Besieging Israel's siege
In just a few years the Palestinian campaign to boycott Israeli goods has become truly global
Despite Israel's siege of Gaza, and the escalating displacement in the Negev and East Jerusalem, Palestinians have some reason to celebrate. In Washington a food co-op has passed a resolution calling for a boycott of Israeli products, confirming that the boycott movement – five years old last month – has finally crossed the Atlantic. Support for the move came from prominent figures including Nobel peace laureates Desmond Tutu and Máiread Maguire, and Richard Falk, the UN's special rapporteur on the Palestinian territories.
The movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel was launched in 2005, a year after the international court of justice had found Israel's wall and colonies built on occupied Palestinian territory illegal. Over 170 Palestinian political parties, unions, mass movements and NGOs endorsed the movement, which is led by the BNC, a coalition of civil society organisations.
Rooted in a century of Palestinian civil resistance, and inspired by the anti-apartheid struggle, the campaign crowned earlier, partial boycotts to present a comprehensive approach to realising Palestinian self-determination: unifying Palestinians inside historic Palestine and in exile in the face of accelerating fragmentation.
BDS avoids the prescription of any particular political formula and insists, instead, on realising the basic, UN-sanctioned rights that correspond to the three main segments of the Palestinian people: ending Israel's occupation and colonisation of all Arab lands occupied since 1967; ending racial discrimination against its Palestinian citizens; and recognising the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes, as stipulated in UN resolution 194.
Created and guided by Palestinians, BDS opposes all forms of racism, including antisemitism, and is anchored in the universal principles of freedom, justice and equal rights that motivated the anti-apartheid and US civil rights struggles.
Characterising Israel's legalised system of discrimination as apartheid – as was done by Tutu, Jimmy Carter and even a former Israeli attorney general – does not equate Israel with South Africa. No two oppressive regimes are identical. Rather, it asserts that Israel's bestowal of rights and privileges according to ethnic and religious criteria fits the UN-adopted definition of apartheid.
BDS has seen unprecedented growth after the war of aggression on Gaza and the flotilla attack. People of conscience round the world seem to have crossed a threshold, resorting to pressure, not appeasement or "constructive engagement", to end Israel's impunity and western collusion in maintaining its status as a state above the law.
"Besiege your siege" – the cry of the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish– acquires a new meaning in this context. Since convincing a colonial power to heed moral pleas for justice is, at best, delusional, many now understand the need to "besiege" Israel though boycotts, raising the price of its oppression.
BDS campaigners have successfully lobbied financial institutions in Scandinavia, Germany and elsewhere to divest from companies that are complicit in Israel's violations of international law. Several international trade unions have endorsed the boycott. Following the attack on the flotilla, dockworkers' unions in Sweden, India, Turkey and the US heeded an appeal by Palestinian unions to block offloading Israeli ships.
Endorsements of BDS by cultural figures such as John Berger, Naomi Klein, Iain Banks and Alice Walker, and the spate of cancellations of events in Israel by artists including Meg Ryan, Elvis Costello, Gil Scott-Heron and the Pixies have raised the movement's international profile, bringing it closer to the western mainstream. Scepticism about its potential has been put to rest.
Boycott from Within, a significant protest movement in Israel today, was formed in 2009 adopting the Palestinian BDS call.
A bill that would impose heavy fines on Israelis who initiate or incite boycotts against Israel has recently passed an initial reading at the Knesset. This underlines Israel's fears of the global reach and impact of BDS as a non-violent, morally consistent campaign for justice. In many ways, it confirms that the Palestinian "South Africa moment" has arrived.
Yousef Jabareen webpage http://weblaw.haifa.ac.il/en/Faculty/Pages/Jabareen.aspx
Kais Nasser http://law.huji.ac.il/eng/merkazim.asp?cat=1932&in=535
Palestinians in Israel complain to the United Nations
By Mohamed Mohsen Watad - Umm al-Fahm
A complaint is to be lodged with the human rights agencies of the UN about the intensification of house demolitions in the Negev desert region by the Israeli authorities. The demolitions are part of a wider range of land and housing abuses the authorities commit against Israel's Palestinian citizens. Israel says that the house it demolishes in the Negev are in villages which are "not recognised" by the state. Around 80,000 people live in 45 such villages, which have lost around a million acres of land in the demolition onslaught.
The Arab Centre for Law and Policy inside the Palestinian territories has presented a paper on building services, structural maps and the demolition of Arab houses to Amnesty International and international institutions dealing with minority rights. Foreign ambassadors in Tel Aviv are also being urged to intervene with the Israeli government to end its aggressive policies towards Israeli Arabs.
