Saturday, October 3, 2015

The finger on the grenade

East Jerusalem this week - photo AFP
Sometimes, on the battlefield, a soldier takes a hand grenade and pulls out the pin but does not yet toss it. It is possible. As long as a finger is kept on the spot, the grenade will not explode - but this is a dangerous expedient, which is very inadvisable to continue with for long. If the finger slips, or somebody jogs the soldier's hand and the grenade falls, it can explode at an unexpected place and time and with unpredictable results. And once the pin is pulled from the grenade, it is not so easy to put it back.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) went to the UN Assembly General a much-troubled man. Ten years have passed since he was elected to replace Yasser Arafat, and not much to show.

Since Abbas was elected, he had adhered to a clear and consistent position – Palestinians should avoid armed struggle, which had reached its peak during the second intifada. Acts such as suicide bombings sully the Palestinians’ international reputation and bring upon them destructive and deadly Israeli reprisals. Instead, the Palestinians should take political action, mobilize international public opinion, build up a position in international diplomatic institutions, and simultaneously conduct on the ground a Popular Struggle mobilizing big numbers of people in demonstrations and protests, in which no violent means will be used beyond stone throwing. For ten years he led the Palestinians on the basis of this policy – with practical results on the ground remaining close to nil.

True, on the international diplomatic arena the "State of Palestine" won recognition in a great variety of international forums, culminating I this week’s ceremony of raising the Palestinian flag, among the flag of all the other nations, in front of the UN headquarters in New York. In principle, the Palestinians posses a far stronger international diplomatic recognition than the Zionist movement had in the aftermath of the Balfour Declaration, which promised no more than "a Jewish National Home" whose precise nature remained unclear.

However, also to the thousands of Palestinians gathered in Ramallah to view the New York flag raising ceremony in huge TV screens it was clear that as of now, it is a virtual state, whose presence in the world of diplomacy sharply contrasts with its absence in reality on the ground. Over his ten years in office, Abu Mazen was unable to change in any significant way the situation in which the Palestinian Authority exercises and extremely limited degree of control over a string of narrow enclaves surrounded by Israeli military forces and ever- expanding settlements. To this should be added the deep divisions among the Palestinians themselves, between Fatah and Hamas, West Bank and Gaza Strip. All attempts to bridge over these divisions and establish a united Palestinian government ended in dismal failure.

Among Palestinians, there is a growing discontent with the status quo, especially against the "security cooperation" between the security services of the Palestinian Authority and those of Israel. Two weeks ago, there was widespread protest following the publication of videos showing Palestinian Police in Bethlehem beating up a Palestinians boy during an attempt to prevent demonstrators from getting to the Israeli Separation Wall surrounding the Tomb of Rachel – to hold a protest there. Increasingly, Palestinians feel that continuation of the status quo serves the Israeli side, the Palestinian Authority providing a force of subcontractors who "manage the occupation" and who facilitate the appearance of "Palestinian self-rule" which reduces criticism of ongoing occupation. One of the most prominent advocates of dismantling the Palestinian Authority and "handing the keys to Israel" is none other than Saeb Erekat, one of Abu Mazen’s closest aides and advisers (who headed the negotiating team with Israel, as long as there were negotiations...) .

As soon as Abbas let it be known that he was planning to "throw a bomb" during his speech at the UN. Immediately, European and American diplomats came rushing to restrain him. But from what was leaked to the media, they did not have much to offer. Reportedly, Secretary of State Kerry promised an emergency aid of 300 Million Dollars, which would keep the Palestinian Authority alive but would in no way change the underlying conditions. And in his own speech at the UN, President Obama did not mention the Palestinians at all - nor did Russian President Putin.

Until the last moment it was unclear what exactly Abbas would say in his speech. The first twenty-five minutes of it he devoted to rhetoric which sounded very similar to what he said on previous years. Railing against the iniquities of the occupation, particularly the offensive of Israeli extremist groups against the Al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem, and the killing of an entire Palestinian family in the arson of their home at the village of Duma. This was followed by compliments to the European Parliaments which recognized Palestine in the past year, most especially to the government of Sweden, as well as to Pope Francis who had canonized two Nineteenth Century Palestinian nuns. There was also a quote of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (of whose assassination the twentieth anniversary will soon be marked) who said that if Israel remains in the Occupied Territories it will become an Apartheid state.

An editor at CNN evidently reached the conclusion that he was not going to say anything of practical significance, and that there was therefore no point in continuing to broadcast the entire speech live with a simultaneous translation. This was a mistake - because just after the live broadcast on CNN ended, Mahmoud Abbas at last got to his "bomb" – just in time caught on Al-Jazeera.
"Continuation of the status quo is completely unacceptable because it means surrender to the logic of the brute force being inflicted by the Israeli Government (...) .The transitional Oslo Agreement stipulated that the agreements would be implemented within five years, ending in 1999 with full independence for the State of Palestine and the termination of the Israeli occupation. But Israel stopped the process of withdrawing its forces. (...) We will not remain the only ones committed to the implementation of these agreements, while Israel continuously violates them. We therefore declare that we cannot continue to be bound by these agreements. (...) I must reiterate: the current situation is unsustainable. Our people need genuine hope and need to see credible efforts for ending this conflict, ending their misery and achieving their rights. The State of Palestine, based on the 4th of June 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital, is a State under occupation, as was the case for many countries during World War II. Our State is recognized by 137 countries around the world and the right of our people to self-determination, freedom and independence is recognized globally as being inalienable and unquestionable. Either the Palestinian National Authority will be the conduit of the Palestinian people from occupation to independence - or Israel, the occupying Power, must bear all of its responsibilities."

In principle, here are - but no date set for implementation - all of the measures discussed and debated in recent months, from the cessation of security cooperation with Israel up to a complete dissolution of the Palestinian Authority, handing over the keys to Israel and demanding that it fill its obligations as the Occupying Power. Options with a very volatile potential. What would tens of thousands of armed members of the Palestinian Security Forces do when no longer required to prevent their own people from acting against Israel? What if the Palestinian security forces are completely disbanded, their members dispersing, holding on to their weapons but getting no salaries? And what would happen to the Palestinian health services and schools without a Palestinian Authority to manage them and pay the doctors and teachers’ salaries? Would Israel, as the Occupying Power, assume this financial and administrative burden - as was the situation until the Oslo Accords? And if Israel will not, who will?

A lot of questions, a lot of troubling scenarios. There is no doubt that in any situation of chaos, the first to suffer would be the Palestinians themselves. But, sometimes, the willingness to suffer is a way to accomplish. That is what hunger strikers do - cause harm to themselves in order to get attention to their grievance. As it happens, just this week the famous hunger striker Mohamed Alan won his prolonged struggle, with the State of Israel agreeing to release him from Administrative Detention – along with two others of his fellow hunger strikers as well. But to achieve this, Alan had to skirt very close to suffering irreversible brain damage.

