Ayman Odeh, a top Palestinian Israeli leader, is inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Israel/Palestine
on 24 Comments

The new prominence of Ayman Odeh, the dynamic and popular Palestinian Israeli political leader, means that the apologists for Israel can no longer even pretend that there are no significant non-violent movements for justice there. Odeh is the 40-year-old head of the Joint List, the coalition of Arab parties which won 13 seats in last March’s elections, making it the third-largest political group in the Knesset. He is on a busy 2-week tour of the United States, and he made a point of visiting the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s home congregation, where he was introduced from the pulpit to a standing ovation.

He stopped off at The Nation magazine offices in New York the other day, where he explained that Dr. King is his hero. “Maybe for you in America, Dr. King has become boring because you hear about him so much,” he said. “But for me he is the man who has most inspired me. During the campaign I used to speak about him all the time. In my first speech in the Knesset, I quoted him.”

Ayman Odeh spoke in a mixture of English and Hebrew, fluently interpreted by his (Jewish) press secretary, Reut Mor. “Prime Minister Netanyahu’s approach is to create hate,” he said. “But we don’t want Jews against Arabs, Arabs against Jews. We want another approach: Arabs and Jews against racism and segregation.” He emphasized that he and the Joint List do not see themselves as only representing Palestinian Israelis. “We have spoken out about all the marginalized groups,” he went on. “Ethiopian Jews, Holocaust survivors, the unemployed, single parents.”

Odeh, a lawyer from Haifa, is not some well-meaning but obscure idealist. He is one of the main political leaders of the 20 percent of Israel’s population that is not Jewish. He is friendly, humorous, and he knows how to work a room. He says he has found ignorance about Palestinian Israelis even among Americans who have a general understanding of Israel/Palestine. “People may not know much about us,” he said, “but there will be no peace without us.” He said Palestinian Israelis suffer “structural discrimination,” and he listed huge statistical disparities in housing, education and public services.

Despite Ayman Odeh’s mild, non-violent approach, the Israeli right attacked him and the Joint List viciously during (and after) the political campaign. In a celebrated exchange during a televised debate, Avigdor Liberman, the former Israeli foreign minister, said, “Why did you come to this (TV) studio and not to a studio in Gaza. . .? Why are you even here? You’re not wanted here.”

Odeh answered calmly, “I am very wanted in my homeland. I am part of the scenery, part of the region. I resemble it. I believe we need to change our attitude, to replace demagoguery with dialogue.”

He laughed when he explained that Liberman maintains the nastiness even when the cameras are off. Prime Minister Netanyahu, however, is more cunning. He invited Odeh to a meeting, but it was a trap, an effort to suggest that Netanyahu’s ugly comments about Arabs on election day had been forgotten. “They planned to have many cameras there,” Odeh said. “I’m a warm person, I smile a lot. They would wait with the camera for that moment, and then they would have a picture of me smiling with Netanyahu.” He declined. He has met several times with the prime minister, but with no media present.

Odeh does warn that “Netanyahu is the main problem.” He says the prime minister is unquestionably a “racist,” but that his remarks are also politically calculated. “By demonizing the entire Arab population, he tries to delegitimize us,” he explained. “We are 20 percent of the population. We just need another 30 percent to start to move the country in a different direction.”

Odeh is aware that people consider some of his views too utopian. “But if you asked the African-American community here 20 years ago if they thought there would be an African-American president, I think they would have said, ‘No way.'”

There was a pleasant surprise in the New York Times yesterday: a brief article by the excellent Rick Gladstone about Odeh’s visit to the United States. Odeh has been big news in Israel for most of this year; this site’s Allison Deger did an interview with him back in March. The Times does have correspondents in Israel/Palestine, but they seem to have had trouble locating him. Too bad Ayman Odeh had to travel to New York to get his his non-violent, conciliatory message heard in the newspaper of record.

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24 Responses

  1. Keith
    December 11, 2015, 6:12 pm

    Since this article concerns inspiration, I have linked to a deeply moving video of recently deceased Native American poet/activist John Trudell, Crazy Horse- The Original Video, posted at Counterpunch to honor John Trudell.
    http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/12/09/john-trudell-crazy-horse-the-original-video/

    • just
      December 12, 2015, 9:08 am

      RIP to a truly great man. Thank you, Keith.

    • Kris
      December 12, 2015, 8:31 pm

      Thank you, Keith. That video is beautiful and deeply moving.

      Heartbreaking to see the family photos of John Trudell’s lovely young wife and three little children, who were all killed in an arson attack.

