The Israeli Police State

Last night, a couple dozens of Border Police and city police raided a closed cafe is South Tel Aviv, where one of the owners and an employee were closing down the kitchen and register. Police forced their way into the business, and attacked and manhandled the proprietor, Orly Chen. Both of the women were arrested. The barrista was released this morning, Chen is still in interrogation.

OrlyChenArrestCafe Alby

Apparently, a city inspector reported that Alby, the cafe, was open (though it was clearly locked) because a group of “Women in Yellow” (a grassroots group that has organized to patrol the increasingly violent streets of South Tel Aviv, which the police generally avoid and have become particularly dangerous to women) had wrapped up their patrol in front of the closed cafe.

Women In Yellow

One of the founders of the Women in Yellow is activist Ortal Ben Dayan. And this is where the story begins to make sense: About 1-2 weeks ago, Ben Dayan confronted a Border Police officer who was being verbally abusive to a Palestinian family sitting at the cafe. The officer proceeded to verbally abuse Ben Dayan, and demanded she provide identification. Under Israeli law, citizens have the right to refuse to identify themselves unless they are being detained under suspicion of a crime (and I believe they need to be informed what the crime is). Ben Dayan was clearly not under suspicion, and had no need to identify. The police officer then placed her under arrest, claiming she had “offended a public official”. After a night in jail and some legal ludicrousness, Ben Dayan was found to not be in violation of any law and was released. The officer who arrested her, on the other hand, was surprisingly not let off so easily – after extremely racist statements were found on his Facebook profile, he was dismissed from service.

Read more here – http://www.haaretz.com/news/national/.premium-1.541537

(I don’t like to link to Ha’aretz, which is a supposedly progressive newspaper that supports rapists, and has recently launched a pornographic ad campaign objectifying women, and also gates their content to paid subscribers – but I’m making an exception here since it is difficult to find reports on these things in English. Hopefully, you’ll reach the non-paid content.)

So, going back to the raid on Alby: If for the sake of argument we accept the inspector’s assertion that the cafe was open – why did an entire caravan of police cars and a couple dozen police show up? Why did the BORDER POLICE rather than the city police take the lead on the situation? This was clearly not a run-of-the-mill business infraction situation. It appears that the association between Alby and the incident with Ben Dayan made it a target (the cafe is a regular hangout for queer and political activist groups, and Ben Dayan runs her own vintage shop next door).

But clearly even the original assertion is completely fabricated. When police arrived the business was locked up, and they threatened Chen that if she did not open up, they would break the glass storefront.

Here are two videos showing the police conduct (including where an officer clearly goes to where Chen is standing behind the counter and grabs her. He apparently claimed she attacked him). The whole time Chen is asking – what am I being arrested for? and receiving no answer. At one point as she is being pushed into the patrol car, the officer near her says “the arresting officer informed you what for”. The video is uncut from the arrest to that point – and at no time is Chen informed what the arrest is for.

See video of Chen’s arrest here:

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As I’m writing this report (Aug 27, late morning Jerusalem time), I have been informed that under a police order the cafe has been shut down for 30 days, for supposed safety violations. As you can see below, every single possible violation has been marked on the form (how likely is that?). Even though I already knew I was living in a state where there is minimal oversight of police and minimal respect for human rights, Israel likes to maintain the *appearance* of propriety, and I really didn’t know that the police could just take away a business’ right to exist with no court approval or intervention.

Update ~ noon Jerusalem time: City and Riot police arrive at Alby to harass customers and onlookers, illegally demanding they provide picture ID and leave the premises.

Update ~2pm Jerusalem time: Police are trying to remove equipment from the cafe. Activists preventing it. 

Update ~3pm Jerusalem time: Having faced resistance from the activists and customers, the Riot Police returned with a warrant to remove the business’ computer, under suspicion of “agitation”. How military dictatorship is that? Somewhat Kafkaesque? People are agitated that the business owner is being detained without charge and her business targeted for closure, which retroactively enables the police to seize the cafe’s computer for… agitation? 

Activists vowing to block them from carrying this out indefinitely. Also, a protest rally is planned this evening in front of the South Tel Aviv police station. If anyone reading this is in the vicinity of Tel Aviv please come (or at least distribute the event). 

Incidentally, Alby is one of the few queer-friendly (and queer-owned) businesses in Tel Aviv, which is virtually the only queer-friendly place in Israel. I invite anyone who is interested in exposing the true face of Israel in the face of the extreme pinkwashing of the Israeli government and allies organizations worldwide to share this and other stories. I encourage BDS activists to us this too: While for some people (like the Tom Jones representatives on Facebook) Islamophobia and therefore abuse of Palestinians may be palatable, the mindset that allows that abuse affects us all, and until we are all safe, no one is safe. And anti-BDS voices certainly use the supposed queer-friendliness of Israeli authorities as a (very poor) counter argument to Palestinian solidarity.

The police closure order on Alby:

Copies of the licenses supposedly lacking: 

Electrical Inspection

Business License

Gas Inspection

Some other famous instances of police brutality :

Rocking the Tel Aviv SlutWalk!

