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Archive for May, 2006

Come down to the farm!!!!

(Scroll down for photos)
On Sunday I made it down to the South Central Farm, along with (with the help of) Andy (Griggs) and my son Leon.  We wanted to give our support, and I wanted my son to see this amazing place before it’s too late.  We keep a small garden and try to get most of our vegetables from our own labor.  It isn’t easy; between my disability and Leon’s teenager agenda, which often does not include weeding and mulching.  I am trying to impart to him the importance of sustainability, alternatives to consumerism and the deep understanding of the subversive resistance of ordinary seeds.
For those who haven’t visited the farm, your presence there is greatly needed to stave off the impending eviction, which could happen any day now, but would require a brutal act by the sheriff’s department against a broad cross section of the Los Angeles community; children, undocumented immigrants, students, activists, lawyers, movie stars (well, one when I was there,) environmentalists, writers, greens, mechistas and the farmers themselves.  Conspicuously missing were the politicians who supposedly represent and historically hale from the community.
The farm is situated in the middle of an industrial belt of warehouses and blight; a lifeboat of green in a sea of grey.  It takes up two entire city blocks and consists of a matrix of 350 rectangular family plots, each with its own fence and gate, within a grid of walkways.  One could walk for hours through what feels like a maze of (well) maize. In addition to the maize (corn) are rows of cabbage, the end of the winter gardens, chard, the beginning of summer vegetables; tomatoes, zucchini, pumpkin, chayote, strawberries, raspberries, chiles, peas and beans and perennials, including fruit trees, nopales, sugar cane, avocados.  A few of the farm plots were overgrown with bolting cabbages and lettuce, the end of winter among the weeds.  But most of the farms were still vibrant with new growth; seeds in defiance of bulldozers.   The farm is bisected by a road down the center.  And to the right, as one enters, is a small clearing underneath a three story walnut tree that currently houses three tree sitters.  Underneath the tree are a ring of candles and several tents, as a significant community has taken up camp on the farm to stand down the impending eviction.
When we were there,  Julia Butterfly Hill was tree sitting with Darryl Hannah and John Quigley.  I also ran into ISM activist, Garrick Ruiz  (from olive groves in Palestine, to corn fields in South Central.)  Philip Koebel was there, as was Anna Kunkin of Global Voices for Justice, Sarah Nolan, Dele, and many others.  We arrived in time for the farmers market, but had to leave before the evening program that included music, dance etc. all of which was set up along the road that divides the market.
In the road, a large tarp was erected, under which many people, including children and a group of mechistas from as far away as Las Vegas and Santa Fe, were engaged in banner painting.
This would be an important victory for immigrant and indigenous rights, sustainable agriculture, the L.A. left, future green space and models of city management.
There’s a vigil every night at 7 pm and people are also needed around the clock.  So, head down to the farm.  It’s located at: 41st and Alameda in the heart of Los Angeles’ industrial and warehouse blight.  And if you are among the privileged few that can make a donation towards the purchase of the farm, it’s tax deductible.  It seems a crime that in a city that produces movies that make hundreds of millions of dollars, that pay movie stars millions of dollars to star in the films, that someone can’t just WRITE THE CHECK!!!
Such a contrast; those of us scraping by while defending human rights and those who bring in millions every year on one or two movies. It would seem to me that someone might decide to live off of the income (for the rest of their lives) from just one film and donate the rest to human need and social justice.  Must be a difference in priorities.  It is beyond my ability to comprehend what anyone would do with that much money that would have a greater legacy than human rights.
For more information about the farm, including the history of how the farm came into being and the back room deal that has threatened this environmental treasure and how you can make a donation:_http://www.southcentralfarmers.com/
The photos below are copyright.  Permission must be acquired before publishing the photos to other sites and publications.
Today I offer photos of the farm plots.
Wednesday I will publish photos of the banners and art that is being created at the farm.
And Thursday I will publish photos of the encampment,  tree sitters, farmers and activists who have gathered at the farm.
Peace with justice, and for a world free from GMO’s, corporate greed and back room deals.
Emma Rosenthal_Café Intifada

