Saturday, October 30, 2010

[ePalestine] Arab news: A Show of Palestinian Business Resilience (By SAM BAHOUR)

Arab news  

A Show of Palestinian Business Resilience  


Published: Oct 30, 2010 00:15 Updated: Oct 30, 2010 00:15  

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad will most likely cut a ribbon; a handful of government officials will be jockeying for camera time to claim economic leadership; major multinationals will compete to get their logo in the limelight; international donors, like USAID, DFID and the World Bank will be prominently featured and the media will eat all of this and regurgitate it, with little or no real analysis, as economic development toward statehood.  

This is all a probable scenario in the upcoming Palestinian information and communication technology (ICT) sector’s premier annual public event, EXPOTECH Technology Week 2010 that will be held from Nov. 1-6.  

The real story however will be embedded in the exhibition’s booths, in the people who are struggling to survive under a brutal and prolonged Israeli military occupation while keeping their eye on the prize: building an information technology sector that has the potential to be a pillar of a future Palestinian state while in the meantime providing sustenance under the distress of occupation  

This exhibition is not about growth; it is about survival.  


Palestine’s ICT players are many but the key to this sector is the knowledge-based resources. The human resources that feed the sector are a mix between products of Palestine’s higher education system and Palestine’s Diaspora and expat community who have returned home during the past two decades.  

Palestinian universities have been weathering crisis after crisis ever since Israeli occupation began in 1967. In the mid 1970s university presidents and staff had to deal with being deported from their homes by Israel; in the late 1980s several Palestinian universities were closed for years on end and hundreds of staff and students were arrested by Israel; in the 1990s, with the signing of the Oslo peace accords, what was supposedly a paradigm shift toward independence turned out to be a reshuffling of the occupation with a new layer of bureaucracy called the Palestinian Authority (PA). Since the year 2000 Palestinian professors and students have been randomly blocked by Israeli checkpoints and closure regimes from reaching their classrooms and continue, all the while, to be arbitrarily harassed, humiliated and arrested.  

More recently, how higher education institutions in Gaza can sustain their existence under Israeli siege and constant shelling from the air, land and sea is a story in itself and will surely be noted in tomorrow’s history books.  

In spite of this bitter reality, Palestinians persevered and held on to education like there was no tomorrow. This steadfastness in the face of incredible odds should not be underestimated. In the midst of all of this chaos, universities struggled to attain their fair allocation of the PA budget to meet their payrolls, retain their teaching staff and adjust their offerings to meet the rapidly changing market needs. For better or for worse, this is the foundation that the information technology sector of Palestine stands on.  

Business drivers  

Those driving Palestine’s occupied economy are also key. Thus far, the donor community, by virtue of its funding abilities, is the back-seat driver of the entire economy and is in structural control. The US, EU, World Bank and the like are micromanaging many sectors in Palestine; the ICT sector is not an exception.  

Intervention comes in many shapes and sizes and, over time, develops its modalities. What started nearly two decades ago as charitable assistance has since moved to grants managed by each donor country’s private sector firms. Over time, and with the need to navigate through a political minefield, assistance to the sector took a new shape: partnerships with local civil society. Even multinational corporate social responsibility venues started playing a major role.  

A growing number of Palestinian software development firms and service providers are reaching out to global markets, some benefiting from this international support and others on their own. Hidden in the alleyways of Palestine’s economic landscape are Palestinians from the expat community and Diaspora who are linking local engineers to global markets.  

Firms like gSoft Technology Solutions (, one of the leading software development companies in Palestine which provides outsourcing services to leading American companies specializing in the semiconductor, solar, insurance, medical, real-estate and mobile markets in the US, is a prime case in point. gSoft also builds and globally markets mobile and advertising products and services. This firm highlights the organic link that the Palestinian Diaspora can play in opening up markets for local firms to serve.  

Another local success story is Bisan Systems ( This firm has been providing accounting software services to the lion’s share of the Palestinian market for over 22 years. In keeping with the times they now provide all of the occupied territory with a new version of their Java-based, multilingual, online accounting application in an application service provider model. The firm is also providing the accounting system plumbing behind some of the main elements of the Palestinian Authority’s institutional financial reform efforts and is receiving rave reviews by international organizations like the World Bank. This is another local success story — ready, able and willing to compete on a regional and global scale. The examples are many.  

