the town of Salfit near Nablus. In September, Israeli military forces demolished 6 water wells belonging to Palestinian Bedouin communities in the Jordan Valley, and have threatened to demolish six more. In all these cases, the unilateral IOF actions are explicitly illegal because these wells were built with full permission from the Palestinian Authority, in areas of the Valley supposedly under exclusive Palestinian civil and military control.

The injustice is especially pronounced in the Jordan Valley. On the 8th of September, 50 military jeeps, trucks and bulldozers sealed off Al Nasarayah as a closed military zone, and proceeded to illegally destroy 3 water wells and confiscate the attached water systems, the pumps of which cost $40,000 each to install. Five days later, the IOF returned to Al Nasarayah to demolish 2 more wells, stopping along the way to destroy another well east of Tamoun. The next day, IOF soldiers entered the village of Al- Fa’ara, near Nablus, to photograph and record the GPS coordinates of 6 more wells intended for demolition.

The IOF’s actions are illegal under Israeli, Palestinian and international law because these 6 water wells had permits from the Palestinian Authority, and operated in the 5% of the Jordan Valley designated after the 1994 Oslo Accords Area A, under full Palestinian civil and military control. The motives behind Israel’s actions on the ground, however, emerge into the light of day when seen in the context of other recent Israeli policy resolutions- a plan announced in September to uproot and transfer some 27,000 Bedouin out of Israel-controlled Area C in the West Bank (most Area C Bedouin live in the Jordan Valley), and a decision by the Settlement Division in early July to increase by 130% the land given to settlers for farming in the Jordan Valley, and to increase from 42 to 51 cubic meters per year the amount of water given to settlers to irrigate such farmland.

What do the destruction of Palestinian Bedouin water wells in the Jordan Valley, the transfer of Palestinian Bedouin citizens out of the Jordan Valley, and the expansion of land and water given to settlers in the Jordan Valley, all have in common? Together, they highlight the oppression and ethnic cleansing of the Jordan Valley that has typified Israeli policy since the Valley became occupied territory in 1967.

A focal point of this oppression- and a crucial locus of the Palestinian Bedouin struggle to resist the occupation and  remain in their homeland- is the issue of water. For as Israel has seized absolute control over allocation and distribution of the resources of the 3 water aquifers under the West Bank for use on both sides of the Green Line, the Palestinian population of the West Bank and Gaza, and especially the Bedouin population of the Jordan Valley, have seen the steady drying-up of the once-flowing springs around which they have built their villages, have found themselves unable to dig sufficient wells of their own because of crippling Israeli regulations, and have watched themselves become dependent on the exorbitant prices of their oppressor for access to so basic and indispensable a human right.

Far more than in the rest of the West Bank, the struggle over water for the Jordan Valley Bedouin is a struggle between life and death. The ‘draining away’ of Palestinian water rights in the Jordan Valley- to borrow the title of a  2010 report by Ma’an Development Center– has a long and tumultuous history. When the West Bank became occupied territory in 1967, the Israeli army established a military order to the effect that all West Bank water came under control of the state, and Israel’s national water carrier, Mekorot, seized water aquifers and developed wells throughout the West Bank to serve Israel and its newly expanding settlements. Between 1967 and the 1994 Oslo Accords, the Palestinian Bedouin in the Jordan Valley saw first their land, and then their water, disappear behind the heavily-guarded gates of settlements, where settlers were granted ample supplies of the latter in order to make the former bloom.

The situation grew increasingly dire until a brief ray of hope in 1995, when Article 40 of the Oslo II agreements set an interim agreement, designed to be revised within five years (but still in effect to this day), whereby approximately one quarter of West Bank water resources would come under Palestinian Authority control, and a Joint Water Committee would be established, in the words of the 2009 World Bank report ‘Assessment of Restrictions on Palestinian Water Development: West Bank and Gaza’, “to oversee management of the aquifers, with decisions to be based on consensus between the two parties.”

However, Oslo brought with it new institutionalized systems of oppression. Since Oslo 1 in 1993 consigned 95% of the Jordan Valley to Area C status (under full Israeli and military control), neither the Area C Bedouin communities themselves, nor the Palestinian Authority, nor the constant swarm of international NGOs, can commence with unregulated construction of their own initiative, because, in the words of Jordan Valley Solidarity, a grassroots movement, “across Area C, access to basic services such as water is restricted through the debilitating permit system which is regulated by the Israeli Civil Administration. Obtaining a permit for any form of construction –even for water- is notoriously difficult, nay impossible. This prevents Palestinians from building new infrastructure, or from making improvements to existing facilities.”

