Donating to Apartheid

If the donor states now finance the upgrading of Palestinian roads, they will be providing the Palestinians with temporary relief. But they will be direct accessories in consolidating a uniquely Israeli regime of separation and apartheid.

Amira Hass, Haaretz, Sep 08, 2004

It’s only logical and self-evident that the road from Bir Zeit to Attara, north of Ramallah, be upgraded. It’s a narrow, dangerous road, without lighting, or median lines, or sidewalks or even shoulders to the road. For the same reasons, the Ein Ariq road west of Ramallah cries out for improvement, as does the Nahalin-Husan road west of Bethlehem. Those are only three arteries of the road network in the West Bank that the Palestinian Authority planned to improve by the end of the 1990s, with help from the donor countries as part of the Oslo process.

But over the last four years, those roads and others like them became the only roads, the main avenues that bore all the Palestinian traffic in their regions and between regions in the West Bank. Israel prohibits Palestinians from using the main inter-urban highways in the West Bank or it drastically limits their rights to use those roads, which are mainly for the use of the settlers. In recent years, thousands of Palestinian vehicles have been daily directed to use the secondary roads, banned from the main highways.

The three roads come from a list of 30 that Israel told the World Bank it wants to see upgraded. Other roads for Palestinians, some new, some existent, some to be upgraded with tunnels and rotaries, will be added to the list that Israel expects the donor states to finance.

The logic is clear here, too. The settlements are a given, a fact. The danger to the lives of the settlers and other Israeli civilians on the “joint” roads is tangible, as has been proven by many drive-by shootings. But freedom of movement for the Palestinians, as the World Bank has stated, is vital for economic recovery.

The donor nations are committed to help the Palestinian Authority. Therefore, build separate roads for the Palestinians. And since there is no partner for peace and negotiations, we will continue to develop for our citizens a separate network of roads, which will bring them even closer to sovereign Israel and continue to encourage new settlers to move to the settlements.

Seemingly, it’s a temporary, innocent solution, essentially reactive, answering the need to protect the safety of Israeli citizens because of the current reality. In effect, the creation of two separate road networks is a logical step, utterly not innocent or accidental, a part of the long-term systematic planning of the settlements that began almost as far back as 1967. Its purpose: to expand the borders of the state of Israel as much as possible, according to the spreading and strengthening of the settlements.

What makes the Israeli planning system so great is that every stage can be explained as an ad-hoc reaction, or the whim of this or that government or pressure group, ignoring the initial goal. Thus, at every stage, the silently compliant can be counted on to accept the latest development, even if they say they are against settlements in principle.

If Yossi Beilin now supports leaving Ma’aleh Adumim and Givat Ze’ev under Israeli control because they are large and established settlements, in another five years he and his colleagues from the Geneva initiative will be forced to support leaving Givat Assaf and Itamar in place, as each will be a well-established neighborhood of some full-fledged Israeli city.

The donor states, if they finance now the work on the Palestinian roads Israel wants upgraded and improved, will be contributing to the temporary relief of many Palestinians. But they will be direct accessories to turning available land for farming and construction into unnecessary asphalt, further damaging the landscape and environment; and they will assist in consolidating a uniquely Israeli regime of separation and apartheid, making permanent the separation of neighboring communities divided on ethnic grounds, in an area where most of the land has been taken away for the benefit of a dominant minority.

The Jews will have broad, expansive, green communities with “high” standards of living, a developed infrastructure, as much water as they want – the “First World.” Beside them will be a “Third World” of suffocatingly dense communities, cut off from other communities and limited in their contacts because of a web of endless roads, the Israeli law and its army, and subject to a strict regime of water quotas and allocation. And thus, while the international economic aid is meant to serve as a strategic instrument for a two-state solution along the borders of June 4, 1967, it is turned into an instrument of the Israeli settlement policies.

The donor states are so absurdly financing infrastructure work at the request of the PA, that the Palestinians have become unwitting accessories to the Israeli settlement enterprise. For long-term national reasons, they can oppose upgrading the roads that Israel allows them to use according to Israeli priorities. Then Israel will wave around the argument that the Palestinian leadership is once again sacrificing the welfare of its people – and continue to drastically limit the freedom of movement of the Palestinians. Or the Palestinians can agree to the paving of separate roads because of the clear and immediate needs of the residents. Thus they can free the donor states of the need to explain to their taxpayers why, as donor nations, they are helping to build and maintain a new apartheid regime.