Plants in Pots                              ©2006 Emma Rosenthal All Rights Reserved

The Bisecting Road with Musicians and Stage in Background_©2006 Emma Rosenthal All Rights Reserved

Nopales and a Ladder_©2006 Emma Rosenthal All Rights Reserved

A Walk in the Garden                   ©2006 Emma Rosenthal All Rights Reserved

Farmers in their Family Plot with Industrial Warehouses in the Background_©2006 Emma Rosenthal All Rights Reserved

Several Family Plots With Warehouses in the Background_©2006 Emma Rosenthal All Rights Reserved

Cabbage, Corn and Other Crops        _©2006 Emma Rosenthal All Rights Reserved

Against the L.A. Skyline                          ©2006 Emma Rosenthal All Rights Reserved

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Candlelight Vigil @ the Farm

7:00pm   _by floresarte _Hits : 421 From Saturday, May 27 2006 – 7:00pm_To Wednesday, May 31 2006 – 8:00pm_Every day __We will be holding a candlelight vigil every night at the farm to encourage the community to continue struggling for the preservation of the Farm. ___Please bring a candle and if possible something to share with the community.__Every night at 7:00pm__41st & Alameda__Los Angeles, CA 90058

South Central Farm: Eviction Tonight?

An URGENT update from Tezo, spokesperson for the South
Central Farmers!

Greetings to all our supporters and allies and thank
you so much for your support.

We have information from reliable sources that the
Sheriff’s Department will be evicting the farmers and
supporters on site  by 7am tomorrow (Saturday), and
today we had an overwhelming presence of police
helicopters circling in what appears to be their
preparations  for the eviction.  The only way to
prevent this is to grow the numbers of supporters both
inside and outside the farm gates.

We are asking everyone here in Los Angeles to come
down to the farm and stand with us in solidarity!!!

Please join us for the 7pm candle light vigil tonight,
followed by an all night vigil and pajama party with
music and community.

Come down and bring food, water, candles, flashlights
and your passion for the largest urban farm in the
United States!

If you can’t join us please spread the word to
everyone you know.  Create phone trees and email
blasts and remind everyone that if every Los Angelino
just gave $1 we could save this place.

In the last 24 hours hundreds of thousands of dollars
has been committed by so many of you to help save the
South Central Farm, but unfortunately we are still far
short of the amount we need.  What we really need is
time, and we are running out of that too.

Contribute at http://www.southcentralfarmers.org or
http://www.southcentralfarmers.com NOW!  And stay up to date
by calling the HOTLINE at (866) SCFARM1

There is still time for a miracle!  Let’s save this
national treasure!

In solidarity,

Tezo, for the community of South Central Farmers

The Farm is located at 41st Street and Alameda in Los
Angeles. For more info on actions, refer to our Red
Alert communication.

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Posted at southcentralfarmers.org
Contributed by Fernando Flores
Thursday, 25 May 2006

SOUTH CENTRAL FARM NEEDS YOUR HELP!!!

3 HOURS IS ALL IT TAKES TO SAVE THE FARM!!!

As you know the South Central Farmers are currently on red alert.  The sheriffs have the eviction notice and can come in at any time.  We are asking you to help the cause by being here, but we also acknowledge your busy schedule.  So, we would like you to commit to 2-3 hours for as many days as you can (more hours are welcomed and you are also welcomed to spend the night).  We want to save the farm, but we cannot do it without you.  Please choose one of the following shifts (you can choose more than one).  If you cannot commit to a whole shift, any help is appreciated.
Shifts:
Morning to Noon
Noon to Evening

12am-3am
12pm-3pm
3am-6am
3pm-6pm
6am-9am
6pm-9pm
9am-12pm
9pm-12am

Red Alert: South Central Farm!!!!!!!

