Israel Resource Review 23rd March, 1999

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Damascus to Rearm Saddam
by Michael Evans
Defence Editor
London Times
8th March, 1999

A secret deal has been agreed between Syria and Iraq for the supply of military equipment to Baghdad, according to Middle East intelligence sources.

Relations between the two countries have been improving significantly in recent months, with agreements already signed to develop both political and economic co-operation.

Now, after a new deal between the Syrian and Iraqi intelligence services, military equipment valued at about 60 million is to be shipped across the border, the intelligence sources said.

Since the 1991 Gulf War, President Saddam Hussein has faced a severe shortage of spare parts for his army because of the international arms embargo. Under the Damascus agreement, Syrian spare parts for military equipment would be converted for use by the Iraqi Army, the sources said. The parts would include engines for Russian-made tanks and tracks for armoured fighting vehicles.

Syria is also expected to supply spares for anti-aircraft radar facilities - hit by recent American and British bombing - lorries, aircraft and helicopters, and ammunition.

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Cold Peace Encouraged at Palestinian Israeli Social Workers Workshop?
by Allan Polak
News Analyst

Monday March 9, by invitation of Dr. Elia Awwael, I attended the Palestinian-Israeli Social Workers Workshop held at the Nativity Hotel located in Bethlehem. The stated goals of the workshop included allowing Israelis and Palestinians the opportunity to discuss current "social" cases as well as identify the needs of social workers on both sides. These goals though, however important, were secondary to the supreme expectation of the workshop; to allow Palestinians and Israelis to begin forming a friendly and trustful relationship, or as the official workshop agenda stated: [To introduce] participants at the personal and professional level. The issue of whether or not this was achieved, or more so, whether or not an environment existed in which it could be achieved, is of extreme interest.

My entrance into the "Nativity Hotel" occurred at approximately 9:30 am. I was immediately greeted by Dr. Elia Awwael and then left to mingle with the approximately thirty social workers who were in attendance. I stood contently near a food-laden table and observed the workshop participants. The number of Israelis and Palestinians in attendance was closely matched. At 10:00, the group was asked to move from the reception area into the conference room.

The workshop began with a brief introduction of the three coordinators as well as a history of the program. According to Dr. Awwael the current meeting was the fourth of its kind and received funding from the American Embassy and Palestine Council of Health. The purpose of the workshop was described as providing the framework for Palestinians and Israelis to examine social welfare.

Following opening remarks participants were instructed to introduce themselves to one another with the emphasis on Israelis and Palestinians coming together. I placed myself within a group of five social workers: one Israeli man, two Palestinian men, and one Israeli woman and a Palestinian woman. The Israeli woman, who identified herself as a head member of the Israeli social worker union, spoke with a Palestinian man and woman, both of approximately 25 years of age. Their discussion, which was dominated by the Israeli woman, dealt primarily with the concept of a social workers union. Adjacent to this three person sub-group sat the remaining Israeli and Palestinian men whose heated conversation contained such proclamations as: Palestinian- "Some kinds of Jews hate us and some of us hate them". Israeli- "We came and Arabs were here; I know this wasn't good. I don't know what to do about this". In a moment of silence within the 'union group' the Palestinian man recognized my presence and encouraged me to introduce myself.

A Palestinian woman faced me and expressed her anger at being denied entrance to Jerusalem, citing her brother's stay in prison as the reason. Ghadi Rahil, a resident of Bethlehem, and currently a student of social work expressed anger towards Israelis but stated her ability to meet with Israelis in a professional context. Her feelings were echoed by another Palestinian woman who seated herself amongst the group in the midst of the conversation. [They take our land, look at what they did. I can work professionally with the Israeli but this is it]. The meeting of participants lasted one hour twenty-two minutes and was followed with a lecture by Dr. Bernard Sabilla of Bethlehem University.

The speech began rather academically, citing figures and current problems facing contemporary Palestinians. Dr. Sabilla quickly began to form the thesis of the lecture; Peace cannot exist between Israel and Palestine until the economic and educational gaps which exist among the two nations are closed. Recognizing the high birthrate of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank (Gaza - 49 per 1,000, West Bank - 37 per 1,000) as a severe hindrance to the economic growth of a Palestinian state, the lecturer predicted a future Palestinian state composed of a small upper class and large lower class, similar to the class structure of Jordan.

