Palestine/Israel News and Information
JPN: Palestinian dispute with PA over land, Resisting Erasure, Watching the Gaza Fiasco and an update on Tali Fahima
August 18, 2005
The views expressed here are those of the editors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Jewish Voice for Peace.
<>Palestinian Farm Family Could Lose Land (Guardian UK) First dispute over dispossession of evacuated land between a Palestinian citizen and the PA
<>Iraq, Palestine and Resisting Erasure (New Profile) Rela Mazali on linking local and international issues
<>Watching the Gaza Fiasco (Counterpunch) Jennifer Loewenstein contrasts the coverage of the Gaza withdrawal with coverage of daily Palestinian pain
<>The Lone Warrior
(Guardian, UK) The case of Tali Fahima, an Israeli peace activist being tried for treason
<>More Important Articles Links to other important news articles for today
[JPN Commentary: After the long history of disputes over land in the Occupied Territories, it should come as no surprise that there will continue to be issues in the Gaza Strip over the disposition of various pieces of land after the Israeli withdrawal. The article below from the Guardian (UK) yesterday illustrates one such dispute.
The owner of the land, Mohammed Duhair, bought the property while Gaza was under Egyptian rule, and lost it when Israel took it away from him and his family in 1970. One can immediately see where such problems would be commonplace and it is likely a glimpse into the future, when, one only hopes, one day the land will be under Palestinian governmental control for the first time. But it is inevitable that a new bureaucracy, taking over from the administration of an occupying power, which itself took over administration from another power with which it was a belligerent for decades, will find it very difficult to verify claims and handle such matters.
A story such as this one is also likely to be seen again in the future, used as a tool to discredit Palestinian government for Western audiences. The argument will, on some level, come down to the rights of an individual weighed against the collective good. People coming out from decades of dispossession and occupation like the Palestinians need to look at the larger picture, but Westerners tend to prioritize individual rights, especially when it comes to property.
The Palestinian Authority agreed that the houses in the settlements being emptied now in Gaza were not going to be useful for them. In an area as depressed and over-populated as Gaza, having 20% of the land devoted to homes that are single-story, with spacious plots of land around them, is an unacceptable way of building a town. In the same way, it will make sense for the PA to use as much land as it can for public housing and other public needs. However, one hopes they do not lose sight of the fact that for many Palestinians, memories of their lost homes and property have sustained them for many years. They must find a way to serve the masses of Palestinians without dashing the hopes of people who have dreamed of an Israeli departure for decades. — MP]
Palestinian Farm Family Could Lose Land
Wednesday August 17, 2005
By LARA SUKHTIAN, Associated Press Writer
RAFAH REFUGEE CAMP, Gaza Strip (AP) – The Israeli settlement of Morag, one of 21 to be dismantled by Israel in the coming days, sits on 150 acres owned by a Palestinian farming family.
Until just a few days ago, the Duhair clan had been excited about getting back the land expropriated by the Israeli military in 1970. But these hopes were crushed when the family learned of Palestinian government plans to build a large housing development on the property instead.
The fate of most of the land now still occupied by the settlements remains unclear. The Palestinian Authority has said it plans to build high-rise apartment buildings there for thousands of Palestinians who lost their homes during more than four years of Palestinian-Israeli violence.
The residents of the Rafah refugee camp, just next to the Gush Katif settlement bloc, have suffered the most. More than 13,000 of its 90,000 residents have been made homeless by Israeli demolitions since 2000. In most of the demolitions, Israeli bulldozers razed homes to widen a buffer along an Israeli military road on the Gaza-Egypt border.
Housing in this dusty poverty stricken camp is desperately needed.
The Duhairs, however, say they will not lose their land again and they will use all means possible, including taking the Palestinian Authority to court, to get it back.
“This is our land. It was taken away from us once. We will never allow it to be taken away from us again,” said farmer Mohammed Duhair as he proudly displayed laminated land deeds issued more than 40 years ago, when Egypt still controlled the coastal strip. Gaza was captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war.
The Duhairs are a clan with about 2,000 members, with smaller families owning individual parcels of land. Mohammed Duhair said he owns nearly 50 acres in what is today Morag. Before the land expropriations by Israel, he said, he planted peaches, citrus, almonds and lentils.
