Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Is there such a thing?

Yesterday, the police came once again to destroy the village of Al-Arakib and erase it from the face of the earth, for the 21th time in less than a year. Again the wretched huts and tents were destroyed and the remains loaded on trucks and taken away, so as to leave not a trace. And again the Jewish National Fund bulldozers were invited to start preparations for "planting a forest" on this devastated spot. And again, once the police and bulldozers have left the area, Al-Arakib's stubborn Bedouins came back to set up new tents and huts, for the twenty-second time, and settle down to the daily routine of life without electricity or water or sewers - until the next destruction and the next expulsion and the next coming back.

Israel's official radio this morning interviewed Yuli Edelstein, Minister for Information and Diaspora Affairs. Minister Edelstein is currently in the U.S. He came in the company of a group of energetic young Israelis carefully selected to run around the American universities and speak out against the annual event called "Israeli Apartheid Week". "What dismal ignorance do we witness here about the real state of Israel, what lies and slanders are being spread about us!" sighed the minister on the air. "Can you imagine that American students did not even know or hear that there is such a thing as an Arab Israeli? Only from our journey this week did they hear it for the first time!"

In fact, these American students are not alone. Did the police officers who again and again every week destroy Al-Arakib ever hear of such a thing as Arab Israelis? Arab Israelis, citizens with completely equal rights in the country which until recently thought itself to be the only democracy in the Middle East? And the bulldozer drivers, did they ever hear of such a thing? And the top officials of the police and the Jewish National Fund and the Israel Lands Authority, and the ministers who set the long-term policies, and the Prime Minister who is above the ministers? Which of them ever heard of it?

Mr. Minister of Information and the Diaspora, where are you? Can you not at least inform your fellow ministers about the existence of these equal citizens?

The Song of the Bulldozers

Pete Seeger is 92, and still going strong. The world-famous protest singer is still active, still writing and singing and being involved in various struggles, almost like in the great days of the struggle for Black's Civil Rights and against the Vietnam War.

Last year the Arava Institute asked Pete Seeger to co-sponsor the virtual rally which the Institute held under the title " With Earth and Each Other:  for a Better Middle East". As told by the organizers, the Arava Institute is a university-level academic program located at the Negev in the south of Israel, and which seeks "to address regional environmental challenges by bringing together Israeli, Palestinian, Jordanian, and other future leaders to study the environment while building positive cooperative relationships that will lead to trans-boundary cooperation" 

There were those who called upon Seeger to boycott the Arava event, but he turned down this request. Indeed, he even used his international prestige to influence other artists to join.

That was last year. But recently Israeli activist Jeff Halper visited Pete Seeger at his home. Halper told that much of the funding for "The Arava Institute" comes from the Jewish National Fund, and also presented pictures and documentation on the creative ways in which the JNF bulldozer drivers educate the residents of Al-Arakib in "addressing regional environmental challenges" and "building positive trans-boundary cooperative relationships".

“I appeared on that virtual rally because for many years I’ve felt that people should talk with people they disagree with,” Seeger told Halper (and later, the media) . ”But it ended up looking like I supported the Jewish National Fund. I misunderstood the leaders of the Arava Institute because I didn’t realize to what degree the Jewish National Fund was supporting Arava."

After Pete Seeger's public outburst it is unlikely that his songs will be heard again in this country in the near future. We'll have to settle for repeated recitals of The Song of the Bulldozers.

Saturday – planting olive trees at Al-Arakib

As I sat down to write this blog, the following message landed in my box:

Saturday, March 12, 2011 - Solidarity Visit, Tree Planting and Protest Vigil at Al-Arakib. The Israel Land Administration demolished the village of  Al-Raqib for the 21st time this week. The Bulldozers of the Jewish National Fund are currently completely razing the village and flattening its lands, preparing it for artificial forestations meant solely to deprive the Bedouin residents of Al-Araqib of their land. Thousands of olive trees which have been cultivated by the villagers were uprooted. This Saturday we will replant some of these trees, as a sign for the return of  the people of Al-Araqib to their lands.

Transportation from Tel Aviv: 10:00 AM – Arolzerov St. Railway Station, next to SIxt Parking Lot. (Details and registration: Yaacov: 050-5733276, 09-7670801 or Michal 052-6886867,  

Transportation from Jerusalem: Dolev  054-8184467,