Monday, December 30, 2013

Haifa to be Invaded by Chinese?

Haifa is about to be "invaded" – by Chinese tourists, writes David Lev . Workers from Shanghai, Sanjin, and Chengdu will be offered low-cost vacation packages to the city, after Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav signed an agreement with officials from the tourism department of the three cities.

Considering the fact that there are about 200,000 workers in the unions – and those visiting are expected to come with their families – the city is preparing itself for an inundation of Chinese visitors.

After a ceremony this week, Chengdu joined the other two cities as Haifa's Sister Cities. The agreement include working together on municipal improvement projects, developing technology together – and a mutual tourism agreement. Haifa will do its share to encourage residents to visit China, while the Chinese cities will put the word out about Haifa-oriented vacations. But considering the potential pool of visitors from either side, it's likely that Haifa will be much more impacted than its Chinese partners.

“Haifa is expanding its arc of connections with municipalities around the world,” Yahav said. “We have extensive contacts in China, and now we are making a critical move to enhance tourism from that country by making this deal with some of China's largest cities. We place a great deal of importance on these ties, which will give businesses, developers, and entrepreneurs a wonderful opportunity to enhance their connections with China.”

A Haifa municipality spokesperson said that they expected the visitors to make a “significant contribution” to Haifa's economy. To prepare for the visitors, Yahav has spoken to developers, and hopes to increase the number of hotel rooms in the city from the current 1,700 to about 2,300.

“Hopefully,” the official added, “they won't all come at the same time.”


Around twenty-five years ago, a global discussion began surrounding the term “indigenous peoples” as it relates to ethnic minorities around the world.  International law however began to address the issue of indigenous peoples as far back as the 17th century, and by and large the matter was left to the discretion of the particular state. With the passing of the years, the law began to recognize an independent status of indigenous ethnic groups (such as the Indians and the Aborigines) in a way that was bound together with previous legal agreements regarding preservation of culture, holy sites, and more.
The International Labor Organization (ILO) associated with the United Nations tried to advance two international treaties pertinent to the rights of populations that define themselves as indigenous populations, yet were unsuccessful in formulating a statement due to each country’s differing views on sovereignty and indigenous populations.
In the past few years, key figures in the Bedouin sector in Israel began to apply this term to themselves as characteristic of their independent status, together with a demand for recognition of their historic ownership of lands across the Negev.
Despite the lack of an international agreement as to the definition of “indigenous”, the general recognition of indigenous peoples tends to use various parameters, focusing on the following:
·        Original Inhabitants – the indigenous peoples are descendents of the first peoples to inhabit a particular territory.
·        Extended Period of Time – the indigenous peoples live in a territory “from time immemorial” over a period of thousands of years.
·        Pre-Colonial Sovereignty – the indigenous groups had territorial sovereignty before the arrival of a developed nation that took possession of the region.
·        Group Connection to the Land – they have a spiritual connection to the land on which they live. 
·        External Validation – other external groups affirm that these people are in fact indigenous.
 Professor Ruth Kark of the Geography Department of the Hebrew University, considered an expert on conceptions of land ownership in traditional and pre-modern cultures, in an article that appeared in the “Middle East Quarterly,”[1]enumerated the generally accepted parameters of the term “indigenous,” and explains why the Bedouins cannot be included in this category. Here is the synopsis of her conclusions.
·        Indigenous Peoples – Many groups preceded the Bedouins in Palestine in general and in the Negev in particular, including Jewish inhabitants who maintained an uninterrupted presence in the land since the days of the Bible. Therefore the Bedouins cannot claim that they were the original inhabitants of the land.

·        The Dimension of Time – the variable called, “from time immemorial” requires a long-standing presence on the territory. The Bedouin tribes currently living in the Negev have been there for around two hundred years.[2] As such, they cannot claim that their presence predates the arrival of a foreign power, such as the Ottoman Empire, which preceded the current Bedouins tribes present by hundreds of years. In opposition to this, the Jewish presence in Palestine completely fulfills the requirements of “time immemorial.”

·        Sovereignty – in the case of the Bedouins of the Negev, they never had sovereignty over the region. When they arrived, the Negev was already under Ottoman control, followed by British and Israeli control.

·        A Unique Spiritual Connection to the Territory – nomadic life precludes any specific fixed connection to the land.  There is no long-standing proof in the Bedouin tradition establishing a spiritual connection between them and the Negev, a logical situation owing to their relatively brief presence there and to their nomadic lifestyle. Indeed they claim the Arabian Peninsula to be their historic homeland. Today, the Bedouins are not claiming collective rights to the land, but are rather demanding fulfillment of the rights of individuals to sell the lands and transfer them to a third party. Such private demands are contrary to the spiritual dimension, and point to the fact that the main aspiration of the Bedouins is financial gain with no collective character that would be relevant to their campaign to be recognized as indigenous. 