“In town our lentils were known as the mother of all lentils because they were so good,” said Duhair. “The land was a little peace of heaven and we want it back.”
Palestinian officials, however, contend that 91 percent of territory now being occupied by settlements was public land during the Egyptian era. The remaining 9 percent are privately owned, but that land will only be returned if the Palestinian government decides there is no public use for it, officials say.
In crowded Gaza, it appears unlikely the government wouldn’t have use for the settlement land.
“We will only give back the land if it doesn’t serve a public use, like streets, schools or any assets left behind by the Israelis,” Freih Abu Meddein, director of the Palestinian Land Authority. He said land owners would be compensated.
Although plans for the evacuated settlements are vague, Palestinian information minister Nabil Shaath said this week the government plans to build a housing development on the land Morag currently sits on.
Mohammed Duhair said he bought the land in 1961. One night in 1970, Duhair recalled, Israeli troops showed up on his property, declared it a closed military zone, and banned the family from going there.
Several years later, the closed military zone was transformed into an isolated community of some 220 Jewish settlers who are now facing evacuation.
Duhair’s cousin Zuhair also owns land in the Morag settlement. Only eight acres of his 45 acres were confiscated in 1970 by the army. The rest was seized after Palestinian gunmen used what remained of his farm to fire on the Morag settlers.
That night, in October 2000, just weeks after the start of the second Palestinian uprising, the army showed up with five bulldozers, demolished his greenhouses and sent him packing, Zuhair said.
“I sat and watched as they destroyed my life’s work. I was a farmer. I lived off the land and I lived well. Now I have to beg for a bag of flour,” Zuhair said.
[JPN Commentary: The talk by Rela Mazali – a co-founder of New Profile and one of JPN editors – was given at the recent International Women in Black conference. The conference was attended by 750 women, coming from 44 countries from all over the globe. It was held in East Jerusalem. News coverage included an item which was aired on Israeli national TV (channel 1) at prime time on Friday evening, complete with a lengthy interview with one of the participants from WIB Serbia. The proceedings were also broadcast live on the internet and on Freespeech TV in the U.S – RG]
Iraq, Palestine and Resisting Erasure
Linking Local with International Issues: Future Plans and Strategies for Struggle International Women in Black Conference East Jerusalem 11-16 August 2005
I’d like to read you something. This is part of a declaration: There is widespread opposition to the occupation. Political, social, and civil resistance through peaceful means is subjected to repression by the occupying forces. It is the occupation and its brutality that has provoked a strong armed resistance and certain acts of desperation. By the principles embodied in the UN Charter and in international law, the popular national resistance to the occupation is legitimate and justified. It deserves the support of people everywhere who care for justice and freedom. Another section of the same declaration charges the occupying forces of: Actively creating conditions under which the status of … women has seriously been degraded … Women’s freedom of movement has severely been limited, restricting their access to the public sphere, to education, livelihood, political and social engagement. This is just one of many crimes the occupying forces are charged with in this declaration. Some of the others are: Targeting the civilian population Using deadly violence against peaceful protestors Imposing punishments without charge or trial, including collective punishment Subjecting … civilians to torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment Willfully devastating the environment Obstructing the right to information
Many of these charges could be brought, almost word for word, against the Israeli government and the Israeli forces occupying the West Bank and Gaza. But this is not a declaration on the situation in Palestine. It was formulated by the jury of the World Tribunal on Iraq, convened in Istanbul on June 23rd this year. The World Tribunal on Iraq is an extended process, envisioned and carried out by thousands of people of conscience around the world, who – as the declaration states – decided to stand up. The Istanbul session was the culmination of 20 sessions held in different cities of the world and “focusing,” to quote again, “on the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq.” The Istanbul session was organized by a small group of women working cooperatively and totally voluntarily over two years.
The US-led invasion, occupation and pillage of Iraq directly affect the matrix of power throughout the Middle East and in fact throughout the world. I believe that each one of us is seriously imperiled by the current impunity of the governments that have invaded and now occupy Iraq; By their lack of accountability to their own peoples whom they knowingly misled into war with lies about weapons of mass destruction; By their overturning of international law and their wholesale violation of human rights; By the growing swell of worldwide militarization that is driven by this war, and the immense war-profiteering it facilitates; By the complicity-in-arms of international institutions, including the U.N., the media, and major corporations; By the toxication and destruction systematically wreaked upon the earth, the air, the water, the people, the human heritage of Iraq. I believe that all of these pose direct personal threats to each and every one of us.
