a walk through beit jala and then some…

gilo colony with building crane in center
gilo colony with building crane in center

this afternoon my friends wanted to take a walk. we went to cremsian, a church with a vineyard in beit jala. we went for a walk here once before, but it was late at night and so i couldn’t see as much as we could see today. this church is in the middle of a beautiful palestinian forest and farmlands. but it also has a view of zionist terrorist colonies all around it, which are on land stolen from beit jala. we also had a view of the jewish-only roads connecting the zionist terrorist colonies, which are a part of the apartheid wall and its regime which you can see in the distance. the end of the road on our walk gave us a view of one of my friend’s villages, malha, which now includes a shopping mall (with burger king among other american businesses) and a sports stadium on her land, land which she is not allowed to even visit. as we walked along this beautiful road through beit jala, with a view of the zionist terrorist colony of gilo across from us along the way i could see cranes building new homes and one lone palestinian home in the valley between (all pictures here from the walk this evening).

jewish only road cutting through beit jala with apartheid wall & sniper towers in distance
jewish only road cutting through beit jala with apartheid wall & sniper towers in distance

walking through this land i kept thinking about the news yesterday about an increase in funding for more colonies by the zionist entity:

Israel plans to allocate 250 million dollars over the next two years for settlements in the occupied West Bank despite US pressure to halt settlement activity, army radio said on Sunday.

The figure is contained in the 2009-2010 budget, which passed its first reading in the Knesset parliament last week, it said.

Some 125 million dollars (90 million euros) is to be used for various security expenses, with most of the rest destined for housing construction, it said.

interestingly, while the government continues its colonial expansion, apparently there are no buyers for these new homes:

The Israeli TV aired a report on Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, and revealed that while word leaders might believe Israel had stopped the construction of settlements, more units are being built with no buyers in sight.

of course these houses are not really for people, but for the zionist entity to continue its colonial enterprise. a new court case reveals the extent to which the government is complicit in this process (though for those who are in the know this seems like merely stating the obvious):

One document that has just been exposed in the courtroom is a real estate transaction that exemplifies the process involved in hundreds of thousands of cases of Israeli settlers who have illegally taken over Palestinian land. The document is a contract showing that the World Zionist Organization, working on behalf of the Israeli government, took private land belonging to Palestinians in the West Bank and rented it to Jewish settlers (nearly all of the land inside Israel is owned by the Jewish Agency and rented on 99-year leases to Israeli Jews, who can only rent the land with the stipulation that only Jews will be allowed to live there).

In one such case presented to the court, Netzach and Esther Brodt, a young Jewish couple, were issued a lease for land on Ofra settlement, but were not told that the settlement was illegal under Israeli law and had been scheduled for demolition. When the Palestinian owners of the land, along with allies in the Israeli human rights movement, went to court to demand that the Israeli government enforce its own court’s order to demolish the illegal outpost, the court gave the government two weeks to explain why demolition had not yet occurred. Instead of replying to the court, the government took the two weeks to hastily complete construction of eight houses, including the one sold to Netzach and Esther Brodt. Once the houses were completed, the Israeli government froze the demolition order on the settlement, and allowed the outright theft to take place, despite even the orders from their own courts.

This is just one example of the multitude of cases in which the World Zionist Organization, working as an agent of the Israeli government, willfully defied Israeli court orders, signed agreements with the Palestinian Authority, and Israel’s obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention in order to establish more ‘facts on the ground’ of Israeli homes built on Palestinian land, calculating that the Israeli government would be less likely to approve the land theft if the houses were already built.

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as a part of this colonial expansion, palestinians are either having to demolish their own homes (otherwise their home will be demolished by israeli terrorist forces and the palestinian family will still have to pay the bill for the demolishing of their own home) or their houses will be demolished anyway. one such family had to demolish his home in al quds:

Muhammad Najib Al-Ju’ba, who has lived with his family for generations on Virgin Street near the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, was forced by Israeli troops to demolish his own home this weekend, making the third home demolished in this way this week alone.

Israeli demolition orders in Jerusalem have increased exponentially since Binyamin Netanyahu, a right-wing Israeli leader who campaigned on ‘no compromise’ with the Palestinians, came to power in March.

The military allegedly acted on orders from the Israeli Municipality of Jerusalem (there are currently two Jerusalem municipalities – one Israeli, one Palestinian, but only the Israeli one has armed enforcement agents and a military).

Al-Juba was told that he must demolish his home or pay 13,000 Israeli shekels to the Israeli Jerusalem Municipal government. The reason given was the extra room that Al-Juba had constructed to accommodate his growing family.

near qalqilia it is palestinian farm land that is being destroyed by israeli terrorist forces:

Israeli authorities notified farmers in the village of Azzun Atma on Sunday that their agricultural infrastructure will be destroyed, according to Palestinian source.

Azzun Atma, near Qalqiliya, is a small community cut off from the rest of the West Bank by Israel’s separation wall and wedged between two Israeli settlements. The villager’s only access to the outside world is through a military checkpoint.