Dr. Sabilla's uncertainty of the peace process and the ability of Palestinians and Israelis to relate personally became evident as the speech continued. "Now we don't have peace," explained Sabilla, "We have the peace process". The future Sabilla went on to say "Is not as rosy as some politicians would like us to believe." As the speech continued Sabilla made clear his inability and disinterest in forming friendships with Israelis; To make peace from people to people "its not possible, in my view its not possible", "Certainly Israeli policies in terms of employment have not been fair." Referring to the current dire status of the Palestinian people Sabilla claimed, "Yes, Israel is to blame for this thing." If on the economic level Israeli is not allowing him to breath, asked Dr. Sabilla, how can he ask his students to work towards peace.

Further on in the lecture Dr. Sabilla discussed strategies the Palestinians must adopt in order to compete economically with Israel. The main strategy, according to Sabilla, heavily relies on "using Israelis"; "In my relationship with Israel I am not looking for love or friendship, only for Palestinian interests."

Additional comments made by Dr. Sabilla included a reference to the settlers, "Settlers have taken a lot of land from us, we have no land." The Israeli participants, perhaps in disbelief at Sabilla's provocative words, began laughing at what they determined to be a joke, although I have no doubt judging by the manner in which the sentence was delivered that it was meant to be a serious statement. Continuing in this mode it was explained that Palestinians are now becoming capable of making individual decisions, a trend according to Sabilla, which is not popular amongst Israelis. The speech closed with a reaffirmation that friendship was not being sought with Israelis although it was acceptable for Palestinians to deal with Israelis in a way which served the Palestinian interest.

If there had been any misunderstanding of Dr. Sabilla's opinions, I believe the question and answer period thoroughly clarified his position. Two Israeli participants expressed their surprise at the pessimism of the speech challenging the notion that friendship could not exist between Israelis and Palestinians. The response; "I try for Palestinians to get whatever they can from Israelis, I will not change my political view." Another Israeli woman questioned the use of stereotypes within the speech; her remarks were disregarded. The attitude of Sabilla became strengthened as he admitted that "[He] cannot fly with Israelis because [he] cannot deal with them." "I come from a history of conflict with you," Sabilla proclaimed, later adding "What matters is what I can learn from you." Palestinian participants also spoke during the question-answer period focusing their comments on the anger they still hold and the problems they face when travelling within Israel. A participant also voiced his opinion of being fed up with all these meetings which "Do nothing in the end." Shortly before the Q+A session ended Dr. Degaulle S. Hodali spoke of the alleged Israeli practice of distributing spoiled food to poor Palestinians.

I accompanied Dr. Hodali to the hotel-provided lunch sitting with him and two Israeli women. Notable topics of discussion included the refugee problem, settlers, and the issue of East Jerusalem, which Dr. Hodali believes must be given back. While Dr. Hodali theorized that the settlers, many of whom he believes exist primarily for economic reasons because as he stated "Jews love money", can be relocated following monetary compensation, the Israeli social worker insisted the "Settlers are crazy" and that millions of dollars would not persuade them to leave. Lunch ceased at 1:30 and the group ventured back to the conference room.

Reseated, the participants were told that they would now engage in group work which would involve "Identifying social cases of adults, women, disabled people, and elderly at home and at the local community." Participants returned to the reception hall to complete this task. I remained seated and began a discussion with Turi-Therese Schoder, a Norwegian woman visiting Bethlehem as part of a social worker exchange program. Ms. Schoder, who currently works with the Children Cultural Center of Bethlehem, identifies with the Palestinians and considers herself to be "half-Palestinian".

Ms. Schoder related to me that she found the Israelis attending the workshop offensive and saw Dr. Sabilla's speech as realistic. When asked why she viewed the behavior of the Israelis as offensive she explained that Israelis who, following Sabilla's lecture, insisted that friendship was an important part of a professional relationship were naive and disrespectful of the Palestinians. Our conversation continued and Schoder told me of a day when she accompanied a group of Palestinians on a car trip. "I understand", she said, "why some Palestinians are suicide bombers". Also in reference to the lecture, she told me that the Palestinian women she had sat with at lunch would only make one comment, "There are bad feelings".

