More Palestinian Expulsions

By The Other Israel

January 25, 2000

Dear all

A campaign by a coalition of human rights organizations, peace groups and prominent writers succeeded in lifting a curtain of obscurity. The expulsion of 300 Palestinians from their cave homes at the southern margins of the West Bank in November 16, 1999 - which had gone practically unreported at the time - has now become an issue in the media and even on the cabinet agenda; a new petition by several hundred Israelis is due to be published tomorrow. For more information, see the translated article of Uri Avnery from today's Ma'ariv, which appears in the end of this message.

To maintain the momentum, we ask of you - whether in Israel or abroad - to once more flood Barak's email and fax.

For example:

Dear Prime Minister Barak

I call upon you to let the 300 Palestinians - expelled on November 16, 1999 - return to their homes in the Yatta area, on the occupied West Bank.

(You can get the text of a more extensive sample letter from ICAHD activist Susi Mordechay, or, of course, make your own.)

Please, write to:

Prime Minister and Defense Minister Ehud Barak
The Office of the Prime Minister
Kiryat Ben-Gurion, Jerusalem, Israel
Office Phone: 972-2-566-4838;

Assistant Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh
Ministery of Defense
Ha-Kirya, Tel Aviv, Israel
Phone: 972 3-697-7155/416; Fax: 972-3-697-6990;

and send bcc's to, and to

Thank you.

Ma'ariv, Jan. 25, 2000


by Uri Avnery

To the Speaker of the Knesset, Mr. Avraham Burg.

Dear Sir,

Thank you for inviting me - as all other former members of the Knesset - to take part in today's ceremony of planting trees on Tu B'Shvat (*). I am sorry that I must inform you that I shall not take part in a ceremony that looks to me like an exercise in hypocrisy, after what I witnessed this week.

(*) Tu B'Shvat, the 15th of the month Shvat according to the Jewish calendar, is the Jewish "New Year of the trees".

Last Friday I was invited by B'Tselem, the human rights organization, to come to the Hebron area in order to take part in another Tu B'Shvat ceremony. Two hundred peace and human rights activists came there, in the extreme cold, to plant olive trees together with the Palestinians who were evicted during the last weeks from their homes.

These homes are caves, where for generations the poorest of the poor have been living. In these crowded caves, lit only by dim oil lamps, big families live together with the sheep, that are their only possession, in conditions hard to describe. After their brutal eviction, many of them live in tents in the cold and the rain. We went there in order to lift their spirits, bringing with us olive saplings and also some warm cloths.

On the way, we were stopped by the army. As usual, we were informed that the area has been declared a "closed military area" and that we were forbidden to enter. After a long palaver, we were allowed to go to Taweni village, where some of the evicted are staying, on one condition: We were not to bring with us any saplings. Policemen and soldiers searched our cars meticulously. An activist who tried to smuggle in one single sapling was caught and the sapling confiscated. A lieutenant-colonel supervised the action.

Thus we learned hat the planting of an olive tree is a dangerous terrorist activity. Tu B'Shvat, so it transpires, is a feast for Jews only, and even Jews are forbidden to observe it together with Palestinians.

It is easy to blame the settlers. Barak's people pretend that the eviction of the cave-dwellers was a necessary balancing act, after Barak has heroically removed one Jewish family and one trailer from a hill-site nearby Ma'on settlement. Three hundred Palestinians, so it seems, are the equivalent of one illegal Jewish settler.

What we see is the classical spectacle of "good cop, bad cop." The settlers are the bad guys, Barak is the good guy who is compelled to yield to pressure.

With all due respect, I don't buy that at all.

Whom do these poor cave-dwellers disturb? It has been argued that the area is an army firing range. But the army has never used it. In many other places, areas has been designated as shooting ranges as the first step towards the eviction of the Palestinian inhabitants and the setting up of a new settlement.

It has also been argued that the cave-dweller are violated the law by moving there without a permit. But, as a matter of fact, they have been living there for many generations.

On the same day, the seven most important Israeli writers (David Grossman, Haim Guri, Sami Michael, Amos Oz, Daliah Rabikovitz, A.B. Yehoshua, S. Yis'har) published an open letter to the Prime Minister: "Hitting the weak does not add to the glory of the army. This is not the way you, sir, have educated the soldiers. This is not what we thought of when we learned, as children, the parable of the poor man's ewe lamb." (**)

( ** A story every Israeli child learns in Bible class. 2 Samuel 12.)

But Barak knows exactly what he is doing. Some days ago he said that with the approach of peace, the Palestinian enemies of peace can be expexted to increase their terrorist acts. But on the ground, something else is happening: With the approach of peace, Barak himself is increasing his efforts to evict the Palestinians from the areas he wants to keep.

It is enough to look at the map. The area of the caves is located some five kilometers from the Green Line. In this area, close to the former border of Israel, the settlements Carmel, Ma'on, Sussia and Matsadot-Yehuda were created. This is one of the "settlement blocs" that Barak intends to annex to Israel, tearing off some 30% to 50% of the West Bank. The settlers act here, as everywhere and always - as agents of the Israeli government, even if from time to time some small family quarrels arise between the government and the settlers, concerning timing and tactics.

In view of these annexation plans, it is understandable that an olive sapling is considered at least as dangerous a weapon as a bomb.

Mr. Speaker, while all this happens, the Knesset looks on as a silent bystander, thus becoming an accomplice. Therefore, I shall not take part in the parliamentary performance of the Tu Be'Shvat planting.

The Other Israel is the newsletter of the Israeli Council for Israeli-Palestinian Peace
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