Sunday, May 31

Another murder on Yefet Street

Saturday evening, 21.00, enjoying a mellow evening with my friends and their kids, while trying to do some work on an article, gotta deadline coming up.

A few hundred meters from where we sit, shots on Yefet Street, 2 young men are hit, one of them dies a little later in the hospital. The other, lucky, one was wounded.

It has become so common, most newspapers do not even mention it. Another murder, another young life finished, Jaffa, who cares?
Well, we do care. The murder victim belongs to one of the prominent families, but that didn't help him very much. I know this family, my heart goes out to them.

As usual there's a lot of border police around on Jaffa's streets today.

Friday, May 29

About to be thrown out on the streets: mum & 5 young kids

I recall watching a TV program based on a story by Dickens when i was a child. Some years ago i read a book "Angela's Ashes". In both cases i recall having a sort of feeling of appreciation, that at least "these things no longer happen that way today". Ahem, well, they actually do happen today.

R. is a divorced mother of 5 young children, living in Jaffa. Her husband married twice since leaving her and left both other women with children as well. He refuses to pay alimony and R and her kids are dependent on social security payments, which add up to about 2.700 NIS a month. (about 600$ for her and her 5 kids)
Her rent is 2.300 NIS. This is the monthly rent for a tiny living room and 1 bedroom, both heavily stained by fungi growing on the wall and ceilings due to humidity problems. The roof and walls leak badly when it rains. R. has NO shower (it is blocked up so badly that it cannot be used, the owner refuses to carry out the necessary repairs) and the kitchen has no drain. So buckets are used for that purpose. Showers are taken daily at friends' and neighbors' place.
The house owner belongs to a very wealthy family who own many flats in Jaffa. They love money. For them every hovel is "an investment". For their renters it's "home". But a home that doesn't look like nor feel like a real home.

R. receives rental aid of about 600 NIS monthly. Which leaves her unable to provide for her and her kids. She is behind with the rent and the house-owner has informed her he will evict her this week, as he wants his money.
Riki is desperate to find a flat, but there is nothing she can actually afford. Her kids go to a nearby school, so the area (Ajami) is of some importance.
If any of you know about something available, please let me know.

But R. is just one case.
There are many like her. There is a big request for small rental flats, as many families cannot afford to buy. This has left the flat owners with the option to make money. And they do. Disgusting hovels that do not earn the name "flat", go for amazing rental prizes. Some people have gone to live back home with their parents, but for many one parent families dependent on welfare (and not only for them, also many families living on a minimum wage cannot afford the rent) this option does not exist.
The right to a roof above ones head is a basic human right and Israel has signed different international agreements concerning this right, yet that is as far as it goes.
We are quickly heading towards a housing disaster and no one seems to be caring a great deal.

The Tel Aviv municipality committee on affordable housing caters to the 7nth percentile, couples who earn some 11.0000 NIS monthly. For them the municipality wants to build rental housing in which they can live for 5 years, for a monthly rent of 2.800 NIS.
Weird, as after all these families can afford to rent good flats on the private market with their income. Also they can get a mortgage to buy. Whereas lower income families (and that includes employed many poor whose salaries are simply too low) find themselves living in substandard conditions (i personally know a family with 8 kids to live in 1 room) , unsafe housing for which they pay very high rents.
They same municipal committee for affordable housing assumes the ministry of housing provides adequate solutions for people making less by subsidizing rent and providing public housing to the very poor. Do these guys live on the moon?
Or is it official policy: providing incentives for the well to do to live in Tel Aviv and actively kicking out the less well to do and poor?

Tell R. about their ideas. And perhaps tell her also where these presumes solutions are. After all the waiting list for Halamish public housing is 12 years....

R. will be out on the streets any day now. Her houseowner cannot but be defined as just another leach. We tried to talk to him, but all he is interested in, is money. He claims he can get $ 1000 monthly for his disgusting hovel. And he is probably right, as people are desperate.

How stupid can the thought police get?

The short answer? Very, very, very stupid.
And dangerous.

I'm relating of course to the "Naqbe" law, which, if passed, will forbid Israeli citizens to undertake public activities in commemoration of the Palestinian catastrophe, the Naqbe.