The demolition orders condemn stables, barns, and water tanks which were provided by the Agriculture Institutions Union four years ago.

there have been demonstrations this week protesting this ethnic cleansing policy of the zionist apartheid regime like the one in al quds yesterday:

A group of Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, including lead clerics with the Islamic Waqf in Jerusalem, held a non-violent demonstration Sunday in the Al-Bastan neighborhood in Silwan, an area scheduled for takeover by Israeli authorities. According to documents made public by the Israeli Jerusalem municipality, Israel plans to destroy 88 Palestinian homes and apartment buildings in the neighborhood – a move that would displace up to 1500 Palestinians.

and then later sunday evening palestinians in al quds received even more house demolition orders:

The Israeli municipality of Jerusalem handed out on Sunday evening more demolition orders to 65 Palestinian families all over east Jerusalem.

According to local sources some of these families had received the same notices before.

The orders were issued under new legislation, Israeli law 212. Law 212 allows homes to be demolished or evacuated without any formal legal charges being brought forth or any party to be convicted of any alleged violation of the Israeli Planning and Building Law. Hateem Abed al Kader, the Minister of Jerusalem Affairs in the Palestinian Government said the demolition orders were political.

“The high number of demolition orders indicates they are political, their objective is to force Palestinians out and tip the demographic balance towards the settlers. The number of homes that are set for demolition in Jerusalem is now 1,200 homes.” Abed al Kader told IMEMC over the phone.

nour odeh’s report on al jazeera today about the case of bil’in fighting the confiscation of their land by zionist colonist terrorists is taking on resistance in a new direction by fighting the canadian corporations funding the colonies built on their land:

and while i’m on the subject of canda here i think it is worth pointing out that it is not only companies in canada, but the government itself that is complicit with the zionist terrorist colonial project in palestine as jonathan cook reported in electronic intifada last week:

Canada’s chief diplomat in Israel has been honored at an Israeli public park — built on occupied Palestinian land in violation of international law — as one of the donors who helped establish the park on the ruins of three Palestinian villages.

Jon Allen, Canada’s ambassador to Israel, is among several hundred Canadian Jews who have been commemorated at a dedication site. A plaque bearing Allen’s name is attached to a stone wall constructed from the rubble of Palestinian homes razed by the Israeli army.

Allen, who is identified as a donor along with his parents and siblings, has refused to talk about his involvement with the park.

Rodney Moore, a Canadian government spokesman, said the 58-year-old ambassador had not made a personal donation and that his name had been included as a benefactor when his parents gave their contribution. It is unclear whether he or they knew that the park was to be built on Palestinian land.

Canada Park, which is in an area of the West Bank that juts into Israel north of Jerusalem, was founded in the early 1970s following Israel’s occupation of the West Bank in the 1967 war. It is hugely popular for walks and picnics with the Israeli public, most of whom are unaware they are in Palestinian territory that is officially a “closed military zone.”

Uri Avnery, a former Israeli parliamentarian who is today a peace activist, has described the park’s creation as an act of complicity in “ethnic cleansing” and Canada’s involvement as “cover to a war crime.”

About 5,000 Palestinians were expelled from the area during the war, whose 42nd anniversary is being marked this month.

Israel’s subsequent occupation of the West Bank, as well as East Jerusalem and Gaza, is regarded as illegal by the international community, including by Canada. The country has become increasingly identified as a close ally of Israel under the current government of Stephen Harper, who appointed Allen as ambassador.

About $15 million — or $80m in today’s values — was raised in tax-exempt donations by the Canadian branch of a Zionist organization, the Jewish National Fund (JNF), to establish the 1,700-acre open space following the 1967 war.

The Canadian government spokesman declined to say whether an objection had been lodged with the fund over its naming of Allen as a donor, or whether Allen’s diplomatic role had been compromised by his public association with the park. The spokesman added that the park was a private initiative between Israel and the JNF in Canada.

That view was challenged by Dr. Uri Davis, an Israeli scholar and human rights activist who has co-authored a book on the Jewish National Fund.

“Canada Park is a crime against humanity that has been financed by and implicates not only the Canadian government but every taxpayer in Canada,” he said. “The JNF’s charitable status means that each donation receives a tax reduction paid for from the pockets of Canadian taxpayers.”

Davis and a Canadian citizen are scheduled to submit a joint application to the Canadian tax authorities next week to overturn the JNF’s charitable status. He said they would pursue the matter through the courts if necessary.

there are other corporate partners in the colonization of palestine as well (which are complicit in all sorts of horribile neo-colonial projects in africa as well as i’ve written about many times on this site). adri nieuwhof wrote a new article about this in electronic intifada today:

Africa-Israel is the latest target of a boycott campaign by Palestine solidarity activists because of the company’s involvement in the illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. American and European financial institutions hold a substantial stake in Africa-Israel Investment, investigations reveal.

Africa-Israel Investment is an international holding and investment company based in Israel whose subsidiary, Danya Cebus, has been deeply involved in the construction of illegal Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). According to research by the Israeli Coalition of Women for Peace, the company executed construction projects in the Israeli settlements of Modi’in Illit, Ma’ale Adumim, Har Homa and Adam. In addition, Africa-Israel offers apartments and houses in various settlements in the West Bank through the Israeli franchise of its real estate agency, Anglo Saxon, which has a branch in the Ma’ale Adumim settlement.