There are many distinctions between the specific situation in Iraq and the specific situation in the West Bank and Gaza. But almost all the points above bear strong analogies to aspects of Israel’s ruthless occupation and its continuing war against the Palestinians. As citizens of a sovereign state with an active elections system and legislature, it is the people of Israel who bear direct responsibility for the occupation and oppression of the people of the West Bank and Gaza, through their government and their army. But it is a single power-based authority – the United States – that grants and protects the international impunity of both the occupiers of Iraq and the occupiers of Palestine. Resisting one of them requires and involves resisting the other. Resisting the occupation of Palestine means also addressing the U.S.A. and its actions in the region. Resisting the occupation of Iraq means also addressing Israel and its continuing contribution to the militarization of the region.
I believe that the groups resisting each part of this interconnected web could gain from finding out much more about each other and coordinating action at specific, clear-cut points. For instance, right now, New Profile is preparing a speaking tour in the U.S. for Diana Dolev (one of the organizers of this conference) and we’ve been trying – though without clear results yet – to set up joint talks with Iraq Veterans Against the War, with the feminist anti-war group Code Pink and with other U.S. anti-war groups. We believe that the messages on each of these distinct cases – Iraq and Palestine – would both amplify and clarify each other; Would underline the urgency of each and both. This type of work could connect us to U.S. audiences who haven’t yet invested much interest in Israel-Palestine. It could offer our American counterparts various methods, ideas, language.
For many, and maybe all, of us this link between occupations and occupiers is completely evident. But I’d like to stress that I believe it terribly important for some of us to invest in learning the specifics – exactly how the channels of connection run; Precisely which economic and political bodies, institutions and individuals are active in both contexts. It’s vital to understand as much as we possibly can about how those exercising power in these different but linked locations interact and interconnect. That is the matrix of power that we’re resisting. We need to see it clearly in order to direct our resistance. This brings me to some of what was being said yesterday afternoon at the workshop on Sanctions, Boycott and Divestment.
Dalit Baum among others was emphasizing the importance of knowledge-building as a condition for such a campaign. Of compiling a list of institutions and companies to be divested from or boycotted. Personally, I have felt for a long time that Israeli society will finally find its way to end the occupation when the price it’s paying really begins to hurt. That is one of the reasons that New Profile welcomes and supports all forms of refusal to serve in the military. Because even refusal to serve for so-called egotistical reasons, often in the form of a psychological exemption, implies at the very least that the particular young man or woman taking this course considers the personal price required in order for the state to maintain armed conflict too high for him or her to pay. The steadily rising numbers of young people failing to serve at all or leaving the army early on express a growing unwillingness throughout Israeli society to go on paying this kind of price.
On the issue of sanctions, divestment and boycott, I want to add my individual voice to the call coming out of Palestinian civil society and to the view of many here that these are a central, vital next step. I very much hope that the final declaration of this conference will include such a call. I am asking the international community: Please, boycott me. Boycott my country. Sanction it till it stops committing these crimes. And sanction as well those outside it who are profiting. To illustrate another possibility for connected action – one of the jury’s recommendations at the World Tribunal was as follows: That people throughout the world launch nonviolent actions against US and UK corporations that directly profit from this war. Examples of such corporations include Halliburton, Bechtel, The Carlyle Group, … (I’m skipping here). The following companies have sued Iraq and received “reparation awards”: Toys R Us, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Shell, Nestlé, Pepsi, Phillip Morris, Sheraton, Mobil. Such actions may take the form of direct actions such as shutting down their offices, consumer boycotts, and pressure on shareholders to divest.
Strategies, to me, is an intimidating word, heavy with high expectations for bright new ideas. More important, maybe, are my immediate visions of world maps on the wall and men pointing out different locations. Originally, the term is about planning the effective use of organized violence. It implies a birdseye view, from “above”, with the “strategists” deciding how to move people and things around to their advantage. The strategizing of those of us working to make the world humane, is and has to be different. It can’t be conducted “from above” as it were, if it intends to create conditions in which people – all people – decide how to move themselves around and have the basic resources to do so. What do we do, then, to make this current world humane as we meanwhile view it and act in it from a “people-perspective”?