      “Crazy Horse, we hear what you say. One earth. One mother. One does not sell the earth that people walk upon. We are the land. How do we sell our mother? How do we sell the stars? How do we sell the air? …”

  2. JWalters
    December 11, 2015, 6:15 pm

    My thanks to Ayman Odeh for his wonderful work for Universal Human Rights and Justice. Martin Luther King would definitely be on his side.

    Reverend King would also appreciate this excellent article on how Rahm Emanuel has had the Chicago police trained by the brutal Israeli IDF.
    https://consortiumnews.com/2015/12/11/chicago-police-adopt-israeli-tactics/

    The officer who killed Laquan McDonald clearly saw his opportunity to get rid of another “sub-human” and took it. And he clearly expected to get away with it.

  3. Annie Robbins
    December 11, 2015, 10:39 pm

    wow. super inspiring. martin is not boring in this country!! that’s funny. he’s our hero. is Ayman Odeh coming to california? i would love to hear him speak and meet him. for people who ask where’s the palestinians gandhi, perhaps odeh is another example. and he’s not imprisoned! knock on wood.

  4. MaxNarr
    December 12, 2015, 4:08 am

    Except Martin Luther King was an ardent Zionist who would have detested an man like him who works day and night against the renewed Jewish presence in the Jewish ancestral homeland.

    • diasp0ra
      December 12, 2015, 9:28 am

      @Max

      Please show me where Odeh has worked against a “Jewish presence”. He clearly says that he doesn’t want Jews and Arabs to be against each other and that dialogue is the way forward and that we must unite to fight racism.

      What on earth pleases you Max? What would be good enough for you? Can a Palestinian ever do anything that is alright by your standards? Violence and non-violence alike are condemned by you, inside and outside establishment initiatives, Palestinian and Israeli, popular, democratic..are all condemned by you.

      It seems to me the only thing that would please you if we all left en masse, because I don’t think you’ll ever accept us even if we donned a kippah and sang the hatikvah. It’s useless to try and appease you and people like you, that’s why change needs to be thrust upon you through international pressure, because you’ll never have a change of heart by yourselves. Oppressors never do.

      Also saying that MLK was an “ardent Zionist: is a stretch and a half, this has been discussed to death here and I honestly don’t want to get into it.

      • talknic
        December 12, 2015, 11:23 am

        @ Diasp0ra “What on earth pleases you Max? “

        Nothing pleases un’pleasant’ people

  5. can of worms
    December 12, 2015, 7:38 am

    This Odeh is a major part of the problem. The point is never, ever about “nonviolence/violence” — a false dichotomy. The point must always be about the mobilization and organization of the people themselves towards a democratic one state solution. And inasmuch as anyone thinks they’re going to get equality by being in the Zionist government or bargaining with Zionist tools over “better conditions” here and there, and placing themselves in a separate box above Palestinians everywhere — they need to be woken up! And inasmuch as anyone thinks a 2 state solution is going to free you (when Zionism is all about separating you!) then you need to be shook up. Inasmuch as some Palestinians in the 48 occupation falsely believe they do not have a major role to play — they need to be woken up! You’ll never get equality unless you have power, and you’ll never have power as long as you go around lecturing in a what is here called a “mild, non-violent approach” about how much Martin Luther King meant to you, so that the New York Times will applaud you (and even MW will!). The US sanitizes the history of civil rights and King, erases the most pertinent lessons of the struggle, and would love nothing more than that Palestinians start “singing instead of swinging”. And oh, forget about compensation and RoR, so you can end up more segregated than before! What is all this enthusiasm? The NYT snippet [called “excellent” above] is a perversion of what we can learn from the civil rights moment, on so many levels. It’s so incredible that I don’t even know where to begin. BTW as far as popular resistance goes, Palestinians have a very long history of ongoing unarmed resistance. But any organized resistance by Palestinians that is threatening will be brutally clamped down by Jewish-Israelis who own the police and own the army– for one reason and one reason only: Palestinians don’t have power. Period . Get rid of the Zionoid delusions.

    As a refresher, the democratic state solution movement demands:

    1. A secular democratic state that guarantees parity on constitutional matters regardless of numbers.

    2. Freedom of movement, no evictions, “transfers” or land swaps, no internal borders, equal right to benefits of citizenship and nationality, land and property, social, health and education services.

    3. Freedom from discrimination, and equal esteem in civil, political, social and cultural matters, and on permits, papers and passports.

    4. This union will be entered into with full consent and a process of reconciliation, recognising the human value of each future citizen. It is neither a defeat nor a victory for either side but a victory for good sense.