Diamond mogul Lev Leviev is Chairman of the Africa-Israel Investment Board of Directors, and holds roughly 75 percent of the company. On 8 March, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Lev Leviev does not have a problem with building in the OPT “if the State of Israel grants permits legally.”

Leviev and his brother-in-law Daviv Eliashov own the company Leader Management and Development (LMD). According to the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, LMD requested and was granted approval to expand the Zufim settlement with approximately 1,400 housing units. The company has begun construction and in the process, orchards and agricultural lands belonging to the Palestinian village of Jayyus have been bulldozed, and their water wells and greenhouses confiscated.

a view of the palestinian village of malha
a view of the palestinian village of malha

but the problem remains that in all these reports, aside from people like jonathan cook, there continues to be a focus on colonies as only existing in the west bank. they exist all over historic palestine in the villages and cities where palestinian refugees have the right to return. today the organization adalah in 1948 palestine released a statement challenging the sale of palestinian homes in 1948 palestine to zionist colonists:

Adalah sent a letter to the Attorney General, Menachem Mazuz; the Director-General of the Israel Lands Administration (ILA), Yaron Bibi; the General Director of Amidar (a state-owned and state-run housing company), Yaakov Brosh; and Ronen Baruch, the Custodian of Absentees’ Property in May 2009 demanding the cancellation of tenders issued by the ILA for the sale of Palestinian refugee property in Israel. Adalah Attorney Suhad Bishara submitted the letter.

Recently, the ILA has been publishing tenders for the sale of “absentee” properties held by the Development Authorities of municipalities such as Nazareth, Haifa, Lydd (Lod), Akka (Acre), Rosh Pina and Beit She’an in Israel. In 2007, the ILA issued 96 tenders; in 2008, 106 tenders; and to date in 2009, 80 tenders.

The Custodian for Absentees’ Property transferred these properties to the Development Authority; these properties are classified as absentees’ property under the Absentees’ Property Law – 1950. The Absentees’ Property Law was the main legal instrument used by Israel to take possession of the land belonging to the internal and external Palestinian refugees. Under this law, any property belonging to absentees was taken and passed to the Custodian of Absentee Property for guardianship of the properties until a political solution for the refugees was reached. This law provides a very broad definition of who is an “absentee”; it encompasses Palestinians who fled or who were expelled to neighboring countries during and after the War of 1948. During the War of 1948, as many as 800,000 Palestinians were expelled or forced to flee outside the borders of the new state of Israel.

In the letter , Attorney Bishara argued that selling these absentee properties to private individuals is illegal under Israeli law. It contradicts the essence of the law which provides that the Custodian of Absentee Properties is the temporary guardian of these properties, until the status of the Palestinian refugees is resolved. “These tenders also contradict the Basic Law: Israel Lands – 1960 which prohibits the sale of lands defined as “Israeli lands”, which include, among others, the properties of the Development Authority,” she emphasized in the letter. She further argued that the sale of Palestinian refugee properties contradicts international humanitarian law which stipulates the need to respect the right of private property and explicitly prohibits the final expropriation of private property following the termination of warfare.

This latest step furthers Israel’s continued denial of the rights of the Palestinian refugees, and marks the final stages of an aggressive policy of creating facts on the ground that will frustrate any attempts to solve the Palestinian refugee problem. By selling these properties to private individuals, legal or political remedies for the refugees become increasingly difficult to implement. This measure is to the ultimate disadvantage of all parties involved; it further entrenches political discontent in order to profit from the refugees’ plight.

dan nolan did a report on this issue today for al jazeera showing the palestinian homes in haifa being sold to zionist terrorist colonists. he interviews abdel latif kanafani, a palestinian refugee in lebanon, whose home is one of those up for sale. this issue is significant because if the homes are owned by individuals instead of held by the state it could make the right of return all the more difficult for palestinian refugees.

some of these homes belong to palestinian refugees some of whom are living in tents yet again as a result of the american invasion and occupation of iraq. nisreen el shamayleh reported on the status of palestinian refugees who fled iraq to syria who are living in tents yet again:

adalah also released a new interactive map on its website today that shows all of the palestinian villages listed on it by district. it’s a great tool and worth exploring. you can see the villages where palestinian refugees come from and where they have a right to return to. just like the one below in beit jala that i took a photograph of on my evening walk today.

one palestinian house squeezed out by colony of gilo
one palestinian house squeezed out by colony of gilo

the latest move to make palestinian homes available for sale in 1948 palestine should be seen in tandem with the spate of racist laws that the zionist entity continues to forward to the knesset. azmi bishara has a great analysis of this in his article “loyalty to racism” in al-ahram this week:

I would say that two developments are unfolding in tandem. On the one hand, Israel is experiencing a deepening of and expansion in the concept and exercise of liberal political and economic civil rights (for Jewish citizens). At the same time, there is an upsurge in ultranationalist and right-wing religious extremism accompanied by flagrant manifestations of anti-Arab racism. As a consequence, the Jewish citizen endowed with fuller civil rights (than those that had existed in earlier phases when Zionist society was organised along the lines of a militarised quasi- socialist settler drive) is simultaneously an individual who is more exposed to and influenced by right-wing anti-Arab invective.

