Louis Bohtť, onze vorige voorzitter, schrijft ons vanuit Bethlehem
 

Beste mensen,

Vrede en alle Goeds.

Bethlehem, 11 juli 2010

 foto's

Afgelopen zondag is het kapittel van de custodie begonnen met een bijeenkomst voor alle broeders in Dominus Flevit, de plek waar Jezus gehuild heeft over de stad Jeruzalem. Je hebt daar inderdaad een mooi uitzicht over de oude stad. Er was een gebedsdienst en daarna een gezamenlijke maaltijd. Maandag begon het echte werk. Donderdag was er een tweede bijeenkomst voor alle broeders in het cenakel, waar Jezus zijn laatste maaltijd hield op de donderdag voor zijn sterven.

Gisteren is het nieuwe bestuur gekozen. De meesten van hen ken ik wel. Alleen de Mexicaanse medebroeder is nieuw voor mij, maar hij is dan ook directeur van een school op Cyprus. Een grappig detail was de gefaxte brief met het bericht van het nieuw gekozen bestuur. De faxdatum was 11 juli en de brief zelf was gedateerd zaterdag 9 juli.

Afgelopen zondag was ik aan het eind van de morgen ook in Jeruzalem om met de Amerikaanse medebroeders de Amerikaanse Onafhankelijkheidsdag te vieren, tevens de verjaardag van de president. Maar ik begreep, dat ik niet alle medebroeders een plezier zou doen hen hiermee te feliciteren.

Tussendoor bezocht ik de familie van ímijní knul en hoorde, dat hij een eigen fiets in elkaar gezet heeft voor weinig geld. Een paar dagen later kwam ik hem op de fiets tegen, tussen Al Doha en Deheishakamp. Hij was blij.

Zijn zus is toegelaten tot haar masters aan de Al Quds universiteit in Abu Dis, aan de oostkant van Jeruzalem. Haar onderwerp is interessant: Psychological and Educational Counseling.

Maandag had ik overleg met Hajj en Jabra om lijnen uit te zetten voor de hiphop. Jabra is een vraagteken. Een punt is, dat zijn familie naar de VS willen verhuizen. Ten tweede wil hij overgaan van de orthodoxe kerk naar de katholieke kerk en priester worden. Voor mij is de vraag Ė en die heb ik hem voorgelegd - waarom hij die stappen wil zetten. Ik vind het in ieder geval belangrijk, dat zijn relatie met zijn familie goed blijft.

Dinsdagmorgen kreeg ik via een chat een uitnodiging voor de diploma-uitreiking voor een computer cursus van WIíAM een paar uur later. WIíAM heeft tegenwoordig haar centrum vlak bij de muur. Tot mijn vreugde zag ik Omar, die ik als kind al ken en die nu een jongeman is, daar werken. Hij heeft een blinde oom. Toen hij nog zien kon, zag hij mij met hem spelen en hem rondzwieren. Als ik zijn oom nu zie, verwijst altijd naar die tijd.

ís Middags bezocht ik Ahmed. Het bleek dat morgen en overmorgen feest is vanwege het trouwen van zijn oudste zoon, Mohammed. Maandagavond is er het vrijgezellenfeest en dinsdag de bruiloft. Ik kreeg een uitnodiging voor beide feesten.

Woensdagmorgen had ik een afspraak met Daud Nassar, die een centrum heeft, dat Ďtent of nationsí heet. Het licht buiten Bethlehem niet ver van de weg naar Hebron en omringt door nederzettingen op een heuveltop. Ik zocht naar een mogelijkheid tot samenwerking, waarbij Hajj en Jabra bij hem kunnen optreden. Dat is mogelijk tijdens de afsluiting van een zomerkamp. Ik hoop dat het lukt. Hieraan gekoppeld probeer ik een geluidssysteem voor hem te regelen via de Duitse journalist JŁrgen Hobrecht, die van half december tot half maart hier was. Om de specificaties te weten te komen ben ik vrijdagmorgen met mijn musicus John naar hem toegegaan. Voor John was het de eerste keer, dat hij daar kwam.