Today, Wednesday, May 24th    RED ALERT – PLEASE FORWARD WIDELY!
Sheriff’s OFFICE has OK to Evict South Central Farmers Today ~ ACT NOW

Come to the Farm today at 41st & Alameda in South Central Los Angeles – off the 10 Freeway     Greetings Everyone,

THE LOS ANGELES SHERRIFFS OFFICE HAVE GOTTEN THE OK TO COME AND EVICT THE FARMERS

This is Eviction day for the South Central Farm.  They need as much physical support as possible.  The eviction could begin as early as NOW.  Please do your part in not allowing this to happen.

The Farmers have asked that:

To All environmental conscious person,

Today starting at 11:00am and all the way until the evening, but more importantly, at 6:00pm we invite you to participate with us to keep our farm.

If you Can come to the Farm, 41st and Alameda in South Central Los Angeles off the 10,  Please if only for a couple of hours.  That would be great.  There is a need for a presence between 6 pm -12 am
We will have danza and a fandango from 8pm-12 am.

They also need around the clock help.

We need as many people in and around the farm, just in case the police try to mass evict the farmers.

AQUI ESTAMOS, Y NO NOS VAMOS!

Thank you for caring,

South Central Farm

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<><>Crushed by Gate of Occupation:   A three-year-old Palestinian girl killed at Israeli checkpoint
By Sam Bahour

<> <><><>The newly released Amnesty International 2006 Report  provides a glimpse of the world’s human rights record.  The reality is shocking.  The report starts with a rather blunt finding:
“During 2005 some of the world’s most powerful governments were successfully challenged, their hypocrisy exposed by the media, their arguments rejected by courts of law, their repressive tactics resisted by human rights activists.”
“Nevertheless, the lives of millions of people worldwide were devastated by the denial of fundamental rights.”
The report documents human rights abuses by country; Israel/Occupied Territories and Palestinian Authority are listed as two distinct categories.  The classification is slightly confusing, given that the bulk of abuses listed under Israel relate to Palestinians under occupation and the abuses within Israel proper, are only mentioned in passing or are missing all together.  An analysis of the structure of the report and issues chosen to document is worthy of an article of its own.
Instead, here, I wish to bring to life one of the examples that may, or may not, show up in the Amnesty International 2007 report.  It is the example of a three-year-old Palestinian girl whose skull was crushed at an Israeli checkpoint in the West Bank. The death of this child, Rafida Bader, barely got noticed in the Palestinian press, let alone the Israeli and international media.
After seeing a brief mention of this tragic story online, at maannews.net, I posted the story with a portrait of the beautiful red-head girl to my mailing list, epalestine.com.  Within minutes, an Israeli virtual friend who works with Israeli human rights organizations, passed the post to two Israeli activists mailing lists, New Profile: Movement for the Civil-ization of Israel Society and Machsom (Hebrew for Checkpoint) Watch.  Several questions came back, all wanting more details in order to take action.  Soon afterwards, a Palestinian journalist, Azziah Nawal, was commissioned to follow-up the story, parts of her report are included below.
It was April 26, 2006 and Rafida was preparing to visit her father, Thaer Bader, who is a political prisoner being held by Israel since December 18, 2005.  Since the Israeli occupation began in 1967, it is estimated that out of approx 3.5 million Palestinians over 650,000 Palestinians have been arrested at one time or another.  On any one day over 10,000 Palestinians are detained by the occupation forces.  There are not individual ex-prisoners in occupied Palestine, but rather communities of ex-prisoners.