Although her sympathy clearly lies with the Palestinians and she admitted that there are many Israelis she "doesn't even want to get to know" it was still her expectation that the workshop would allow Israelis and Palestinians to get to know one another and that she didn't expect to hear "negative things" said, as was the case. Her reference to hearing negative comments most likely referred to what she perceived as Israeli aggression but it may be possible that had it not been for Sabilla's speech a more positive atmosphere would have existed.

At this time the group began to reenter the conference room and present their findings. Presentations were extremely brief and it was obvious that the majority of participants had not met the suggested criteria and were unclear of what this criteria was. The coordinators paid little attention to the presentations, instead talking amongst themselves. The presentations complete the participants quickly dispersed.

Turi Schoder invited me to tour the Cultural Center where she works, I accepted. Before exiting the conference room though, I approached Dr. Awwael and asked his opinion of the workshop; "I believe we succeeded at least to get both sides to explore how to work together." I then began to exit the building but not before approaching an Israeli social worker and inquiring his view of the meeting. Doron Rabu appeared disappointed at the content of the workshop which he had, before attending, assumed to be an opportunity to "meet the neighbors" although he had no concrete expectations besides this. "It makes me angry," exclaimed Rabu, "I felt like the only point of [Dr. Sabilla] about relationships with Israelis is about his needs. What happens when they don't need us anymore?"

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A Successful Launching of Our Campaign Against the Perpetuation of the Occupation
by Jeff Halper
Coordinator, The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD)

On Friday and Saturday, March 12th and 13th, some 500 Israelis, joined by dozens of Palestinians, launched the Israeli Campaign Against the Perpetuation of the Occupation, notice of which you received earlier. Together we rebuilt three homes demolished by the Israeli authorities on the West Bank and planted 300 olive trees in farmers' field from which hundreds were uprooted by the Israeli authorities two weeks ago. Through these actions we sought to call attention to the furious Israeli efforts to complete the annexation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. These threaten to foreclose the possibility of a just peace forever by creating irreversible "facts" on the ground, while confining the Palestinian population to an apartheid-like existence of poverty, dependency and limited freedom of movement. Our activities, beginning with a press conference in Jerusalem on March 10th, received wide press coverage in Israel and abroad. Our e-mail campaign - YOU - generated hundreds of letters, e-mails, faxes and phone calls to Israeli, European and North American governments protesting Israel's unilateral actions, and we ask you to continue to actively support our Campaign. Through organizations such as Rabbis for Human Rights and Christian Peacemaker Teams, and many individuals -- including critical support from an Israeli funder living in England -- we have effectively spread the word of our Campaign.

We have just begun. As of this writing (Sunday night), the three houses are still standing. We have small groups sleeping at the sites ready to resist the bulldozers if they appear (usually about 5:50-6 AM) and to alert the press. If the houses are still standing by next weekend, we plan to return and continue the finishing work. If they have been demolished, we will rebuild yet again - and keep rebuilding until the injustice of the Occupation is fully revealed. We are also organizing a demonstration against the opening of a large industrial park on the West Bank near Ramallah (for Israeli factories only), to be attended by Prime Minister Netanyahu. Other groups, such as environmental and human rights organizations, are preparing their own activities in conjunction with our Campaign.

We appreciate your support and ask you to continue to speak out and lobby at this critical juncture of an almost moribund peace process. For your information, we are sending along (1) a copy of the ad that appeared in Hebrew and English in the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz and in Arabic in the Israeli/Palestinian newspaper al-Ittahad; (2) a short description of the families, sites and activities where our actions took place this last weekend; and (3) a synopsis of the major elements of the Occupation.

We invite you to stay in touch, and ask that you forward these materials on.

In Peace,

Jeff Halper,
Coordinator, ICAHD

Don't let the bulldozers demolish the peace!

