Ben Ehrenreich Writes a Love Letter to Palestine

Next we meet Hani Amer, whose farm lay on the route of the infamous wall. After a long struggle, Amer won the right to have his house and some of his land preserved . . . The Israeli Army built a gate that they opened for 15 minutes every 24 hours. . . Most disturbing is “planet Hebron,” where the list of abuses considered normal includes soldiers firing tear gas at schoolchildren to mark the beginning and end of each day of school.

BEN RAWLENCE, The New York Times, July 14, 2016

Children playing in the Shati refugee camp in Gaza City in 2007 (Ruth Fremson/The New Yorkr Times)

An intimate, vivid look at daily life in Palestine

THE WAY TO THE SPRING
Life and Death in Palestine
By Ben Ehrenreich
Illustrated. 428 pp. Penguin Press. $28.

“It is perhaps unavoidable and surely unfortunate that any book about the region between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea requires introduction, and some small degree of defensiveness on the part of the author.” So writes Ben Ehrenreich, a journalist and novelist, in the (avoidable) introduction to his love letter to Palestine, “The Way to the Spring.”

I say avoidable because, as Ehren­reich acknowledges on the same page, the current debate about Israel-Palestine is virulently partisan. His exposition of the politics of storytelling (“choosing certain stories and not others means taking a side”) and the task of the writer (“to battle untruth”) is eloquent, though I fear more likely to deter than move those who have already made up their minds on the issue. His cause would be better served by letting his stories do the talking, for they are both heartbreaking and eye-opening.

The book begins with Bassem Tamimi, whom Ehrenreich met in 2011. Bassem is a resident of the village of Nabi Saleh in the West Bank, which had been holding weekly demonstrations against the Israeli occupation — protesting the grabbing of the village spring (its water supply) and the arrest and detention of villagers, as well as the death of one of them, a 13-year-old boy. The intimacy of Ehrenreich’s reporting domesticates the violence and injustice, thus rendering it more shocking: A fragment of a tear gas grenade and broken lawn furniture mingle beneath a fruiting mulberry tree in the garden. Children proudly show where an Israeli bullet scarred one of the rooms. Bassem’s wife, Nariman, reads Dan Brown in Arabic translation outside, at night, watching the brake lights of cars at the checkpoint down the hill.

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Amira Hass: I Went to See the Plight of the Dried-out Settlements. I Found a Pool

Amira Hass, Haaretz, June 26, 2016

With Israel having cut the Palestinians’ water supply, I visited two settlements where the people are supposedly suffering too.

Thus tweeted MK Bezalel Smotrich (Habayit Hayehudi) on Friday: “No joke: We’ve gone back 100 years!” He reported on five stations for providing drinking water that were placed that morning in the settlement of Kedumim.

That day, the religious Zionist weekly Makor Rishon published an article titled “The water crisis in Judea and Samaria: In the settlement of Eli huge bags of drinking water were distributed to the residents.”

So I set out to witness this suffering at two settlements. I left before I saw the tweet by one Avraham Benyamin in response to Smotrich: “We’re waiting for a series of empathetic articles in Haaretz. We’ll continue to wait.”

Indeed, last week I started writing my annual series of articles on the systematic theft of water from the Palestinians. I was surprised not to find any newspaper reports about water problems in the settlements. There weren’t any on Army Radio and Israel Radio – notorious clandestine supporters of the BDS movement. But neither did I find any mention of it on websites linked to the settlement lobby.

After all, since the beginning of June, when the Mekorot national water company began cutting water supplies to the Palestinians in the Salfit and Nablus areas by some 30 to 50 percent, Israeli spokespeople have claimed there is a shortage in the settlements too. (Or in the unsanitized words of a Palestinian employee in the Civil Administration: They’re cutting back from the Arabs so there will be water for the settlers.)

Makor Rishon reporter Hodaya Karish Hazony wrote: “In the communities of Migdalim, Yitzhar, Elon Moreh, Tapuah, Givat Haroeh, Alonei Shiloh and others there have been water stoppages. ‘We’re between insanity and despair on this matter,’ said one resident.”

