Palestinians in Israel
A close reading of a literary journal’s table of contents in colonized Palestine reveals a vibrant culture of resistance and renewal in the midst of destruction and dispossession.
The decision to outlaw the northern wing of the Islamic Movement in Israel was announced by Benjamin Netanyahu’s government on November 17, 2015, days after attacks claimed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, left 130 dead in Paris. Although the ban had been long in the making, the timing was patently opportunistic, with Netanyahu even comparing Israel’s Islamic Movement to ISIS. It is still unclear how the Israeli intelligence services and police will enforce the ban, given that the group has thousands of paid-up members among Israel’s large Palestinian minority, and ties to welfare associations and charities in Palestinian communities across Israel.
Early each morning, dozens of workers from Jaba’ walk up a narrow set of stairs with trash strewn on either side to reach a bus stop on Highway 60, which bisects the West Bank on its way from Nazareth to Beersheva. As they climb the stairs, the workers pass a tunnel that once allowed villagers convenient access to the highway, but which has been blocked by limestone boulders, dirt and rubble since the intifada of the early 2000s. At this bend in the road, nine miles northwest of Jerusalem, much of the horizon is defined by the 20-foot high concrete separation wall.
The popular Israeli television series, Arab Labor, follows the lives of the fictional journalist Amjad and his family, all of whom are Palestinian citizens of Israel. Season one of the series, which first aired on Israeli public television in 2007, introduces Amjad and his endearingly unquenchable faith in humanity. Tired of living in his natal village, Amjad moves his family to a Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem, replete with strong water pressure in the shower, manicured parks and gardens, and what he thinks is the freedom to live out his dream of integration into Israeli society.
With intensity unknown since the second intifada and at a daily cost of $12 million to the Hebron economy alone, Israel is cracking down on the West Bank in its search for three missing Israeli settler youth. The result is a growing Palestinian chorus: Stop Israeli-Palestinian “security coordination.”
For the past 18 months the Israeli government has gradually raised the stakes in its campaign to pressure Palestinian Christians to serve in the Israeli military. In April, Israel upped the ante once again, announcing it would henceforth be issuing enlistment notices to Christians who have graduated from secondary school. This time, the Greek Orthodox patriarch responded, sacking a senior Nazareth priest, Jibril Nadaf, who had styled himself the spiritual leader of a small but vociferous group of Palestinian Christians who back the government campaign.
Yesterday the New America Foundation (NAF), a center-left think tank located one block north of big, bad K Street, hosted a discussion about the 1948 war, the expulsion of Palestinians from what would become Israel, the new state’s imposition of a draconian military regime upon the Palestinians who managed to stay inside the armistice lines, and all that this painful history implies for the present and the future.
You have reached the village of Kafr Bir‘im. Enjoy the clean air of the Upper Galilee. Listen to the mountain silence. Observe the elegance of the stone construction in front of you; it is left standing after the 1948 occupation of the village and its consequent destruction. And realize as well that not everything you see is in the past tense.
By order of the Israeli Supreme Court, Nazareth will reconduct its mayoral election on March 11. The city is once again the site of an acrimonious political battle.
Municipal elections were held in Nazareth, along with the rest of the country, on October 22, 2013. The first tally showed ‘Ali Sallam unseating the incumbent, Ramiz Jaraysi, by a razor-thin margin of 22 votes.
Some 43 years ago, a group of activists in the movement to end the war in Vietnam founded the Middle East Research and Information Project.
The impetus was that the American public, including the anti-war left, was poorly informed about the Middle East and the US role there. The region was commonly depicted as alien, its politics uniquely determined by religion and impossible to explain with ordinary categories of analysis. The original idea behind MERIP was to produce better reporting that would get picked up by existing left outlets.