Over the years many multinational firms have dabbled into Palestine’s ICT sector as well.  At one point TIMEX had a team of Palestinian developers working as part of their global research and development network to develop new digital watch software. Today, HP and Google are just two more examples of firms on the ground in Palestine.  

The most promising of the multinational experiences has been a three-year commitment from CISCO’s CEO John Chambers, which is due to expire at the end of this year. CISCO has hinted that they are more than pleased with the investments they have made in Palestinian firms. The sector anxiously awaits a comprehensive review of the $10 million that was invested by CISCO in order to build on this high profile platform for other multinationals to follow suit.  

Sector leadership  

The convener of the upcoming high-tech exhibition is the Palestinian Information Technology Association of Companies (PITA). PITA was founded in 1999 by a group of Palestinian entrepreneurs who wanted to create a nongovernmental body to defend the interests of the ICT sector. Operations began in the city of Ramallah in the West Bank with one employee and a paid member base of 25 Palestinian ICT companies.  

PITA can safely claim to be the most active Palestinian trade association, both on and offline. During the tough years of the second Intifada, PITA grew and today represents 100 ICT firms (29 of them based in Gaza) — everything from hardware distributors, software development firms, office automation vendors, Internet service providers, telecommunications, IT consulting, IT training and related businesses. This growth and member base diversity exemplifies the dynamism of this sector and reflects its tremendous potential.  

The newest addition to the sector has been the establishment of several university-based Centers of Excellences dedicated to incubation services to capture a pipeline of ideas emerging from Palestine’s youthful population.  

Even the Palestinian Authority itself, at least in the West Bank, has started to finally get its act together and make progress on several long-standing issues that have held back the sector, such as opening the telecommunications market for competition.  

Capital in action  

The investment leadership in the sector has also become richer and more diverse in recent years. Today Palestine is proud to host several new private equity funds that are open to ICT investments. Abraaj Capital, the region’s biggest private equity group in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia, has partnered with the Palestine Investment Fund, Palestine’s sovereign wealth fund, to launch Palestine’s branch of the Riyada Enterprise Development by way of a $50 million private equity fund. Abraaj Capital Group, the parent of Riyada Enterprise Development, was a recent recipient of $150 million in financial support from the US’ Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) to expand its efforts in the MENA region.  

Massar International, one of Palestine’s emerging economic powerhouses, has recently received $30 million financial support from OPIC to launch the Siraj Palestine Fund I, another private equity fund.  

Some funds have tried to bury the political complexities of managing a matrix of interests in Palestine, but others have dealt with the political complexities head on. For example, as reported in, the Aspen Institute “has several projects designed to encourage Middle East entrepreneurship. It has played a key role in organizing the Middle East Venture Capital Fund, which is managed by Israeli businessman Yadin Kaufmann and Palestinian entrepreneur Saed Nashef. Backed by the European Investment Bank, Cisco Systems Inc., Intel Corporation and other contributors, the fund has $50 million to fund high-growth, export- oriented ventures in information technology.”  

The UK-based aid and development agency Mercy Corps recently reported in a press release that it “received a major international award for its work to support Palestinian information and communication technology (ICT) companies…They won the prestigious Digital Opportunity Award for their program building links between Palestinian and Israeli ICT companies as a step toward peace in the region…[and]…in recognition of their ‘remarkable and successful’ work in building closer business relationships between Palestinian and Israeli companies. The program involved an extensive awareness-raising campaign and proactively building business relationships, through meetings and the launch of a new website [see the Outsource to Palestine website at] and report, all aimed at promoting the capabilities of the Palestinian ICT sector to the Israeli and international market.”  

Several new private equity and venture capital funds are also in the pipeline. Thus, one can see a clear building of the needed investment infrastructure. But to be honest to Palestine’s experience, it was never the hard infrastructure which was cause for concern, but rather the soft infrastructure — that which may be called the investment eco-system — that has hindered our progress: things like freedom of movement of people and goods, the right to engage in cross border trade without Israeli restrictions, a telecommunications network which is not forced to go through an Israeli operator and the like.  

The rigorous international intervention to support Palestine’s ICT sector is surely welcomed; however, it would be meaningless if it was not accompanied by concentrated efforts from donor states to remove — not maneuver between — Israel’s illegal actions that hamper our sector’s development.  

