OCHA: 10% increase in israeli (apartheid state) demolition of Palestinian structures in 2018

OSCHA: 10% increase in Israeli demolition of Palestinian structures in 2018

Ma’an – January 20, 2019

BETHLEHEM – During 2018, Israel demolished or seized 460 Palestinian-owned structures in the West Bank, a 10% increase compared to 2017, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in the occupied Palestinian territory confirmed in a new report.

The OCHA report stated, “While in Area C, which makes over 60% of the area of the West Bank that is under full Israeli military control, the number of structures targeted in both years was approximately the same and stood at 270, occupied East Jerusalem recorded a 25% increase compared to 2017. Of all structures targeted during 2018, 56 were donor-funded humanitarian aid structures, representing a 46% decline, compared to 2017 figures.”

In December, said OCHA’s monthly report on West Bank demolitions and displacement, “39 Palestinian-owned structures were demolished or seized by the Israeli authorities, the same as the 2018 monthly average, displacing 56 people and affecting over 270 others.”

OCHA added that two of this month’s demolitions were on punitive grounds and the rest were due to the lack of the difficult-to-obtain Israeli building permits.

The report confirmed that “about 70% of the structures targeted this month were in Area C. The largest incident took place on December 4th in the Beit Hanina – al-Marwaha neighborhood, a community on the ‘Jerusalem side’ of the wall barrier, where eight commercial structures were demolished and goods were confiscated.”

“Five families, who reported a financial loss of almost 1.5 million Israeli shekels (. $400,000), were affected. In another incident, the livelihoods of 70 people were affected by the demolition of a leather store on the margins of al-Bireh City near the Ramallah district.”

On December 5th, the Israeli authorities dismantled and seized two structures in the Hebron district to be used as a school for 45 students. Three tents erected subsequently by the Palestinian Ministry of Education to replace the targeted structures were also seized.

OCHA mentioned that this is the seventh case during 2018 where educational structures were targeted under the pretext of “lack of building permits.” It is estimated that 50 West Bank schools, 42 in Area C and eight in East Jerusalem, have pending demolition orders against all or part of their facilities, according to the Education Cluster.

“In East Jerusalem, nine structures were targeted during December, nearly half the monthly average during the rest of 2018.”

“In one incident, Palestinians were forced to demolish a 20 year-old building home to two families, comprising 14 people. The families reported that since the start of the legal proceedings, they have paid the municipality 160,000 shekels ($43,382) in fines, in addition to 25,000 shekels ($6,778) they spent on the demolition itself.”

“During the month, the Israeli military carried out two punitive demolitions, bringing the total in 2018 to six, compared to nine in 2017.”

In addition, the report mentioned that in al-Amari refugee camp in the Ramallah district, Israeli forces blew up and destroyed a four-story building and severely damaged two adjacent buildings, displacing 23 people, including six children. The targeted building was home to the family of a man who reportedly killed an Israeli soldier with a brick during a search operation in the camp in May 2018.

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Who gets to vote in israel’s (apartheid state) version of democracy?

Who gets to vote in Israel’s democracy

Michael Omer-Man

Israel is about to hold elections, but not everyone living under Israeli rule gets to vote. A breakdown of who has rights and who doesn’t.

Archive photo of a Palestinian citizen of Israel casting a ballot in Abu Gosh, a village outside of Jerusalem, February 10, 2009. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Archive photo of a Palestinian citizen of Israel casting a ballot in Abu Gosh, a village outside of Jerusalem, February 10, 2009. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

On April 9, 2019, Israel will hold general elections. Israelis will head to the polls to choose their elected leaders and representatives. If they are unhappy with the way things are going, like citizens of democracies around the world, their votes will help shape the ideological and political direction of the government and the institutions it controls.

In a vacuum, that sounds like fairly standard democratic practice. But there is nothing standard about Israel’s democracy.

Israeli citizens get to vote in Israeli elections, choosing elected leaders and how they rule the country. But the Israeli government doesn’t just rule over Israeli citizens, or just over Israel, for that matter.

Nearly 14 million people live under Israeli rule. The extent of that control varies, as does the ability of those 14 million people to exercise control over the policies, personalities, and institutions that determine so much about their day-to-day lives.