Atop this blanket layer of oppression, which effectively and intentionally squelches all trace of community autonomy, the Palestinian Bedouin in the 95% of the Jordan Valley which is Area C are deprived of the ability to improve their access to water resources through three interlocking buereacratic systems of control- the Joint Water Committee, where a group of Israeli and Palestinian decision-makers permits or denies water access or rehabilitation projects proposed by the Palestinian Water Authority (for Areas A, B and C); the Israeli Civil Administration, which, if an Area C project is permitted by the Joint Water Committee, pulls that project through a thicket of bureaucratic, technical limitations and scrutinies, effectively crippling its implementation if not grinding it to a halt completely; and, last but not least, the Israeli army, which ceaselessly continues, as it sees fit and irregardless of law, to demolish water wells, tankers, and infrastructure on the ground in Bedouin communities across Areas A, B and C, even if the proper permits are possessed.

Thus, what was promised under Oslo II to be consensus decision-making regarding water resources is in reality institutionalized unilateral control of the oppressor over the oppressed, and due to this matrix of Israeli control, it becomes nearly impossible for the Palestinian Authority, as well as most NGOs, to commit themselves to meaningful, sustainable infrastructural development in Area C of the West Bank.

At the level of the Joint Water Committee, details Ma’an’s ‘Draining Away’,   “the fact that decisions are arrived at through consensus effectively means that Israel can veto Palestinian projects…[also], the PWA is not consulted regarding extractions from the aquifer for Israeli use (settlers or otherwise), which is not in accordance with the governance rules under Article 40. Nor does the Palestinian Authority have the right to access data on Israeli use of water resources, whereas Israel reserves the right for continual access to water resource data in the West Bank…around 150 water and sanitation projects are still pending JWC approval for “technical and security reasons”, while only one new Palestinian well project for the Western aquifer has been approved since 1993. In contrast, Israel is able to construct pipelines to its illegal settlements without going through the mechanism of the JWC. Thus Israel effectively has full control of water resources in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.”

The World Bank’s 2009 report confirms the non-consensual reality of the Joint Water Committee’s supposed ‘consensus decision-making’- “[the] JWC has not fulfilled its role of providing a supportive governance framework for joint resource management and investment…politics and policy issues have limited the number of project approvals…fundamental asymmetries – of power, of capacity, of information – put into question the role of JWC as a “joint” institution…Israel takes unilateral water-related actions outside the JWC…only one third (by value) of projects presented to the JWC 2001-8 have been implemented…(1) the process is in general slow; (2) the rate of rejection of PA projects is high; (3) the PWA has almost never sought to reject Israeli projects (only one has not been approved); and (4) well drilling projects and – until very recently -wastewater projects have had very low rates of approval….in order to solicit approvals on vital emergency water needs, the PA is forced into positions that compromise its basic policy principles. Such an asymmetrical power balance (one party, Israel, has virtually all the power and is not driven by emergencies), together with the observed track record of the JWC, have contributed to a loss of trust and confidence and to very poor outcomes (for Palestinians) that undermine the rationale for the committee as a de facto “joint” approach to water sector management.”

Deeb Abdelghafar, Director of Water Resources for the Palestinian Water Authority, relates how “we submitted our application two years ago to build two new production wells in the northern part of the Jordan Valley, [to supply] water for domestic and agricultural purposes, and we know that they have reviewed it, but up to now we have not gotten any response, and we are not optimistic…we have more than 80 agricultural wells that need to be rehabilitated in Jordan Valley, and we have had these wells in the JWC for more than 4 years, but unfortunately we could not get final approval from Joint Water Committee.”

Even if the Joint Water Committee approves a project, its effective implementation is crippled by the red tape of the Israeli Civil Administration. Abdelghafar continues- “the most difficult step in the process for us is the Civil Administration because there are more than 14 departments, and each department must approve on the project. So we can never get a project through the civil administration, because some departments approve and some do not.” Ayman Rabi, Assistant Director of the Palestinian Hydrology Group for Water and Environmental Resources Development, an NGO working to improve access to water and sanitation services in the Occupied Palestinian territories. echoes Abdelghafar’s frustrations that “there is a big problem now in implementing anything in Area C, and that is one of the major hindrances right now to our work in that area….we have to ask [for a] permit and this generally we do through Palestinian Authority, and then they are applying through the Joint Water Committee….[but] even if the Joint Water Committee approves any intervention or project, the Israeli Civil Administration requests more documentation procedures, the process is longer, they put more conditions for implementation in Area C, so you might end up not implementing any activity because of this long and complicated procedure.” The World Bank report quotes an anonymous donor who reports the same difficulties- “first thing we request is a letter from PWA approving the project. Then we go to the JWC. But then we have to go to the Civil Administration – and there delays of 2-3 years are normal. In fact, we have no positive outcomes for Area C.”

Since nearly every proposal for the construction of water infrastructure in Area C is shut down by the twin juggernauts of the Joint Water Committee and the Israeli Civil Administration, NGOs must focus their efforts, to quote Abdelghafar, on “civil emergency intervention- by delivering small water tankers, by supplying them with water tanks, by constructing rainwater cisterns- it’s emergency humanitarian relief.” While important, this small-scale aid is carried out in lieu of large-scale, long-term projects that would strike at the root of the problem, rather than merely seeking to alleviate its effects. Says the World Bank report, “in the light of the difficulty of implementing major projects, the reasonable response has been short term emergency projects, often small projects with NGOs, and these smaller projects have become a very large part of water sector development…however, the multiplicity of small donors and multiple projects are more difficult to fit within a planning framework…NGOs have a comparative advantage in a grass roots field presence and a certain demand-driven character…[they are] nimble…but are small scale and short term” (p.63).

In the village of Hamsa, near the Hamra checkpoint in the Jordan Valley, Abu Riyad, who has been living in Hamsa with his family for thirty years, must now travel long distances to get water for drinking and irrigation, after two huge water wells constructed for nearby settlements have dried up the springs upon which for generations the community of Hamsa has relied. Says Ma’an’s report ‘Draining Away’- “unconnected to the water network, Abu Riyad must now travel to Ein Shibleh for his water.  Nor does the family know the quality of the water and if it has been treated.  While he is fortunate not to have to pay for this supply, it costs 200 shekels to transport 10 cubic metres of water. As the water covers all of the family’s needs, from drinking, washing and drinking water for the animals, Abu Riyad must transport this amount every four days.  With the price of fuel rising, this means that water represents an increasing financial drain for the family…the community receives little support. While several tanks and water coupons have been donated from local and international NGOs, this is only ever for limited amounts of time, and thus provides only temporary relief.”

Indeed, Abu Riyad is fortunate to receive water for free. Ayman Rabi of the Palestinian Hydrology Group laments that, regarding many of his organization’s aid initiatives, “[the recipients of water] are asked to contribute, unfortunately. Although we do not like this, it is something that has been agreed on by the [Palestinian] Water Authority. They have been asked to contribute by 10 shekels, though we are not happy with this arrangement, for each cubic meter. and then we refill them whenever they ask us to.”

Many organizations, instead of delivering water, deliver water tanks to imperiled communities, so that Bedouin may transport water from filling points. However, by delivering water tanks, instead of connecting communities to water networks, these NGOs, though well-intentioned, often compound the problem by forcing the Bedouin to drive long distances, through a myriad of checkpoints, to filling points in Areas A or B, in order to maintain a constant water supply. The World Bank report decries that “occupation checkpoints and curfews severely limit tanker access to communities…there are 36 fixed checkpoints across the West Bank, including the gates of the Separation Barrier, that seriously affect access of water tankers and maintenance teams to communities….Given the risks faced by drivers for their physical safety coupled with the longer routes, the price of water through tankers has increased exponentially”.

The case of Abu Riyad illustrates how expensive this practice can become for Bedouin faced with no alternative. According to Fathy Khdirat of Jordan Valley Solidarity, “to use water tankers in this way costs the Bedouin 30 shekels per cubic meter of water, while their neighbors in Areas A or B pay on average between ½ and 3 shekels per cubic meter of water.” The perpetuation of this inequality works in the occupation’s favor, by encouraging Bedouin to move out of Area C into Areas A or B.