A real display of resilience  

Palestine’s EXPOTECH Technology Week 2010 has all the trappings of any world-class exhibition. It will be the first event to be held in Palestine’s first 5-star Movenpick Hotel in Ramallah. A parallel venue in Gaza is also planned for those not permitted by Israel to attend. Aside from the business to business meetings, an array of workshops will be held on IT Business in Palestine, Telecommunication and Broadband, Technology Entrepreneurship, Technology Trends, e-Government Initiative, Technology Financing, Strategies to Grow the ICT Sector, Technology/Innovation Marketing and IT Education. If one did not know better, the exhibition agenda looks like one from any free market anywhere in the world. However, we do know better.  

In the face of the systematic Israeli stifling of our economy, our technology entrepreneurs are putting on a show of Palestinian business resilience like no other. It can be viewed as an example of a battered people, proudly standing up at the podium of a globally vibrant sector, and screaming at the top of their voice that we are a people yearning to be free, yearning to compete in a global economy. We are a people that have kept abreast of our sector’s developments across the globe even as we find it hard to move from city to city in our own homeland.  

The exhibition will physically bring together West Bank Palestinians, Jerusalemites, a few Gazan Palestinians and Palestinians from the Diaspora. It will be a symbolic sign of economic unity, albeit not fully complete. Those Palestinian technologists that are dispersed throughout our refugee community will be missing. Yet other loved ones from our sector who are currently being imprisoned by Israel will also be missing. But in spirit all will be present and all will be showing a side of Palestine that is rarely seen — a Palestine that can contribute to human knowledge; a Palestine that can improve human well being; and maybe more than anything else, a Palestine that is giving countries of the world yet another chance to uphold their obligations as signatories to the Fourth Geneva Convention and to remove the misery caused by the dirty boot of Israeli military occupation being on our necks for so many years.  

Visit this display of genuine Palestinian business resilience at  

— The writer is a Palestinian-American business consultant living in the Palestinian city of Al- Bireh/Ramallah in the West Bank. He blogs at  

© 2010 Arab News  


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Friday, October 29, 2010

[ePalestine] New Book: Letters from Palestine (by Kenneth Ring and Ghassan Abdullah)

Dear friends,

Please allow me to draw your attention to a new book that is now in the marketplace:

Letters from Palestine: Palestinians Speak Out about Their Lives, Their Country, and the Power of Nonviolence
by Kenneth Ring and Ghassan Abdullah
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Wheatmark (July 15, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1604944161
ISBN-13: 978-1604944167

Having been a co-editor to a volume of oral histories on Palestine and Palestinians after the first Gulf War, I feel this book is a natural extension which brings the reality of every day Palestinians to the reader.

I personally know several of the people whose accounts are offered. The book is an easy read and full of normal Palestinian life, which is not normal by any stretch of the imagination.

I strongly encourage you to buy and donate a copy to your public local library. Also, if you are a Palestinian diaspora parent raising your kids outside of Palestine, this book is a must read for you, and them.

History, from the people, by the people, and for the people,


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Friday, October 22, 2010


Listen to a riveting, no nonsense brief talk by Kathy Christison on US-Israeli relations. A must hear. Her talk starts at 46:40:00 and goes until 1:04:00.


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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

[ePalestine] Guardian: Can the OECD stand up to Israel? (by Sam Bahour and Charles Shamas)

Can the OECD stand up to Israel?

The upcoming OECD tourism summit in Jerusalem will test its member
countries' commitment to international law

By Sam Bahour and Charles Shamas
Tuesday 12 October 2010 12.00 BST

What can be said for the state of international law when international
organisations such as the OECD find themselves unable to prevent a member
country from bringing its unlawful practice into the life of the
organisation itself? In such situations, how can law-abiding member
countries avoid being drawn into acquiescence? Later this month, these
questions may find answers when Israel hosts an OECD gathering in
Jerusalem to discuss global tourism.

The OECD is an international economic organisation of 33 countries, with
the latest controversial addition to this club being Israel. The OECD
explains its mission as providing "a setting where governments compare
policy experiences, seek answers to common problems, identify good
practice and co-ordinate domestic and international policies". At minimum,
one would expect the co-ordination of these "international policies" to
remain within the bounds of international law.

