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WAWA/WeAreWideAwake is my Public Service to America as a muckracker who has journeyed seven times to Israel Palestine since June 2005. WAWA is dedicated to confronting media and governments that shield the whole truth.

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We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights; that, among these, are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; and, whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it. -July 4, 1776. The Declaration of Independence


Home arrow Blog arrow December 2009 arrow December 7, 2009

December 7, 2009
December 7, 2009: Democracy Israeli Style    
What follows are two recent articles by UK journalists and my input from 2006 and 2009:

Shattering Israel's image of 'democracy'

In the Negev, an area targeted for so-called 'development', lies the Israel that its government does not want to be seen

By Ben White

A struggle over land, home demolitions, and an Israeli government working with Jewish agencies to "develop" the land for the benefit of one group at the expense of another. It could be a picture of the illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank, but in fact, it's inside Israel – in the Negev.

The Negev, or al-Naqab in Arabic, is an area that since the inception of the state has been targeted by Israeli governments, along with agencies like the Jewish National Fund (JNF), for so-called "development".

This investment in the country's periphery is characterised by systematic discrimination against the Negev's Bedouin population, many of whom live in "unrecognised" villages or townships. Recent developments bring these policies into sharper focus, as well as pointing to fundamental problems with Israel's image as "the Middle East's only democracy".

First, three vital clinics serving Bedouin women and children have been shut down, with the result that the nearest equivalent facilities are now hours away. The official reason is a shortage of staff, but this does not sit well with the severity of the health problem among these Bedouin children, where the infant mortality rate is more than three times higher than in the Israeli Jewish community.

Second, in mid-November the Knesset passed an amendment to prevent around 25,000 Bedouins from voting for their mayor and regional councillors. Elections had already been postponed for two years, but now the law means "that as long as the minister of interior deems the residents not ready for elections, the elections will be postponed".

Finally, six weeks ago, lawyers acting on behalf of the Bedouins who live in the unrecognised village of Umm al-Hieran appealed against a previous court decision ordering the eviction of the community's residents.

Ironically, this village had been established by the Israeli military in the 1950s as part of a wider-scale forced relocation of Bedouins from territory intended for Jewish settlement. Now they are once again being targeted for removal, labelled "intruders", to make way for the planned creation of a Jewish town, Hiran.

Meanwhile, there have been reports about a Bedouin "mini-intifada" in the Negev, with Israeli military personnel targeted on the roads near a key base. Such fears are not new: a Haaretz article in 2004 predicted that a "Bedouin intifada" was "on the way" – a conclusion supposedly shared by senior government and military leaders.

What then, is the wider context? As a Human Rights Watch report put it last year, "the state's motives for these discriminatory, exclusionary and punitive policies can be elicited from policy documents and official rhetoric". The Israeli state's aim: "maximising its control over Negev land and increasing the Jewish population in the area for strategic, economic and demographic reasons". Professor Oren Yifatchel of Ben-Gurion University has put it bluntly: "the government wants to de-Arabise the land".

This is the common thread that runs through Israel's approach to the Negev since 1948: from physical expulsions and the legislation used to exclude communities from official recognition, through to budget allocations, creating Bedouin townships, and the flipside of "development" – demolitions.

In 2003, then-PM Ariel Sharon announced a new initiative calling "for the establishment of some 30 new towns" in the Galilee and Negev. One of the PM's advisers at the time, Uzi Keren, told a radio station that it was important to locate the new towns in "the places that are important to the state, that is, for Jewish settlement", in order to "strengthen settlement in areas sparse in Jewish population".

One of the groups helping the state is the Jewish Agency for Israel. A few years ago, the organisation's foreign media liaison officer was quoted on the JTA news website as describing the goal of the joint venture with the Israeli government as "a Jewish majority in all parts of Israel".

Another key organisation involved is the Jewish National Fund. Its UK website, for example, talks about how "the future of Israel lies in the Negev" and says the goal of the "major initiative" known as "Blueprint Negev" is to "revitalise Israel's southern region".