I have to say, for one thing, that I think we know what we’re doing. We’ve learned it from many many women and men who did it before us and who, many times, succeeded though many of them also failed. That’s part of our people-perspective. We know what do. More or less. Always imperfectly. But still. Part of strategy is to go on doing it.
This sounds terribly disappointing. Here in Israel-Palestine we haven’t ended the occupation or achieved a solution for the millions of Palestinians continuously dispossessed, over more than half a century, of their homes, lands, livelihood, of their social fabric and cultural heritage. We haven’t stopped Israel’s accelerated militarization. We haven’t ended the racist discrimination against the Palestinians who are citizens of Israel. We haven’t ended the systemic sexist, homophobic, xenophobic oppression practiced on a broad scale in this country. We haven’t undone the deep-set exploitation, discrimination and marginalization of Mizrachi Israelis or Arab Jews. Or the rampant dispossession of the poor. I’m not talking about denying any of that. I’m talking about going on doing what we know could change it.
Strategies are usually about the future. One important strategy is and needs to be about the past and present – We need to recognize the almost invisible successes along the often hopeless way.Last Wednesday at 8am I was outside Israel’s main induction base, to support Alex Cohn, Shaul Mograbi Berger, Wissam Kabalan and Orwa Zidan, who are currently imprisoned for declaring their refusal to serve in an occupying army. It was lively and noisy there with over 150 demonstrators on a steaming weekday morning. One of them was a young pacifist I interviewed almost about 8 years ago about his refusal and exemption from the army. I walked over to say Œhi’ and he commented, “We’ve come a really long way, haven’t we?” “What do you mean?” I asked. Looking around, he said, “When I refused I didn’t know a single person who had done the same thing. I hadn’t even heard of anyone else who had refused.”
This young man was giving me a modest but hopeful look at how reality around him had actually changed. And that look, that kind of look, rather than birdseye views, is I believe central to our strategies. Looking at where we make change on a human scale.
For the powers we’re resisting, making our successes seem invisible and insignificant is an important strategy. Our feminist, women’s, eye-level look, is not supposed to count. The events and processes created by people of conscience at the World Tribunal on Iraq, at the Women In Black conference in Jerusalem, are supposed to be totally absent from the large scale maps and the mainstream media. They don’t show any of the changes we make. Just as they don’t show the care-taking work done by almost all of us as women, despite the fact that the entire world depends on it. But as feminists we’ve learned to see it between their lines and arrows. Our work is supposed to evaporate out of view in face of the men who decide how to move around people and money and things. Resisting that erasure is crucial. And first of all resisting it among ourselves. This is a central tool for our survival as political actors. It is part of our political work. It’s not just emotional sustenance, although that’s extremely important. Resisting erasure of the differences we make is itself part of making a difference. We need to practice this form of resistance in every way we can find and at every level on which we operate. We will not be wiped off the map because we’re redrawing it. I’m asking us all to take a careful look at different pieces of the change we’re making. It’s slow. It’s not even near enough. But we are making change in face of impossible odds. Look for it. Find it. Recognize it. Resist erasure. That’s the strategy I’ll end with today.
[JPN Editor’s note: The following is a guest commentary from JVP’s co-director, Liat Weingart.]
[JPN Commentary: A reporter from a local TV station told me on Monday that over 1,000 journalists from around the world are registered with the Israeli government to report from Gaza about the disengagement. Every day this week, the news in the US has been filled with profiles of Israeli settlers leaving their homes or protesting the disengagement. Within 30 minutes on NPR on August 18, three Israeli Army spokespeople were interviewed to talk about how soldiers are coping with the emotional trauma of the difficult task of removing Jewish settlers from their homes. An August 17 New York Times article quotes a heart-wrenching letter written on the walls of the Zigdon family’s home: “Here we sat, ate, laughed and cried. Soldiers and policemen, our house is your home, like your mother’s, the smells of the food and the songs of the Sabbath, which the State of Israel is taking away from us, with our memories and those of hundreds of friends whom we hosted here. We are leaving with our heads down. The crown has fallen from our heads. We the Zigdon family want to be remembered and not forgotten.”
