Bulldozers repulsed from the Muslim cemetery in Balad a-Sheikh


, , , , , , ,

Activists in Haifa prevented a construction crew from beginning to destroy the Muslim cemetery in Balad a-Sheikh, but fears remain the bulldozers may return soon.

(The following report appeared on Feb 16, 2022, in Mondoweiss. You can also read it in Hebrew.)

Last week, heavy machinery arrived to carry out excavation work in the Muslim cemetery in Haifa, but activists who were called to the area managed to reach an understanding with the workers and the contractor, and prevent the attempt to damage the cemetery. The event spurred a protest, and on Friday a demonstration was held at the venue, despite intimidation from Israeli security services.

The story of this recent threat began on Monday, February 7, when the threat to the Muslim cemetery in Balad a-Sheikh in Haifa suddenly became very tangible: some heavy machinery for earthwork arrived at the edge of the cemetery, and their operators began preparations to dig.

In early December 2021, when a protest tent was set up on the outskirts of the cemetery, the situation was not clear. Some of the land was expropriated as early as the 1950s, and even though almost 70 years have passed since then, the cemetery continues to exist on the ground. When I reported here on the struggle for recognition of the cemetery, I cautiously wrote that “new building plans are feared.”

The protest tent – guarding the cemetery day and night – photo courtesy of the Waqf Trustees

The precautionary steps and the continuous guarding in the cemetery were proven necessary. When the heavy vehicles arrived, the activists who were called to the scene made it clear to the staff that it was a cemetery. The workers, all Arabs, immediately refused to carry out any work on the site. Following them, the Jewish contractor announced that when he was hired to work on the site he was not told that it was a cemetery, and that he did not intend to carry out the work.

As the whole matter was closed with an understanding between the activists and the workers, the police force that was sent to secure the job was left with nothing to do.

The cemetery, founded in the 1930s on an area of 44 dunams, was used not only by Balad a-Sheikh itself, but by the Muslim community in Haifa and the surrounding towns and villages. Many families in the area have family members buried there.

Sheikh Izz ad-Din al-Qassam, who was the imam of the al-Istiqlal Mosque in Haifa and a key leader of the Palestinian community, and was a prominent leader of the resistance to the British occupation of Palestine and to the Zionist colonization, was also buried in this cemetery in 1935. For this reason, it has since been called the “Al-Qassam Cemetery” (as opposed to the old cemetery of Balad a-Sheikh itself, named after Sheikh al-Sahli), and has symbolic significance for Palestinian heritage as a whole.

The cemetery in Balad a-Sheikh has been the subject of expropriation, corrupt deals by state officials, and legal and public struggles for decades since the 1950s.

Demonstrators calling for boycott of Kirur Ahzakot – photo courtesy of Nahed Dirbas

In recent years, the court in the Krayot (suburbs North of Haifa) has heard a lawsuit by a company named “Kirur Ahzakot”, which claims ownership of a large part of the expropriated area, against the trustees of Waqf al-Istiqlal. At the end of the hearing, the court rejected the company’s claim to oblige the trustees to vacate the graves. It ruled that if the company wanted to vacate graves, it must first submit construction plans, and if the construction plans required it – submit a request to vacate the graves to the appropriate authority in the Ministry of Health.

Meanwhile, the company is trying to “shorten proceedings” and establish facts on the ground, hiding behind contractors and developers. The police, instead of preventing their actions, unsurprisingly focus their attention on those trying to guard the cemetery.

Calling for boycott of Kirur Ahzakot and Gold Line – photo courtesy of the waqf trustees

The attempted attack on the cemetery was broadcast almost real time on Arab media, and provoked widespread reactions on social media. The Hebrew press, as usual, ignored the incident. On the evening of the day of the attack, in the protest tent, there was a gathering of the Waqf al-Istiqlal trustees, representatives of the families of the buried and the tent committee, along with representatives of protest groups and young people from the Arab neighborhoods of Haifa. They decided to hold a protest demonstration on Friday at 2 o’clock in the afternoon.

Prior to the demonstration, several organizers and activists received calls from people who introduced themselves as police or Shabak (GSS) personnel, who tried to dissuade them from demonstrating. I myself was astonished to receive a call from a person who introduced himself as “Amichai from the Shabak”, and tried to persuade me to “use my influence” to “prevent violence” in the demonstration.

Despite the threats, many dozens of activists came to the demonstration on Friday. Police, reinforced by special forces, surrounded the area and blocked some traffic at the intersection ahead of time. Even before the demonstration began, the police demanded that Palestinian flags will not be hoisted near the main road.

Despite police attempts to prevent it – Palestinian flag appeared in the middle of the demonstration. Photo by Nahed Dirbas.

Several young women carrying flags were stopped by police near the police checkpoint, while the rest of the protesters lined up along the main road, across a bridge that was built over the cemetery. Finally, a large Palestinian flag also appeared in the center of the demonstration. The press later stated that this was probably the first time that a Palestinian flag had been hoisted in the town of “Nesher” (as the area is now called) since the original residents of Balad a-Sheikh were expelled in 1948.

The demonstrators carried signs in Arabic, Hebrew, and English, calling for the cemetery to be respected and not to be damaged. Some of the signs directly blamed the companies involved, “Kirur Ahzakot” and “Gold Line”, along with the Israeli establishment, for harming the cemetery, and called for a boycott of their products.

Some of the calls in the demonstration also referred to the attack on cemeteries as one of the hallmarks of the apartheid state. Sheikh Raed Salah, the leader of the Islamic Movement, who was recently released from a lengthy prison sentence, also joined the demonstration and was enthusiastically received by the protesters.

Sheikh raed Salah joined the demonstration and was enthusiastically received – photo by Nahed Dirbas

On the other side of the road, a small counter-demonstration took place, accompanied by photos of ultra-right MK Itamar Ben Gvir and a large poster calling to join his organization, “Jewish Power.”

Meanwhile, the damage to the cemetery was prevented, and the attempt to damage it only provoked and reinforced the call to stop all demolition plans and the demand for recognition of the cemetery and the return of its entire land to the ownership of the Waqf. At the same time, fears intensified of another attempt to mount bulldozers in the cemetery, which might be backed up by the use of massive force, as the police regularly do in forcing demolitions against the Arab Palestinian population.

At the end of the demonstration, activists gathered in a tent to discuss ways to expand the struggle.

Herak Haifa declaration in support of Shahed Abu-Salama


, , , ,

(The following declaration appeared on 27.1.2022 on Herak Haifa’s FB page)

We, in Herak Haifa, support the Palestinian activist, academic and blogger Shahed Abu-Salama.

We reject the allegations against her as a smear campaign, organized by Zionist groups in cooperation with Zionist apartheid regime.

Such campaigns take place all over the world, in order to silence the voice of struggling Palestinians, and to oppress any form of Palestinian resistance to the Zionist settler-state, together with anyone who advocates for freedom and justice in Palestine.

Shahed Abu-Salama raises a clear genuine voice, from besieged Gaza and from Sheffield, England. She brings her story and opinions as a Palestinian, a Gaza resident and a young woman activist.

The smear campaign against Shahed Abu-Salama is being held at the same time as the harassment campaign against Palestinian women activists within occupied Palestine, including our comrade Somaya Falah. This campaign is being held by Zionist police and Shabak in the form of detainment, interrogations and incitement via the cooperating Zionist media. Coordinated or not, those cases are parts of an attack on Palestinian women and their right to be involved in the struggle for justice and freedom. With both Shahed and Somaya, part of the intimidation campaign is to sabotage their academic careers, to damage their opportunities to study and teach and to threaten other Palestinian academics.