The contention that Israel had at one point been more democratic and is now sliding into fascism is fallacious. It brings to mind our protest demonstrations in the 1970s and the earnest zeal with which we chanted, “Fascism will not survive!” Our slogans were inspired by the Spanish left before the civil war in Spain and by the Italian left in the 1930s. But, in fact, the context was entirely different. Israel was the product of a colonialist settler drive that came, settled and survived. Fascism is a very specific form of rule, one that does not necessarily have to exist in a militarised settler society that founded itself on top of the ruins of an indigenous people. Indeed, that society organised itself along pluralistic democratic lines and it was unified on a set of fundamental principles and values as a basis for societal consensus. As militarist values figured prime among them, there was no need for a fascist coup to impose them. Even Sharon, who, from the perspective of the Israeli left, seemed poised to lead a fascist coup was one of the most ardent advocates of women’s rights during his rule. He also proved one of the more determined proponents of implementing the rulings of the Israeli Supreme Court, which is a relatively liberal body in the context of the Zionist political spectrum and within the constraints of Zionist conceptual premises. Israel has grown neither more nor less democratic. The scope of civil rights has expanded, as has the tide of right-wing racism against the Arabs.

Among the Arabs in Israel there have also been two tandem developments. The first is an increasing awareness of the rights of citizenship and civil liberties after a long period of living in fear of military rule and the Israeli security agencies, and in isolation from the Arab world. That period was also characterised by attempts to prove their loyalty to the state by dedicating themselves to the service of the daily struggle for material survival and progress in routine civic affairs. At the same time, however, the forces of increasing levels of education, the growth of a middle class, the progress of the Palestinian national movement abroad, the advances in communications technologies, the broadening organisational bonds among the Palestinians in Israel, and the cultural and commercial exchanges between them and the West Bank and Gaza combined to give impetus to a growing national awareness.

The Arab Israelis’ growing awareness of rights has paved the way for an assimilation drive to demand equality in Israel as a Jewish state. Such a demand is inherently unrealisable, as it would inevitably entail forsaking Palestinian national identity without obtaining true equality. Instead of assimilation there would only be further marginalisation. However, this danger still looms; there are Arab political circles in Israel that are convinced that this is the way forward. At the same time, there is the danger that truly nationalist forces could lose their connection with the realities of Palestinians’ civil life, by stressing their national identity exclusively with no reference to their citizenship or civil rights, or the conditions of their lives. This tendency threatens to isolate the nationalist movement from its grassroots, and this danger, too, persists although to a lesser extent.

The flurry of loyalty bills and the like reflects another phenomenon that has taken root among Arabs in Israel and that the Israeli establishment regards as a looming peril. This peril, from the Israeli perspective, is twofold. Not only can Palestinians exercise their civil rights in order to fight for equality, they can also take advantage of their civil rights in order to express and raise awareness of their national identity by, for example, commemorating the Nakba and establishing closer contact with the Arab world. Commemorating the Nakba — the anniversary of the creation of the state of Israel and the consequent displacement and dispossession of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians — is a relatively new practice for Arabs inside Israel, dating only to the mid-1990s. Before this — until at least the end of the 1970s, before the spread of national awareness gained impetus among Arabs inside Israel — many of them participated in the celebrations of Israel’s independence day and offered their congratulations to Israelis on the occasion. There were no laws against commemorating Nakba Day, not because Israel was more democratic but merely because there was no need for such laws in the eyes of the Israeli establishment, since the Arabs were not commemorating it anyway. In fact, open demonstrations of disloyalty to the state as a Zionist entity were very rare.

But since that time, change did not affect Israel alone. The political culture of broad swathes of Arabs inside that country shifted towards more open expressions of their national identity. To them, there is no contradiction between this and the exercise of their civil rights. Indeed, they felt it their natural right to use the civil liberties with which they are endowed by virtue of their citizenship to engage in forms of political expression that the Israeli establishment regards as contradictory to its concept of citizenship. Naturally, the clash became more pronounced with the growing stridency of right-wing Zionist racism.

The citizenship of Arabs inside Israel has a distinct quality that I have been attempting to underscore for years. Theirs does not stem from ideological conviction or the exercise of the Zionist law of return. Nor is their situation similar to migrant labour or minorities who have chosen to immigrate to the country and who accommodate to the status quo, as is the case with immigrant communities in the US or France, for example. Their citizenship stems from the reality of their having remained in the country after it was occupied. They are the indigenous people. It is not their duty to assimilate to the Zionist character of the state and the attempt to transform them into patriotic Israelis is an attempt to falsify history, to distort their cultural persona and fragment their moral cohesion. A Palestinian Arab who regards himself as an Israeli patriot is nought. He is someone who has accepted to be something less than a citizen and less than a Palestinian and who simultaneously identifies with those who have occupied Palestinian lands and repressed and expelled his people.