At the end of 2018, the population of Israel was approximately 8,972,000 people. That includes more than 330,000 Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem who do not have Israeli citizenship and thus do not have the right to vote in national elections. It also includes more than 214,000 Jewish Israeli citizens who live in occupied East Jerusalem and more than 435,000 Jewish Israelis who live in the occupied West Bank

Then there is the West Bank, which has been governed undemocratically by the Israeli military since it occupied the territory in 1967. Prime Minister Netanyahu has vowed again and again, the Israel will not give up military control over the West Bank — ever.

In that territory, over which Israel plans to rule in perpetuity, live more than 2,623,000 Palestinians — over 2,953,000 including East Jerusalem Palestinians — who do not have the right to vote in Israeli elections. In the West Bank, Israel and its army are responsible for everything from road infrastructure, deciding who may live where, who may build where and what, who is allowed to move between different parts of the territory and when, who is allowed in and out of the West Bank, who is allowed to hold a political protest (only Jews), what the laws are and how they are enforced, and whether they will ever be granted independence.

Israeli soldiers and Border Police officers arrest a Palestinian woman after she allegedly tried to cross a checkpoint with a knife, Hebron, West Bank, on September 27, 2017. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

Israeli soldiers and Border Police officers arrest a Palestinian woman after she allegedly tried to cross a checkpoint with a knife, Hebron, West Bank, on September 27, 2017. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

The 435,000 Jewish Israelis who live in the West Bank have the right to vote in elections that can determine every one of those policies. They have elected representatives who can work to rectify any grievances they might have regarding how those policies affect their lives. The 2,623,000 Palestinians living in the same territory do not have the right to vote in elections that determine any of those policies. When their lives are negatively affected by the democratic country that rules over so many aspects of their lives, they have zero recourse within that democratic system to address their grievances.

Then there is the Gaza Strip. Despite having withdrawn its troops from inside the Gaza Strip in 2005, Israel and its military still control a great number of significant aspects of life in the strip and the way it is governed. Israel determines what may be imported and exported; who can come in and out of the territory; and who can travel between the West Bank and Gaza. It has unilaterally claimed a buffer zone of farmland inside Gazan territory and enforces who may enter it; it determines and enforces limits to where Palestinian fishermen can fish; it controls the flow of electricity; and even had to give its permission for cash from a third country to be brought into Gaza to pay civil servants’ salaries.

None of the 1,961,000 people living in Gaza get to vote in the democratic elections that could affect those policies, including how much violence Israel uses against them.

Palestinians participate in the Great Return March near the Gaza-Israel fence, east of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, November 30, 2018. (Abdel Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Palestinians participate in the Great Return March near the Gaza-Israel fence, east of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, November 30, 2018. (Abdel Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

So when Israel goes to vote this April, when everyone is talking about democracy, remember that out of the more-than 13,556,000 people whose lives are directly affected by Israeli policy, only 8,642,000, or around 64 percent of them have the right to participate in that democracy.

In the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, where Israel exercises absolute and direct control on a daily basis, 650,000 Jewish settlers can vote while 2,953,000 Palestinians in the exact same territory cannot. Put differently, of the 3,603,000 people living in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, only 18 percent, or fewer than one in five can vote in the elections that affect almost every aspect of their lives.

And of the 6,463,000 Palestinians living under varying degrees of Israeli rule in territory fully or partially controlled by Israel, only 1,548,000 — 24 percent, or fewer than one in four — have the right to vote in Israeli elections.

Some statistical notes: Aside from the numbers of Jews and Palestinians living in occupied East Jerusalem, which are from the end of 2016, and therefore can be assumed to be lower than the actual figures, all of the numbers given are official end-of-2018 projections published by the Palestinian Census Bureau and the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, respectively. Both agencies include Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem in their figures, so the aggregate numbers were adjusted accordingly in order to not double count. Lastly, the figures do not refer only to the population of voting age, but the entire population, and therefore does not technically refer to voter eligibility in the current election but rather to whether someone will ever have the right to vote under the current regime’s rules of suffrage. In addition, there is a small number of East Jerusalem Palestinians who have acquired Israeli citizenship over the years, in addition to a small number of Palestinian citizens of Israel who have moved to West and East Jerusalem

Massive campaign to defend 5 jewish terrorists accused of stoning to death Palestinian mother of nine

Massive campaign to defend Israeli religious students accused of killing Palestinian mother of nine

Jean Shaoul — WSWS Jan 14, 2019

Demonstrations against the detention of the five Israeli Yeshiva students accused of murder. Click to enlarge

Demonstration against the detention of the five Israeli Yeshiva students accused of murder. Click to enlarge

Far-right and ultra-Orthodox groups have created a media storm over the arrest of five Jewish youths on suspicion of carrying out “serious terror offenses,” including the killing of a Palestinian woman last October.

