Ittijah - Union of Arab Community Based Associations
Issue No. 8 - July 18, 2003
Ittijah is the network for Palestinian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Israel. Ittijah strives to strengthen and empower the Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel by promoting the development of Palestinian civil society and advocating for political, economic and social change.
“Case-owners, not landowners” [top]
An interview with Dr. Deeb Daoud
While the Right of Return makes international headlines as a part of the ”Road Map” peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, a single plea for return remains nearly unnoticed by the general public. On June 26, after six years of hearings, the Israeli High Court of Justice rejected the petition of former residents of Iqrit to return to their homes. Iqrit, a small village next to the Lebanese border, was captured by the Israeli army in October 1948, and the approximately 420 Christian residents were expelled. On Christmas Eve 1951, the village was destroyed completely by the Israeli Army, leaving only the church and the cemetery intact. Despite several promises made by the Israeli government that the people could return to the village, the Iqrit community, now numbering about 1000, remains scattered across Israel.
Dr. Deeb Daoud, Board chairman of the Iqrit Heritage Society, lives and works as a physician in Haifa. Calling himself “an ordinary member of the community of Iqrit” regarding the petition, Dr. Daoud calls for a renewed strategy of popular action, rather than simply relying on the legal system, for achieving justice for the people of Iqrit.
Two weeks ago, the Israeli High Court of Justice rejected the petition of a group of former residents of Iqrit to return to the village. You say that you did not back this petition, as many Iqritis did. What is wrong with going to court for the right to return to your home?
The problem is that when you make a case of civil and property rights at the Supreme Court, you get into a deadlock with the judiciary system. You confine your case and exclude other aspects that are also important for your struggle. In fact, you even deteriorate the situation. The petitioners claimed that we should approach the Israeli judiciary system as citizens who have rights on unused properties today, and that’s all. Taking the position of citizens, they ignored the drawbacks of such an appeal. To my interpretation, the plea was a compromise made by the older generation to get rid of the feeling that they are old-fashioned and stubborn.
Now that the appeal has been rejected, we see that the elderly, who have a long experience, were wrong when they agreed to this step. We cannot achieve anything through the judiciary system of Israel, this was tried already years before.
Once you take legal action, you reduce your story to a lawsuit?
After the decision, one of our representatives was asked what “you” are going to do now. He responded, “We are going to consult our lawyer”. He is going to the lawyer, not to the people. He is continuing on the legal track, leaving any other tracks of struggle—solidarity between the Iqritis, solidarity with people outside Iqrit—out of consideration. In occasion of a demonstration planned by Jewish leftists in Iqrit last Friday to protest against the verdict, he asked the entire Arab sector as well as “the landowners” to come and demonstrate. Suddenly, we are not a village, not a community, but rather a list of landowners who applied to the Supreme Court. This is the technocratic trend of the struggle. He does not perceive the power, the strength of the people. We are case-owners, not landowners.
You brought your case to court in the Fifties several times. In the Seventies, there were sit-in strikes in the church of Iqrit. In 2003, the fifth appeal to the court was rejected, and you say that something was lost between then and now. What?
Indeed, the problem is not what happened at court, but what happened on our side, on the side of the people. In 1972, it was so natural for our fathers to go back to the village: they just loaded the trucks and drove to the church. It was so natural, so spontaneous. It was so natural that our younger people would go and see them each week to bring food, water, and moral support, and get morality in return. There was solidarity and support. The strike took six years, and many people stayed there for a very long time. Two grandmothers went for two months each. Grandfathers spend tens of months, up to several years, there. For a grandfather to sit in a strike for years, he needed support and backup by his wife, who suffered the stay alone at home, in Rama, in Haifa.
The means they used were more primitive than ours, but they did not lose the spirit of struggle. The spirit of unity. The spirit of solidarity that we lack today. There was energy and synergy between the people. Why? Because they gained the powerfulness of living together the daily life in Iqrit, of relationships that had been developed and lasted, of interests that they used to share.
I think it was ironically coincidental, that the recent verdict was issued on June 26, the anniversary day of beginning the sit-in strike, launched on the same day, 1972.
The illusion some of our people had—that the remedy for our case is a judiciary one—came to an end on the same day when our older people, our parents, fathers and mothers started their struggle.
Expulsion was executed 55 years ago. Most of today’s community never lived in Iqrit, they never lived together. As years go by, does it become more difficult to keep the community together?
This is the prospect of Zionism. To let you fade out and die, and that’s the end of the case. Because only life itself shapes up the relations between people. If we do not share our daily life, our relations will become so fragile and minimized. We have to urge our people to pay attention to that.