·        The Group Defines Itself, and is Regarded by Others, as Indigenous Inhabitants of the Territory – The claim of the Bedouins as indigenous is quite recent, and was first mentioned only a number of years ago.[3]Previous studies did not find that the Bedouins regarded themselves in this way, and no researchers made the claim that they were indigenous. The fact that no other Bedouin tribe in the Middle East ever made the claim of being indigenous raises questions as to the motives and authenticity of such a claim. Since the Bedouins of the Negev in a number of cases are a part of the same tribe that dwells in neighboring countries, it is thus illogical to say that only the Bedouins who live on the Israeli side of the border are considered indigenous. 
Conclusion: The narrative according to the Bedouin claim that they are “indigenous” does not fulfill the world’s accepted criteria for being considered indigenous. Such claims were first made only some ten years ago.

[1] Are the Negev Bedouin an Indigenous People? Fabricating Palestinian History. Havazelet Yahel,  Dr. Seth Fratzman & Prof. Ruth Kark. Middle East Quarterly. Summer 2012, pp. 3-14 
[2] Ottoman tax records from the years 1596-97 specify the names of forty three Bedouin tribes in what was to become the Palestinian Mandate, including three in the Negev, yet the names of the tribes living today in the Negev do not appear in this list. 

[3] The first articles to relate to this claim appeared about ten years ago in the platforms of organizations identified with the radical left in Israel such as “Adalah,” “the Negev Co-existence Forum,” and the “Human Rights Watch.”

Thursday, December 26, 2013

A Visit to Soda Stream and Ma'ale Adumim

This week there was a visit of a Zionist Federation mission from the UK that included a visit to Soda Stream, the company targeted by boycotters in several countries around the world.

The group was addressed by senior managers and several interesting facts came to light which, perhaps should make  BDS campaigners wonder if their boycott campaign is starting to backfire.

In the last 40 years of operation the company has been on a significant growth rate climbing from 8 to 46 markets and sales up to $500 mill per year. If that was not impressive enough, the business plan calls for sales to increase to $1 bill in the next 3 years, a truly exceptional rate of growth.

The BDS campaigners should eat their hearts out.

Out of a work force of 1300 employees. 600 are Palestinians who travel in daily from Palestinian Authority controlled areas and a further 450 are from East Jerusalem. Salaries are between 4 to 8 times higher than those in the Palestinian areas and health care is provided by the company. A pity that the so-called "human rights activists" minds are so closed to the reality of life here.

There was plenty of opportunity to talk to the employees and among the comments heard were "This is the greatest company" and "you wouldn't get treated like this anywhere in the Arab world".

The group then moved on to Ma'ale Adumim and after the short tour around the city, we were addressed by the Mayor Benny Kastrel. The city is home to 40,000 residents  of whom 1/3 are under 35 years old and 11,000 children are in the school system.

The city has been developed to minimise contact between pedestrians and vehicles. A total of 21 bridges and 14 tunnels allow safe passage of the residents.

The Mayor stated that although donors are hesitant to provide funds for further development projects, the USA and the EU have stated that they consider Ma'ale Adumim will remain with the future negotiated borders of Israel. 

Monday, December 23, 2013

Pilgrims Progress in Israel

A recent film issued on Al Jazeera depicts passionate views from Palestinian priests, a Christian tour operator and a British writer as they speak out against the obstacles facing pilgrims visiting sacred sites today, particularly Bethlehem and Nazareth.

As with many such programmes, the arguments seem convincing. I passed it on the a friend who is a professional tour guide and surprise, surprise, there is a different story.

She writes:-

Thank you for this. I watched that film twice and I must say, it is a good piece of propaganda, filled with half truths and lies.

As a tour guide working with pilgrims (and other groups) I must say, that none of my pilgrims ever visit Yad Vashem. It simply does not exist in these itineraries. Also Eilat is never included, as a proper pilgrim tour takes 8 days maximum.

Further, Qasr el Yahud is included in every pilgrim tour since the place is open to public. However, many Christians prefer to get baptised in Yardenit as the water quality at Qasr el Yahud is very poor. But there are groups baptising there as well. I see them all the time; Ethiopians, Russians, South Americans, Indians etc.  