It is impossible, here, to examine all facets of the phenomenon, but we should also touch upon a third trend, which is the growing degree of showmanship, sensationalism and catering to the forces of popular demand on the part of Knesset members. This trend is to be found in all parliamentary systems since television cameras made their way into parliamentary chambers. Parliament has become a theatre and a large proportion of MPs have become comedians or soap opera stars, depending on their particular gifts and/or circumstances. However, when the favourite drama or comedy theme is incitement against the Arabs, this can only signify that anti-Arab prejudices, fear mongering, abuse and intimidation are spreading like wildfire. This is the very dangerous and not at all funny part about the parliamentary circus. And it’s going to get grimmer yet for Arabs in Israel.

In the Obama era, following the failure of Bush’s policies, the Israeli government will be directing the venom of its right-wing racist coalition against East Jerusalem and Israeli Arabs. After all, it will be easier to focus on domestic matters, such as emphasis on the Jewishness of the state, than on settlements in the occupied territories. Some of the proposed loyalty laws, such as that which would sentence to prison anyone who does not agree to the Jewishness of the state, will have a tough time making it through the legislative process. However, merely by submitting the proposal, the racist MK will have killed two birds with one stone: he will have made a dramatic appearance before the cameras so that his constituents will remember his name come next elections, and he will have stoked the fires of anti-Arab hatred. Other laws may stand a better chance. The proposal to ban the commemoration of Nakba Day could pass like the law prohibiting the raising of the Palestinian flag, or it could fail because even on the right there are those who object to such a ban. It is also doubtful that this country could promulgate a law compelling people to swear an oath of allegiance, because the intended targets are not immigrants but citizens by birth. It would require quite a feat of constitutional re-engineering in order to render citizenship acquired by birth subject to a loyalty oath at some later phase in a person’s life.

Naturally, no state, however totalitarian it may be, can impose love and loyalty for it by force, let alone a colonialist state that would like to force this on the indigenous inhabitants it had reduced to a minority on their own land. Certainly it would be much easier for Israel to prohibit manifestations of disloyalty than to legislate for forced manifestations of loyalty.

For many years I’ve been advocating a Palestinian interpretation of citizenship in Israel that Israel continues to reject, with consequences to myself that readers may well be aware of. According to this interpretation, the Palestinian Israeli effectively tells the ruling authorities, “My loyalty does not go beyond the bounds of being a law abiding citizen who pays his taxes and the like. As for my keeping in touch with Palestinian history and with the Arab world in matters that should be inter-Arab, such things should not have to pass via you or require your approval.” Such talk was previously unheard of in Israel and it came as quite a shock to the ears of interlocutors used to liberal-sounding references to “our Arab citizens” who serve as “a bridge of peace” and proof of “the power of Israeli democracy”. Rejecting such condescension, the new type of Palestinian says, “My Palestinianness existed before your state was created on top of the ruins of my people. Citizenship is a compromise I have accepted in order to be able to go on living here in my land. It is not a favour that you bestow on me with strings attached.”

Apparently, more and more Arab citizens have come around to this attitude, to the extent that Israel has begun to realise that the material exigencies of life or gradual acclimatisation to Israeli ways and political realities will not be able to stop the trend. It has come to believe that only new laws will bring a halt to what it regards as dangerous manifestations of disloyalty. Such laws will be inherently oppressive but they will simultaneously pronounce the failure of Israelification.

diamonds are not this girl’s best friend

africa-diamonds-mapI don’t like diamonds. Or gem stones of any sort. I am reminded of this every day whenever I glance at my hand and see a diamond ring. I wear this only because it was my mother’s wedding ring and seeing it on my hand reminds me of when these rings were on her hand. Although I don’t need a visible reminder of her by way this ring or a photograph, it comforts me to think of her and to see her hand in/on mine when I wear this ring even as I wish there were no diamonds on it. It’s not just what they represent politically. I also don’t like ostentatious displays of wealth more generally. It always reminds me of what that money spent on a fancy car, outfit, house could otherwise be spent on: who could it have fed? How many others could it have housed?

The issue of diamonds–as well as so many other natural resources–is deeply connected to ongoing war and neocolonialism in places like Africa. If you connect the dots you can visibly see the relationship between diamonds (the theft of African natural resources), wars and conflicts in Africa, neocolonial control in the form of globalization, colonialism in Palestine, and the desperate need for a real boycott movement to work together in solidarity across these issues. For instance, in the past couple of weeks the Friends of the Congo and Adalah New York have worked to raise awareness and protest two seemingly separate issues: the war in the Congo and diamond trafficker/Israeli illegal settlement builder Lev Leviev. But in reality they are deeply connected and should be if a larger human rights, progressive, anti-racist movement is to be built.

The issue with Lev Leviev is three fold: his trafficking in blood diamonds, his continual financing of illegal settlements in Palestine, and his opening of a store in Dubai in spite of the fact that it is illegal for an Israeli business to function in the United Arab Emirates:

Adalah-NY has learned that the jewelry of Israeli billionaire and settlement-builder Lev Leviev will be on sale at this week’s gala opening of the luxury hotel Atlantis, The Palm in Dubai. Despite Leviev’s on-going construction of Israeli settlements and claims by United Arab Emirates officials that Leviev would receive no license to sell his jewelry there, the New York-based human rights coalition Adalah-NY has confirmed that Leviev’s jewelry will be on sale at the Atlantis branch of the Levant Jewelry chain on the fabled Palm Jumeirah island.