    5. A milestone in reconciliation will be acknowledgement of the Nakba and the right of, and orderly provision for, exiles to return with honour and comfort; recognition of the pain and loss suffered by victims of violence on both sides is also essential for reconciliation.

    6. The state guarantees religious freedom and does not discriminate against or in favour of any faith.

    7. The state will recognise the special ties that both Jews and Palestinians have with their broader communities worldwide, and will welcome especially members of those communities who wish to immigrate to the country and help to build it, or who request asylum from persecution.

    8. Institutions of justice, law enforcement and army will integrate at all ranks.

    9. The state will maintain free and equal access and protection for holy sites.

    10. The state will establish fair, transparent and accountable mechanisms to compensate victims of the conflict.

    11. Violence and coercion will not win consent nor aid reconciliation. Common struggle, however, forges bonds, as do common cultural and social projects. People who share political, commercial, professional, educational and cultural interests can start now on liaison that could lead to shared endeavours in a Single State.

    12. Meanwhile we demand an immediate end to the siege of Gaza and withdrawal of all occupation troops, the release of all prisoners of the conflict including the Refuseniks, and the rescinding of all military orders that govern the subjected Palestinian people.

    (http://onedemocracy.co.uk/why_one_state/)

    • echinococcus
      December 12, 2015, 9:15 am

      Can,

      All these democratic state principles are nice and good, but does it ever occur to anyone that deciding what the society in Palestine (and the whole of Palestine) should look like is exclusively the Palestinian people’s decision? Including the entire forced diaspora, and excluding the Zionist invaders, well-intentioned or not.

      • can of worms
        December 12, 2015, 10:29 am

        echino: @ “does it ever occur to anyone…?”
        Yes. Positively. Yes. I just thought that is what we were doing. Making ourselves conscious of our own ‘occuring’ decisions. I mean, we can’t wage a revolution if we are “scurrying around like drugged cockroaches in a bottle”.

      • can of worms
        December 12, 2015, 10:58 am

        @echino, I was in the midst of my shower, all cool, when suddenly it dawned on me with increasing horror that you might have meant that Odeh’s democratic principles are nice and good, but does it ever occur [to him] that deciding what the society in Palestine (and the whole of Palestine) should look like is exclusively the Palestinian people’s decision…including the entire forced diaspora” — in which case you’re quite right — again!

      • echinococcus
        December 13, 2015, 12:23 pm

        Can,

        Yes, that was the obvious target but it absolutely shouldn’t be read as disparagement of Odeh and Co., who are possibly in the most difficult position among the opposition to Zionism. They have a perfect right to pursue admirable political principles that anyone south of Nazism must embrace. The critique is that of presenting it as if the rape of Palestine was old stuff overhauled by a Kumbaya objective.
        I’m all for Odeh & Co trying to convince the Palestinian people to vote, freely and in the absence of duress, for something similar.
        If, however, when a free vote can be organized the people votes to kick out the invaders, or all those who won’t take citizenship as loyal Palestinians, or give a short delay before trying and sentencing all Zionists, or establish Christian Science as state religion, tough shit but that will be the decision.
        If, that is, the genocide is not yet successful by the time the world power constellation changes and if it changes.

      • can of worms
        December 15, 2015, 10:56 pm

        @ echino,

        “it absolutely shouldn’t be read as disparagement of Odeh and Co, who are possibly in the most difficult position among the opposition to Zionism.”

        Opposition to Zionism is easy, you just have to use some intelligence. Odeh and Co find some benefit in supporting a 2SS for whatever reasons, and for that alone they deserve disparagement.

        Also deserving of disparagement is the talk of King and “nonviolence,” which to me shows that the person who is speaking has absolutely no idea what he’s talking about. If you want to talk about King, talk about civil disobedience and the right and responsibility to resist injustice and to observe a higher law than that of society. It’s incredible to think that someone inside the oppressor’s government can mobilize civil disobedience.

        They say they are “socialists”, yet they will turn to neoliberals for guidance – like Abbas, they “negotiate” from a position of weakness rather than demanding real people-power, thus they sacrifice the majority of Palestinians to the dogs. The Israeli govt is mostly afraid of them , of an uprising by them , of calls for desegregation by them , and they still tell you they can have no power unless they go to American liberals and “speak” “in a mild voice” of “nonviolence” and “King”. And they know nothing about pan-Africanism.

        Remember this? “When they see this man’s house on fire, you don’t hear these little Negroes talking about ‘our government is in trouble.’ They say, ‘The government is in trouble.’ Imagine a Negro: ‘Our government’! I even heard one say ‘our astronauts.’ They won’t even let him near the plant — and “our astronauts’! ‘Our Navy’ — that’s a Negro that’s out of his mind. That’s a Negro that’s out of his mind.” –1964, MX

        So tell me. How can you propose non-cooperation with the oppressor if you’re inside the oppressor’s govt? Just tell me.