Democracy includes the freedom of expression and freedom of the press. According to the proposed law, indicating "Naqbe Day" will be a criminal offence. Israel has never really been a true democracy according to accepted international standards, but the current government are showing their true and very ugly face.

The law proposal is supported by the minister of justice, Yacov Ne'eman as well as by the minister of education, Gideon Sa'ar. When similar racist law proposals were suggested a few years ago, they would be judged as racist and non-democratic by the knesset's legal councellor and find their way to their proper place, the nearest garbage can.

I don't think we can ever create a true peace with the Palestinians, if we do not recognize their catastrophe, when the majority of them became refugees and lost almost all they had. By making the very mentioning of the Naqbe an offence, we are creating yet more distance from a true peace agreement. And it is not the politicians who will be paying the price.
All of us will do so. Everybody's blood is red.

Wednesday, May 27

Bribing your way around Jaffa

The story is out on the streets and it is bad as in VERY BAD.
The great Mahmoudiah Mosque is a Jaffa landmark. Constructed in the late 18th and early 19th century on the site of a much older mosque by "Abou ElNabout" the lovely 2-domed high minaretted building is part of the Jaffa skyline when coming from the north. It also serves as Jaffa's central mosque for Friday prayers.
Next to it is the "Kishle", the old Turkish jail and police station, to be turned into a hotel. The hotel managers or owners want to add several floors (which will throw a heavy shadow on the mosque's court yard and change the Jaffa skyline for ever, as well as create a completely different atmosphere in this very lovely area) and it appears the owners may have tried to bribe someone in the Jaffa Muslim Council so the mosque will take back their opposition to the hotel owners' plans.
Bribing with major, big money.
The relations in the Muslim community aren't the best, and this may well make things worse.
In a time the Jaffa community needs to be unified against the settlers and gentrifiers, the bribe story (if it is true) couldn't come at a worse moment.

Roots and Uprooting - the Case of Abou Seif

For three days the police have been uprooting trees in the Abu Seif orange grove in Jaffa. Supposedly in order to search for drugs. None have been found so far, but many trees have been uprooted in the process.
I find it rather hard to imagine how one can hide anything underneath a fully grown tree, unless it was done, when that tree was planted some 20 or more years ago. Which, in the case of hiding drugs, wouldn't make a whole lot of sense.
A whole lot of sense is not what characterizes the Jaffa police in particular, but even they.... So there must be another reason behind this blatant destruction of private property of the Abou
Seif clan in Jaffa and the search for drugs (none have been found after three days of destruction) is a mere pretext for something else.
Harassment as part of the show of "i am stronger"?
Or perhaps the trees bother the police from observing what's going on the inside the Abou Seif grove?

Olive tree uprooting tactiques from the occupied territories have been imported into Jaffa.

Wednesday, May 13

What about, perhaps, Emile Habibi Square?

Today the municipality is going to name the main entrance square to Jaffa in the name of one Joseph Carmel, a property tycoon who reportedly donated some money to the Tel Aviv municipality.

Yet again the municipality makes an effort to wipe out Jaffa's Palestinian character. Why not name the square for.... Emile Habibi, author, thinker, and politician as well as Israel Prize recipient for literature?
Or perhaps, simply, Seraya square, in commemoration of the Seraya (the Otttoman municipality building) or Farid El Atrash Square (in name of the great singer and oud player beloved by both Palestinians and many Jews) or.... there are so many options.
Or "Mahmoudiyeh Square" in honour of the great Mahmoudiyeh Mosque located just off the square?
The round about square is located on the historical entrance (or exit: it was from here all taxis left for Beirut, Damascus etc. prior to 1948) of Jaffa, at the northern end of the clock tower square.
Ron Huldai, the mayor, spoke about correcting historical errors.
He continues making them.

Tuesday, May 12

Extremist settlers in Ajami, will they ever stop?

Not too long ago a "hesder" yeshiva was opened in Ajami, in an old synagogue that had been standing neglected for some 40 years. Neglected, because the Jewish community of Ajami had left to better neighbourhoods (better at the time they left, when Ajami was one of the worst slums) and there simply was no need for a synagogue. The Jews (some 20%) still living in Ajami are predominantly secular.