Adalah-NY has also heard from a Dubai source that Leviev will attend the grand opening events in person, but the group has been unable to corroborate this report. A press release on the Atlantis web site claims that the opening gala, set for November 20-21st, “will culminate in a giant fireworks display,” and that guests will include “prominent CEO’s, business leaders, politicians, actors and musicians and members of the Dubai Royal family.”

Adalah-NY has obtained photos of Leviev jewelry prominently displayed in the windows of the Levant store at the Atlantis, with Leviev’s name and logo prominently printed on display cases. Leviev’s jewelry and logo are featured at the Levant store at the Al Qasr Hotel. Leviev notes Dubai as a store location on the front of his Madison Avenue boutique in New York, and in recent Leviev ads in the New York Times.

Prior to an advocacy campaign by Adalah-NY and Jews Against the Occupation-NYC, Leviev had announced plans to open in Dubai two Leviev stores and sell his products in a third store in partnership with his local partner, Arif Ben-Khadra, who is of Palestinian-Moroccan origin. Subsequently, in an April 30 article in Dubai’s Gulf News, Ali Ebrahim, Deputy Director General for Executive Affairs in Dubai, said Leviev would not be able to do business in Dubai. “We are aware of these reports and have not granted a trade licence to any business of this name. If such an application does come to us we will deal with it accordingly,” said Ebrahim. Further, Ebrahim told the paper that Israeli citizens were not allowed to do business in Dubai, and that “precautionary measures” made sure of that. Ebrahim further implied Leviev would not be able to do business through a localpartner. “There are no loopholes,” he said. “We check backgrounds of businesses that apply.”

Leviev built his enormous fortune trading diamonds with Apartheid-era South Africa. His company mines diamonds in partnership with the repressive Angolan government. New York Magazine reported in 2007 that in Angola, “A security company contracted by Leviev was accused… of participating in practices of ‘humiliation, whipping, torture, sexual abuse, and, in some cases, assassinations.’” Also, according to the diamond industry watchdog Partnership Africa Canada, Angola and Leviev have failed to fully comply with the Kimberley Process.

In the West Bank, Leviev’s companies build Israeli-only settlements such as Ma’aleh Adumim, Mattityahu East and Zufim on stolen Palestinian land. According to Stop the Wall, Leviev is currently expanding Zufim settlement by 45 housing units on land owned by the village of Jayyous (see photo). Jayyous continues to hold non-violent protests against the confiscation of their land. All Israeli settlements are illegal under international law. UNICEF and Oxfam have both rejected support from Leviev due to his human rights violations, and the British government is under pressure to pull put of a deal to rent their new Tel Aviv Embassy from him.

Daniel Lang/Levitsky of Adalah-NY stated that “Dubai claimed that it has closed all the loopholes, but we have seen that to be glaringly false. Leviev jewelry will be prominently displayed and sold at a major hotel in Dubai. By allowing such a blatant contravention of its own laws, Dubai has made a mockery of its promise to boycott Leviev. The villagers of Jayyous and Bil’in, on whose stolen land Leviev’s settlements sit, will be saddened and outraged, as will be human rights advocates worldwide.”

The issue with the Congo is multiple though the campaign last month focused on the lack of media coverage and the war over Coltan, yet another natural Congolese resource that various western corporations exploit, which has in turn fomented this war:

The Congo is the greatest humanitarian crisis in the world today where nearly 6 million people have died since 1996, half of them children 5 yrs old or younger and hundreds of thousands of women have been raped all as a result of the scramble for Congo’s wealth. The United Nations said it is the deadliest conflict in the world since World War Two. However, hardly anything is said about it in the media. Can you imagine 45,000 people dying each month and hardly a peep from anyone in the age of the Internet? This is literally what has happened and continue to happen in the Congo. There is a media white-out about Congo and no worldwide resolution to end the conflict and carnage there.

There is a very exciting development among students throughout the globe. In October 2008, students from the US, Canada, England, Belgium, Germany, France, Brazil, Jamaica, Norway, Korea, Ghana, Mali, South Africa, Columbia, etc. etc will organize events (films, lectures, demonstrations, and more) on their respective campuses dealing with the Congo situation. We are calling it “Break the Silence” Congo Week where at least 100 countries and 1,000 university campuses will participate in a week of activities in solidarity with the students of the Congo.

The purpose of the Break the Silence Congo Week is to raise awareness about the devastating situation in the Congo and mobilize support on behalf of the people of the Congo.

The Cell OUT is an organized cell phone usage boycott from 12pm – 6pm on October 22nd to bring awareness of the Congo conflict over the natural resources. Coltan, used in many electronic devices has caused many Congolese people to be killed since 1996.

Why?

– Nearly 6 million people have died in the Congo since 1996 due to a scramble for Congo’s spectacular natural resources.