The defence of the accused is being used to stoke nationalist tensions in the run-up to the general election on April 9, and to shift Israeli politics further to the right. All the mainstream parties are complicit.

The five boys, students at the Pri Ha’aretz yeshiva (religious seminary) in the Rehelim settlement in the occupied West Bank, are accused of the stone-throwing attack on a Palestinian car October 12 that killed Aisha Mohammed Rabi, 47, a mother of nine, and injured her husband, Yacoub.

The past year saw a threefold increase in racist attacks on Palestinians over 2017, with 482 politically motivated crimes by Jews reported in the West Bank. These included beating and throwing stones at Palestinians, painting nationalist, anti-Arab or anti-Muslim slogans, damaging homes and cars, and cutting down trees belonging to Palestinian farmers.

The murder and its aftermath highlight the utter lawlessness and racism inherent in the Greater Israel project from which the settler movement stems. Speaking to Ha’aretz after the attack, Yacoub Rabi said, “I don’t have any doubt it was the settlers. There were six or seven of them, and it was clear that they were young.”

As is common in such stoning attacks, the police dragged their feet over their investigation, to the extent that few believed any action would be taken.

According to the public broadcaster Kan, the day after the stoning attack, settlers from Yitzhar broke with the strict religious rule of not driving on the Sabbath and traveled to the Rehelim yeshiva. One of those in the car was reportedly Meir Ettinger, a grandson of the extremist Rabbi Meir Kahane, whom the Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic intelligence agency, has accused of being a ringleader of an underground group that spawned the racist filth legitimising attacks on Palestinians.

In 2015, Ettinger spent time in administrative detention, which enables the state to order someone’s arrest without informing the detainee of the reason or providing any evidence of wrongdoing, and to detain him for unspecified periods and interrogate him without lawyers in attendance. Administrative detention orders are routinely used against Palestinians, but rarely against Jewish Israelis.

Ettinger’s arrest followed attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank and churches and mosques in Israel by right-wing Jewish extremists, including the torching of a Palestinian family in the West Bank village of Duma, which killed an 18-month-old baby.

The use of administrative detention orders under the pretext of combating militant Jewish nationalists facilitated the introduction of such methods as part of the build-up of repressive measures to be used against the working class.

On October 13, Ettinger and his companions went to the Rehelim yeshiva to brief the assailants before any investigation, arrest or interrogation, and thereby prevent them revealing the details of the stoning attack.

Two weeks ago, Shin Bet, not the police, arrested three of the suspects on suspicion of murder. They also arrested two others who were taking part in a protest in support of the alleged assailants. A gag order was imposed on the media to prevent any reporting on the details of the investigation, and the youths were banned from seeing their lawyers, the far right activist Itamar Ben Gvir and Nati Rom and Adi Kedar of the Honenu NGO, which provides legal aid to Jewish activists suspected of terrorist attacks.

The police also called all the yeshiva students in for questioning after entering the seminary amid claims from the staff that they did not have a search warrant. By last Thursday, 30 students had been questioned.

The settlers and their supporters, including religious leaders and the suspects’ lawyers, issued statements condemning the arrests and organizing protests outside the homes of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other cabinet members, and later demonstrations outside the court proceedings. Neither Netanyahu nor any member of his cabinet had condemned the attack or demanded that those responsible be brought to justice. Rather, they actively encouraged the protests over the arrests and the investigation.

Following an appeal by one of the families over lack of access to lawyers, Ayelet Shaked, justice minister and leader, along with Naftali Bennett, of the newly formed New Right Party, called the mother of one of boys to say that she had discussed his case with State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan and urged the mother to “stay strong.”

A week after the youths were taken into custody, they were permitted to meet with their lawyers, who claimed the boys were innocent and accused Shin Bet interrogators of “severe manipulation” and causing “serious trauma.”

