last night i was in a heightened state of agitation. for many reasons. because of the news about the death of my dear friend kathi and because of the spread of illegal israeli settler violence all over the west bank. but what really put me on edge was al jazeera’s “inside story.” last night host maryam nemazee had two guests on. one was rabie abdulatifah from al haq, a palestinian human rights organization, and the other was an AMERICAN israeli rabbi yishai fleisher who in addition to having a hate-filled radio show on israeli radio he also lives in the illegal settlement of beit el, which is one of the numerous illegal settlements responsible for the stranglehold on nablus where i live. more dangerous, however, is his organization called “kumah.” this organization actively recruits jews from around the world to colonize palestine as they say in their own words:
KUMAH, which is Hebrew for ARISE, is a movement passionate about Aliyah (ascent). There are different Aliyahs for different people: for Jews of the Exile, Aliyah means heeding the call for mass immigration to Israel, the Jewish people’s homeland. Aliyah for Jews already in Israel means elevating the spirit of the Jewish nation and rectifying the vessel that is the State of Israel. Aliyah for the peoples of the world means throwing off false-deities and defunct ideologies in favor of a spiritual renaissance with Jerusalem at its center.
We call this movement Neo-Zionism, a Biblical dream being realized today. Through an array of projects, Kumah seeks to invigorate the world with positivity and a sense of connectedness based on authentic Jewish values. We at Kumah believe in taking an active role in shaping and hastening our destiny!
unfortunately it seems that it is not only these jewish fundamentalist types being recruited to colonize palestine. the israeli media also reports today that jews who are hurting from the economic situation are choosing colonization:
The Jewish Agency reported a dramatic rise in recent months in the number of Jews seeking to make aliyah and the number of Israeli emigrants wishing to return due to the global economic crisis.
The JA and the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption have decided to use the financial situation to their advantage and launch a campaign to encourage aliyah.
of course the zionist regime encourages this sort of behavior. but i digress. or i wish to digress now. so in the midst of my agitation over all of this rania said that i should get outside and take a walk. a lovely idea if i were in beirut. but i wondered, and i asked her if the words “jebel nablus” meant anything to her. unfortunately it is impossible to capture the steep-ness of the mountain i live on, but trust me: it is steep. in fact, taxis don’t even like coming here. when i search for one after school every day the driver always questions me saying “فوق؟” yes, up there, I say. it’s as if they wonder if their taxi will make it up the hill (okay, i am being a bit hyperbolic here, but i really do have this conversation with drivers every day). anyway, i tried to capture what it looks like above; i live at the top of that hill. but trust me, the picture does not do it justice. and this is the last quarter of the hill. here is a photograph of what it looks like from about this same spot to the main street below.
needless to say i don’t really go out walking too much, though i do walk down the mountain on my way out each time i leave. but the steep-ness coupled with the raging winds of the khamseen last night meant that i wasn’t goin’ anywhere.
but i did leave today, briefly, to attend a small protest against the illegal settler violence in khalil. but as you can see this protest in marty’rs square (really it should be called martyr’s circle) was quite small. but it was good to see people coming out in general to stand in solidarity with the people in khalil.
the situation in khalil is emblematic of colonialism and its racist origins on so many levels. or course racism among israelis is endemic–meaning among each other and against palestinians and arabs more generally. but in one report about the removal of illegal israeli settlers from khalil we see this jewish racism directed at their own:
Not only do they serve long and tiring hours in the reserve forces, and not only are they forced to deal with violent clashes with settlers, but now, Border Guard officers of Ethiopian descent are also faced with rising racism.
“Niggers don’t expel Jews! This isn’t what we brought you to Israel for!” are just some of the degrading slurs Border Guard officers reported hearing from masked settlers.
During the violent clashes between Israeli forces and settlers in Hebron on Tuesday “a bunch of veiled people started yelling at us: Who are you to expel us from our home? An Ethiopian does not expel a Jew! A nigger does not expel a Jew!” one Border Guard officer of Ethiopian descent recounted.
this is the sort of mind set one finds all over the zionist state, because, after all zionism IS racism. but it is particularly strong in these illegal settlements in the west bank where rabbi fleisher recruits new colonists (his is that special blend of racism–american and zionism all wrapped up in one, which can clearly be discerned from the remarks above as well). we can see this in the illegal AMERICAN-israeli graffiti in khalil:
the problem is that when this racism surfaces here, and when it is directed at palestinians, it is lethal as these settlers are armed and dangerous: men, women, and children alike as can be glimpsed from these photographs:
you can imagine the world’s hypocrisy when you think about how it would respond if these images here were in the reverse. that is, if these words and this violence were directed at jews the world would be in an uproar. but the world’s silence is deafening in the way that it does nothing when the victims are palestinians. in ha’aretz today this violence was called a “pogrom” and described as “lynching”:
An innocent Palestinian family, numbering close to 20 people. All of
them women and children, save for three men. Surrounding them are a few dozen masked Jews seeking to lynch them. A pogrom. This isn’t a play on words or a double meaning. It is a pogrom in the worst sense of the word. First the masked men set fire to their laundry in the front yard and then they tried to set fire to one of the rooms in the house. The women cry for help, “Allahu Akhbar.” Yet the neighbors are too scared to approach the house, frightened of the security guards from Kiryat Arba who have sealed off the home and who are cursing the journalists who wish to document the events unfolding there.
what was the result of this violence? well, in khalil it meant the shooting of un-armed palestinians, which can be seen in this video footage and described below:
The footage shows a settler firing a handgun and injuring two Palestinians, Hosni Abu Se’ifan, 40, who was hit in the chest and is now in a stable condition in hospital, and his father, Abd al-Hai Abu Se’ifan, 65, who was hurt in the arm. Others from the family then overpower the gunman until armed Israeli security guards from the Kiryat Arba settlement arrive and shoot several rounds over the heads of the Palestinians. The Abu Se’ifan family have frequently been targeted by settlers in the past.
the violence extended to other people and was carried out in other forms as well:
Palestinian sources in Hebron, in the southern part of the West Bank, reported on Thursday that extremist Israeli settlers carried out a series of violent attacks against the residents and set on fire a number of homes, cars and olive trees.