Hilarity from Gaza

9/8/2004

Dear Jennifer,

I hope you are fine. I was reading the news on haaretz daily today when I encountered the following text:

    ‘The army’s presence around the southern town of Khan Yunis, however, is part of a routine operation to search for wanted men and weapons. Militants use tunnels running underneath the nearby border with Egypt to smuggle in arms’

I was surprised. Tunnels now extend from Khan Younis to the border of Rafah?!? Can you believe it? It is amazing how ridiculous the Israeli media can be, and even more the army media. They truly believe that people are idiots. –this claim is astounding, no?

I read an article by Amira Hass (Donating to apartheid, http://www.haaretz.com/donating-to-apartheid-1.134183) and think it is a very good piece. Try to read it if you have the time.

Have my best wishes.

Mahmud M. Abu Rahma
Coordinator of Training & Mass Communication Unit
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights
Tel/fax: +970 (0)8 2820447/2
Email: mahmud@mezan.org
Web: www.mezan.org

The direct distance from Khan Yunis to Rafah is 5 miles.

September 20-24, 2004
WHEELS OF JUSTICE TOUR

BRINGING THE OCCUPATION OF IRAQ AND PALESTINE TO MADISON

On September 20th and 24th, the Madison Area Peace Coalition and Madison-Rafah Sister City Project host the Wheels of Justice Tour. Rolling into town in a full-size, brightly decorated school bus, the tour brings eyewitness accounts from Iraq and Palestine to challenge and educate Americans about the repercussions of war and occupation, both on people abroad and at home.

Having seen and lived with war, terror and occupation in Iraq and Palestine, participants in the Wheels of Justice offer first-hand experience irrespective of partisan politics. The tour travels on a converted school bus that doubles as a mobile billboard and peace center. In the past three years, the bus has traveled more than fifty thousand miles to over four hundred locations throughout the United States. For additional information, visit www.justicewheels.org.

Locally, the tour includes stops at a number of Madison-area schools and colleges, such as MATC, Edgewood College, and East High School. In addition, there will be a free public forum:

Monday, September 20th, 7:00 pm
“From the Mouth of Madness: Deep Inside the Occupations of Iraq & Palestine”

with speakers, Michael Birmingham & Mazin Qumsiyeh
Rainbow Bookstore, 426 W. Gilman St., Madison, WI

Following the discussion, Mazin Qumsiyeh will sign his latest book, Sharing the Land of Canaan: Human Rights and the Israeli-Palestinian Struggle.

“We advocate justice and human rights as the only real roadmap for peace at home and abroad,” states Rae Vogeler of the Madison Area Peace Coalition. “We call upon the United States to recognize and adhere to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to stop the violence of war and occupation, and to immediately withdraw troops and military funding from the Middle East.”

Nationally, the tour is sponsored by Voices in the Wilderness (www.nonviolence.org/vitw/) and the Palestine Right to Return Coalition (www.Al-Awda.org) with support from affiliates of the International Solidarity Movement.

To schedule the Wheels of Justice Tour to visit your school, organization, media outlet, or place of worship, please contact Rae Vogeler at (608) 835-7501 or rae-v at charter.net.

Letter from a friend in Gaza

8/19/2004

Here’s a message from a friend in Gaza. It talks about life in Rafah, Gaza City, working at the NGO Al Mezan. A true terrorist Palestinian with no other concerns than the destruction of Israel. — Jennifer Loewenstein

Dear J,

It was great talking to you yesterday.

When I told you I was tired, I was really tired; both physically and psychologically. Work’s craziness is unbelieveable, with every-day new tasks that I perform. As always there are several things to work on every day. Now, the follow up of the networks we are engaged with, the prisoners’ hunger strike, and the NGO monitoring on elections are the most urgent things. It’s unbelievable how much it takes to meet our obligation towards network, God, it’s too much, but so important, too.

Guests and social events never end in the summer. I went to Rafah on Thursday, and we made seven visits to people who we must visit. I had to develop a brief report on Beit Hanoun (with Sameer); and I had two very difficult days there.

I fasted until 9pm yesterday, trying to feel with prisoners; and I thought of them a lot. I am doing so today (only coffee, cigarittes and water), too. And life goes on.

