tequila sovereign

The Occupation Notebooks: Entry 6: Nazareth and Haifa

On Wednesday, January 15, the delegation was in Nazareth and Haifa.
We had two meetings in the morning with people working on the rights of Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel (in the 48).
The first was a breakfast conversation with Ahmad, a leading member of the Palestinian Youth Movement (PYM) in Nazareth.
Ahmad discussed the history of the PYM in the 48, as an opposition to Israeli Marshall Law and the complicity of Palestinian communists (the left) with the Israeli military. Though the PYM has not been classified as “illegal” (which Israel does to suppress organizations), the oppression of them has continued. This included the closing of The Banner, a youth run paper, in the early 1990s.
Today, Israel law makes it illegal for any organization to affiliate with the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), because Palestinians in the 48 are considered Israeli citizens.
The PYM, established by three Palestinians in their 20s and 30s, works for one democratic state of Palestine that integrates all different groups. Ahmad argued that Palestinian Arabs are not a minority, as is frequently represented by Israel, as they make up 51% of the population in the 48. He also believes that Israeli apartheid is much more “sophisticated” than what happened in South Africa, particularly around its land transfer programs.
Ahmad said that the aim of the PYM is to dismantle the colonial state. Boycotts are important because they acknowledge the state of Israel is based on an apartheid system.
There is severe pressure on Palestinian families in the 48, including relentless searches (for things like banned books), “administrative detentions” (can be detained for a renewable six months without any charges), and having you and/or your family fired from their jobs. Promises to stop these intrusions are made if you agree to put pressure on Hamas and stop your activism.
Gender politics are also a real part of struggle. Israeli military and police threaten the men that they will spread around  nude pictures of their mothers and sisters unless they comply.
Ahmad also talked about the ways Israel has used the Holocaust to mobilize international support and to represent Palestinians as Nazi Germans.

Our second meeting was with Mohammad Zeidan, director of the Arab Association for Human Rights (HRA), one of the oldest NGOs working for the rights of Palestinian Arabs in the 48.
Zeidan provided an articulate, cogent overview of the human rights struggles of Palestinian Arabs in Israel. This struggle begins with the way Israel defines Palestinians as minority citizens, a status Zeidan and others reject.
Zeidan talked about the 1948 declaration of a Jewish state by Israel. The Jewishness of the state’s origins is an origin of discrimination, based on a racialized religious difference. This difference is used as the basis of all Israeli law. There are even two systems of jurisdiction: a military court for Palestinians and a civil court for Israelis.
Between 1948 and 1962, the apartheid system emerged. Israel required that Palestinians possess formal permission to travel and that they comply with all curfew and other laws.
Between 1948 and 1966, 60% of the land was confiscated from Palestinians for Israeli settlement. Twenty-five percent of Palestinian villages were destroyed, creating Palestinian refugees (the “eternally displaced”) in Israel. They did this in part through the Absentee Property Laws, which allow Israel to take control of Palestinian property if they are found to be “absent” from it for any reason or length of time. This included the creation of the category “present absentees” – those Palestinians were made citizens of Israel but found not to be adequately residing in their property.
After 1966, Zeidan defined four forms of Palestinian human rights violations by Israel:
1) Legal direct: This includes those laws that invoke Jewishness as a criteria for determining legal status and rights in the State of Israel. In fact, all citizenship laws have Jewishness as the only criteria (matrilineal, mother or grandmother must be Jewish). So, both lineality and religious criteria are used to determine who are full citizens.
Zeidan talked about the example of the Russian immigration of 1990. All one million Russians were made citizens and settled in Haifa, but none of them had either lineal or religious claims to being Jewish. Israel law provides that any Jew can return and be made a citizen (the law or right of return). It needed/wanted a mass settlement in Haifa, so it used Russian immigrants to make it happen. Extended citizenship status and rights to them despite their own laws.
2) Legal indirect (or covert): There are great benefits for those who serve in the military. Every Israeli must serve. Defense minister has the power to exempt a person from service; all Palestinians are exempted from service, so they do not have equal rights of citizenship. Jewish orthodoxy not required to serve but given security number as if they had, so they possess he same rights as those who serve.
3) Institutionalized discrimination: Results from policy. Budgeting funds, services according to Jewishness. Absolute discretion of the ministries. Each minister decides.
4) Racism in the public sphere. 53% of Jewish children do not want to see Arabs in their schools.
“Fascism is the implementation of racism,” Zeidan said.
Zeidan then spoke about the peace process. He differentiated issues in Israel and the occupied territories. He said that much is going on in the name of the “public good,” including the confiscation of 93% of the land in the 48. Palestinians only retain control of 2.5% of the land. All the rest has been taken for Israeli settlements.
Inside the 48, BDS needs to pay attention to issues inside Israel and not just inside the occupied territories.
“You cannot build peace without justice.”
Refugees are figured as infiltrators.
Believes it is too late to talk about a two state solution, with 700,000 settlers in the occupied territories.
There is a growing number of youth boycotting the Israeli elections (48%).
Jewish nationality as religious. Race in this is not so clear. There is Jewish atheism, as an Israeli identity. Must change your religious to immigrate and become a citizen.
We then took a quick drive to the coast of Haifa.
It was bittersweet at the beach. In our meeting Leila Khaled in Amman, one of the delegates asked her if there was anything we could do for her. Khaled asked us to bring back the sand of Haifa, her hometown. So, while we walked for a bit at the beach, we collected sand and shells for Khaled, who is banned from returning home.
Then there was Ayn Hawd.
During the 1948 war, the Palestinian village of Ayn Hawd was captured by Israel. Its inhabitants were forced out, resettling just under one mile away. Israel transformed the village into an artist’s colony and renamed it Ein Hod. Ein Hod has settled homes, manicured lawns, a cultural center, a gallery, restaurants, and a gift shop celebrating Jewish culture and art. The Ein Hod Mosque is now a bar. The colony is surrounded by a forest populated with imported trees and shrubs that physically replaced the olive trees that once grew there. The gallery re-writes the cultural history of the place, even arguing that the huge olive press that dominates its space originates in Eastern Europe and not Palestine. Because, after all, Palestine has no history or culture.

Afterwards, we were met in Haifa by Mohammad Meari for a quick tour. Meari works at Mada al-Carmel—The Arab Center for Applied Social Research. We met with him and research fellow Esmail El-Nashef there to discuss the work at the center and the role of Israeli suppression in the containment of Palestinian cultural work and history for its political possibilities in uniting Palestinians against Israeli apartheid.

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