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Bethlehem News Updates Volume 10, January 3, 2009
Here is today's news update from Maggie Coulter and Patricia Daugherty, two longtime anti-war and Palestinian solidarity activists from Sacramento now staying in Bethlehem, Palestine. Israeli ground troops have invaded Gaza and urgent action is needed to stop the genocide.
Bethlehem News Updates Volume 10, January 3, 2009
In this update:
- Gaza briefing. As we send this, Israel has begun a ground invasion.
- Bethlehem brief
- Visiting Villages of '48
- Boycott L'Oreal Products << http://www.BDSmovement.net >>
- Contact information of elected officials
As we send this, Israel's genocidal assault on the people of Gaza continues; ground troops have invaded. There are eight International Solidarity Movement (ISM) volunteers on the ground in Gaza. They all came on the Free Gaza Boats (http://www.freegaza.org). We urge you to read their eyewitness reports at: http://www.palsolidarity.org/main. A particularly powerful one from the Italian volunteer is at: http://www.palsolidarity.org/main/2009/01/01/vittorio-arrigoni-writes-from-gaza/.
Look for our report in the upcoming January 8 Sacramento News and Review.
Even if you have already contacted Congress (202-224-3121) please call again AND ask you friends, family and co-workers to do the same. The Gazan people are utterly alone! Only international pressure will stop the Israeli killing machine at this point.
There have been several good reports written about what is going on. Here are a few:
The injured were lying there asking God to let them die, Fikr Shaltoot
Palestine's Guernica and the Myths of Israeli Victimhood, Mustafa Barghouthi
Gaza Voices, American Silence, Ken Ring,
Israel Over-reaches, Nadia Hijab, http://imeu.net/news/printer0015233.shtml
If Hamas did not Exist, Jennifer Loewenstein, http://www.counterpunch.org/loewenstein01012009.html;
The electricity was going on and off yesterday. Our town of Beit Sahour, has not been receiving water and we know of some homes that have run out of their storage capacity and they have been without water for three days. We are very fortunate that our house has a well. (Essentially no new wells can be dug by Palestinians because Israel restricts them digging deep enough to reach one of the aquifers. Cisterns, however, are legal) Ultimately, Israel controls both the electricity and water to the West Bank.
The Bethlehem checkpoint was closed for Palestinians again for 48 hours beginning yesterday, preventing thousands of workers from getting to their jobs. After the Gaza assault started, tour companies cancelled holiday stays in Bethlehem, another hit against the already-weak economy here.
In the last week, we know personally of two European women who were stripped searched at the airport when leaving Israel.
Visiting the Villages of '48: Ain Hood, Ain Hood Jadeed, Al Majedel, Ma Alul
In our last update we promised to describe our travels though the Galilee. With the events in Gaza, it is difficult to concentrate on anything but Gaza. However, we also know that what is happening in Gaza today is part of decades of strategic and continued assault on Palestinians – first carried out by Zionist militias in 1948 and since then by the state of Israel. Even as we are shocked and sicken by what is happening, we painfully aware that this is yet another horrific chapter of the same story.
Keep this in mind as we describe finding the remains of destroyed Palestinian villages of 1948 in the Galilee. Hold the images of the frightened, suffering and dieing Gazans, 80% of whom are refugees; forcibly transferred from their native lands. (In 1948, an estimated 800,000 Palestinians were killed, fled in fear, or were forcibly removed their homes and lands by the Zionist militias.)
As you witness on your TV screen the rubble of Gazan buildings bombed today, we would like you to also think about the covered and hidden remains of the approximately 500 destroyed Palestinian cities and villages of 1948. And then ask yourself is it possible that what is happening in Gaza now could also be forgotten by the world; an erased history, forgotten, distorted, twisted.
Of course, we all know that history is written by those that conquer. While many keep repeating that the issue of Israel/Palestine is very complicated, this much, this fact, is very simple. Palestinians were forcibly removed and continue to be removed, either by restriction, theft or death, from their land.