From occupied Haifa we stand with Shahed Abu-Salama and hold her hands. We join our voice to Shahed’s in the call for ending Zionist apartheid in all parts of Palestine. We stand with activists all over the world who face the Zionist attacks on Palestinians’ freedom of speech.

Together we will exercise our right to call for the end of the siege on Gaza, for the release of the Palestinian prisoners and for the return of the refugees to all parts of their occupied land.

Together we will never stop fighting for freedom and justice in place of the Zionist settler state on all parts of historic Palestine.

Stop the political persecution against our comrade Somaya Falah!


, , , ,

A statement by Herak Haifa

(This statement was published a while ago on the Herak Haifa FB page. You can also read the original statement in Arabic here.)

The Palestinian freedom struggle never stops, and the Zionist Shabak (“security services”) never stops repressing it…

On the 11th of this month (11.1.2022), the Israeli repressive forces (Shabak and police) broke into the house of our comrade Somaya Falah, confiscated her computer, searched her phone and then arrested her. Comrade Somaya was interrogated by the Shabak bureau in the Haifa police compound for 12 hours, and then transferred to house arrest with relatives, far from her home in Haifa. Moreover, as part of the house arrest, severe restrictions were imposed on her, including preventing her from communicating via the internet and forbidding any contact with her comrades in the struggle.

Over the following days, the Shabak summoned her to various rounds of interrogation, her house arrest was extended for continuous periods and the restrictions and conditions of detention were tightened. In addition, the apparatus of repression initiated a campaign of racist and poisonous incitement against our comrade through the Zionist media, claiming “security” and “dangerous” charges that have no basis in reality.

These brutal methods used by the repression agencies against our comrade Somaya are not new to us. We are also familiar with more severe methods, such as interrogations and isolation for weeks in Shabak dungeons while being prevented from contact with a lawyer. These are routine methods of the Shabak against the activists of the Palestinian struggle, and they have been used before against many activists of our Herak… But they will never succeed to break our resolve or prevent us from continuing the struggle for our legitimate rights.

The occupation systematically uses the accusation of “contacting a foreign agent” to criminalize the communication between us, the Palestinian people in the homeland and the diaspora. This will not change the fact that the foreigners in this region are the settlers who are trying to establish their rule by violent oppression and by various colonial methods. We are the native inhabitants of this land and communication with the daughters and sons of our people is a natural right for us. From here, we assure the enemy before the friend that there is no force that can deter us from exercising this right – not intimidation, nor arrests, nor anything that the Shabak might do.

Freedom for comrade Somaya Falah!

Let our response be to intensify the connections between all the daughters and sons of the Palestinian people in the struggle for our legitimate rights.

Together, until liberation!

There is no going back for the right of return!

The long battle to save the largest Palestinian cemetery in Haifa


, , , , , , ,

The struggle to save the al-Qassam cemetery is one of the major issues that unites the Palestinian community in Haifa. It is an effort to defend the community’s rights, and reconnect with its pre-Nakba past.

(The following report was published in “Mondoweiss”. You can also read about the struggle to save the cemetery in Free Haifa in Arabic and Hebrew.)

The Muslim cemetery in Balad a-Sheikh reminds us of the days before the 1948 Nakba, when Haifa was a major Palestinian city. Since 1948, the state of Israel and private companies have been trying to destroy the cemetery and convert it to commercial property. The Palestinian community succeeded, so far, to prevent its destruction. Now, facing new plans to build on the cemetery, the struggle is entering a new phase.

The Historic Significance of “Al-Qassam Cemetery”

In the beginning of the twentieth century Haifa was a rising city on the Mediterranean shore, with its port, new rail lines that stretched to Damascus and Amman, and developing industry and commerce. This development accelerated under the British occupation (since 1918) with a deep-water port, an airport and the petrol refineries. People from all over the region were emigrating to Haifa to look for work and opportunities. Haifa developed as a center of Arab cultural and political activities. Many Palestinian trade unions, clubs, associations and parties were established or expanded in the city.

An old picture of the entrance to the Balad a-Sheikh cemetery – before 752 street was built (image from the facebook page of the Istiqlal Waqf trustees)

As the city was full of people, its old cemeteries became overcrowded. So, in the thirties, a new Muslim cemetery was established in Balad a-Sheikh, a few kilometers South-East of the city. It was a big cemetery, spanning over 44 dunam (dunam is a thousand square meters), and it served people from Haifa and the surrounding villages and shanty towns.

A central figure in Haifa’s public life at the time was Sheikh Izz ad-Din al-Qassam, the Imam of the Istiqlal mosque and head of the Young Men’s Muslim Association. In the beginning of the thirties, he tried to organized the Palestinian population to wage a war of liberation against the British occupation and against Zionist colonization. In November 1935 his group of rebels was surrounded by the British army near Jenin, and he fought them back until he fell martyr. His funeral in Haifa is described by some historians as the biggest political protest in Palestine under the British occupation. Al-Qassam and two of his comrades in arms were buried in the new cemetery in Balad a-Sheikh, giving it its popular name as “Al-Qassam Cemetery”.

The cemetery bears evidence to the turbulent historical period. You can find there the graves of the revolutionaries from the great Palestinian revolution of 1936-39, as well as the graves of Palestinians civilians killed by indiscriminate British reprisals. You can also find there the graves of the victims of massacres that were performed by the Zionist settlers’ militias, Hagana, Etzel and Lehi, in the run-up to the 1948 Nakba. Sami Taha, the secretary general of the Association of Arab Palestinian Workers, was also buried there.

Zionist attempts to take control of the cemetery

In 1948 the vast majority of the Arab Palestinian population in Haifa was expelled: more than seventy thousand were expelled, and less than two thousand succeeded to escape the ethnic cleansing. The whole population of Balad a-Sheikh, which suffered two massacres before the final military assault, was forced into exile, like the residents of all the other Arab villages and shanty towns around Haifa. The houses of Balad a-Sheikh were given to new Jewish immigrants and the town was renamed “Tel Hanan” (Hanan’s Hill) after the name of a Hagana officer who was killed there while performing a massacre against civilian population in the town.

Israel’s expropriation of the native Arab Palestinian population was not limited to their houses and personal property, but extended also to holy places like mosques and cemeteries.

Confiscation order for 15 dunam of the cemetery’s land, signed in 1954 by Eshkol

In 1954, Israel’s then finance minister, Levi Eshkol, issued an order confiscating 15 dunam of the new Balad a-Sheikh cemetery. The order decreed that, as these lands “were not held by their rightful owners as of April 1, 1952”, and as they “were allocated to vital needs of settlement and development”, they will be passed to the ownership of “the development authority”. The only truthful phrase here is “April 1”, as this is the day for telling lies. The rightful inhabitants of the cemetery didn’t leave it for a single day. And the “needs” for the place were so urgent that today, almost 70 years on, the usurpers, which prevent the cemetery’s guardians from maintaining it properly, haven’t even presented a plan for any other usage.

Soon after confiscating the land, the state’s representative sold 13 dunam out of the confiscated land to a big commercial firm, named “Kerur Akhzakot”. Later on, this firm will play a central role in the attempts to demolish the cemetery.

Dubious deals

The main tool of the Israeli government to expropriate Arab homes and lands is the “Absentees’ Property Law” from 1950. By this law the property of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees and internally displaced people was confiscated. Concerning the holy places, most of them are defined as belonging to some “waqf” (endowment). After some legal wriggling and a new law from 1965, the Israeli “legal” robbery system verified that “god is also an absentee” (or at least the Palestinian Muslim Waqf), and hence took control of most holy places.