        I’m not at all saying anything against having a nice, fine Anti-Zionist party in the Knesset – under that name — disturbing Zionoid fantasies of comfort — but let’s just be a little intelligent about what you could even expect and what you really want.

      • echinococcus
        December 17, 2015, 12:21 pm

        So tell me. How can you propose non-cooperation with the oppressor if you’re inside the oppressor’s govt?

        Can of Worms,
        That you can ask that question should in fact show that you realize how hard a place they are in.

        There’s some food for thought in what you wrote. Mainly about efficacy and what the limits are of what to expect from the Joint List people.
        But then, some of it is not serious. For instance, even if they were not a coalition containing Islamists, holding them to the technical meaning of vague words about socialism –as if it meant anything for militarily occupied slaves. As for the two-state thing, it is not unanimous, some of them are committed to it, and there is no word from the Palestinian people as a whole, so all bets are open.
        As for non violence etc, well duh, they are doing the most difficult work precisely because they have to move within certain limits where they are, I don’t know precisely what these limits are, you can ask all the specialists on this site, but seeing how Haneen Zuabi has been faring, there certainly are limits.

      • can of worms
        December 17, 2015, 2:17 pm

        echino,

        “….how hard a place they are in”

        — Respectfully, there’s no need to overcompensate for the difficult position of the Palestinian struggle by romanticizing choices or being forgiving of bad ideas. There’s no need to overcompensate for Israel-centric logic by going in the opposite direction and patronizing Palestinian voices.

        Re 1ss/2ss “there is no word from the Palestinian people as a whole, so all bets are open”
        —ecchino, this is a point you keep returning to. Yes but – so what? I say: What we are doing right now is moving the discourse .

        “vague words about socialism –as if it meant anything for militarily occupied slaves”
        —If you think it means nothing to occupied slaves, then perhaps you don’t know that the Palestinian resistance, esp in some of its factions, has a long history of resistance to global capitalism. My point, however, is that a neoliberal trap would be a disaster. Odeh’s 2SS solution (can he be real?) would be a sheer disaster for a great many of us.

        “they have to move within certain limits”
        —How can a people change the status quo if they are unwilling to transgress certain socially imposed limits.

      • can of worms
        December 18, 2015, 12:53 am

        edit:
        “patronizing” =

        Eh. Just my clumsy effort to say that adopting the attitude that anything any Palestinian says should be treated with enthusiastic kid gloves as compensation for the ‘hard’ rhetorical corner the speaker is supposedly in, is patronization. Some MWers think they are showing solidarity when they offer that kind of ‘compensation’. The ones who are crippled are not the Palestinians, it is the Zionists who are intellectually maimed and stunted by their regime of unnatural relations between people. It is they who are disabled in a corner with nothing at all intellectual to fall upon, just illicit desires and an iron wall built around transparent fantasies of entitlement. Perhaps you should go and compensate them — they’re in a ‘hard’ rhetorical corner.

        RE: “Odeh’s 2SS solution (can he be real?)”&c. = that’s another clumsy statement of mine for ya point being that the 2SS is so totally unacceptable on so many different levels that I would get vertigo just thinking of that long, long, long list down. I’m not going there.

        Otherwise echino I say +1 to your debate with talknic.

    • Marnie
      December 13, 2015, 2:38 am

      ++++++++++

  6. just
    December 12, 2015, 9:18 am

    “Israeli Arab Leader’s Jewish Agency Snub Bares Split With American Jews

    Ayman Odeh, leader of the Arab political parties in the Israeli Knesset, backed out of a meeting with Jewish communal executives on December 10 after learning that the meeting would be held in offices rented from the Jewish Agency for Israel.

    The cancellation, which soured a historic visit by Odeh that included a number of meetings with American Jewish groups, highlighted the ideological distance between even the most moderate Israeli Arab politicians and the American Jewish mainstream.

    “When I went into the building today [I saw] the building is of the Jewish Agency and the World Zionist Organization,” Odeh said in an already-scheduled interview at the offices of The Forward shortly after the incident. “I felt like I’ve been deceived.”

    Malcolm Hoenlein, president of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, which was scheduled to host Odeh, said that he was angered by the lawmaker’s refusal to enter the the Manhattan headquarters that the group rents from the Jewish Agency. “It’s outrageous that a member of Knesset would say that I can’t go into a place because it has Zionist associations,” Hoenlein said. “He doesn’t have a problem taking [his Knesset] paycheck.”

