Thursday, March 10, 2011

Chicago Activists Rename Downtown Street Signs in Honor of Murdered Palestinian Youth

Thursday, March 10th, 2011, 7am: Responding to an international call to action, Palestinian solidarity activists in Chicago renamed street signs on downtown street corners commemorating a Palestinian youth killed two years ago by the Israeli military.

The activists used ladders just as rush hour commuters were starting to arrive in Chicago's loop, and replaced street signs that read "Honorary Ben Gurion Way" with "Honorary Mehdi Abu Ayyesh Way."

According to the activists, David Ben Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel, was responsible for drafting policy which intentionally drove Palestinians from their homes and disallowed them from returning.

Mehdi Abu Ayyash, aged 17, from Beit Ommar, was shot in the head by Israeli Forces on March 4th, 2009 and died of his injuries several months later. A second youth from the same village, Yousef Ikhlyal, aged 17, was shot in the head by rampaging Israeli settlers on January 28th, 2011.

Hundreds of thousands of Israeli settlers reside in the West Bank, a fact deemed illegal by International Law. These settlements are built on land stolen from Palestinians and settlers often harass and even murder Palestinian residents with impunity. To date, none of the soldiers responsible for killing Mehdi Aby Ayyash, nor the settlers responsible for killing Yousef Ikhlyal, have been brought to justice by the State of Israel.

More information here:

Saturday, March 05, 2011

The Apartheid Mindset: Israel's Demolitions and their Supporters

In an Orwellian twist, the state of Israel is suing the Bedouin village of al-Arakib for the cost of its demolition. Al-Arakib has been demolished 18 times in the past year - against, obviously, the wishes of its residents. The state of Israel is determined to remove the residents of al-Arakid as a part of it the Jewish National Fund's “Blueprint Negev.” That's right, Al-Arakib is located in the Negev desert, not the West Bank. It is not located in the Palestinian territories, but inside Israel itself.

Al-Arakib is one of 45 "unrecognized villages" who are struggling for their most basic legal rights. Since 1948, the state of Israel has refused to acknowledge the existence of these communities. Unrecognized villages do not receive the services that the state provides to recognized the rest of its citizens, like garbage and sewage services, electricity, roads and schools. They are Israeli citizens - technically.

The ongoing struggle of the unrecognized villages is one of the clearest examples of how Israel is than a military occupier but an apartheid state. The ethnic cleansing of Al-Arakib also gives us a potent look into the apartheid mindset.

The Jewish National Fund describes the Blueprint Negev as a "far-reaching and visionary plan to increase the area’s population and improve living conditions for all of its inhabitants." According to JNF, "The needs of the Bedouin community and the changes that must come about are one of the original pillars of Blueprint Negev." On their website, JNF describes the Bedouin community by through the following statistics: "The unemployment rate for Bedouin is 90%. The rate of birth among the Bedouin community is extremely high -- 6.5% -- the highest in the world -- continuing the cycle of poverty. School through age 16 is mandatory by law, but 90% of the population does not receive a high school education. Only 10% of the girls go to any school at all. Communities have high crime rate and substance abuse rates. Few social activities or venues exist for the children." The JNF neglects mention that the Israeli government has created these conditions. Without that context, these statistics reinforce racist stereotypes of Bedouin people, painting them as rootless, degenerate people who should be displaced for their own good.

The same logic justifies charging Al-Arakib village for its demolition: clearly, those people should just have the sense to stop interfering with what's best for them.

This apartheid mindset is also behind a comment an anonymous poster made to my blog a week ago about the Caterpillar bulldozers used by the Israeli army to demolish homes:

What a wonderful tool and such a great opportunity exists for it's use. I think there should be ten D 9's or D 10's placed outside the Al Aqsa mosque fuel in them keys in the ignition with drivers standing by. The word should go out that at the very next provocation of any terrorist act by the Arab population in Israel, Gaza or Judea / Samaria that by these acts and caused by their hands the machines will be driven forward and level the mosques from the face of this earth. The population can of course decide to behave itself if they don't want this to happen. I think these wonderful machines can convince the Arab population to behave themselves in an appropriate manner. Of course if need be I suppose the entire area of Gaza can be turned into a parking lot in a matter of hours if a few more of these machines could be acquired - yet another good idea if the idiots inside the fence keep lobbing missiles at women and children in Israel. These are great machines and they could be put to such practical use too.

Behind this hateful comment, behind the JNF's Blueprint Negev, and behind Israel's absurd suit against Al-Arakib lays a single attitude: Arabs, Palestinians and Bedouin, are less than fully human. They deserve to be coerced and displaced because Israel knows what's best for them. This is the apartheid mindset. It ought to make all of us, but especially ethical Israelis, very nervous.