The Balad a-Sheikh cemetery was different, as it officially belongs to a local Haifa Waqf named “Waqf al-Istiqlal” – or “Independence Waqf” – after The Istiqlal Mosque whose imam was al-Qassam. As there continued to exist a diminished Muslim community in Haifa, in spite of the Nakba, they could not claim its local waqf was absentee, like they did in hundred of villages and towns that were completely destroyed or ethnically cleansed. So, they had to invent other ways to take control of the cemetery’s land. They did it by appointing a “waqf trustee”, named Suhail Shukri, who was doing his master’s dirty work by betraying the waqf and its community.

The 1970 agreement to exchange 31 dunam of the cemetery’s land – signe on behalf of the waqf by “Oved Yom Tov” from the Israeli land authority

In 1970 the Israeli lands’ authority signed an agreement to “exchange” 31 dunam of the Balad a-Sheikh cemetery (including the 15 dunam that were confiscated before), giving the waqf in their stead a section for Muslim burial in the new Kafr Samir cemetery to the South-West of Haifa. The first question raised by this “exchange” is why should the Muslim community “pay” by giving up land in an existing cemetery for their right for a section in the new cemetery, while all other religious communities in Haifa received their (much bigger) sections free of charge?

The “exchange deal” itself was not signed by Shukri himself. The person that signed in Shukri’s name (in accordance with a power of attorney on behalf of Shukri from 1968) was one named “Oved Yom Tov”, who happened to negotiate the deal (with himself) in the name of the Israeli lands’ authority. The same Shukri also received the sum of 4,000 lira as payment for his effort to transfer 25 graves (an insignificant part of the graves in the cemetery) to the new cemetery – an action that he apparently didn’t bother to perform.

Shukri’s masters knew that, as a “trustee”, he is not empowered to sell, exchange or demolish the cemetery. In order to get more legal pretense to their dubious deal, they appealed for the Muslim Shari’a court in Akka (Acre), which is also subordinated to the state’s authority. The verdict from the court decreed that land from the cemetery can be exchanged, but only land that have no graves in it. The agreement between the authorities and Shukri to transfer graves from the cemetery proves that they knew well enough that the land contained graves, and, by implication, the endorsement of the Shari’a court to the agreement is void.

Suheil Shukri asked for 6150 lira to transfer 25 graves. Finaly he received 4000.

The struggle for recognition of the cemetery

After the “deal” about al-Qassam cemetery, and other similar dubious deals, were exposed, Shukri had to leave the country. After a long struggle by the Haifa Muslim community, new, faithful, trustees were appointed to take care of the “Istiqlal Waqf”, and they have taken on themselves to save what may be saved of the Waqf’s mosques, cemeteries and property. Meanwhile, Haifa is resuming gradually its natural role as a central city for the Arab Palestinian community. The struggle to save the al-Qassam cemetery is one of the major issues that unite the community in defending its rights and reconnecting with its pre-Nakba past.

View of the cemetery and the protest tent – December 2021 (Photo: Rashad Omari, al-Madina)

In 1989, the Abna al-Balad movement organized a volunteer work-day to clean the cemetery, which was hidden in a tangle of tall thorns, and for the re-marking of the graves. In the beginning of the 2000s, there was a big struggle against the intention to path a multi-lane street through the cemetery’s land. For several months there was a protest tent in the cemetery and local youth from the Islamic Movement stayed guarding the ground day and night. Finally, this struggle culminated in a symbolic victory, when a massive bridge was built to allow the street pass above the cemetery without affecting the graves.

In 2014, the “Kerur Akhzakot” company (which claims ownership of the 13 dunam confiscated in the fifties) filed a civil lawsuit in the Krayot magistrate’s court against the trustees of the “Istiqlal Waqf”. The company asked the court to declare that the plot on which it claims ownership has no graves. Alternatively, it sought to oblige the Waqf trustees to vacate any graves. The demand for the evacuation of the graves provoked public protest. Contact was made with many families whose loved ones are buried in the cemetery. At all court hearings there was a mass presence in the courtroom and there were demonstrations and protest vigils around the building, with participants carrying pictures of their buried family members. At the end of the hearings, Judge Shlomo Ardman ruled that there are graves in the plot that is the subject of the lawsuit. He refused to issue an order to evacuate the graves on the grounds that it is “too early at this stage”, until a specific construction plan is submitted that requires evacuation.

A delegation from Herak Haifa visiting the protest tent on Decemebr 17, 2021 (Photo: Rashad Omari, al-Madina)

As the families of the buried organized, they decided to apply together to the Supreme Court to re-recognize the cemetery in its entirety. But in a preliminary hearing the Supreme Court judges proposed to the plaintiffs to withdraw their petition, while threatening them in a judgment that would have serious consequences to their detriment. Some of the plaintiffs concluded their impressions from the hearing by saying that “the judges refused to dig in old papers, and think it is better to dig even older graves.”

Meanwhile, news is gathering of new plans for commercial construction on the cemetery grounds and of a new developer entering the picture. In early December 2021, the Waqf trustees, in collaboration with the families of the buried and under the auspices of the High Follow Up Committee of the Arab Public, erected a protest tent in the cemetery’s area. The frustration with the “legal route” has brought back to the center the public struggle to repel the plans for expropriation and destruction. The demands are simple: recognize the cemetery and allow the dead to rest in peace.

Israeli War Criminals designate Palestinian Human Rights Defenders as “Terrorists”…


, , , , ,

ODSC Condemns Classification of Palestinian Institutions as “Terrorist Organizations”

A press release issued by the One Democratic State Campaign in Historic Palestine

October 23, 2021

The decision of the Israeli government to declare six Palestinian civil society organizations as “terrorist organizations” is an extension of Israel’s hostility to human rights in general and to the important function of these organizations in monitoring and exposing the violations by the Israeli regime of the most basic rights of the Palestinian indigenous population. This recategorization of human rights organizations reflects the Israeli government’s concern about their documentation and public exposure of Israeli policies, including the fear that such exposure will result in international condemnations, individual prosecutions before the international judiciary, and other kinds of accountability.

It is clear that Israel is tired of having to deal with the ongoing struggle of Palestinian civil society and therefore is working to provide a “legal cover” to eliminate these institutions. It follows the occupation’s abject failure to neutralize the efforts of the boycott and divestment (BDS) movement to isolate the Israeli apartheid regime; the movement enjoys unprecedented widespread Palestinian and international support.

Israeli war crimes and crimes against humanity require urgent intervention by the international community, including steps to isolate the Israeli regime politically, as well as sanctions on individuals and organizations complicit in these crimes. The latest Israeli attack against Palestinian civil society, by criminalizing these organizations, is just one more step in a systematic campaign aimed at silencing the voices seeking to expose the real apartheid face of Israel. The six organizations targeted by Israel are known for their tireless work documenting Israeli crimes and providing support to its victims.

We, in the One Democratic State Campaign, condemn in the strongest terms this repressive attempt to persecute defenders of human rights in Palestine. We also call on local and international civil society organizations to stand together in order to hold Israel accountable for the crimes it perpetrates against Palestinian society. We warn that this criminalization of leading civil society organizations further undermines the ability of Palestinians to resist occupation and oppression in peaceful and non-violent ways.

‘Down with the ignominious authority!’: On the assassination of Nizar Banat


, , , ,

One Democratic State Campaign: The killing of opposition activist Nizar Al-Banat shows the status quo cannot continue. The countdown on the Palestinian Authority has begun.

Statement of the One Democratic State Campaign on the assassination of Nizar Banat

Down with the ignominious authority!

“There is no liberation without freedom, no liberation with tyranny, corruption, and cooperation with the colonizer.”