On a larger scale, chaos in the West Bank may force the Americans and the Russians, currently focusing on solving the crisis in Syria, to pay similar attention to the Palestinian crisis.

It is clear that the Palestinian President really does not want such scenarios to be actually enacted. He still hopes that to have placed the threat on the international agenda would be enough; that diplomats and politicians would mobilize and devote to the Palestinian problem more than lip service; that the Palestinian National Authority would indeed become the conduit of the Palestinian people from occupation to independence - and that the bomb would not have to be actually set off. But the decision might not remain in his hands.

One day after Abu Mazen's speech at the UN, some armed Palestinians went in a car on a road used by Israeli settlers in the Nablus area. They passed a car in which a couple of young settlers were travelling with their four children, and opened fire. The couple, Naama and Eitam Henkin, were killed on the spot. Their children, who were in the back seat, were not injured. And today the situation heats up with acts of random revenge by settlers, and violent demonstrations by right-wing extremists, and the arrival of large military reinforcements, and Palestinian villages being surrounded and subjected to extensive searches. Fiery declarations were made to a crowd of thousands at the funeral of the couple ("The war on terror demands determination, an iron fist and a lot of endurance. We are fighting a bloodthirsty and ruthless enemy, we will chase after them, we will not rest until we lay hands on the murderers and those who sent them" said the Defence Minister).

The settlers and their representatives in the Netanyahu government - and there are many of these - are trying to change the status quo - in their direction. They demand "a disproportionate punishment " of the Palestinians, the blocking of Palestinian traffic from the roads, and above all settlement construction - extensive new construction in existing settlements plus the creation of a new settlement at the very spot where the couple was killed. Education Minister Naftali Bennett, leader of the Jewish Home Party, declared that in his view "Israel has no interest in the continued existence of the Palestinian Authority".

In the meantime, the conflagration continues in Jerusalem, where once again the entry of Muslim worshipers to the Al-Aqsa Mosque was restricted, and those who were denied entry clashed with police in the nearby streets. Also in Issawya, one of the perennial "hot spots" of East Jerusalem, a large crowd confronted the police. "A young man who tried to throw a Molotov cocktail was shot by police officers below the waist. His fellows spirited him away. The police is now conducting searches to find and apprehend him" was the on the spot report of the evening TV news, which then went on to the extensive clashes in Hebron. The commentator spoke of "typical intifada images" – stone throwing, exploding tear gas canisters and burning tires.

As of now, the Palestinian security services did not yet get any instructions for a change of policy. They continue to maintain security cooperation with Israel.

The finger is still on the grenade.


Combatants For Peace emergency protest: Break the Cycle of Bloodshed!
Tonight Sat. Oct. 3, Habima Plaza, Tel Aviv

An emergency protest tonight!

In the past months of the conflict is growing, the cycle of violence and bloodshed is fast  escalating. There is a straight line between the settler “Price Tag” violence and deadly arson at the village of Duma, this week’s shooting attack and the countless incidents of violence on both sides which we witnessed recently. Israelis and Palestinians are killed - and the Prime Minister keeps silent.

Deterioration and escalation lead but to further hatred and incitement, ,  revenge and counter-revenge. The Prime Minister, in his UN speech, did nothing to break the political deadlock. Both sides must return to negotiations.

We , activists and those shocked by the terrible events, come to say: There is another way! The voice of the moderate majority and sane opposition to violence must be heard. We will rally tonight, Saturday Oct. 3, at 19: 30 Habima Square in Tel Aviv  We must stop the cycle of violence!

Saturday, September 26, 2015




Two weeks ago, a volcano erupted in downtown Reykjavik, capital of Iceland. At least, that is how the Foreign Ministry of the State of Israel defined the resolution taken by the Reykjavik City Council, which called for a boycott of goods from Israel "in order to show support for the Palestinians' right to independence, and to put pressure on the Israeli authorities to end the occupation of Palestinian territories." In the summary of the Foreign Ministry spokesperson: "A volcano of completely blind and unreasoning hatred against Israel." For its part, the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith threatened to initiate a boycott of Iceland in the United States – quite a threat to a small country in whose economy exports to the US play a significant role.

In Ha’aretz, Gideon Levy remarked: "Once upon a time Reykjavik loved Israel very much, sending the best of her sons and daughters to volunteer on kibbutzim. Reykjavik, like most of the world, hates the Israeli occupation. She hates injustice, and apartheid, and colonialism, and violations of International Law. Reykjavik which once loved Israel cannot keep silent anymore."

Eventually, the mayor of Reykjavik issued a clarification, stating that the intention is to boycott settlement products and not all Israeli products. Thus, Reykjavik fell into line with the European Parliament which resolved by an overwhelming majority to conspicuously mark settlement products reaching the European market. Particularly, the Icelandic Social Democrats, all of whom dominating the city council, aligned themselves with the unanimous position of the Scandinavian Social Democrats, all of whom are committed to struggle against the Israeli occupation and settlements and for the realization of the two-state solution. (The Copenhagen City Council already adopted a few months ago a resolution to boycott settlement products, which did not cause so much commotion…)

Another diplomatic volcano - this time on Yehuda Halevy Street in Tel Aviv, location of the Brazilian Embassy to Israel. It was visited by a delegation of former Israeli diplomats who became very sharp critics of the policies enacted by the current government of Israel. Heading the group were Alon Liel, former Foreign Ministry Director General; Ilan Baruch, former Israeli Ambassador to South Africa; and Eli Bar Navi, former Ambassador to France. The three met with the Brazilian Ambassador and asked him to forward a message to Dilma Rousseff, President of Brazil, containing an unusual request – that she refuse to accept the Israeli ambassador-designate Danny Dayan.

Danny Dayan is a talented man who successfully filled various public positions. He is also a native of Argentina, Brazil's neighbor, and speaks fluent Spanish. But a large part of the public positions held by Dayan were within the Judea and Samaria Council, leadership body of the Israeli settlers on the West Bank, which he for some years headed. He is not just a settler, but a settler political leader and ideologue, nicknamed "the foreign minister of the settlers." The three dissident diplomats stated that if the Brazilian Government accepts Dayan as Israel’s Ambassador to Brasilia, it would be tantamount to a recognition of the Israeli settlement enterprise in the Occupied Territories. "Dayan is a settler, ideologically committed to a policy which the government of Brazil defines as illegal and in violation of International Law. Dayan is staunchly opposed to the two state solution. Brazil’s accepting his appointment would send a very negative message to all Palestinians and Israelis who support this solution."

