Friday, July 24, 2009

More home thefts in East Jerusalem

Journalist Eileen Fleming was on the Israel/Occupied Palestine trip with me in June of 2009. Our group met with Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem whose home are being stolen by state-sanctioned (and American Zionist funded) illegal settlers. Here is her report.

MasterCard and the Extremist Settlers of Silwan

Eileen Fleming

Occupied East Jerusalem, June 13, 2009- Over thirty CODE PINK activists met with a few of the soon to be 1,500 homeless residents of the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan, located minutes away from the Temple Mount and the Al Aqsa Mosque.

On June 8, 1998, under the cover of darkness, members of the fundamentalist nationalistic settlement group Elad [a Hebrew acronym for: To the City of David] entered four Palestinian homes, threw out the furniture and raised Israeli flags on the property.

Yigal Kaufman, a spokesman for Elad was quoted the following day in the New York Times, ''Our aim is to Judaize East Jerusalem. The City of David is the most ancient core of Jerusalem, and we want it to become a Jewish neighborhood."

The NY Times also reported that the religious extremist's moved into the homes "with the advance knowledge and protection of the Israeli police, raising charges that they were tacitly backed by the Israeli authorities." [1]

On June 12, 2009, Abd Schlode, a lifetime resident of the village informed the CODE PINK activists who gathered in the village's solidarity tent, "We are fighting for survival. Over 50,000 Palestinians live in Silwan.

"In 2005 we began to receive [demolition] letters on our doorsteps written in Hebrew addressed from the 'Municipality Against Honorable Unknown' but most of our people do not read Hebrew.

"We have documents that prove this land is ours and that we paid taxes.

"Since 1967 the Israelis destroyed over 18,000 homes and there are currently 22,000 home demolition orders. Yesterday 25 new home demolition letters were delivered here.

"In 2007, we paid 87,000 million shekels to the Israeli courts and we pay our taxes, but we have no playgrounds or opportunities for our children. We need the world to hear us, to look and see just who is the victim.

"The settlers are digging tunnels towards the Mosque and we learned of it when an UNWRA [United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East] school collapsed and killed ten of our children.

"These settlers are the most extreme religious nationalists and they are behind what is going on here. They say this area was a part of King David's kingdom. So what? Many civilizations have been here since, Muslims were here too, but does this give them the right to build a zoo here?

"We need schools but the settlers take our land and build on it...It is unlikely that they actually live here, but it is recorded that among the settlers are the Minister of National Security and the head of the National Archives.

"The Shabaak [Israeli Security] are doing a great job here-there are lots of cameras and guards with guns. If I throw a stone they will see it and arrest me immediately. They arrested a ten year old boy for throwing stones.

"I once was a member of Fatah, but the last time I was arrested I quit the political party, because this is all about homes and children, survival and human rights.

"Bush made a lot of people hate America, but a few days ago when Obama was talking in Cairo, my son said to me, he is a good guy. We hope he will make the changes we need, but we know he faces a hard time with AIPAC.

"There is a lot of money coming here from developers."

Much of that money comes from the American casino tycoon Irving Moskowitz.

"For over a decade, Moskowitz has funneled millions in profits from his California-based Hawaiian Gardens casino, where he has been sued for exploiting undocumented workers, into settlement construction projects in the West Bank, including Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. He has also funded several neoconservative think tanks including a research center named after Netanyahu’s brother, Yonatan, who was killed while leading the Entebbe rescue raid in 1976. Moskowitz and Netanyahu have remained close since he established the center.

"In 1996, Moskowitz convinced Netanyahu, in his first round as prime minister, to open a tunnel adjacent to the Temple Mount, a controversial act that led to several days of rioting and 70 deaths. Four years later, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s provocative visit to the tunnel set off the so-called Al-Aqsa uprising, the opening salvo of the Second Intifada. [2]

Last week, holders of an Isracard and/or MasterCard credit cards in Israel received an offer for a "City of David tour" with "attractions for the entire family" - which makes no mention of the fact that the tour is to be conducted by the Elad settlers.

Gush Shalom, the Israeli Peace Bloc, wrote the Directors of the MasterCard Company the following letter which received a swift threat as a reply.

The letter:

Dear Sir or Madam

I would like to draw your attention to the fact that the Isracard Company, entrusted with issuing MasterCard credit cards in Israel, is at present involved in supporting extreme-right Israeli settlers who are actively dispossessing the Palestinian inhabitants of East Jerusalem's Silwan Neighbourhood. Moreover, Isracard has been using the MasterCard name and logo in this campaign of support for the settlers.

