BDM Weekly

Fear and loathing, in the land of milk and honey

When Michael rows his boat ashore in the old camp fire song, across a Jordan River chilly and wide, he comes across a land of milk and honey.

These days, intensive water exploitation, industrial agriculture, sewage inflows, drought and regional conflict have narrowed the river to a murky trickle — a mere two percent of its flow in the mid-twentieth century.

And the indigenous inhabitants of this seemingly desolate but highly fertile landscape — the descendants of shepherds Michael might have greeted as he stepped out of his boat — are now the victims of land confiscation, property destruction and violent assault.

On a recent trip to the Jordan Valley, the Green Planet Monitor (where this post first appeared yesterday, with an audio story) visited several Bedouin communities threatened by Jewish settlements, and by Israeli soldiers and police tasked with protecting them.

The Jordan Valley comprises a quarter of the occupied West Bank. Ninety percent falls within “Area C” — the hefty slice assigned to Israel under the terms of the 1994 Oslo Accords, where Israeli settlements have been established, all illegal under international law.

Given its vast area, sparse population and generous water supply, the Jordan Valley is considered to hold vast development potential for a future Palestinian state, both in manufacturing and agricultural sectors. According to a study cited by Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, Jordan Valley resources could be parlayed into 200,000 jobs and a billion dollars in agricultural exports.

But Israel has vowed to retain the valley in any future “peace” deal, ostensibly for security reasons — although the Kingdom of Jordan, on the river’s eastern bank, has been a compliant ally for over two decades.

In reality, Israel’s insistence on retaining the valley reflects its long-articulated aim of increasing the Jewish population from the river to the sea, seizing as much land, containing as few Palestinians, as possible.

Towards this end, Israeli practices in the Jordan Valley are similar to those implemented elsewhere in the West Bank and annexed East Jerusalem: systematic denial of construction permits, demolition of non-permitted structures — including livestock sheds, homes, water cisterns and associated infrastructure — and denial of access to Israel’s electricity grid and national water network (to which illegal settlements are connected).

The cutting edge of Israel’s strategy in the Jordan Valley, as elsewhere, is its settlement enterprise. Over ten thousand Jewish settlers live in forty Jordan Valley settlements and outposts, Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem reports, citing 2011 data. Roughly the same number of Palestinians live in some twenty communities, three thousand of them Bedouin shepherds.

Settlements have “no legal validity” and constitute a “flagrant violation” of international law, UN Security Council Resolution 2334 declared in December 2016. Numerous similar declarations have been passed over the years, all of them ignored by Israel and unenforced by the international community. (Indeed, the US and Canada provide tax deductions to citizens who invest in settlements, and several top members of the Donald Trump administration are settlement benefactors.)

Jewish settlers are the sharpest edge of Israel’s expansionist wedge. The shock troops. Wherever they pop up, Israeli soldiers and police invariably follow. Most settlers are not violent, says Rabbi Arik Ascherman in this audio story. Some are. In a recent incident, Ascherman and a group he was leading near the Bedouin village of Auja, north of Jericho, in the central Jordan Valley, were set upon by club and knife-wielding “settler youth.”

Settlers are rarely arrested or prosecuted for violent acts they commit

Earlier this month, Ascherman and Ta’ayush activist Guy Hircefeld guided a dozen Israelis from Tel Aviv and Jerusalem on a tour of the northern Jordan Valley, where several outposts have popped up since 2016. Israeli soldiers tailed the group, blocking their path in a couple of locations and threatening to arrest them on a public road.

Near the Palestinian village of Ein al-Beida — a half dozen kilometers south of the Green Line separating the northern West Bank from Israel, just west of the Jordanian border — they met Palestinian shepherds now boxed in between the illegal outpost of Um Zukha and an adjacent army base. The scenario is familiar: Settlers harass them, sometimes violently, and then the army steps in, ostensibly to separate the two sides. The area is then declared a “closed military zone,” and the Palestinians are detained for good measure.

Soldiers and settlers typically carry on like chums. Young and on brief tours of duty in the area, soldiers often receive guidance and instructions from settlers and local security personnel, themselves ex-soldiers.

In the Jordan Valley, encounters of this sort typically revolve around water — a seemingly scarce but actually plentiful resource, says Hircefeld in this audio story. Jewish settlements and outposts receive the lion’s share of life’s most vital resource.

In the past, a large aquifer beneath the Palestinian village of Bardalah has fueled local greenhouses and cattle production. But in response to complaints from nearby Mehola settlement, the state water utility, Mekorot, has been combing Bardalah and neighboring villages for “illegal” water connections, accompanied by the Israeli army. In early June, Palestinian greenhouses packed with fruits and vegetables, near Bardalah and Bet She’an, along the Green Line, had their water supply cut. Formerly self-sufficient Bedouin villages must now truck in water.

Meanwhile, spring-fed watering holes have become points of friction between indigenous Bedouins and Jewish colonists who consider these lands God-given. Earlier this month, beside a watering hole where Ein al-Beida residents water their cows, a half dozen settler youth lounged around a table in the shade of a tree. Two of the soldiers who’d been trailing the Ta’ayush group stood by and watched.

“We are here to protect the civilians — you and everybody,” an Israeli soldier told the GPM, gesturing toward the Jordanian border, several kilometers in the distance. “You have to have security when you’re coming here.”

“You’re fucking liars!” Guy Hircefeld yelled at the soldier, who’d professed to know nothing about this being Palestinian-owned land. Hircefeld recently showed soldiers an Israeli Supreme Court ruling that the watering hole and 5000 surrounding dunums belong to Palestinians, he says. Army, settlers and Israel’s Civil Administration [lead occupation authority] have ignored the ruling, says Hircefeld.

“They know everything,” Hircefeld fumed. “But they are liars, they are thieves, and they are miserable. These are our fucking soldiers.”

“You don’t understand it right,” the soldier responded, when asked to confirm that Palestinians own this land. “I get orders and I follow them.”

“You were there! You were there! You were with me! Why are you lying?” Hircefeld shouted back. “This is what they teach you in the army? To lie? Eh? Eh?”

“He’s always angry,” the soldier muttered, when asked to respond to Hircefeld.

Hircefeld walked away in a huff. “[Palestinians] have been living here for ages. Like, forty, fifty, some of them one hundred years here,” he says in this audio story. “And suddenly, fucking Jewish settlers are coming and saying ‘That’s mine, you don’t allowed to come here anymore. And the army protects them. And the police protect them. It’s part of the system.”

Up the road, at a blue-green, reed-filled watering hole where Palestinian-owned cattle bathe and drink, when given the opportunity, we spoke with a man from Ein el-Beida who walked kilometers to get here. For the past five years, he and fellow villagers have been forbidden to bring their cattle here, and are only doing so today because Jewish activists are accompanying them. Soldiers say it’s a closed military zone, all the while allowing settlers to come here with their own cattle, the Bedouin says.

“Every day we have problems,” says the shepherd.Schermata 2017 06 27 alle 22.30

Up the road from the watering hole, a military jeep sits and waits. If the activists were not here today, the soldiers would have already arrested everyone, leaving the villagers’ cattle to be rustled by local settlers, says the shepherd.

Later, the Ta’yush group sets out for a visit to Um Zukha settlement. An army jeep blocks their way, so Arik Ascherman leads the group up a rocky hillside for a commanding view of the settlement and surrounding valley. The People of Samra village used to live up here, says Ascherman. Then the outpost arrived, followed by an army base, and so now shepherds graze their sheep in the valley. Settlers continue to harass them.

Why can’t Jewish settlers live in peace with Palestinian shepherds, I ask? There’s so few of them, and so much land.

Rabbi Ascherman turns to theology for an answer. “I believe God gave us this land, as a sign of the covenant,” he says. “But there are things that are more holy than land. And it is the human being that was created in God’s image, and not the land, as holy as the land may be. But these people are so blinded by the holiness of the land of Israel, they can no longer see God’s image in the Palestinian shepherd.”

For Guy Hircefeld, the explanation lies elsewhere. We’ve come to the village of Jiblik, between Jericho and the northern Jordan Valley, where Israeli occupation authorities recently bulldozed a cattle shed and home belonging to a man and his six month-pregnant wife (after cutting off the water supply), in order to help the couple re-build.

“It’s sadistic and racist,” says Hircefeld. The controversial comments of Major General Yair Golan, Deputy Chief of Staff of the IDF, during last year’s Holocaust commemoration, come to Hircefeld’s mind.

“This is the way Israel acts. Like Germany in the Thirties.”

Listen to the audio story here.


Mouse over to stop the sequence and click to enlarge the Image


Trump Breaks With White House Ramadan Tradition

Ramadan wasn’t recognized in the White House with an iftar or Eid celebration for the first time in nearly two decades, The Washington Post reports.

A holy month of fasting between dawn and dusk, prayer and introspection for Muslims, Ramadan was observed from May 26 through June 24 this year. Muslims break their daily fast by sharing meals with family and friends before dawn and after sunset, referred to as iftar, and the end of Ramadan is celebrated with a three-day festival known as Eid al-Fitr, one of Islam’s major holidays.

“Muslims in the United States joined those around the world during the holy month of Ramadan to focus on acts of faith and charity,” a statement from the White House read. “Now, as they commemorate Eid with family and friends, they carry on the tradition of helping neighbors and breaking bread with people from all walks of life. During this holiday, we are reminded of the importance of mercy, compassion, and goodwill. With Muslims around the world, the United States renews our commitment to honor these values. Eid Mubarak.”

President Thomas Jefferson started the tradition in 1805 when a Tunisian envoy to the United States, Sidi Soliman Mellimelli, was in the U.S. during America’s conflict with the Barbary States. Mellimelli was observing Ramadan and Jefferson invited guests to join him for a dinner served at sunset. Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama had also recognized Ramadan.Schermata 2017 06 27 alle 22.26

Germany: Turkish Guards Wanted in U.S. for Brawl Unwelcome During Erdogan's G20 Appearance

German Foreign Ministry takes stand against entry of security guards who brawled with protesters in Washington last month

The German government says it doesn’t expect to see Turkish security agents accused of attacking protesters in Washington during President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to the upcoming Group of 20 summit in Hamburg.

Germany is hosting the leaders of the G-20 powers July 7-8. Police in Washington have issued arrest warrants for a dozen Turkish agents accused in last month’s incident.
German Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer said Monday he could “assume with a good conscience that these people who have been incriminated by American judicial authorities won’t set foot on German soil in the foreseeable future, including during the G-20 summit.”

Schaefer wouldn’t confirm or deny an unsourced report in the Welt am Sonntag newspaper that his ministry made clear to Turkey the bodyguards weren’t welcome.

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Iran's Foreign Minister Calls on Europe to Help Solve Gulf Crisis Through Dialogue

Javad Zarif said the countries who blamed Iran or Qatar for terrorism were trying to avoid taking responsibility for their own failures in addressing the demands of their own people

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called on Monday for Europe to use its influence to defuse tensions in the Gulf where Saudi Arabia and its allies have cut ties with Qatar.
Iran's President Hassan Rohani has voiced support for Qatar in its confrontation with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain who accuse Qatar of supporting Islamist militants, an allegation Qatar denies.
Mainly Shi'ite Iran and Sunni Saudia Arabia have long been at loggerheads over religion and political influence across the Middle East.
In a speech in the German capital, Zarif said the countries who blamed Iran or Qatar for terrorism were trying to avoid taking responsibility for their own failures in addressing the demands of their own people.
"One day it's Iran, today it's Qatar," he said. "It's an attempt to evade responsibility, escape accountability for this very fundamental ... failure of the state system to address, to respond to the demands of its populus."
Zarif argued for a new regional dialogue forum for the Gulf countries and called for an end to the armaments spiral in the region, which he said influenced some Western countries' relations with states in the region.
"When foreign policy becomes a commodity, then purchasing military equipment becomes your yardstick for measuring who is a terrorist or who isn't a terrorist," he said.
"This reinforces a cognitive disorder in our region that security can be purchased from outside, that security can be purchased by trying to buy more military equipment," he added. "What is needed in our region is a regional dialogue forum."

ReutersSchermata 2017 06 26 alle 22.11

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  • A UN report has shown that more than 65 million people were forced to leave their home countries last year, becoming refugees due to deadly conflict. The top nations from which refugees fled have one thing in common, they were
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  • East Jerusalem is occupied by Israel. It is also illegally annexed. It is also illegally separated from the rest of the West Bank by an illegal wall. In Jerusalem, Israel boasts of 220,000 illegal Jewish settlers settled on land confiscated from 300,000 Palestinian residents who are
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Video of the Week Interview with Miko Peled is an Israeli-American activist

Video: Miko Peled is an Israeli-American activist who dedicates his life in support of human rights and a desirable and lasting peace between Israel and Palestine. Son of a former Israeli general, author of the book "The General's Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine," Miko has the courage to publicly denounce what others prefer to deny, and several times arrested during his demonstrations alongside the Palestinian people, He has no doubt about the solution to the Middle East question.#SAVEPALESTINE

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