According to diplomatic protocol, a country seeking to appoint a person to the position of its Ambassador to another country should formally request the written consent of the host country. If the host country does not issue such a letter of consent, the appointment cannot take place. In practice, only rarely is there an official outright rejection of a designated Ambassador – since usually such appointments are agreed upon in preliminary, informal contacts between the two governments. In this case, Netanyahu was in a hurry to announce the appointment in Brazil, as a reward to Danny Dayan who supported him in the last election, and apparently without completely clarifying it in advance with the Brazilians. The President of Brazil had expressed unofficially her displeasure with the appointment, although so far she did not officially reject it.

Upon publication of the diplomatic rebels’ act, there arose a veritable storm of verbal attacks against them. The main "opposition" leader Yair Lapid, Yitzchak Herzog and Shelly Yechimovitz publicly announced their full support for the appointment of Danny Dayan and asked the Brazilians to accept. Yechimovitz went as far as publishing a warm testimonial of her personal friendship with Danny Dayan: "He is a most worthy appointee – a military officer, a talented high-tech entrepreneur, an economist, an elected official, a public servant - so what if he lives in a settlement? Many people in various positions of authority live in settlements"). Indeed, there are many settlers who hold senior positions of all kinds in the State of Israel – the soon to be appointed new commissioner of the Israel Police will also be one of them. Usually, however, the appointments of settlers to influential positions does not require the consent of the government of Brazil…

Meanwhile the situation on the ground continues to sizzle. True, as of now the situation in the highly sensitive holy site of Temple Mount / Haram al-Sharif has calmed down. But in many other places, less famous and less sacred - in fact, almost at any spot where Palestinians are living under an occupation which has become unbearable - daily incidents continue: confrontations, shooting and the hurling of stones and Molotov cocktails. Is it the Third Intifada, which had been so much talked of and awaited with apprehension? The Israeli mass media no longer bothers with this vexing question, having invented a new term: "Terrorism of the Stones ". This solves the problem. Obviously, if it is a form of terrorism it must be stamped out. So cries out daily the Prime Minister Netanyahu, from whom the threat of the Iranian Bomb was snatched and who is in urgent need of a replacement. So it appears every day, with banner headlines and lurid colors, on the pages of "Yediot Ahronot" – a paper which in elections times opposes Netanyahu and supports any candidate running against him, but which now gives the PM a big boost in The War Against Terrorism of the Stones.

Netanyahu is strongly pushing for three interconnected measures: police snipers to be stationed to shoot stone throwers from afar; long mandatory prison terms for those who make it alive to the dock; and heavy fines imposed on the parents of stone-throwers who are still under the age of criminal responsibility. The third one might prove the most draconian. If the parents of a stone-throwing boy are unable to pay the heavy fine imposed on them - and there is no doubt that such will often be the case - then according to Netanyahu's proposal they would be denied their Social Security allowance, a small pittance which is the only thing keeping many impoverished East Jerusalem families afloat. But whether the imposition of a harsh utter poverty would prove the right method of bringing stone throwing to an end, remains doubtful.

Remarkably, Attorney Yehuda Weinstein has placed obstacles in the way of approving the Prime Minister’s measures, making various well-reasoned objections on grounds of civil and human rights, due process and the independence of the judiciary system. Remarkably – because Attorney General Weinstein was specifically selected to his job in order to pliant and not place obstacles in the PM’s path.
Also IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot is not really enthusiastic about Netanyhau’s highly publicized campaign. "Already, since the beginning of this year, 19 Palestinians were killed by Israeli gunfire in the West Bank, in clashes due to the throwing of stones and Molotov cocktails. This is a high figure which is not conductive to calming down the situation." Therefore, according to the report by Amos Harel of Ha’aretz, "Eizenkot and OC Central Command, Roni Numa, do not succumb to pressures exerted on them by settler leaders and right-wing MKs to use more force during crowd dispersal or issue more lenient open-fire regulations to soldiers on the ground."

However, since the above was published last Sunday, the figure of 19 dead Palestinians is no longer up to date. On Tuesday - in the midst of Yom Kippur, the day set aside by the Jewish religion for believers to reflect on their sins and tensely await God’s verdict – a young Palestinian woman was shot dead by soldiers in the city of Hebron. According to the army's version, the 18-year old student Hadeel al-Hashlamun went through the checkpoint; the electromagnetic system beeped an alarm; the soldiers shouted for her to stop but she continued on her way; they shot several bullets towards the floor to warn her, and then saw she was holding a knife – whereupon they shot several more bullets which proved lethal. The testimonies collected by B’tselem indicate that, while she indeed had a knife, there was a 1.2 meter metal barrier between her and the soldiers, and certainly after she was shot in both legs and was lying on the ground she posed no threat of any kind, and there was no justification for the lethal shooting to the torso. "The military command’s knee jerk defense of the soldiers, as expressed in the army’s official response to the incident, sends soldiers on the ground a clear message that there are very little limitations when it comes to using force, including lethal force, against Palestinian civilians" said the B’tselem activists. Precisely the opposite message to what the army’s supreme commander seemed to convey a few days earlier.

Meanwhile, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) is preparing for his long-anticipated speech at the United Nations next week, on 30 September. For several weeks, Abbas has raised expectations and promised to "drop a bomb". The nature of this "bomb" was not explained and prompted a wave of speculations: The overall abrogation of the Oslo Accords; a declaration of the dissolution of the Palestinian Authority and the handover of responsibility to Israel as the Occupying Power; the cessation of security cooperation between the security services of the Palestinian and those of Israe; a declared founding of "a Palestinian state under occupation" which would seek the protection of the International Community; an appeal to the Security Council to admit Palestine as a full UN Member State.

In the past days, there were rumors of Abbas being strongly pressured by American and European diplomats, making him agree to tone down his intended speech - reduce the size of his "bomb". Even so, with the occupation going on and no sign of hope on the horizon, sooner or later a bomb would be dropped, not necessarily a diplomatic one.
Or a new volcano would erupt.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Conflagration on the island of stability

A burning bus at Ras el Amud, East Jerusalem
Photo: Jerusalem Fire Department 
On Sunday last week, Prime Minister Netanyahu sent an official greeting to the citizens of Israel on the occasion of the Jewish New Year, telling them how lucky they all were. "Over the past year we have seen how special is the State of Israel. All around us, the ground is shaking - but Israel is an island of stability, of prosperity. We have established here a magnificent country, a free, vibrant, creative democracy, a beacon of sanity and progress" said the Prime Minister, adding, "Our first priority is to continue to surrounding the State of Israel with security fences."