    Odeh told the Forward that he had not known that the meeting would be held in a Jewish Agency space, and offered to meet instead at the offices of the Union of Reform Judaism, which are in the same building. Hoenlein said that the URJ’s conference room was unavailable, and that, even if it had been available, he would not have agreed to switch venues.

    “Why would I succumb to that?” Hoenlein said.

    A URJ spokesman said that someone in the group’s mailroom had told a caller that the URJ’s conference room was booked, but that no URJ executive was consulted. Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the URJ president, published a statement on December 11 criticizing Odeh for canceling on the Conference of Presidents, saying that he was “profoundly disappointed.”

    “I believe MK Odeh made a deeply troubling decision by refusing to attend the meeting because it was held in the offices of the Jewish Agency,” Jacobs said. “His decision doesn’t support the important cause of dialogue to promote equality and coexistence in Israel.”

    URJ leaders had met separately with Odeh earlier in the week.

    “It’s not that I’m happy about what happened,” Odeh told the Forward. “I wanted to talk to them.”

    Odeh, 40, is a socialist politician from a left-wing Jewish-Arab party who has united Israel’s ideologically diverse Arab parties for the first time in decades. His wide-ranging tour in the United States has been followed closely by Israel’s Arab press. His meetings with Zionist groups have been politically risky, given the breadth of his coalition, which includes Odeh’s party Hadash, the nationalist Balad, and the southern branch of Israel’s Islamic Movement, among others.

    “He is taking a lot of criticism here from his own constituency,” said Shuli Dichter, executive director of Hand In Hand, an organization that runs bilingual Hebrew and Arabic schools in Israel. Dichter and Odeh formerly worked together at the Israeli civil rights organization Sikkuy. “He’s been pushing the limit as far as possible… Meeting with the Conference of Presidents davka in the Jewish Agency building was one step too far, and we must be attentive to this.”

    When asked why he had refused to speak there, Odeh pointed to the historical role of the Jewish Agency in the expropriation of Palestinian land, and to its ongoing role in land disputes in Israel. “This institution harmed us very deeply,” he said.

    Odeh referred specifically to the unrecognized Arab villages in the Negev, and to the repeated destruction of the village of Al-Arakib. Though the conflict at Al-Arakib involves the Jewish National Fund and not the Jewish Agency, Odeh and his aides argued that the groups are closely entwined.

    “We do not boycott the state of Israel,” Odeh said. “We work for equality… In the complex situation we are working in… there are three government offices we wouldn’t work with, and some Zionist organizations.”

    With very few historical exceptions, Israeli Arab members of Knesset do not serve on Knesset committees dealing with foreign affairs, absorption, or security. And while the Jewish Agency is seen among American Jews as an apolitical development organization, Arab citizens of Israel say it has played a major role in denying them the same rights and benefits available to Israeli Jews. The group has developed Jewish housing throughout Israel’s history on land owned before 1948 by Palestinians.

    While the Israeli Supreme Court upheld in 2000 the right of Arab citizens to live in villages developed by the Jewish Agency, the Jewish Agency fought the ruling.

    “The Arab citizens in Israel do feel the consequences of the Jewish Agency’s activity also now,” Dichter said. “It’s not something that was done in the past and now has no impact on our lives.”

    In a statement posted on Facebook, Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky said that the Jewish Agency runs programs that benefit “thousands of Arab Israeli families.” He cited a Jewish Agency high school for Bedouin children in the Negev and a mentorship program, among others. “Along with our core mission of ingathering the exiles of the Jewish people,” Sharansky wrote, “The Jewish Agency is proud to serve all citizens of Israel, regardless of religion or ethnicity.”

    In his visit to the Forward’s offices hours after the aborted Conference of Presidents meeting, Odeh spoke mostly in Hebrew, with one aide acting as a translator. Wearing a black suit and, unusually for an Israeli politician, a tie, he sprinkled his Hebrew with biblical phraseology. Odeh described walking a narrow line, cooperating with the Israeli system while pushing for rights for Israel’s Arabs within that system.

    “We are a part of an agreement of historical reconciliation,” he said. “You can’t ask me to be a Zionist, you can’t ask me to justify the ways and means the state was created… We want a democratic state, a civil state.”…”

    Read more: http://forward.com/news/326769/ayman-odeh-jewish-agency-controversy/#ixzz3u7GcDxAO

    • just
      December 12, 2015, 9:33 am

      +972’s take, by Lisa Goldman:

      “Ayman Odeh has a dream, but not all American Jews like it

      “The leader of the Joint List got a rude awakening on his first official visit to the U.S. after being falsely accused of refusing to meet the leaders of a major Jewish organization in New York. ‘I have actually found that Jewish Americans are more progressive than Jewish Israelis. But the problem is with the leaders of the community. They want to tell me how to behave and what to think.’