We have to let the people gather again, on a very strong and solid basis. We all have to recall our collective memory. We have to explain it to the people, especially to newer generations: If you are an Iqriti in danger to give up being an Iqriti, the first thing I should do is explain to you what you are losing. Until I make this clear to you, you are not fully guilty; I am guilty, too. First I should explain to you what you are going to lose, then it’s up to you.
We all have to re-establish the feeling that Iqrit is a community. It is far beyond a land registration case. This is our heritage, and our heritage is a small stone in the mosaic of the human heritage.
Ittijah welcomes three new member associations [top]
Ittijah’s General Assembly, which met on July 4th in Shefa Amr, has approved the membership candidacies of three associations, which raises the number of associations in Ittijah to 56. Ittijah’s new members are: El-Sana Theatre and Film Productions, a Nazareth-based association running a cinematheque for Arab and international quality productions, and producing films, TV productions, theatre and festivals; Al-Siraj, a women’s organization from the village of Zalafa which offers community leadership, empowerment, and literacy courses for local women; and Majduleen for Mother and Child, which runs a kindergarten in the village Kaubab Abu Heja, and offers courses and workshops for mothers in cooperation with women’s organizations.
Galilee Society Holds General Assembly [top]
The Galilee Society, the Arab National Society for Health Research and Services, held its annual general assembly on June 21. At the meeting, which took place at the Galilee Society's headquarters in Shefa Amr, Chairman of the Board Dr. Khalil Suleiman and General Director Dr. Basel Ghattas informed the participants of the previous year’s major achievements. The year 2002 marked the twentieth anniversary of the organization, which is devoted to equality for the Palestinian citizens of Israel in health, environmental, and socio-economic fields.
The general assembly also elected the Galilee Society’s new board, which held its first meeting on June 27. Members of the new board are: Chairman Dr. Khalid Suleiman (senior cardiologist), Dr. Ziad Halilia (dentist), Iyad Suleiman (systems information analyst and software engineer), Jamal Fatoum (Nahaf local council administrator), Dr. Mobada Simaan (microbiologist), Olga Selbaq (occupational therapist), Sami Mousa (nurse), Dr. Faheem Khamaise (family doctor), Nehai Daoud (public health professional), Dr. Hanna Khoury (medical doctor), and Dalal Farsoun (nurse).
A major success of 2002 was the debut of the Galilee Society’s new online database Rikaz, which was officially launched on December 19. Rikaz is the first socio-economic database on the Palestinian community in Israel, with steadily updated information on demography, employment, education, living standards, health and other social indicators.
Also new is the Al-Massaim Center for Research & Study of Medical Plants, an educational institution in Kafr Kanna (near Nazareth) that started its work in November. In the first two months of its existence, more than 900 students visited the center to learn about beekeeping, composting, marine biology, medicinal herbs, aeroponics, laboratory work, and domestic and wild birds kept in the aviary. Hundreds of students are taking part in the center’s “young researcher” program, and summer camps are underway for 2003.
The Galilee Society also held a conference on the health of the Palestinian community in Israel, the third such conference in the history of the Galilee Society, and the first since 1991. Unique in its extent of subjects, the conference covered culture-specific health issues such as inter-relative marriages and culturally appropriate learning disability diagnostic tools, as well as other health concerns such as emissions from cellular phones and antennas, smoking, and obesity. The conference participants—including academics, hospital workers, researchers, and Ministry of Health representatives—concluded that the Palestinian community in Israel is neglected and marginalized by the state to a wide extent, in matters of health, service provision and environmental hazards, as well as participation and decision-making.
Scientific Affairs Envoys Visit the Galilee Society [top]
On 26 June 2003, the Galilee Society received a delegation of scientific affairs representatives from the embassies of the United States, Japan, Austria, Germany, France and Holland, and from the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO). The tour, aimed to inform the envoys about the Galilee Society’s scientific activities, included meetings with scientists at the Regional Center for Research and Development (the scientific arm of the Galilee Society), and visits to the wastewater treatment plant in the Arab town of Sakhnin, and the Al-Maissam Center for Research and Study of Medical Plants.
The representatives also met with Knesset members Wasil Taha (National Democratic Assembly) and Abdul Malek Dahamshe (United Arab List), who emphasized the importance of science promotion and development for the future of the Arab minority in Israel. During an open forum that concluded the tour, the representatives expressed their appreciation of the scientific activity and projects of the Galilee Society, and their willingness to support and enhance cooperation with relevant institutions in their countries.
Political Prisoner’s Bank Account Illegally Charged by Prison Service: Adalah Files Petition [top]
Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, submitted a petition to the Nazareth District Court on July 6, on behalf of a Palestinian political prisoner from whose bank account the Israeli Prison Service unlawfully withdrew money. The Prison Service then used the money to pay disciplinary fines imposed on seven other prisoners. Adalah demands the return of 2,925 Shekels (about US$670), claiming that the withdrawal without the knowledge or authorization of the account holder is a violation of the right to property and the principle of individual responsibility, and that there is no legal basis for this procedure. Adalah Attorney Abeer Baker also argues that the case is an act of collective punishment.
