Palestine Updates 27/2017
Editorial CommentMuting prayers is denying religious identity and ritual
Israel seeks to enact another law in violation of religious freedom
The Knesset (Israel’s Parliament) has got into bizarre ways of late. It has introduced and approved a plethora of laws that dehumanize the Arabs. Legal luminaries around the world have called Israel’s pattern of discriminatory law making absurd and clearly in violation of international human rights standards.In 2012, Adalah, the legal center for Arab minority rights in Israel, published a report, The Discriminatory Laws Database, which collected and analyzed more than 50 laws “enacted since 1948 that directly or indirectly discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel in all areas of life.” Each of these laws was passed, as a report states, with discriminatory intent, and have been managed in a discriminatory manner. The big problem here is that these legal provisions can hardly be fixed because discrimination is inherent in Israeli law. It is, after all, a state that characterizes itself based on ethnicity. If you are not Jewish, you cannot be Israeli in the real sense of the word.
In 2016, Adalah identified five major rights concerns: forced displacement, discriminatory laws, ‘shoot to kill’ policy, education and employment gaps, shrinking civil society space. Each of these now has particular affect on Palestinian citizens of Israel.
Last week the Knesset went one step worse. It has now taken steps towards bringing into force a law aimed at muting mosque calls to prayer in Jerusalem and Israel. Israel now seeks to silence the sound of prayer! Detractors deem the law both as racist and a contravention of the right of worship. Worse, they deny the very Arab Muslim presence. A Palestinian member of the Knesset, called the bill “a declaration of war… between sanity and racism” against Israel’s Palestinian minority; while another simply termed it as “committing a racist act”. Anger was palpable among the Arab lawmakers and one of them was ushered out of the after he tore up a copy of the bill into bits. Israel is employing subtle ways to appropriate the Palestinian identity through this law and its practice.
As expected, Israel has muscled public support for its cause. Those who support the bill say that they want their precious sleep minus the early morning calls to prayer through loudspeakers mounted on minarets. Those who see through these arguments call the legislation redundant and say they are clearly aimed to infringe on the basic rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel, the majority of who are Muslim.
The bill must be seen as not just another racist bill targeting Palestinians…But unlike any of the other laws that infringe on our basic rights, this law specifically targets Muslims. Arab Muslims now view this bill as another colonialist tactic denies their de facto existence. Israel has always tried to camouflage the Arab narrative of its colonization. This law unpeels the covering.
International condemnation has been swift. Jordan and Turkey disapproved and separately condemned the bill. A spokesman for Jordan’s government termed the legislation a breach of its legal obligation in the peace treaty of 1994 peace treaty which obliges Israel to “respect” Jordan’s role in taking care of Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem. Turkey’s Presidency of Religious Affairs termed the bill “unacceptable”, adding that Muslims in Jerusalem would read the call to prayer together in defiance.
Palestinians make up 20% of Israel’s population- an estimated 1.7 million Palestinians – comprising Christians, Muslims and Druze. The call to prayer has been a part of Muslim culture since the rise of Islam and a part of Jerusalem since Arab presence was established in the region.
Israel has sought to soften the impact of the social and political consequences arguing that the restriction applies only to the call to prayer at dawn, known as the ‘fajr’. It was planned to be functional during all prayer times. It was softened when ‘haredi’ parties (a broad spectrum of groups within Orthodox Judaism who reject post modern secular culture) realized that this very law could also be used to silence the Shabbat sirens which announce the beginning of the Sabbath each Friday.
The only exception that applies is that it will not apply to areas including the al-Aqsa mosque, Islam’s third holiest site and located in a compound in Jerusalem’s walled Old City. But a violation outside of defined areas will attract a 10,000 shekel ($2,700) fine.
Palestinians have stated their intent to reject the law. Hamas forewarned “stiff resistance…Our people and nation will raise the Azan all over the world.” The Palestinian Authority has expressed its opposition as well, with chairman Mahmoud Abbas warning the bill “would drag the area to disaster.” Ahmed Tibi (Joint List), an Arab-Muslim Israeli politician and leader of the Arab Movement for Change (Ta’al), an Arab party in Israel has called for people to disobey the law.
Arab Parliament calls Britain to cancel 100th Anniversary of Balfour
The Arab Parliament Speaker will send a letter to the British House of Commons to cancel the 100th celebration of Balfour Declaration, as it provokes the Arab world especially amid Israel’s constant rejection for all peaceful solutions for the Palestinian Cause and the establishment of the State of Palestine. A request will also be submitted to suspend Israel’s membership in the International Parliament. He also warned from the dangers of threatening Arab national security driven by conflicts and wars in some countries, mainly in Syria, Libya, and Yemen, which affect the stability and security of the Arab world.
Two travel bans and a con of democracy
Democracy under the barrel of a gun
Donald Trump banned refugees and residents of some Muslim-majority nations as one of his cornerstone initiatives. To make America safer, he claimed!! Almost simultaneously, the Knesset approved a law barring supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement from entering Israel. The Israeli parliament voted to ban non-Israelis from entering the country if they, or any organizations they are a part of, support the boycott. A message on its site: “In recent years calls to boycott Israel have been growing. It seems this is a new front in the war against Israel, which until now the country had not prepared for properly.”
It’s time for civil disobedience
Senior Christian Priest in Ramallah Monsignor Manuel Musallam yesterday severely criticized the Palestinian Authority (PA)’s security cooperation with Israel which has led to the death of tens of Palestinian resistance fighters in West Bank. Musallam declared: “Oust the PA, its security cooperation and the Oslo Accords which brought it…“Do not accept its role and start practical measures to get rid of the conceptions related to collaboration and tyranny.”
PA must serve Palestinians not play to the international gallery
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas gave a speech to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) this week which provided another example of inflated rhetoric which serves to derail any possibility of liberation. At a time when the two-state imposition is being refuted collectively, Abbas is distancing himself from collective Palestinian expression and aligning himself permanently with colonial intent through generalized statements which are void of meticulous discernment.
When co-existence becomes a demographic threat
“Ana mish politi” — I am not political. So declares the character of Kareem, a Palestinian rapper and protagonist of the film Junction 48. For Palestinians, Kareem explains, being political is not a choice.
Tamer Nafar, the musician-turned-actor who stars as Kareem in the award-winning movie, performed the song “Ana mish politi” live at Israel’s equivalent of the Oscars, the Ophir Awards, in 2016. “Hummus, salad, chips on the side, you like to eat at our restaurants — this is coexistence!” he sang. “But when I bring too many of us to the restaurant, coexistence turns into a demographic threat!”
Nafar concluded his powerful performance by holding his clenched fist high in the air in a Black Panther-style salute. The rapper also read a poem by legendary Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish. Israel’s far-right government was furious. Extreme right-wing Culture Minister Miri Regev stormed out of the ceremony in a rage.
Ashrawi meets with the International Labour Organization delegation
An ILO fact-finding meeting visited Palestine to gather research and information for the ILO Director-General’s annual report. Dr. Hanan Ashrawi provided a “thorough assessment of the latest political developments and Israel’s continued efforts to destroy the very foundations of the two-state solution by means of its illegal settlement enterprise, the deliberate demographic, cultural, religious and political transformation of Jerusalem, and its persistent demolitions of homes and cultural institutions, among other flagrant violations of international law and Palestinian human rights”. The delegation was made aware of the “dire economic situation in Palestine” and agreed that institution and nation-building cannot succeed without addressing the root causes and measures to end the military occupation.
Militants, moderates in Hamas collide on ‘from the river to the sea’ narrative
Of all the players involved in the Middle East’s most entrenched and bitter conflict, few would have seen Hamas as a champion of compromise. Ever since its creation in 1987, the Palestinian Islamist group has ruled out any negotiations with Israel and the establishment of a Palestinian state ‘from the river to the sea’. But Ashraf al-Ajami, a former minister for prisoners’ affairs in the Palestinian Authority, suggested last week that Hamas may be about to re-write its 1988 founding charter and support a Palestinian state within the so-called 1967 borders, the demarcation between Israeli and Palestinian land that existed before the Six Day War.