Two and a half days after that graceful greeting, the Prime Minister chaired an emergency cabinet meeting concerned to address the conflagration raging in the city of Jerusalem, not far from his bureau - widespread riots, widespread clashes between police and Palestinian demonstrators, dramatic footage from Jerusalem getting to the focus of world news...

As in many past cases the spark that set off the Jerusalem conflagration came from the holy compound known to Jews as Har Ha-Bayit (Temple Mount) and to Muslims as Haram a-Sharif (The Noble Sanctuary).

This is the place where the Jewish Temple had stood - rather, two consecutive Temples, the second one of which had been destroyed by the legions of the Roman Empire in 70 AD. The Jews carried the memory of the Temple with them throughout their wanderings, and in their collective consciousness the Temple was cleansed from the corruption that characterized its priests during much of its existence and became the very quintessence of beauty and perfection, the ultimate dream of redemption for countless generations. After centuries of later Roman and early Byzantine rule, during which the site was used as a garbage dump, the armies of Islam came to Jerusalem. The Muslims cleaned up the garbage and constructed there the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which is for the past 1300 years the third holiest site in Islam, immediately after Mecca and Medina. According to Muslim belief, this is the place where the Prophet Muhammad arrived in his miraculous Night Journey on the back of his flying horse.

For many generations the Jewish religion was led by wise Rabbis who were well aware of the dangers inherent in a religious conflict over such a sensitive site. They found a sophisticated theological way to defuse this bomb, instructing the faithful that the Temple is too holy a place, not to be violated by the passage of mundane feet. Ascent to this awesome place should be postponed until the arrival of the Messiah. In the meantime, observant Jews were instructed to go on praying at the Wailing Wall, a remnant of the Temple - as they have been doing for generation after generation, century after century.

Nowadays, however, the Jewish religion – at least in the version dominant in Israel – has undergone a mutation. Increasingly, religious leaders are calling on their flock to ascend en masse the Temple Mount, to hold prayers there, drive a wedge of Jewish presence into the site and eventually destroy the Mosque and build the Third Temple instead. Once, this kind of "Temple Seekers" had been tiny groups, considered crackpots even in the right-wing milieu. Not anymore. Like other "wild growing weeds" in the Israeli society, they grew and greatly multiplied, gaining the open support of what passes for mainstream Knesset Members, including cabinet ministers.

The official position of the government of Israel is that Jews - and other non-Muslims - should have the chance to visit the mount. To that, as such, the Muslim authorities did not express any opposition – indeed, they sell admittance tickets from which a considerable source of income is derived. But in recent months, there is a constant increase in the number and size of organized groups of extreme right Jewish Israelis, who make no secret of their intentions and desire to become not visitors but landlords and eventually dispossess the Muslims. This inevitable brought an increasing number of incidents and confrontations. For some time the police began to prohibit the entry of Muslim aged less than fifty, but continued to allow the entry of Palestinian women. Thereupon, groups of Muslim women organized and clashed with right-wingers, who demanded that Muslim women be banned as well. In the past months police began a new procedure, to altogether prevent Muslims from ascending the mount in the morning hours, so as "to prevent attacks on Jewish visitors" - which aroused the suspicion of an intention to create a new status, with some hours reserved for Jewish prayer.

And so we came to past week - the week of the Jewish New Year. Most Israeli citizens took advantage of it for relaxation and recreation and barbequing in public spaces. But hundreds of religious nationalists announced their intention to celebrate the New Year by ascending Temple Mount and holding there a public prayer. They were led by Uri Ariel, Agriculture Minister in the Netanyahu Government, and among them were also the Young Guard of Netanyahu's Likud Party, declaring their determination to "assert Jewish Sovereignty."

To get around the police limitations, dozens of young Palestinians rushed to defend their Holy Site, arriving already on the previous night and camping at the mosques in order to face the Israeli right-wingers. In the early morning, a large police force raided the mosques in order to "safeguard the visit of the Jews" and had a very violent clash with the youngsters. Dozens of young Palestinians were detained and others were pushed into the mosque and the doors barred, whereupon Minister Ariel and his fellows arrived under heavy police guard. The Minister held an ostentatious prayer on the Mount and promised to return the next day.

Hearing the news, many hundreds of Muslims flocked to the mosques. The police began preventing the entry of "Muslim troublemakers" on the basis of lists of names and photographs compiled by the Security Services. The people denied entry clashed violently with police in the alleys around the perimeter of the Sacred Mount. The clashes quickly spread all over East Jerusalem. All along the winding "Seam Line" - separating Arab neighborhoods from the Jewish ones built on confiscated Palestinian land - there broke out riots, clashes and the hurling of stones, firecrackers and petrol bombs. An Israeli driver, the 64-year old Alexander Levlovitz, was killed in a car accident. Police determined that the accident was caused by stones hitting his vehicle, causing him to lose control.

Israeli media focused mainly on the death of Levlovitz - much less on the events which preceded it. The mass circulation papers competed in composing inflammatory headlines: "Alexander was murdered on the way the from holiday dinner" / "Rampaging Stone Terrorism!" / "The Stone Kills, A Stone is a Murder Weapon" / "Stop the Murderers!" / "In the Streets of Jerusalem, Terrorism Never Sleeps" / "A Capital City Under Attack!"/ "Stop the Leniency to Stone Throwers! "/ "Needed – an Iron Fist!". Indeed, in the emergency cabinet meeting, held at the heart of the PM’s Beacon of Stability and Progress, Netanyahu pushed through a whole series of harsh measures against stone throwers and against the parents of stone-throwers - heavy fines, requiring judges to impose long prison terms, changing the rules of engagement to give police more freedom to shoot, placing snipers to target stone-throwers from a distance.

Meanwhile, reactions in the international arena tend to point at the source of the problem – the attempts of a Jewish take-over of a Muslim Holy Place. Russia, the EU, the UN and the State Department all issued stern calls upon the government of Israel to strictly maintain and preserve the status quo and not permit any change on the Mount. King Abdullah of Jordan, whose Kingdom is accorded under the 1994 peace agreement an official status at the Holy Places in Jerusalem, warned that "Any further provocation or confrontation of police with Muslim worshipers at Al-Aqsa might damage relations between the two countries". For his part, King Salman of Saudi Arabia conducted a whole series of urgent and highly publicized phone calls with world leaders – starting with Putin in Moscow, through European Prime Ministers and Presidents and culminating with Obama - asking for their intervention to prevent a conflagration in Jerusalem. Just a few days before, Netanyahu confidential adviser Dore Gold, recently appointed Director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, boasted of the good relations which developed in recent years between Israel and Saudi Arabia...