The Galilee is located in the north part of the current state of Israel. It is home to a small Palestinian majority. An area that was to have largely remained Palestinian under the 1947 UN partition plan, the Palestinians who live there managed to escape transfer in 1948. For more information about Palestinian villages, see http://www.palestineremembered.com
There are about 1.5 million Palestinians living inside modern day Israel, about 20% of the total Israeli population. Although they are now Israeli citizens, they lived under martial law until 1966 (Israel still maintains repressive emergency laws) and today they live a separate and unequal existence to the Jewish citizens of Israel. The Palestinians citizens of Israel live mainly in three areas - the Galilee, the Triangle (a small area that lies along the upper western side of the West Bank), and the Negev. Approximately 10% live in encampments and unrecognized villages, about 8% live in "mixed" towns where they are a minority. The remaining Palestinian population of Israel lives in exclusively "Arab" cities and villages. A third of these Palestinians are internally displaced persons, refugees of 1948 or from Israel transfer policies of the 1950's. Although Palestinians make up 20% of the population, they own only 3% of land in the current state of Israel. Most of their property was confiscated by the Israeli authorities, which involved laws that effectively "legalized" state theft of their lands.
In many ways, traveling through the Galilee feels very much like being in the Occupied West Bank - without the Apartheid Wall and checkpoints. Jewish only cities look very much like the illegal Jewish only settlements that are now ubiquitous in the West Bank. Palestinian cities and villages are readily recognizable from a distance. Witness the density of the buildings with little or no open space as expansion is prohibited Israeli authorities, and the mosque or steeple.
Ein Houd and Ein Houd al Jadida: Occupation and Marginalization
Ein Houd is on of the few Palestinian villages to have escaped demolition in 1948; its entire population however, was forced out. The majority were expelled, moving through several internment camps, to the West Bank and Transjordan. Most of them (and their descendents) now live in the Jenin Refugee camp or in Jordan. A small minority managed to escape expulsion and fled about 1 kilometers away (as the crow flies). They named this place Ein Houd al Jadida (New Ein Houd)
While international law recognized in 1948 their right to return, they have never been allowed to do so. Instead, in the early 1950's it was transformed into a exclusively Jewish Israeli artist's colony and the name was hebrew-ized into Ein Hod. Artists live in some of the old Palestinian homes. Near the entrance is a larger than life metal sculpture of a naked woman and a full clad man - a culturally-offensive slap-in-the face to the people from whom the town was stolen. Even more offensive, the mosque is now a trendy cafe. We asked a few puzzled people where the mosque was and were referred to a longtime town resident who would only talk about the historic plight of Jews, refusing to even acknowledge the native inhabitants in whose stolen home he now lived.
We left and traversed a windy bumpy, narrow road to Ein Houd al Jadida (New Ein Houd). The village, until recently, was "unrecognized" which meant they were deprived of all basic public services; water, electricity, roads, etc. Donkeys were the main transportation until the late 1980s. At that point the villagers began to pressure Israel to recognize them and grant them normal rights. The response was immediate; the application of a policy of intimidation. Demolition notices were posted. Since all the buildings were constructed while the community was "unrecognized" the permit procedures had not been done and so all the homes were "illegal." Villagers had to channel their energy into saving their homes instead of becoming "recognized. Finally in 1994, the received "recognition" but nothing has changed. In fact, the initial land they were recognized as owing has now been re-surveyed and halved, the land going for a national park. That at least brought asphalt to the steepest parts of the road.
Al Mujaydil: Destroyed and occupied
We arrived to Nazareth after dark and found our way up a hill to the convent where we were staying. In the morning we met with the director of the Association for the Defense of the Rights of the Displaced Persons in Israel, Dahoud Badr, himself a refugee from the village of Al Ghabsiya. Dahoud told us about his organization, which started in 1992 to help Palestinian-Israeli refugees be able to return to their villages and lands (from which they were ethnically cleansed, starting in 1948). Some villages were completely destroyed, evidence of their existence remains. Over the remains of others, Israeli colonial settlements were built. Dahoud sugested a few villages in the area that we could visit.
With the help of a young Palestinian-Israeli man we met at a gas station, we were able to find the Palestinian church that was damaged, but left staying from the village of Al Mujaydil. Most the village refugees went to Nazareth and petitioned the new Israeli government to come back. Israel told the Christians among them that they could return; and the Christians said they would not return without their Muslim townspeople. Today the church has been repaired and is operational, Father Jack, its Palestinian priest, holds regular services. Nearly all his parishioners are Palestinian-Israelis, most live in Nazareth, a few kilometers away. They are not allowed to live in the exclusively Jewish city built on the village's land. Occasionally he receives Russian immigrants who come to church in disguise; pretending to be Jews so that Israel would let them emigrate, these church-goers are in fact Christians.