Two weeks ago, Isracard sent to its customers a gift coupon providing a large reduction in entry fees to the so-called "City of David National Park", managed by the highly controversial Elad settler association. The reduction is dependant upon the customer paying with a MasterCardPlus card.

In providing such coupons to its customers, Isracard has taken a clear position in support of the extreme right in Israeli politics – and has implicated MasterCard in the same. "The City of David National Park" is administered by the settler association "Elad" whose members have established themselves since 1991 in East Jerusalem's Silwan Neighbourhood, since which time they are constantly extending their foothold by means of entering Palestinian homes and expelling their inhabitants. The proclaimed aim of the Elad settlers is to "Judaise" the village of Silwan, which they call "The City of David" and where they assert the Biblical King David had his palace 3000 years ago (a claim strongly disputed among historians and archaeologists). The tens of thousands of Palestinians who live for generations in this location are for the Elad settlers no more than "a nuisance" to be expelled. Among other things, it was the Elad settlers who initiated – and got the Jerusalem Municipality to adopt – the plan of demolishing 88 Palestinian homes in Silwan in order to establish in their place "The King's Garden", where according to the settlers King David had his garden. As you may recall, this plan was strongly condemned by Secretary of State Hilary Clinton on her visit to Jerusalem in March this year.

Visitors to the "City of David National Park" are not only directly contributing to the Elad setters' coffers, but are also exposed to an intensive dose of extreme-right nationalistic propaganda and a highly biased and one-sided description of Jerusalem's history, almost completely ignoring the part of non-Jews – especially, the part of Arabs and Muslims – in the city's history. Such a distorted depiction of history also appears on the settler website to which the Isracard coupon, emblazoned with the MasterCard logo, refers the company's customers:

Isracard's issuing this coupon and promoting the Elad settlers clearly cannot be considered a legitimate commercial activity. Rather, it is a political act with far-reaching implications. As the MasterCard name and logo were directly used, implicating your company with its world-wide business network, I feel it is incumbent upon your company to take up the matter with your "Isracard" business partners and firmly ask them to sever immediately and completely all connections with the Elad settlers.

As you have taken care to make widely known, your company has taken the initiative to create "The MasterCard Foundation" whose proclaimed aim is to help and empower poor, isolated and disadvantaged people in such countries as Tajikistan and Rwanda, and whose leadership includes such distinguished people as Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland, known for her great devotion to the promotion of Human Rights . Obviously, this is the polar opposite of what the Elad settlers are doing in the Palestinian parts of Jerusalem, and I am sure you will take quick steps to remedy this discrepancy.

Adam Keller
Gush Shalom spokesperson

On June 12, 2009, Gush Shalom received a fax from Ayala Tidhar and Orit Hangali of the Isracard Marketing & Foreign Relations Section and Rani Rahav an Isracard public relations director, phoned Keller and threatened to sue Gush Shalom.

Keller stated, "It is a bit surprising to hear that we are supposedly 'causing great damage' to the Isracard Company. How come one email message to our list of supporters would cause so much damage to one of the biggest companies in the Israeli economy? It would be good for them to consider if the damage was caused by us, or perhaps by the truth about them which we have uncovered.

"Indeed, the site known as 'The City of David National Park', just outside the Old City of Jerusalem, officially belongs to the National Reserves and Parks Authority, a supposedly neutral body. But this is in no way enough to whitewash Isracard's involvement with the place. It is well known that the administration of the place in practice has been transferred to the settler association Elad – a body which has a clear political and ideological identity on the extreme right side of the spectrum. The Elad people are openly and explicitly promoting the aim of "Judaizing (East)Jerusalem" – not simply by talking but also by constant and intensive activity, creating 'facts on the ground', dispossessing Palestinian inhabitants and violating International Law.

"Isracard cannot wash its hands off the nefarious settler activity by claiming that this is 'a governmental site'. In Israel, as in many other countries, a company must tell consumers what is the nature of the product or service which it is offering for sale. Isracard is not at liberty to offer its customers 'entertainment for the entire family' at a park run by extreme right people, without disclosing that, once arriving there, the customers would be exposed to extreme right propaganda.