And this morning, the UN Security Council unanimously and firmly called upon Israel to maintain the status quo at Haram A-Sharif – calling it by this and no other name. In vain did the Israeli Ambassador Ron Prosor complain of "a one-sided text which did not mention Palestinian stone-throwing".

At the same time, however, Netanyahu got on a different issue a far from inconsiderable consolation prize. At the urging of the US and with European support, The International Atomic Energy Agency rejected out of hand a proposal to subject Israel’s nuclear pile at Dimona to international inspection.

The combination of the two resolutions on the same day implies a wishy-washy message from the International Community: Israel is asked to thread carefully in its relations with Palestinians as a people and with Muslims as a religious community – but is given at the same time a free hand to maintain behind the scenes a nuclear monopoly, complete with submarine-mounted missiles which can wipe off the map any city in the Middle East - such an island of stability.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

A very educational week, indeed

In 2008 was born a new "friction hot spot" in the Ramallah area of the West Bank.  Israeli settlers from Hallamish went down to the spring which had been used for many generations by the people of the nearby Arab village of Nabi Saleh. The settlers took up spray cans and sketched blue Stars of David all around the spring. They put in place canopies and benches, and most importantly - blocked  residents of Nabi Saleh from any further access. Initially, a sign was placed reading "Archeological site - no entry”. Later, an unknown hand added a more explicit handwritten notice "No entry to Arabs."
The Nabi Saleh villagers were not resigned to the loss of their spring. First, they approached the military government’s Civil Administration and presented it with documents attesting to their long-standing ownership of the spring. For its part, the Administration was in no rush to take care of the matter. The documents were turned over to an open-ended “judicial examination” pending which the spring remains in exclusive possession of the settlers.
Thereupon, the residents of Nabi Saleh adopted a model which began at Bil'in a few years earlier. Every Friday, the villagers – accompanied by Israeli and international volunteers – set out on a protest march toward the stolen spring - usually blocked and violently dispersed by the military long before they could arrive there. The Nabi Saleh protests are distinguished from those at Bil'in and other villages by an especially conspicuous participation of the village women.
Usually, the Israeli media does not report on the weekly clashes in Nabi Saleh: the heavy barrages of tear gas grenades which the military lobs at the protesters, sometimes even before the procession gets out of the built-up area, and which occasionally escalates to the shooting of live bullets; the large number of wounded and detained villagers, including many minors; the raids on the village in the wee hours and large-scale detentions of people in their homes… All of that is essentially a weekly routine already lasting for six or seven years. Usually, the photographs and footage taken among the houses of Nabi Saleh and in the fields on the way  to the spring are virtually the same as those taken last week and those which will be filmed next week. For the news editors in the Israeli media, it is simply not news.
The images which came from Nabi Saleh last week were different. The arrest of a twelve-year old boy and his being wriggled out of the soldier’s hands got attention worldwide. A picture is worth a thousand words, but what exactly did these pictures convey?
photo AFP
The right-wingers of various stripes had no doubts about what they could see in the images from Nabi Saleh: "The shameful photos of an IDF soldier being assaulted and struck by Palestinian women and children convey the army’s weakness and helplessness"/ "It is not the fault of the soldier, but of the political and military leaders who hobble the soldiers and deny them the freedom to act." / "The little Ayrab threw stones like a big terrorist and then when the soldier grabbed him he started crying like a baby. Well done to the soldier who acted with restraint and exhibited his higher morality." / "A soldier should not have to run like a goat among the rocks in order to catch stones throwers, this is futile and shameful. We should instead place snipers at a 300-400 meters distance, to shoot each stone-thrower in the knee.”
 "No soldier had been assaulted in the village of Nabi Saleh. This is an Israeli national psychosis, evidence of the public's growing disconnection from reality that it generates" wrote Rogel Alpher in Haaretz. "Anyone who looks at the video documenting the incident in Nabi Saleh and concludes that a soldier is being attacked suffers a cognitive failure derived comes from a deep moral corruption. The eyes of these Israelis see a soldier brutally trying to arrest  a 12-year old Palestinian boy with his hand in a cast, and some Palestinian women and a girl in a desperate hysterical effort to prevent the detention. That is all. The soldier is armed with a gun and tear gas, the women are not armed. It is obvious that he was not in danger. As soon as he lets go of the child, they let go of him. But these viewers' brains tell them a different story than what they plainly see. "
Suddenly, the focus of the debate shifted from the Israeli soldier and the Palestinian women to another Israeli )not a soldier) who was also present there. It turned out that among the Israeli peace activists at Nabi Saleh was also Herzl Schubert, a longtime history teacher at the ORT school in Ramat Gan. Until this week, few knew his name. But he gained maximum media exposure  as soon as somebody recognized him  in one of the photos  from the demonstration. Within less than twenty-four hours after this discovery, extreme right-wingers launched a full-scale campaign, exerting pressure to get Schubert fired – to that end appealing to Education Minister Bennett, to the ORT educational system, to Right-wing Knesset Members and to the Municipality of Ramat Gan. Ramat Gan Mayor Yisrael Zinger proved receptive, declaring: "If the information presented in the media is correct, then a man who hit IDF soldiers has no business educating this city's children. " (In fact, no evidence was brought of Herzl Schubert assaulting any soldier." Knesset Member Bezalel Smotrich of the Jewish Home Party wrote: “A teacher should serve as a role model, also beyond the frontal teaching hours, and should act accordingly. There should be a thorough investigation of whether Mr. Schubert's deserves to bear the sublime title of Teacher' in the education system of Israel."
Columnist Eran Rolnik had a different answer then the one intended by  Smotrich.  In an article entitled “We are all Herzl Schuberts" he wrote: “In the France of 1968, hundreds of thousands marched through the streets, chanting ‘We are all German Jews’, expressing solidarity with Daniel Cohn-Bendit, the student leader persecuted by the French government. In 2015 Israel, the  exceptional person is a history teacher participating in a demonstration against the occupation, who came to the aid of a Palestinian child being attacked by an armed soldier. He is denounced from all sides as a traitor, and the question of his suitability for the job of a teacher is cast  in doubt. It seems to be a further proof that the fate of Israeli democracy will not be determined by the composition of the government coalition, but rather by the willingness of decent people to stand up in opposition to the gravitational pull of fascism. What we urgently need at this time is not the replacement of the Likud Party by the Zionist Unity Party – what democracy needs, first and foremost, are brave educators such as the teacher from Ramat Gan. On the day when we will all be Herzl Schuberts, not afraid to identify with the weak and oppressed, we will understand the true meaning of opposition - even when the chances of ending the occupation seem more slim than ever. To be in opposition at this time means to continue searching for a way to live in this country without giving up our place in history as Jews."
It happened that all this commotion took place just in the week that the new school year began.  The mass media was filled with photos of cute kids arriving for their first day in First Grade. But there had been one recent educational event which  got no mention in the Israeli media. It did get a mention here, on this blog: "On the morning of August 20, the army destroyed the Samra School at Khirbeit Samra in the Jordan Valley, which villagers had constructed with the help of the Jordan Valley Solidarity Committee and international volunteers. Previously, local children had to go by bus to a school 25 kilometers away in Ein el Beida. All four classrooms were demolished, with educational materials buried under the ruins." The Jordan Valley Solidarity Committee had sent their press release to all the media, but none of the editors saw fit to take it up.
The settler organization Regavim (”Clods of Earth”), which is busily monitoring the situation on the ground, did pay attention. They are happy with the demolition of the Khirbet Samra school, but it is not enough for them - they want more! On Tuesday this week Regavim uncovered a real scandal: the EU is building schools for the Palestinians! Yes, so declared Regavim leader Oved Arad on Tuesday this week: "The European Union established an illegal school in the Hebron Hills. The Europeans are violating Israeli law in order to  strengthen the Palestinian settlement in Area C. We have photos of how the EU is just ignoring Israel law. It is a completely illegal school which should be destroyed immediately. And this is already the second case. Already in  October 2014 we have revealed that the EU had set up an illegal school on Route 60, east of Jerusalem. They did it completely openly, the EU Flag is flying proudly on an illegal school, they just don’t  give a damn about us. This is a breach of Israeli sovereignty, they teach the Palestinian pupils how to take over the land. And it is not only schools, the Europeans also provide the Palestinians turbines to produce electricity from the wind, and they also set up toilet for the Palestinians. All this must be destroyed, immediately, to block the Palestinian-European takeover of Area C."
Would Oved Arad of the Regavim Movement have been considered worthy of bearing the sublime title of Teacher' in the education system of Israel? In the current situation, very possibly he would.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Money to buy bulldozers