In January, the chief executive of JNF in the US, Russell Robinson, expressed his concern that "if we don't get 500,000 people to move to the Negev in the next five years, we're going to lose it". To what – or who – went unsaid. In 2005, Robinson was clearer about the consequences of the JNF's "project to remake" the demographics: "such an influx" of Jews would mean "a certain amount of displacement" for the Bedouin.

Robinson actually tried to present this as helping tackle Bedouin unemployment. With their slick focus on "environmentally friendly" initiatives and helping the disadvantaged Arabs, groups like the JNF do their best to make sure that scenes like this go unnoticed.

This is the Israel that its government and propagandists do not want to be seen, the Israel where non-Jews are a demographic "threat", and the state works with agencies (often funded by western donors) to "secure" a Jewish majority. It is the reality behind the myth of Israel as the region's only democracy, and away from the weekly twists and turns of the peace process, such policies shed light on the root problem preventing a resolution of the conflict just as well as, or better than, the number of housing units in Gilo.

 Gilo and Last Straws 

Bedouins in Israel denied elections
By Jonathan Cook

The National
December 07. 2009


NAZARETH, ISRAEL // About 35,000 Bedouin residents of Israel’s southern Negev have been denied the right to hold their first local council election after the Israeli parliament passed a law at the last minute to cancel this month’s ballot.

The new law gives the government the power to postpone elections to the regional council, known as Abu Basma, until the interior ministry deems the local Bedouin ready to run their own affairs.

Legal and human rights groups say the move is an unprecedented violation of Israel’s constitutional principles. Taleb a-Sana, a Bedouin member of Israel’s parliament, has written to its speaker warning that “it is not possible to have democracy without elections”.

The vote in Abu Basma was scheduled to take place six years after the council was established under the transitional authority of a panel of mostly Jewish officials appointed by the interior ministry.

Critics say the government changed the law specifically to avoid bolstering the position of the Bedouin residents, who are engaged in a legal battle with the state for the return of ancestral lands confiscated decades ago.

“The Bedouin have a claim on a large area of the Negev and the government wants someone ruling the council who is on its side until the case is settled to the state’s advantage,” said Thabet Abu Ras, who was head of an empowerment scheme for Abu Basma’s residents until 2007.

The residents of Abu Basma are among 90,000 Bedouin in the Negev desert who have been denied any local representation since Israel’s founding in 1948. For most of that time the state has refused to recognise any of their villages.

According to officials, the Bedouin are living illegally on state land and must move to a handful of locations in the Negev approved by the government.

Bedouin leaders counter that their villages predate Israel’s creation and that the approved locales are so tightly confined that they cannot maintain their traditional pastoral way of life.

Israel has faced mounting criticism for its treatment of the 45 so-called “unrecognised villages”, which are denied all public services, including electricity and water. The inhabitants are invariably forced to live in tents or tin shacks because concrete homes are subject to demolition.

Instead, since the 1970s Israel has established a half dozen “townships”, to which the Bedouin in the unrecognised villages were expected to relocate. But the townships, whose rates of unemployment and poverty are the highest in the country, have attracted only half of the Negev’s 180,000 Bedouin, mostly those without any claim to land.

In what many Bedouin hoped was a change of tack, however, the government of Ariel Sharon launched a plan in 2003 to begin a process of recognising nine of the larger villages, home to 35,000 Bedouin.

They were grouped into a new regional council called Abu Basma, with the goal of encouraging the inhabitants of the other unrecognised villages to move into its jurisdiction.

Under the regional councils law, the interior ministry was allowed to appoint a panel of officials to oversee local services for four years while the residents prepared to run the authority themselves, said Gil Gan-Mor, a lawyer with the Association of Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI).

He added that the interior ministry then sought, under extraordinary powers, two year-long extensions. But shortly before the deadline for staging elections was reached this month, the government pushed through an amendment to postpone elections indefinitely.

“The aim is to continue controlling the lives of the Bedouin, treating them as though they cannot look after themselves.”