Our people are in a state of shock, astonishment and bereavement at the horrific crime committed by the Oslo authorities against the opposition activist Nizar Al-Banat. It has become almost certain that things can’t continue as they were, and that the countdown on the ignominious authority has begun.

These repressive agencies, trained by the CIA General Keith Dayton, deliberately and brutally assassinated Nizar Al-Banat, after they stormed his relatives’ home in al-Khalil (Hebron) and transferred him to their headquarters in the city. This crime has poured gas on the fire that was already burning in the hearts of the sons and daughters of our people. It adds to the accumulated anger towards the Palestinian regime due to the rampant corruption, oppression, and cooperation with the colonizer. This regime is completely isolated from the aspirations of our people and our hopes for liberation, freedom, and justice. This regime has no role in the liberation struggle, as demonstrated in the glorious popular uprising and the continuous mass movements.

This corrupt and criminal behavior – a structural behavior that constantly reproduces a social political class whose existence and continuity depends on external support – confirms that the situation has reached its peak. It is no longer possible to remain silent on this hypocritical regime, which is alienated from the people. It has become a heavy burden that the people can no longer bear and a serious obstacle to the march of liberation and the achievement of human dignity.

This crime, which is added to the accumulated crimes of oppression, corruption, and cooperation with the colonizer, poses a great challenge to all advocates of change, liberation and freedom. How to put an end to the rule of this incurable political class, and how the forces of change can create an alternative path around which everyone coalesces? This new path should capture the imagination of the people, and draw them towards organized and coordinated action. It should not separate resisting the colonizer from resisting the regime of tyranny and corruption.

The One Democratic State campaign presents its vision for the future Palestine as a democratic country based on the ruins of the colonial system, apartheid, and internal tyranny; A free homeland and a free human being. Our vision is a pluralistic society, in which citizens are equal, freedom of expression is preserved, human dignity is preserved and women’s freedom is preserved. This is because freedom is indivisible, and it does not accept any violation of the rights of an opponent, or the freedom of citizens in general, under any of the obsolete pretexts and slogans such as “national security”, “warding off strife” or “no voice is louder than the sound of battle,” which are still being used by most Arab regimes.

The rebellious Palestinian refuses to establish a system similar to the regimes of oppression and brutality in his homeland, as is the case with the regimes of the Arab world. These regimes turned their countries into prisons and slaughterhouses, treated their countries as their private farms and subjected them to external forces. As a result, the peoples revolted and broke the barrier of fear.

It has become clear, especially in the light of the popular uprising and the battle of al-Quds, that the new generation and its emerging vanguards, and all veteran, democratic revolutionaries, who are rid of the remnants of the past and its double standards, and the slogans of the outdated Arab regimes, are the qualified force to lead a national, democratic and liberation movement based on the values ​​of freedom, human dignity and social justice. For this qualified force, the murder of Nizar Banat will only add motivation to continue fighting colonialism and confronting its agent, the Palestinian tyrannical regime, and linking this struggle with the struggle of the Arab peoples to recover their homelands from the brutal regimes.

This crime has put a defining moment before our people. Our people deserve life, dignity, security and a decent living.

Shame for the murderers, the corrupt and the collaborators with the colonizer!

Down with the ignominious authority!

Freedom for our people!

Glory to the martyrs of liberation and of free speech!

Palestine, June 24, 2021

Israel renews the use of administrative detention against Palestinian citizens


, , , , , ,

Israel holds hundreds of Palestinians in the 1967 occupied territories under administrative detention. Lately it renewed the practice also in the 1948 occupied Palestine.

(The following article appeared in Mondoweiss)

Israel’s claim to be a democracy is based on many false conceptions. The most obvious falsification is the idea there is a “democratic Israel” existing alongside “temporarily occupied territories”, the West Bank and Gaza. In actuality Israel is pursuing aggressive ethnic cleansing all along the occupied territories and illegal settlers are the strongest force in Israeli politics. The complementary falsification is the idea that Palestinians in the territory occupied by Israel since 1948 are citizens enjoying full civil rights, even if denied national rights. Whenever those Palestinians, who are formally citizens, organize to protest their discrimination, the state reveals it true dictatorial nature as an occupying power.

The area around the Haifa court entrance was sealed by guards and armed police – June 9, 2021

One of the most extreme measures of military oppression is administrative detention. Under Israel’s “emergency laws” — and mind you the “emergency” in Israel has lasted for the last 73 years since its establishment — the military authorities can order the detention of any person without indictment for up to six months, renewable for an unlimited number of times. Administration detention is commonly used against Palestinians in the territory Israel has occupied since 1967, but there is also a long history of it being used in the territories it occupies since 1948, where Palestinian are officially regarded citizens of Israel.

These types of laws were used to crush the “al-Ard” movement – the first Palestinian political movement that tried to organize in “48 Palestine” in the fifties and sixties. In 1988, at the height of the first intifada, some 10 leading members of “Abna al-Balad”, a leftist grass-root movement, were placed under administrative detention. The last cases that I know about were in 2017, and I reported some of them in Free Haifa (here and here).

Now, with the latest popular uprising in solidarity with Sheikh Jarrah, against the bombardment of Gaza and against the fascists’ attacks on Palestinian residents in the mixed cities, it is being used again. In addition to mass detentions and violent attacks by police and border guards against the population at large, Israel is resorting again to administrative detention of Palestinians who are formally recognized as citizens.

Herak Fahmawi Demonstration in front of the Haifa court for the release of Zafer Jabareen, June 9, 2021

On Friday, June 4, as part of the mass detention campaign in Umm al-Fahm, the police arrested Zafer Jabareen. A day after his detention Jabareen was brought to the court with the rest of the detainees and his detention was remanded for 3 more days on claims that he should be interrogated for taking part in disturbing public order. He was taken to Shabak (the secret security services) detention – but was not really interrogated. On Tuesday, June 8, instead of releasing Jabareen or bringing him to another remand hearing, he was informed that Israel’s war minister, Benny Gantz, signed an administrative detention order for four months against him. The next day he was brought before Judge Ron Shapira, the head of the Haifa district court for the “judicial supervision” over his detention.

Zafer Jabareen, age 44, was arrested in 2002, at the time of the Second Intifada, accused of membership in a banned organization and activities against the state. He was sentenced to 17 years in prison. After his release in 2019 he married and was working in construction. His wife is now pregnant with their first child, and will be missing her husband at this critical period. 

The “United Fahmawi Herak” and the popular committee of Umm al-Fahm called for a demonstration in front of the Haifa court at the time of the hearing on Wednesday, June 9. About a hundred people gathered in front of the court, including leaders from all the Palestinian political parties, the mayor of Umm al-Fahm Dr. Samir Subhi Mahamid and many youth activists from the Herak. The police also were present with many heavily armed military-style types, and completely sealed off all the area around the court’s entrance. The demonstrators carried placards in Arabic, Hebrew and English in solidarity with Zafer Jabareen, calling for an end to administrative detention and denouncing the detentions campaign against the Palestinian masses.

Lawyer Mahmoud Jabareen updating the demonstrators and the press at the end of the hearing – June 9, 2021

When Zafer Jabareen’s lawyer, Mahmoud Jabareen, came out of the hearing, he updated the demonstrators and the press about what happened in the hearing. He couldn’t hide his frustration. He tried to ask questions about the accusations or suspicions against Zafer, but was told that all the materials are secret and no answers will be given. He told the court there is nothing he can do to defend his client without knowing why he was detained. He was not even allowed to be present in the courtroom when the Shabak presented “secret evidence” to the judge.