The Shin Bet was also forced to lift the gag order on part of the case. In response, it issued statements that it had discovered an Israeli flag with a swastika and “Death to Zionists” scrawled on it in the room of one of the suspects, who were now described as radical anti-Zionists. The lawyer for the five youths, Itamar Ben-Gvir, described this as “a spin” by Shin Bet, stating that there was “no real evidence” against his clients who “are good kids that love the State of Israel.”

On Thursday, a judge ruled that four of the suspects should be released and subject to house arrest, while the fifth should be kept in detention because of the nature of the allegations, the evidence against him and concerns over obstruction of justice.

The Shin Bet claimed that it had respected all the suspects’ rights under law, saying, “Claims of their denial are baseless and aim at diverting the discourse from the serious suspicions for which they were detained and at bringing the service in disrepute.”

The increase in violence and murderous attacks on Palestinians are bound up with the encouragement of all forms of extreme nationalism by Israel’s fascistic settler parties, which sit in Netanyahu’s government, as well as from recently elected municipal leaders. As the World Socialist Web Site explained in its statement on January 3: “The ultra-rightwing government of Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel is establishing the closest relations with extreme rightwing regimes and parties throughout the world. These alliances reflect the growing strength of fascist forces within Israel itself.”

The WSWS drew attention to a column in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz on December 31, by the Israeli human rights lawyer Michael Sfard, who warned:

“We have to face reality. We are witnessing the flourishing of a Jewish Ku Klux Klan movement. Like its American counterpart, the Jewish version also drinks from the polluted springs of religious fanaticism and separatism, only replacing the Christian iconography with its Jewish equivalent. Like white racism’s modus operandi, this Jewish racism is also based on fear mongering and violence against its equivalent of Blacks—the Palestinians.”

Such obnoxious and abhorrent phenomena mirror similar trends internationally and demonstrate the bankruptcy and reactionary dead-end of the entire Zionist project.

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UN Office: israeli (apartheid state) Settler Hate Crimes Against Palestinians Rose 69% in 2018

UN Office: Israeli Settler Hate Crimes Against Palestinians Rose 69% in 2018

Olive tree destroyed by settlers. File photo,

‘Death to Arabs’ painted, Palestinian olive trees chopped down in West Bank

Times of Israel 8 Jan by Jacob Magid — Police opened an investigation Tuesday into an apparent hate crime targeting a Palestinian village in the southern West Bank. Residents of Tuwani, in the south Hebron Hills just west of the Israeli outpost of Havat Maon, woke up Tuesday to find 15 olive trees chopped down. Nearby, two boulders were spray-painted with the Hebrew phrases “Death to Arabs” and “Revenge.”

Another boulder was graffiti’d with a red Star of David … Last week, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs released statistics ahead of the new year that showed a 69 percent increase in settler attacks on Palestinians in 2018 compared to 2017. OCHA recorded 265 incidents in which Israeli residents of the West Bank allegedly targeted Palestinians or their property. In total, 115 Palestinians were injured in those attacks and 7,900 trees and 540 vehicles were destroyed….
https://www.timesofisrael.com/death-to-arabs-painted-palestinian-olive-trees-chopped-down-in-west-bank/

israel (apartheid state) Seeks $250 Billion Compensation Related to Stealing Historic Palestine

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By Stephen Lendman,

The Jewish state gives chutzpah new meaning. It seeks $250 billion from seven Arab states and Iran in connection to its theft of historic Palestine – one of history’s great crimes.

It took 78% in 1948, the Palestinian Nakba, the remainder in June 1967, including the West Bank, Gaza, and Jerusalem, the UN-declared international city, illegally occupied by Israel, illegally declared its exclusive capital.

David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, set the tone during the Nakba for what followed, saying “(e)very attack has to end with occupation, destruction and expulsion” – forcefully eliminating resistance, assuring Israeli control over historic Palestine.

According to Israeli Hadashot TV news, Israel demands Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Morocco, Syria Tunisia and Yemen correct what it calls a “historic injustice” – a colossal perversion of truth.

It’s reinventing history, blaming countries it attacked and other regional ones for its illegal 1948 and 1967 land grabs – demanding they compensate Jews for the loss of property, assets and other possessions they left behind in Arab countries because of war the Jewish state waged against neighboring ones.

What Ilan Pappe described as “the ethnic cleaning of Palestine in 1948,” Edward Said called its “holocaust,” saying:

“Every human calamity is different, but there is value in seeing analogies and perhaps hidden similarities.” He called Nazi extermination “the lowest point of (Jewish) collective existence.”