ACRI and another group, Adalah, a legal centre for Israel’s Arab minority, will challenge the law in the Supreme Court next month.

Alaa Mahajneh, a lawyer with Adalah, said the regional council’s current panel was dominated by Jewish officials and headed by Amram Kalaji, a former director general of the interior ministry identified with the right-wing Orthodox religious party Shas.

Mr Abu Ras, a geography professor at Ben Gurion University in Beersheva, said it was impossible to separate the postponement of the elections from the wider issue of Bedouin land claims.

Abu Basma is the only one of 47 regional councils in Israel that does not have territorial continuity, he said. “The council’s jurisdiction is restricted to the built-up area of each village and does not include the lands between the villages or the surrounding land. Despite the Bedouin way of life, Abu Basma has not been allocated any agricultural areas.”

He added that the chief concern of Israeli officials, although unspoken, was that the Abu Basma region was the only territorial buffer between the West Bank and Gaza. “If there is a Palestinian state, Israel does not want the Bedouin controlling lands that connect those two Palestinian territories. It would rather the Bedouin were concentrated in as small a space as possible.”

According to Nili Baruch, an Israeli planner, Abu Basma has been starved of land compared to its Jewish counterparts. Its jurisdiction extends to only 3,400 hectares, making it the most densely populated regional council in the country.

By contrast, the 10 other regional councils in Israel’s south – home to a total of 45,000 Jews – have jurisdiction over a vast swath of rural land, nearly 1.2 million hectares.

Yeela Ranaan, a lecturer at Sapir College in Sderot and spokeswoman for the Regional Council for the Unrecognised Villages, an unofficial Bedouin advocacy group, said the creation of Abu Basma had been a “partial victory”.

Recognition meant those homes of Bedouin living in the centre of the villages were no longer under threat of destruction, roads could be paved, and schools opened, she said. But the planning process in all the villages was stalled and land claims were not being addressed.

The Bedouin’s land dispute with the government is more than 80,000 hectares. Mr Abu Ras said he believed the government hoped to force an evacuation of all the unrecognised villages over the next three years, forcing the inhabitants into the already confined areas available to Abu Basma.

Tal Rabina, a spokesman for Abu Basma council, said the criticism that Bedouin rights had been violated by the law change reflected a “political agenda”.

“At this stage, when there are still many disputes between villages and families, most of the residents prefer that someone outside the community makes decisions. The current leadership brings a great deal of experience and professionalism to the task.”

It was in January 2005, during my second journey to Israel and Palestine, seven Americans and a Brit, rode in a van through the Kidron Valley on the un-maintained bumpy winding narrow roads that Palestinians must go, in order to reach Jericho and the Dead Sea.

Our guide was from Beit Jala, a Christian community of the west side of Bethlehem who told us, “Do you know what is more dangerous to the Israeli government than a journalist?  A tour guide, for we always tell the truth and cannot be censored!”

I know it sounds crazy, but on that bus trip through the Kidron Valley, I saw an upside down rainbow that was inverted above the mountain tops. I wondered if it were a sign from God confirming the fact that in this Orwellian world of Israel and Palestine: wrong has become right.

After the rainbow vaporized from view, my traveling guide told me, “In Israel the only law is the law of the jungle. I have to apply for a permit on a monthly basis to enter Israel but any soldier can deny me access without giving me any reason. There are 190,000 Palestinian with Israeli ID’s but they are all second class citizens. They can vote in municipal elections but not for Parliament. They cannot get a Passport; they must apply for Visa’s...In July 2005 the first anniversary of the International Court of Justice’s historic ruling affirmed The Wall and All of the settlements are grave violations of human rights and against International Law as well as obstacles to peace. Yet Israel continues to erect The Wall and expand its settlements in the occupied West Bank.”

On my second day of my second journey to Israel and Palestine, I rode upon the treacherous and the only way to the newly recognized village of Ain Hod, home to the locally famous Albeit Restaurant. The food is so good there that even the settlers will leave their smooth well maintained by-pass roads and travel up the mountain side upon a narrow winding rocky unpaved way that edges a cliff with a 300 foot drop.