I talked with the lawyer later and he explained that the administrative detention is based on an old “emergency law” and is not subject to the newer law governing criminal detention. In the criminal detention law, the judge is obliged to consider the detainees human rights and, if he finds that there is a legal basis for detention, he still should consider whether there are other ways to supervise the detainee without holding him in prison. In the emergency law that governs administrative detention, even as there is no indictment and no way the detainee can defend himself or disprove “secret evidence”, there is also no consideration of the detainee’s human rights and the court is not allowed even to consider other means of supervision. 

The police and Shabak love to use the threat of administrative detention as a way to break the spirit of people under interrogation. They can tell the interrogated that, if they don’t confess to any crime, and even if there is no evidence against them, they can still find themselves in prison for an unlimited period. So, better close a plea bargain and you will know at least when you will get out of prison. 

Meanwhile, Haaretz, while reporting on Jabareen’s administrative detention, mentioned that there is another administrative detainee from the Nazareth area. This detainee was also detained for interrogation (on May 17th) and later transferred to administrative detention. 

On Sunday, June 13, Judge Shapira issued his decision ratifying General Gantz’s administrative detention decree against Zafer Jabareen. Jabareen’s family and friends, and some political activists gathered outside the courtroom’s closed doors and were not surprised to hear the ruling. Some of them repeated the popular saying: “When your judge is your oppressor, to whom do you complain?”

The perfectly political trial of Sheikh Kamal al-Khatib


, , , , , , , ,

(The following report appeared in Mondoweiss)

Since May 9th, Israeli police and the Shabak (security services) have detained more than 2,000 Palestinians inside the territory Israel has occupied since 1948. But the detention of Sheikh Kamal al-Khatib in Kafr Kanna (north of Nazareth) on Friday, May 14, was the most dramatic and notable. As the police surrounded the Sheikh’s home, local residents spontaneously organized a mass demonstration against his detention, and soon there were clashes with the police. The police used live ammunition to disperse the crowd, and Mako reported (here, in Hebrew) that eleven of the demonstrators were evacuated for medical treatment, at least four of them in severe conditions.

When al-Khatib was indicted two weeks later (on May 27) in the Nazareth Magistrate’s court, his lawyers protested that his violent arrest was illegal to start with. The factual base of the indictment only mentioned three posts on Facebook. By law, the police are entitled to invade people’s homes and arrest suspects without a judicial warrant only in hot pursuit or to prevent imminent crime. Old posts of Facebook don’t justify it. In many previous occasions, when the police or the Shabak wanted to warn al-Khatib about his political activities, he was summoned to the police station where he was interrogated. But the new aggressive approach was exactly the message that the Israeli oppressive state wanted to convey.

Sheikh Kamal al-Khatib is one of the most prominent political figures among the ‘48 Palestinian public. He was the deputy leader of the Islamic Movement (sometimes called “the northern faction of the Islamic Movement”, but it is definitely the real thing) before it was outlawed by Israel in November 2015. Like many other members of the Islamic Movement, he continued his public activity after the movement was banned, and served, between other roles, as head of the “Liberties Committee”, the committee responsible for the defense of political and Human Rights on behalf of the “high follow-up committee”, the unified representative body of 1948 Palestinians.

Al-Khatib is represented in court by a joint team from Adalah, the legal center for Arab minority rights in Israel, led by advocate Hassan Jabareen, and from Al-Mizan Rights Foundation (from Nazareth) led by advocate Omar Khamaisi.

Indictment of the Palestinian narrative

On receiving the eight-page indictment against al-Khatib, Jabareen protested and informed the court that he could not relate to such a lopsided document. Ten out of the 22 articles in the indictment are not connected to anything that is related to the accused, but are simply used to “set the context” – presenting a one-sided narrative of the conflict between the Palestinians and the Zionist movement and Israel from the beginning of the previous century until the latest bombardment of Gaza. In this narrative there is no ethnic cleansing, no occupation, no settlements on confiscated lands, no discrimination, no oppression, no Apartheid, only Arab rioters and terrorists constantly attacking innocent Jews and their revered security forces.

Against this background the court is required to assess the “danger” of the three Facebook posts, the only specific subjects of the indictment, that are taken from the page named “The Sheikh Kamal al-Khatib” (here, in Arabic). The indictment repeats many times the accusation that al-Khatib “called for violence”, “encouraged acts of terror” and “praised Hamas”. But in all the three quoted posts, even after being  translated to Hebrew by police translators (his lawyers dispute the accuracy of the translation) – there is not a single call for violence, no praise for violence, and the name of Hamas (or any other organization that Israel considers as “terrorist”) is not even mentioned.

Mentioning the 1929 “Al-Burak Revolution” was also regarded as support of terrorism…

One of the posts that the indictment describes as “supporting terrorism” relates to the “Buraq Revolution” of 1929, which al-Khatib compared to the recent events, as both started with Jewish extremist provocations in and around Al-Aqsa Mosque. He mentions that in both cases the ensuing struggle quickly spread all over Palestine, and he mentions the casualties on both sides. Al-Khatib explained during his interrogation that he warned of the explosive potential from provocations in Al-Aqsa in order to prevent bloodshed. But the very fact that he speaks about these historic events from a Palestinian perspective was enough for the prosecution to declare it “support of terrorism”.

How to identify incitement?

In his 1982 satirical play “The Patriot”, Hanoch Levin wrote:

“Security instructions:
A man walking down the street glancing nervously from side to side and over his shoulder – shall be suspected of being an Arab terrorist.
A man walking down the street looking calmly ahead of him – shall be suspected of being a level-headed Arab terrorist.
A man walking down the street looking up at the sky – shall be suspected of being a religious Arab terrorist.
A man walking down the street staring at the ground – shall be suspected of being a shy Arab terrorist.
A man walking down the street with his eyes shut – shall be suspected of being a drowsy Arab terrorist.
A man not walking down the street – shall be suspected of being a sick Arab terrorist.
All the suspects listed above shall be arrested. In the event of an attempted escape, a warning shot will be fired in the air. The body will be taken to the forensic institute.”

The first of the three posts that are cited in the indictment as “incitement to violence” was published on April 19. On the previous day there was a demonstration in Yaffa in solidarity with the people of al-Quds. The demonstrators were attacked by the police and there were clashes. The post includes four images of wounded people and one image of a police concentration, all apparently taken in Yaffa the previous day. This post is relatively short, so I will quote it here in full (my translation from the original Arabic text):

The “Yaffa Post” with images of four of the wounded

“Jaffa the hard number

Jaffa has always been the lung and flank of Jerusalem.

Just as Jerusalem faces the settlers’ flocks, so did Jaffa last night in the face of their swarms.

It is the same police and its hostile attitude toward every Palestinian, Arab and Muslim, which attacked our people in Jaffa, but Jaffa’s heroes prove every day that they are a difficult number.

All greetings and kisses on the forehead of each of you, O lions of Jaffa.

Jaffa, the definitive evidence of the failure of the Zionist project to distort the identity of our people in the Palestinian inside (a term relating to 1948-Palestine – YH), despite the 73 years of the Nakba of Jaffa, and indeed of every Palestinian.”

Al-Khatibs’ lawyers explained in court that the text should be understood, according to the accompanying images, as encouragement to and solidarity with the people that were wounded by police violence. They claimed that in these words, like in the two other posts, there is nothing that constitutes an offence according to the law.

The prosecutor admitted that al-Khatib did not explicitly call for violence, but claimed that this is because he is “cautious” and “sophisticated”, which makes him even more dangerous.

