Gila Svirsky


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An update of several issues occupying the Israeli peace movement lately

14 September 2004

An update of several issues occupying the Israeli peace movement lately:

Palestinian cave-dwellers in the South Hebron Hills

In a ruling last week by Israel’s High Court of Justice, one small village of this community was given a 4-month reprieve from further destruction of its caves, wells, and animal sheds.  The bad news is that the residents are now required to obtain permits to legalize these structures, a nearly impossible task for Palestinians in the occupied territories, especially when nearby Israeli settlers covet the land.  Two of the presiding judges noted the absurdity of demanding a permit that was “unattainable”, in their words (Ha’aretz, 8 Sept).  Nevertheless, even a temporary reprieve was of crucial importance, and the judges’ words hold some encouragement for future disposition of this case, though the court will be hard pressed to rule these structures legal in the absence of Israeli building permits.

Israeli human rights activists, led by Ta’ayush and Rabbis for Human Rights, have been organizing to protect this community.  Three large ads were placed in last week’s Ha’aretz, each representing a different constituency:  prominent Israeli authors, anthropologists of internationally stature (photo, right), and a coalition of 14 Israeli organizations working on the issue.  Let me know if you want me to send you a .jpg file of these ads (in Hebrew).

A parallel court case is even more dire:  The IDF is threatening a large number of cave-dwellers with eviction from the region, on the grounds that the army needs the land as a firing zone.  Yes, you read right.  Channel your anger into action, and sign one of our petitions, if you have not yet done so:

For university teachers, click into

For the rest of us, click into:

Unfortunately, our faxes did not make a difference here:  On August 19, the California Gambling Control Commission voted 3-0 to award Irving Moskowitz a conditional license to operate his bingo parlors.  Moskowitz, as many of you know, bankrolls some of the most extreme settlements in the West Bank out of proceeds from his casinos in the low-income LA suburb of Hawaiian Gardens.  For more details and further efforts, see

Tali Fahima

For years, Israel has placed “wanted” Palestinians into “administrative detention” on just the signed order of an official, rather than due process, and these detentions can last for years.  (About 730 Palestinians are currently in administrative detention by the Israeli army, some for very extended periods.  See  But what’s new is the arrest and detention of Tali Fahima, a 28-year old Israeli woman, who decided to cross the lines and see things for herself.  The military (and emotional) obstacles to entering Jenin are formidable, and this was a daring act, particularly for a Sharon supporter.  However, what Tali saw in Jenin seems to have changed her mind about things – she does not hide her new political views or friendship with the leader of the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, who happens to be the most wanted man on Israel’s West Bank list.

Terrorism is deplorable, and this man boasts of his bloody exploits, but to jump from this to Tali’s aiding and abetting terrorism should be subject to due process.  Unfortunately, this case will be handled like many security cases in Israel (including that of nuclear whistleblower Vanunu) – without the defendant or her lawyer having access to the evidence, and therefore unable to prepare a proper defense.  The case gets decided between the security services and the judges, to whom the evidence is revealed.  The Coalition of Women for Peace and others are pressing for an open and fair trial, but the authorities are not impressed.  The Defense Minister ruled (heaven knows why it’s his call) that Tali would be held in detention for the coming 4 months, and this is renewable.  Security officials say they have “extensive and reliable” evidence to incriminate her, but they just can’t show it, as it would compromise their sources.  Now is that a fair trade – protecting these ‘upstanding’ sources at the expense of a fair trial for someone with no criminal record whatsoever?  The only democracy in the Middle East, did someone say?

The “Security Wall”

Sharon hated the wall to begin with, as it threatened to distinguish between Israel and the West Bank, which he seeks to annex, but now that the wall is routed deep inside the Occupied Territories, it’s a lot more palatable.  Except to the Palestinians, of course.  The latest egregious harm relates to the start of the school year, and the thousands of Palestinian children who cannot access their schools on the other side of the wall.  The women’s peace movement, Bat Shalom in particular, has been holding regular demonstrations in the large A-Ram neighborhood (see photo, right, by Dalit Baum), where some 5,000 children are separated from their classrooms.  What about UNESCO?  Is there someone out there who can activate this or other international agencies for the protection of children?

The Refuseniks

Our joy could not be greater -- to welcome home the five brave young men who refused to serve in the army of occupation and will be released from prison on Wednesday.  The peace movement will hold a big party in their honor, also as a way to encourage the other brave souls who are still in prison for refusing to serve, and those who are following in their footsteps.  Let’s hope the army does not renew the cycle of trying to recruit them.  The 5 honorees: Noam Bahat, Adam Maor, Haggai Matar, Shimri Tsameret and Matan Kaminer.


Finally, I’ll be traveling in the US in October together with two Palestinian women (Marianne Albina from Jerusalem and Hidaya Said Najmi from Jenin) as part of the Partners for Peace tour called “Jerusalem Women Speak: Three Women, Three Faiths, One Shared Vision”.  I’ll print our schedule below.  If you’re interested in booking an engagement or media appearance in any of these cities, or getting more information, write or call Susanne or Michael at (202) 863-2951 or partnersforpeace(at) or check it out at

The schedule
Washington, DC – October 7 – 8
Irvine, CA – October 9
San Diego, CA – October 10 – 11
Los Angeles/ Orange County, CA – October 12 – 13
San Francisco, CA – October 14 – 16
Seattle, WA – October 16 – 18
Chicago, IL – October 19 – 21
Washington, DC – October 21 – 24

Finally, on a personal note, this week is Rosh Hashana.  I quote from the wonderful New Year’s card issued by MachsomWatch, the women who monitor checkpoints in the territories:  “Happy New Year. A year of open roads, from town to town, from people to people, from person to person”.  Amen.

Shalom from Jerusalem,
Gila Svirsky