You asked me about the bombing of Gaza yesterday. Well, there was an airstrike in Shijayia (east of Gaza City) on Tuesday, and 5 were killed. Yesterday there was a strike on Al Zeitun, also in Gaza City, but no ione was injured or killed. IOF said they bombarded a Qassam workshop. In Rafah, it is too difficult. And I mean much beyond how it used to be. The Israelis make everyday events (demolition, arbitrary firing, and now air strikes on empty homes at the border). In Tel Sultan, soldiers get amused every night when they fire on a major electricity transformer. The nieghborhood sleeps without electricity every night, really. The conditions in this town, God my town, are getting worse every day. Even the PA (Palestinian Authority) does not pay any attention to its problems any longer.

This is a kind of sad message, sorry, but it reflects what I am concerned about, among many other things. Life is really awful here, J, and becomes more diffcult every day. I hate this so much.

Still there are many things and people to live for and to appreciate. Sharaf is going to school in 12 days, can you believe this? It’s time to buy him the school needs (uniforms, a nice bag, and stationery). He will be a great schoolboy, I am sure, and proud of it. The girls grow so beatiful all the time. 

This is becoming so long. But I will not leave without asking about you and Stella. It’s great she reacted positively to returning home; this is great. I hope you are fine, and that you will cope with Madison soon. It’s a difficlt place for you, but there is much to do there (opinion).

Please take care of yourself.
M

August 18, 2004
Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb

ICB sculpture The Segregation Wall, 09-Nov-03

 

Memorial United Church of Christ
5705 W. Lacy Rd
Fitchburg
7:00 pm

Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb, Pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bethlehem, will be speaking on the work of the International Center of Bethlehem. The ICB promotes the building of a civil society in Palestine by empowering the local community, training future leaders, and developing human resources.

Rev. Mitri, a native of Bethlehem, is the founder and General Director of the ICB, and founder of the Dar al-Kalima Model School and Academy. Rev. Mitri graduated from Philipps University in Marburg, Germany with a Ph.D. in Theology. He has authored many books and articles, including I am a Palestinian Christian and Bethlehem 2000: Past and Present.

For further information, contact Bonnie Van Overbeke, Pastor of Memorial United Church of Christ.

Back in Ramallah

Andrea Becker, 04 July 2004

Relatively easy somehow: went through Israeli security ‘lite’: no body massages, or bag checks, and treated my security interrogator to a discussion of Jabotinsky, prompting ‘why are you interested in this stuff anyway? Well, whatever. Have a nice day.’

Early morning arrival at Qalandia checkpoint, north of Jerusalem. Rose and gold sun lighting the familiar scene: dusty roads torn by use and Israeli military vehicles, cement blocks and the routined and ordered humiliations. Cars and trucks line up as far as you can see, barely 6 am –  but the wait has hardly begun. Once you’ve made the decision to try and get across by car there is no real way to turn back. Cement blocks on your left, a hill to your right. Cars in front and behind you. On foot, Palestinians wait in line, divided by cement blocks, divided into lines of relative privilege or discrimmination under the Israeli occupation ­ Jerusalem ID, West Bank ID. A line for women, a line for men. Israeli soldiers check cars and people at whichever pace suits them. Your day ­school, work, seeing friends, family, church, mosque, hospital ­ decided by some 18 year old with a machine gun. A claustrophobia of engines, lost hours and rising morning heat.

Checkpoint dust.  I walk through with that familiar sense of apprehension. Everything is quiet now, but this is a place of uncertainty, of teargas and barbed wire.  From hills above the scene is surveyed by more soldiers training their weapons with varying degrees of alertness ­on the people crossing. 

Away from soldiers and into Ramallah.­  Heavy incursions into Nablus by the Israeli military continue, but Nablus is a 45 minute drive away, hours away with checkpoints. Ramallah is calm. Surrounded by checkpoints, and slowly being closed in by dark grey cement walls, but a deceptive normalcy inside of people, shops, restaurants and markets.

It is incredible to be back here. It feels very normal, like I never left somehow. ­I am staying with my friend Nadya, who lives in a house hidden in a valley. It must be the nicest garden in Ramallah, where hours can drift by smoking shisha, reading, having barbecues.  After the tasteless vegetables and not having a kitchen in London, it is a treat to be able to roast peppers and garlic, and make marinades from
herbs you pick directly from outside, and olive oil from last year’s harvest. To cook with my hands. Fresh plums and white wine.

Salaamat to all from here,
Andrea