Protest against the Israeli wall: Artas (Bethlehem)

Protest In Artas Against The Israel Wall
Friday August 6, 2010 - George Rishmawi - IMEMC News 
The people of the village of Artas west of Bethlehem organized on Friday their weekly march against the construction of the wall on their land. Dozens of citizens, accompanied by international supporters, marched through the village to the construction site of the wall. Local sources said that Israeli troops operating in the area were taping the march. The marchers waved Palestinian flags and banners condemning the building of the wall on the farmers' lands. Awad Abu Swai, spokesperson of the popular committee against the wall and settlements in Artas, spoke to the crowd calling for unity among the Palestinians in order to face the Israeli measures of land confiscation and the construction of the wall.
http://imemc.org/article/5 9248


Sacrilege in the Bethlehem District Villages of Artas and El Walajeh




The State of Israel reached a new low recently through a series of demolitions of Palestinian holy sites. These acts of sacrilege occurred in the Bethlehem District, an area which has recently been subjected to increased levels of aggression by the Israeli government.

The Palestinian village of Artas, with a population of 2,684 people, is located to the south of Bethlehem (Figure 1) . Its most famous archeological site is an ancient monastery owned by the Catholic Church (Figure 2). The monastery was built in 1901, and was opened as a mission on November 12 of the same year by nine Uruguayan nuns. In 1903, with support from the Vatican, the nuns opened a clinic, a primary school, and an orphanage to serve the people of Artas and its surroundings. Up to this moment, the monastery helps the poor and the neglected in an effort to give them peace and happiness.

Figure 1
Location map of Artas village.




Figure 2Artas monastery owned by the Catholic Church.


On 24 January 1999, Artas witnessed excavation activity by radical Jewish colonists from the nearby Israeli colony of Efrat. Several colonists showed up with bulldozers and began digging into Artas land in an attempt to open a new by-pass road linking the colonies west of Artas to those in the east . They were heavily armed and threatened to shoot anyone who tried to stop them as they slashed into Palestinian soil, including the land of Artas' historic monastery (Figure 3). The Efrat colonists, under the protection of the Israeli military forces, demolished part of the monastery's stone wall and expropriated 30 dunums (1 dunum = 1/10 hectare) of its land (Figure 4). The monastery was exposed to similar harassment by the colonists of Efrat two years previously in an attempt to expand their colony. To prevent these activities, the nuns and village members marked the borders of the monastery by drawing crosses on all of its stone walls.



Figure 3: Damaged monastery wall.



Figure 4: Nun proving true ownership of monastery land.

The Papal mission in Jerusalem lodged a strong protest to the Israeli Foreign Minister following the Israeli confiscation. Moreover, 170 dunums adjacent to land owned by the Islamic Waqf are threatened to be confiscated. Tens of Artas families have been exposed to a continuous wave of harassment by the Jewish colonists from nearby colonies. They have already uprooted their trees and prevented them from reclaiming their land.

El Walajeh, a village of around 2,500 people located 10 kilometers southeast of Jerusalem, is surrounded by the Jewish colonies of Gilo and Har Gilo (Figure 1). This village has also been the target of recent acts of sacrilege by the Israeli government. On 12 January 1999, the Israeli police delivered a stop order for the emerging structure of a newly built mosque (Figure 5). Two weeks later, a demolition order was issued claiming that the mosque was built without a permit on land zoned for agricultural use.



Figure 5: Newly built El Walajeh mosque.

The people of El Walajeh challenged this decision, and continued building in a vow to resist any attempt to knock down the mosque. On 1 February 1999, the villagers rushed to complete the construction of the new mosque despite Israeli threats to demolish it.

Enthusiastic workers have completed the walls of the two-story structure and are preparing to place the roof on the 170 square meter building. In addition to the mosque, 37 Palestinian homes have received demolition orders which the Israeli government claims were built without proper authorization. The demolition of the mosque is frozen for the moment.

These destructive acts come in an attempt to construct an industrial zone and an additional 400 housing units for the Gilo colony. The confrontation over the mosque is only the latest in a half-century running battle between Israelis and Palestinians in the area, which lies on the 'Green Line' separating Israel from the West Bank. Over 2,000 demolition orders of Palestinian houses are currently outstanding, and the construction of more by-pass roads to serve Israeli colonies endangers the security of an increasing number of Palestinian families.

It is clear that even holy places are not safe from Israeli unilateral activities. These inadmissible acts of desecration to holy places are in total violation and contradiction with the prospects of human rights and a just and comprehensive peace.


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Jewish Voice for Peace: Action

Tell our Jewish Leaders: Denounce Israel's Increasing Oppression

The plan to build a mosque in the vicinity of Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan has predictably brought out a fresh wave of Islamophobia and calls to move the mosque elsewhere. Sadly, some of the Jewish organizations that are supposed to oppose bigotry have placed themselves on the wrong side of the issue. The American Jewish Committee, tasked with promoting democratic and pluralistic societies, has given its conditional approval for the building the mosque as planned, but only after equating Islam with terrorism.(1) The Anti-Defamation League--tasked with fighting anti-Semitism, bigotry and extremism--has called for the Manhattan mosque to be moved to a different location.(2) The Simon Wiesenthal Center, tasked with confronting bigotry and racism, also opposes the building of the mosque in its location.(3) Meanwhile it continues to build a Museum of Tolerance on top of a Muslim cemetery in Jerusalem.(4)

They are failing us in Manhattan. They are failing us in Jerusalem.