"If Isracard goes through with the threat of judicial proceedings against us we won’t be afraid. We have available plenty of testimonies and witnesses regarding the 'City of David National Park' – what it is, who runs it and how, what kind of 'guidance' is given to visitors and what is the political slant of that 'guidance'. The gift coupon sent by Isracard to its customers includes the name and logo of MasterCard, an international company conducting world-wide business. Despite their extensive and long-standing business relationship, Isracard did not bother to let MasterCard know of the use made of its name and reputation in promoting extremist settlers who violate International Law.

"We in Gush Shalom decided to fill the vacancy and inform the MasterCard directors, with the help of our friends abroad. Meanwhile, there is a continuing wave of protest messages sent by Israeli peace activists to the Isracard offices and by Americans and Europeans to MasterCard."

Gush Shalom is requesting people of conscience to voice their concerns to the MasterCard company-contact info available @

Please CC your correspondence to


Eileen Fleming, Founder of
A Feature Correspondent for and The Palestine Telegraph
Author of "Keep Hope Alive" and "Memoirs of a Nice Irish American 'Girl's' Life in Occupied Territory"
Producer "30 Minutes with Vanunu" and "13 Minutes with Vanunu"


Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Bill Maher on Democrats

Every time Obama tries to take on a progressive cause, there's a major political party standing in his way: the Democrats. Now, people talk a lot about a third political party in America; we don't need a third party, we need a first party ... this is because we don't have a left and a right party in this country any more: we have a center-right party, and a crazy party. And over the last 30-odd years, Democrats have moved to the right, and the right has moved into a mental hospital. So what we have is one perfectly good party for hedge-fund managers, credit-card companies, banks, defense contractors, big agriculture, and the pharmaceutical lobby: that's the Democrats. And they sit across the aisle from a small group of religious lunatics, Flat-Earthers, and Civil-War re-enacters, who mostly communicate by AM radio and call themselves the Republicans. And who actually worry that Obama is a Socialist. Socialist? He's not even a Liberal! I know he's not, because he's on TV. And while I see Democrats on television, I don't see actual Liberals. And if occasionally you do get to hear Ralph Nader, or Noam Chomsky, or Dennis Kucinich, they're treated like buffoons. … Shouldn't there be one party that unambiguously supports cutting the military budget? A party that is straight up in favor of gun control, gay marriage, higher taxes on the rich, universal health care, legalizing pot, and steep, direct taxing of polluters? These aren't radical ideas. A majority of Americans are either already for them, or would be if they were properly argued and defended. And what we need is an actual progressive party to represent the millions of Americans who aren't being served by the Democrats. Because, bottom-line: Democrats are the new Republicans. ~ Bill Maher

Monday, July 20, 2009

Israeli Jews, citizens of the Schnorer State*, relax and don't worry

* Schnorer: Yiddish for a beggar, a mooch. Israel's standard of living is elevated by sponging off of the American tax-payer and gifts from wealthy donors.

From Haaretz
Last update-11:18 19/07/2009

Israelis don't pay price for injustice of occupation

By Gideon Levy

Really, who needs all this? The U.S. president is devoting a considerable amount of his precious time and goodwill trying to be persuasive about the need to end the Arab-Israeli conflict. The Europeans are ready to act, half the world is waiting, but let's admit the truth: Why all the commotion about us? The settlers might scream and block highway intersections. The Israel Defense Forces would become less important and the news could actually become boring. The vineyard in the Golan Heights is liable to close, as might the boutique winery in the settlement of Ofra.

Life in Israel is just peachy, and who wants to think about peace, negotiations, withdrawals, the "price" we have to pay and all this unnecessary mess? Cafes are bustling and restaurants are packed. People are vacationing. The markets are surging. Television dumbs us down, highways are jammed, and the festivals are blaring. La Scala performed in the park and Madonna is to follow, and the beaches are full of foreign tourists and locals. The summer of 2009 is wonderful. So why should we change things?

The Israelis aren't paying any price for the injustice of occupation. Life in Israel is immeasurably better than in most countries. The global financial crisis has hit Israel less than other places. It has poor people but not like in the developing world, and the rich and middle class here have not been critically harmed.

The security situation is also in good shape. No terrorist attacks. No Arabs. And when terrorism subsides, as it has over the past several years, who remembers that there is a "Palestinian problem"? The army and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can continue to scare us with the terrorism threat, but for the meantime, at least, it doesn't exist. The Iranian nuclear threat is also just a vague option at the moment. Life in Israel is currently secure.