Israel built the settlement of Migdal Ha'emeq on the grave of Al Mujaydil starting in the 1950s. The French company L'Oréal opened a factory there in 1999. One of the ways to oppose the Israel's apartheid and occupation is to join the international boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign. Begin by boycotting L'Oréal products, which include the L'Oréal Paris; Garnier; Maybelline New York; Softsheen, Carson; CCB Paris brands. See below for a message from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee about this boycott. Or visit: http://www.BDSmovement.net Note that Israel products have a barcode that begins with 792.
Ma'lul: In Ruins
Without the very detailed hand-drawn map from Father Jack to Ma'lul, we would not have found the village. There are no signs to Ma'lul and although it happens to be fairly near a major road it is hidden from sight. In the 1950s it was common practice for Israelis to plant fast growing pine trees that effectively covered up destroyed villages. The Jewish National Fund collected money for trees through the "Plant a Tree in Israel" campaign.
As we approached on a dirt road, we drove along an electric fence with dogs chained on the side opposite us; they were allowed to run on a short tether. On the fence were yellow signs that said "Warning Mines" on them. We did not understand what these meant until we traveled the next day to the occupied Golan and realized these were land mines left by the Israelis; in the occupied Golan, there are 76 minefields, some inside Arab towns which have killed children. It is utterly barbaric that Israel planted and then left these land mines.
We then spotted two buildings, ruins of churches; the mosque had been completely destroyed.
Ma'lul was a village of 800 people. Some of its stolen land was used for a military base and some went to the Israeli settlement of Migdal Ha'emeq.
We met a Palestinian family gathering a special wild green for cooking. They told us that some of their neighbors were from this village. "There are 500 stories like this one," the father of the family said, referring to the estimated number of Palestinian villages that were ethnically cleansed in 1948.
We stayed at Ma'lul until the twilight edged closer to night. The more we explored, the more we discovered building foundations, cisterns, shapes of doorways, colored tiles; features describing a life lived here. And not that long ago……
Why would anyone question their right to return? For more information about the Villages of '48, see http://www.palestineremembered.com and http://www.nakbainhebrew.org/index.php?lang=english
[Regarding the Ha'aretz article about the demonstration which stated: "Palestinians staged violent demonstrations on Friday against the route of the West Bank separation fence in the town of Bil'in], I was there. And I resent the "violent" comment-- sure, there were teenagers who were throwing stones. But the soldiers had grenade launchers with smoke and tear gas bombs. And the two men who were shot were just yelling at the soldiers in Hebrew.
L'Oreal: Makeup for Israeli Apartheid!
Palestinian BDS Campaign calls for boycotting L'Oreal
23 December 2008
In this holiday season, the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee, BNC*, calls upon people of conscience all over the world to boycott all the products of the French cosmetics giant, L'Oreal**, due to its deep and extensive involvement in business relations with Israel, despite the latter's continued occupation and apartheid policies against the indigenous Palestinian people.
L'Oreal's operations in Israel began in the mid-1990s, motivated in part by political considerations. Since then, L'Oreal Israel, the company's subsidiary in Israel, has operated a factory in the Israeli town of Migdal Ha'emek in the Lower Galilee. The settlement of Migdal Ha'emek was established in 1952 on lands belonging to the ethnically-cleansed Palestinian village of al-Mujaydil, whose original inhabitants are still denied the right to return to their homes. Like almost all other Jewish settlements built in the midst of Palestinian villages in the Galilee, inside Israel, Migdal Ha'emek discriminates against Palestinian citizens of Israel, denying them the right to buy, rent or live on any part of the town, simply because they are "non Jews."
L'Oreal Israel manufacturers a line of products using Dead Sea minerals under the name "Natural Sea Beauty" that is exported to 22 countries. It should be noted that one third of the western shore of the Dead Sea lies in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. While the entire shore and its resources are systematically closed to Palestinians by Israeli military occupation and apartheid practices, Israel exploits the Dead Sea for international tourism, mining, and improving its image.
L'Oreal's activities in Israel are not, however, limited to L'Oreal Israel. While Palestinian academics and students in the occupied territories and Israel are systematically impeded by Israeli occupation roadblocks and other oppressive measures from conducting normal academic life and research, L'Oreal awarded a $100,000 "lifetime achievement" award to a scientist at Israel's Weizmann Institute of Science in July 2008. The Weizmann Institute, since its establishment, has been a major center for clandestine research and development of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons on behalf of Israel's military establishment with which it has close ties. It is, therefore, one of many academic institutions in Israel that are in collusion with the state's violations of international law and Palestinian human rights, and which are targeted for academic boycott by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI).