At Israel's invitation, the 86th session of the OECD tourism committee
will take place in Jerusalem on 20 and 21 October to discuss supporting a
sustainable and competitive tourism industry for the benefit of the
members' economies. The session will be attended by senior government
officials from OECD member countries and key emerging economies. This is
only the second time that the meeting has been held outside Paris.

Israel will conduct itself as the host and as an OECD member based on the
Israeli ministry of tourism's unlawful unilateral extension of its
jurisdiction to include occupied East Jerusalem, the Syrian Golan Heights
and touristic sites and businesses in those parts of the West Bank
reserved for Israeli settlement.

Israel's ministry of tourism website clearly lists tourist sites in
occupied territory, such as the Dome of the Rock and the Church of the
Holy Sepulchre, as Israeli sites. The ministry's websites also publicise
settlement-based tourist services licensed by the ministry and receiving
Israeli state financial support under the ministry's auspices. They
present maps that depict the entire territory of historic Palestine west
of the Jordan river, as well as the Syrian Golan, as territory of Israel
that falls under Israel's national tourism-related and cultural
heritage-related responsibility.

Despite OECD efforts to the contrary, photographs of touristic sites in
occupied territory have been incorporated in a website that Israel has
constructed under OECD auspices.

Last month, the Right to Enter campaign – a grassroots campaign for the
freedom of movement to/from and within the occupied Palestinian
territories, for which we volunteer – wrote to each OECD member to
explain the situation and the harm that will be done by allowing such
Israeli practice under OECD auspices, and by acquiescing to Israel's
insistence on basing its participation in the OECD on its illegal acts of
annexation and settlement in occupied territory.

All OECD member countries refuse to recognise Israel's illegal annexation
of East Jerusalem and have therefore insisted in keeping their embassies
in Tel Aviv instead of Israel's self- proclaimed "unified" capital. They
presumably would not want to be drawn into acts or omissions that would
imply that Israeli practice resulting from the very acts of annexation and
settlement they condemn as internationally unlawful can be considered
legitimate under the OECD's auspices.

It remains to be seen how they will manage to avoid such missteps. It is
hardly encouraging that during the runup to the tourism meeting web pages
bearing the OECD emblem continue to advertise touristic and cultural
heritage sites in the occupied Palestinian territories as Israeli.

It is difficult to overlook the fact that Israel has been permitted to
base its performance of its obligations and conduct its participation in
OECD activities on its own policies of settlement and annexation,
notwithstanding the duty of the OECD and its member countries not to
recognise these Israeli practices as lawful or give them effect within the

Countries planning to attend include Spain, Australia, Austria, Belgium,
Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece,
Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands,
New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea,
Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and the United States.

For those countries that decide to attend, the devil will be in the
details. The proficiency of their delegates at identifying and preventing
the importation of Israel's violations of international law into the
proceedings and surrounding events will be sorely tested.

It can make no sense for world leaders to allow themselves to be drawn
progressively into acquiescing to Israel's serious and persistent
violations of international law while continuing to demand that
Palestinians respect and place their confidence in international law after
62 years of dispossession and 43 years of military occupation.

Yet Israel has become a habitual violator and has also become highly
proficient at dragging other states along with it. If the OECD and its
member countries cannot be expected to effectively resist this pull, who
can be expected to hold the line? Who is left to defend the normative
foundations of the just and peaceful world order that states and
international organisations like the OECD regularly proclaim their resolve
to promote?


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Sunday, October 10, 2010

[ePalestine] Plain Dealer: One man's journey from Youngstown to life as a businessman on West Bank: Sam Bahour

Cleveland Plain Dealer

One man's journey from Youngstown to life as a businessman on West Bank: Sam Bahour 

Published: Sunday, October 10, 2010, 3:00 AM 

Plain Dealer guest columnist Plain Dealer guest columnist 

President Barack Obama correctly placed Middle East peace on top of his agenda, but he must be careful. International law must be his guiding light; anything less is just prolonging the conflict and playing short-term politics. 

I live in my father's birthplace of Al Bireh, eight miles north of Jerusalem. We enjoy a yard with dozens of fruit-bearing plants, and yet we are literally a three-minute walk to downtown Ramallah, our commercial center. Our bedroom window affords us a clear view of one of the many eyesores that pepper West Bank hilltops: an illegal Israeli settlement. 

