500 Palestinian families in Jerusalem are about to have their homes destroyed

Action is needed to protect them and tens of thousands more who risk losing their homes under Israel’s devastating home demolition policies.

Mike Merryman-Lotze, American Friends Service Committee, Apr 19, 2019

Israeli’s home demolition policy has led to the destruction of thousands of Palestinian homes (like this one in Hebron in the West Bank) and the forced displacement of thousands of Palestinians.

Tears streaming down her face, the little girl in front of me crawled over the ruins of her home looking for toys and school books that could be salvaged from among the rubble and destruction. The night before, the Israeli army had evacuated her family from their house, set explosives, and destroyed their home.

It was 2001, and it was the first time I witnessed the devastation wrought by Israel’s decades-old home demolition policy. During the nearly two decades since then, I’ve talked with hundreds of Palestinians who have been forced out of their homes by the Israeli government. Their stories are all unique, but the result of Israel’s home demolition policy is always the same – destruction and suffering within families and communities.

Just last week, the Israeli High Court ruled that the government can move forward with the demolition of 60 buildings in Jerusalem that are home to over 500 Palestinian families. Demolitions have already begun, and thousands of Palestinians will be left without homes if this move is not stopped.

The remains of homes demolished in Nablus in the West Bank. Photo: Mike Merryman-Lotze/AFSCThe remains of homes demolished in Nablus in the West Bank. Photo: Mike Merryman-Lotze/AFSC

The Israeli government justifies these demolitions by claiming that the homes in question were built illegally without permits from the city. But for decades, the city has refused to approve zoning plans for Palestinian areas of Jerusalem, making it impossible for Palestinian residents to obtain permits and leaving them no choice but to build without permission. According to the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, there are now over 20,000 housing units built without permits in East Jerusalem, all of which are at risk of demolition.

At the same time, the Jerusalem municipality is moving to retroactively approve construction carried out by the settler group Elad in the same neighborhood from which these 500 Palestinian families will soon be displaced.

This forced displacement will not just traumatize families, it will destroy a whole community. During the seven years I lived and worked in the West Bank, I saw this happen over and over – and I documented the harmful impacts. In 2008, I received an update from the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs that a home was being demolished in East Jerusalem, near the office where I worked. I traveled to the scene of the demolition and saw devastated family members break down as they watched the walls of their home fall.

At the time I was managing a program to assist Palestinian families whose homes were destroyed by Israel. Through our interviews with families, it became clear that the demolitions had deep, long-term negative impacts on family structures – increasing poverty and unemployment, raising levels of domestic violence, disrupting education, and leading to severe trauma for all those impacted.

A resident digs out belongings from the ruins of his destroyed home in Jenin. Photo: Mike Merryman-Lotze/AFSCA resident digs out belongings from the ruins of his destroyed home in Jenin. Photo: Mike Merryman-Lotze/AFSC

The demolition of 60 buildings in Jerusalem that was recently approved is unusual in its scale, but it is not unique. In the West Bank, tens of communities – including Umm Al-Khair, Susiya, and Khan al-Ahmar – remain under threat of complete destruction.

Destruction in communities also is not limited to the West Bank. After years of resistance, the Bedouin community of Umm Al-Hiran inside Israel will soon be destroyed and replaced with a new community designed for Jewish Israelis.

The Israeli government continues to justify the demolitions of homes and communities by claiming that they were built without proper permits. But in a situation where permits are not given, Palestinian residents have no other choice but to build without legal documentation.

The denial of permits and the refusal of the Israeli government to pass development plans for Palestinian communities in Jerusalem and the 60 percent of the West Bank controlled by Israel is not accidental. Limiting growth and restricting building guarantees Israeli control and helps push Palestinians out of areas desired for the building of settlements.

Action is needed to protect the 500 families who may be forcibly displaced over the next weeks and the tens of thousands of Palestinians who risk losing their homes. But action can’t simply be reactive.