Join Us In Opposing The Perpetuation Of The Occupation

  • 6,000 Palestinian houses demolished on the West Bank and East Jerusalem
  • 30,000 people left homeless
  • Tens of thousands of acres of agricultural land confiscated
  • Hundreds of thousands of fruit and olive trees uprooted
  • More than 90% of the Palestinians confined to isolated cantons
  • 180 settlements established - 13 in the last few weeks - 180,000 settlers
  • A massive system of by-pass roads carving up the West Bank and foreclosing peace

In the last few weeks Netanyahu's government has escalated its policy of settlement and displacement in the Occupied Territories in a last-minute attempt to frustrate any peace settlement. Hundreds of bulldozers are at work 24 hours a day in a desperate attempt to create irreversible "facts" on the ground.

The time has come to act! Come build with us Palestinian houses demolished by the Israeli authorities on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem. Come plant with us olive trees in place of those uprooted by the settlers and the Civil Administration. Come join us in protesting by-pass roads designed to close Palestinians into small and disconnected enclaves. Now - before its too late.

When and Where

[Buses left from Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa]

Participating Organizations

The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions
Shomrei Mishpat - Rabbis for Human Rights (Friday only)
Gush Shalom
Bat Shalom
The Alternative Information Center, Yesh Gvul
Netivot Shalom - Oz v'Shalom (Friday only)
The Student Committee for Human Rights of the Hebrew University
Women in Black
The Committee for Solidarity with Hebron
The Arab Student Committee of the Hebrew University
Campus, Tel Aviv University
Action Committee of Jaffa
A Bridge to Peace
The Committee for the Arabs of Jaffa.

The Campaign Against Perpetuating the Occupation

Our campaign against the perpetuation of the Occupation calls attention to all the diverse yet interlinking components of Israel's current efforts to complete its de facto annexation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem: house demolitions; massive land expropriation; destruction of Palestinian crops, the closure and other forms of economic warfare, harassment of the Palestinian population; settlement expansion; the construction of a massive system of by-pass highways; and other policies.

The Al-Shawamreh Family of Anata

Salim al-Shawamreh, his wife Arabia and their six children live in the village of Anata, which is divided between Jerusalem and the West Bank (part in Area B, Salim's house in Area C under full Israeli control). About a third of its population of some 12,000 hold Jerusalem identity cards, while the other two-thirds are classified as West Bank residents, with no access to Jerusalem -- including "Jerusalem" parts of Anata. 20,000 dunams were expropriated from Anata to build the settlements of Alon, Kfar Adumim, Almon and Ma'aleh Adumim; an Israeli by-pass road is currently being constructed around the village.Crowding in Anata has become chronic. Some 23 demolitions orders have been served on Anata residents by the Jerusalem municipality, the Ministry of Interior and, where Anata expands into "Area C", the Civil Administration.

After several attempts to obtain a permit, the Shawamreh family house, built on privately-owned land, was demolished amid great violence in July of 1998, and after being rebuilt by ICAHD and other Israeli organizations was demolished again in August. The price was high: besides losing their house, Arabia Shawamreh fell into a deep depression and had to be hospitalized. Salim says: "Together with Israelis who seek a just peace, we will build here a House of Peace."

The Abu Yakub Family of Kifal Harith

Kifal Harith is a Palestinian village of some 5,000 people in the West Bank, very close to the Israeli settlement of Ariel. In late December, 1998, the Civil Administration demolished with a large show of force the three-room house of Husam Abu Yakub and his family, uprooting olive trees and gardens of village residents on the way. The Abu Yakubs pleaded with the soldiers not to destroy the house, and when they refused to leave, the army threw in a canister of tear gas. Their six-month old child was taken from the house unconscious. The Civil Administration contractor then sent his African guest workers to quickly remove the family's belongings, and the house was bulldozed.

The Abu Dahoud Family of Hebron

Hassan Dahoud is a 60 year-old worker who lived with his wife and 12 children in a modest house on the rural outskirts of Hebron, far from any Israeli settlement or by-pass road. His applications for a building permit were rejected because his land - as most of the West Bank -- is zoned by the Israelis as "agricultural" (although that does not prevent the construction of thousands of Israel housing units in Kiryat Arba and other settlements in the area). Last year the Dahoud family's home was demolished.

