A startling report on the Jewish Telegraphic Agency Feb. 28 tells of a "Jewish-led militia force" that participated in the Ukrainian revolution—called the "Blue Helmets of Maidan" even though their helmets are (tellingly) brown, and under the command of a Ukraine-born veteran of the Israel Defense Forces who goes by the nom de guerre "Delta." In an interview, Delta boasted how he used combat skills gained in the Shu'alei Shimshon reconnaissance battalion of the IDF's Givati infantry brigade to rise through the ranks of Kiev's street fighters. He now heads a force of 40 men and women—including several fellow IDF veterans—that clashed with government troops in the street-fighting that brought down Viktor Yanukovich. Most bizarrely, Delta said he takes orders from activists linked to Svoboda, the ultra-nationalist party that is widely accused of anti-Semitism. "I don’t belong [to Svoboda], but I take orders from their team," he said. "They know I'm Israeli, Jewish and an ex-IDF soldier. They call me 'brother.' What they're saying about Svoboda is exaggerated, I know this for a fact."
Israel's Culture Ministry and Civil Administration are financing the construction of an "archaeological park" on the ancient site of Tel Rumeida, near the Jewish settlement in the divided West Bank city Hebron, Israeli media revealed this week. Critics on left are assailing the project as cover for expansion of the city's Jewish settlement. Settlers who petitioned for state support of the project say they believe the site to be the location of biblical Hebron. Archaeologists from Ariel University and the Israel Antiquities Authority began excavations at the site Jan. 5. The new archaeological park and anticipated tourist attraction are slated to open by year's end. While the Tel Rumeida site is officially Jewish-owned, a Palestinian family lived on the site and worked the land as protected tenants until the Second Intifada of 2000, when they were evicted.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas reacted Dec. 31 to Israel's announced initiative to formally annex the Jordan Valley. "If they do that, which we will not allow, we will see what future holds," Abbas said. "This land is ours and will remain Palestinian land, and everybody should know that this is a red line that can’t be crossed." Also that day, the Palestinian Authority cabinet convened its weekly meeting in the Jordan Valley to symbolically protest the annexation plan. From the village of Ein al-Beida, the ministers issued a statement asserting that not a "single span of the hand of this area is for rent or swap."
In the most dramatic demonstration ever staged by African refugees in Israel, some 150 Sudanese men who have been detained for months at the sprawling Saharonim prison camp in the desert south marched cross-country on Jerusalem, and on Dec. 18 protested outside the government compound there. In the three-day march through snow-covered country, the migrants took shelter in bus stations at night. They had last week been transfered from Saharonim to an "open" facility at Holot—which authorities maintain is not a prison, despite the fact that the migrants must report back there each night or be in violaiton of the law. Upon the transfer, they quickly abandoned the facilty and began their cross-country trek. At the Jerusalem rally, which was itself an act of civil disobedience against their legal detention, the migrants chanted: "No more prison!" and "Refugees' rights right now!"
Isn't it utterly absurd that there are some aghast at the suffering of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and utterly unconcerned with that in Yarmouk, the Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus now besieged by forces loyal to Syrian dictator Bashar Assad... and vice versa...? A brutal winter storm in the region has exacerbated the suffering in both blockaded enclaves, and most Palestinians assuredly grasp the obvious symmetry. In some quarters, however, a sort of ideological blindness seems to prevail: Assad's apologists are of course outraged at the agony in Gaza, but find that in Yarmouk invisible. The US State Department, in turn, exploits Yarmouk for propaganda against Assad, while displaying no such concern for Gaza...
Palestinian olive harvesters along with Israeli volunteers assisting in the harvest were attacked Oct. 20 by settlers armed with iron bars near the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar, according to the organization Rabbis for Human Rights. There were apparently no serious injuries in the incident, but the victims are still being examined by medics. The Palestinian Authority complains that settler aggression, specifically destruction of olive trees and groves, has increased in recent weeks, as the harvest season started. More than 100 olive trees have been uprooted in Krayot village, south of Nablus, Palestinian authorities saud. Ghassan Daghlas, who monitors settler activities in this sector of the West Bank on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, blamed settlers from the settlement Ali. (Haaretz, JP, Oct. 20)
The Israeli High Court is set to rule this week on the forced expulsion of all residents of the village of Khirbat Zanuta, southwest of Hebron in the West Bank. Israel Civil Administration ordered the demolition of Zanuta in 2007, on the absurd grounds that structures in the village were built without permits, but the High Court ruled that year that authorities must "find a solution" for the villagers before any eviction. But last year the Zionist organization Regavim, with a base of support among local Israeli settlers, succeeded in reviving the case by filing a new request for demolition. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel, which represents the Zanuta residents, says that in a High Court hearing last year, "the justices delivered harsh criticism of the State for its intent to demolish the village without suggesting a solution for its residents." But the demolition request was not dismissed, and villagers fear imminent eviction.
Israeli forces used bulldozers to demolish the "unrecognized" Bedouin village of al-Araqeeb in the Negev desert on July 16—for the 53rd time in three years. The demolition came one day after thousands of Palestinian, Israeli Arab and Bedouin protesters took to the streets in towns across the West Bank, Gaza and inside the Green Line to oppose an Israeli bill that would forcibly expel tens of thousands of Bedouins from the Negev. Araqeeb, home to some 500 people, is one of about 40 Bedouin villages in the Negev not recognized by Israel's Land Authority. Following the 38th demolition of Araqeeb last year, villagers said they wanted apply with the Guinness Book of World Records to claim a record for the number of times Israel has demolished a village.