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April 23 – 25, 2019
War Over Peace: Israel in the eyes of a Critical Sociologist

Uri Ben-Eliezer, Sociology, University of Haifa

The Havens Center, Department of Sociology, University of Wisconsin-Madison

    “The Nation and War, Some Reflections from Israel’s History”
    Tuesday, April 23, 4pm, 6191 Helen C. White

    “The Making, Unmaking, Remaking of Israeli Militarism”
    Wednesday, April 24, 4pm, 6191 Helen C. White

    Open seminar for public, students, and faculty
    Thursday, April 25, 12:20pm, 8108 Social Science

    FREE & OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

URI BEN-ELIEZER is a political sociologist and chair of the department of sociology at the University of Haifa, Israel. His research interests include Israeli democracy, civil society, social movements, state-society relations, army-society relations, and peace and war. He has published numerous articles in such journals as Comparative Politics, Comparative Studies in Society and History, Comparative Political Studies, Theory and Society, Political Geography, Social Politics, Social Movement Studies, and Ethnic and Racial Studies. Ben-Eliezer is also the author of three books in English: The Making of Israeli Militarism (Indiana UP, 1998); Old Conflict, New War: Israel’s Politics Toward the Palestinians (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2012); and War over Peace: One Hundred Years of Israel’s Militaristic Nationalism (University of California Press, 2019 forthcoming).

The Director of Human Rights Watch in Israel Is Being Deported

Ilan Ben Zion, Time Magazine, April 17, 2019

(JERUSALEM) — An Israeli court on Tuesday upheld a deportation order against Human Rights Watch’s local director and gave him two weeks to leave the country.

The Jerusalem District Court rejected an appeal by Omar Shakir to remain in the country, saying that his activities against Israel’s West Bank settlements amount to a boycott of the country.

Israel enacted a law in 2017 barring entry to any foreigner who “knowingly issues a public call for boycotting Israel.” Tuesday’s ruling was the first time the law was applied to someone already residing in the country.

Shakir, a U.S. citizen, has worked as the New York-based group’s Israel and Palestine director since October 2016.

Israel’s interior minister ordered Shakir’s deportation in May 2018, calling him a “boycott activist.”

The court said that Shakir “continues his actions publicly to advance a boycott against Israel, but it’s not on the stages at conferences or in university panels, rather through disseminating his calls to advance boycott primarily through his Twitter account and by other means.”

It cited Shakir’s support on Twitter for AirBnb’s decision to remove postings from Israeli settlements in the West Bank as an example. AirBnb later backtracked on that decision.

Human Rights Watch said neither the organization nor Shakir promotes Israel boycotts, but has called for companies to cease operations in West Bank settlements because they “inherently benefit from and contribute to serious violations of international humanitarian law.”

Israel captured the West Bank, along with east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, in the 1967 Mideast war. Palestinians seek these territories for a future state. Most of the international community considers Israeli settlements in the West Bank illegal.

The court upheld the law applying to boycotts of “areas under (Israel’s) control,” namely the West Bank, not just of Israel proper.

Human Rights Watch said the court’s ruling “threatens the ability of all Human Rights Watch staff members to access both Israel and the West Bank.”

“The decision sends the chilling message that those who criticize the involvement of businesses in serious abuses in Israeli settlements risk being barred from Israel and the Israeli-occupied West Bank,” said Tom Porteous, deputy program director at Human Rights Watch.

The court gave Shakir until May 1 to leave the country. The group said it would appeal the decision and seek an injunction blocking the deportation while legal proceedings continue.

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“You married a Palestinian. You cannot enter Israel”

Israel’s family reunion practices are gravely offensive

Palestine Update 234, April 12, 2019

This time; Palestine Updates brings you two powerful testimonies. The first is from Zoughbi Zoughbi, Director of Wi’am: The Palestinian Conflict Transformation Center. Wi’am is a grassroots civil society organization based in Bethlehem with a mission to promote peacebuilding and empower community members as agents of change. Zoughbi describes himself as a Palestinian, who believes that violence dehumanizes human beings. Therefore, through nonviolent struggle, he seeks to find the common ground in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam in the belief that human beings are created in the image of God.