The Chairman of the Monitoring Committee, Mohamed Zidane, said, "In the light of this escalation, we started an international campaign which includes going to the various human rights agencies of the United Nations that deal with humanitarian issues."
He stressed to Aljazeera.net that the committee's goal is "to expose Israel" for what it is doing and "inform the international community of our suffering as a Palestinian minority". The committee hopes that by putting the land and housing issue on the international agenda it will succeed in forcing Israel to stop its aggressive offensive against a minority of its own citizens.
The document, prepared by Dr. Yousef Jabareen and Qais Nasser, gives details of the obstacles created by Israeli institutions which prevent Arab citizens from being able to obtain building permits. It noted the lack of planning in 22 Arab towns in addition to old planning for Arab towns, and it also stated that only five Arab councils out of 83 authorities are functioning as local committees for planning and building. This affects the ability to develop Arab towns.
Mr. Nasser told Aljazeera.net that in October Amnesty International will publish a report on the Arab minority in Israel, based on the document presented to the human rights organisation. The document claims that there are 77 Arab town without new structural maps and 25 towns without structural plans at all. Israeli Arabs are prohibited from using an incredible 80% of the land across the country.
Dr. Jabareen, an expert in international law, added, "The problem of illegal building by the Arab minority is due primarily to discriminatory planning policies pursued by Israel against them." Planning and building affect the bigger issues of land and housing, he said, which are the pillars of the survival and development of the Arabs in their homeland. He hopes that this document will benefit the struggle of Arab citizens and ring alarm bells for Israeli decision-makers whose policies turn tens of thousands of Arab citizens into unwitting criminals.
Israeli law, said Dr. Jabareen, makes clear distinctions between Jewish and Arab citizens, favouring with special status institutions set up to promote the Jewish nature of the state. He highlighted the legal status of the Jewish Agency and Land Fund of Israel, whose functions include governmental roles and authority, including the establishment of new settlements for Jews only. He concluded, "Historically, Israel has dealt in an aggressive fashion with the bodies set up by the Palestinian community to defend the issues of their land and housing."
Report: Palestinian-Israelis forced to build illegally
Washington – Palestinians are faced with so many obstacles from the Israeli government that they have no other choice but to build illegally, according to a new report, Haaretz reported Thursday.
The study was conducted by Dirasat, the Arab Center for Law and Policy, and authored by Kais Nasser of Hebrew University's law faculty. According to its finding, the Israeli government refuses to recognize many Palestinian Israeli villages. It also frequently refuses to grant legal building permits. Faced with these roadblocks, the report states, the disenfranchised are left with no option but to build illegally.
The study came just days after Israeli authorities demolished the Bedouin village Al-Arakib in the Negev desert in southern Israel. A reported 45,000 of these illegal structures exist in Israel and another 1,500 are built every year without legal recognition from the Israeli government.
One of the major barriers to legal Palestinian building is the absence of any municipal master plan. According to the study, a quarter of Palestinian Israeli towns do not have any such plan. The rest have outdated ones and lack local planning committees. Only 4% of Palestinian communities have such panels, while 55% of Jewish Israeli ones have them.
Without a master plan, Palestinians are not able to obtain a legal building permit. But even the Palestinian communities that do have local or private building plans are often given lowest priority for permits, the study said.
The study also examined the larger predicament of Palestinian Israeli citizens and their communities. According to gathered data, while the number of Palestinian Israelis has grown seven-fold since 1948, their municipal communities only take up 2.5% of Israeli land. In addition, while over 1,000 Israeli settlements have been built, there have been no new Palestinian towns. The only exception is a consolidated Bedouin community in the Negev.
"The Arab citizen in Israel does not suffer from a 'syndrome' or find pleasure in illegal construction," said Nasser. "Like any citizen of the state, the Arab citizen would build legally if he were guaranteed within a planning framework that enabled him to receive a permit."
Many Palestinian Israeli towns face more than just red tape when trying to build; many just lack the necessary infrastructure to have plans approved. The study cited the northern village of Reineh, where not a single resident has received a building permit because the town lacks the roads and infrastructure required by the planning committee.
"Young Arabs today feel despair about their future housing options,” said Dr. Yosef Jabareen, the head of Dir Assat center. "This reality should be a red warning light for policymakers and cause them to act to ensure the existential rights of Arab citizens before it is too late."
Another report was released Thursday. This study enumerated the recent slew of house demolitions taking place in East Jerusalem and the wider West Bank, Ma’an reported Friday.
The report was released by The Jerusalem Center for Social and Economic Rights. The reports listed demolitions included several greenhouses, a car wash, and a grocery store in the town of Hizma. It also tallied a number of home and agricultural buildings in East Jerusalem, who were reportedly in the middle of legal battles over allegations that Palestinians had illegally built the houses.