<>The Morning

<>

<>Thaer was awaiting his family to visit from Beit Lekya, his village that is besieged by Israel’s Separation Wall.  He was not sure who exactly would be his visitors this time or what kind of news they would bring.  He was busy in his cell thinking of how to receive his family.  He never thought in his worst nightmares that, instead of the joy of receiving his family, he would receive the news of his daughter’s fatal injury which led to her death.
At home, Thaer’s daughter Rafida was rushing to her fate.  She woke early in the morning and then woke her mother, wanting to get an early start on the long trip to her father.  She refused to accept the fact that she awoke too early.  She proceeded to wake up her cousin and aunt and put on new clothes for the visit.
Rafida was joyous.  With her mother and aunt, she headed to the Red Cross office in Ramallah where all the prisoners’ families meet for transportation to the prison for visits.  Rafida’s mother said that this has been the routine every month since her husband was arrested.  The Israelis make it mandatory that visiting families use the Red Cross buses.  They reached the Red Cross office at 5 AM and had to wait until 8 before boarding the bus and heading to the Mod’in Checkpoint, near the Palestinian village of Beit Sira, west of Ramallah.  There they were forced to wait for a few hours.

<>The Incident

<>

<>Rafida’s mother narrated the details of the trip.  While speaking she seemed as if in another world, almost hallucinating.  She said,
“While we were in the Red Cross’ buses waiting at the checkpoint to be allowed to pass, kids accompanying their visiting families got off the buses to play, including Rafida who got out and returned to the bus several times.  The last time, she asked to use the toilet.  As I was so tired and carrying her 16 months old infant brother, Omar, I asked her aunt to accompany her.”
“She was singing verses of her favorite song, which she used to watch on her favorite TV channel, Space Toon.  Every time the song would come on, Rafida would turn the TV volume to the maximum.”
The mother continued,
“Only a few minutes after Rafida got off the bus with her aunt, screaming spread all over the place.  Your daughter!  I didn’t know what to do.  I laid my infant on the floor of the bus and rushed to the accident scene; Rafida was dead, I felt it.  I put her in my lap and didn’t allow anyone to get close to her.  Someone said, I am a nurse, let me treat her, but I didn’t let her do anything, saying, leave her dead in my lap.  After a few moments, that felt like a year, I felt her breathing and screamed for an ambulance.”
Rafida, still singing, was walking past the iron gate accompanied by her aunt.  The gate swung back fast by the strong wind and Rafida’s head was stuck between the bars of the iron gate.  Her aunt tried to rescue her, but her efforts were in vain.  Within seconds, Rafida’s head was crushed.
Rafida lay in her mother’s lap with just a breath separating her from death.  Her mother said that the minutes passed like years while she shifted between thoughts that her daughter had already passed away and hopes of the possibility to rescue her.
The Israeli soldiers manning the checkpoint gathered and moved everyone back from the scene as an ambulance arrived.  She was transferred to the Israeli Tel Hashomer Hospital in Tel Aviv after the paramedics applied first aid.
The mother, whose origin is from the predominantly Palestinian city in Israel, Kufur Kana in the Galilee (Israeli Palestinians account for some 20% of the population of Israel), said,
“On the first day, they said she was breathing.  On the second day, they said blood doesn’t circulate to the head and oxygen doesn’t reach the brain.  On the third day, they said she was dead.  I wasn’t in need of the explanations that the doctor tried to make it in Arabic, as I speak Hebrew fluently, which added to my pain as I listened to the medical staff speak of her deteriorating status for the three straight days.”
“Her head was ground like dough.  I can not imagine the way she looked after the horrible injury.  I still see her before me everywhere, and I get scared of the most trivial noises, especially the crying of my little child, Omar.”
The minute Rafida’s imprisoned father heard the tragic news he appealed to the Israeli Prison Authorities to allow him to visit his dying daughter in the hospital.  Although his request was accepted in principle, the Prison Authorities procrastinated until after she passed away.  He never saw her alive.
The mother added,
“On my next visit to her dad in his prison, I couldn’t stand the way he looked.  He was extremely sad and depressed, which made me cry throughout the entire visit.  He kept asking about the other kids as if he wants to make sure that none had the same fate of Rafida.  Rafida had a special place in his heart.  She would barely let anyone else visiting speak to her father when she visited.”
Who’s to blame?
No shots were fired.  No tanks were shelling.  No fighter planes were bombing.  Rafida died because of the mere presence of the 40 year Israeli military occupation.  She is the latest victim of the presence of hundreds of sadistic checkpoints that separate Palestinians from Palestinians and Palestinians from the rest of the world.  She died to see her father who is also paying a price for yearning to be free.  His death will be much slower.  The daily torment Rafida’s mother must face while rearing the next generation of Palestinians is unthinkable.
Maybe it is incidents such as this that explain why the Amnesty International 2006 Report notes for Israel that, with regard to the International Criminal Court, it was “signed but [with a] declared intention not to ratify.”
The Amnesty Report does shed a ray of hope.  Under the Israel chapter, a section titled, Imprisonment of conscientious objectors, states:
“Several Israelis who refused to serve in the army because they opposed Israel’s occupation of the Occupied Territories and refused to serve there were imprisoned for up to four months. They were prisoners of conscience.”
What is it in the nature of occupying soldiers that allows them to leave their checkpoint or prison duty and go home to their kids, brothers and sisters, surely all as precious as Rafida was?  How can they hug and kiss their own and return to duty the next day and act as if its business (or it that occupation) as usual?
Every day of occupation, whether it witnesses us burying our young or not, eats away at each of us.  Whether those checkpoint and prison soldiers want to admit it or not, they too are being eaten from the inside.  The only difference is they have the option to refuse to serve.
The writer is a Palestinian-American living in the besieged Palestinian City of El-Bireh in the West Bank.  He is co-author of HOMELAND: Oral Histories of Palestine and Palestinians (1994) and can be reached at sbahour@palnet.com.
Sam Bahour serves on the Advisory Board of ¡Cafe Intifada!
© Copyright Sam Bahour 2006. May be reproduced in its entirety with attribution.