In his testimony: ‘Encircling the sharp edges’ Zoughbi shares his sadness and disdain at the way his wife was refused permission to enter Israel when she flew back from the USA to join the family on the occasion of their son’s marriage. In a second testimony, Elaine, his wife, a US citizen also writes of her emotions and details of the encounter with an intensely callous and inconsiderate set of immigration officers who had just one reason to treat her as they did. Elaine had married a Palestinian. Zoughbi puts it poignantly when he writes: “The story of our family is but one of many similar stories, especially those Palestinians married to persons from other countries and from Palestinians who live in diaspora. My story has hit me hard. Families have the human right to be together; it is the basis of all human rights, whether someone marries tomorrow or is married 30 years from tomorrow”.

Please read these testimonies and disseminate them widely. They are profound and touching. It never ceases to amaze those of us from the outside how Palestinians remain resilient even in the harshest of circumstances and view their own adversity as reasons to fight for universal justice, not just their own.

You may wish to write a letter of solidarity to the family of Zoughbi (zoughbi at alaslah.org)

In solidarity,
Ranjan Solomon


Encircling the sharp edges
by Zoughbi Zoughbi

We are still in shock about the inhumane treatment of my wife who has been married to me since 1990, having raised our four children together during those years. Last week she arrived very early to the airport in South Bend Indiana, in order to fly through Chicago then to Newark, and finally, to Tel Aviv. Her children and I couldn’t wait to greet her, to welcome, kiss, and hug her. With great anticipation we couldn’t wait to reunite our family, and to embark on the preparations for our son Lucas’ wedding. Our hearts were beating rapidly as we watched to see when the airplane would arrive in Tel Aviv, so we could talk to her on the phone and hear her voice. We sat mesmerized at our home waiting for any word from her. After initially being thrilled that she landed safely and joyfully in Tel Aviv airport, we stayed rooted next to the telephone, knowing that sometimes the Israeli Authorities will want to check our connection, to ensure she is related to us. After nearly thirty years, we know they already have profiles on all our family members. Even though all the information they need is available to them, the call is a subtle way for them to add extra humiliation. This is done in spite of the fact that we have always been a peace-loving family trying to live faithfully in the Holy Land. We refuse to hate.

As we talked to her later, we noticed that the tone and tenor of her voice became more stressed and strained, as she waited four to five hours without knowing whether they would let her in the country. Although she is an American citizen, they openly claimed she was a criminal because she married a Palestinian. This is heart wrenching, as we know that she has already sacrificed a lot for her children and husband, leaving the comforts of her home country, the United States, sheltered in peace, calmness and tranquility, to come to an unfamiliar place. For 29 years, my wife was walking the Via Dolorsosa, having to renew her visa every 3 months. She hoped to get her visa for one year, as probation to get her permanent residence. The 1993 peace process had given us false hope, the possibility of no more agony, no more pain. For 29 years the authorities played a game around letting her into the country or not. My wife once said that she was honored to be treated as a Palestinian refugee, to live among those of us without a safe place, without a secure future. She chose to live a more stress-filled life, the life we have under occupation. My children said my wife was once the most privileged in the family; she has become the least privileged. Not only that, but now she has to suffer even more pain and stress for no apparent reason, just because she wants to gather her children and husband together under a single roof.

This is not just a personal story only, but a story of my people. We refuse to be discouraged and decimated by the constant hurt and humiliation. Our commitment will not be any other manner, but a way of non-violence and the pursuit of legal restitution. We reject violence. But we will not give up even as our oppressors orchestrate new ways to push us away, out of our homes. Thank heavens that it is now the Lent season, as our story resonates with the passion of Christ. I do not know which station of the cross we are on, from the first to the fourteenth, but I know there is a denial and rejection of my wife’s presence here, like all Palestinians and those who love them.