Oh. My. Holy. Crap.

On Friday, April 5th, the Tel Aviv SlutWalk took place and we totally rocked this city! I am so proud of all the hundreds of women who showed up and marched, of the organizers who put their hearts and souls into making it a success, of those who got up on stage and spoke to the crowds about their experiences with rape culture and victim blaming.

I was hoping for the best, but was cautiously optimistic. Rain was expected. There was another organization trying to appropriate the SlutWalk while basing their activities on blatant slut-shaming. Historically, anti-sexual violence marches do not attract huge crowds here. As a matter of fact… This was the largest march I’ve seen! We got good coverage on TV, radio, newspapers, news sites and blogs… So surprising, so gratifying! I’m really just brimming over 🙂

Photos and videos are still being assembled – here is one from YouTube:

Photo gallery – credits to Claudia Levin, Lihi Barnoy, Aviv Aharon, Shimon Hashanki

Visualizing Occupation: Children under Israel’s legal regime

The different legal systems under which Israelis and Palestinians are tried apply to children as well. As +972 has consistently documented, Palestinian children arrested by the army are treated by the military court system as “potential terrorists.” The visual below demonstrates what would happen should two 12-year-old boys, one Israeli and one Palestinian, get arrested for fighting. One would swiftly be brought before a judge, given access to a lawyer, tried and spared jail time. The other could face two years in jail without trial. This illustration is the eighth in a series of infographics on Palestinian civilian life under occupation.

By Michal Vexler, with the cooperation of Caabu – The Council for Arab-British Understanding

See the series, Visualizing Occupation, in full here.

via Visualizing Occupation: Children under Israel’s legal regime | +972 Magazine.

269 Animal Solidarity Tattoo Event

“…the question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk?
but, Can they suffer?” / Jeremy Bentham

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Following the extreme protest carried out by Israeli animal rights activists, in which they branded themselves with the number “269”, after a calf they met on a factory farm, the project continues: On November 1, which is International Vegan Day, the activists carried out a tattoo event, in which everyone was invited to get a 269 tattoo in solidarity with the suffering of animals raised and killed for human use and consumption.

The event created worldwide waves, and sister-events were carried out in many locations, such as Melbourne, Australia:

Augusta, Georgia, US:

Johannesburg, South Africa:

The Israel Solidarity Event:

The 269 official site

The 269 Facebook page

Picture gallery

West Bank village resists, week after week

Reblogged from “Waging Nonviolence”

by  | September 27, 2012

The Freedom Theatre performs in Nabi Saleh. By Bryan MacCormack.

Mohammed returned to the central square of his village in a small caravan of cars with his friends. Their horns were blaring. This wasn’t a usual night in Nabi Saleh: Half of its 500 inhabitants were already out in the square, surrounding a makeshift stage of lights and speakers. His friends dragged him out of the car and through the crowd, toward the lights. The crowd chanted “Freedom!” and then found their way into a song that declares against the jailer, “I will love the dark.” There was a play already underway, and suddenly it was about him — and, by extension, the nearly three-year-old struggle of his entire village.

That night in late September, after two weeks in an Israeli jail, Mohammed came home during a stop of the Freedom Bus. This nine-day tour through the West Bank was the work of the Freedom Theatre, based a few hours north (on a day without checkpoints) at the refugee camp in Jenin. In Nabi Saleh, to an audience of villagers and foreign supporters traveling on the bus, actors from the Freedom Theatre were doing Playback Theatre — hearing stories from people in the audience and turning them into improvised skits.

Urged into taking a microphone, Mohammed described what had happened to him, and what has happened to so many others in Nabi Saleh. Israeli soldiers raided his home in the middle of the night, tore it apart and took him away for interrogation. He was forced to remain standing for hours at a time while blindfolded and hurled with insults. As the actors reenacted Mohammed’s story, his friends shot fireworks overhead.

Mohammed, who looked to be in his early 20s, earned his detention simply by doing what people in Nabi Saleh have been doing since late 2009: demonstrating after Friday prayers, every single week, against land grabs by the nearby Israeli settlement of Halamish.

His arrest is only one of more than a hundred that villagers have suffered since the protests began, including young children. Throughout, houses have been burned, windows have been broken, furniture has been smashed. “We want to make these demonstrations stop,” an Israeli intelligence officer told Mohammed.

Bassem Tamimi is at the forefront of organizing the campaign in Nabi Saleh, his home. He is in his mid-40s, and four years of his life have been spent in Israeli jails. Israelis killed his sister and have arrested each of his children. His face is narrow, with a peppery moustache and dark wrinkles. He looks a little like George Orwell. “We decide to resist because we believe that our destiny is not to accept the occupation,” he said. Nabi Saleh’s strategy comes as a response to the experience of the Second Intifada of more than a decade ago, he says, when Israel was able to justify brutal repression by branding Palestinian armed resistance as terrorism in the international media.

