Tuesday, July 28

On chasing humans

The migration police was/is at it, once again, chasing refugees and labor migrants in order to expel them.
And, legally speaking, anyone who gives shelter or otherwise assists "illegal aliens" , can be tried and sent to jail for up to 20 years!. Although i suspect the law is meant for traffickers, it applies to anyone assisting an "illegal alien". I wonder if it applies to the social workers of "mesila", the municipal social services agency for migrant laborers, to the volunteer teachers of the "noar oved velomed" youth movement, who run a wonderful educational project for migrant and refugee children in Jaffa, to the teachers of the Bialik rogozin school where many of the migrant and finally to myself, as i am part of a project of volunteers who go out and try to warn migrant laborers and refugees whenever the police carry out their nasty hunt parties.
When ever we hear about the hunt activities, we come quickly and notify people in the area to be careful. We also make photographs of the activities, so people can familiarize themselves with thefaces of the undercover migrant police and stay out of their way as much as possible.

Today it was my turn. I got an SMS message and was off. The area of the central bus-station. By now the migrantion ;olice have become aware of our presence so they try to trick us, by diverting us to "non-actions" while the real "hunt" takes place in the next street. But this was no game. People are being hunted down, imprisoned and sent back to countries where they may be in severe danger.

Small children, many of them born here, who have never known any other place can be jailed and eported to a place they do not know. Loose there parents in the case of parents coming from different countries.
Yet at the same time the country brings in more and more migrant laborerers, through private labor agencies who make huge amounts of money on each migrant worker.

Corruption and a disregard for basic human rights go hand in hand.

Sunday, July 26

The shakshuka method

Miki Rozental and Ilan Aboudi made a documentary film exposing the alleged abuse of wealth and power by the Ofer brothers, called "The Shakshuka Method".
The Ofer brothers are the owners or main shareholders of various companies, some of which were sold to them by the state below their actual value, so it seems. Some of these factories are heavily poluting the country, yet nothing is done against it. As they are also media owners, it's very difficult to say anything against them. We are not talking about "slight" polution, but about truly poisoning the country and affecting our health.
Miki Rozental and Ilan Aboudi have been sued by the Ofer brothers, who started to threaten them with a lawcase even before the movie was finished.
The lovely brothers have also been doing everything they can to prevent the movie, which was finished about 1 year ago, from being screened. Miki (and Ilan maybe too) are facing a 3 million NIS lawsuit and Mati Shmuelof has started an interesting online campaign to assist the movie makers in their legal defence. Even if they win, having to fight such a lawsuit in court is very expensive for the moviemakers.
the Ofer brothers are among the 20 rich families in the country and their relation with the political elite appears to be very problematic. Money buys power and big money buys control.

The Ofer brothers also donate to hospitals etc. in order to make a "nice" impression. (Donations are recognized for tax purposes, so it is worthwhile donating: you receive a lot of free PR and pay less tax).

The "Shakshuka method" (which has hardly been screened) will be screened by channel one this tuesday, July 28, at 20.30 . It will be followed by another film, made by the Ofer brothers as a reaction.
It should be noted that the "Yes" channel, who partially fuded the making of the movie, copped out after the makers refsued to carry out modifications in their movie as demanded by the channel. One wonders why...

I guess i have to find someone with a TV. Youtube shows only bits and pieces.

Monday, July 20

The Etrog market, a temporary victory

The Israel Land Administration has been legally ordered to not hand over the 20 appartment plot on Mendes France street to "beemuna", the contracter who wants to sell only to nationalist religious buyers.
The Association of Civil Rights in Israel appealed the sale of public land to the ultra right wing group on behalf of the Jaffa Coalition of Organizations protecting the land and housing rights of the Palestinian community.
As a result the sale has been -temporarily- frozen. A small victory in the fight against gentrification and land theft!

Saturday, July 18

jailing and deporting kids

The reorganized migration police have made their anouncement; as of the end of this month they will be arresting kids, send them to jail and deport them.
There is something so evil and amoral about it, i am at a loss for words.

The little girl in the photogrph was born here, her parents fled Darfour. What rights does she have? Israel signed and ratified the international charter on the rights of children, but who cares?