      NEW YORK — “I believe in talking to everyone,” said Joint List leader Ayman Odeh. “In the Knesset, I speak with everyone.” He added, with a half smile, “Except [Avigdor] Lieberman. But that’s only because he refuses to speak to me.”

      Odeh, a Palestinian citizen of Israel whose non-Zionist party is the third largest in the Knesset with 13 seats, is currently visiting Washington and New York for a series of meetings with diplomats, Jewish community leaders, journalists, think tanks and NGOs. But so far the only meeting that has been reported by Jewish media outlets is the one that controversially did not take place — at the New York office of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations.

      Upon arriving Thursday morning at the organization’s midtown Manhattan building, Odeh discovered that the umbrella group shared its office with the Jewish Agency. The Agency is affiliated with Israel’s Ministry of Absorption and with the Jewish National Fund (JNF), which is involved in initiatives to displace Palestinians from their homes in favor of Jews.

      Staffers for the umbrella group suggested moving the meeting to another office on a different floor in the same building — specifically, to the offices of the Reform Jewish Movement. But Executive Vice President Malcolm Hoenlein rejected the suggestion. He then sent out a press release in which he wrote that he was “deeply disturbed and shocked at the refusal” of Odeh to meet him.

      “I did not refuse to meet him,” Odeh told +972. He emphasized that he had responded to an invitation from the Conference of Presidents — that he had not requested the meeting. He did not know until he arrived that the umbrella group shared an office with the Jewish Agency.

      “I just asked if we could move the meeting to another room, but they refused. Instead of saying, okay, I understand your discomfort, and offering to meet me in another office, they did everything to make me uncomfortable.” Odeh noted that he made no public statement about the aborted meeting, except in response to the statement released immediately afterward by the Conference of Presidents.

      The Jewish Agency’s mandate is to promote aliyah, or Jewish immigration to Israel. The JNF has, as reported extensively by +972, been directly involved in displacing Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem and the West Bank, as well as Palestinian citizens of Israel, in order to convert their land and homes into residences for Jewish citizens. In one particularly egregious case, the JNF has been involved in a project to reforest the “unrecognized” Bedouin village of Al Araqib in the Negev, which has been destroyed over 90 times — even as its residents, who have lived on the land for over a century, methodically rebuild each time the bulldozers depart. …

      … The quasi-governmental Jewish Agency boasts about having contributed to the building of over one thousand residential communities for Jews in the State of Israel. But no Israeli government since 1948 has allotted land for a single new town or village for its Arab citizens, who comprise 20 percent of Israel’s population, even as the government imposes severe restrictions on the acquisition of building permits in Arab-majority areas. As a result, Israel’s Arab “villages” are actually densely populated towns and small cities that lack the basic amenities and infrastructure taken for granted in Jewish towns the same size or even smaller.

      Odeh asked rhetorically, “What’s the problem with building new villages where our old villages were in 1948? All I see is concrete where our villages were. We’ve lost the naiveté of village culture, but we haven’t replaced it with cosmopolitan urban life — with cafes and places of culture. I just want someone to convince me that this will hurt the Jews. It is actually in the best interest of the Jewish citizens for us to live in a state of equality.”…”

      http://972mag.com/ayman-odeh-has-a-dream-but-not-all-american-jews-like-it/114671/

    • just
      December 12, 2015, 10:08 am

      About some Bedouins, by Gideon Levy and Alex Levac:

      “A Bedouin Community Left Without Shelter

      Israeli officials visit the tiny Jordan Valley village of Al Hadidya almost daily to destroy anything that can be used as protection against the cold – including tents donated by relief organizations.

      Dozens of pigeons, white and gray, now flock together on a small tin roof, pressed up against one another, as though protecting each other. They survived by flying off before the demolition, but their chicks were crushed alive by the bulldozers that razed this hamlet. The pigeons’ lofts, made from plastic olive oil containers, are now scattered on the ground, like the living survivors in Al Hadidya.

      The local mukhtar, or headman, 65-year-old Abu Saker – whose full name is Abdel Rahim Basharat – says he hears the pigeons crying. With his toothless mouth, he too cries for his pigeons, his home, his three wives, 24 children and multitude of grandchildren, some of whom remain here after the demolition, without a roof over their heads, unsheltered in the biting cold of the Jordan Rift Valley’s nights. When the villagers had the temerity to cover their infants with strips of plastic sheeting, personnel from the Israeli Civil Administration arrived and burned the sheeting.

