Thursday, April 26, 2007
Israel's 'modesty buses' draw fire
By Katya Adler
BBC News, Jerusalem
The other day I was waiting for a bus in downtown Jerusalem. I was in the bustling orthodox Jewish neighbourhood of Mea Sharim and the bus stop was extremely crowded.
When the Number 40 bus arrived, the most curious thing happened. Husbands left heavily pregnant wives or spouses struggling with prams and pushchairs to fend for themselves as they and all other male passengers got on at the front of the bus. Women moved towards the rear door to get on at the back.
When on the bus, I tried to buck the system, moving my way towards the driver but was pushed back towards the other women.
These are what orthodox Jews call "modesty buses".
The separation system operates on 30 public bus routes across Israel.
The authorities here say the arrangement is voluntary, but in practice, as I found out, there is not much choice involved.
'Abuse and threats'
Naomi Regen is one of a group of women now taking the separation bus system to court. She is an orthodox Jew herself. "I wasn't trying to start a revolution, all I wanted to do was get home," she tells me. "I was in downtown Jerusalem and I saw a bus going straight to my neighbourhood and I got on and sat down, in a single seat behind the driver. "It was a completely empty bus, and all of a sudden, some men started getting on, ultra-orthodox men. They told me I was not allowed to sit there, I had to go to the back of the bus." Not only is the segregation system discriminatory, says Ms Regen, but it can also be dangerous, she says, for those like her who ignore it. "I said to him look, if you bring me a code of Jewish law and show me where it's written that I have to sit at the back of the bus I'll move. "And he tried to gain support from the rest of the passengers and I underwent a half-hour of pure hell - abuse, humiliation, threats, even physical intimidation."
Supporters of the separation system say the buses involved serve mainly religious Jewish neighbourhoods - but not exclusively. Many passengers are not happy. You will hear complaints at bus stops all over town. One man told me that if some people wanted segregation buses they should pay a private company to provide them. Another told me that in a society that is democratic and where the buses are subsidised by the government, a minority's concerns should not override those of the majority. But Shlomo Rosenstein disagrees. He is a city councillor in Jerusalem where a large proportion of Israel's segregation lines operate. "This really is about positive discrimination, in women's favour. Our religion says there should be no public contact between men and women, this modesty barrier must not be broken."
Opponents of the separation buses face an uphill struggle. Orthodox Jewish leaders are a powerful minority in Israel.
Naomi Regen says the buses are just part of a wider menacing pattern of behaviour towards women in parts of the orthodox Jewish community.
"They've already cancelled higher education in the ultra-orthodox world for women. They have packed the religious courts with ultra-orthodox judges.
"In some places there are separate sides of the street women have to walk on." She says that there are signs all over some religious neighbourhoods demanding that women dress modestly. "They throw paint and bleach at women who aren't dressed modestly and if we don't draw a line in the sand here with this seat on a bus, then I don't know what this country and this religion is going to look like in 20 years," Ms Regen said. Petitioners like Naomi Regen have asked Israel's High Court to either ban the segregation buses altogether or to force bus companies to provide parallel bus routes for passengers wanting to sit where they like.
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Published: 2007/04/24 07:43:52 GMT
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Friday, April 13, 2007
(c) Anne Paq/tourbillonphoto.com
Four non violent demonstrators injured south of Bethlehem
Friday April 13, 2007 16:05 by Najeb Faraj - IMEMC News ghassanb at imemc dot org
International and Israeli activists along with local villagers marched to the construction site of the wall that is being built on land confiscated from the village. Upon arrival, protesters tried to stop the bulldozers from destroying the villagers' farmland.
Soldiers attacked the protesters using batons, rifle butts and concussion grenades. 4 protesters were lightly wounded. Among those injured was Sami Awad, the director of the holy land trust, an organization that deals with non violence organizing.
One Palestinian protester was abducted by Israeli soldiers. Awad was also injured last week during a non violent demonstration near
The Palestinian Minister of Information, Dr. Moustafah Barghouti, condemned the Israeli use of violence on the non violent demonstration, and assured that such non violent actions against the wall will continue.
(c) Anne Paq/tourbillonphoto.com
13 Avril 2007.
Manifestation contre le Mur a Um Salamoneh. les soldats ont ete plus violents que d'habitude, ce n'est surment qu'un debut./ Demonstration against the Wall in Um Salamoneh. the Israeli soldiers were more violent than usual, and it will surely get only worse.