The past week has a witnessed a flurry of debate in the American and Israeli media over the growing call to boycott companies and institutions that profit from or are otherwise complicit in the ongoing 47-year occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
For months Arab television watchers have been engrossed in the phenomenon of Muhammad ‘Assaf, the 23-year old Gazan singer who has now been crowned the winner on “Arab Idol.” Modeled after “American Idol,” the popular show is broadcast on MBC, a satellite channel based in Beirut. As on the original, the victor of the “Arab Idol” competition is decided by the votes of the audience, cast through text messages and phone calls. ‘Assaf received over 67 million votes.
They are Israel’s Siamese twin cities, forced into an uncomfortable pairing more than half a century ago. Nazareth and Natzrat Illit, or Upper Nazareth in English, almost share a name. Although formally separated by a ring road, Israel has tied their fates together. Each is engaged in a battle with the other, from which, it seems, given the zero-sum terms of the Zionist project, only one can emerge as victor — and survivor.
Shortly before polling day in Israel’s January general election, the Arab League issued a statement urging Israel’s large Palestinian minority, a fifth of the country’s population, to turn out en masse to vote. The League’s unprecedented intervention — reportedly at the instigation of the League’s Palestinian delegation — was motivated by two concerns.
Little more than a decade ago, in a brief interlude of heady optimism about the prospects of regional peace, the Israeli Supreme Court issued two landmark rulings that, it was widely assumed, heralded the advent of a new, post-Zionist era for Israel. But with two more watershed judgments handed down over the winter of 2011-2012 the same court has decisively reversed the tide.
Over the past 15 months the dusty plains of the northern Negev desert in Israel have been witness to a ritual of destruction, part of a police operation known as Hot Wind. On 29 occasions since June 2010, hundreds of Israeli paramilitary officers have made the pilgrimage over a dirt track near the city of Beersheva to the zinc sheds and hemp tents of al-‘Araqib. Within hours of their arrival, the 45 ramshackle structures — home to some 300 Bedouin villagers — are pulled down and al-‘Araqib is wiped off the map once again. All that remains to mark the area’s inhabitation by generations of the al-Turi tribe are the stone graves in the cemetery.
The March 15 Youth Movement, whose name comes from demonstrations held in the West Bank and Gaza Strip that day to demand unity between Fatah and Hamas, is the most direct Palestinian expression of the “Arab awakening” of 2010-2011. The next day, March 16, Fatah’s leader, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud ‘Abbas, announced his willingness to travel to Gaza to conduct unity talks with Hamas. A reconciliation agreement was signed in Cairo on May 4.
The first reports of Israel’s May 31 commando raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla surfaced among the country’s 1.4 million Palestinian citizens alongside rumors that Sheikh Ra’id Salah, head of the radical northern wing of the Islamic Movement of Israel, had been shot dead on the lead ship, the Mavi Marmara. Salah is alive, but at the time his demise seemed confirmed when it emerged that large numbers of police had been drafted into northern Israel, where most of the Palestinian minority lives, in expectation of widespread violence.
On October 8, 48-year old Tawfiq Jamal got into his car with his 18-year old son and a friend, and set out for the house of his relatives, the Shaaban family, who lived as of then in a new, predominantly Jewish neighborhood on the eastern edges of Acre. A walled city on the sea, mainly famed in the West for having served as the CENTCOM of the crusading Richard the Lionheart, Acre is today a “mixed” Israeli town, inhabited by Jews as well as Arabs like Tawfiq. That day, he was on his way to pick up his daughter, who had been helping the Shaabans prepare cakes for a wedding scheduled for the following week. He insists that he drove slowly and quietly, with his radio turned off.
Should the United States, seeking to recalibrate the balance between security and liberty in the “war on terror,” emulate Israel in its treatment of Palestinian detainees?
That is the position that Guantanamo detainee lawyers Avi Stadler and John Chandler of Atlanta, and some others, have advocated. That people in U.S. custody could be held incommunicado for years without charges, and could be prosecuted or indefinitely detained on the basis of confessions extracted with torture is worse than a national disgrace. It is an assault on the foundations of the rule of law.
But Israel’s model for dealing with terrorism, while quite different from that of the U.S., is at least as shameful.