Palestinians and Jews in Ajami live together, quite peacefully enjoying a relation of good neighbours. My very devout Muslim neighbours have the key to my flat, in case they need to get on the roof (which can only be reached through my home) or, more often, in case i loose my keys or forgot to water the plants on a very very hot khamsin day. We often meet for a coffee to exchange the latest gossip or a good cake recipe (usually followed by and exchange of the sweet results).
We dance at marriage parties and weep at burials, rejoice in the birth of yet another daughter or son. We each have our sources of good olive oil, za'atar and the best coffee and share those, while bragging ours is just that little bit better. Neighbours.
Enter the yeshiva. Let it be said, i have nothing against religion. However, i do have a problem with religio and its institutions being abused as tools for justifying violent acts and racism.

After the disengagement from the Gaza strip, many of its expelled settlers started to see the mixed (Arab Jewish) cities (most of Israel is very segregated) as the "next front" for nationalist activity. They do not hide their ideology. Just go to their websites.
They are also supported by Lieberman's fascist ideology and extremist right-wing Jews from the US and elsewhere.
They claim they want to "strengthen the weak and threatened Jewish communities". If so, why didn't they select Yafo Gimmel, which indeed is a weakened, predominantly Jewish neighbourhood.
In Yafo gimmel, there are many ppor Jews, recent and not so recent migrants from the ex soviet union territories and Ethiopia).
Instead they selected Ajami, where there is no Jewish community to speak of and the few Jews living there tend to be well educated and economically strong and yes, also secular (some having a strong cultural and or ethnic Jewish identity) and having little interest in this particular yeshiva's brand of fundamentalism.
The very well-funded yeshiva is buying up property wholesale, in expensive Ajami, for its community, intending to turn Ajami into a religious Jewish community. Disregarding ofcourse that its Palestinian residents have no reason to close their shops and restaurant businesses on shabat, their best business day and the Jewish holidays.
The settlers like to walk around in groups, carrying flags and making a nationalist show of themselves, in absolute disrespect of the feelings of their neighbours. Part of their behaviour appears to be aimed at provoking violence, perhaps to convince more peope like themselves to come and "save" Jaffa.
Save from what? It exsists only in their imagination and ideology. We have no need of "being saved".

Last week they won a tender for a piece of public land very close to my home. Publicly owned land, which should have gone to the Palestinian community, from whom it was stolen in 1948, (and once more some 4 years ago, when the municipality closed the market which functioned on that particular piece of land) and with whom there is a legally binding agreement to construct 400 public housing units to solve the very bad Palestinian housing situation.
Yet the land went to an ultra religious building society who sell land only to religious Jewish families. Imagine a group of ultra nationalist whites in the US buying up publicly owned land in the middle of a poor black community and then selling the land only to selected similarly minded whites who publicly proclaim they want to turn the community into a whites only area.
Non-religious Jewish friends of mine contacted the company and asked if they could buy a flat. in the project. They were refused as flats are only sold to "our people".

Well, that's what is happening in Jaffa, in Ajami.
And it is happening in all the mixed cities: in Ramle, in Lod, in Acco and in Haifa.

We have seen the horrid results of this type of activities in Acco, when the homes and cars of several Palestinian families were torched by Jewish extremists.
In Acco, as a result of these actions, most Arab families left their nice homes in the middle class "Mizrach" neighborhood, scared for their lives after the days long progrom carried out against them by a mob of some thousand crazed "religious" nationalists encircling their homes for hours, until the police and the ambulances were able to save them.
It happened last year.

The Jaffa yeshiva receives support from the municipality and other offical state institutions. We are not talking about a small bunch of crazed idealists but about a very well-organized ,coordinated and well funded country-wide effort (with international financial support), aimed at creating a separate society. In other parts of the world they would call it "apartheid".

Are we next?

Wednesday, May 6

The murderer from Bi'lin

The people from Bil'in have been struggling against the wall for a long period of time now. Although the Israeli high court of justice judged in their favour, the construction continues.