The chairman of L'Oreal Israel is Gad Propper who is the founding chairman of the Israel-EU Chamber of Commerce, and has also been heavily involved in promoting trade between Israel and Australia and New Zealand. The French government has recognized the important role that L'Oreal's Israeli operations play in the company's global business by awarding Propper France's highest civilian honor, the Legion d'honneur earlier this month. "The award was in recognition of Propper's contribution to the global success story" of L'Oreal, according to a report in the Jerusalem Post.
In 1994, L'Oreal bought a 30 percent stake in Propper's company Interbeauty, from which L'Oreal Israel was created. Since then Israel has become L'Oreal's commercial center for the entire Middle East.
POLITICAL MOTIVATIONS FOR L'OREAL'S ISRAEL INVESTMENTS
In 1995, L'Oreal agreed to pay $1.4 million to the US government to settle charges that it had cooperated with the Arab League's official boycott of Israel. The company was accused of providing information in the 1980s about its US subsidiaries' ties to Israel, to the now effectively inactive official Boycott Office of the Arab League. The company denied that it had broken US laws designed to prevent American firms from cooperating with the official Arab boycott of Israel, but mounted a campaign to placate Zionist critics by emphasizing its desire to invest in Israel.
Following the settlement, then chairman of L'Oreal, Lindsay Owen-Jones, apologized for the company's actions in a letter to the US-based pro-Israel lobby group the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).
According to the ADL, Owen-Jones thanked the pro-Israel group "for its support of L'Oreal's business and community service activities in Israel," and assured the ADL that "The forward-looking approach that you have taken is an encouragement to L'Oreal and other companies that are already involved in Israel to expand their involvement still further."
One of L'Oreal's most well-known global brands, The Body Shop, boasts that one of its core values is "We've never been afraid to champion the vulnerable and the disadvantaged, and we continue to campaign for social justice and human rights." Yet its parent company's deep politically-motivated and profit-driven involvement with Israeli apartheid indicates, if anything, a flagrant disregard for the human rights of Palestinians and a disservice to justice and peace.
Business-as-usual should not continue with a state that has not only practiced apartheid and colonial rule against an indigenous population for decades, but is also, today, committing grave and persistent war crimes described as "a prelude to genocide" by Richard Falk, a prominent Princeton international law professor and UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the OPT.
Under these circumstances L'Oreal's vast investment in Israel amounts to complicity in severe abuse of human rights, to say the least; it should be stopped at once.
* The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) includes: Council of National and Islamic Forces in Palestine; General Union of Palestinian Workers; Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions; Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations' Network (PNGO); Federation of Independent Trade Unions; Union of Arab Community Based Associations (ITTIJAH); Union of Palestinian Charitable Organizations; Global Palestine Right of Return Coalition; Occupied Palestine and Golan Heights Advocacy Initiative (OPGAI); General Union of Palestinian Women; Palestinian Farmers Union (PFU); Grassroots Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign (STW); Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI); National Committee to Commemorate the Nakba; Civic Coalition for the Defense of Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem (CCDPRJ); Coalition for Jerusalem; and Palestinian Economic Monitor.
** Brands owned by L'Oreal as listed on the company's website:
L'Oreal Israel (sold in Australia); L'Oréal Paris; Garnier; Maybelline New York; Softsheen, Carson; CCB Paris
Contact information for Sacramento & Davis electeds
Please call the local office of your Congressional representatives and senators as well as their DC offices: 202-224-3121. For Sacramento & Davis, here are the local numbers:
Representative Doris Matsui: (916) 498-5600; Fax: (916) 444-6117
Representative Mike Thompson: (530) 662-5272; Fax: (530) 662-5163
Senator Barbara Boxer: (916) 448-2787; Fax: (916) 448-2563
Senator Dianne Feinstein: (415) 393-0707; Fax: (415) 393-0710
State Senator Darrell Steinberg, (916) 651-4006, Fax: (916) 323-2263; senator.steinberg [at] senate.ca.gov
(Steinberg introduced a resolution in the California legislature a few years ago defending Israel; ask him to introduce one now demanding that they stop killing the people of Gaza)
Only international pressure will stop the Israeli killing machine at this point.