Monday, December 24, 2012

[ePalestine] The terror lurking in a Christmas tree (By Jonathan Cook)

December 24, 2012  

The terror lurking in a Christmas tree  

Israel tries to ban non-Jewish celebrations  

By Jonathan Cook in Nazareth  

Israel’s large Palestinian minority is often spoken of in terms of the threat it poses to the Jewish majority.  

Palestinian citizens’ reproductive rate constitutes a “demographic time bomb”, while their main political programme – Israel’s reform into “a state of all its citizens” – is proof for most Israeli Jews that their compatriots are really a “fifth column”.  

But who would imagine that Israeli Jews could be so intimidated by the innocuous Christmas tree?  

This issue first came to public attention two years ago when it was revealed that Shimon Gapso, the mayor of Upper Nazareth, had banned Christmas trees from all public buildings in his northern Israeli city.  

“Upper Nazareth is a Jewish town and all its symbols are Jewish,” Gapso said. “As long as I hold office, no non-Jewish symbol will be presented in the city.”  

The decision reflected in part his concern that Upper Nazareth, built in the 1950s as the centrepiece of the Israeli government’s “Judaization of the Galilee” programme, was failing dismally in its mission.  

Far from “swallowing up” the historic Palestinian city of Nazareth next door, as officials had intended, Upper Nazareth became over time a magnet for wealthier Nazarenes who could no longer find a place to build a home in their own city. That was because almost all Nazareth’s available green space had been confiscated for the benefit of Upper Nazareth.  

Instead Nazarenes, many of them Palestinian Christians, have been buying homes in Upper Nazareth from Jews – often immigrants from the former Soviet Union – desperate to leave the Arab-dominated Galilee and head to the country’s centre, to be nearer Tel Aviv.  

The exodus of Jews and influx of Palestinians have led the government to secretly designate Upper Nazareth as a “mixed city”, much to the embarrassment of Gapso. The mayor is a stalwart ally of far-right politician Avigdor Lieberman and regularly expresses virulently anti-Arab views, including recently calling Nazarenes “Israel-hating residents whose place is in Gaza” and their city “a nest of terror in the heart of the Galilee”. Although neither Gapso nor the government has published census figures to clarify the city’s current demographic balance, most estimates suggest that at least a fifth of Upper Nazareth’s residents are Palestinian. The city’s council chamber also now includes Palestinian representatives.  

Christmas trees "offensive to Jewish eyes"

But Gapso is not alone in his trenchant opposition to making even the most cursory nod towards multiculturalism. The city’s chief rabbi, Isaiah Herzl, has refused to countenance a single Christmas tree in Upper Nazareth, arguing that it would be “offensive to Jewish eyes”.  

That view, it seems, reflects the official position of the country’s rabbinate. In so far as they are able, the rabbis have sought to ban Christmas celebrations in public buildings, including in the hundreds of hotels across the country.  

A recent report in the Haaretz newspaper, on an Israeli Jew who grows Christmas trees commercially, noted in passing: “Hotels – under threat of losing kashrut certificates – are prohibited by the rabbinate from decking their halls in boughs of holly or, heaven forbid, putting up even the smallest of small sparkly Christmas tree in the corner of the lobby.”  

In other words, the rabbinate has been quietly terrorizing Israeli hotel owners into ignoring Christmas by threatening to use its powers to put them out of business. Denying a hotel its kashrut (kosher) certificate would lose it most of its Israeli and foreign Jewish clientele.  

Few mayors or rabbis find themselves in the uncomfortable position of needing to go public with their views on the dangers of Christmas decorations. In Israel, segregation between Jews and Palestinians is almost complete. Even most of the handful of mixed cities are really Jewish cities with slum-like ghettoes of Palestinians living on the periphery.  

Apart from Upper Nazareth, the only other “mixed” place where Palestinian Christians are to be found in significant numbers is Haifa, Israel’s third largest city. Haifa is often referred to as Israel’s most multicultural and tolerant city, a title for which it faces very little competition.  

Non-Jewish New Year celebrations "seriously forbidden"

But the image hides a dirtier reality. A recent letter from Haifa’s rabbinate came to light in which the city’s hotels and events halls were reminded that they must not host New Year’s parties at the end of this month (the Jewish New Year happens at a different time of year). The hotels and halls were warned that they would be denied their kashrut licences if they did so.  

“It is a seriously forbidden to hold any event at the end of the calendar year that is connected with or displays anything from the non-Jewish festivals,” the letter states.  

After the letter was publicized on Facebook, Haifa’s mayor, Yona Yahav, moved into damage limitation mode, overruling the city’s rabbinical council on 23 December and insisting that parties would be allowed to go ahead. Whether Yahav has the power to enforce his decision on the notoriously independent-minded rabbinical authorities is still uncertain.  

But what is clear is that there is plenty of religious intolerance verging on hatred being quietly exercised against non-Jews, mostly behind the scenes so as not to disturb Israel’s “Jewish and democratic” image or outrage the millions of Christian tourists and pilgrims who visit                    Israel each year. 


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[ePalestine] The Nonexistent "Jewish Lobby" Declares War on Chuck Hagel (by: MJ Rosenberg)

Tikkun Daily 

The Nonexistent "Jewish Lobby" Declares War on Chuck Hagel 

by: MJ Rosenberg on December 20th, 2012 

The American Jewish Committee was the latest Jewish organization to enlist in the battle to prevent President Barack Obama from naming former Nebraska senator Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense. The onslaught is unprecedented. Never before has virtually the entire organized Jewish community combined to stop a presidential cabinet appointment because it deems the potential nominee insufficiently devoted to Israel. Of course, below the cabinet level, the lobby has been manning the barricades against critics of any Israeli government policies for decades. 