Nora Barrows-Friedman, The Electronic Intifada, 10 April 2007
DHEISHEH REFUGEE CAMP, Occupied West Bank, Apr 10 (IPS) - Mohammed Mahsiri, a resident of Dheisheh refugee camp in the occupied West Bank, sits in a crowded cafe, a red kuffiyeh wrapped around his neck and an iconic portrait of Che Guevara emblazoned on his black t-shirt.
About a year and a half ago, he tells IPS, he and his friend were walking down the street when Israeli military jeeps surrounded them, shouted at them in Hebrew to stop, and forced them inside a jeep.
"I was taken to a detention centre and interrogated," Mohammed says. "The interrogation would begin at 2 o'clock in the afternoon and would finish after eleven pm. I was beaten all the time, especially if the soldiers did not get the answers they wanted.
"I was sent to be beaten by other soldiers and forced to stand in the rain with only thin clothes on. They would try to convince me that I did something that I did not do in order to get the confession they wanted. After being tortured at the detention centre for one month, I was in prison for 13 months."
Shocking photographs of torture at U.S. military bases and detention centres in Iraq and Afghanistan outraged people across the globe, but Palestinians say they have endured similar treatment inside Israeli interrogation centres since the 1967 occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.
But Mohammed Mahsiri's story is different. He endured considerable physical and psychological torture by Israeli interrogators and prison guards when he was just short of 17 years old.
What is being witnessed and documented within the detention centres and prison camps is widespread, systematic violation of international laws experienced by Palestinian children under 18 years old, including torture, interrogation, physical beatings, deplorable living conditions and no access to fair trial, according to reports by human rights groups and legal observers.
Under Israeli military orders in force inside the occupied West Bank and Gaza, any Palestinian over the age of 16 is considered an adult, while inside Israel the age of an adult is 18 -- even though Israel is a signatory to the International Convention of the Rights of the Child, which defines all children as under 18 years old.
Moreover, Palestinian children over 14 years old are tried as adults in an Israeli military court, and are often put into prisons with adults. These are also direct violations of international law.
According to the latest figures offered by an independent group, there are 398 Palestinian children currently inside Israeli detention centres and prisons. Ayed Abuqtaish, research cocoordinator with Defence for Children International's Ramallah offices, told IPS that the youngest child being held in prison is just 14 years old.
"Usually, the Israeli troops invade the child's house in the middle of the night, in order to frighten the child and his family," Abuqtaish told IPS. "Many Israeli soldiers and vehicles surround the house, and other soldiers invade or force their way into the house.
"They intimidate the child to prepare him for interrogation. When the child arrives at the interrogation centre, they employ different methods of torture."
There are widespread reports of physical beatings, Abuqtaish says, "but currently, they concentrate mainly on psychological torture like sleep deprivation, or depriving him of food or water, or putting him in solitary confinement, or threatening him with the demolition of his home or the arrest of other family members. Children have also reported that the Israeli interrogators have threatened to sexually abuse them."
Israel has consistently defended its policies of interrogation inside detention centres and prisons, saying that it is a necessary tool against the war on terror. In 1987, according to Israel's Landau Commission of Inquiry into interrogation policies, the state determined that "a moderate degree of pressure, including physical pressure, in order to obtain crucial information, is unavoidable under certain circumstances."
"Israel is a state party to the International Convention Against Torture," Abuqtaish said. "In its reports to the committee, Israel always says that their use of 'moderate physical pressure' is consistent with the obligation of the treaty, but, needless to say, 'moderate physical pressure' is obviously torture in itself."
Palestinian children in the Israeli prison system are not given any legal advocacy and are denied most of their rights, involved lawyers say.
Arne Malmgren, a Swedish lawyer, has worked as a legal observer inside Israeli military courts during trials of Palestinian children. "The Israeli court system does not look like any other court system in the world," Malmgren told IPS. "Israeli military staff, the judge, the prosecutor, the interpreter -- they are all in military uniform. There are plenty of soldiers with weapons inside the courtroom.
"The small children come into the courtroom in handcuffs and full chains; there can be up to seven children at the same time in the courtroom. One lawyer described it as a cattle market. The trial is more like a plea bargain -- before the proceedings, the prosecutor and the lawyer have already agreed on the child's sentence, and then they just ask the judge if he agrees, and he almost always does.
"There are no witnesses, nothing. And the worst thing is what happened before the child arrives at the courtroom -- when they interrogate these young boys and girls to get them to sign confessions to things they may or may not have done."