Woensdagmiddag was ik in de naaiwinkel en zag de nieuwe generatie Sleibyís aan het werk, twee neven van een jaar of twaalf.

ís Avonds was ik op het Kribbeplein tijdens de voetbalwedstrijd Spanje Ė Duitsland. Enkele kleine kinderen kwamen naar mij toe om rondgezwierd te worden. Dat zag een jongeman, die naar mij toe kwam en kennis maakte. Vervolgens gaf hij mij een kruisje. Hij is een Moslim. Hij zwierde ook met een jongen rond.

Omdat ik een jonge vrouw hielp met haar studie voor de zomersemester, had ik een uitnodiging voor een lunch op vrijdag gekregen. Zij woont in Artas, een dorp, dat aan de andere kant van de heuvel ligt, waar tegenaan het Deheishakamp is gebouwd langs de weg naar Hebron. Het was een gezellige maaltijd. Na afloop liet een oom van haar kassen zien waarin een soort komkommer geteeld wordt. Het was er erg warm.

Ik kreeg ook iets over de samenleving te horen. Mij werd verteld, dat sinds 15 jaar de omgang tussen de mensen achteruit gegaan is. Hetzelfde verhaal vertelde Mike van de souvenirwinkel mij.

Mike vertelde mij een keer ervoor, dat de Russen , die naar IsraŽl komen, een vast omlijnd plan hebben. Zij blijven volgens hem hier tien jaar, krijgen dan een IsraŽlisch paspoort, waarmee zij vervolgens naar Europa of de VS gaan om hun toekomst verder op te bouwen. Zij oijn over het algemeen orthodoxe christenen. Dit verklaart voor mij wel de grote toestroom van Russen, die de taal niet leren en het gestage vertrek van IsraŽliŽrs uit IsraŽl.

Vrijdag was ik ook bij de familie Al Azza. Juist toen ik er was, werd er water geleverd, dwz dat er druk op de leiding kwam. Mensen moeten vervolgens een motor aan de gang zetten om het water in huis te halen in grote vaten. De fam. Azza zitten echter aan het eind van de leiding. Hierdoor krijgen zij geen water binnen. Buren zijn niet bereid iets van hun water af te staan.

Een vergelijkbaar verhaal vertelde Mike mij gisteren. Zijn buurman krijgt wel water, maar hij niet. ís Avonds vertelde Lawrence, dat bij de melkgrot ook al een tijd geen water beschikbaar is. Afgelopen winter is er veel regen gevallen, maar IsraŽl controleert het grondwater en de Palestijnse Autoriteit doet niets om het probleem op te lossen. Nu schijnt er een plan van de EU te zijn om dit euvel over een paar jaar op te lossen.

Gisteravond was ik bij Jack op bezoek. Zijn vrouw is overgebracht naar een zorgcentrum in Ramallah, waar zusters de leiding hebben. Zij is nu in goede handen. Vandaag gaat hij met zijn kinderen Shukri en Razan haar bezoeken.

Van Husam hoorde ik een verhaal over de politie. Hij was met twee vrienden ís avonds laat nog op pad en zaten ergens langs de Kribbestraat, toen een politie auto stopte en gebood naar de auto te komen. De manier, waarop dit gebeurde, zinde Husam niet en hij weigerde. De politie ging dreigen, maar hij was niet op zijn mondje gevallen en wees op zijn rechten. Uiteindelijk bond de politie in.

Vanavond is dan de voetbalwedstrijd van het jaar. Merkwaardig is hoe een octopus mensen kan bezighouden.

Ik voeg nog twee aanhangsels toe: de eerste gaat over een academisch boycot, waar een groep van IsraŽlische professoren voor pleiten. De tweede omvat drie artikelen, die ik van Tikkun geplukt heb: over de ontmoeting tussen Netanyahu en Obama, over de noodzaak voor IsraŽl een nieuwe politiek te voeren en tot slot over het ontnemen van het recht aan Palestijnen uit Oost Jeruzalem daar te blijven wonen, die niet loyaal aan IsraŽl zijn.