Tree-planting in Beit Dajan

A major problem facing the Palestinian economy in general, and that of individual farming families in particular, is the wholesale destruction of orchards and crops by the Civil Administration. Harassment of farmers and attempts on the part of settlers to prevent them from planting or harvesting their crops are also common. Just three weeks ago, 675 olive trees were uprooted from the fields of Beit Dajan farmers near Nablus, on the basis of a 1985 expropriation order that has been in legal dispute for years. Between 1987-97, some 250,000 olive and fruit trees have been uprooted or cut down by Civil Administration personnel for the purposes of land expropriation, settlement expansion or by-pass roads or by settlers seeking to harass and intimidate local farmers while driving them from their land. In 1998 alone 16,780 trees, most of which were olive trees. 3,200 trees were uprooted and burnt by settlers and 13,580 trees by the Israeli army.

An Israeli Campaign Against Perpetuating the Occupation

The two months left before the Israeli elections in May will be among the most momentous in the modern history of the Middle East. For over twenty years Israeli governments, guided by the steady yet quiet work of Ariel Sharon, have been "creating facts on the ground." A structure of occupation, displacement and apartheid has been systematically constructed around the Palestinian population of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. It is designed to ensure Israeli control and de facto annexation of more than half the Occupied Territories, while confining its three million Palestinians to an archipelago of small, crowded, impoverished and disconnected bantustans.

The structure of annexation has been constructed in a piecemeal fashion over many years, so that the overall conception could not be comprehended. The final pieces are now being hastily put into place, and we find ourselves confronting nothing less than an entrenched system of occupation, apartheid and the prospect of continued conflict. Rather than focusing on each component of the Occupation, we must look at the whole picture. The major intertwining components are:

  • Land Expropriation: Since 1967 Israel has taken control of 70% of the Occupied Territories. Tens of thousands of acres of agricultural land have been confiscated, hundreds of thousands of fruit and olive trees uprooted.
  • Settlement Blocs: 180 settlements have been established on the West Bank, home to 180,000 settlers -- 350,000 if one counts the Israelis living in "neighborhoods" of "Greater" Jerusalem beyond the Green Line. Thirteen new settlements have been established in the past few months following Sharon's call to "grab the hilltops."
  • Home Demolitions and Cantonization: 6,000 Palestinian houses have been demolished on the West Bank and East Jerusalem since 1967, leaving some 30,000 people homeless. In 1995, "only" 43 houses were demolished on the West Bank, 25 in Jerusalem. In 1996 the numbers went up to 140/17; in 1997, 233/16; and in 1998, 150/25 - a drop attributed to influence of political pressure. More than 90% of the Palestinians confined to small and disconnected cantons besieged by Israeli army checkpoints.
  • Massive Networks of By-Pass Roads: Twelve new by-pass highways are being furiously constructed, part of a massive system of 29 by-pass roads. Each highway is 50 meters wide with "sanitized" margins of 300 meters wide, which serve to limit the growth of Palestinian towns, cities and villages within constricted cantons. By-pass highways prevent the territorial contiguity needed for a viable Palestinian entity, and link individual Israeli settlements into "blocs" that surround and "swallow" Palestinian communities;
  • Environmental Pollution: Industrial pollution is caused by the moving of highly polluting Israeli industries to the West Bank -- aluminum, batteries, leather tanning, textile dyeing, fiberglass and other chemical industries producing hazardous waste. Under-regulated industrial parks severely damage the area's delicate environment.
  • Closure and Economic Warfare: For the past five years Palestinians have been unable to move freely without passes, including into Jerusalem for reasons of religion, employment and residency, or move their goods.
  • Human Rights Abuses and Psychological Warfare. Israel refuses to recognize the binding nature of human rights covenants on which it is a signatory as they relate to its actions in the Occupied territories. It also uses intimidation, collective punishment, denial of residency and work rights and the criminalization of Palestinian daily life.

We are now witnessing the completion of the annexation and apartheid process - indeed, a brazen attempt by the Netanyahu government to "steal" the elections by making them irrelevant. We cannot permit bulldozers rather than negotiations and the ballot box to decide the fate of our peoples.

The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions
Rehov Tiveria 37, Jerusalem, Israel
Tel: (02) 624-8252, (052) 673-467
Fax: (02) 566-2815

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