On Tuesday, June 8, Judge Doron Porat, the president of the Nazareth Magistrates’ court, decided to accept the prosecution’s request and ruled that al-Khatib should be held in prison until the end of his sentencing, with no option for bail. Even though there were no calls for violence from the accused, he built an incriminating “logical reasoning”, extending Levin’s measures:

“So is the case with the “Yaffa publication”, which was accompanied by pictures of wounded people from the Arab sector. These people seemingly took part in riots that evening, and seemingly were wounded in confrontation with security forces… the advocates claimed that those things were said with the purpose to strengthen the wounded. However, even if I assume that he meant them… those wounded rioted before, seemingly, and hence he encouraged and praised the violent acts that they performed, seemingly. Still, it is people that confronted the security forces and were wounded during confrontation. Hence, the Yaffa publication also can be an inciting publication.” (Page 40 of the protocol, decision by Judge Porat on June 8, 2021)

In short, a wounded Arab is an Arab that attacked the police, and solidarity with him is an incitement to violence!

What was not translated?

The third post in the indictment is a video with a nine-minute-long speech that Sheikh Kamal al-Khatib gave on May 11 at a public meeting that was held in his town, Kafr Kanna, in solidarity with al-Quds and al-Aqsa. The long translated text includes many things that are not connected to the accusations in any way, like al-Khatib citing religious texts including the famous saying that “the best jihad is to speak truth in the face of a tyrannical ruler”. In his speech he mentioned the attacks by fascist settlers against the Arab population in different places and stressed the need for unity against these attacks. He praised the new Palestinian generation as conscious and brave and applauded their steadfastness in the face of the oppressors.

Sheikh Kamal speaking at the public meeting in Kafr Kanna on May 11, in support of al-Quds and al-Aqsa

The only section of the speech that was not translated is where he described in detail a specific act of steadfastness: when Palestinians were called to come to pray in al-Aqsa, but the Israeli police decided to prevent them and blocked busses and cars on the main road leading to al-Quds. He described how the Israeli police expected the Palestinians to return to their towns, but thousands of them started, instead, walking the twenty kilometres separating them from al-Aqsa. It created such a huge traffic jam that the Israeli police finally preferred to let them continue their way in their vehicles.

No wonder that this vivid example of victory by popular struggle was omitted from the indictment – it contradicts all the narrative that is built by the prosecution according to which Palestinians are always perpetrating violent attacks for no reason.

Based on this text the prosecution also bases the claim that al-Khatib is “supporting Hamas” – but Hamas is not even mentioned, and what he said, even according to the police translation, is “Bless Jerusalem, bless Gaza, bless “the inside”, bless Palestine, bless our people in the “inside”, in Gaza, in the West Bank, in Jerusalem and in the diaspora.” 

The logic of this text being considered “support of a terrorist organization” is that, according to their racist thinking, the Palestinian people as a whole are considered a terrorist organization.

Defending the innocents

The defense lawyers presented to the court a video with a sermon that al-Khatib delivered in a mosque in Kafr Kanna on the day of his arrest. In this sermon he talked about events that happened near the town a few days before, when a Jewish driver was attacked by an angry crowd – and other residents of Kafr Kana saved him from the crowd, brought him to receive medical treatment and later escorted him to safety. He said that the protest doesn’t justify attacks on the innocents, praised the actions of the residents that helped the victim and said that, if he was present there, he would have acted like them.

Even this sermon was later distorted by the prosecution and the judge, claiming that by denouncing the attack on innocent victims, al-Khatib actually praised and encouraged other attacks.


Sheikh Kamal al-Khatib was released under restrictive conditions

On Sunday, June 20, in the Nazareth District Court, Judge Arafat Taha accepted Sheikh Kamal al-Khatib’s appeal the lower court’s decision to detain him until the end of the legal proceedings against him. Judge Taha, after reading al-Khatib’s words in the original Arabic, accepted most of the claims of the defense lawyers against the prosecution and the lower court judge that claimed al-Khatib’s speech was incitement to violence and support of terrorism.

Still, as a condition for his release, al-Khatib had to pay high bail, he is not allowed to be in his town of Kafr Kanna for 45 days, and he is prevented from any public pronouncement for three months.

Haifa Intifada Diary: The General Strike


, , , , , , , , , ,

The General Strike in Haifa was a defiant display of unity across all sectors of the Palestinian community, even as ongoing governmental repression intensifies.

(The following is the 3rd dispatch from the Intifada in Haifa that was published in Mondoweiss)

While many around the world are aware of Israel’s ethnic cleansing in al-Quds (Jerusalem) and the massacre of innocents in Gaza, little is known about the fate of Palestinians in the areas that were occupied by Israel since 1948. Yet, for the Palestinian struggle, the uprising in what is called for short “48” is one of the most important developments over the past two weeks. In this third dispatch from Haifa for Mondoweiss, I try to describe the events as they developed day by day (you can find the previous reports here).

Events in Haifa took a sharp turn on Sunday, May 9, when police attacked a Palestinian demonstration in the German Colony in solidarity with Sheikh Jarrah. The Palestinian protests and clashes with the police in the German Colony continued for three days. On Tuesday there was a fascist mobilization to confront the Palestinian protest, and they were encouraged by the police to attack Palestinian in the neighborhood. The same day Palestinian youth took control of many streets far beyond the original center of the clashes.

The fascist attacks continued for three consecutive days, until Thursday. They were looking mostly for Arab residents that live outside the Arab neighborhoods. At the same time Palestinians all over the city were urgently organizing self-defense. The fascist didn’t dare attack the Arab neighborhoods, but the police, reinforced by the military “border guards”, launched a campaign of terror against the population at large: roadblocks, detentions, beatings, throwing stun grenades and teargas at homes and bystanders, and patrolling the streets in a provocative way.

The call for a general strike

The daily bombing in Gaza and the images from al-Quds aroused strong feelings in the local Palestinian population, but it was the need to mobilize a defense against fascist attacks that moved many people to action who would normally sympathize with the struggle but choose not to take part. 

One sign of the deep impact of this threat was the news that many Arab soldiers and policemen (30 of them, according to some commentators) announced their resignation from the army and the police. One of them, in an interview (here, in Hebrew), described how he passed by our demonstration in Haifa and heard the slogan “Why are we quiet about Arabs serving in the army?”, before hearing the voice of his conscience and quitting the service.


By the end of the week, the question among the activists was how we go on from here. How do we utilize mass mobilization not only for self-defense, but also to stop the daily massacre in Gaza? The idea of a general strike started circulating in the networks. On Sunday, The High Follow-Up Committee, the united leadership of the ‘48 Palestinian population, declared a general strike for Tuesday, May 18. In the same meeting they also issued an unprecedented call for the international community to take responsibility for the protection of the Palestinian population, including in the ‘48 territories.  (The committee’s announcement is here in Arabic.)

The activists are used to distrusting the leadership of the Follow-Up Committee, and some thought that a one-day general strike was not enough. But, soon, in the spirit of unity and empowerment that enabled the current uprising, all energies were united for the success of the strike. Politically, the strike was a great opportunity to involve many more people in the struggle and show that Palestinian society is united beyond a common goal.


During the last couple of weeks, we witnessed the almost total disappearance of the traditional political parties and a surge of new initiatives organized by the youth through social networks. There are multiple groups in WhatsApp, Telegram, and Signal where people connect, share information, discuss and organize. From time to time there were last-minute calls for face-to-face meetings that were held in the street or in friendly spaces. After the activists decided what the next activity would be, the news was spread through Facebook and through personal, family, neighborhood and professional chat groups.

All of this frenzied organizational network was working throughout Monday to mobilize for the success of the strike. We thought that it would be necessary to stand by the entrance of local schools in order to ask the parents and pupils to strike, but soon we were informed that the parents and pupils were organizing the strike themselves! We were leafleting around the neighborhoods and everywhere we met shopkeepers that told us “yes, this time we will be on strike!”