Occupied Palestinians “are as powerless as Jews were” under Hitler, devastated by “power used for evil purposes” subjugating them, denying their fundamental rights – compensation due to THEM from the Jewish state, NOT the other way around, NOT from countries harmed by Israeli high crimes, ongoing endlessly with full support and encouragement from the US and West.

Israel’s claim for $250 billion in compensation from other countries would be laughable if the high crimes leading to its creation and throughout its existence weren’t so serious – as pure evil as what Nazis did to Jews.

The Nakba was one of history’s great crimes, state terror on a massive scale against an entire population.

Israel’s 1948 war without mercy depopulated Palestinian cities, towns and villages, massacring innocent victims, raping their women, committing other atrocities – notably burning, bulldozing, blowing up, or stealing homes, property and other possessions, dispossessing around 800,000 Palestinians, preventing them from returning home.

Israel’s 1967 six-day war was planned “16 years in advance,” according to IDF general Mordechai Hod, saying “(w)e lived with the plan. We slept on the plan. We ate the plan. Constantly we perfected it.”

It was all about stealing the remaining 22% of historic Palestine not taken in 1948, including East Jerusalem.

It had nothing to do with self-defense to avoid annihilation, the falsified claim at the time – later debunked by PM Menachem Begin and IDF generals, admitting Israel faced no threats from Arab states.

General Haim Barlev later said

“(w)e were not threatened with genocide on the eve of the six-day war, and we had never thought of such a possibility.”

The world community did nothing to intervene against Israeli aggression, nor at any time throughout the Jewish state’s existence.

Militarism, institutionalized racism, and apartheid rule define the state of Israel, its young (male and female) children indoctrinated to be warriors.

Militarized education begins in kindergarten, at home, and in all other aspects of society – the line between military and civil society blurred.

Children are taught to believe Palestinians must be subjugated, violence against them is OK, along with destroying their property and killing them – notions ingrained in developing minds before they’re able to understand how they’re manipulated.

They’re taught to believe Arabs are inferior and Palestinians are enemies, military service essential, wars and other forms of violence natural, peace unattainable.

The history of the Jewish state isn’t pretty. Over half a century of illegal occupation continues. Israel aims to steal all valued parts of Judea and Samaria.

Its plan calls for confining Palestinians in isolated cantons on worthless scrubland, militarized rule controlling virtually all aspects of their lives, endless war against them continuing without declaring it.

The world community remains dismissive about what’s been going on for decades. The lives, rights and welfare of millions of Palestinians don’t matter.

Israeli law demands any no-peace/peace deal with Palestinians must compensate the Jewish exodus from Arab countries as explained above.

Palestinians are the aggrieved, not Jews. They warrant major compensation for Israel’s theft of their homeland, private property, and other possessions – along with damages for loss of their fundamental rights, illegal occupation, and brutalized treatment.

For over half a century, Palestinians have endured institutionalized Israeli persecution with no power over their daily lives, along with virtually every imaginable form of indignity.

Living under brutalizing occupation, they face daily state terror, economic strangulation, collective punishment, denial of their fundamental rights affirmed under international law, arrest and imprisonment without just cause, torture, assassinations, bulldozing of their home, crops and orchards, along with daily assaults on their dignity for being Arabs in a Jewish state.

With no power to resist, they’re denied redress in international tribunals dismissive of their rights. Endless misery defines their daily lives.

THEY deserve compensation for over half a century of conflict, illegal occupation, dispossession, and forever immiseration, no end of it in sight – no justice unless and until their suffering ends, their fundamental rights restored.

The history of Occupied Palestine is the triumph of wrong over right, a festering injustice, an entire people harmed, no end to their suffering in sight, no interest in their rights and welfare by the world community.

Award-winning author Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. He is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG)

His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

Featured image: Palestinian protesters clash with Israeli troops during a protest to show solidarity with Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike, Nabi Saleh, West Bank, April 21, 2017. (Flash90)

Attacks by Jews against Palestinians in the West Bank tripled in 2018: Report

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The phrase “Jews rise up” was spray-painted in Hebrew on a car in the Palestinian village of Yasuf in December (Screengrab)

Violence by Jewish settlers and right-wing activists against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank tripled last year, with 482 such incidents reported by mid-December, compared to 140 for 2017.