– Coltan is a key source of the conflict in the Congo. It is a mineral widely used in numerous electronic devices such as cell phones and game consoles (Microsoft X-Box and Sony Play Station) and is mined illegally in the Congo by rebel militia and foreign forces then sold to multinational corporations.

– The boycott is to bring awareness to the war in the Congo, which started in 1996 and continues to this day with 45,000 people dying each month till today. We would like to invite organizations on college campuses and in the community to support us in our endeavor to raise awareness about the atrocities taking place in the Congo.

The video below “Welcome to the Congo” by spoken word poet/hip hop artist Omekongo Dibinga shows that it is not just Coltan, however. It is diamonds, gold, and other natural resources that have led to this ongoing war and to the corporate media’s silence on the subject:

While all of these mineral resources and the continual raping of Africa by the West is a crime against humanity, I want to focus on diamonds here because I see the potential in a global solidarity/boycott campaign by linking the Zionist state and its complicity with the war, rape, and pillage that is ongoing in the Congo and bleeds into other parts of Africa as well. Here are some of those links between the Zionist state, it’s partner-in-crime the U.S., and their thirst for diamonds as it is connected to war in the Congo, Angola, and the region:

Artisanal diamond miners in Angola called artisanos or garimpeiros are forced into ‘illegal’ mining because Angola’s mining security companies push people off their own land. While agriculture and commerce in the region require the direct authorization of the Provincial Governor, not one artisano has been granted a license for diamond exploration or subsistence agriculture. The ‘legitimate’ government of Angola forces desperate people to resort to ‘illegal’ activities to survive but according to Rafael Marques, garimpeiros contribute more to the profits of some of the state diamond mining firms than big industrial operations.

Three private military companies (PMCs) have been targeting garimpeiros in Angola. The mercenary firms Alfa-5, Teleservices, and K&P Mineira defend Angola’s big name diamond firms like Sociedade de Desenvolvimento Mineiro (Sodiam), Sociedade Mineira de Cuango, and Sociedade Mineira Luminas. Human rights researcher Rafael Marques has recently documented more than 50 cases of PMCs arresting, beating and torturing garimpeiros. They stop garimpeiros from fishing in their rivers, growing their own food, or living traditional lives; they have forced sexual relations on family members, including same-sex rape and sodomy.

The PMCs operate behind Angola’s public diamond company, Endiama, and have exclusive rights to Angola’s diamonds. Endiama owns 99% of shares in Sodiam, which has a joint venture with Lazare Kaplan International (LKI) of the Israeli-American Maurice Tempelsman family.

Sodiam works with the Russo-Israeli Lev Leviev Group. Endiama owns part of Alfa-5, one of the PMCs that exploit and torture garimpeiros. Alfa-5 and K&P Mineira provide security for ASCORP—the Angola Selling Corporation—another Angolan monopoly.

One of ASCORP’s controlling investors, Lev Leviev, runs a global commercial empire that includes: Leviev Group of Companies; Lev Leviev Diamonds; Africa-Israel (commercial real estate in Prague and London); Gottex (swimwear) Company; 1,700 Fina gas stations in the Southwest U.S.; 173 7-Elevens in New Mexico and Texas; a 33% stake in Cross Israel Highway (Israel’s first toll road); and more. Leviev partner Arcady Gaydamak, an arms dealer, also reportedly works with Danny Yatom, a former MOSSAD (Israeli secret service) chief and security advisor to former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. Leviev is connected to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and to Sandline International, a U.K./South African mercenary firm operating in the war-torn areas of Eastern Congo and Uganda.

While participants in the Kimberley Process complained of the criminality of UNITA, the infamous rebels once supported by the CIA, but they gave the “legitimate” Dos Santos government a sparkling bill of health. Angola exemplifies the process whereby an international certification scheme enforced by the United Nations rubber stamps boxes of rough stones according to their ‘country of origin.’ Stamped ‘Angola’ the public is assured that these diamonds are now ‘conflict free,’ because these nations are members of the Kimberley certification.

The Kimberley Process was partially instituted through the work of Robert Rotberg at Harvard University. Maurice Tempelsman chairs the International Advisory Council at the Harvard AIDS Institute (HAI) of the School of Public Health. Rotberg and Tempelsman shared a panel at the Council on Foreign Relations with people like Walter Kansteiner, National Security under Bill Clinton and current director of a gold company involved in Congo’s bloody eastern zone.

Maurice Tempelsman was for decades the unofficial ambassador to Congo/Zaire; Dan Gertler has usurped that role. In 2000 Gertler was named Honorary Consul to the Congo. Beny Steinmetz may be the biggest De Beers “sightholder”. Africa Confidential called President Kabila’s 2003 visit to the Bush White House a “coup” for Gertler and Steinmetz. Gertler’s best friend is Brooklyn-born Chaim Leibowitz, a personal friend of Condoleeza Rice.

Tempelsman and Steinmetz bought diamonds from both sides during Angola’s thirty-year war. Israeli diamond tycoons Gertler and Leviev are reportedly jockeying for power with Isabel Dos Santos, the high-rolling diamond-studded daughter of the President of Angola.

