Friday, January 31, 2014

'Improving the Lives of All Israelis, Jewish or Not'

"While not without fault, Israel has proven its long-term commitment to democracy and liberty and to improving the lives of all Israelis, whether Jewish or not." (Janet Albrechtsen, It is time for Middle East to police its own region, The Australian, 29/1/14)


Clearly, Planet Janet hasn't read Max Blumenthal's must-read Goliath: Life & Loathing in Greater Israel (2013):

"In the eyes of Palestinians, there are few symbols of Israel's occupation more recognizable than the Caterpillar D-9 bulldozer. Custom-fitted with explosive-resistant armor, the 49-ton tractor was the instrument responsible for Rachel Corrie's death and the demolition of more than 1500 civilian homes in Rafah between the years 2000 and 2005. Since the dawn of the occupation in 1967, according to the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD), the State of Israel has destroyed well over 26,000 Palestinian homes. Most of these demolitions occurred in and around occupied East Jerusalem and in the Gaza Strip, but also in places such as the Jenin Refugee Camp, where a drunken bulldozer pilot nicknamed 'Kurdi Bear' reduced densely populated neighborhoods to a canyon of doom, boasting that he 'left [Jenin's] residents with a football stadium so they could play.'

"As the state stepped up its campaign of 'Judaization' under the watch of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian neighborhoods in mixed Israeli cities were becoming acquainted with the US-manufactured Caterpillar-D9 as well. Fifteen minutes east of Tel Aviv, in the Lod Ghetto, where Palestinian citizens lived surrounded by lower-class Jewish communities, I visited a de facto refugee camp filled with the residents of an entire neighborhood that had been leveled to the ground the night before.

"On December 13, 2010, 17-year-old Hamza Abu Eid was taken out of class at his high school in Lod and summoned to the principal's office. 'The Israelis are destroying your house right now,' the principal told him. 'It is best that you remain here. The last thing we want is for you to have a confrontation with a police officer.'

"But Abu Eid could not stay. He rushed to his family's house, hoping to salvage whatever belongings he could before the bulldozers from the Israel Lands Administration (ILA) rumbled through. When he arrived it was too late. The bulldozers had destroyed virtually everything - all seven homes belonging to the Abu Eid family were reduced to rubble. A black-masked Israeli riot police officer grabbed Hamza, restraining him while the bulldozers finished their work and preventing him from attempting to save his belongings. Three refrigerators and a TV set were among the appliances that Hamza's family lost in the destruction.

"In the end, 74 people were left homeless - including 54 children - and were forced to sleep under the open sky during the coldest period of the year. No government social worker arrived with assistance, nor did the state offer any temporary aid. The families gathered whatever belongings they could, pitching tents like so many Palestinian refugees have done in the past, and placing a sign over their land plot. It read, 'Abu Eid Refugee Camp.'

"When I arrived at the encampment, the area looked like Rafah after Israeli operations during the Second Intifada, or the Khan Younis refugee camp in Gaza after Operation Cast Lead. Unlike these occupied areas, however, the Abu Eid camp was located only 15 kilometers from Tel Aviv in the Abu Toq neighborhood of Lod. All of Lod's Palestinian residents are citizens of Israel, but they are treated by the state like foreign aliens, or worse, as an existential threat to the survival of Zionism.

"For years, the Abu Eid family applied for permits to allow them to renovate their homes to accommodate their growing family. But the state zoned their neighborhood as agricultural land and refused their requests (applications for renovation and building permits are almost always denied to the Arabs inside Israel). Finally, the state ordered them to seek residency elsewhere because their homes were slated for demolition.

"Directly beside the Abu Eid refugee camp, building has begun on a yeshiva directed by an Orthodox rabbi from the United States named Yaakov Saban. And plans were authorized to build a road directly through the center of the neighborhood. Pressure on the Palestinian Israelis of Lod to leave intensified day by day, thanks to the far-right takeover of the city.

"Widespread corruption had prompted the collapse of the elected municipality, enabling the Israeli Ministry of the Interior to install an emergency government consisting of hand-picked military officials. With the Ministry of the Interior under the control of Eli Yishai, who led the right-wing religious Shas Party, the new municipality became a means for meting out the wrath of anti-Arab populists against the local Arab population. 'They are poor in culture, poor in behavior. No ambition,' the mayor of Ramle, a neighboring city, said of the Palestinians of Lod.

"By the time the Abu Eid family's homes were demolished, as many as 30 demolition orders hovered over the Arab residents of Lod. The Arabs of Lod were not only denied the right to renovate their own houses, they also claimed they were forbidden as Arabs from living in a giant, new public housing complex built in the heart of the city. Thus they were confined to an overcrowded ghetto doomed by state plans that prioritized Judaization.

"I arrived at the Abu Eid camp on January 25, 2010, to observe a protest by Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity, a national movement that grew out of the protests against East Jerusalem evictions of Palestinian families, and which was establishing a presence in mixed cities around Israel, as well as in the most threatened areas of the West Bank. Amiel Vardi, a veteran activist, explained to me, 'For years I've been trying to say, 'Don't think the occupation will stop at the Green Line.' Now we see it's not stopping. They're using the same methods with the settlements, with the courts, and with the Shabak [Shin Bet] on both sides of the Green Line. Go to the Abu Eid camp in Lod or to Al-Arakib [a repeatedly demolished Bedouin village in the Negev], and there's absolutely no difference from what I see in the Hebron Hills.'

"I entered the remains of the Abu Eid family dwellings at the end of Lod's Helen Keller Boulevard, finding small groups of grizzled men seated around open fires and sipping tea, while small children clambered in and out of tents erected beside piles of rubble, debris, and shattered home appliances. A forlorn-looking middle-aged man named Riyadh Abu Eid met me at the entrance and took me into the makeshift camp.

"'This place was here before 1948,' he said. 'They destroyed it because they said we had no permit. But we can't get permits because we are '48 Arabs. We asked many times and were denied every time. They say we are terrorists. But look around - this is the real terror. Throwing children into the street on the coldest day of the year - that is terror.'

"According to Riyadh Abu Eid, many children from camp were unable to attend school because they could not concentrate. A 9-year-old girl who was especially traumatized had refused to leave her bed for days. Riyadh did not try to conceal his desperation. 'We do not feel safe here,' he said. 'We want to ask the United nations and Obama for international protection from a fascist government that has proven capable of massacring the unarmed.' He added, 'The days of 1948 have come again'." (pp 165-67)


Peter D said...

Her lethal obliviousness.

Anonymous said...

The 'days of 1948' have never left the Palestinians.