The owner of the well renowned restaurant where many settlers dine on the weekend is Mohammed Abu Haija. Soft-spoken and patient, he explained the upside down illogic of the Unrecognized Villages. In 1948 when most of the indigenous population fled their homes and property, some citizens held their ground, dug in and nonviolently endured being treated like sub-human beings.

The Unrecognized Villages are not on any map and yet these people all have Israeli citizenship, pay taxes yet receive no services. The Israeli government had deemed these scattered villages as military zones and agricultural areas so homes were demolished, and people have lived for decades without water, electricity, schools or medical care. The Israeli settlers 400 meters away have swimming pools and every comfort known to man.

On the fortieth anniversary of The Declaration of Human Rights in 1998 Mohammed and others formed the “Association of 40” and they have worked in solidarity and nonviolently through the court system to be recognized, to receive water, electricity, roads and human rights.

In 2006, in Israel, there were still 100 Unrecognized villages with over 100,000 tax paying Israeli-Arab citizens who live in third world conditions.

While I was in Ain Hod, over one hundred residents from the Bethlehem district gathered in Beit Jala to protest against The Wall being built on their land. The building of The Wall in the city of Beit Jala had begun the week prior for “security purposes”, yet its route lies deep within Palestinian territories.

A Coordinator of the Celebrating Nonviolent Resistance Conference and Director of Holy Land Trust, Sami Awad was detained and beaten by Israeli soldiers, he stated, “The Israeli occupation is sending a clear message to the Palestinian people, they don’t want us to engage in nonviolent resistance because it truly exposes them and the injustice they are doing to the world.”

The Wall is composed of 25 to 30 foot high concrete slabs with razor wire, trenches, sniper towers, electric fences, military roads, electronic surveillance, remote controlled infantry and buffer zones that stretch over 100 miles wide that deny Palestinians access to their land, families, jobs, and resources.

The Wall will completely separate Bethlehem and her sister villages of Beit Sahour and Beit Jala from the northern parts of the West Bank.

Because of Bethlehem’s significance to and historic ties with Palestinian East Jerusalem, Bethlehem’s economic demise may well mark the beginning of the end of a viable Two-State solution.

If The Wall is completed in this area, 4000 dunums of the areas most fertile land will be isolated in order to accommodate for the expansion and the building of the colonies/settlements of Gilo and Har Gilo. This means Beit Jala will have no potential for expansion.

This growing ghettoization of Bethlehem is not only destroying ancient communities, but the influx of nearly 900 new settlers, and plans for 30,000 new settlers to colonize the occupied West Bank, violates the Road Map, which prohibits settlement expansion. The Wall and all of Israel’s settlement colonies are illegal under International Law.


Come, let us go and see this thing that has happened in Bethlehem…

In 2000, during the Second Intifada, which is Arabic for “Uprising” photographer Debbie Hill captured George of Beit Jala-that is he who adorns the banner of my website- standing in the rubble of what had been his bedroom the night before.

His photo ran in the Florida Catholic newspaper, and when I looked into his eyes, I heard in my heart: “Do Something.”

It persists.

I had no clue what I could do, but I put a copy of that photo in a frame and set it upon my home altar: which is a bar high table in the upper room of my home, surrounded by candles and eclectic icons. I pass by his photo dozens of times a day, and all I do is sigh and groan, for I “do not know what I ought to pray, but the Spirit intercedes with groans and sighs, deeper and more meaningful than any words.” -Romans 8:26

In the year 2000, in Beit Jala, which is a five minute car ride from downtown Bethlehem some hopeless militants infiltrated the previously peaceful Christian village to shoot into the illegal colony of Gilo a few miles away.

The Israeli Defense Force retaliated and the bedroom of George was decimated.

The shrapnel that pierced the wall of his sanctuary read “Made in USA” and was delivered from American made Apache helicopters that buzzed over his head.