In addition, mobilizing short-term emergency relief is much more expensive for the NGOs than would be a project to install permanent pipelines linking the Bedouin to water sources. Fathy Khdirat estimates that a recent $700,000 initiative to accomplish the former could have achieved the latter with 10% of the budget. Between the Joint Water Committee, the Israeli Civil Administration and the IOF, however, the possibility of installing permanent water infrastructure for the Bedouin is practically foreclosed from the beginning, so that aid initiatives are forced to work within the restricting, oppressive parameters of Israeli law. Says the World Bank report, “at best, the PA role is reduced to improving water and sanitation services to Palestinian communities within the constraints laid down…stakeholders recognize the inefficiency and high costs of such fragmented and contingency development– but see no alternative.”

The bueraucratic matrix of corruption and control, in which both Israeli and Palestinian political and civil organizations are enmeshed, causes on-the-ground human rights abuses in clear violation of The Right To Water, enshrined in General Comment no. 15 of articles 11 and 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights by the United Nations Economic and Social Council in Geneva, in November 2002. The document stipulates that “the right to water contains both freedoms and entitlements. The freedoms include the right to maintain access to existing water supplies necessary for the right to water, and the right to be free from interference…by contrast, the entitlements include the right to a system of water supply and management that provides equality of opportunity for people to enjoy the right to water.” The covenant goes on to list specific water entitlements- the right of “physical accessibility: water, and adequate water facilities and services, must be within safe physical reach for all sections of the population. Sufficient, safe and acceptable water must be accessible…within, or in the immediate vicinity, of each household, educational institution and workplace…”; the right of  “economic accessibility: water, and water facilities and services, must be affordable for all. The direct and indirect costs and charges associated with securing water must be affordable…”; and the right of “non-discrimination: water and water facilities and services must be accessible to all, including the most vulnerable or marginalized sections of the population, in law and in fact, without discrimination”.

Ma’an’s report, ‘Draining Away’, clarifies that, in regards to the Right to Water enshrined in this document, that “while this right does not entitle people to unlimited use of free water or to household connection, it does mean that water and sanitation services should be affordable, that water and sanitation facilities should be in the immediate vicinity of the household, and that water should be used in a sustainable manner. This right exists irrespective of an individual’s ethnicity, gender, age, religious or political beliefs…it also stipulates that individuals and communities can participate in, and influence, decision making relating to water and sanitation services on national and local levels.”

Here are some quick facts taken from Ma’an’s ‘Draining Away’, which should be measured against the UN-enshrined Right to Water-

In October 2009 Amnesty International noted that “180,000-200,000 Palestinians living in rural communities have no access to running water, and even in towns and villages which are connected to the water network, the taps often run dry.”

According to the WASH monitoring project, the cost of private tankered water in 290 communities in the West Bank has increased between 100-200% for one cubic meter since the start of the intifada.

40% of Palestinians in the Jordan Valley consume less water than the minimum global standard set by the World Health Organization, which is set at 100 liters cubed per day.

56,000 Palestinians in the Jordan Valley consume an average of 37 Million Cubic Meters (MCM) of water per year, as compared to an average of 41 MCM for only 9,400 settlers.

Palestinians are charged more than their counterparts in Israel for water: Mekorot charges Israelis NIS 1.8 per cubic metre, compared to an average of NIS 2.5 per cubic metre for Palestinians.

There is near-universal consensus that there exists in the Jordan Valley a systematic policy of oppression and ethnic cleansing, touching upon not only water but all aspects of life for the 15,000 Bedouin who are unconnected to any water network in the 95% of the Valley designated Area C. Says Deeb Abdelghafar of the Palestinian Water Authority, “the Jordan Valley is  a unique area from the Israeli point of view. They are trying to [establish] control over this area, and they are trying to prevent any permanent water infrastructure in order to prevent the people to be there… they don’t want to support the existence of these people, they want to immigrate the people outside of this area.”

Advocates like Fathy Khdirat of Jordan Valley Solidarity, a grassroots movement that works to build infrastructure for the Bedouin of the Valley, are determined to encourage those under occupation to resist the oppression, and remain in their native land. “I spent all my life under the Occupation,” insists Fathy, “and I want to see a better future for my children. I am from there, and I will not shut up.”

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