When Palestinians and Israelis signed the infamous Oslo Peace Accords in 1993, I set my sights on relocating to Palestine to participate firsthand in what everyone believed was the beginning of the end of Israel's military occupation of Palestinians. 

Israel controls every port of entry into the West Bank. My father, who first left Palestine for the United States in 1957, was not physically here when the 1967 Six-Day War took place so he was not counted in the census that the Israeli military conducted upon seizing control. Palestinians who were present were issued identification cards, which granted them permanent residency. To this day, my father can only return to his birthplace as a U.S. tourist for a maximum of three months. Having been born in the United States, I entered the same way for 15 years. After marrying my Palestinian wife, I applied to the Israelis for residency back in 1994. Lack of permanent residency meant that I was forced to leave and re-enter the country every few months. 

In 2006, during one of my visa renewal trips to Jordan, I was given (after a six-hour wait) a tourist visa, but this time my U.S. passport had handwritten in it, in Hebrew, Arabic and English: "Last Permit." The Israelis forced me to make a choice: leave or stay in Palestine and overstay my visa, which would be cause for deportation as soon as an Israeli patrol stopped me, as regularly happens. I created a third option: I joined the Campaign for the Right to Enter and reached out to many Israeli friends to assist in making my case for permanent residency, which ultimately was granted by the Israeli military. 

So, as a U.S. citizen who for 15 years traveled at will, I was now, for Israeli purposes, classified as a Palestinian. The day I was given my ID card, I lost my freedom of movement. Today, the only way to get to Jerusalem, Israel or my Israeli alma mater, Tel Aviv University, is to make a request to the Israeli military for a permit, which is rarely granted. To use such a permit means to travel on foot for several hours through the most humiliating animal stall-like checkpoints. 

It still astonishes me how a U.S. citizen can be treated like trash the minute he becomes associated with Palestinian residency, while an American Jew who has no family ties to this place whatsoever can leave Cleveland, land in Tel Aviv airport and freely go to one of the many illegal Jewish-only settlements spread throughout the West Bank. Not only will this newcomer be welcomed and encouraged by Israeli authorities, but actually have a "right" under Israeli law to automatically ascertain Israeli citizenship. All the while, my West Bank (not refugee) father is being torn apart every time his three-month visitor's visa is up and he is forced to head back to Youngstown and wait another year before he can make another visit to his birthplace to see his granddaughters. 

Freedom-of-movement issues aside, I had a soft landing in Palestine. I was recruited to help establish the first Palestinian telecommunications company, which is the Palestine Securities Exchange's blue chip and the largest private-sector employer. Israel applied just enough restrictions to make it nearly impossible to succeed. This experience was a crash course in political economy and a wake-up call that this military occupation had no intention of ending on its own. 

At the outset of the Oslo Agreement, everyone was upbeat, even those, such as myself, who were critical of the agreement. Believing that Palestinians and Israelis are bound to live together, I decided that I must broaden my understanding of the Israeli community, so I enrolled in a master's of business administration program at Tel Aviv University. I did not want another degree on my wall as much as I wanted to understand Israelis as individuals, not soldiers. 

Being upbeat did not last for long. When an Israeli Jewish extremist assassinated Israeli Prime Minster Yitzhak Rabin in 1995, things took a turn for the worse. In 1996, the then (and now) prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, launched American-supplied helicopter gunship attacks on protesters in the outskirts of Al Bireh. From that point on, peace became more associated with the process than an outcome. 

Juggling among the political breakdown, work and raising a family, I left PALTEL to establish my own management consulting firm. 

My second major economic project was the creation of Palestine's first modern retail shopping facility, the PLAZA Shopping Center. Everyone here calls it a mall. PLAZA introduced a Western-style supermarket and an indoor children's play area to Al Bireh. My father, a career grocer in Youngstown, took special pride in seeing his son transfer some of the family business know-how to his hometown. After tremendous hurdles, the shopping center opened and the supermarket chain it houses just opened its 10th branch. 

Despite all the hardship and frustrations, we remain constructively engaged. Our two daughters are enrolled in the Friends (Quaker) School and are getting a top-notch, bilingual education while at the same time enjoying all that Palestinian culture and tradition has to offer. 

I'm starting to feel a sense of hope that the world, in particular the American public, is starting to understand the Palestinian-Israeli "conflict." Sooner rather than later, the Holy Land -- Palestine and Israel -- will be the destination of choice for all travelers. Until then, we continue to prepare for your arrival. 