The people from Bil'in in cooperation with the internationals and Israeli human rights activists hold weekly peaceful demonstrations to protest the construction opf the wall which is cutting off the vilage from its agricultural lands.
The IDF has shot at the (peaceful) protesters again and again and again, usually using so-called "non lethal" weapons such as rubber bullets (metal balls covered with a thin layer of rubber) and extreme distance gaz cannisters.
The only problem: when you shoot these from a short distance at someone's torso (as is the habit of the "most moral army" in the world, the IDF) they become very very lethal.
Several people have been very badly wounded and some have been killed, Bassam among them.

If you recognise the guy in the image, please send the info to palcrimes (at) so he can be prosecuted for murder.

Monday, May 4


A truly furious hot sand-particle carrying wind is blowing in from all directions. I live between the sea and a high-rise building, the latter one causing this very strange turbulence.
By now, inside my house, now much is covered by a thin layer of Sahara or Saudi desert dust. No use dusting until the storm is over. The weather forecast talkes about the khamsin cooling off in the late afternoon.
I suddenly have this image, like the pyramids before their excavation, all of Tel Aviv Jaffa covered by sand dunes, the dessicated Azrieli tower remains barely sticking out, the only remains of a failed & wartorn civilization long gone.
Archeologists trying to decipher the remains of a menu card of the restaurant that once was on the topfloor of that strange edicifce. Arougola 105? A deity? A punishment for insulting the babyleaves god? Or perhaps somethig not unlike the Tel El Amarna tax records where ancient clay tablet taxrecords show there once was a harbour town, Jaffa (Ya-Pu) , paying taxes to the Egyptian pharao.

Friday, May 1

Hasta la victoria siempre - May day in Tel Aviv

Over one thousand people marched from south Tel Aviv's Florentin's community garden plot to Rothshild Boulevard, in a red-flagged first of May demonstration.
Upon arrival at Rothshild, several speakers raised their voices in favour of solidarity amongst workers and against the capitalist and racist approach of the current government.

Among the speakers were the chairwomen of the Open University's labour committee (who have been striking against their terrible employment conditions for over two weeks now) and of the labour committee of the "Andaluse" orchestra, who have not received a salary for over 4 months now. A students rep as well as a representative of the fired train employees (fired because they are Arab's) , social workers as well as Knesset member Dov Khenin spoke about the price paid by Israel's working poor as well as the unemployed.

The somewhat ceremonial ending included the singing of the "Internationale", with Dov Khenin susanboyling it, he's got a good voice actually and he knows the lyrics, unlike some of his audience.


קום התנערה עם חלכה
עם עבדים ומזי רעב
אש הנקמות הלב ליחכה
לקראת אויב היכון לקרב
עולם ישן עדי היסוד נחרימה
מגב כפוף נפרוק העול
את עולמנו אז נקימה
לא כלום אתמול מחר הכל

זה יהיה קרב
אחרון במלחמת עולם
עם האינטרנציונל
יעור ישגב אדם!
זה יהיה קרב
אחרון במלחמת עולם
עם האינטרנציונל
יעור ישגב אדם!

רק לנו עמלי כפיים
רק לנו עמלי היקום
האדמה וברכתיה
ולכל הולכי בטל לא כלום
אין רב ריבנו ומושיע
לא אל, לא מלך, לא גיבור
בזרוע נטויה נבקיע
אנחנו דרך אל האור

זה יהיה קרב
אחרון במלחמת עולם
עם האינטרנציונל
יעור ישגב אדם!
זה יהיה קרב
אחרון במלחמת עולם
עם האינטרנציונל
יעור ישגב אדם!

עבור הדרור ופדות הרוח
ופרוק העול מגב העם
לבה האש והך בכח
כל עוד ברזל עודנו חם
וכי רעם אבדון יריע
על ראש אויבינו להומם
עלינו שמש דרור תפציע
לשפוך את זוהרה החם

זה יהיה קרב
אחרון במלחמת עולם
עם האינטרנציונל
יעור ישגב אדם!
זה יהיה קרב
אחרון במלחמת עולם
עם האינטרנציונל
יעור ישגב אדם!