Some do: Today a few thousand people, both migrant laborers, refugees and veteran Israelis met for a demo & happening in the Levinsky park next to the Tel Aviv central bus station. Politicians and activists as well as many families with their kids met to demonstrate against the cruel and unusual measures that are about to be taken by the Israeli ministry of the interior and the migration police.
Other nasty measures they want to introduce or enforce: In addition they want to return refugees at the border, an act which may literally endanger their lives as Egyptian soldiers have been known to shoot at the refugees. Also they will not allow refugees to live in the central area of the country and in Eilat, although that is the area where all the services are centred and where there are job opportunities. Not too long ago our parents and grand parents were refugees. Is our memory THAT short?

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Wednesday, July 15

Chasing humans on the garbage-mountain, oops, in the Jaffa "Midron" park

Lately i have been taking early morning and late evening walks and runs in our brand new "midron park", usually topped of by a serious work-out in the open air free gym and a water drinking pause at the very end of the deck, above the huge evening waves crashing just below (and sometimes all over me, allowing for a salty cooling shower). During the cool eveing hours the northern, almost finished part of the park (which isn't open ye, but trust Jaffans to find a way in) many hang around, with fresh grapes, watermelon, drinks, surrounded by their kids running wild on the green grass ans sandy slopes. Thus, on my way back, there is always someone offering me a drink or sweet cool fruit.

Although not yet finished, the park is a true blessing, inspite of its sorry story, as it is also the grave of Palestinian Jaffa: When the Palestinian homes of Jaffa were demolished, their rubble was thrown on the Ajami beach, just south of the Jaffa harbour. Soon all kinds of junk followed the rubble. The underworld also quite loved the location for getting rid of suspicious "materials" of all kinds from cars used in robberies to body parts and drug stashes, weapons, explosives, you name it.
Thus, a huge rubble mountain was created, called "the garbage mountain". Only a very small part of the original beach was left; the "Jabaliyah beach, not known to most Tel Avivians.
The municipality intended to create an artifical piece of land and construct villas and other housing for the very well to do, in order to "uplift the level of the local population".
The Jaffa community, united for the first , them to court and won. The rest is history. A park was to be created, and a small part of the beach was restored as well.
And, the truth, the park is great. OK, there is a lot of water-using soft green grass (irrigated with de-salienated sea water, i have been told) but that makes for great picknicks and games. The open air gym is already popular, so for once, thanks, municipality, thanks mishlama. What started out as destruction , turned into some sort of a blessing.

But blessings is not what this story is all about.
The new homes of the ultra rich in Ajami, are being constructed by "illegal" workers, mostly from the territories. Low pay and horrid labor conditions are all part of the ugly game of labor relations in construction. Nothing new there. On large construction projects you'll mostly find Chinese and Romanian labor migrants. But when constructing oriental style villas, you need stone masons for the creation of arches and arabesques: Palestinians from the occupied territories. They work hard and receive low pay, the risk is mostly on them. The conditions in the occupied territories are so difficult, many of tem have no choice, but to come to Israel and work here in order to provide for their poor families.
Yesterday the border police carried out a manhunt for "illegal" construction workers. Some of them gt away, quickly running to wherever they could hide. In some cases, sympathetic locals, both Palestinians and Jews, helped to hide them, feeling uncomfortable and perhaps guilty with the man hunt going no in their now quite fancy neighborhood. after all, the police are not chasing criminals, but people whose only crime is wanting to provide for their families through hard physsical labour few Israelis are willing to do.

The hunt went on for many hours. Until sunset, or so we thought.
On may way back from my run, quite late, almost midnight, i saw them, again, border police and soldiers carefully going through the park. Searching.
When going out running i only carry water, no id. But they weren't looking for me and the likes of me. The man hunt was still on.

Tuesday, July 14

Boycot cellcom...

i guess u have to admit being their client, however, there must be a way to get away from that obnoxious company.

The cheapy cell phone company is using the separation wall as part of a campaign

Time to find another company and now that i can keep my old number, maybe it is a very GOOD time to do so.

Lotsa' luck, or, almost a catastrophe

Eleven year old Inserah was watching her favorite summer TV program, when a huge block of concrete fell down right next to her.
The ceiling in the family's living room, in fact the whole buildng on Jerusalem Boulevard, is about to come down.
The walls have deep cracks through which the sky can be seen. Whenever a heavy truck passes by, bits and pices come falling down in a never stoppping snowy shower.

Then flat is owned by "Halamish", the municipal public housing company.
Halamish KNOW about the danger and in fact have approved a move to another flat. But, and this is where burocracy starts, they cannot move.