In addition to beating up and throwing stones at Palestinians, more frequently the offences consisted of painting nationalist and anti-Arab or anti-Muslim slogans, damaging homes and cars and cutting down trees belonging to Palestinian farmers, Israel’s Haaretz newspaper reported.

Such incidents decreased sharply in 2016 and 2017 from previous years, with the decline attributed to the response of the authorities after the firebombing of a home in the West Bank village of Duma.

Saad and Riham Dawabsheh and their 18-month-old baby, Ali, were killed in that attack, while the couple’s four-year-old son, Ahmed, was the sole survivor.

After the attack the Shin Bet security service arrested several extremist right-wing activists living in the northern West Bank who were suspected of involvement in violence and incitement to violence against Arabs.

A series of actions taken during that time – including detention without charges, restraining orders keeping suspects out of the West Bank and in a few cases the granting of permission to interrogate suspects using harsh methods – enabled the authorities to crack a number of cases, according to Haaretz, which acted as a deterrent and brought down the rate of violence against Palestinians.

However, over the past year, after the activists were released, as well as due to the rise of new, younger groups, violent acts increased once again.

Revenge attacks

Haaretz said the rise in the number of violent incidents also seems connected to a desire for revenge by Israelis after Palestinian attacks.

Such incidents increased after two attacks early last year and again after the murder of two Israelis in an attack in the Barkan industrial zone in October.

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Palestinians living in fear amid spike in Israeli settler ‘price tag’ attacks

A few days after the murder at Barkan, Aisha al-Rabi, a Palestinian mother-of-seven, was killed near Nablus by stones thrown by Israeli settlers at the car in which she was travelling.

On Sunday, it was reported that five Jewish seminary students had been arrested in connection with Rabi’s death.

In another case, a failed attempt was made to set fire to a mosque.

‘Price tag’ attacks

After a string of violent incidents that occurred in the West Bank last month, Israeli settlers have increased their use of so-called price tag attacks and blocked roads across the territory.

Local media and activists have reported several incidents on roads in the Ramallah and Nablus areas, where settlers have ambushed Palestinian drivers, hurling rocks at their vehicles and causing damage and injuring drivers and passengers.

Hebrew posters have also appeared in the Nablus-area town of Huwwara, which is surrounded by several illegal Israeli settlements, calling for the death of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who is labelled as a “supporter of terrorists”.

Last month, Palestinians in the village of Yasuf woke to find their car tyres slashed and homes covered in racist, Hebrew-language graffiti, in what residents told Middle East Eye they believe was an attack by Israeli settlers.

Nashaat Abed al-Fattah, Yasuf’s 37-year-old mayor, told MEE that a group of Israeli settlers raided the village before dawn.

“They slashed the tyres of 24 vehicles and sprayed graffiti on many homes, including mine, as well as the village mosque,” he said.

“Price tag”, “Revenge” and “Death to Arabs” were among some of the messages spray-painted on homes throughout the village, Abed al-Fattah said.

‘Hilltop youth’

On Friday, the UN condemned the throwing of stones at the Palestinian prime minister on Christmas Day, allegedly by Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank, calling it “absolutely unacceptable”.

Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah’s convoy was hit with a number of stones on 25 December as he was returning home from attending Christmas Eve mass in Bethlehem, a Palestinian government spokesman said.

Two of Hamadallah’s bodyguards were wounded, the spokesman said in a statement on Thursday.

Regarding the tripling in the number of attacks last year, Haaretz reported that defence officials said that the most extreme group of right-wing activists, the “hilltop youth,” most of whom live in West Bank outposts, are estimated to number about 300.

Out of these, a few dozen are suspected of involvement in violence.

The majority of the suspects are quite young, 15 or 16.

Most of last year’s violent acts were allegedly committed in the area of outposts in the Shiloh Valley area between Ramallah and Nablus, near the illegal settlements of Yitzhar near Nablus and around the evacuated outpost of Amona near Ramallah.

Apartheid state continues to destroy real history, 1,200-year-old Islamic-period town found in israel, but you will never see it

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Nebi Zechariah once housed Christians and Muslims living together, and now it’s going to house a logistics center. Here’s why Israeli salvage digs almost always end in development

Ariel David
Ariel David

Archaeologists digging in central Israel have uncovered the remains of a prosperous rural town from the early Islamic period. They unearthed luxurious homes decorated with mosaics and arches, plastered water cisterns, and once-bustling oil presses and glass workshops from about a thousand years ago.