I first met George of Beit Jala in June 2005, shepherded by an Internet connection, George Rishmawi, a Palestinian Christian.

My first trip to Israel Palestine was via my connection to the
Interfaith Olive Trees Foundation for Peace a non-profit dedicated to raising awareness and funds to help replace the olive trees The Wall has brought down.

I have been drawn to return six more times since, to bear witness and report about the Christian Exodus from the Holy Land.

During my initial visit with George of Beit Jala, I learned that he, his sister and mother all suffer from post traumatic stress syndrome, but most governments just consider that collateral damage. George’s father told me he has no bitterness about what happened even though the snipers had not even been near their home. The most difficult thing for him was the lack of employment opportunities in Bethlehem and being dependent on relatives and friends to feed his children.

In June 2005, George and his sister Ghada were both painfully shy and neither was doing well in their school studies. But, when I visited them six months later, they both greeted me with the typical Mid East greeting to a friend; a hug and kiss on both cheeks. George was doing better in school, but Ghada was still frequently depressed and struggling. When I revisited them in March and November 2006 I was awed by the resiliency of childhood; both were laughing, playing with cousins and friends and making A’s at the private Christian school they both attend, tuition paid by anonymous Americans.

I saw them again last June and they were OK; but Beit Jala only had running water once a week.

The only way to security for Israelis and justice for Palestinians, is to end the occupation and ensure that all people have equal human rights. 

No enduring peace, no security, and no reconciliation is even possible without the foundation of justice.

Justice requires mercy and is always nonviolent.

A Short History of Intifada’s:

The First Intifada began in 1986 and was a spontaneous and mostly nonviolent phenomenon. On October 1, 1986, the Israeli military ambushed and killed seven men from Gaza believed to be members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group.

Several days later an Israeli settler shot a Palestinian school girl in the back. On December 4, 1986 Shlomo Sakal, an Israeli plastics salesman, was stabbed to death in Gaza. On December 8, there was a traffic accident in which an Israel Defense Force truck crashed into a van, killing 4 Palestinians from Jabalya, sparking anger and street fights against Israeli policemen and soldiers.

On December 8, 1986, an uprising began in Jabalya where hundreds burned tires and attacked the Israel Defense Forces stationed there. The uprising spread to other Palestinian refugee camps and eventually to Jerusalem, the eastern part of which was and is still occupied by Israel.

On December 22, 1986, the United Nations Security Council condemned Israel for violating the Geneva Conventions due to the number of Palestinian deaths in these first few weeks of the intifada.

Much of the Palestinian violence was low-tech; dozens of Palestinian teenagers would confront patrols of Israeli soldiers, showering them with rocks, and accelerated to the use of Molotov cocktails, over 100 hand grenade were thrown and more than 500 attacks with guns or explosives. Many Israeli civilians and soldiers were killed this way.

The Israeli Forces also possess the latest weaponry and defense technologies, thanks to America.

In 1988, the Palestinians initiated a nonviolent movement and began to withhold taxes, but Israel crushed the boycott by imposing heavy fines while seizing and disposing of the equipment, furnishings, and goods from Palestinian stores, factories, and homes.

In 1988, the United Nations General Assembly passed resolutions condemning Israel.

In July 1989, the first suicide/homicide bomber erupted inside Israel’s borders: the infamous Tel Aviv Jerusalem bus 405 massacre. No further attacks of this scale occurred until after the Oslo Accords.

By the time the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993, 1,162 Palestinians, 241 of them children, and 160 Israelis including 5 children died. During the first thirteen months of the first intifada, 332 Palestinians and 12 Israelis were killed.

The first intifada was not a military endeavor in either a conventional or guerrilla sense: it was a spontaneous grassroots mass movement.

The second intifada was touched off by the controversial visit of Ariel Sharon, on September 28, 2000, to the Temple Mount; the site of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and a site that is sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims.

This wave of violence erupted because of the frustration of Palestinians towards the failed peace process and the deteriorating economic situation in the territories. Yassar Arafat cleverly diverted any blame directed at himself as the cause for these problems, to Israel, unleashing Palestinian frustration and desperation which resulted in escalating violence.