“We don’t want our society to turn to violent resistance in the future,” he explained, “not because our enemy does not deserve it, but because we don’t want to hurt our issue.” Their goal is to create a model of resistance that will spread to other Palestinian communities — and it already has. “We don’t want to go to an academic workshop and talk about violence and nonviolence and Gandhi. No — don’t talk about nonviolence, do it. We’re going to do it on the ground to convince everyone.”

After Friday afternoon prayers each week, the villagers begin a march to the land confiscated from them by the nearby Israeli settlement. Together they approach the inevitable line of soldiers, who inevitably deploy a combination of tear gas, flash grenades, noxious “Skunk” spray, rubber bullets and live ammunition. Some villagers react by throwing rocks while others run. Repeat, week after week.

“They will not give us a rose because we are resisting,” Bassem Tamimi said. “We do not expect that they will welcome us, and we are not welcoming them.” A relative of his, Mustafa Tamimi, was killed last year after being hit in the face by a tear gas canister. Mustafa owned the land with a spring on it that the village had depended on and that the settlement had taken.

A Freedom Theatre actor talks with a boy in Nabi Saleh. By Bryan MacCormick.

Resistance has thus become a way of life for everyone in Nabi Saleh. A point is made of including women and children alongside men. The effects of the fight are therefore visible among villagers of all ages, both men and women: missing fingers, scars and chemical burns. “We know that women are half of our society and half of our power,” Tamimi explained. As for the children, “We want to strengthen them, to make them strong to face the enemy in the future.” One little boy, I was told, had a special talent for throwing tear gas canisters back to from where they came.

During the Freedom Theatre’s show, one women told of being arrested by Israeli soldiers while her children tried to pull her away. Another watched the actors recreate the day that she had to push her daughter out a window after soldiers fired tear gas into her house. A grandmother said that she goes to sleep early since most nights she can expect to be woken up by an Israeli raid.

Balil Tamimi — Tamimi is a common family name in town — has taken on the job of documenting the protests. He looks about Bassem’s age and wears thick bifocal glasses. After the Freedom Theatre finished its performance, clips of video taken by him and others were projected on a wall, with scenes of tear gas canons on armored vehicles and soldiers shooting their rifles. It showed the fence that villagers have made out of spent tear gas canisters.

“From the beginning we realized that the media is one of the most important things,” Balil told me. “We use it in our demonstration to reach the world, to reach people, to tell them what has happened in our village.”

Video projected on a wall in Nabi Saleh. By Bryan MacCormick.

The Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem gave him a camera soon after the campaign began, and he uploads his videos to the Internet. They’ve helped attract support from international media and the European Union. Now, in many of the demonstrations, supporters from Israel and abroad stand alongside the villagers. Their target is the mentality of occupation and control, of land grabs and night raids. When that is gone, the people of Nabi Saleh might be willing to welcome their new neighbors.

“If we change our thinking, we can live together,” said Bassem Tamimi. “But they want to control our lives. Life is freedom. If you lose your freedom, you lose everything.”

At the end of the Playback rendition of Mohammed’s story, as is customary in the genre, the actors held their arms toward him with their palms facing up. The visitors on the Freedom Bus were applauding along with the villagers. The actors asked him whether what they had done was right — if they’d captured his experience or if he had anything else to add.

“I have a beautiful feeling,” Mohammed said into the microphone, which echoed his voice against the buildings of the village. “Thank you very much.”

As the Freedom Bus pulled away from Nabi Saleh and on to the maze of roads Palestinian vehicles are allowed to travel on, it passed a corner of the Halamish settlement. Behind the fences and the gate, one could see a group of settlers serenely gathered in a circle under a single streetlight. They were not soldiers with guns, nor were they innocents. It was just a momentary glimpse, and it might have seemed sentimental if it did not come at such a cost.

Activists Brand Themselves in Solidarity with Farm Animals

On October 2nd 2012, world farm animals day, three animal rights activists in Israel got branded with a hot steel brand, in the same way farm animals are branded in factory farms.

Trigger warning for animal cruelty on the first vid.

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See also

http://www.facebook.com/269calf

Just How Easy It Is To Give In To Institutionalized Racism

A personal anecdote, which just happened about half an hour ago.

(I think sometimes the small, everyday indicators of how wrong things are hit home more powerfully than the worst horrors we see in pictures or on the news, which are often too gruesome to truly grasp.)

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I sent a shipment to London for a trade show. Brochures, pens.

I get a message that my shipment is held up at security, with a phone number to call. I call.

The security officer asks me a series of expected questions: What is in the boxes, who packed them, were the items special order or from stock in your office, who else knows where the shipment is going… I answer.

Then she asks: Do you have any Arabs employed at your company?

I answer, no.
My stomach is knotted, because I am very unhappy that the level of discrimination against Arabs means that it is pretty obvious that we would have no Arab employees. But I am also relieved, on some level, because I need my shipment to go out, my job depends on successfully getting my projects off the ground.

She asks, do you employ any foreign workers? No.
Not even as cleaners? No.

Okay, your shipment is cleared.

Congratulations to me. I am certified to send brochures to London, all at the tiny price of apartheid.

I feel sick to my stomach.

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