Friday, February 12

Ajami, ethnic cleansing one step further, unless the high court stops it

Last Wednesday judge Zafet of the Tel Aviv district court heard the case of 28 Jaffa residents (honesty demands to say that i'm one of them) against the Israel Land Administration and the Be'emuna company who won the tender for a piece of land right in the middle of Ajami. Originally Palestinian owned, declared "absentee property" and finally "publicly owned" and sold by the Israel Land Administration by tender to the highest bidder, the Be'emuna company. Until here everything has the appearance of "stinking but kosher" according to Israeli law. We were represented by lawyers Gil Gan Mor and Dan Yakir of the Israel Association for Civil Rights.

Until a few years ago, our market took place on the plot. The market was closed by the municipality for no reason (or so it appeared at the time) and no other plot was offered for the purpose of creating a new market, leaving us, the Jaffa population as well as many people from Bat Yam and Tel Aviv, as well as small farmers from the central area of the country, without a cheap  fresh food market, a true necessity in an impoverished area such as Jaffa. 

Yet the Be'emuna company is NOT just another building company out to make a good profit. They marketed the flats planned on to be constructed by them on the Ajami plot, to the members of one very specific group only: Zionist religious Jews. They put it bluntly on their website, but just to make sure, we also called them, interested in buying a cheap flat on their plot. Not very surprisingly, we were refused. Private companies can sell to whom they like, but NOT when the land was previously publicly owned, as in this case and according to the "Ka'aden" high court ruling.
The company's efforts are part of a well orchestrated and funded, much larger effort to expel the Palestinian population from the shared Palestinian and Jewish towns and cities in Israel. It appears that after the disengagement from Gaza some of the settlers and their colonially minded friends decided settling in the West Bank was no longer an ideological necessity for them. Instead they decided to address Israel's mixed cities with their racist ideology. The process is under its way in Accre, Lod, Ramle, Haifa, Nazareth Elite as well as in Jaffa. And there is nothing friendly or innocent about it.
We are talking about a concentrated effort to "replace" the original Palestinian residents with Jewish ones; Not to live together and share our cultures but to expel the Palestinians from their homes and "Judaize" the area.

During the previous sessions the judge had made remarks which led us to conclude that he is not as impartial as he should be. Therefore we asked him to dismiss himself, which he refused.

The verdict was sent to us yesterday afternoon: not surprisingly the judge decided in favor of the colonialist project.

We will have to appeal our case to the Supreme Court.

Sunday, February 7

A dead dog, police and a few kids: Ajami the sequel?

Yesterday a dog was killed  in a car accident in Ajami. It happens. The dog's owner, a kid from Ajami, did what people do when a beloved pet dies: bury it.
The child and some of his friends buried said dog, crying. Close to the beach and close to the place where the dog had been killed by a quickly driving car.

But right in the middle of the burial ceremony a police car passes by and this is where and when things start going wrong. Kids burying something in Jaffa? Drugs, of course drugs!. The over zealous policemen jump out and run  towards the unsuspecting children.
The kids explain it was a dog they buried. But the police were sure they made a catch and start arresting the crying and terrified children. Tony and Geries Cobti, two guys from Ajami, who watched the scene from their nearby home, go down into the street order to talk to the policemen and explain the misunderstanding.

The Cobti brothers are well known in Jaffa. Both are highly educated sons of a school principal, in short, good kids. University (Technion) graduates with good jobs, nice guys. And yes, they were also involved in the production of their brother Scandar's movie "Ajami".  But to the police they are simple "Arabs from Jaffa".

And being a Palestinian in  Ajami classifies you automatically as "criminal" and "drug dealer". So the brothers were arrested.
Then, some other cocky policemen came to dig up the "drugs", but all they found was the corpse of a dog. Oops. So what do they do? They do the thing the police always do: claim the brothers attacked the police. 

Usually that claim works wonders. Many kids from Jaffa have some sort of a record. A few juvenile mistakes, and as a result they can be presented to the court as "withered criminals". The court tends to believe the police and many Jaffans cannot afford a lawyer when arrested. So the accusation of "attacking a police man"  sticks.  And people have done jail time for that offence.

Only this time the police made a small mistake. The highly educated and well employed brothers have no record, are from a strong family of movie making fame. And then there is that dog corpse. 

In addition, the arrest was carried out right in front of press photographer Muhamad Babai's home so there is evidence to the contrary.

In this case every one in Jaffa knows the accusation is yet another attempt by the police to justify their performance in Jaffa. The accusation won't stick this time, i expect.
But what if the brothers were not of Ajami fame, as happens so often? What if it had happened in some dark corner and not in front of Babai's camera?
How many others have been arrested,. tried and found guilty of crimes they never committed?