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<>REGARDING THE UPCOMING INTERNATIONAL HUMANITARIAN LAW AND INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS LAW:                                                                                            

EXPLORING PARALLEL  APPLICATION                                    

TO BE HELD AT HEBREW UNIVERSITY:

The decision to have an international conference on international law
and human rights at Hebrew University is so flagrantly at odds with the
title of the conference, one wonders what might be the forces at play,
behind the scenes.  Questions that come to mind:  Who is hosting this
conference?  What is the political agenda of the conference conveners?
What have been their positions in general in regard to human rights, and
in Israel regarding human rights?   What was the decision making process
that determined that Hebrew University was the best place to host this
conference?  What is the political statement, intentional or otherwise
that is made by this decision?  What is the symbolic significance of the
decision to host this conference at this university?

Given that this is an international conference, what would the message
have been had the conveners decided to hold the conference in:

Venezuela?
Bolivia?
At Berzeit University in the OPT?
South Africa?
Zimbabwe?

While the conference does address the issue of human rights and
international law under occupation, Palestinian speakers, activists and
scholars are conspicuosly missing from the program.  Even if the
conveners have good intentions, the patronizing attitude embodied in
holding a conference with this theme, at this university without
Palestinian participation and input can’t be overlooked.

-Emma Rosenthal
Cafe Intifada

FYI:  The following material was published by Cafe Intifada with permission of PACBI

________________________________

What follows is the Open Letter from The Palestinian Campaign for the
Academic and Cultural Boycott of  Israel preceeded by a  description of
the conference from its web page  where one can also download the
conference schedule:

http://ard.huji.ac.il/huard/pubPageExecuter.jsp?ardNum=126

The Minerva Center for Human Rights
On May 21-22, 2006 an International Conference will be held in Jerusalem

on: “International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law:
Exploring Parallel Application”

The conference is organized by the Bruce W. Wayne Chair of International
Law and the Minerva Center for Human Rights at the Hebrew University of
Jerusalem and the International Committee of the Red Cross, in
cooperation with the Konrad Adenauer Foundation.