This incident reminds us that there exists a law born in 1951, The Israeli Law of Return, observed in Israel, allows anyone who has a Jewish great, great grandmother to come here and live anywhere, regardless of any other consideration, such as their race, ethnicity, nationality, place of birth, or who they marry. Even this law is now being discarded when it is inconvenient. Newly arrived Israeli citizens make life and death decisions about those of us deeply rooted in this place, who have no voice. Those of us who have long history here, a long interaction with the land and the people of this land, we have no place. As the Bible says, “The foxes have dens and the birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head” (Matthew 8.20). There was no resurrection without the Via Dolorosa or Golgotha. Unsurprisingly, we follow Jesus. But as his followers, we will not allow their attempts to crucify us be the final word. Those in power should have learned their lesson nearly 2,000 years ago. Our Lord was not defeated by pain and humiliation, but he was resurrected, in spite of the humiliating trials of the Via Dolorosa and the pain of Golgotha. They forget He has won the victory already, in any struggle against injustice.

As in other times, my family and I have been besieged by agape and love from our brothers and sisters, to strengthen us, and we have not fallen to the siege of occupational forces. The voices of Christian, Muslim, and Jewish brothers and sisters have told me how much they denounce the action of the government. They all expressed their solidarity, empathy, and compassion in calls to my wife and family to tell them they are with us, and they have uplifted our spirits. It has recharged our batteries, and helped us to encircle the sharp corners, to lessen the intended pain.

The story of our family is but one of many similar stories, especially those Palestinians married to persons from other countries and from Palestinians who live in diaspora. My story has hit me hard. Families have the human right to be together, it is the basis of all human rights, whether someone marries tomorrow or is married 30 years from tomorrow.

I would like to recommend a campaign to end all suffering of our people, family reunification can be the backbone of this campaign. It is a campaign to uphold the law and lobby for families. Those in the free world need to pressure their governments to end this occupation, and help people here to coexist, on equal footing, with dignity and integrity.

Justice for all, not just a few, for all children, for all families, for all husbands and wives!

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I co-founded the BDS movement. Why was I denied entry to the US?

With this denial of entry, Israel appears to have once again enlisted the Trump administration to do its bidding


“Palestinians are now helplessly anticipating a far-right Israeli tsunami that will wipe out whatever rights we have left.” (Photograph: Nasser Nasser/AP)

Omar Barghouti, The Guardian, 16 Apr 2019

Last Wednesday, as I was preparing to depart for the United States for a series of speaking engagements, I was abruptly stopped and prevented from boarding my flight at Ben Gurion airport. The US consulate informed the airline staff that US immigration has banned me from entering the country, despite having a valid visa, without providing a reason.

Given my regular, unhindered travel to the US for years, this ban seems to be an ideologically and politically motivated measure that fits in with Israel’s escalating repression against human rights defenders. Israel’s far-right regime is not merely continuing its decades-old system of military occupation, apartheid and ethnic cleansing against Palestinians, it is increasingly outsourcing its anti-democratic tactics to the US.

As a co-founder of the nonviolent Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights, I have been smeared by the Israeli government and banned from travel repeatedly, including in 2018 when I was prevented from going to Jordan to accompany my late mother during cancer surgery. Israel’s intelligence minister threatened me with “targeted civil elimination”, drawing condemnation from Amnesty International. Their de facto and “arbitrary travel ban” against me was recently lifted for three months after Amnesty International’s pressure.

On this US trip, I was scheduled to meet with policymakers and journalists and to address the critical need for cutting US complicity in Israel’s grave violations of Palestinian rights before audiences at New York University, Harvard, a black community bookstore in Philadelphia and the Tzedek Chicago synagogue. Afterwards, I was going to attend my daughter’s wedding in Houston.