As negotiations between Palestinian and Israeli officials move forward this week in a possible prisoner exchange deal that may include the release of all imprisoned Palestinian women and children in a swap for an Israeli occupation soldier captured by Palestinian groups in Gaza last June, many Palestinians, including Mohammed Mahsiri, are hoping to see relatives, friends and loved ones come home.
"When I was released from prison, it was the best day of my life," Mahsiri tells IPS. "We were beaten every day. The food was very bad. It was the hardest thing we had to face. No child should ever have to experience that."
All rights reserved, IPS -- Inter Press Service (2007). Total or partial publication, retransmission or sale forbidden.
1 in 5 Palestinians has been imprisoned since 1967, Palestinian Prisoners' Society reveals
Qalqilya - Ma'an - Palestinians will commemorate Palestinian Prisoners' Day on April 17th, which has been considered the prisoners' day since the release of prisoners in the first prisoners' swap on April 17th, 1974. The issue of the prisoners is considered one of the most important issues as one fifth of the Palestinian people have been arrested by the Israeli occupation forces since the 1967 war.
According to the Palestinian Prisoners' Society (PPS), the number of Palestinians arrested during the years of occupation has reached about 800,000 Palestinians. This means that more than 20 percent of the Palestinians living in the occupied Palestinian territories have been arrested at one time or another since 1967.
During the Al-Aqsa intifada, which started in September 2000 and is still ongoing, more than 40,000 Palestinians were arrested, PPS says; 11,000 of them are still in Israeli jails. 3,000 children were arrested during this time period, of whom 350 are still in Israeli jails. 500 women were also arrested, of whom 112 are still in the Israeli jails.
The Palestinian statistics point out that at least 80 percent of prisoners were tortured.
3,000 Palestinians were arrested as administrative detainees, of whom 800 are still in jail. This kind of detention, by which the detainees are not charged or tried, is prohibited according to international law.
Statistics also show that 200 houses were demolished as a punishment against prisoners. 35 prisoners were also deported to the Gaza Strip. 150 prisoners were killed after being arrested.
The Israeli authorities torture the Palestinian prisoners, in addition to sexual harassment and threats of rape if the detainee does not confess. In addition, wives or daughters are often arrested in order to force the prisoners to confess. In other cases, the Israelis use dogs to force prisoners to confess.
The Palestinian Prisoners' Society also says that the Israeli authorities ignore the health care of prisoners and that there are 1,000 Palestinian inmates currently suffering serious diseases and sickness. Since 1967, 175 Palestinians prisoners have died in Israeli jails, PPS says. The PPS also said that 2,000 Palestinian families are banned from visiting their loved ones in the Israeli jails.
PPS has also reported on the isolation policy in the Israeli jails where many Palestinian prisoners are forced to be held in isolated cells for long periods of time. There are 19 prisoners being held in isolation, PPS says, and some of these prisoners have been in these cells for four years.
Furthermore, 370 prisoners have been in jail since before the
Sunday, April 08, 2007
(c) Anne Paq/tourbillonphoto.com
Dimanche 8 Avril 2007. Ambiance familiale et assez joyeuse dans l'Eglise de la Nativité, ambiance tres ensoleillée dans les rues...on en oublierait presque, le temps d'un apres midi, cette foutue occupation.
La vie au camp de Aida- Concert de Rap/ life in Aida Refugee camp- Rap concert under the shadow of the Wall
(c) Anne Paq/ tourbillonphoto.com
3 avril. Concert au camp de Aida; à l'ombre du Mur. avec un rappeur de Hollande Ali B. , le groupe de reference en matiere de hip hop palestinien DAM, un rappeur de 14 ans de la region de Bethlehem et le groupe de danse de Al-Rowwad.
Rap concert in Aida refugee camp.
Dutch rapper performs in a
Date: 03 / 04 / 2007 Time: 20:56
Monday, April 02, 2007
Date: 02 / 04 / 2007 Time: 18:32
Jerusalem - Ma'an -The Israeli authorities handed out 150 evacuation orders to Palestinian families in As-Salam neighbourhood, northeast Jerusalem, on Monday morning.Ma'an's correspondent stated a large contingent of Israeli special police forces invaded Palestinian homes in the neighbourhood and handed out warrants. The warrants ordered the residents to evacuate their homes within 14 days, on the pretext that the area belongs to the heirs of a deceased Israeli woman called 'Rachel'.If the orders are executed, around 2,000 Palestinian residents will become homeless, reported Ma'an's correspondent, quoting one of the residents, Nidal Abu Ayyash.