All of which most people will never get to see, as the area has already been handed over to developers, and the ruins will soon be covered or destroyed by the construction of a new logistics center for the nearby city of Modi’in.

The decision by the Israel Antiquities Authority to allow development on the site has caused consternation among some archaeologists and residents in Modi’in, who say regulators are too quick to greenlight projects even when important ancient remains have been found. The IAA counters that it must strike a balance between protecting antiquities and the needs of Israel’s economy; in this specific case, it says the excavation it conducted at the site documented and preserved knowledge of the early Islamic settlement.

The remains, located on a hill known as Nebi Zechariah or Chorvat Zechariah, emerged in early 2018 during a salvage dig – an archaeological excavation that precedes all building projects in Israel that break new land.

“In a salvage excavation, you never know what you are going to get,” says Avraham Tendler, the IAA archaeologist who led the dig. “I was expecting to find Hellenistic, Roman or Byzantine remains, so this [early Islamic town] was quite a surprise.”

Mainly Christian

Modi’in is a modern city built between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv as a commuter town. It does not purport to be a reincarnation of the ancient town of Modiin, the precise location of which has been lost to time.

Nebi Zechariah, located northwest of the modern city, is surrounded by archaeological treasures, lining the ancient road connecting Jaffa to Jerusalem which ran by the site. Previous finds nearby include a Byzantine monastery, caves used by hermit monks from the same era, and an ornate burial from Roman times.

In this case, the archaeologists unearthed dozens of buildings in a well-planned town dated to the 9th-11th centuries, when the Abbasid and Fatimid caliphates ruled the region.

The find is unexpected because the area around the modern-day city of Modi’in was thought to have been sparsely populated during the early Islamic period, Tendler explains. The dig, which extended over around 4,000 square meters, uncovered only a part of what must have been a fairly large settlement, he adds.

Even more interestingly, Nebi Zechariah may have been home to both Christian and Muslim communities. The archaeologists found crosses chiseled into the stones of the town’s olive presses and fragmentary Greek inscriptions, the written language commonly used by Christians in the region.  In one of the homes they also found a clay pilgrimage token, a Christian souvenir that was probably brought back from Egypt, Tendler reports.

But the researchers also unearthed glass weights with Arabic inscriptions – which were used to weigh coins with great precision – and a partial Arabic inscription that may cite a koranic verse.

No signs of a church or mosque have been found, but there is enough evidence to suggest the town had a mixed religious identity.

The idea that Nebi Zechariah’s population may have been mainly Christian is consistent with what we know from the archaeological record and contemporary chroniclers, which tell us that, especially in the rural areas, Christian communities continued to exist well after the Islamic conquest of the Levant, Tendler says.

Missing signs of violence

There is a longstanding debate amongst scholars over how violent and destructive the early Islamic occupation of the Holy Land was, and how problematic the relations between the various communities were.

Finds like Nebi Zechariah point to a relatively peaceful transition after Muslim armies seized the region from the Byzantine Empire in the first half of the 7th century, says Uzi Dahari, an archaeologist and former deputy director of the IAA.

“When the Muslims arrived, power changed hands but not much else happened, except for a slow process of conversion to Islam by part of the population, especially Christian Arabs and some Jews as well,” says Dahari, who was not involved in the dig at Nebi Zechariah.

Whoever the locals were, they certainly achieved a modicum of prosperity, given that Tendler’s team also unearthed jewelry and large homes with mosaic floors and arched ceilings. The large number of warehouses and workshops that produced oil, glass, wine and other commodities suggests that Nebi Zechariah served as an important farming and industrial center for Jerusalem and nearby Ramle, which was the provincial capital during the Caliphate, Tendler concludes.

The town declined during the Crusades, and was briefly revived in the Mameluke period between the 13th and 14th centuries before being definitively abandoned.

The name Nebi Zechariah refers to the father of John the Baptist – who is mentioned in the Gospels and the Koran – rather than the biblical prophet of the same name. However, the name dates to the Mameluk period, after the town was abandoned, and was probably linked to a burial place attributed to this holy figure, so we don’t know how the inhabitants of the early Islamic period called the place, Tendler says.

