This morning, facing international pressure not to expel 1000 Palestinians in eight villages in the West Bank, the Israeli High Court of Justice told the government to hold up its plans for what is called “Firing Zone 918” southeast of Hebron.
Below we have a report on the court’s ruling– and also the manifestation of that pressure, a writers’ petition opposing the plans in poetical terms: the villagers are “helplessly facing a ruthless power” and the writers call on the court “to bend back the occupation’s giant, cruel hand.” The petition was originated by Israeli writers in June and is now signed by many well-known international writers, including 5 Nobel Literature Prize laureates, among them JM Coetzee and the last Seamus Heaney, as well as Julian Barnes, John le Carre, Ian McEwan, Yann Martel, Dave Eggers, Junot Diaz, Robert Pinsky, Joe Sacco, Philip Roth, Michael Cunningham, Suketu Mehta, Deborah Eisenberg, Roddy Doyle, Michael Ondaatje, and Wallace Shawn.
First, a summary of today’s hearing in the case of Firing Zone 918 – 2 September, 2013
The hearing concluded with the court deciding to appoint a mediator to try and reach a compromise between the sides. The court suggested a certain judge – retired judge Yitzhak Zamir. They need to first check if he is available to act as mediator. The Defense has already accepted the court’s proposition, and the State will have until October 7th 2013 to consult and respond accordingly.
Mediation processes are not binding, and require the two sides to agree to the settlement in order for it to be valid. If one of the sides does not find favor in the offer, then the proposition is off the table.
A mediation process occurred in a previous petition in the case. That process ran from late 2002 until 2005, and was led by Ret. General Dov Zeddakah (previous head of the Israeli Civil Administration). No compromise was met in that mediation process and the case was brought back to the court.
Attorney Shlomo Lecker believes that the court does not want to give a decision, but rather to hint to the State to change its position. Assuming that the mediation process goes forward, this will be largely good for the villagers as it buys them more time. The court’s proposition for mediation also signals that it is not happy with the legal arguments and factual background that the State has put forward. This indicates to us that the court is at least leaning towards disagreeing with the State.
The judges mentioned that they expect the petitioners to refrain from building any new structures in their villages while deliberations continue. Should the mediation go forward, the State lawyers will insist from the petitioners that there will be no changes on the ground. This may have serious humanitarian implications should the process take many years.
Now here is that international petition:
International Writers Support Israeli Writers’ Petition On Firing Zone 918
We hereby add our names in support of our colleagues in Israel in their call to the Israeli government and military to halt its displacement of the Palestinian villages located in Firing Zone 918. As they have said, we should all join them in exposing and condemning the active expulsion of Palestinians in the south Hebron Hills. This is a shameful policy that must end, and we join hands with our colleagues in Israel in condemning it.
Héctor Abad (Columbia)
Alessandro Baricco (Italy)
Julian Barnes (UK)
Sebastian Barry (Ireland)
Louis Begley (USA)
Nicholas Blincoe (UK)
Breyten Breytenbach (South Africa/France)
Peter Carey (Australia)
John le Carre (UK)
Anne Carson (Canada)
Michael Chabon (USA)
J.M. Coetzee, 2003 Nobel Prize in Literature (South Africa/Australia)
Michael Cunningham (USA)
Junot Díaz (USA/Dominican Replublic)
Roddy Doyle (Ireland)
Carol Drinkwater (UK/Ireland)
Dave Eggers (USA)
Deborah Eisenberg (USA)
Nathan Englander (USA)
Neil Gaiman (UK)
Juan Gelman (Argentina)
Linda Grant (UK)
Maarten ‘t Hart (Netherlands)
Seamus Heaney, d. 30.08.13, 1995 Nobel Prize in Literature (Ireland)
Aleksandar Hemon (USA/Bosnia)
Adam Hochschild (USA)
Oek de Jong (Netherlands)
Navid Kermani (Germany)
Mario Vargas Llosa, 2010 Nobel Prize in Literature (Peru)
Yann Martel (Canada)
Colum McCann (Ireland)
Ian McEwan (UK)
Suketu Mehta (India/USA)
Francesca Melandri (Italy)
Jose Javier Cercas Mena (Spain)
Herta Müller, 2009 Nobel Prize in Literature (Germany/Romania)
Ramsey Nasr (Netherlands)
Michael Ondaatje (Canada)
Orhan Pamuk, 2006 Nobel Prize in Literature (Turkey)
Robert Pinsky (USA)
Doron Rabinovici (Austria/Israel)
Philip Roth (USA)
Roberto Saviano (Italy)
Joe Sacco (USA)
Ingo Schulze (Germany)
Wallace Shawn (USA)
Jan Siebelink (Netherlands)
Shelley Silas (UK/India)
Rosita Steenbeek (Netherlands)
Ayelet Waldman (USA/Israel)
Israeli Writers’ Petition: Help Save The Palestinian Villages in the South Hebron Hills
For the past twenty years Israel has been actively expelling and displacing the inhabitants of the South Hebron Hills villages. These villagers have always practiced a unique lifestyle: most of them are cave dwellers and find their livelihood in sheep- and goat herding and small crop farming. Over these years they have suffered unceasing harassment by the Israeli army and settlers. Their dwellings are repeatedly demolished, water cisterns ruined and sealed, and their crops destroyed.
1,000 people, adults and children – in eight villages of an area that in the 1980s was declared ‘army firing zone no. 918’ – are now threatened with immediate expulsion from their hamlets. They live in constant fear, helplessly facing a ruthless power that does everything to displace them from the home they have inhabited for centuries. Now their plight is up for a last review by Israel’s High Court of Justice. We call out to those who are still able to listen: We cannot bring peace today. But the least we can do is to expose and condemn “small” local outrages. In a reality of ongoing occupation, of solid cynicism and meanness, each and every one of us bears the moral obligation to try and relieve the suffering, do something to bend back the occupation’s giant, cruel hand. In a place where there are no worthy people, strive to be a worthy person (Pirkei Avot -Ethics of the fathers). Should we not do even this very little? Signed by:
Yoram Kaniuk, z”l
Meir Shalev Zeruya Shalev
A.B. Yehoshua Nathan Zach