The conference keynote speaker will be Prof. Theodore Meron
(International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia;
International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda). Participants include Dr.
Orna Ben-Naftali, Prof. John Cerone, Dr. Amichai Cohen, Mr. Michael
Dennis, Dr. Cordula Droege, Prof. Jochen Frowein, Adv. Rotem Giladi, Dr.
Aeyal Gross, Prof. Francoise Hampson, Prof. David Kretzmer, Prof. Ruth
Lapidoth, Mr. Noam Lubell, Prof. Dominic McGoldrick, Prof. Fionnuala
Ni-Aolain, Prof. RenÈ Provost, Ms. Nancie Prud’homme, Ambassador Dr.
Robbie Sabel, Prof. William Schabas, Dr. Yuval Shany and Dr. Ralph Wilde.

The opening evening of the conference will take place on Sunday, May 21
at the Konrad Adenauer Conference Center at Mishkenot Sha’ananim in
Jerusalem beginning at 17:00. The conference will continue on Monday,
May 22 at the Mt. Scopus campus of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem
beginning at 09:30. The proceedings will be held in English.
The conference program and schedule is available on our site.
To confirm participation and arrange an entry permit into the campus,
please contact the Minerva Center for Human Rights  or at tel. 02-5881156.
Open Letter from Palestinian Academics May 19, 2006
Open Letter from Palestinian Academics under Israel’s Occupation to International Participants in the Conference on__INTERNATIONAL HUMANITARIAN LAW AND INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS LAW: EXPLORING PARALLEL APPLICATION__At the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, 21-22 May 2006

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) [1] views with concern your participation in this conference held at the Hebrew University. At a time when the international movement to isolate Israel is gaining ground in response to Israel’s flagrant infringement of Palestinian human and political rights, we urge you to reflect upon the ethical implication of your accepting an invitation to take part in a conference at an Israeli university. We believe that participation in conferences or similar events in Israel not dedicated to ending Israel’s illegal occupation and other forms of oppression contributes to the prolongation of this injustice by normalizing and thereby legitimizing it. As distinguished legal scholars, you are acutely aware that Israel has flaunted international law for several decades; since the hegemonic world powers are active agents in acquiescence to Israel’s colonial and other oppressive policies, we believe that the only avenue open to achieving justice for Palestinians is sustained work on the part of Palestinian and international activists for justice to put pressure on Israel to end this oppression. A campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) is, we believe, the most morally and politically sound way to achieve this. You may be interested to know that in July 2005 more than 170 Palestinian civil society unions and organizations issued the Call for BDS [2] as a non-violent form of resisting Israel’s oppression.

In the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT), which includes East Jerusalem, according to UN Security Council resolutions, Israel is continuing the construction of its colonies and massive Wall in direct violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention as well as the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) of July 2004. It is also deepening its apartheid policies against Palestinians under its occupation as well as its own Palestinian citizens. This is exemplified by the recent racist ruling of the Israeli High Court upholding a ban on the reunification of Palestinian citizens of Israel with their spouses from the OPT and therefore infringing, on ethnic grounds, upon the basic human right to choose one’s partner. In any other country, such a law would be rightly condemned as racist.