Samira, Inserah's mother already cleaned the new place. They are already paying the electricity bill for the new place, yet their move has not been fnally approved, because the family owes the municipality money. They are willling to pay but no one knows how much (and that includes the municipality itself).
For years the family has received municipal tax bills for a flat in another building and never for the flat they actually live in. (mind you, they never ever lived in that other building). Their waterbills were equally mysterious: their use is always "0" but they are charged HUGE bills for public use in their building. It appears they are paying the bills for "super shuk Avi", the supermakret downstairs.
For over 6 months they have been writing to the municipality asking to settle their own bill. The correspondence has gone up higher and higher in the hierarchy, until last week they appealed to the mayor, Ron Hulday. To no avail.
They met with the general manager of Halamish, who approved in my presence actually, that they move to the new place.
Yet until now the move has not taken place.... As they are not allowed to move until having settled their municipal bill, which they are unable to because no one appears to know what it is.

Te letter to the mayor contains a simple sentence stattng the family sees him personally responsible of something happens to the family. Today that almost happened.
What are we waiting for? Until the house collapses?

Saturday, July 4

There are no illegal children

A deep feeling of shame overtook me, at seeing the kids from Darfour, who may be arrested, imprisoned and deported any day now, during the demonstration against the newly formed deportation police and the terrible policies adopted by the current government. Small children, some of them were born here and know no other country.
They are fluent in Hebrew and attend Israeli schools. Their schoold friends joined them in the demo, their innocent faces serious, while upholding placards stating "we want Mozes back in our class" and "Don't deport our friends".

Perhaps 100 - 12o Israelis and foreigners stood together at a busy crossing in downtown Tel Aviv protesting the actions undertaken by the newly formed private police force that has one aim: deport foreigners from Israel. Even if they may be killed in their countries of origin.

In order to make their sick task easier, another law was passed making it a crime to assist "illegal" foreigners in any way. In fact an NGO volunteer or employee who e.g. brings food to a shelter, teaches Hebrew or voluntarily represents a refugee in the migration court can be send to jail for 20 years!

Ofcourse many of us will take the risk, but it will make aiding more dangerous and difficult. And less available. The foreigne workers in Israel and their families are weakened statusless people.
The state has now instituted a special police force with one aim "getting rid of them, but hook or by crook". After all, the worst they can do to us is jail us. But deportation is an entirely different thing.

I feel a deep shame, anger and frustration at what is happening. But i also feel a deep fear for Israeli society, there is something so evil and immoral about arresting and deporting a small child. A society that is able to undetake such an act is seriously and deeply flawed.

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Shooting in the 'hood

Almost asleep a 1 this morning reading a book but only partially grasping (tired after a nice shabat dinner with my friends), three gun shots, from the direction of the drugdealer's house on the corner. It's really close by this time.
No shouts following the gunshot sound, a sign that they were perhaps warning shots from a passing car or motorcycle, no wounded.
I fell asleep, until being woken up once more around three; This time it's a long volley of automatic gunshot fire coming from the opposite corner, really loud, right underneath my bed room window more or less.
Followed by shouting, male and female voices.

I can hear my neighbors on their roof top. I go out on to the roof balcony as well. The night air is pleasant and cool, unlike the humid heat earlier on. There is swearing and shouting. Someone must have been hurt, i suppose.

We talk a little from rooftop to rooftop and go back in again.
Last week one of the neighbors tried to strab another neighbor' suspected of having damaged the drugdealer's car. The whole 'hood was out on the street and the wanna-be stabber was stopped, while his prospective victim escaped into his home, located oppostie my house. I wonder if there is a connection.

Back to sleep once more.

Demonstration against the new migration police activities and the crazy "aid to illegal aliens act"

Today, saturday the 4th at 20.00 at the corner of Ben Zion and King George street in Tel Aviv, there will be a demonstration against thepolicy, the cruel treatment and the activities of the new migration police and the Israeli government.

The new policy doesn't only entail incredible cruelty against one of Israel's weakest groups: refugees and labor migrants, victims of modernday slavery and trafficking but also those who help them!

According to the new law any Israeli citizen who helps a "illegal alien" in any way, faces up to 20 years in prison.
Thus the volunteers of the various NGO's who bring clothes and food to the shelters, provide Hebrew lessons, free legal and medical aid etc. have been defined as criminals by law, facing worse prison terms then e.g. rapists, thieves, bribers, you name it.