Hundreds of innocent civilians have perished because of the insane cycle of a tooth for a tooth, an eye for an eye.

The death tolls both military and civilians of the entire conflict from 2000 to 2006 are estimated to be 3,651 Palestinians and 1,007 Israelis; although this number is criticized by some sources for not differentiating between combatants and civilians.

During the conflict from September 2000 to January 2004, 36.2% of Palestinians killed were non-combatants caught in crossfire, while 77.6% of Israelis killed were non-combatants who died in bombings or sniper fire.

Of the Palestinian victims, at least 215 were killed by fellow Palestinians, 118 of them on suspicion of collaboration with Israel. 63 foreign citizens were killed: 53 by Palestinians and 10 by Israeli security forces.

Reverend Martin Luther King proclaimed and I believe that, “Peace is not some distant goal we seek, but a MEANS by which we achieve that goal.”

But, how to get all the daughters of Zion and all of Abraham’s sons to put down their weapons of destruction and make amends?

There is plenty of blame to go around, and as a tax paying American, I am responsible and connected to the over 100 billion USA dollars that have been sent to Israel since 1948, so I speak out for dissent is what keeps democracies healthy.

It is my faith as a Christian and my faith in America’s foundations that fill me with hope that the words of Tom Paine can be realized in the 21st century, for “we have it in our power to begin the world again.”

All we need is the desire that is inflamed by hope that peace can be reality and in solidarity pursue peace by working for justice.

The indigenous wisdom of the American Indian inspires and inflames me:

“Hopi” means Peaceful People, and the truest and greatest power is the strength of peace. Because Peace is the Will of the Great Spirit. But do not think that just because the True Hopi People have been told by the Great Spirit never to take up arms that the True Hopi People will not fight, even die for what we know to be the right way of Life.

The True Hopi People Know how to fight without killing or hurting. The True Hopi People Know how to fight with Truth and Positive Force In The Light Of the Great Spirit.

The True Hopi People Know how to educate by clear thoughts, good pictures and by carefully chosen words. The True Hopi People Know how to show to all the world’s Children the True Way of Life by setting an example and by working and communicating in a way that reaches the minds and hearts of all people who are truly seeking the methods of a simple and spiritual Life which is the only Life that will survive.

The true Hopi People preserve the sacred knowledge about the way of the earth because the true Hopi People know that the earth is a living, growing person and all things on it are her children.”

Nonviolent solidarity as an international movement throughout the world is a most powerful tool and is the only weapon people of good will have to deflate the hate that breeds terrorism.

Peace needs bridges not walls and human rights only exist for any, when all do indeed have them.



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The Paradoxical Commandments
by Dr. Kent M. Keith

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.

© 1968, 2001 Kent M. Keith

" In the final analysis, it is between you and God.  It was never between you and them anyway."-Mother Teresa

“You cannot talk like sane men around a peace table while the atomic bomb itself is ticking beneath it. Do not treat the atomic bomb as a weapon of offense; do not treat it as an instrument of the police. Treat the bomb for what it is: the visible insanity of a civilization that has obey the laws of life.”- Lewis Mumford, 1946

The age of warrior kings and of warrior presidents has passed. The nuclear age calls for a different kind of leadership....a leadership of intellect, judgment, tolerance and rationality, a leadership committed to human values, to world peace, and to the improvement of the human condition. The attributes upon which we must draw are the human attributes of compassion and common sense, of intellect and creative imagination, and of empathy and understanding between cultures."  - William Fulbright

“Any nation that year after year continues to raise the Defense budget while cutting social programs to the neediest is a nation approaching spiritual death.” - Rev. MLK
Establishment of Israel
"On the day of the termination of the British mandate and on the strength of the United Nations General Assembly declare The State of Israel will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel: it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion it will guarantee freedom of religion [and] conscience and will be faithful to the Charter of the United Nations." - May 14, 1948. The Declaration of the Establishment of Israel
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