      The sheer inhumanity of it is breathtaking.

      Civil Administration staff showed up in Al Hadidya while we were visiting there, too, swooping down on the little enclave in a white jeep that generally bodes ill. They come nearly every day, to check on overnight developments: Was a small tent erected? Did someone cover himself with plastic sheeting or a blanket?

      The truth is that it’s hard to imagine what this community of shepherds endures at night. Earlier in the week, the nights were freezing cold, with means to keep warm almost nonexistent. Everything was demolished here, and the Civil Administration also confiscated the tents of salvation and compassion that were brought by relief organizations. Only the ruins of a few tents remain, plus one functioning, small two-person camping tent, in a place where 14 families, comprising 97 souls, including 30 children and six infants, continue to live.

      One of the babies, 1-year-old Izz a-Din, a grandson of the mukhtar, crawled across the ground this week, his cheeks pocked with sores from the cold.

      This is the province of Israeli demolition and expulsion, the district of ethnic cleansing. As in the South Hebron Hills, here, too, in the occupied rift valley, Israel is trying to expel everyone it can in order to facilitate future annexation. And what could be an easier target for expulsion and abuse than the lowest denizens on the food chain of Palestinian helplessness – these communities of Bedouin shepherds?

      The Israeli settlement of Ro’i is next to their land; only a few hundred meters separate its greenery from the devastation of Al Hadidya. That is too close for comfort – the Bedouin must go. Some of the people here have had their home demolished eight times by the Civil Administration.

      Bekaot 2, a major pumping facility of Israel’s national water company, Mekorot, is situated in the village’s fields – but not a drop of water is available for its residents. “In the event of spillage, leakage or any unusual event, inform the control room,” a sign says there.

      A winding dirt trail that originates opposite another Bedouin community, Khalet Makhoul – which has also been demolished more than once in recent years; demolished, rebuilt and razed again in a continuing cycle – leads up to Al Hadidya. Before 1967, the village was larger, home to about 50 families, but in the course of the occupation the population has dwindled. At present 27 families live in Al Hadidya in the summer and 14 in the winter, on private land that is formally registered with zoning authorities as belonging to the residents of the Palestinian towns of Tamoun and Toubas. The Bedouin lease the land from them. Israel prohibits any structure, even a tent, from being erected on this farmland. Still, Ro’i is legal, Al Hadidya isn’t. Beginning in 1997, the hamlet was razed, and afterward, in 2001, 2002, 2005, 2011 and again in 2015. Anytime is a good time for destruction.

      Two months ago, the villagers began preparing their homes for winter. With money received from donations, they spread gravel on the dirt road to Al Hadidya, to allow access on days when rain turns the trail into a muddy quagmire. The children have to be driven to school, water tanks have to be brought in for both people and sheep, and maybe someone who is sick or a woman about to give birth has to be rushed to hospital. That’s life, you know.

      But lo and behold, the guardian of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps. On November 15, troops of the Civil Administration arrived and handed the villagers a “stop-work order” for the road. Well, “handed” is an overstatement. As is the custom, the document was thrown onto the dirt trail….

      … Eighteen structures and tents were demolished; now they lie in a heap. The troops returned the next day to confiscate the tents, which had been supplied by the International Red Cross. They also came back the next day to destroy the tents donated by people from Toubas. The following day it rained and the villagers covered themselves with plastic sheeting, until the Civil Administration burned the sheeting. Abu Saker was rushed to a physician in Toubas.

      Another day went by. Tents donated by the European Union arrived, and they too were confiscated. All that remained, lying on the ground, was a trilingual poster with the image of the trademark EU golden stars on a blue background, declaring the source of this humanitarian aid. And by the way, it’s not clear why the EU, which provides the villagers with this first aid, as in a disaster zone, has been silent about the confiscation of the tents.

      Since the tents were torn down and confiscated, on November 30, the residents of Al Hadidya have been afraid to erect new ones. They sleep in the open, almost without shelter.

      When asked for comment, the office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories provided the following statement: “In the case at hand, inspection procedures were implemented against illegal construction in the area of Al Hadidya in the Jordan Valley, in accordance with planning and building laws. A petition submitted [to the High Court of Justice] in 2011 against these procedures was withdrawn in early 2015, with an opportunity given to complete planning regularization. However, the residents took no action in this regard within the time frame set by the court, and accordingly, the authorities acted to demolish the structures in accordance with the law.