Hirschenzon, the previous minister of finance, who robbed several millions from the healthfund and non profit org he managed, was sent to prison for less than 10 years this week.
Yet those who volunteer in NGO's that extending assistance to "illegal aliens", may face 20 years for that activity.

This country is VERY VERY sick. It is OUR responsibility to change that. To heal. Please come to the demo today

Thursday, July 2

Israel's old new hate police: privatization of a dangerous force

Yesterday they carried out their first action, by rounding up "illegal aliens" in the area of the central bus station in Tel Aviv. They made use of a private bus company, Alant, to transport the arrestees to a private prison. I'm amazed at how easy it is to privatize "services" dealing with very basic rights, such as freedom. Not just amazaed, also scared. Private goons carrying out private justice.
According to the Ministry of the interior there are about 250.000 foreigners without a permit residing in Israel. Some are victims of trafficking, others refugees from Darfour or Eritrea, yet others laborourers from China or the Filipines who ran away from the slave like conditions under which they were made to live and work for much less than the minimum wage (which already is very low).

A few years ago the migration police was established and then abolished in order to be replaced by a private police force operated by the ministry of the interior as of yesterday. The private police force are not bound by the rules that bind the regular police.

Yesterday they carried out their first action and their spokesperson "promised" its continuation. They do not care if a refugee might be in danger. They have also stated they will not respect the unofficial agreements between NGO's school and the migration police which held that no arrests would be made around the school areas, the free clinic and other NGO's assisting the labour migrants, refugees and victims of modern slavery. In fact the new police force stated they would actively search those areas, because that is where those without rights receive their services.

Their spokesperson has also informed the public they will arrest and deport children. A very large part of the children were born in Israel. go to Israeli schools and speak predominantly Hebrew. They have never been to their parents' country (or countries, when parents come from different areas of the world, there are quite a few "mixed" children) and are not familiar with their parents culture(s).
The arrest and deportation of children stand in direct opposition of various international agreements the country has signed. Yesterday parents with children were warned to leave the country within one month, if not, they will face arrest and deportation. Arresting babies and toddlers, little schoolchildren? This place is seriously sick.

A new witchhunt is on its way targetting Israel's weakest groups with modern and forceful means.

However, one needs to look also at the larger picture. The new police force is private. It is used against the weakest of weak population who cannot risk protesting. But at the same time, society gets used to the idea of an "efficient private police". I expect it will only be a matter if time until this force will be used against others, Israeli citizens as well.
So long democracy.....

Arnon Giladi is at it, once more

Arnon Giladi, likud representative in the municipal council, sent around a hateful letter full of half truths and pure lies concerning the Siksik mosque.
The guy who in the past stated in an interview with "Ha'Ir" that Jaffa should be "judaized" (imagine someone in the states saying the neighborhood should be "whitened") is actively looking for trouble.

His compaints made Gilad Peled, head of the Jaffa governance, the "mishlama leyafo", the mini-municipality so to say, run to the mosque accusing the mosque people of all kinds of crimes aacording to the illegal construction and squatting laws. After all when Arnon Giladi accuses someone, it should be taken seriously.
However, in the end, after having been shown the mosque peoples' paperwork, Peled had to admit being wrong. Giladi has not yet done so.

One wonders what Arnon Giladi's real interest is.

In the mean time, tomorrow, friday, a large group of praying people is expected to attend the prayers at the Siksik mosque, now under full renovation.

I took a little time to go to the municipal archive and dig up some "goodies". There is lots of paperwork showing without doubt the ownership of the "Siksik Waqf", and one presumes Giladi as well as Peled to be aware of that. A waqf cannot legally sell a mosque according to Israeli law, which actually protects the standing of a mosque as a religious building (theoretically at least).
As the municipal papers show without any doubt, the mosque is owned by the Siksik waqf, therefore Giladi should back off and offer his apologies.

The municipality intend to create a public road next to the mosque for which they have appropriated land next to it. On the land are historical buildings. It would be a pity to break down these buildings. The area is very lovely.
BUT the mosque land has NOT been appropriated. Giladi should shut up, in stead of accusing the Jaffa Muslim community of crimes they have not committed.

Naomi Klein in Jaffa

This saturday, July the 4th at 11.11 o'clock, Naomi Klein, author of "the Shock Doctrine", which has been published by the "Andalus" publishing house in Arabic and in Hebrew, will speak about her book at the Jaffa Arab Hebrew theater.
The meeting will be followed by a discourse on the boycot of Israel as a peaceful and legitiate tool in the struggle for a just peace in the Middle East.