In May 2005, no such media firestorm took place during Israel’s “Operation Rainbow,” when the Israeli military made over 750 Palestinians, most of them already refugees, homeless. In her latest article, Jennifer Loewenstein juxtaposes the media attention garnered by the disengagement with the lack thereof given to the fate of Palestinians. She analyzes why the media coverage about the Gaza disengagement is further fueling misunderstanding about the realities of this conflict. ˆ Liat Weingart]
Watching the Gazan Fiasco: The Shame of It All
By JENNIFER LOEWENSTEIN
A great charade is taking place in front of the world media in the Gaza Strip. It is the staged evacuation of 8000 Jewish settlers from their illegal settlement homes, and it has been carefully designed to create imagery to support Israel’s US-backed takeover of the West Bank and cantonization of the Palestinians.
There was never the slightest reason for Israel to send in the army to remove these settlers. The entire operation could have been managed, without the melodrama necessary for a media frenzy, by providing them with a fixed date on which the IDF would withdraw from inside the Gaza Strip. A week before, all the settlers will quietly have left – with no TV cameras, no weeping girls, no anguished soldiers, no commentators asking cloying questions of how Jews could remove other Jews from their homes, and no more trauma about their terrible suffering, the world’s victims, who therefore have to be helped to kick the Palestinians out of the West Bank.
The settlers will relocate to other parts of Israel – and in some cases to other illegal settlements in the West Bank – handsomely compensated for their inconvenience. Indeed, each Jewish family leaving the Gaza Strip will receive between $140,000 and $400,000 just for the cost of the home they leave behind. But these details are rarely mentioned in the tempest of reporting on the “great confrontation” and “historical moment” brought to us by Sharon and the thieving, murderous settler-culture he helped create.
On ABC’s Nightline Monday night, a reporter interviewed a young, sympathetic Israeli woman from the largest Gaza settlement, Neve Dekalim – a girl with sincerity in her voice, holding back tears. She doesn’t view the soldiers as her enemy, she says, and doesn’t want violence. She will leave even though to do so is causing her great pain. She talked about the tree she planted in front of her home with her brother when she was three; about growing up in the house they were now leaving, the memories, and knowing she could never return; that even if she did, everything she knew would be gone from the scene. The camera then panned to her elderly parents sitting somberly amid boxed-up goods, surveying the scene, looking forlorn and resigned. Her mother was a kindergarten teacher, we are told. She knew just about all of the children who grew up here near the sea.
In the 5 years of Israel’s brutal suppression of the Palestinian uprising against the occupation, I never once saw or heard a segment as long and with as much sentimental, human detail as I did here; never once remember a reporter allowing a sympathetic young Palestinian woman, whose home was just bulldozed and who lost everything she owned, tell of her pain and sorrow, of her memories and her family’s memories; never got to listen to her reflect on where she would go now and how she would live. And yet in Gaza alone more than 23,000 people have lost their homes to Israeli bulldozers and bombs since September 2000 — often at a moment’s notice – on the grounds that they “threatened Israel’s security.” The vast majority of the destroyed homes were located too close to an IDF military outpost or illegal settlement to be allowed to continue standing. The victims received no compensation for their losses and had no place waiting for them to relocate. Most ended up in temporary UNRWA tent-cities until they could find shelter elsewhere in the densely overcrowded Strip, a quarter of whose best land was inhabited by the 1% of the population that was Jewish and occupying the land at their expense.
Where were the cameramen in May 2004 in Rafah when refugees twice over lost their homes again in a single night’s raid, able to retrieve nothing of what they owned? Where were they when bulldozers and tanks tore up paved streets with steel blades, wrecked the sewage and water pipes, cut electricity lines, and demolished a park and a zoo; when snipers shot two children, a brother and sister, feeding their pigeons on the roof of their home? When the occupying army fired a tank shell into a group of peaceful demonstrators killing 14 of them including two children? Where have they been for the past five years when the summer heat of Rafah makes life so unbearable it is all one can do to sit quietly in the shade of one’s corrugated tin roof — because s/he is forbidden to go to the sea, ten minutes’ walking distance from the city center? Or because if they ventured to the more open spaces they became walking human targets? And when their citizens resisted, where were the accolades and the admiring media to comment on the “pluck,” the “will” and “audacity” of these “young people”?
On Tuesday, 16 August, the Israeli daily Ha‚aretz reported that more than 900 journalists from Israel and around the world are covering the events in Gaza, and that hundreds of others are in cities and towns in Israel to cover local reactions. Were there ever that many journalists in one place during the past 5 years to cover the Palestinian Intifada?
Where were the 900 international journalists in April 2002 after the Jenin refugee camp was laid to waste in the matter of a week in a show of pure Israeli hubris and sadism? Where were the 900 international journalists last fall when the Jabalya refugee camp in Gaza lay under an Israeli siege and more than 100 civilians were killed? Where were they for five years while the entire physical infrastructure of the Gaza Strip was being destroyed? Which one of them reported that every crime of the Israeli occupation – from home demolitions, targeted assassinations and total closures to the murder of civilians and the wanton destruction of commercial and public property- increased significantly in Gaza after Sharon’s “Disengagement” Plan – that great step toward peace – was announced?
Where are the hundreds of journalists who should be covering the many non-violent protests by Palestinians and Israelis against the Apartheid Wall? -Non-violent protesters met with violence and humiliation by Israeli armed forces? Where are the hundreds of journalists who should be reporting on the economic and geographic encirclement of Palestinian East Jerusalem and of the bisection of the West Bank and the subdivision of each region into dozens of isolated mini-prisons? Why aren’t we being barraged by outraged reports about the Jewish-only bypass roads? About the hundreds of pointless internal checkpoints? About the countless untried executions and maimings? About the torture and abuse of Palestinians in Israeli prisons?
Where were these hundreds of journalists when each of the 680 Palestinian children shot to death by Israeli soldiers over the last 5 years was laid to rest by grief-stricken family members? The shame of it all defies words.
Now instead report after report announces the “end to the 38 year old occupation” of the Gaza Strip, a “turning point for peace” and the news that “it is now illegal for Israelis to live in Gaza.” Is this some kind of joke?
Yes, it is “illegal for Israelis to live in the Gaza Strip” as colonizers from another land. It has been illegal for 38 years. (If they wish to move there and live as equals with the Palestinians and not as Israeli citizens they may do so.)
Sharon’s unilateral “Disengagement” plan is not ending the occupation of Gaza. The Israelis are not relinquishing control over the Strip. They are retaining control of all land, air and sea borders including the Philadelphi corridor along the Gaza/Egypt border where the Egyptians may be allowed to patrol under Israel’s watchful eye and according to Israel’s strictest terms. The 1.4 million inhabitants of Gaza remain prisoners in a giant penal colony, despite what their partisan leaders are attempting to claim. The IDF is merely redeploying outside the Gaza Strip, which is surrounded by electrical and concrete fences, barbed wire, watchtowers, armed guards and motion censors, and it will retain the authority to invade Gaza on a whim. Eight thousand Palestinian workers working in Israel for slave wages will soon be banned from returning to work. Another 3,200 Palestinians who worked in the settlements for a sub-minimum-wage have been summarily dismissed without recourse to severance pay or other forms of compensation. Still others will lose their livelihoods when the Israelis move the Gaza Industrial Zone from Erez to somewhere in the Negev desert.
The World Bank reported in December 2004 that both poverty and unemployment will rise following the “Disengagement” even under the best of circumstances because Israel will retain full control over the movement of goods in and out of Gaza, will maintain an enforced separation of the West Bank and Gaza preventing the residents of each from visiting one another, and will draw up separate customs agreements with each zone severing their already shattered economies— and yet we are forced to listen day in and day out to news about this historic peace initiative, this great turning point in the career of Ariel Sharon, this story of national trauma for the brothers and sisters who have had to carry out the painful orders of their wise and besieged leader.
What will it take to get the truth across to people? To the young woman of Neve Dekalim who can speak her words without batting an eyelash of embarrassment or shame? As the cameras zoom in on angry settlers poignantly clashing with their “brothers and sisters” in the Israeli army, who will be concerned about their other brothers and sisters in Gaza? When will the Palestinian history of 1948 and 1967, and of each passing day under the violence of dispossession and dehumanization, get a headline in our papers?
I am reminded of an interview I had this summer in Beirut with Hussein Nabulsi of Hizbullah – an organization that has had nothing to do with the movement for Palestinian national liberation whatsoever, but one that has become allied with those it sees as the real victims of US and Israeli policies and lies. I remember his tightly shut eyes and his clenched fists as he asked how long Arabs and Muslims were supposed to accept the accusations that they are the victimizers and the terrorists. “It hurts,” he said in a whispered ardor. “It hurts so much to watch this injustice every day.” And he went on to explain to me why the Americans and the Israelis – with their monstrous military arsenals – will never be victorious.