The Israel Diamond Exchange in Tel Aviv, which today brings Israel $13 billion annually in commerce, and is the country’s second-largest industry. Israel buys some 50% of the world’s rough diamonds, and the U.S. buys two-thirds of these.


Diamonds are Israel’s top export.
In 2005 figures, exports to the EU totaled $10.7 billion in 2004, including $2.5 billion in diamonds (23.3%); exports to the US totaled $14.2 billion in 2004, including $7.3 billion in diamonds (51.4%); exports to Asia totaled $7.1 billion in 2004, including $3.2 billion in diamonds (45.0%); exports to the rest of the world totaled $6.6 billion in 2004, including $800 million in diamonds (12.1%).

Dan Gertler’s grandfather, Moshe Schnitzer, is known in Israel as “Mr. Diamond,” founder of the Israel Diamond Exchange in Tel Aviv. Moshe Schnitzer’s son and Dan Gertler’s uncle is Shmuel Schnitzer, Vice-Chairman of the Belgian-based World Diamond Council—the entity that promotes the false image of “clean” or “conflict-free” diamonds.

In June 2002, as the Kimberley Process was unfolding, Daniel Horowitz, CEO of IDH Diamonds, gave a speech at the 3rd World Diamond Conference titled “Rough Diamonds in a Brave New World.” IDH works with Endiama, BHP-Billiton and De Beers, another of the big diamond cartels.

“Ladies and gentlemen, it would be irresponsible to circumvent the fact that it is highly problematic, if not unfeasible, to work out a system in order to control the flow of rough diamonds around the world,” Horowitz said. “The reality is that once diamonds are mined there is almost nothing one can do in order to prevent them from reaching the market. No certification scheme can truly be reliable, not only because war-torn areas are by definition disorganized, but mainly because it is intrinsically impossible to distinguish between good and bad diamonds. Misguiding traders and consumers with untrustworthy guarantees would inevitably be demystified over time. As opposed to this, it is critical to publicize that the mainstream diamond trade is legitimate. It needs to be said again and again that conflict diamonds are an irrelevant portion of world production. And as far as humanitarian issues are concerned, the added value the industry generates worldwide particularly benefits the developing world.”

Angola remains a war-torn country selling billions of dollars worth of diamonds annually. In the past four years the government of Angola has waged a permanent war against poor people, destroying thousands of homes and taking the land in mass forced evictions. People were beaten, tortured and arbitrarily arrested. At least 1000 people die in eastern Congo every day.

Millions of blood diamonds from past and current wars remain locked in the vaults of the Belgian, Russian, New York, London and Israeli diamond bourses to insure the artificially high, monopoly-fixed, prices of diamonds.

Rafael Marques outlined cases torture, brutalization and assassinations—cases of personal brutality he investigated—that characterize diamond mining by state firms in Angola today.

“Should one, after this brief explanation,” Marques asked, “say that the extraction of diamonds in Angola is OK? What the Kimberley Process, which was designed to drive blood diamonds out of the market, is doing is to rinse the blood from the gems, extracted in [Angola] and certify them as clean.”

What is even more disturbing is that the Zionist state will be leading the Kimberley Process, a process which it clearly circumvents as the article above makes clear:

Israel was elected deputy chairman of the Kimberley Process for the coming year by the Sixth Plenary of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, currently being attended in New Delhi, India, by more than 70 member countries. This means that Israel will become chairman of the KP in 2010. This development comes in the wake of the recent election of two Israeli Diamond Industry leaders—Avi Paz and Moti Ganz—as presidents of the World Federation of Diamond Boursesand International Diamond Manufacturers Association, respectively.

Of course, the Zionist state is expert at avoiding, disrespecting, and violating international law. We see that here in Palestine every day. But what is useful is for people to understand that Israelis export this practice in their economic, political, and military dealings with other states as well. Consider UN Resolution 1803 from 1962, which says in part,

1. The right of peoples and nations to permanent sovereignty over their natural wealth and resources must be exercised in the interest of their national development and of the well-being of the people of the State concerned.

2. The exploration, development and disposition of such resources, as well as the import of the foreign capital required for these purposes, should be in conformity with the rules and conditions which the peoples and nations freely consider to be necessary or desirable with regard to the authorization, restriction or prohibition of such activities.

3. In cases where authorization is granted, the capital imported and the earnings on that capital shall be governed by the terms thereof, by the national legislation in force, and by international law. The profits derived must be shared in the proportions freely agreed upon, in each case, between the investors and the recipient State, due care being taken to ensure that there is no impairment, for any reason, of that State’s sovereignty over its natural wealth and resources.

Those who care about the war in the Congo and neighboring states, the ongoing ethnic cleansing in Palestine should see these connections and find a way to work in solidarity. To build a significant boycott movement against these forms of colonialism. There is something lacking in this sort of solidarity, which Bill Fletcher makes clear in this tidbit of an talk on the relationship between South African apartheid and Israeli apartheid. Activists interested in building a solid pro-Palestinian movement in the U.S. would do well to listen to Fletcher’s words and heed his advice: