Archive for April, 2010

Rabbinical letter of support for Judge Goldstone

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

Dear Judge Goldstone

As rabbis from diverse traditions and locations, we

want to extend our warmest mazel tov to you as an elder in our community upon the bar

mitzvah of your grandson. Bar and Bat Mitzvah is a call to conscience,

a call to be responsible for the welfare of others, a call to fulfill

the covenant of peace and justice articulated in our tradition.

 As rabbis, we note the religious implications of the

report you authored. We are reminded of Shimon Ben Gamliel’s quote,

“The world stands on three things: justice, truth, and peace as it

says ‘Execute the judgment of truth, and justice and peace will be

established in your gates’ (Zekharya 8:16).”  We affirm the truth of

the report that bears your name.

We are deeply saddened by the controversy that has

grown up around the issuing of the report. We affirm your findings and

believe you set up an impeccable standard that provides strong evidence

that Israel is currently engaged in war crimes during the assault on Gaza that

reveal a pattern of continuous and systematic assault against

Palestinian people and land that has very little to do with Israel’s

claim of security. Your report made clear the intentional targeting of

civilian infrastructures such as hospitals, schools, agricultural

properties, water and sewage treatment centers and civilians

themselves with deadly weapons that are illegal when used in civilian

centers.

This is the ugly truth that is so hard for many Jewish

people to face. Anyone who spends a day in Palestinian territories

sees this truth immediately.

Judge Goldstone, we want to offer you our deepest

thanks for upholding the principles of justice, compassion and truth that are the heart of

Jewish religion and without which our claims to Jewishness are empty

of meaning. We regret that your findings have led to controversy and

caused you not to feel welcome at your own grandson’s Bar Mitzvah. We

believe your report is a clarion call to Israel and the Jewish people

to awaken from the slumber of denial and return to the path of peace.

    Rabbi Everett Gendler

Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb 

Rabbi Brant Rosen  

Rabbi Brian Walt 

Rabbi Haim Beliak     

Rabbi Michael Lerner   

Rabbi Arthur Waskow    

Rabbi Michael Feinberg

Rabbi  Shai Gluskin

       Rabbi David Shneyer

Rabbi David Mivassair

Rabbi Laurie Zimmerman

Rabbi Douglas Krantz

Rabbi Margaret Holub

         Rabbi Rebecca Alpert

Rabbi Mordecai Liebling

Rabbi Phyllis Berman

Rabbi Zev-Hayyim Feyer

   Rabbi Eyal Levinson    Rabbi Lorraine Chaskalson

Rabbi Doron Isaacs

Israel bars Gandhi’s grandson from entering Gaza

Friday, April 16th, 2010

April 7, 2010
Palestine Information Center
http://wp.me/ pIUmC-245

GAZA — The Israeli occupation forces (IOF) on Tuesday barred Rajmohan Gandhi, the grandson of Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi, from entering Gaza Strip.

Gandhi expressed absolute sorrow for not being able to visit Gaza, adding that he was deeply depressed over the scenes of repression he witnessed in the Palestinian lands.

He said that the Israeli talk about a Palestinian state in light of
those de facto conditions was “meaningless”, adding that the separation wall, settlements and bypass roads were more horrific than what he imagined before visiting Palestine.

Gandhi said that the Israeli government was treating Palestinians as
second class citizens and was robbing their land.

He said he was deeply touched over the story of prisoner Fakhri
Al-Barghouthi who had been held in jail for 33 years and could not meet his two sons, whom he left as little children, until they were
detained by the IOF soldiers.

Gandhi said that he would publicize the Palestinian suffering in
India, the USA and any place he visits, adding that he would also exert efforts for the release of Palestinian prisoners.

._,___

What is an Israeli? Lawsuit tried to find out

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

Perhaps this will come as a rude surprise to some of you who are reading this: There is no such thing as an Israeli nationality. In other words: There are no Israelis in the Jewish State.

People residing in Israel are classified as “Jews”/”Arabs”/etc. The reason is that Israel is seen as a state belonging to the Jewish people (whether they live in Israel or not), not to its citizens. That’s the essence of

what it means for it to be a Jewish state.

Jonathan Cook tells more in the article below.

Racheli Gai.

Jonathan Cook: Lawsuit challenges Israel’s discriminatory citizenship definition

http://palestinechronicle.com/view_article_details.php?id=15867 A group of Jews and Arabs are fighting in the Israeli courts to be recognized as “Israelis,” a nationality currently denied them, in a case that officials fear may threaten the country’s self-declared status as a Jewish state.

Israel refused to recognize an Israeli nationality at the country’s establishment in 1948, making an unusual distinction between “citizenship” and “nationality.” Although all Israelis qualify as “citizens of Israel,” the state is defined as belonging to the “Jewish nation,” meaning not only the 5.6 million Israeli Jews but also more than seven million Jews in the diaspora.

Critics say the special status of Jewish nationality has been a way to undermine the citizenship rights of non-Jews in Israel, especially the fifth of the population who are Arab. Some 30 laws in Israel specifically privilege Jews, including in the areas of immigration rights, naturalization, access to land and employment.

Arab leaders have also long complained that indications of “Arab” nationality on ID cards make it easy for police and government officials to target Arab citizens for harsher treatment.

The interior ministry has adopted more than 130 possible nationalities for Israeli citizens, most of them defined in religious or ethnic terms, with “Jewish” and “Arab” being the main categories.

The group’s legal case is being heard by the high court after a district judge rejected their petition two years ago, backing the state’s position that there is no Israeli nation.

The head of the campaign for Israeli nationality, Uzi Ornan, a retired linguistics professor, said: “It is absurd that Israel, which recognizes dozens of different nationalities, refuses to recognize the one nationality it is supposed to represent.”

The government opposes the case, claiming that the campaign’s real goal is to “undermine the state’s infrastructure” — a presumed reference to laws and official institutions that ensure Jewish citizens enjoy a privileged status in Israel.

Ornan, 86, said that denying a common Israeli nationality was the linchpin of state-sanctioned discrimination against the Arab population.

“There are even two laws — the Law of Return for Jews and the Citizenship Law for Arabs — that determine how you belong to the state,” he said. “What kind of democracy divides its citizens into two kinds?”

Yoel Harshefi, a lawyer supporting Ornan, said the interior ministry had resorted to creating national groups with no legal recognition outside Israel, such as “Arab” or “unknown,” to avoid recognizing an Israeli nationality.

In official documents most Israelis are classified as “Jewish” or “Arab,” but immigrants whose status as Jews is questioned by the Israeli rabbinate, including more than 300,000 arrivals from the former Soviet Union, are typically registered according to their country of origin.

“Imagine the uproar in Jewish communities in the United States, Britain or France, if the authorities there tried to classify their citizens as ‘Jewish’ or ‘Christian,'” said Ornan.

The professor, who lives close to Haifa, launched his legal action after the interior ministry refused to change his nationality to “Israeli” in 2000. An online petition declaring “I am an Israeli” has attracted several thousand signatures.

Ornan has been joined in his action by 20 other public figures, including former government minister Shulamit Aloni. Several members have been registered with unusual nationalities such as “Russian,” “Buddhist,” “Georgian” and “Burmese.”

Two Arabs are party to the case, including Adel Kadaan, who courted controversy in the 1990s by waging a lengthy legal action to be allowed to live in one of several hundred communities in Israel open only to Jews.

Uri Avnery, a peace activist and former member of the parliament, said the current nationality system gave Jews living abroad a far greater stake in Israel than its 1.3 million Arab citizens.

“The State of Israel cannot recognize an ‘Israeli’ nation because it is the state of the ‘Jewish’ nation … it belongs to the Jews of Brooklyn, Budapest and Buenos Aires, even though these consider themselves as belonging to the American, Hungarian or Argentine nations.”

International Zionist organizations representing the diaspora, such as the Jewish National Fund and the Jewish Agency, are given in Israeli law a special, quasi-governmental role, especially in relation to immigration and control over large areas of Israeli territory for the settlement of Jews only.

Ornan said the lack of a common nationality violated Israel’s Declaration of Independence, which says the state will “uphold the full social and political equality of all its citizens, without distinction of religion, race or sex.”

Indications of nationality on ID cards carried by Israelis made it easy for officials to discriminate against Arab citizens, he added.

The government has countered that the nationality section on ID cards was phased out from 2000 — after the interior ministry, which was run by a religious party at the time, objected to a court order requiring it to identify non-Orthodox Jews as “Jewish” on the cards.

However, Ornan said any official could instantly tell if he was looking at the card of a Jew or Arab because the date of birth on the IDs of Jews was given according to the Hebrew calendar. In addition, the ID of an Arab, unlike a Jew, included the grandfather’s name.

“Flash your ID card and whatever government clerk is sitting across from you immediately knows which ‘clan’ you belong to, and can refer you to those best suited to ‘handle your kind,'” Ornan said.

The distinction between Jewish and Arab nationalities is also shown on interior ministry records used to make important decisions about personal status issues such as marriage, divorce and death, which are dealt with on entirely sectarian terms.

Only Israelis from the same religious group, for example, are allowed to marry inside Israel — otherwise they are forced to wed abroad — and cemeteries are separated according to religious belonging.

Some of those who have joined the campaign complain that it has damaged their business interests. One Druze member, Carmel Wahaba, said he had lost the chance to establish an import-export company in France because officials there refused to accept documents stating his nationality as “Druze” rather than “Israeli.”

The group also said it hoped to expose a verbal sleight of hand that intentionally mistranslates the Hebrew term “Israeli citizenship” on the country’s passports as “Israeli nationality” in English to avoid problems with foreign border officials.

B Michael, a commentator for Yedioth Aharonoth, Israel’s most popular newspaper, has observed: “We are all Israeli nationals — but only abroad.”

The campaign, however, is likely to face an uphill struggle in the courts.

A similar legal suit brought by a Tel Aviv psychologist, George Tamrin, failed in 1970. Shimon Agranat, head of the high court at the time, ruled: “There is no Israeli nation separate from the Jewish people. … The Jewish people is composed not only of those residing in Israel but also of diaspora Jewries.”

That view was echoed by the district court in 2008 when it heard Ornan’s case.

The judges in the high court, which held the first appeal hearing last month, indicated that they too were likely to be unsympathetic. Justice Uzi Fogelman said: “The question is whether or not the court is the right place to solve this problem.”

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Jewish Peace News editors:

Joel Beinin

Racheli Gai

Rela Mazali

Sarah Anne Minkin

Judith Norman

Lincoln Z. Shlensky

Rebecca Vilkomerson

Alistair Welchman

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IDF ORDER WILL ENABLE MASS EXPULSIONS FROM WEST BANK

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010
Last update – 14:29 11/04/2010
IDF order will enable mass deportation from West Bank
By Amira Hass
Tags: West Bank, IDF, Israel news
 
A new military order aimed at preventing infiltration will come into force this week, enabling the deportation of tens of thousands of Palestinians from the West Bank, or their indictment on charges carrying prison terms of up to seven years.

When the order comes into effect, tens of thousands of Palestinians will automatically become criminal offenders liable to be severely punished.

Given the security authorities’ actions over the past decade, the first Palestinians likely to be targeted under the new rules will be those whose ID cards bear home addresses in the Gaza Strip – people born in Gaza and their West Bank-born children – or those born in the West Bank or abroad who for various reasons lost their residency status. Also likely to be targeted are foreign-born spouses of Palestinians.

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Until now, Israeli civil courts have occasionally prevented the expulsion of these three groups from the West Bank. The new order, however, puts them under the sole jurisdiction of Israeli military courts.

The new order defines anyone who enters the West Bank illegally as an infiltrator, as well as “a person who is present in the area and does not lawfully hold a permit.” The order takes the original 1969 definition of infiltrator to the extreme, as the term originally applied only to those illegally staying in Israel after having passed through countries then classified as enemy states – Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon and Syria.

The order’s language is both general and ambiguous, stipulating that the term infiltrator will also be applied to Palestinian residents of Jerusalem, citizens of countries with which Israel has friendly ties (such as the United States) and Israeli citizens, whether Arab or Jewish. All this depends on the judgment of Israel Defense Forces commanders in the field.

The Hamoked Center for the Defense of the Individual was the first Israeli human rights to issue warnings against the order, signed six months ago by then-commander of IDF forces in Judea and Samaria Area Gadi Shamni.

Two weeks ago, Hamoked director Dalia Kerstein sent GOC Central Command Avi Mizrahi a request to delay the order, given “the dramatic change it causes in relation to the human rights of a tremendous number of people.”

According to the provisions, “a person is presumed to be an infiltrator if he is present in the area without a document or permit which attest to his lawful presence in the area without reasonable justification.” Such documentation, it says, must be “issued by the commander of IDF forces in the Judea and Samaria area or someone acting on his behalf.”

The instructions, however, are unclear over whether the permits referred to are those currently in force, or also refer to new permits that military commanders might issue in the future. The provision are also unclear about the status of bearers of West Bank residency cards, and disregards the existence of the Palestinian Authority and the agreements Israel signed with it and the PLO.

The order stipulates that if a commander discovers that an infiltrator has recently entered a given area, he “may order his deportation before 72 hours elapse from the time he is served the written deportation order, provided the infiltrator is deported to the country or area from whence he infiltrated.”

The order also allows for criminal proceedings against suspected infiltrators that could produce sentences of up to seven years. Individuals able to prove that they entered the West Bank legally but without permission to remain there will also be tried, on charges carrying a maximum sentence of three years. (According to current Israeli law, illegal residents typically receive one-year sentences.)

The new provision also allow the IDF commander in the area to require that the infiltrator pay for the cost of his own detention, custody and expulsion, up to a total of NIS 7,500.

The fear that Palestinians with Gaza addresses will be the first to be targeted by this order is based on measures that Israel has taken in recent years to curtail their right to live, work, study or even visit the West Bank. These measures violated the Oslo Accords.

According to a decision by the West Bank commander that was not backed by military legislation, since 2007, Palestinians with Gaza addresses must request a permit to stay in the West Bank. Since 2000, they have been defined as illegal sojourners if they have Gaza addresses, as if they were citizens of a foreign state. Many of them have been deported to Gaza, including those born in the West Bank.

Currently, Palestinians need special permits to enter areas near the separation fence, even if their homes are there, and Palestinians have long been barred from the Jordan Valley without special authorization. Until 2009, East Jerusalemites needed permission to enter Area A, territory under full PA control.

Another group expected to be particularly harmed by the new rules are Palestinians who moved to the West Bank under family reunification provisions, which Israel stopped granting for several years.

In 2007, amid a number of Hamoked petitions and as a goodwill gesture to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, tens of thousands of people received Palestinian residency cards. The PA distributed the cards, but Israel had exclusive control over who could receive them. Thousands of Palestinians, however, remained classified as “illegal sojourners,” including many who are not citizens of any other country.

The new order is the latest step by the Israeli government in recent years to require permits that limit the freedom of movement and residency previously conferred by Palestinian ID cards. The new regulations are particularly sweeping, allowing for criminal measures and the mass expulsion of people from their homes.

The IDF Spokesman’s Office said in response, “The amendments to the order on preventing infiltration, signed by GOC Central Command, were issued as part of a series of manifests, orders and appointments in Judea and Samaria, in Hebrew and Arabic as required, and will be posted in the offices of the Civil Administration and military courts’ defense attorneys in Judea and Samaria. The IDF is ready to implement the order, which is not intended to apply to Israelis, but to illegal sojourners in Judea and Samaria.”

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NETANYAHU’S NEPHEW SPEAKS OUT AGAINST ISRAELI RACISM

Monday, April 5th, 2010

An Israeli student explains why the US should act on moral outrage over Israel’s discriminatory policies before it’s too late.

By Jonathan Ben-Artzi / April 1, 2010

Providence, R.I.

More than 20 years ago, many Americans decided they could no longer watch as racial segregation divided South Africa. Compelled by an injustice thousands of miles away, they demanded that their communities, their colleges, their municipalities, and their government take a stand.

As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Today, a similar discussion is taking place on campuses across the United States. Increasingly, students are questioning the morality of the ties US institutions have with the unjust practices being carried out in Israel and in the occupied Palestinian territories. Students are seeing that these practices are often more than merely “unjust.” They are racist. Humiliating. Inhumane. Savage.

Sometimes it takes a good friend to tell you when enough is enough. As they did with South Africa two decades ago, concerned citizens across the US can make a difference by encouraging Washington to get the message to Israel that this cannot continue.

A legitimate question is, Why should I care? Americans are heavily involved in the conflict: from funding (the US provides Israel with roughly $3 billion annually in military aid) to corporate investments (Microsoft has one of its major facilities in Israel) to diplomatic support (the US has vetoed 32 United Nations Security Council resolutions unsavory to Israel between 1982 and 2006).

Why do I care? I am an Israeli. Both my parents were born in Israel. Both my grandmothers were born in Palestine (when there was no “Israel” yet). In fact, I am a ninth-generation native of Palestine. My ancestors were among the founders of today’s modern Jerusalem.

Both my grandfathers fled the Nazis and came to Palestine. Both were subsequently injured in the 1948 Arab-Israli War. My mother’s only brother was a paratrooper killed in combat in 1968. All of my relatives served in the Israeli military for extensive periods of time, some of them in units most people don’t even know exist.

In Israel, military service for both men and women is compulsory. When my time to serve came, I refused, because I realized I was obliged to do something about these acts of segregation. I was denied conscientious objector status, like the majority of 18-year-old males who seek this status. Because I refused to serve, I spent a year and a half in military prison.

Some of the acts of segregation that I saw while growing up in Israel include towns for Jews only, immigration laws that allow Jews from around the world to immigrate but deny displaced indigenous Palestinians that same right, and national healthcare and school systems that receive significantly more funding in Jewish towns than in Arab towns.

As former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said in 2008: “We have not yet overcome the barrier of discrimination, which is a deliberate discrimination and the gap is insufferable…. Governments have denied [Arab Israelis] their rights to improve their quality of life.”

The situation in the occupied territories is even worse. Nearly 4 million Palestinians have been living under Israeli occupation for over 40 years without the most basic human and civil rights.

One example is segregation on roads in the West Bank, where settlers travel on roads that are for Jews only, while Palestinians are stopped at checkpoints, and a 10-mile commute might take seven hours.

Another example is discrimination in water supply: Israel pumps drinking water from occupied territory (in violation of international law). Israelis use as much as four times more water than Palestinians, while Palestinians are not allowed to dig their own wells and must rely on Israeli supply.

Civil freedom is no better: In an effort to break the spirit of Palestinians, Israel conducts sporadic arrests and detentions with no judicial supervision. According to one prisoner support and human rights association, roughly 4 in 10 Palestinian males have spent some time in Israeli prisons. That’s 40 percent of all Palestinian males!

And finally, perhaps one of the greatest injustices takes place in the Gaza Strip, where Israel is collectively punishing more than 1.5 million Palestinians by sealing them off in the largest open-air prison on earth.

Because of the US’s relationship with Israel, it is important for all Americans to educate themselves about the realities of the conflict. When they do, they will realize that just as much as support for South Africa decades ago was mostly damaging for South Africa itself, contemporary blind support for Israel hurts us Israelis.

We must lift the ruthless siege of Gaza, which only breeds more anger and frustration among Gazans, who respond by hurling primitive, homemade rockets at Israeli towns.

We must remove travel restrictions from West Bank Palestinians. How can we live in peace with a population where most children cannot visit their grandparents living in the neighboring village, without being stopped and harassed at military checkpoints for hours?

Finally, we must give equal rights to all. Regardless of what the final resolution will be – the so-called “one state solution,” the “two state solution,” or any other form of governance.

Israel governs the lives of 5.5 million Israeli Jews, 1.5 million Israeli Palestinians, and 4 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. As long as Israel is responsible for all of these people, it must ensure that all have equal rights, the same access to resources, and the same opportunities in education and healthcare. Only through such a platform of basic human rights for all humans can a resolution come to the region.

If Americans truly are our friends, they should shake us up and take away the keys, because right now we are driving drunk, and without this wake-up call, we will soon find ourselves in the ditch of an undemocratic, doomed state.

Jonathan Ben-Artzi was one of the spokespeople for the Hadash party in the Israeli general elections in 2006. His parents are professors in Israel, and his extended family includes uncle Benjamin Netanyahu. Mr. Ben-Artzi is a PhD student at Brown University in Providence, R.I.