Prisoner Karim Yunes, an Arab citizen of Israel serving a life sentence, is the spokesperson for political prisoners in Shata prison. He alone holds an account which contains funds for his personal use and for his aid association for political prisoners in Shata. In January, Yunes surprisingly found that the account had been drawn down by the Israeli Prison Service.
Adalah Brings Petition against Human Shields before Supreme Court [top]
The Supreme Court of Israel met on last Tuesday to hear a petition against the Isareli military’s use of Palestinian civilians as human shields. The petitioners—seven Israeli and Palestinian legal protection and human rights organizations—are represented by Adalah, which is also one of the petitioners. The petition states that the Israeli military’s use of human shields is inhumane and violates the right to life, physical integrity and dignity, as codified in the Geneva Convention. One of the Convention’s articles states that “The Occupying Power may not compel protected persons to serve in its armed or auxiliary forces.”The Israeli army has repeatedly forced Palestinian civilians, including women and children, to serve as human shields in military operations, a practice that has evoked international condemnation. Civilians are forced to enter buildings to check if they are booby-trapped, remove suspicious objects from roads used by the army, stand inside houses where soldiers have set up military positions, and walk in front of soldiers who fire over their shoulders. Israel claims that the use of civilians as human shields prevents loss of life.
The petition heard last week by the Supreme Court was originally filed by Adalah in May 2002. In August 2002, the Supreme Court issued a temporary injunction that prohibits the use of Palestinian civilians as human shields and/or hostages. Six months later, the Supreme Court limited this injunction and permitted the state to use civilians according to the criteria of “prior warning”, which states that Palestinian civilians can be used to “assist” the army if they agree to the request, and if there is no danger to the civilians in the operation. Adalah argues that the use of civilians by occupying forces in military operations is absolutely prohibited in international law, that it is inherently dangerous, and that no Palestinian would voluntarily agree to assist the Israeli army in such a way. An Israeli soldier stated in an affidavit that commanders in the West Bank are treating the “prior warning” order “like a joke”: “One guy asked what we should do if the Palestinians do not agree to serve as a shield, to which the instructor answered—grinning and joking—‘there is no such thing’.”
HRA Calls on European Union to Make Human Rights an Issue in Partnership with Israel [top]
The Arab Association for Human Rights (HRA) submitted a letter to the EU-Israel Association Committee meeting on July 9th in Brussels, urging the European Union to observe its commitment to human rights in its relations to Israel. The HRA refers to the EU-Israel Association Agreement, which entered into force in 2000 as a part of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership (Barcelona Process). Regulating cooperation between the European Union and Israel on the fields of political dialogue, economy (including free trade agreements), science and technology, culture, and social matters, the EU-Israel Association Agreement is “based on respect for human rights and democratic principles, which guides (the parties’) internal and international policy and constitutes an essential element of this Agreement” (Article 2). HRA argues that “if Israel wants to share in the economic prosperity of the European Union, as it currently does through its participation in research and development and free trade agreements, it must agree to share the political values of human rights”.
The letter highlights the rights of housing and freedom of religion, as codified in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union: “Everyone has the right to respect for his or her private and family life, home and communications” (Article 7) and “Everyone has the right to… manifest religion in worship, teaching, practice and observance” (Article 10). HRA states that the demolition of houses belonging to Arab citizens of Israel, the destruction of mosques, and the detention of Arab religious leaders are clear violations of these basic rights, and clear examples of how Israel “continues to systematically attack the human rights of its own Palestinian citizens inside the Green Line”. In the last month, Israel has demolished two houses of Palestinian citizens of Israel in the mixed town of Ramle near Tel Aviv, sent 150 demolition notices to Bedouins living in unrecognized villages in the Negev, and threatened to evict another 1,500 citizens from their homes. A mosque was demolished in Nazareth in the beginning of July, and the leaders of the Northern Islamic Movement, including its head, Sheikh Ra’ad Salah, were arrested on May 13th and have remained in detention since then. In the last case, the HRA rejects the argument of the state that Sheikh Ra’ad Salah was supporting terrorist organizations, quoting the state that “there is no specific evidence” for the indictments.
To read the full text of the HRA’s letter sent to the European Union, click here.