Photo: 'Aref Daraghmeh, B'Tselem

We spent the last few weeks at a picturesque Dutch town, where on the way to shopping in the local supermarket we often had to wait for the bridge over the canal to come down after the boats have passed. Even that quiet and peaceful region had once been the scene of wars and bloody conflicts. During a cruise on a canal which had once been part of the fortifications, the guide told us: "Following the massacre which the Spanish army perpetrated here in 1572, in which most of the town’s inhabitants perished, it was rebuilt as a fortress town. Mighty fortifications were erected, a double system walls and ramparts and moats. Everywhere, artillery pieces were placed, ready to pour a deadly hail of fire in every direction and at every angle from which an enemy army might arrive. For hundreds of years, almost half of the city's inhabitants were soldiers." All this is, of course, ancient history. As we could see, nowadays the town’s boys climb the ancient cannons and on hot days they jump the ramparts for a long refreshing swim along the moats.

Even in the quiet Netherlands we could not completely get away from what is happening in a crazy country at the heart of the Middle East, which in the very present lives the life of a beleaguered fortress. At a newsstand located on the ground floor of a Seventeenth Century house we saw a big headline in one of main Dutch newspapers: "With the settlements, Israel has its own anti-democratic monster".

 Even with an imperfect knowledge of Dutch, it was not difficult to make out that the article, covering an entire page, was referring to the murderous attack on the Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem and the immediately following arson of a Palestinian family home at the village of Duma near Nablus, where a father and his baby son died. From Jerusalem, correspondent Derk Walters informed the Dutch readers of the alarming increase of violent extreme right groups upholding a Nationalist-Religious Messianic ideology. He recounted the openly voiced explicit calls for attacking Arabs and homosexuals and for the torching of Christian churches, and quoted extensively the sharp denunciations made from all parts of the Israeli political spectrum. The article ended with a question: "Is the Netanyahu Government capable of taking serious measures against the settlers, when some of the cabinet ministers are themselves settlers?". Quite a few Israelis are asking themselves the same question.

Upon returning in the night flight to Ben Gurion Airport, I found on my answering machine a message from Haj Sami Sadeq, head of the small village of Aqaba in the Jordan Valley - who asked me to call him urgently. The village of Aqaba had suffered many years of harassment by the army, which stopped when the village head went on US lecture tour sponsored by the "Rebuilding Alliance", and had several meetings in Washington, D.C. As its name implies, the Alliance also raised funds to reconstruct what was destroyed in the village.

It seems, however, that the period of grace is now over. "Why are they doing this to us? We never threw stones, never. We just want to live in peace" said Haj Sami. "They came suddenly, without any warning. Hundreds of soldiers, with two huge bulldozers. They destroyed seven structures and also toppled the electricity poles. I spoke with Asher Tzur of the Civil Administration, the man who is persecuting us for many years already. I told him, 'I have a letter from Prime Minister Ehud Barak, he confirmed that we had the right to build power lines, to have light in our homes and air conditioning in the hot summer. He told me, 'Your entire village is illegal, we will yet wipe it off the map. The Americans give you money to build, but to us the Americans give money to buy bulldozers. "

What happened at the village of Aqaba is certainly not the only case, though in other afflicted villages residents don’t know my phone number. In the past two weeks, an intensive house demolition campaign is going on throughout the West Bank, the largest such since 2012. B'Tselem is carefully documenting what is going on:

"17 Aug 2015 - This morning, around 6am, Civil Administration and army forces demolished the homes of four families numbering 32 people, of them 21 minors, at the a-Sa'idi community, near a-Za'ayem. The forces then moved to the Abu-Falah community, in the Khan al-Ahmar area, and demolished a residential shack housing two people and a structure used to house guests. Later were demolished 12 structures in the adjacent Bir al-Maksub and Wadi Shneisel communities, nine of them residential homes."

"18 Aug 2015: This morning, 17 homes were destroyed, as well as 7 structures for livestock, in the village of Fasayil in the Jordan Valley, leaving 48 people homeless, 31 of them minors. Most of the families whose homes were destroyed have already lost their homes in previous demolitions. Evicted inhabitants were exposed to temperatures which reached 40 degrees Celsius."

And the latest, as of now: "20 Aug. 2015 - This morning, at the community of Khitbet Einun east of Tubas were demolished the homes of two families, totaling 11 people, including 7 minors, and a sheep pen. Then, the forces moved on to the Khirbet a-Deir community near the Jordanian border, and demolished the home of an 8-person family, including three minors. (…) Also destroyed was the Samra School at Khirbeit Samra, which villagers had constructed with the help of Jordan Valley Solidarity and international volunteers. Previously, local children had to go by bus to a school 25 kilometers away in Ein el Beida. All four classrooms were destroyed by the army, educational materials buried under the ruins."