      “A few days later, tents were again erected at the site in complete disregard of the court’s decision and of the law, and an additional enforcement action was therefore implemented. The allegations of the burning of plastic sheeting by representatives of the Civil Administration are unfounded.”

      The Civil Administration denied responsibility for the destruction of the access road to Al Hadidya, and referred us to the IDF Spokesperson’s Office, which offered this statement: “[The case involves] the illegal manner in which the construction was undertaken. The action against the construction was interrupted when it became clear that the destruction of the road was being dealt with in an administrative process that is not yet complete.”

      In other words, the IDF acknowledges that the demolition was undertaken in violation of administrative orders. …

      …“I have a question for the government of Israel: In what way is this place ‘scaring’ Israel?” the mukhtar says. “How does it endanger Israel? We have done nothing, we only lived quietly. Our life is hard even without demolition, so how can we live with it? The bulldozer comes, destroys the tents, the women are beaten – where are you pushing us to?”

      To which council head Daraghmeh adds, “Let people live. Let them plant zucchini and then they won’t throw stones. Let them live.”

      Two women from the Israeli anti-occupation and pro-human rights group Machsom Watch and three young Europeans from EAPPI, a World Council of Churches aid and relief organization, arrive separately at the ruins of the tent camp to try to help and cheer up the inhabitants, as much as possible.

      “Look at Ro’i,” Daraghmeh says as we gaze at the verdant settlement in the valley. “Look at it. It’s close by, it’s green, they have water, hothouses, homes. The residents here are your friends. Only let them plant seeds in the earth, let them live, and they won’t do anything to you.”

      read more: http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.691212

    • a blah chick
      December 14, 2015, 2:06 pm

      People like Hoenlein really boil my beans. Think about it, here’s a guy with president and sec. of state and presidential candidates on speed dial, and he can’t even move his tuchus down a couple of floors to honor the sensitivities of a Palestinian Israeli whose people have suffered at the hands of the JNF.

      If he can’t bring himself to do that why should we think he will make compromises

  7. JLewisDickerson
    December 12, 2015, 8:04 pm

    RE: “The new prominence of Ayman Odeh, the dynamic and popular Palestinian Israeli political leader, means that the apologists for Israel can no longer even pretend that there are no significant non-violent movements for justice there.” ~ North

    MY COMMENT: Never underestimate the duplicitous cunning of Israel’s highly paid agents here in the U.S.! ! !*

    * SEE: “Ayman Odeh has a dream, but not all American Jews like it” | By Lisa Goldman | 972mag.com | December 11, 2015
    • The leader of the Joint List got a rude awakening on his first official visit to the U.S. after being falsely accused of refusing to meet the leaders of a major Jewish organization in New York.

    [EXCERPT] NEW YORK — “I believe in talking to everyone,” said Joint List leader Ayman Odeh. “In the Knesset, I speak with everyone.” He added, with a half smile, “Except [Avigdor] Lieberman. But that’s only because he refuses to speak to me.”

    Odeh, a Palestinian citizen of Israel whose non-Zionist party is the third largest in the Knesset with 13 seats, is currently visiting Washington and New York for a series of meetings with diplomats, Jewish community leaders, journalists, think tanks and NGOs. But so far the only meeting that has been reported by Jewish media outlets is the one that controversially did not take place — at the New York office of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations.

    Upon arriving Thursday morning at the organization’s midtown Manhattan building, Odeh discovered that the umbrella group shared its office with the Jewish Agency. The Agency is affiliated with Israel’s Ministry of Absorption and with the Jewish National Fund (JNF), which is involved in initiatives to displace Palestinians from their homes in favor of Jews.

    Staffers for the umbrella group suggested moving the meeting to another office on a different floor in the same building — specifically, to the offices of the Reform Jewish Movement. But Executive Vice President Malcolm Hoenlein rejected the suggestion. He then sent out a press release in which he wrote that he was “deeply disturbed and shocked at the refusal” of Odeh to meet him.

    “I did not refuse to meet him,” Odeh told +972. He emphasized that he had responded to an invitation from the Conference of Presidents — that he had not requested the meeting. He did not know until he arrived that the umbrella group shared an office with the Jewish Agency.

    “I just asked if we could move the meeting to another room, but they refused. Instead of saying, okay, I understand your discomfort, and offering to meet me in another office, they did everything to make me uncomfortable.” Odeh noted that he made no public statement about the aborted meeting, except in response to the statement released immediately afterward by the Conference of Presidents. . .

    ENTIRE ARTICLE – http://972mag.com/ayman-odeh-has-a-dream-but-not-all-american-jews-like-it/114671/

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