Groeten uit Bethlehem,

Louis Bohtť


De foto's van deze week

Education Minister defends decision to penalize Israel professors who back boycott

After petitioned over matter by hundreds of academics, Sa'ar says: Supporters of boycott are harming academic freedom.

By Or Kashti and Haaretz Service

"The only people harming academic freedom in Israel are the lecturers who call for a boycott of Israel," Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar told Israel Radio on Thursday.

Sa'ar's words came in response to a petition signed by 542 Israeli professors and academics calling on Sa'ar to not to carry through on his stated intention to take action against professors who support an academic boycott of Israel.

"If the higher education system in Israel wants to maintain a high quality it must also include opinions that are not acceptable to everyone, social and political criticism, and critical and even controversial research and instruction," the petition states.

Sa'ar said on Thursday that he would not backtrack on his plans and called the petition "hysterical" and "an attempt to silence contrary opinions."

The petitioners are "harming the institutions for which they teach and are funded by the citizens of Israel," Sa'ar said. "The question here is if there are absolutely no limits. Let's get rid of the double standards. Can everything be placed under the cover of academic freedom, including murder incitement?"

Petitioners include Haifa University rector Prof. Yossi Ben Artzi, Israel Prize laureates professors Benjamin Isaac and Yehoshua Kolodny, and former education minister Prof. Yuli Tamir, who is now president of Shenkar College of Engineering and Design.

The petition was initiated by the Forum for the Protection of Public Education.

Haaretz reported a few weeks ago that Sa'ar vowed to punish Israeli professors who back an academic boycott of Israel.

"When an Israeli academic preaches for academic boycott he crosses a red line," Sa'ar said at the time, adding that he discussed taking measures - mainly disciplinary - against these professors with the head of the Higher Education Council's Planning and Budgeting Committee.

Sa'ar added that he would also discuss such measures with the heads of the academic institutions directly.

The petition states: "We have different and varied opinions about solving the difficult problems facing Israel, but there is one thing we are agreed on - freedom of expression and academic freedom are the very lifeblood of the academic system."

"Israeli academia will suffer great damage if politicians dictate to it what is right and wrong to say, think, research and teach, and force it to adopt that kind of criteria for admitting, promoting or rejecting researchers and professors. Your statement about intending to use your authority to act against professors who support an academic boycott of Israel are causing just such damage," it says.

The petition also makes reference to the education minister's support of the recently distributed Im Tirzu movement report that claims political science teachings at Israeli universities are tainted with a "post-Zionist bias."

These reports, purporting to be scientific, have been distributed by "people pretending to care about Zionist values, but who are advancing under this guise a culture of gagging and intimidation on campuses," the petition says.

MJ Rosenberg shows just how far Obama has gone to placate Israel's right-wing leaders.
Plus Ha'aretz says Talk to Hamas!
Amira Hass analyzes Israel's move to expel residents of Jerusalem affiliated with Hamas.

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Netanyahu 1; Obama 0

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said it best at his joint press conference with President Barack Obama yesterday.  Speaking of the urgency of beginning talks with the Palestinians, he said "we need to begin negotiations in order to end them."

One has to wonder if it will even get that far.  After yesterday's meeting of the Obama-Netanyahu Mutual Admiration Society, it does not appear that the Israeli leader is under any pressure to begin serious negotiations anytime soon.  Or freeze settlements.  Or do much of anything except express dedication to the concept of peace.

Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank summed it up:

A blue-and-white Israeli flag hung from Blair House. Across Pennsylvania Avenue, the Stars and Stripes was in its usual place atop the White House. But to capture the real significance of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's visit with President Obama, White House officials might have instead flown the white flag of surrender. [Emphasis mine]

In fact, Netanyahu may have gotten more from Obama than he had even hoped for.