Training Workshop on "Principles of Accountability" [top]
"Principles of Accountability - Behavior & Management Skills for Board of Directors" is the topic of a training workshop to be held by Ittijah and Bunian. Specific dates have not been set, but the workshop will take place at the end of July and beginning of August. The workshop is the first of 22 workshops to be offered by Ittijah over the next two years, and will launch Ittijah's Practical Training Program. Other workshops of this program, which is based on a 16 month survey on training needs of Ittijah's member organizations, will develop skills in such fields as NGO management, writing, evaluation, fundraising, computer applications and English.
Bunian, Ittijah's partner in the Principles of Accountability workshop, has worked since 1997 to strengthen the capacities of civil society in Arab Mediterranean countries, through workshops and projects on good governance and participation in public politics. Bunian is a cooperative project of the German Friedrich Naumann Foundation and the Lebanese International Training & Management Institute, and is sponsored by the European Union.
Singing for Baladna [top]
Baladna, the Association for Arab Youth, invites everybody to a benefit concert on Monday, July 23 at 8 p.m. in Kreger Hall, 6 Eliyahu Hakim St. in Haifa’s French Carmel District. Eight Arab bands and singers ranging from rock to rap will perform at this fundraising event for the benefit of Baladna. Entrance is 60 Shekels. For tickets, please call Bilal at 051-599016 or 04-8523035.
“Laila il-Ula” with Assiwar [top]
Assiwar, the Palestinian Feminist Center in Support of Victims of Sexual Abuse, invites everyone for the cultural evening “Laila il-Ula” (“the first night”), a charity event for women in distress on July 28, 2003, at 20:00 at Haifa’s Al-Midan Theatre, 2 El-Khoury St. The evening will offer a potpourri of theatre, music, dancing, flamenco, jazz and comedy, with performances by actor Youssif Abu Wadi, music groups Jaskla and Walat, Salma Khashibun and Ala Azam, and dance group Sawa. Tickets are 70 Shekels, with all revenues going to help women in distress. For tickets and more information, please contact Hashem Diab at 058-461850 or Nahed Derbas at 052-836956.
Salma Dancing Group Performs in Il-Reini [top]
The Salma Dancing Group, in fact two non-profit dance groups with members from age 10 to age 28, invites for a performance of dances from their programme on July 28, 20:00 in the village of Il-Reini near Nazareth. The show of the two dance groups, which are based in Haifa, ranges from classical dance to Arab dance, folk dance and belly dance. For more information, please call the director of the Salma Dancing Group, Ms. Firyal Khsaiboun, at 04-6518707.
Baladna Summer Workcamp in Elabon [top]
Baladna, the Association for Arab Youth, is calling for international volunteers to participate in Baladna's workcamp in Israel, August 1-14, 2003.
The camp will take place in the village of Elibon in the north of Israel and in the nearby unrecognized village of Arab El-Naim, and will host international and local volunteers. Participants will help with renovations, painting, and community work (such as teaching English to local youth). In addition to their work, the volunteers will take field trips to historical sites such as Nazareth and Lake Kinneret. The camp also includes political education on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and insight into Arab culture with music and dance.
There are still volunteer spaces open for this year's camp. Participation fees are 175 Euro, covering accommodation in a local school and food. Participants must pay for their travel expenses. The deadline for registration is July 25.
For further information and registration, please visit Baladna’s website, or call Bilal at +972-51-599016.
Intercultural Youth Dialogue II [top]
Baladna and Youth Action for Peace (YAP, an international youth network based in Brussels, Belgium) are accepting applications for “Intercultural Youth Dialogue II”, a inter-cultural youth leadership seminar in Nazareth, 21-25th September 2003.
The seminar will bring together 50 youth leaders from Europe and the Mediterranean for five days, in order to establish cooperation between international youth organizations and foster intercultural youth dialogue, particularly between Western and Arab-Islamic cultures. The organizers see the seminar as a reaction to September 11, 2001 and the increase of fanaticism, racism, hate crimes, and cultural isolationism in the two years since then. Challenging these developments with dialogue for tolerance and pluralistic values between young people, the festival is on the way to becoming an institution, to be conducted each September in Nazareth.
Eligible applicants must be under age 26, come from an EU country or the Mediterranean region (Egypt, Jordan, Israel, Malta, Morocco, Palestine, Tunisia and Turkey), be able to work in English, be able to attend at least 80% of the seminar, be actively involved in a youth or non-profit organization interested in the theme, be involved with activity involving Mediterranean countries, and be personally interested by the seminar’s theme. The seminar is supported by the European Commission’s YOUTH Program. The organizations involved will reimburse 70% of travel costs. Participation fees are 100 Euro for EU participants and 50 Euro for Mediterranean participants, covering full accommodation (lodging and food) and five full training days. Participants will receive a draft program in early August.
Applications must be sent to Baladna and the YAP International Secretariat by July 28th. For the full call for participants, the application form and travel information, please click here.