I have decided not to miss any of my speaking engagements, joining via video in the middle of my nights, but I cannot possibly compensate the personal loss of missing my daughter’s wedding. I am hurt, but I am far from deterred.

Since Trump took office, he has repeatedly signaled his deep bias in favor of Israel. His Middle East team, Jared Kushner, Jason Greenblatt and David Friedman, with their fervent support for Israel’s illegal settlements and other crimes, must be the most dishonest broker in the history of US “peacemaking”. He has recognized Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem and the Syrian Golan Heights in violation of international law and more than seven decades of official US policy.

Meanwhile, members of Congress and politicians in 27 states have passed laws intended to suppress the voices of Americans who support BDS. The ACLU has condemned these repressive measures as an unconstitutional violation of free speech that is “reminiscent of McCarthy-era loyalty oaths”.

All of this has emboldened Israel’s hardline rightwing government to accelerate its racist, oppressive policies towards the Palestinian people. Over the last year, Israeli soldiers have massacred hundreds and injured thousands of unarmed Palestinian protesters demanding refugee rights and freedom from the open-air prison that Israel has turned Gaza into.

Last summer, Israel’s parliament passed the so-called “Jewish nation-state” law, which constitutionally enshrines an apartheid reality that has existed for many years. And Israel’s government has buried the so-called two-state solution by continuing its relentless theft of Palestinian land for illegal settlements, while at the same time increasing pressure on human rights defenders, particularly BDS advocates.

During the recent election campaign, Netanyahu promised to begin annexing the West Bank and repeatedly incited against Palestinian citizens of Israel, declaring, “Israel is not a state of all its citizens … Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people – and only it.” He will now likely form a government even more extreme and intransigent than the last, which was the most racist in Israel’s history.

Some Palestinians are now helplessly anticipating a far-right Israeli tsunami that will wipe out whatever rights we have left, but many are intensifying popular resistance, including BDS, calling for impactful solidarity and ending international complicity.

Inspired by the South African anti-apartheid and the US civil rights movements, BDS calls for cultural, economic and political pressure on Israel to end its military rule over Palestinian and Syrian territories occupied since 1967, grant equal rights to Palestinian citizens of Israel, and recognize the UN-stipulated right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes of origin, a universal right that applies to all refugees. It is supported by the overwhelming majority of Palestinian society.

Americans have a long and honorable history of using boycotts for social, political and economic justice causes against the Montgomery Bus company, California grape growers, the states of North Carolina and Arizona over anti-LGBT and anti-immigrant laws, respectively, and now against Trump’s racist agenda. Similarly, Palestinians seek to use peaceful economic leverage to achieve our liberation.

With its inclusive, anti-racist principles, BDS rejects all forms of bigotry, and appeals to progressives everywhere. Its tactics have been adopted by a number of US mainline churches, student governments in tens of universities, academic associations and racial and social justice groups, who wish to avoid being complicit in the suffering of Palestinians.

This trend is now being amplified by Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar’s courageous endorsement of BDS and the much wider defense, including by the ACLU and Senators Bernie Sanders and Dianne Feinstein, of the right to boycott Israel to end its human rights violations, as constitutionally protected free speech. All this deeply inspires Palestinians and gives us hope that we can prevail over oppression. Despite the alarming spread of white supremacy in the Trump era, struggles for racial, social, indigenous, economic and environmental justice are growing and connecting with each other.

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How the Great Leftist Thinkers of the 20th Century Contended With Zionism


A crowd celebrates in Tel Aviv on Nov. 29, 1947, after the U.N. votes for the partition of Palestine. (Hans Pins/GPO, via Getty Images)

J.J. Goldberg, New York Times, April 11, 2019

THE LIONS’ DEN
Zionism and the Left From Hannah Arendt to Noam Chomsky
By Susie Linfield

As discouraging as these times may be for fans of liberal democracy, the mood among liberal friends of Israel — including most American Jews — is more like severe heartbreak. Look one way and there’s Israel’s right wing carousing with European despots and Holocaust deniers while fanning racism at home. Look the other way and see the cream of the intersectional left cavorting with the reactionary bigot Louis Farrakhan while young rock-star progressives in Congress set about rebranding the Jewish state from ally into enemy and its supporters — meaning, again, most American Jews — into traitors.