True, every few years a wave of violence erupts, but it usually happens in the country's outskirts and doesn't interest anyone in the center. Qassam rockets in Sderot or Katyushas in Kiryat Shmona? Who cares? This is followed by another period of quiet, like now. The separation fence, media, education system and political propaganda do a great job in creating an illusion to make us forget what we need to forget and hide what needs to be hidden. They are there and we are here, and here life is a bowl of cherries, if not a blast. Like Switzerland? Even better.

We always knew how to add a measure of significance to the pleasures of life. We practice the cult of security, society's true religion, and we perpetuate the memory of the Holocaust. You can enjoy yourself in Israel and also play the victim, party and gripe. Where else is there a place like this?

The Israelis don't pay any price for the injustice of the occupation, so the occupation will never end. It will not end a moment before the Israelis understand the connection between the occupation and the price they will be forced to pay. They will never shake it off on their own initiative, and why should they?

Even the most cruel terrorist attacks to befall the country haven't instilled an understanding among the Israelis about the connection between cause and effect - between occupation and terrorism. Thanks to the media and the politicians - two of the worst agents for dumbing down and blinding Israeli society - we learned that the Arabs were born to kill, the whole world is against us, anti-Semitism determines how Israel is dealt with, and there is no connection between our actions and the price we pay.

Neither an international blockade nor terrible bloodletting appear to be on the horizon, to our great fortune. So why should we worry? It's true that the world is beginning to scowl at Israel. So what? The world hates us anyway, Israelis are convinced. As long as they are not deprived of the world's pleasures, there is no reason to worry. Try to ask them why they are ostracized and you will immediately hear scorn about the world, rather than any self-criticism, God forbid. The Israelis are not only enjoying themselves. They are also very satisfied with themselves - over their level of morality and that of their army and state.

All this really could have been peachy if not for the fact that blindness is dangerous and the not-so-good ending is known in advance. It's another wonderful summer in Tel Aviv - and Gaza and Jenin - but a part of the world will blow up in our faces. And then we will pretend to be amazed, miserable victims, as we so much like to be.

Sunday, July 19, 2009


Hamas...has sent repeated signals that it may be ready to

begin a process of coexisting with Israel.

U.S. Institute of Peace Special Report on Hamas, June, 2009


Although peaceful coexistence between Israel and Hamas is clearly not possible under

the formulations that comprise Hamas’s 1988 charter, Hamas has, in practice, moved

well beyond its charter. Indeed, Hamas has been carefully and consciously adjusting

its political program for years and has sent repeated signals that it may be ready to

begin a process of coexisting with Israel.

As evidenced by numerous statements, Hamas is not hostile to Jews because of religion.

Rather, Hamas’s view toward Israel is based on a fundamental belief that Israel

has occupied land that is inherently Palestinian and Islamic.

For Hamas, “recognition” of Israel would represent a negation of the rightness of its

own cause and would be indefensible under Islam. It considers unacceptable for itself

the actions of those Muslim countries that have recognized Israel, such as Egypt and

Jordan, and those that have indicated their willingness to do so, such as Saudi Arabia

and the rest of the Arab League, because they have provided no theological

justification for their policies toward Israel.

Although Hamas, as an Islamic organization, will not transgress shari‘a, which it

understands as forbidding recognition, it has formulated mechanisms that allow

it to deal with the reality of Israel as a fait accompli. These mechanisms include

the religious concepts of tahadiya and hudna and Hamas’s own concept of

“Palestinian legitimacy.”

Tahadiya refers to a short-term calming period between conflicting parties during

which differences are not put aside. A tahadiya stopped most violence between Hamas

and Israel from June to December 2008.

Hudna is a truce for a specific period, which is based on the practice of the Prophet

Mohammad and on subsequent events in Muslim history. Hamas has indicated on a

number of occasions its willingness to accede to a

hudna with Israel, assuming basic Palestinian rights as set forth in the Arab Peace

Initiative (API) are agreed to first.

Palestinian legitimacy is a term employed by Hamas to describe its willingness to

consider accepting a binding peace treaty, such as the proposal set forth in the API,

so long as the treaty is first ratified by the Palestinian people in a referendum.

Although Hamas would not directly participate in peace negotiations with Israel,Hamas

has indicated that it would be willing to be part of a Palestinian coalition

government with Fatah under which Fatah would negotiate the actual treaty.