So I went to check the water shortage that’s driving the people from insanity to despair in Eli. I looked for people lining up for water. I didn’t find them. Then I drove from the center of the lush settlement to isolated Hill No. 9, the site of the Hayovel neighborhood mentioned in the article.

There I found two huge and swollen blue sacks from the Water Authority, with faucets attached to them. A sign requests that you “maintain order” while waiting and notes that “priority will be given to the elderly, the ill and children.”

At about 3 P.M. I didn’t see any elderly, ill people or children waiting next to the faucets. Nor did I see any ordinary adults. A few drops leaked from the faucets and wet the asphalt. People entered or left their cars. Artificial grass adorned areas near the neighborhood’s prefab homes.

Near the soldiers’ guard post, about 50 meters from one sack of water, there was an area of natural grass that was quite green. Next to it were a few tree saplings, and the soil around them was wet, with several puddles. A soldier said that over the week there had been several water stoppages, and he thought the sacks were brought on Thursday. The article said Wednesday.

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Israel Adds $20 Million in Funding for Settlements in the West Bank

While strengthening the settlements, Israel has continued to demolish unlicensed Palestinian homes and livestock pens

Money for “construction of hotels in the main tourism areas in Judea and Samaria,” referring to the West Bank

Israeli troops demolishing unlicensed sheds belonging to Palestinians near Yatta in the West Bank on Sunday.(Mussa Issa Qawasma/Reuters)

Isabel Kershner, New York Times, June 20, 2016

JERUSALEM — The Israeli government on Sunday approved about $20 million in additional financing for Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, underlining its strengthened right-wing orientation and raising the ire of political opponents and the Palestinians.

The move came as the Israeli hard-liner Avigdor Lieberman was to arrive in Washington on his first visit in his new role as defense minister, during which he is expected to meet with Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter. Mr. Lieberman, a settler, was appointed last month in a coalition deal that brought his ultranationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party into the government.

The new money would add to what the settlements already receive from various parts of the government’s budget. It was approved days after blistering condemnations of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by two former Israeli defense ministers and military chiefs of staff. Speaking at a prestigious security conference, they accused the prime minister and his government of pushing a divisive agenda that threatened Israel’s future as a Jewish democracy and undermined its core values.

In remarks before the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, Mr. Netanyahu, the leader of the conservative Likud Party, said the assistance plan was intended to strengthen security for the settlements, as well as to bolster small businesses and encourage tourism.

Yariv Levin, the tourism minister, said in a statement that some of the money would “provide financial support for the construction of hotels in the main tourism areas in Judea and Samaria,” referring to the West Bank by its biblical name.

April 5, 2016
Noga Kadman on Erased from Space and Consciousness


Noga Kadman speaks about her book Erased from Space and Consciousness: Israel and the Depopulated Palestinian Villages of 1948
7:30 pm, Elvehjem L150, UW-Madison Campus.

“Poignant, sensitive, and compassionate, Kadman’s deeply-informed inquiry exposes graphically the process of ‘demographic Judaization’ of Palestine, in physical reality and cultural comprehension.” – Noam Chomsky

A dramatic transformation took place in the landscape and demography of Israel after the 1948 war, as hundreds of Palestinian villages throughout the country were depopulated, and for the most part physically erased. How has this transformation been perceived by Israelis? Kadman’s talk suggests some answers, based on a research that systematically explores Israeli attitudes concerning the depopulated Palestinian villages. Noga Kadman lives near Jerusalem and is an Israeli researcher in the field of human rights and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well as a licensed tour guide. Her main interest is to explore the encounter between Israelis and the Palestinian presence in the landscape and history of the country. She is co-editor of Once Upon a Land: A Tour Guide to Depopulated Palestinian Villages and Towns (in Hebrew and Arabic).

Sponsored by: The Havens Center, Comparative US Studies, UW-Madison Students for Justice in Palestine, the Dept. of Geography, and the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project

Identity Crisis: the Israeli ID System

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