Why was this campaign of destruction launched precisely now? Perhaps because the army and the government came under pressure to "counter-balance" the demolition of two homes in the settlement of Beit El, ordered by the Supreme Court when they were shown to have been erected in manifest illegality on privately owned Palestinian land.

Since returning from Holland, I looked up the Israeli press every morning. Except in Haaretz, there was no mention of the campaign of destruction carried out by the military authorities. 

On the first page of "Yediot Ahronot" appeared the headline "Terror without stop", referring to continuing attempts by Palestinians to stab soldiers at checkpoints, and praising the rapid response of the soldiers who managed to swiftly "neutralize" (i.e. kill) the stabbers. Also stone-throwing is nowadays defined by the mass circulation press as "a form of terrorism".

On op-ed pages, commentators continued arguing on whether we have gotten to "The Third Intifada", already awaited with great apprehension for so many years, or whether what we are witnessing is still a mere "pre-Intifada".
For his part, Yitzchak Herzog of the opposition Zionist Unity Party traveled to Ramallah to meet with President Abbas, and stated that it is possible and necessary to achieve peace with the Palestinians within two years. However, he hastened to add: "With regard to terrorism, our position is unequivocal - anyone who tries to harm Israelis had brought death upon himself."

And, of course, a lot of the headlines dealt with the hunger striking detainees Mohammed Allan. A lawyer and political activist from Einabus village near Nablus, Allan began a hunger strike after being placed under Administrative Detention without trial and without any charge being brought or been proven against him (which did not prevent quite a few people from the political right-wing to call him "a terrorist with blood on his hands"). State authorities tried to make use of the new, hastily enacted law, allowing the force feeding of hunger strikers. They came up, however, against the opposition of Israeli doctors, who adhered to the directive of Dr. Leonid Eidelman of the Israel Medical Association – stating that force-feeding is a form of torture and a violation of medical ethics. Also the transfer of Alan from one hospital to another failed to provide the authorities with "more amendable" physicians. In the meantime, the name of Muhammad Alan became well-known to newspaper readers throughout the country (and to quite a few outside it) and opposite the entrance to the hospital violent clashes broke out between opposing groups of demonstrators.

In the end, after it became unequivocally clear that the hunger striking Mohammed Allan started suffering brain damage, the Supreme Court ordered his release. Thereupon, the judges were subjected to concerted attacks from right-wing politicians ("The judges gave in to terror!"), much of the politicians’ ire was directed at the Israeli medical profession and its practicioners. However, the Court’s ruling included the possibility that Mohammed Allan’s brain damage would turn up to be reversible and he would once again constitute "a threat to national security", it would be possible to renew his detention...

"It seems to be the new status quo created between Israel and the Palestinian Administrative Detainees. Provide an MRI scan that indicates brain damage, and you go scot free," commented Ayala Hasson, the newscaster of the Friday Weekly News on Israel’s First Channel TV. Commentator Ari Shavit added, "We have to face it, hunger strikers always get enormous interest – and enormous sympathy, whatever strategy you choose towards them. The British have learned this again and again, at several times and places. Now we learn it, too. (…) The essential problem is that the Palestinians are being ignored. There is at present no Israeli diplomatic initiative even on the far horizon. Israelis think that we can lock up the Palestinians behind walls and fences and forget about them. The International Community has many other issues at the top of its agenda, and also the Arab World is nowadays concerned with things which seem far more troubling and urgent. The Palestinians feel that everybody has forgotten about them. I fear that this might end badly."

In the meantime, the broader Israeli public showed much more interest in the controlled blowing up of the Ma'ariv Traffic Bridge in Tel Aviv. The bridge served for forty years to regulate traffic in the metropolis, but was doomed once it had been defined as an obstacle to construction of the city’s new Light Rail system.

To watch the destruction, people flocked around the fourteen concrete pillars on which the huge bridge rested, and police needed to deploy considerable forces to prevent them from approaching the danger zone. Transport Minister Israel Katz had insisted on his right to blow up the bridge personally. The big moment was shown with great detail on television - the countdown: "Three, two, one - boom!" and then a happy smile was clearly discernable on the minister’s face as he pushed down the plunger and the great bridge came down.

"It was totally unnecessary," said on TV a retired engineer who was among the crowd at the explosion site, and whose face bore no smile. "I know that bridge very well, is was specifically designed for the option of orderly dismantling. It could have been taken apart and moved to another location and used again. That would have also been much cheaper than collecting and disposing of all the debris scattered after the explosion. I wrote to them, I wrote again and again and explained it with all the technical specifications, but nobody wanted to listen to me. "

Saturday, July 25, 2015

A traffic jam in the middle of the desert

The rendezvous was scheduled for 11:30 am, outside the Arlozorov Street Railway Station in Tel Aviv. I arrived at 11:35. "Three buses have already been filled, but don’t worry – the fourth bus will soon arrive" said the organizers’ representative. "There will be a place for anyone who wants to go to the protest in Susiya."

It is long since there was such a wide response to a call for a demonstration in the wild West Bank. Among the passengers could be seen quite a few long-time activists who had however not been seen in recent years. Why did the case of Susiya evoke so much attention, in Israel and throughout the world? (Circulating on the bus was the current New York Times op-ed page, featuring a moving personal story of a Susiya resident). This tiny threatened village is in every way worthy of support and solidarity - but in the past, quite a few instances of no less outrageous injustice have been perpetrated and met a virtually complete indifference and silence. One can never know in advance which particular case will become the focus and symbol of a struggle.

Little more than an hour's drive separates the vast metropolitan Tel Aviv from the godforsaken hamlet of Susiya in the middle of the desert. First the travel is along congested intercity highways – then, through back roads which become ever more narrow and in bad repair, the further one continues to the east and south. Somewhere, without noticing, the Green Line is crossed into the territory where there is not even a semblance of democracy, where the landscape is predominantly brown rather than green - apart from the occasional green patch of a settlement, which had the privilege of being connected to the Israeli water system.

At the end of the trip, the narrow road forks, and the sign to the right side says "Susiya" - but nevertheless, we turned to the left. The sign erected by the military authorities refers to the other Susiya – the Israeli settlement Susiya, which claims to be the continuation of a Jewish village of the same name which existed on this location during the Roman and Byzantine period. "Come and see Susiya - an ancient Jewish town" says the sign on the road we had not taken.