We also ask you to reflect on the symbolism of the venue of this conference. The Hebrew University is itself implicated in serious violations of international law. Specifically, the University’s acquisition of a significant portion of the land on which its Mount Scopus Campus and dormitories are built is illegal. Here are some details:

More than one year after Israel’s military occupation of Gaza and the West Bank (which includes East Jerusalem, according to UN Security Council resolutions), specifically on 1 September 1968, the Israeli authorities confiscated 3345 dunums of Palestinian land, basing their decision on article 5 and article 7 of the Land (Acquisition for Public Purpose) Ordinance 1943. The decision was published in the official Israeli Gazette — the Hebrew edition — number 1425. It was therefore “legalized” by Israel. This land, for the most part, was (still is) privately owned by Palestinians living in that area. A large part of the confiscated land was then given to the Hebrew University to expand its campus (mainly its dormitories). The Palestinian landowners refused to leave their lands and homes arguing that the confiscation order of 1968 was illegal. Consequently, the case was taken to the Jerusalem District Court in 1972 (file no. 1531/72). In 1973, as expected, the Israeli court ruled in favor of the University and the state. The court decided that the Palestinian families must evacuate their homes and be offered alternative housing.

The basis for the illegality of the Hebrew University land confiscation deal is that this land is part of East Jerusalem, which is an occupied territory according to international law (numerous UN resolutions recognize East Jerusalem as an inseparable part of the OPT). Israel’s unilateral annexation of occupied East Jerusalem into the State of Israel and the application of Israeli domestic law to it have been repeatedly denounced as null and void by the international community, including by the UN Security Council in its Resolution 252 (21 May 1968). Israel’s expropriation of Palestinian land in East Jerusalem and efforts at forced eviction of its Palestinian owners are illegal under the terms of International Humanitarian Law, in particular the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Furthermore, by moving Israelis (staff and students) to work and live on occupied Palestinian land, the Hebrew University, like all Israeli settlements illegally established on occupied territory, is gravely violating the Fourth Geneva Convention’s explicit prohibition in this regard.

In conclusion, and appealing to your sense of justice and moral consistency, we hope that, until Israel fully abides by international law, you shall treat it exactly as most of the world treated racist South Africa, or indeed any other state that legislates and practices apartheid: a pariah state. Only then can there be a real chance for a just peace in harmony with international law and based on equal human rights for all, irrespective of ethnicity, religion or other identity considerations.

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This is an important article, exploring the mostly ignored issues of human and civil rights within Israel’s  pre 1967 borders.
-Emma
__________________________

Redlining and the Israeli Real Estate Industry
By Fred Schlomka
Al-Jazeerah, April 15, 2006