Jennifer Loewenstein will be a visiting Fellow at the Refugee Studies Centre at Oxford University beginning this fall. She can be reached: email@example.com
[JPN Commentary: Tali Fahima, a Mizrahi (of Eastern descent) woman who dared to act outside the accepted channels of dissent, has been jailed for the last year, much of the time in solitary confinement. The Guardian’s article fleshes out some of the reasons she was singled out. She is in desperate need of money, to pay her lawyers, Gaby Lasky and Smadar Ben- Natan, and also for such basic needs such as toothpaste, soap, shampoo etc. Her mother, who is supporting her and who works as a maid,spoke at the international Women in Black conference which took place a few days ago in Jerusalem. Perhaps this will help garner support, both financial and political.
People who wish to help the campaign to free Tali Fahima can visit www.freetalifahima.org/
Another way to help raise money for is by purchasing a copy of Juliano Mer-Khamis’s movie: “Arna’s Children”. Portion of the proceeds are being donated to this cause. To find out more, visit www.arna.info/Arna/ RG]
The lone warrior
Rachel Shabi on the extraordinary story of the 29-year-old Israeli who dared befriend one of her country’s most wanted
Friday August 12, 2005 The Guardian
Tali Fahima has been called “whore of the Arabs”, “traitor” and “the terrorist’s girlfriend”. She is also seen as a political prisoner, persecuted for daring to condemn the occupation of Palestine. This 29-year-old Israeli, whose case has been filling the Israeli press, has been in prison for exactly one year, remanded until her trial concludes – though it is not clear when that might be.
Fahima is not, by any definition, a “usual suspects” sort of activist. A former legal secretary from the development town of Kiryat Gat in southern Israel, she voted for Sharon’s Likud party and served in the army. She does not belong to any political organisation, nor does she espouse any branded ideology. Her actions were taken independently. Those actions have led to a severe indictment; she has been accused of aiding the enemy during wartime, supporting a terrorist organisation, providing information to the enemy, having contact with a foreign enemy, and possession of an illegal weapon. Fahima has denied the charges. Her lawyer, Smadar Ben-Natan, says Fahima was an easy target for the Israeli authorities, partly because she has been so vocal about Palestine – but also because, as an activist, she was “so unexpected, and thus so frightening to the establishment”.
At the start of the second intifada, Fahima began to think for the first time about why anyone would commit or command a suicide bomb attack. “I was brought up to consider Arabs as something that should not be here,” she said last year. “One day I understood there were many gaps in my information, things that are not in the media. I realised it’s about human beings and we have a responsibility for the way their lives look.”
She began to trawl internet news sites, striking up conversations with people from Arab countries. Her quest led her to contact Zakariya Zubeidi – one of Israeli’s most wanted, the Jenin leader of al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, responsible for deadly attacks on Israel. Fahima arranged to visit him in Jenin refugee camp. “She was afraid,” says Zubeidi. “How could she, a Jew, go to Jenin? She thought we could kill her, kidnap her. I said, ‘You will have full protection.’”
Fahima visited the camp several times and spoke to the media about what she saw there – the state of life under occupation, and the behaviour of Israeli soldiers in Jenin. She still believed suicide attacks to be “the cruellest act” but said: “Were the situation reversed, and I were forced to live under the conditions [the Palestinians] do, I’d have been the first to fight . . .I would not have been willing to live in such darkness.” She also declared herself willing to act as a human shield for Zubeidi: “I am not familiar with the whole of Palestine, and I don’t know if everyone is worthy of being saved. This man is.”
In August 2004, Fahima was arrested, interrogated by security officials for one month and then placed under administrative detention for three months. Administrative detention is something that happens to Palestinians, not Israeli Jews (though some right-wing Jewish settlers in Gaza have recently received the same treatment). Fahima was indicted in December 2004 and since then, all attempts to move her from prison to house arrest have failed. At a hearing for the most recent attempt last month, Judge Devora Berliner said: “Fahima’s allegiance is not to the state of Israel, a fact which makes her a source of danger. This reinforces the need to continue her prison sentence.”