Bahour is a Palestinian-American business consultant from Youngstown living in the Palestinian city of Al-Bireh in the West Bank. He is co-author of "Homeland: Oral Histories of Palestine and Palestinians" (1994). 

To reach Sam Bahour: 

© 2010 All rights reserved. 


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Saturday, October 09, 2010

[ePalestine] HRW: Israel: Grant Status Long Denied to Arab Village in Central Israel (A MUST READ)

Dear friends, 

This speaks volumes on Israeli intentions!

This is happening, not in the West Bank, but deep inside Israel proper. Make your voice heard before the next court hearing on Oct. 11. 

Only in the only democracy in the Middle East,


Human Rights Watch 

Israel: Grant Status Long Denied to Arab Village in Central Israel 

Discriminatory Planning Procedures Prevent Access to Basic Services; Court to Rule on Demolition Orders 

October 8, 2010 

(Jerusalem) - The Israeli government should grant legal status to a 60-year-old village with a population of about 600 Palestinian-Israeli citizens, Human Rights Watch said today. Authorities have refused to recognize the village as residential, even as they approved an immediately adjacent residential development for Jewish Israelis. The authorities have given no justification for the difference in treatment. 

Dahmash, approximately 20 kilometers from Tel Aviv between the cities of Ramle and Lod in central Israel, has been inhabited since at least 1951, and its residents are Israeli citizens. The authorities refuse to rezone the land as residential - although they have done so in neighboring areas - and refuse to provide basic services such as paved roads, sewage, health facilities, kindergartens, and schools, despite numerous petitions by residents. Instead, the authorities consider almost every one of the 70 houses "illegal," and 13 are under threat of demolition. A court is to decide the issue on October 11, 2010. 

"The 600 people of Dahmash are treated as if they don't exist, while Jewish towns are developed nearby in a way that threatens Dahmash residents' access to their homes and lands," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "Planning authorities should end this discriminatory treatment, immediately recognize Dahmash's residential status, and provide the basic services denied for decades." 

The prohibition of discrimination, which includes any unjustified differential treatment that has the effect of impairing the equal recognition of human rights on the grounds of race, ethnicity, or religion, is one of the most fundamental prohibitions under international human rights law. 

Plans for a highway interchange in the area and construction plans that local officials say are intended for residential developments for Jewish Israelis in the area would block almost all existing entrances to Dahmash. 

The lack of basic services such as drainage and sewage systems leads to persistent flooding of Dahmash's unpaved roads in winter. The main entrance to Dahmash is a gravel road from Ramle, where Dahmash residents receive some services and where the 200 Dahmash children attend schools. Residents told Human Rights Watch that when it rains the children have to walk through knee-high water on their way to the school bus. The village has no waste disposal services, despite residents' petitions to the Lod Valley Regional Council, the local government with jurisdiction over Dahmash. 

The village has no green space or outdoor playgrounds. In 2006, a nongovernmental organization donated playground equipment, but once it was erected the Israeli Land Administration issued demolition orders on the grounds that the playground was constructed without a permit. On February 10, 2007, the Ramle District Court rejected a petition by Dahmash residents to cancel the demolition order, although the authorities have not yet removed the equipment. 

The 70 homes in Dahmash are built on 160 dunams (40 acres), most of which the Israeli government granted to Palestinians in the early 1950s as compensation for lands from which they had been displaced during the 1948 armed conflict, and to which the Israeli government prohibited them from returning. But the lands are officially designated for agricultural use only, and the planning authorities have refused to zone Dahmash for residential construction. 

Many towns and neighborhoods in central Israel, including the new residential development bordering Dahmash, were also originally zoned for agricultural use, but authorities rezoned those lands to allow them to expand and created plans that permitted residential construction. Neither regional nor national authorities have provided such a plan for Dahmash. In the last few years both Ramle and Lod have constructed residential complexes restricted to military career personnel and religious Jews. 

Dahmash residents paid for a plan and submitted it to the relevant planning committees in 2006, but the authorities shelved the plan until a 2008 court ruling obligated them to discuss it. On July 5, 2010, the Central Regional Committee for Planning and Construction rejected the plan, saying that it "sees no justification for the creation of a new village in central Israel." The planning body said that only the Interior Ministry could create a new village, and that it did not want to "legitimize illegal construction." 