Jewish-American political writer Peter Beinart looked at the ADL's opposition to the mosque and connected the dots: "Indifference to the rights and dignity of Palestinians is a cancer eating away at the moral pretensions of the American Jewish establishment. Last Friday, in the case of the ADL, we learned just how far that cancer has spread."(5) In their public statements, the ADL and the AJC have counted the many ways they've come in defense of Muslims, be they in the US, Bosnia, Germany, France-everywhere except Israel and Palestine. They are unlikely to speak out if the Israeli Army follows through on plans to demolish a mosque in Jenin in the Occupied West Bank.(6)

Please sign our open letter to the leaders of the Anti Defamation League, American Jewish Committee, and Simon Wiesenthal Center, asking them to denounce Israel's increasing violations of human rights, dignity, and democratic values, including midnight raids on activists, media gag orders, crushing nonviolent protest, and silencing NGO's.(7) These American Jewish leaders are too often on the wrong side of issues and betray our Jewish values of truth and justice. Their blind support for Israel's government is leading them to engage in Islamophobia and support injustices, both here and abroad. We deserve better.


Sydney Levy

Jewish Voice for Peace

(1) American Jewish Committee Opposes Mosque Too, Aug 3, 2010 (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mj-rosenberg/american-jewis...), Build the Cordoba Center? Aug 2, 2010 (http://www.ajc.org/site/apps/nlnet/content2.aspx?c=ijITI2...)

(2) The Mosque at Ground Zero, Aug 2, 2010 (http://www.adl.org/ADL_Opinions/Interfaith/Mosque_Ground_...)

(3) Call to the SWC, Aug 4, 2010.

(4) Petition to Save Palestinians' Mamilla Cemetery from the Simon Wiesenthal Center's plans to Build over It (http://www.juancole.com/2010/03/petition-to-save-palestin...)

(5) Hateful Ground Zero Hypocrisy, Aug 2, 2010 (http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2010-08-02...)

(6) IOF gives demolition notices to a mosque and houses in Jenin, Jul 31, 2010 (http://www.globalpost.com/webblog/israel-and-palestine/io...)

(7) Take for example the case of Ameer Makhoul, a prominent Palestinian Israeli human rights defender, who was arrested in the middle of the night in front of his children, held without charges, denied a lawyer for 12 days, tortured, and then disappeared under a strict media gag order which was partially lifted after widespread protest.

You can read more about his case in a letter we sent to the State Department last week (http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article11431.shtml). Many other cases are documented here:http://theonlydemocracy.org/ for details.


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Jewish Voice for Peace: Open Letter

Jewish Leaders: Denounce Israel's Increasing Repression

Years ago, leading Jewish and human rights groups like the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, and the Simon Wiesenthal Center played critical roles in promoting the idea of universal rights. But tragically, this legacy has been crumbling for some time. Today, it is in danger of disappearing altogether. Israel is becoming more and more like a police state each day, while these leaders say nothing.

Ask American Jewish leaders to denounce Israel's increasing violations of human rights, dignity, and democratic values such as midnight raids on activists, media gag orders, crushing nonviolent protest, and silencing NGO's.


An Open Letter to the leaders of the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Congress, and the Simon Wiesenthal Center. 

Dear Abe Foxman, David Harris, and Rabbi Marvin Hier: 

As leaders of major Jewish organizations that defend human rights, democratic values and civil rights for all, you have rightly and vigorously condemned repression where it occurs around the world. 

That’s why your silence as Israel becomes more and more repressive each day deeply concerns us. 

As Israel uses anti-democratic tactics against Palestinians and increasingly, its own citizens, what will you do to stop it? 

Will you remain quiet while Israel rounds up its own citizens like Dr. Omar Said and Ameer Makhoul(1), who was arrested in the middle of the night in front of his children, held without charges, denied a lawyer for 12 days, tortured, and then disappeared under a strict media gag order which was partially lifted after widespread protest? 

Will you say nothing about the arrests of Palestinian nonviolent leaders like Omar Alaaeddin(2) and Abdallah Abu Rahmah(3); the lethal shooting with tear gas canisters of people like Bassem Abu Rahmah(4); the incarceration of Israeli Jewish nonviolent leaders like Ezra Nawi(5); and harassment of the members of Israeli peace groups like New Profile(6)? 

Will you stand by and allow legislation(7) to criminalize the human rights organizations that are the best representatives of Israeli democracy? 

We call on you to speak out against the repression of the civil and democratic rights of Palestinians and Israelis. We ask you to call for an end to the crackdown on nonviolent human rights activists and organizations, both in Israel and in the Occupied Territories. 

We are Jews and Muslims, Americans and Israelis, Christians and atheists, parents and grandparents. We are united by our belief that all people deserve equality and freedom. And like you, we each have a personal stake in a peaceful future for Israelis and Palestinians. 

We ask you to heed the words of Elie Wiesel who said, "We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented." 

We are waiting. 

(1) Ameer Makhoul is the director of "Ittijah," the network of Arab NGOs in Israel, and a human rights activist. Were a civil society leader representing a minority group in a democratic state to be arrested and tortured by his own government in any other state, we would count on our Jewish organizations to protest. 

(2) Omar Alaaedine's arrest and torture. http://theonlydemocracy.org/2010/03/torture-man-for-organizing-demos/ 

(3) Abdallah Abu Rahmah's Letter From Ofer Jail. http://theonlydemocracy.org/2010/02/abdallah-abu-rahmahs-letter-from-ofer-jail/ 

(4) Bassem Abu Rahmah's shooting. http://theonlydemocracy.org/2010/04/remembering-bassem-pheel-abu-rahma/ 

(5) Ezra Nawi's Website. http://freezra.org 

(6) New Profile's letter about their harrassment. http://theonlydemocracy.org/2010/02/letter-from-new-profile/ 

(7) Adalah on the proposed legislation to restrict NGO's. http://www.adalah.org/eng/pressreleases/pr.php?file=29_04_10_2

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