Friday, 2 August 2013

‘African Americans for Justice in the Middle East & North Africa’ condemn rising racism in Israel

We, the undersigned, condemn in the strongest possible terms recent racist comments made by Israel's newly-elected chief Ashkenazi rabbi, David Lau, who referred to African-American basketball players playing in Israel as "kushim," a derogatory term that is akin to "nigger." Rabbi Lau, a government official who is paid by the state and who is scheduled to serve a ten-year term as one of two official chief Israeli rabbis, made the offensive remarks to young Jewish religious students while warning them against watching televised sports like basketball. Following criticism from anti-racism activists, Rabbi Lau was defended by Natfali Bennett, Israel's Minister of Religious Services and leader of the Jewish Home party.

Regrettably, the sentiments expressed by Rabbi Lau reflect a larger problem of racism in Israeli society. In recent years, Israel has witnessed a rising tide of socially acceptable bigotry, particularly against African asylum seekers and Palestinians, fanned by senior religious and political figures. In June 2012, Israel's then-Interior Minister, Eli Yishai, declared that Israel "belongs to us, to the white man," in response to a question about Muslim asylum seekers.

The previous month, Israeli politicians, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and members of his Likud party, helped incite a wave of violence against Africans after making fear-mongering and incendiary comments about asylum seekers. In one instance, Likud parliamentarian Miri Regev described African refugees as a "cancer in our body" at a rally in Tel Aviv that degenerated into what local media described as a "race riot" in which random individuals of African descent were attacked in the street. Around the same time, a series of arsons and other violent attacks were carried out against Africans in Israel. The situation was so bad that a group of ambassadors from African countries complained to Israel's foreign ministry that African diplomats were afraid to walk down the street. more

Worshipers rally for prisoners at al-Aqsa

JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- Dozens of worshipers on Friday rallied in the al-Aqsa compound in solidarity with prisoners in Israeli jails.

The demonstrators raised Palestinian flags and pictures of Jordanian prisoners on hunger strike. They chanted for unity between all Palestinian factions and in support of prisoners.

One worshiper, Abu Mohammad, said that “we ensure today that we will not forget our prisoners. We demand that the prisoners file remains always a top priority for the leadership.” more

Hundreds rally in Negev against Israeli plan to displace Bedouins

NEGEV (Ma’an) – Hundreds of Palestinian residents of Israel rallied Thursday afternoon against Israel’s Prawer Plan which could displace thousands of Bedouin residents of the Negev from their land.

The protestors gathered near al-Arakib village where Israeli forces have demolished tents and tin-roofed houses more than 50 times.

A Ma’an reporter in the Negev said Israeli police deployed heavily in the area trying to prevent demonstrators from reaching the main road.

Protestors chanted slogans against “the racist plan” as they waved Palestinian flags.

The reporter added that hundreds of displaced Bedouins started to return to their villages early Thursday morning.

Former Arab member of Knesset Talab al-Sani said Israeli police behaved in a provocative way and prevented demonstrators from accessing the village. Solidarity activists, locals and internationals, have helped residents of al-Arakib rebuild their tents and movable houses every time Israeli forces demolished the village. more

Journalists rally against Gaza crackdown

RAMALLAH (Ma’an) – Palestinian journalists joined a sit-in strike near Ramallah on Thursday protesting a decision by the Hamas-run government in Gaza to close media offices of Ma’an Network, Al Arabiya and others.

The protesters, among them Palestinian politicians and dignitaries, urged the Hamas government to reopen all the media offices it closed, and to end a ban on the entry of three major Palestinian newspapers.

The protest was organized and called by the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, the main press union in Palestine.

Protesters raised posters expressing rejection of the restrictions on freedom of expression imposed by the Hamas-run government and its security services in the coastal enclave. Part of these restrictions is a policy of closing offices of media organizations, and detention of journalists, according to the posters the protesters waved. more