Since 1948, more than 900 Jewish villages and cities have been established in Israel, while the only new Arab towns allowed in 60 years have been seven towns that the government planned and constructed for Bedouin residents of the Negev. Many Palestinian-Israelis face restrictions in planning. Shatil's Mixed Cities Project, a nongovernmental organization, estimates that more than 70 percent of Arab homes in Ramle and Lod have no legal status. Official figures are not readily available. 

Discrimination is prohibited by international human rights law, notably the Convention on the Elimination on All forms of Racial Discrimination, ratified by Israel in 1979. The Convention defines discrimination as any "distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, color, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights." The committee of experts that monitors and interprets this convention has stated that differential treatment will be considered discrimination if it is not justified, taking into account the purposes of the Convention. 

"Israel should finally make good on its grant of land ownership to Dahmash residents by ceasing its discriminatory refusal to recognize their right to live on it," Stork said. 

Access to the Village Blocked 

A plan to build 888 housing units at the entrance to Ramle would block the main access road to Dahmash. The 145-dunam (35 acre) Maccabi District, which the Ramle mayor, Yoel Lavi, has promoted as Ramle's "flagship new neighborhood," would border Dahmash. It was also originally zoned for agricultural use but was re-designated in July 2006 for residential use. 

Lavi, who sits on the planning committee that rejected Dahmash's plan, told Israeli television in 2004 that the Maccabi District was not meant for Arabs because allowing Palestinian- Israeli citizens to live there would "harm the ability to market the project since people won't want to live there." He said in the same interview that "93 percent of the Jewish population clearly prefers not to live in a mixed building." The project has not begun to advertise the homes, as it is not yet complete. 

Dahmash residents petitioned the planning body to halt the construction, but the committee rejected the petition in 2006, and the courts upheld the planning body's decision in 2007 and again in 2010. 

The Maccabi District would cut Dahmash off from the city of Ramle, where Dahmash residents receive services. It would leave open only one roadway into Dahmash, through Lod, which would lengthen the drive into the village and require crossing traffic and eight railroad tracks. A professional opinion submitted by a transportation expert to the court during the 2007 challenge to the Maccabi District maintained that the Lod road, which is unpaved and passes through fields, is unfit for emergency vehicles. The legal adviser to the Lod Valley regional council told a Knesset Internal Affairs committee meeting in January 2007 that the national master plan for Lod had designated the Dahmash area to become a highway interchange. 

Addresses Denied 

Israeli citizens receive services such as education, welfare, health, and postal services in the municipality where they are registered. But Dahmash residents are not permitted to list their actual address on their Israeli identification cards, since their village does not exist in the population registry. 

Dahmash is in the area covered by the Lod Valley Regional Council, which oversees nine Jewish towns but has no registered Arab residents. It has no Arab-Israeli schools, which follow a separate curriculum from Jewish schools. 

Thus, Dahmash residents have registered in nearby Ramle, a separate municipality in which 22.5 percent of the residents are Arab Israelis, according to official figures. Most Dahmash residents have been obliged to list their official addresses on Ha'Heshmonaim Street, Ramle, which borders Dahmash, even though they do not live on that street. 

"What are we asking for?" Arafat Ismayil, the village spokesman, told Human Rights Watch. "An identity, an address, a life of dignity. You can see the discrimination with your eyes. They are allowed, we are not." 

Barring Children From Schools 

Ramle has tried to stop providing Dahmash residents some services, especially education. In 2005, Ramle refused to continue providing transportation from Dahmash to its schools; in 2006, the city tried to bar Dahmash children entering first grade from registering at its schools; and in 2009, Ramle ended a disabled two-year-old Dahmash resident's placement in a school and halted the child's transportation. Each time, Dahmash residents petitioned the courts, which ruled in favor of the children. Human Rights Watch documented in 2001 the discrimination in the Israeli education system between Palestinian-Israeli citizens and Jewish- Israeli citizens. 