In the joint statement issued by the two governments after the meeting, the United States agreed that anything Israel does in the name of its own security (as it sees it) is fine with us:

The President told the Prime Minister he recognizes that Israel must always have the ability to defend itself, by itself, against any threat or possible combination of threats, and that only Israel can determine its security needs.  [Emphasis mine]

The point here is that the United States has no right to tell Israel what to do on security issues which, for Netanyahu, of course, include maintaining the occupation, blockading Gaza, and "preempting" any adversary by attacking whenever and whomever. Most troubling, the United States agreed that Israel will continue to be exempted from the requirements of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Here's Obama:

Finally, we discussed issues that arose out of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Conference.  And I reiterated to the Prime Minister that there is no change in U.S. policy when it comes to these issues.  We strongly believe that, given its size, its history, the region that it's in, and the threats that are leveled against us -- against it, that Israel has unique security requirements.  It's got to be able to respond to threats or any combination of threats in the region.  And that's why we remain unwavering in our commitment to Israel's security.  And the United States will never ask Israel to take any steps that would undermine their security interests.  [Emphasis mine]

In other words, Israel is exempt from the nonproliferation requirements we impose on every other country because of its "unique security requirements."  Of course, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia and a host of other countries have (as they see it) "unique security requirements." This exemption, pretty much unspoken until now, blows a hole in our nonproliferation policy.

It is clear that the President has no intention of putting any pressure on the Prime Minister.  Despite the fact that Israel continues to expand settlements, continues to evict Palestinians from their homes, and has announced that after September any semblance of a settlement freeze will be replaced with more settlers everywhere, Obama still praised Netanyahu to the skies. So why would Netanyahu engage in serious negotiations?

Netanyahu must be ecstatic.  He told his political allies and adversaries back home that in an election year, no President of the United States would dare pressure him.  And so Netanyahu won big time yesterday.

But Israel lost.  So did the United States (which looks less like a superpower and more like a paper tiger).  And obviously, so did the Palestinians.

The amazing thing is that while the president gave Netanyahu everything he wanted (which was primarily a lovey-dovey photo op and threatening statements on Iran), Netanyahu got away with offering nothing.  He simply said "we want to explore the possibility of peace."  The possibility?

One could go on and on.  But why bother?  The Netanyahu-Obama summit was not a serious event but a purely political one.  Each leader accomplished what he needed: Netanyahu goes home looking far stronger than when he departed and without making any compromises that would offend his right flank.  Obama can inform the chairs of the House and Senate campaign committees that they can tell disgruntled donors that his relations with Netanyahu are good as gold.

And "pro-Israel" Democrats can proclaim Obama to be "the most pro-Israel President ever."  (The last President to hold that title was George W. Bush.). It just makes you proud.

Ha'aretz Editorial: July 7th

The writer David Grossman called on the government of Israel in these pages yesterday to cease its preoccupation with the number and identity of Palestinian prisoners who would potentially be swapped for captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Grossman believes Israel should make Hamas a broader offer that would involve "a total cease-fire, an end to all terror activities from Gaza and a lifting of the siege." The start of such negotiations would see Shalit and the prisoners exchanged.

The proposal deserves serious consideration as the basis for a new policy. It is unfortunate that four years have been wasted and something along these lines was not adopted soon after Shalit's abduction in 2006. There is no certainty, however, that Hamas would have agreed to the proposal then, or that it will do so now. It is also worth examining the impact such a deal would have on the Palestinian Authority, Egypt and Jordan. But the point of departure is that there is no sense in allowing the existing situation to continue.

A few days after the abduction and the failure of operation "Southern Shalit" to locate and rescue the soldier, astute voices from the top ranks of the Israel Defense Forces reached the conclusion that if Shalit was to be brought back, a new policy was necessary. These voices, which apparently reflected the position of GOC Southern Command Yoav Galant and then chief of staff Dan Halutz, sought to recognize the reality that had been created in Gaza following the Hamas victory in the PA elections four months earlier, and the establishment of the Ismail Haniyeh government (Hamas' violent takeover of the Strip only took place in June 2007 ).

The IDF wanted to pose the following option to Hamas: Preserve your rule of power or continue your violent struggle against Israel. A proposal to seek a broad agreement on Israel-Hamas relations was drafted - which was to include a cease-fire, an end to terrorist attacks and the launching of Qassam rockets, an end to efforts to acquire more weapons for use against Israel and the release of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Shalit. A report on this attitude held by the IDF, published by Haaretz, angered then-prime minister Ehud Olmert, who opposed a prisoner exchange deal. He shelved the idea and subsequently rejected similar ones raised during Operation Cast Lead.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not bound by Olmert's objections. He should revive the idea and challenge Hamas. Israel needs to embark on an initiative that would fundamentally alter the situation along the southern border, without fearing dialogue with Hamas. It must not regard the current situation as simply fate.