After all the fear from fascist attacks and the terrorizing of the people by the police, it was important to revive the self-confidence of the people in the neighborhoods and to reclaim the public space. For this purpose, the activists organized cultural activities in six neighborhoods, including lectures, activities for children, musical programs and more.

Reclaiming the public space

On Tuesday morning all the networks were sharing images of closed shops from all around Arab Haifa, even areas that never participated in strikes before. But it was not only Arab shops and businesses that closed. Many people that work for Israeli companies and organizations were on strike also. So, there were also other types of images that were shared around: threats from managers to their workers, a picture of a chat where an Arab engineer told her boss that she would not come to work this day and his answer was “wishing her success” in finding new work, etc. There were also announcements from big Israeli companies telling their customers that because of the strike they would not be able to provide the expected services. Sharing all these gave a sense of the power of Palestinian workers to make an impact on the Israeli economy.

The activities in the neighborhoods were a great success. In ordinary days, Arab Haifa is pretty much a divided city, mostly along class lines, between marginalized workers and their families who live in poor neighborhoods and the middle class. The struggle, and especially the general strike, created a sense of unity. In my neighborhood, Halisa, the committee that organized the strike was half from local youth and half from volunteers from the activist community. At the designated hour people began to gather in the small commercial center, mostly women and children. Neighbors brought with them food and water and invited everybody.

Strike activities in Halisa

I didn’t want to bring the Palestinian flag with me – I thought that if it should be raised over the activity it should come from the “ordinary” people and not from the “political”. But the first round of activities for the children included “free painting”, so soon we had plenty of Palestinian flags drying in the sun as well as images of Sheikh Jarrakh, al-Aqsa, and the bombing of Gaza. 

In the middle of the activities, a heavily armed patrol of border guards stopped their car near us and came to check what we were doing. Seeing all the children around they went back to their car. They made some calls and apparently were told to leave us alone.

As we were gathering in the commercial center, we heard that there are police harassing the residents in Hussein St, just 200 meters away. I went there and found about a dozen policemen in civil, with completely unmarked cars, searching some homes. They also brought with them police dogs. I started filming them with my phone and they were very unhappy about it.

Back in the commercial center, there was a group of musicians that came to raise our spirits. Some of them fill concert halls in ordinary days, but now they were sitting on the bare ground with Halisa’s children and were singing and playing their instruments. In many songs the whole crowd was singing together. They even prepared a special satirical song for the event that criticized the Palestinian leadership for complacency and praised the unity of the masses all over Palestine in the general strike. (A video from the activity may be seen here).

Similar activities took part with mass participation in other neighborhoods, big and small.

Another demonstration

As I described in previous dispatches, after the attacks on the Herak demonstrations during the previous week, there was some fear of holding a new demonstration. On Saturday there were two demonstrations, one in Wadi Nisnas and the other near the court, but the numbers were smaller, about a hundred participants in each demonstration, and no streets were closed. Now, as the momentum started to accumulate again on our side, Tal’at (the feminist Palestinian movement) called for a new demonstration at 18:00 on Tuesday. It was labeled “The march of the dignity strike”, after the name of the general strike. The march had to start near “al-Midan Theater” – on the border between Wadi Nisnas (the center of Arab Haifa) and Hadar (the old commercial center with mixed population). There was at least one mindful consideration in this selection: if there was to be mayhem again, it wouldn’t hurt the same businesses that suffered with us the previous week.

At the designated hour hundreds of Palestinians, mostly youth, gathered with Palestinian flags on both sides of Khuri St., about the same number that was in the Herak demonstration a week ago. Spirits were high again and everybody was chanting slogans and singing freedom songs. The police also brought a big force for the event, but didn’t try to prevent us from gathering.

The Demonstration in Khuri St on the day of the General Strike

After about half an hour, the demonstrators started to march toward Wadi Nisnas. Because the police were concentrating in Khuri St. the demonstrators tried to reach the Wadi through a side-street, but soon their way was blocked by a cordon of mounted police. After standing for some time face-to-face in front of the police, the demonstrators returned to Khuri street, but now they occupied the street itself, blocking the main passage from the Wadi to Hadar.

While the previous Tuesday the police closed the whole area more than an hour before our demonstration, clearing the space for a battle, now they didn’t close the street for cars even as it was already closed by the demonstration. Some cars were stuck between us and the police and had to move slowly to cross through the crowd. During the event, all the people in those cars were making “V” signs and chanting with us to show their support for the demonstration…

Apparently, the Haifa police put in their mind that their task is to prevent the demonstrators from marching. So, while if we would have held a march in the small streets of Wadi Nisnas the “disturbance” to the city’s routine would be minimal, they actually let us occupy and block a central route in a much more visible location. The demonstration lasted for almost two hours and we left feeling that the message of our protest was heard loud and clear.

* * *

As I write these lines the clock is showing 2:00 am and the ceasefire is expected to take hold. I hope the current bloodshed will stop, but I know that the killing of Palestinians on a daily basis by the racist army and police, in the West Bank and “48”, is not going to stop. And the siege of Gaza, preventing medical supplies, electricity, clean water and all economic development is killing more people and causing more suffering than the bombing itself. In “48”, due to poverty and long social neglect, organized crime, encouraged by the Israeli police, became an epidemic that daunted Palestinian society. During the last two weeks violent crime fell sharply. We have a long struggle ahead until people here would be able to live safely in freedom, but the Palestinian people are now more united and self-confident than they have been for many years.

To my American audience I must say that even the Israeli leadership wanted the ceasefire for at least a week, as Netanyahu achieved his political goal to prevent the “pseudo-opposition” from creating a government without him. Netanyahu said he would continue the attacks until “the goals would be achieved”, but he couldn’t say what those goals are… The bloodshed continued just because Israeli leaders couldn’t let themselves seem soft on the Palestinians while the USA president avoided calling for a ceasefire and actually pushed them to continue bombing Gaza.

Intifada Diary, Haifa, Palestine


, , , ,

The uprising in Haifa is drawing from all sectors of the Palestinian community, as the Israeli government brings in the Shin Bet to help smash the protests.

(The second report about the Intifada in Haifa, as appeared in Mondoweiss)

On Saturday it seemed that Haifa is somewhat calmer. But that is only relatively to the last stormy six days. But the Israeli massacre of Gaza’s children continues in all its ferocity.

After the first days of fear, shock, and rage at the attacks on isolated Arab homes in mixed neighborhoods by the fascists, and at the attacks on the Arab population at large by the police and the army, people are now closely following all the developments in the struggle. Almost all Palestinians in Haifa are involved in the struggle in this way or that. Wherever you go you meet more people that were attacked by fascists or by the police, and hear more stories about friends and relatives who have been injured or detained (or both).

In this short dispatch I will try to convey some of the events from the 7th and 8th days of the intifada in Haifa.

Saturday, May 15

This was the 7th day since the current intifada reached Haifa. The fascist mobs were not on the streets. But the police, reinforced by heavily armed “border guards”, patrolled the Arab neighborhoods with a clear intention to “take revenge” on the people. It is not only against Gaza that the Zionists want to “restore deterrence”. On the other side, the activists wanted to restore the self-confidence of the people by developing mutual solidarity and social activity, sometimes avoiding direct confrontation.

I went with a group of activists to check the situation in Halisa, where we heard of a campaign of detentions overnight. We climbed our way to an old crumbling house just a hundred meters from the massive buildings of the Haifa police headquarters. In the house we found a mother and her daughters, as the family’s father and three sons were all arrested in a police raid on their house. They show us videos how the police attacked the house, broke in and beat them cruelly in their own home, even after they were laying flat on the ground. They tell us that the police accused them of attacking their religious Jewish neighbors. They told us that they are on very good relations with those neighbors. Actually, the neighbors themselves came to the court to testify with them in the remand hearing! The neighbors waited with them for hours, but the court refused to hear them and remanded the detention of all four of the detainees. (They were later released on Sunday, after the judge finally agreed to witness the videos and was shocked by the police’s violence).