After Ramle discontinued transportation to its schools in September 2005, the Tel Aviv District Court ruled in November in favor of Dahmash residents and obligated the Lod Valley Regional Council to finance the transportation, a decision later backed by the Supreme Court. The court also ruled in 2009 that the regional council had to re-assume educational responsibility for a 

two-year-old, who had been provided for by the city of Ramle up to that point, and to provide transportation for a 14-year-old disabled child to a special education facility in the city of Rishon Le'Zion and register him as a Lod Valley Regional Council resident. He remains the only Dahmash resident whose Israeli identification card officially lists him as a Lod Valley Regional Council resident, although Dahmash is not mentioned. 

After Ramle tried to keep Dahmash children from registering for first grade in 2006, even though their siblings had been attending the schools for at least 10 years, the Tel Aviv District Court ruled in May that the municipality must allow the children's continued registration. 

Zoning and Demolition Orders 

In 2004, Israeli authorities ordered the demolition of 17 houses in Dahmash on the grounds that they were built on "agricultural" lands and thus illegal. Most of the other 53 homes in the village had been built in the 1950s, when the area was still zoned under a regional plan, "R/6", from the time of the British mandate. Three were built before 1948 and thus maintain a "legal" status. Subsequently the Israeli government replaced R/6 with a master plan that designated the area as agricultural land on which residential construction was prohibited. According to the National Unit for Construction Oversight, the village now has 120 illegal structures, including the 70 homes. 

In March 2006, Israeli police demolished four "illegal" homes in Dahmash. The owners of the other 13 homes are still contesting the demolition orders in court. 

In 2005, Menashe Moshe, head of the Lod Valley Regional Council, told Israel's business paper, Globes, that while "the land does belong to the residents," Dahmash "does not exist" as a residential community because the land was zoned for agricultural use. Moshe said he rejected the residents' request to become an agricultural town, similar to the nine other towns in his council, because "the residents are not farmers and their land is not suited for agriculture." However, Moshe accepts Dahmash residents' agricultural taxes, which are submitted for "fields near Nir-Zvi," the nearest Jewish town. He refuses to accept payment of residential taxes, residents told Human Rights Watch. 

After the demolitions in 2006, residents paid for the "detailed plan" required for residential construction that planning authorities had provided to neighboring Jewish communities but not to Dahmash. It included a request to change Dahmash's zoning designation to permit residential building. Residents submitted it for approval to the district planning authorities in Ramle on July 17, 2006, but the authorities ignored the submission for more than 18 months. A planner from the regional planning committee told a Knesset committee hearing on Dahmash in January 2007 that plans usually receive a response within two to three weeks. 

On January 30, 2008, the Tel Aviv-Jaffa District Court for Procedural Affairs found that the committee had "abstained from discussing the plan" and ordered the committee to discuss it. The judgment reminded the regional planning authorities that the definition of the village's land as agricultural land "is not a decree from heaven" and that "the Israel planning and construction law allows for rezoning land and changing its designation." 

The planning committee finally discussed the plan on July 5, 2010, but rejected it on the grounds that authorization would imply the creation of a new town, which only the Interior Ministry can do. On August 9, 2010, the Interior Ministry approved the residents' request to appeal the rejection to the national planning committee. 

The regional committee also rejected an alternative option that would have allowed Dahmash residents to own their homes "legally" by including Dahmash as a neighborhood of Ramle or Lod. Lavi, Ramle's mayor, told a journalist in 2006 that his solution to the illegal building in Dahmash was to "take two D10 bulldozers, the kind the IDF uses in the Golan Heights, two border police units to secure the area, and go from one side to the other [...] when you give the first shock with the crane everyone runs from their houses, don't worry." 

In January 2007, while planning authorities were supposed to be considering the residents' submission of the plan, the Lod police tried to demolish some of the 13 other homes. Residents prevented the demolitions by locking themselves inside their homes. On April 11, 2010, board inspectors from the central region and the Lod Valley Regional Council, accompanied by police, informed Dahmash residents that the demolition orders against the 13 homes would be executed within days. The Central District Court later ordered a suspension of the demolitions, saying that it would decide the fate of the buildings on October 11. 

"We live in constant fear that tomorrow we will no longer have a home," Ismayil said. Also available in: 


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Friday, October 01, 2010

[ePalestine] Atty. Francis Boyle: The Impending Collapse of Israel in Palestine

Dear friends,

Serious food for thought from the author of the fact-filled book

The Impending Collapse of Israel in Palestine
Thursday, 30 September 2010 16:30
By Francis Boyle

Strategy is an action, 


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