Disloyalty on the part of the occupied

Were it not for Mohammed Abu Tir's red beard, this would perhaps be only a marginal news item: Israel is working to expel four Palestinian residents of Jerusalem affiliated with Hamas from the city of their birth.

By Amira Hass

Were it not for Mohammed Abu Tir's red beard, this would perhaps be only a marginal news item: Israel is working to expel four Palestinian residents of Jerusalem affiliated with Hamas from the city of their birth.

There are those who see this expulsion as demonstrating a proud national stance, but it is already turning out to be a political boomerang. Abu Tir is under arrest, because he did not leave Jerusalem on June 19. His colleagues - Khaled Abu Arafa, formerly the Jerusalem affairs minister in Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh's government, and Ahmed Atun and Mohammed Totah, both members of the Palestinian Legislative Council on behalf of an Islamic list identified with Hamas - have moved into the Red Cross office in East Jerusalem.

Four years ago, then-interior minister Roni Bar-On (Kadima ) revoked their status as Jerusalem residents on the grounds that they had violated their minimal obligation of loyalty to the state of Israel, its citizens and its residents. After that, they were arrested, released and defined as illegals obligated to depart from "Israel's borders."

Since the end of 1995, the Interior Ministry - headed first by Haim Ramon (Labor ) and subsequently by Eliyahu Suissa (Shas ) - has pursued a policy of mass revocation of residency (with a brief hiatus under Natan Sharansky of Yisrael B'Aliyah, and even that only after an intense public struggle ). The record was set in 2008, when 4,577 men and women were stripped of their right to reside in their own city by the Interior Ministry, then headed by Meir Sheetrit (Kadima ) 

Nevertheless, by revoking the residency of these three parliamentarians and one former cabinet minister, Israel has set a record of a new sort: Until now, Jerusalem residency had been revoked exclusively on the basis of administrative pretexts, such as prolonged stays outside the city.

These wicked pretexts derive from the liberty Israel has taken of applying the Entry to Israel Law - used primarily to grant residency permits to non-Jewish immigrants - to residents of occupied and annexed East Jerusalem. But the inhabitants of East Jerusalem did not decide to "come" to Israel; it is Israel that "came" to them.

The current case, however, is the first time Israel has denied Jerusalem residency on political grounds.

The United States and Europe urged Israel to let the Palestinians hold elections in 2006. The participation of an Islamic list affiliated with Hamas was a well-known condition for enabling these elections to take place, including in Jerusalem.

Yet the moment that list won a sweeping victory, Israel embarked on a campaign of punishment against its members, and especially the Jerusalemites among them, for "serving" in the Palestinian Authority.

This, in and of itself, represented a new peak of political cynicism (and another slap in the face to PA President Mahmoud Abbas ). It has been exceeded in its cynicism only by Israel's demand that the occupied evince loyalty to the occupier, lest he be banished.

With this expulsion order, Israel has managed to unite the entire Palestinian arena. The protest tent the three men set up in the courtyard of the Red Cross office has become a pilgrimage site. And Abbas has met twice with those slated for banishment.

Time will tell whether his promise to have the decree rescinded can be kept. In the meantime, however, the political movement that is his main rival is again becoming the symbol of the national struggle and of steadfastness in waging it.

Even those who, for political and cultural reasons, are sworn opponents of the Palestinian Islamic movement know that Israel is setting a precedent.

Today, people affiliated with Hamas are being expelled from Jerusalem. Tomorrow, if the PA falls apart or dares to reject Israel's dictates, it will be known Fatah activists who will be stripped of their residency due to "disloyalty to the occupation."

Following the flotilla raid, the expulsions from Sheikh Jarrah and the royal plans for Silwan, this is yet another match that Israel is tossing into the tinderbox. And it is one that even its friends will find it hard to ignore.