The recent Israeli elections were followed by a number of pronouncements by US officials praising democracy in Israel. However democracy is much more than elections, and many freedoms that Americans take for granted are not available in Israel. For example, Israel’s Arab citizens suffer from discriminatory real estate and housing practices of the sort that were outlawed in the US almost 40 years ago.
Redlining, or restricting home purchasing by African Americans and other minorities in ‘white’ neighborhoods was once a common practice by realtors in the USA. Due to the 1968 Fair Housing Act, they are now required by law to treat all homebuyers equally. However in Israel the practice of redlining has been entrenched since the founding of the state.
The Israeli real estate industry, housing developers and the government, restricts Arab citizens of Israel, 20% of the population, in their housing choices. Contributing factors include marketing strategies by realtors and housing developers, segregated planned communities by non-profit developers, and government control of the most of the country’s property. As a result, virtually all new homes and pre-owned homes are sold exclusively to the Jewish population. Arabs mostly ‘make do’ with owner built homes in tightly zoned towns and villages, often having their homes demolished as a result of the lack of appropriate zoning and building permits.
The largest real estate development company in Israel, Industrial Buildings Corporation (IBC) is part of the Fishman Group with a market value exceeding $1.5 billion. IBC develops, and manages 230 infrastructure projects for tens of thousands of housing units in 80 locations throughout the country for the Israel Lands Authority (ILA), the Ministry of Housing and local authorities. All of the company’s projects are marketed to Jewish-Israelis and foreign buyers only.
The leading real estate brokerage firm is Anglo-Saxon, part of Africa-Israel Investments Ltd with a 2004 net profit of over $92 million. Their network of 55 offices, none of which are in an Arab locality, have marketed tens of thousands of homes exclusively to Jewish and foreign buyers. Other realtors, including Century 21 and ReMax follow the same pattern of selective sales, effectively excluding Arab buyers from the real estate market.
For example no homes have been sold to Arabs in the fast-growing new city of Modiin with a population of over 60,000. When Arabs try and gain access to segregated communities they are met with organized resistance and legal restraints. This happened in the northern Israeli town of Karmiel when the ILA cancelled a offer in October 2004 for leasing 26 lots. The cancellation was in response to a petition submitted to the Haifa District Court against the ILA, the Jewish National Fund (JNF), and the Karmiel Municipality, by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and the Arab Center for Alternative Planning. Rather than extend the tender so that Arabs could lease land, the court allowed the ILA and JNF to withdraw the offer.
Government tactics to restrict housing choices include offering grants, low interest mortgages and tax incentives to Jews only, and requiring army service for residents. However the most blatant form of discrimination is exercised through the government’s control, through the ILA, of most of the land in Israel.
The ILA manages a total of about 78 million acres or 93% of all the land in the state. The 1961 Agreements between the JNF and the Israeli Government stipulates that the ILA would administer all JNF-owned lands. A primary objective of these documents is to prohibit land allocation to non-Jews. These agreements also redefined the JNF as a Public Authority in Israel, yet their charity organizations operate in numerous countries and have 501c3 non- profit tax-exempt status in the USA, possibly in violation of the US tax code. Their international activities are closely linked with the real estate industry in Israel and hundreds of segregated Jewish communities have been built on JNF land.
Thus today there are over 4.5 million Jewish-Israelis with free choice to live anywhere in the country while the 1.2 million Christian and Muslim Arab citizens are mostly relegated to a mere 3.5% of the land that they still own. Africa Israel Investments, The Fishman Group, or Industrial Buildings Corporation could not practice such blatant Redlining and segregation in their projects in Europe and the USA. Housing and land reform in Israel is long overdue and perhaps it’s time for investors to prod these companies, and the Israeli Government into the 21st century.
Fred Schlomka is a board member of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions.  He can be contacted at fred@schlomka.com
Sources:
Dun & Bradstreet
Duns 100 Israel http://duns100.dundb.co.il/600000699/index.html 
website of the Israel land Administration: www.mmi.gov.il.
ILA Annual Report 2003 (Hebrew), available at www.mmi.gov.il/static/p236.html.
http://www.globes.co.il/ 
Central Bureau of Statistics (Israel): www.cbs.gov.il/engindex.htm 
JNF Charter
1961 JNF Memorandum with the Israeli Government
Conversations with Israeli real estate agents
http://www.aljazeerah.info/Opinion%20editorials/2006%20Opinion%20Editorials/April/15o/Redlining%20and%20the%20Israeli%20Real%20
http://www.icahd.org/eng/articles.asp?menu=6&submenu=2&article=252
http://www.jordantimes.com/wed/opinion/opinion4.htm

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Defense of Children International: 5 year old Arrested
http://www.dci-pal.org/english/home.cfm


Defense of Children International has a Palestine Center that provided important information on the situation of children under Israeli hegemony.  There is an abundance of information and resources on this web site, including information on the recent arrest of a five year old boy; the conditions of children in Israeli prisons; Little Voices, including information on the Girl Child Conference, including the participation of 13-18 year old girls; and other reports and publications, many of which can be downloaded.
A wonderful publication: Our Voices, which features the writings of Palestinian students, can be downloaded at_ http://www.dci-pal.org/english/publ/display.cfm?DocId=424&CategoryId=8

Palestinian Teens Behind the Wall

A tenth grade class at the Friends School in Ramallah, Palestine, have launched a very important and timely web page that I hope will become a resource for teachers and students, activists and scholars throughout the world.  The page is titled
Palestinian Teens Behind the Wall
, and features their first hand reports on the specific conditions  of life under occupation, their personal opinions, culture and commentary.
www.lifebehindthewall.com

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