Long gone are the days when Israel was new and appealed to idealists around the world, when Golda Meir was a celebrated deputy chairwoman of the Socialist International and Pete Seeger and the Weavers were singing the Israeli folk tune “Tzena, Tzena, Tzena” on the “Hit Parade.”

Tzena, Tzena, Tzena – The Weavers

How has it come to this? That is the central question Susie Linfield poses in her new book, “The Lions’ Den: Zionism and the Left From Hannah Arendt to Noam Chomsky.”

How, she asks, did the state of Israel, which “came out of, and was nurtured by, the left,” become anathema to that same left? How did “Zionist,” the name for participants in and sympathizers with the Jewish state-building effort, “become the dirtiest word to the international left — akin, say, to ‘racist,’ ‘pedophile’ or ‘rapist’?”

On the flip side, how did Israel “come to deny the national rights of a neighboring people and to violently suppress them — not for a year or two, but for over a half century?”

Important questions, and achingly timely. Strangely, “The Lions’ Den” does not really address them. The book is described in Linfield’s introduction, in the jacket copy and promotional material as an “intellectual history” tracing the evolution of left-wing thought that brought us from there to here, from, say, Pete Seeger to Ilhan Omar. But the actual book, the one sandwiched in between “Introduction” and “Conclusion,” is something quite different. It is, in fact, something more original, more interesting and probably more important than a standard intellectual history would have been. Why the book so misrepresents itself remains a mystery.

The heart of “The Lions’ Den” is a series of individual portraits of iconic, midcentury left-wing thinkers who wrote extensively on the idea and reality of Jewish statehood. Six of the eight share overlapping biographies and experiences, which makes their very different intellectual journeys through the same historical thicket both instructive to today’s searchers and relevant to today’s crises.

The other two, Noam Chomsky and the British journalist Fred Halliday, seem quite out of place here, yet another oddity in this volume. Both entered the arena in a later era, making their stories irrelevant to the book’s drama, and neither of them — the very Jewish Chomsky or the non-Jewish Halliday — participates visibly in the others’ intensely personal struggles with Jewish identity.

Arthur Koestler, the Hungarian-born British writer, at his home in Alpbach, Austria. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

The six overlapping profiles, on the other hand, tell such an intriguing story that the book’s marginal oddities fade in importance. Here they are: the German-born political philosopher Hannah Arendt; the mercurial, Hungarian-born novelist and adventurer Arthur Koestler; the great biographer and Trotsky admirer Isaac Deutscher; the combative American journalist I. F. Stone; the French Arabist journalist Maxime Rodinson; and the Tunisian-French anticolonialist philosopher Albert Memmi.

All six lived through, wrote about and were shaped by the cataclysmic events of the mid-20th century: the rise of fascism, the Moscow show trials, World War II and the Holocaust, Israel’s independence and, significantly, the 1967 Six-Day War. All considered themselves socialists, some episodically, most as a lifelong identifier.

All six were Jewish. All wrote urgently and at length about the Jewish history that was unfolding before their eyes. All wrote about the place of the Jew in the modern world, some dismissively, most with sympathy, all beneath the shadow of the Nazi genocide that was engulfing Europe and their own families.

The six were all independent, unconventional thinkers who often found themselves alone and at odds with their own peers and allies. All produced ideas and phrases that have entered our moral vocabulary, most notably Arendt’s “banality of evil.”


Hannah Arendt in her New York apartment in 1972. (Tyrone Dukes/The New York Times)

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