A wide assortment of spaces

In the foreseeable future, any further study of the ancient town will be confined to the finds that the archaeologists were able to remove from the site during their hurried four-months excavation last year.

As of last week, a sign perched atop Nebi Zechariah announced the upcoming construction of the new industrial and logistics center, offering “a wide assortment of spaces for industry, storage and logistics.”

Modi’in takes its name from the ancient village traditionally believed to have been the place of origin of the Maccabees, who in the 2nd century B.C.E. led the revolt against the Greeks celebrated by Jews during Hanukkah.

“But after the Greeks and the Maccabees and the Romans, people still lived here, though not a lot of attention has been paid to them,” says Marion Stone, a local preservation activist.  “A lot of evidence has been found, and a lot of remains have been destroyed.”

Given the many archaeological sites already found nearby, the area should never have been zoned for development, says Stone, who urged authorities to stop the destruction of the early Islamic town and make it accessible to visitors instead.

“This is a special site, it’s an amazing place, and to destroy something like that is just criminal,” Stone says.

The salvage dig, and the planned construction, only cover a small part of the much larger site, which will remain not only untouched by private development – but unexcavated, says Doron Ben Ami, the IAA’s chief archaeologist for Israel’s central district.

“Every excavation is a destructive act,” Ben Ami says. “The moment you dig, even if you don’t release the land for development, the remains themselves begin to suffer from erosion processes, so the less we dig, the more antiquities are preserved.”

As for the area that was investigated, it was well documented to preserve as much knowledge of it as possible, Ben Ami says.

Most of the remains will be covered and built over so that, theoretically, they might be unearthed again by future generations once the planned logistics center is no longer in use, he says. “This is the balance we have to find between preserving archaeological sites while being aware of the development needs of the country,” says Ben Ami. “The easiest thing to do would be to say categorically: ‘No, everything is important, don’t touch anything.’ It’s more complicated is to find a way to say yes, with certain limitations.”

But archaeologists interviewed by Haaretz say cases like Nebi Zechariah have less to do with a delicate balancing act between the needs of the past and the present, and more to do with the underlying problems of the system governing salvage excavations in Israel.

The Israel Antiquities Authority is underfunded and would never be able to conduct digs at the myriad of building projects across the country on its meager state budget, explains Dahari, the former IAA deputy chief.

These excavations, including the one at Nebi Zechariah, are instead funded by the developer, creating an instant conflict of interest for the archaeological authorities.

While the IAA theoretically has the right to prevent works from going ahead, its financial dependence on the developers means there is pressure on it to release the land as quickly as possible, Dahari says.

Almost nothing gets saved

One might think that the Israeli authorities would favor preserving Jewish sites over Christian or Muslim ones. But when it comes to salvage excavations, there seems to be little room to save sites linked to any particular group or time period, says Yonatan Mizrahi, an archaeologist and CEO of Emek Shaveh, an NGO that works to protect cultural heritage. In almost all cases, the same fate awaits anything from prehistoric remains to coveted ruins from the time of the First or Second Temple.

“From the beginning, it is well understood by all parties that, after the excavations, the land will be released for development regardless to what is found at the site,” Mizrahi says.

It takes a really unique find to stop the bulldozers in their tracks. This happened, for example, when road works led to the discovery of a spectacular Roman-era mosaic in Lod in 1996.

But these exceptions are few and far between, says Mizrahi. “The IAA has no policy regarding what to save and what not to save, how to protect unique sites that are found,” he says. “Development is destroying antiquities and we haven’t prioritized any places to save.”

Where the cultural identity of a discovery does come into play is in mobilizing public pressure that can sometimes push authorities and developers to adapt their plans to the finds or give up on construction altogether, he notes. This may yet be the case with the First Temple remains that were recently uncovered in a huge salvage dig in Beit Shemesh ahead of a road expansion and which are now at the center of a roaring debate between scholars, residents and conservationists.

But there is much less interest in saving sites from the early Islamic period like Nebi Zechariah. “In Beit Shemesh they found a layer from the 7th century B.C.E., from the First Temple period, so people are now saying ‘this is part of our history.’” Mizrahi notes. “In cases like Nebi Zechariah there is much less pressure: no one says ‘it’s part of our history’ – but it is very much part of our history as well.”

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