The onslaught against Hagel is unique however because the reason for it is not merely that he opposes the rush to war with Iran and favors negotiating an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 


An attempted repeat of a Paul Findley or Pete McCloskey moment,


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Thursday, December 20, 2012

[ePalestine] National Geographic: The Tunnels of Gaza

National Geographic 

December 2012 

The Tunnels of Gaza 

By James Verini
Photograph by Paolo Pellegrin 

The tunnels of Gaza are a lifeline of the underground economy but also a death trap. For many Palestinians, they have come to symbolize ingenuity and the dream of mobility. 

The slow death of Gaza will haunt humanity for a long time to come,


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Monday, December 10, 2012

[ePalestine] Mondoweiss : Roots of Resistance: During the first Intifada Palestinians used our most strategic asset — our people

Mondoweiss - December 10, 2012 

Roots of Resistance: During the first Intifada Palestinians used our most strategic asset — our people 

by Sam Bahour 


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Thursday, December 06, 2012

[ePalestine] AP: UN calls on Israel to open nuclear facilities...Now we're talking!

US News & World Report Politics 

UN calls on Israel to open nuclear facilities 

December 4, 2012 

By EDITH M. LEDERER, Associated Press 

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. General Assembly has overwhelmingly approved a resolution calling on Israel to quickly open its nuclear program for inspection and backing a high-level conference to ban nuclear weapons from the Middle East which was just canceled. 

All the Arab nations and Iran had planned to attend the conference in mid-December in Helsinki, Finland, but the United States announced on Nov. 23 that it wouldn't take place, citing political turmoil in the region and Iran's defiant stance on nonproliferation. Iran and some Arab nations countered that the real reason for the cancellation was Israel's refusal to attend. 

The resolution, approved Monday by a vote of 174-6 with 6 abstentions, calls on Israel to join the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty "without further delay" and open its nuclear facilities to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Those voting "no" were Israel, the U.S., Canada, Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Palau. 

Resolutions adopted by the 193-member General Assembly are not legally binding but they do reflect world opinion and carry moral and political weight. 

Israel refuses to confirm or deny it has nuclear bombs though it is widely believed to have a nuclear arsenal. It has refused to join the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, or NPT, along with three nuclear weapon states — India, Pakistan and North Korea. 

The Arab proposal to create a weapons-of-mass-destruction-free zone in the Mideast, and to pressure Israel to give up its undeclared arsenal of perhaps 80 nuclear warheads, was endorsed at an NPT conference in 1995 but never acted on. In 2010, the 189 parties to the 1970 treaty called for convening a conference in 2012 on the establishment of a WMD-free zone in the Middle East. 

The resolution, which was approved by the assembly's disarmament committee before the conference was cancelled, noted the decision to hold it "with satisfaction." 

But Israel has long said there first must be a Mideast peace agreement before the establishment of a Mideast zone free of weapons of mass destruction. The region's Muslim nations argue that Israel's undeclared nuclear arsenal presents the greatest threat to peace in the region. 

The Israeli government had no immediate comment on Monday's General Assembly vote. 

Last week, the General Assembly upgraded the Palestinians to that of a nonmember observer state, endorsing an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank, east Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. 

Just before Monday's vote, Iranian diplomat Khodadad Seifi told the assembly "the truth is that the Israeli regime is the only party which rejected to conditions for a conference." He called for "strong pressure on that regime to participate in the conference without any preconditions." 

Israeli diplomat Isi Yanouka said his country has continuously pointed to the danger of nuclear proliferation in the Mideast, singling out Iran and Syria by name. 

"All these cases challenge Israel's security and cast a dark shadow at the prospect of embarking on a meaningful regional security process," he said. 

"The fact that the sponsors include in this anti-Israeli resolution language referring to the 2012 conference proves above all the ill-intent of the Arab states with regard to this conference," Yanouka said. 

Syrian diplomat Abdullah Hallak told the assembly his government was angry that the conference wasn't going to take place because of "the whim of just one party, a party with nuclear warheads." 

"We call on the international community to put pressure on Israel to accept the NPT, get rid of its arsenal and delivery systems, in order to allow for peace and stability in our region," he said. 

The conference's main sponsors are the U.S., Russia and Britain. British Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt has said it is being postponed, not cancelled. 

While the United States voted against the resolution, it voted in favor of two paragraphs in it that were put to separate votes. Both support universal adherence to the NPT, and call on those countries that aren't parties to ratify it "at the earliest date." The only "no" votes on               those paragraphs were Israel and India. 


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Saturday, December 01, 2012

Israeli Street Sign in West Bank

An Israeli street sign placed in the occupied West Bank (near Bethlehem) on Road 375 going from El-Khader Junction with road 60 (Tunnel Road) to Ela Valley. The sign is placed just before crossing from Israel to the West Bank, near the illegal, Jewish-only colony/settlement of Betar Illit and the Palestinian villages of Husan, Batir and Wadi Fuqeen (Betar Checkpoint). It says in Hebrew:

"Welcome to Betar Checkpoint

This checkpoint is for the passage of Israelis only. It is forbidden to pass and/or drive a person through this checkpoint, who is not Israeli!!

"Israeli" - a resident of Israel, a person who lives in the area and is a citizen of Israel, or a person ENTITLED TO MAKE ALIYAH TO ISRAEL ACCORDING TO THE [JEWISH] LAW OF RETURN, 1950, AS VALID IN ISRAEL" (emphasis added)

(PHOTO CREDIT: Dudy Tzfati via Roy, TRANSLATION CREDIT: Dudy Tzfati)

...and another such sign just sent to me by a friend:

Photo taken in 2006 at Eliyahu Checkpoint just south of the Palestinian city of Qalqilya. This one is in Arabic on left side and Hebrew on right side.

(PHOTO CREDIT: Jimmy Johnson)