“The whole legal system is totally convinced that she is a very dangerous person,” says Gideon Levy, of Israel’s Ha’aretz newspaper. Fahima’s supporters argue this “dangerous woman” label is purely a result of vocal condemnation of Israel’s occupation. And because she dared enter the territories and befriend a wanted Palestinian. “She went against the idea of separation, that peace goes with separation and against the national denial that we share the same space or any sense of culture with the Palestinians,” says Lin Chaplain Dora, of the Women’s Coalition for Just Peace.
What made Fahima stand out from other Israeli activists – who generally do not get accused of treason or interned – is her ordinariness. “She is effective because of who she is, because she has the potential of convincing other people like her,” says her lawyer. Political activity might be expected – and to a degree tolerated – from “predictable” activists: privileged, educated Israelis of European descent, operating within the framework of left-wing activism. But Fahima?
“She worked alone, and the government is very concerned about people who do that,” says Yona Knopova, an Israeli from the international peace network, Women in Black.
Moreover, in race-conscious Israel, Fahima’s name signposts her middle-eastern descent. Fahima’s family are Algerian Jewish migrants with Moroccan roots; typically, Mizrahi (middle-eastern) Jews form the Israeli working class, are less educated and vote for the right – they don’t become activists. Fahima’s activities have sparked a deep-seated fear in Israel’s ruling class of European Jews, that the Mizrahi – viewed as a potential fifth column within the country – might form alliances with the Palestinians. “Tali broke a big taboo,” says Israeli anthropologist, Smadar Lavie. “For a Mizrahi to have sympathies for the Palestinians is the biggest no-no.”
Fahima is often described in Israeli tabloids as Zubeidi’s girlfriend. Both deny the allegation (he is married with two children), while female peace campaigners are not surprised by it. “It is easier to say, ‘Oh she’s a whore,’ than to understand that a woman might have her own political ideas,” says Knopova. Focusing on a spurious romance, she says, detracts from Fahima’s political motivations. Moreover, the “Arab lover” tag speaks to a taboo over relationships between Israeli Jews and Palestinians.
Fahima’s family are also suffering. Her mother, Sara Lahiani, says, “People said they’d kill me, that my house should be blown up, that we shouldn’t be Jews.” Some family have severed contact, as have most of Fahima’s friends: “They were afraid.” Lahiani, a single parent of three, campaigns full-time for Fahima’s freedom. “My daughter is a good woman who doesn’t want to hurt anyone. She is in prison because of her ideas. You don’t have to agree with her, but you have to respect the ideas of others.”
Zubeidi says he feels responsible. “I pray for her to be freed,” he says. “Especially because she is a woman. Men are stronger – though Tali is stronger than all the men.” He says Fahima is by no means the only Israeli to have visited him and maintains she never sought to assist in any acts of terror. “She never said she wanted to betray her people, to help me in an attack or anything , because that’s a treacherous thing, and Tali is not a traitor. She came here to help the Palestinian people … to help is not to attack her people.”
Fahima’s mother and lawyer both say she was trying to set up a children’s education centre in Jenin.
Fahima spent seven months in solitary confinement and has complained of harsh treatment by prison officials and her interrogators (who recently admitted they tried to recruit her to the security services). Now at least she is no longer isolated and is allowed phone calls and visits.
Israeli authorities say Fahima is a serious threat to the nation. “She is connected with terror and therefore she is in prison” says Gideon Ezra, minister for public security. Israeli defence minister Shaul Mofaz says: “Intelligence information, which clearly suggested the involvement of Tali Fahima in organisations that were willing to commit terror activities against Israeli, has been gathered.” He adds security sources recommended Fahima’s detention as “the only way to stop her activity”.
Gideon Levy at Ha’aretz argues that Fahima’s case is intended as a deterrent. “They want to stop ordinary Israelis going to refugee camps [in Palestine] and talking to so-called terrorists and realising that the demons they were told about are also human beings.” He fears Fahima will pay a “high price” for her provocative position, and one “she doesn’t deserve”. When her trial resumes next month, we’ll find out just how high that price will be.
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Jewish Peace News Editors: Judith Norman Alistair Welchman Mitchell Plitnick Lincoln Shlensky Ami Kronfeld Rela Mazali Sarah Anne Minkin Joel Beinin Racheli Gai