The Jews who lived here 1,500 years ago had lived in caves. In the Twentieth Century, Palestinians had been living in these same caves, until in 1986 the army came to expel them and turn the caves into an archeological site managed by the settlers. The Palestinians had to move to miserable shacks erected on what was left of their land. Is it possible that they actually were the descendants of those who resided in those caves in the Fifth Century? At the beginning of the Zionist Movement, David Ben Gurion promoted the idea that at least some of the Arabs in this country are descendants of Jews who lived here in the past, and who at some time were converted to Islam and started speaking Arabic. In 1918 Ben Gurion even published an entire book on this subject, in cooperation with the future President of Israel Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, including detailed historical documentation to support this theory. But before long it became clear that, even if some of the Palestinians’ ancestors had been Jewish, at present they have no interest whatsoever in being Jewish or promoting the Zionist Project. So, Ben-Gurion and his colleagues lost interest in further discussing this issue.

In the direction of Palestinian Susiya there was no road sign. For the Israeli authorities, it simply does not exist. "The competent military authorities take the position that there had never existed an Arab village named Susiya" stated on the Knesset floor Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan, of the Jewish Home Party. "Palestinian structures were built without permits on that location, and were demolished during the 1995-2001 period. Illegal construction continued, against which demolition orders were issued. In May 2015 the Supreme Court rejected a petition by the Palestinians for an interim injunction against the demolition of these structures."

There are no road signs, but it is not difficult to find Palestinian Susiya, with the Palestinian flag painted on rocks along the road. Four buses arrived from Tel Aviv and three from Jerusalem, plus quite a few private cars, and a minor traffic jam was created in the middle of the desert. "Pay attention, it is now the hottest hour of the day, it's one of the hottest places in the country, and there is almost no shade" warns the young woman in charge of my bus. "Please be sure, all of you, to cover your heads and take water with you. For those who have not brought it with them, we provide bottled water". On a low ridge above the bus could already be seen a human stream winding its way towards the rally.

The concrete cover of a rainwater collection cistern has become a makeshift podium, with several loudspeakers and a Palestinian flag flying. When the group from our bus arrived, the speeches were already under way, in a mixture of Arabic, English and Hebrew. "67 years after the Palestinian Nakba, it is still going on! They want to expel the residents of Susiya from their land! Are we going to let them do it?" cried former Palestinian Minister Mustafa Barghouti, eliciting a loud chorus of "No! No!". "After the Apartheid regime in South Africa fell, Nelson Mandela said that the fight is not over, the next part is the Palestinian struggle. We are here, we are struggling. We will go on struggling until Palestine is free!" (Chanting in Arabic and English "Free Palestine! Free Palestine! Free, free Palestine! "

Susiya resident Nasser Nawaj'ah, a leader activist of the struggle, spoke in Hebrew to those who came from Tel Aviv and Jerusalem: "Welcome to Susiya, all of you, welcome to Susiya, the fighting Susiya which will not give in! Our struggle is already going on for decades. In 1982, they erected the settlement of Susiya on our land. In 1986, they expelled us from the caves and turned them into an archaeological site of the settlers, then we moved to the farmland, all what was left to us. In 2001, they destroyed everything and drove us away, but we came back and set up our village again. You are most welcome here, we are grateful for the solidarity and support of all those who have come here. You are the other face of Israel, the face which is different from what we see of the soldiers and settlers who come to us every day. You give us hope, the hope that we can still live together, Palestinians as Israel's neighbors in peace."

He was followed by Professor Yigal Bronner, who teaches history of India at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and is a prominent activist of the Ta'ayush Movement, which is active already for many years in support of the residents of the South Hebron Hills. "We are here in Susiya. What is Susiya? Not much. Some cisterns which the army had not filled with dirt, a few sheep which the settlers have not yet stolen, some olive trees that have not yet been cut down. What is Susiya? Susiya is 350 people who hold on to the land, clinging and clinging and holding on and not giving up, because it's their home. Quite simply, this is their home. Opposite us is the other Susiya. The Susiya which is armed and surrounded by a fence, which is connected to to water and electricity and sewage and has representatives in all the corridors of power, and it wants to grab what little is left of this Susiya where we stand. Susiya against Susiya, this is the whole story. The Palestinian Susiya has no soldiers and no police and no representatives in the Knesset and in fact it does not have the vote. But it has us. We are here to stand with Susiya and we will not leave. We will do everything we can to be here and prevent the destruction. And if does take place, we will be here the next morning to rebuild, together with the residents. Susiya is not alone! "(Chanting of "Susiya, Sussiya do not despair, we will end the occupation yet!" in Hebrew and "Yaskut al Ikhitlal", "Down with the Occupation" in Arabic.
"It is very important that you all came here, it is important to continue the struggle. There will be here another demonstration next Saturday, and on August 3 at 9:00 am there will be the hearing on the appeal of Susiya at the Supreme Court. It is very important to be there! Susiya is not alone! Susiya is not alone!"

After the speeches - the march to the edge of the ridge. "For anyone who feels badly affected by the heat and sun, there is a tent with shade and plenty of water. Don’t get hurt unnecessarily. And now – forward!"

Together with the Palestinians, locals and those who especially came, we all moved ahead to the rhythmic beating of the "Drummers Against the Occupation", and the heat did not seem to reduce their energy and enthusiasm. Above the crowd were waving the placards of "Combatants for Peace", one of the demonstration's organizers, with the caption "There is Another Way" in Hebrew, Arabic and English.  "Though shalt not rob thy fellow" read the big sign carried by Rabbi Arik Asherman, who already for many years did not miss any demonstration, "Rabbis for Human Rights" being another of the protest initiators. Other Biblical slogans: "Have we become the like of Sodom, did we assume the face of Gomorrah?", "Save the poor his robber, protect the miserable from the heartless despoiler" "By 
Justice shall Zion be redeemed", "Each shall sit in content under his vine and his fig tree."

A five years old Palestinian girl held upside down a large sign in Hebrew reading "No more land grab!". One of the Israelis drew the attention of a woman in traditional Palestinian dress, apparently the grandmother. The granddaughter, laughing, turned the sign to the correct direction before the press photographers arrived at this part of the march. Near was walking a strapping young man wearing a T-shirt of the FC St. Pauli soccer club of Hamburg, Germany, whose fans are known for their fight against racism, and next was a woman whose shirt proclaimed "Stop the Pinkwashing!", protesting the cynical use made of LGBT people by the government international PR apparatus ("Hasbara"). The text on the bag of a veteran Jerusalem activist referred to the elctions earlier this year: "We did not succeed in throwing Netanyahu out, which is very harsh and painful, but at least let him keep his paws off Susiya!"

At the end of the march, dozens lifted with great effort a 30-metre long sign reading: "Susiya is Palestinian, and Palestinian it will remain!". When the buses on the way back passed the official sign about "The ancient Jewish town" we could see it at the top of the ridge above the road.