The evidence of harsh treatment was evident on the bodies of the released detainees in Halisa

We climbed the hill to Hussein St. where we met a group of youths sitting on the pavement. They told us how on Friday night, at about 1:00 am, as they were sitting near their houses, the police fired tear gas into the street without any provocation. After the tear gas came the border guards and started beating people randomly and detaining some of them. As we were trying to check with our volunteer lawyers what happened with the detainees, some of them came walking from the police headquarters. Some of them spent the night in the hospital after the beating. Now they were released on the condition that they stay out of Haifa (where they live and work) for the next 15 days. The bloodstained signs of the beating could be clearly seen on their bodies.

The breadth of the protests

We hardly know what happens in other towns around Haifa and beyond. We are very busy with the events, the Israeli media hardly write anything about Palestinians suffering from Israeli oppression or resisting it, and the Arab media can hardly catch up with the events. In normal days when there is a demonstration or a clash with the police you can expect to read an article about it in Arab48. Now there are dozens of demonstrations and clashes every day. The daily report only gives a list of seven or eight places where they happened, and mention that it is only a partial list. At best you can find a few lines about some of the events. 

Luckily, the police are obliged by the law to bring detainees to court within 24 hours of their detention (more or less). It means that people that were detained on Friday are brought to court on Saturday night. As most courts are closed, detainees from many Arab towns around Haifa are brought to Haifa, and it is an opportunity for us to meet families of the detainees and some of the activists, and hear some news about other fronts in the battle. Everybody that we talk with is in high spirits. We hear of daily demonstrations and clashes with the police in every location. Everybody agrees that all the attempts to wipe out Palestinian identity and make the people, especially the youth, care only for their personal fate completely failed. The youth are leading the struggle and have their own network of organizations, outside the influence of all the traditional frameworks.

We hear of one town where the municipality begged the police to prevent the selling of dangerous fireworks toward Eid al-Fitr. The police did nothing of the sort. Now there is no Eid and all the fireworks are directed at the police.

The same story repeats itself on Sunday morning, as it is the eve of the Jewish Shavuot holiday, and on Monday night after all courts were closed for the holiday.

Demonstrations again

Long before the current uprising, Herak Haifa planned to commemorate the Palestinian Nakba, in coordination with other Palestinian movements all over Palestine and the diaspora, with a special event with lighting the torch of return. The activity was planned to take place in Prisoner’s Square, in the German Colony, where the clashes started in the first three days of last week. Now, as Palestinians in Haifa are under attack, the German Colony is not regarded a safe place. The fascists issued calls for attacking the Herak activity, and we know very well that the police would be more than happy to take part in such an attack. The youth in the Arab neighborhoods are mobilized for self-defense of the population, but the Herak didn’t want to farther strain their efforts and cancelled the activity.

Tal’at demo in Habibi Circle, Wadi Nisnas

Meanwhile, many women activists felt that they were sidelined while the main forms of activity are clashes with the police or physically confronting attackers. In the last few years, we have witnessed several very significant struggles led by “Tal’at”, a feminist Palestinian initiative that unites Palestinian women in all different localities. Now Tal’at called for a 15th of May Nakba demonstration in Emil Habibi Circle in the middle of Wadi Nisnas. Many were afraid, after the experience of the last days, that any demonstration would be attacked by the police. But more than a hundred activists, around 80% of them women, came anyway to the demonstration. The police were watching from the other side of the circle and the demonstration took place without being interrupted.

At the end of the demonstration, most of the participants walked through downtown Haifa to the court, and held another lively demonstration there. As we arrived near the court, we found that the police and border guards concentrated heavy forces in front of the building. There was a big gathering of the families of detainees from all the towns in the Haifa district, and the police kept the demonstrators separated from the families. There were even police dogs ready to bite us. Later we learned that the police mobilization was probably due to the fact that Sheikh Kamal Hatib, the deputy leader of the banned Islamic Movement, was also brought for remand. He was arrested the previous night from his home in Kafr Kanna (Cana of Galilee) near Nazareth in a very violent way, which included firing live munition at protesters, wounding many, several of them dangerously.

Nightly demonstration in front of the Haifa court, Saturday, May 15

Sunday, May 16

In the morning we went to the court again, to see who was arrested the previous night, to support the families of the detainees, and to encourage the volunteer lawyers. There are many Arab lawyers that are volunteering to defend the detainees from the protests. Their presence is a very strong message to the detainees and their families: you are not alone; you are part of a society that is under attack and stays strong by caring for each other. We, in Haifa, are lucky to have a special team of young female lawyers that organized prior to the current crisis in order to defend Palestinian political prisoners. Now they work day and night, giving consultations to detainees before they are interrogated and representing them in the remand hearings.

The journalist

Rashad Omari is clearly the bravest Palestinian journalist in Haifa. He is the owner and editor of “Al-Madina”, a local weekly that is freely distributed in Haifa and surrounding towns. He personally covers all of the Palestinian demonstrations in Haifa, as well as many social issues. On Friday he was arrested from his home in Haifa and was accused of “incitement”. They did not say what this supposed incitement consisted of, or where and when it was published. He spent the night in prison and later the police suggested to release him on condition that he keep out of the city for the next 15 days. He refused, and as a reprisal the police brought him to court on Saturday night and requested to remand his detention. The judge didn’t find any evidence of any offense and he was released without conditions.  He was the last person to walk out of the court at 2:00 am.

On Sunday morning he was already in front of the court again, covering the remand hearings of other detainees, interviewing families and laughing with friends.

Police dogs in front of the Haifa court, May 15, 2021

The lecturer

As we were waiting in front of the court, we saw a man approaching with a sense of urgency. It was Ashraf Kortam, a well known local public figure, a lecturer on life skills. He was looking for the offices of Mahash, the special unit in Israel’s “Justice Ministry” that is responsible for investigating complaints against the police. He shows us a video, filmed by his neighbors, of how a policeman came to his house in a police car and hit him with a police baton again and again without any apparent reason. Unlike in most such cases, he knows the officer’s name. We find that Mahash is in “the missile building”, just on the other side of the avenue. He hurried there but found that the “justice ministry” is on holiday in Shavuot’s eve. He will go there after the holiday. I didn’t like telling him that the main role of Mahash is to hide evidence and close files.

Enter the Shin Bet

It was reported in the Israeli papers that the Shabak, or Shin Bet, was requested by the Israeli government to help the police in suppressing the mass protest. We have started to feel the heat. Before the police would only attack us only after we started to demonstrate in the street, now they sit tightly on our communications and arrest people that try to plan a demonstration. On Saturday they arrested two of the Herak activists just as we were discussing the proper way to commemorate the Nakba.

On Sunday morning one of the activists from Wadi Nisnas called his friends near the court to ask how many people were gathering there. He told them that he planned to bring manakish to the hungry masses. Before he had time to get out of his home, the police were there and took him with them. He was accused of an unclear charge of taking part in organizing the protests. After a few hours he finally joined the crown near the court, as a released detainee and, of course, without manakish. The cooperation between the police and the Shabak proved itself again as an efficient way to prevent “threats to Israel’s security”.

Today, Monday, (17.5.2021), we were all preparing for the general strike that was declared for tomorrow. The general strike is an opportunity for the society as a whole to stand out and prove that the protest is not only the matter of the youth activists. I hope to cover the preparations with the report about the strike itself in the next dispatch.