The attacks were escalated after the army evacuated the settlers from the home of Al Rajabi Palestinian family after the settlers illegally occupied the property last year.
The sources stated that settlers, stationed in five illegal outposts in the Old City of Hebron, set ablaze two Palestinian homes and one shop in Wad Al Hasseen area, close to Al Rajabi home. The settlers also violently attacked a number of residents.
In Tal Romedia area, the settlers chased dozens of Palestinian children and hurled stones and empty bottles at a number of homes.
The settlers also attacked and attempted to break into another Palestinian home in an area adjacent to Al Rajabi home while Israeli soldiers fired gas bombs and rubber-coated; several injuries were reported among the residents.
In Al Sahla area, close to the Ibrahimi Mosque, a Palestinian child and her father were wounded after extremist settlers attacked and punched them.
The settlers also set of fire a Palestinian firefighter vehicle as the firefighters were attempting to extinguish fire the settlers caused to Palestinian homes.
but as i said yesterday this violence has not been contained to khalil. it has spread throughout the west bank. and the illegal settlers have been quite public about their intentions:
Right-wing activists have called on their supporters to embark on a week-long retaliatory spree in wake of the eviction. “We will choose the time and place to retaliate,” they told Ynet. The activists also urged people to continue arriving at the house.
here is how it is affecting other palestinians and those of us who live far north of khalil:
The Jerusalem – Jericho Road is blocked by them, hundreds of people are stranded on the Nablus – Ramallah Road and settlers are attacking, more reports indicate that settlers from the Yitzhar Settlement are assaulting Tulkarem residents while hundreds of car windows are reported smashed in southern Nablus’ Al Huwara and Za’atara.
and make no mistake about it this is very much an AMERICAN issue as the person who supposedly “purchased” the palestinian home in khalil and who is at the root of some of this particular situation is AMERICAN himself:
funny that this AMERICAN thinks that a palestinian home belongs to him. this is the problem–it shows the colonialism so vividly. israels are not FROM here no matter how many bullshit biblical arguments they want to forward. the bible is not a real estate guide.
these gross human rights violations, these massive war crimes that are a fact of life here in palestine continue to go unnoticed. or if they are discussed at all nothing is done. there is merely talk. no action. karen abuzayed of unrwa has a moving editorial in the guardian that expresses this sentiment and implores us to act not just write, speak, listen, but ACT:
As we approach the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the steadily rising death toll in Gaza highlights the painful gap between its peaceful rhetoric and the desperate reality for Palestinian people.
The declaration was a pivotal statement in which the world community recognised the “inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family as the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world”. True to its nobility of spirit, it declares “the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom from fear and want as the highest aspiration of the common people”.
Sixty years on, the fate of the Palestinian people should be a cause for universal soul-searching. The need to give substantive meaning to the protection of Palestinians has never been greater. The former high commissioner for human rights, Mary Robinson has said that in Gaza, nothing short of a “civilisation” is being destroyed. Desmond Tutu has called it “an abomination”. The humanitarian coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory, Maxwell Gaylard, said that in Gaza there was a “massive assault” on human rights. Most recently, the European commissioner, Louis Michel, described the blockade of Gaza as a “form of collective punishment against Palestinian civilians, which is a violation of international humanitarian law”.
Fatality figures for the occupied Palestinian territory must surely make us question our commitment to upholding the right to life, that most fundamental of all rights, protected by a broad range of international legal instruments. More than 500 Palestinians, 73 of them children, have been killed this year alone as a result of the conflict – more than double the figure for 2005. Eleven Israelis have lost their lives this year. The informal ceasefire in Gaza has been welcomed by Israelis and Palestinians alike. For the sake of the sanctity of human life, we hope that it continues to hold, in spite of recent violations.
The right to freedom of movement enshrined in article 13 of the universal declaration also remains a distant hope for many Palestinians. The inhumane blockade of Gaza – which, as many senior UN officials have said, collectively punishes 1.5 million people – and over 600 physical obstacles to movement in the West Bank are a sad reminder of the world community’s failure to stand by that article.
With an estimated 10,000 Palestinians in Israeli prisons, including some 325 children, the declaration that “everyone has the right to liberty and security of person” and that no one shall be subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment has a sad resonance today. Compounding these abuses are statistics that attest to the lack of protection of social and economic rights. An unprecedentedly high number of Gazans – more than half – now live below the deep poverty line.
This is a humanitarian crisis, but one that is deliberately imposed by political actors. It is the result of policies that have been imposed on the Palestinian people. Is it not time to look again at those policies and search for a new approach? Is it not time to question afresh our commitment to the noble tenets of the universal declaration?
Overarching all these rights is the right to self determination, the right to a state, which the Palestinians have been deprived of through 60 years of exile. Rights are best protected within the framework of statehood, and we at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, charged with delivering assistance until the refugee issue is resolved, are as aware of this as any humanitarian actor working in the Middle East.
The chasm between word and deed is a matter of puzzlement to many Palestinians. The result has been a cruel isolation from the global community, fed by the inaction of the international system. In such circumstances, radicalism and extremism easily take root. But this can be reversed, and protection is the place to start. Let us make the protection of Palestinian rights the byword of all our interventions. Let us make the vision of the signatories of the universal declaration a reality; continued failure to do so is to our universal shame.
• Karen AbuZayd is the commissioner general of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency unrwa.org