Bethlehem; Only few Israeli tour guides and few Jewish bus drivers (all Israeli Arab drivers enter!) are entering the site, as we need special permit to Shetach A. There, a Palestinian Tour Guide, mostly connected to one of the shops, enters the bus and brings the pilgrims to one of the Restaurants, then to the Shop, then to the Church and the Shepherd Fields. 

Some visit the Caritas Children Hospital. This takes all in all about 4 hours, depending on how many people standing in line at the birth place of Jesus. By the way; there are absolutely no spiritual feelings in Bethlehem, but a lot of pressure and most of my groups are happy to return to Jerusalem. They simply hate to be fed with propaganda. They want (and they have the right to) to hear different sides of the conflict, that means different views of Israelis and the different Palestinian point of views. That is our duty.  There is no black and white and that is obviously what they get there. (a Messianic Jew tour guide might be an exemption, but I doubt that)

Some groups stay overnight and tour next day to Herodion and other places. 45 minutes will never do!

Nazareth; indeed, there is a point of truth that pilgrims visit the Church of Annunciation and that’s it. There is much more to see, but due to the itinerary, there is simply no time for more. Some operators include a walk through the village and a view point on Har Hagfiza.
Jenin and Nablus are never included in a pilgrim’s program. It would be much more expensive, as bullet proofed buses have to be arranged and which Israeli tour guide wants to visit these places? I would not go and I think, we are not insured there, as we are not when we enter Bethlehem, even with permits!

I checked on the internet that British Reverend talking in the film. He has an anti-Semitic record! Unfortunately, many people do not know how to differentiate between truth and propaganda when they hear people of the public talking, like these different priests and reverends. It’s a disgrace! Films like these make me very angry and sad.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

University and beyond: Younger Bedouin moving forward

Jamal Al-Karnawi - a Bedouin who is an advisor for Arab students at Ben Gurion University in southern Israel and a social activist - relates his views on the Bedouin communities of the Negev and their participation in higher education, the advancement of women and the Begin Plan for bettering the lives of the Bedouin in the Negev.
With thanks to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Al-Karnawi doesn't only talk the talk: his job - helping Arab students at BGU - will enable the younger generation of Israeli Bedouin and other Arab-Israelis to succeed in their studies and their life after university. Arab-Israelis face many difficulties in higher education, from language to cultural barriers. Advisors like Al-Karnawi, and the many programs to assist them, help these young men and women obtain the degrees so important for meaningful careers.

Al-Karnawi emphasizes the need for the Bedouin and the government to find common ground. While he expresses his support for the current process of talks related to the implementation of the Begin Plan as well as for projects to enhance living conditions in Bedouin society, he also emphasizes the need for better communication with the Bedouin to reduce their apprehension regarding the government's plans for development of the Negev.

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Real Number of Palestinian Refugees?

From the recent Ettinger report analysing the true number of refugees, we read:-

*According to an August, 1971 Ford Foundation report, by 1950, the majority of the Palestinian refugees began evacuating the camps and non-refugees moved in to benefit from UNRWA’s services. For example, half of the population in the Jelazoon refugee camp, near Ramallah, settled there after 1950.
*A November 17, 2003 report by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) documented that less than 33% of registered Palestinian refugees live in refugee camps.
*The actual number of Palestinian refugees is determined by the following: 
a) Before the 1948/9 War, 800,000 Arabs (per inflated numbers) resided within the boundaries of “pre-1967 Israel”. 
b) At the end of that war, 170,000 Arabs stayed in Israel.  
c) Of the remaining 630,000Arabs, 
     - 100,000 were absorbed by Israel’s family reunification gesture; 
     - 100,000 middle and upper class Arabs left before the beginning of the               1948-49 war and were absorbed by neighboring Arab states; 
     -  50,000 migrant laborers returned to their Arab countries of origin; 
     -  50,000 Bedouins joined their brethren-tribes in Jordan and Sinai; 
     -  and 10,000 were war fatalities. 

Thus, the actual total number of Palestinian refugees was 320,000.  
*Most of the refugees followed their political, economic and social leadership, which left before the eruption of the war.  Many were enticed to depart by Arab leaders, who promised a quick devastation of the Jewish state that would provide the evacuees with Jewish property. British authorities influenced others, pressuring the minority in mixed Jewish-Arab towns to evacuate: Arabs evacuated but Jews did not. 

For a full report see 

Just another "Snow" story

Red Crescent ambulance assisted in tackling the snow and Ice near Bethlehem by the IDF. Just another area of cooperation!!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Haifa's Festival of Festivals 2013

The colourful Festival of Festivals, now in its 16th year, takes place every weekend in December in Haifa’s mixed Arab-Jewish Wadi Nisnas neighbourhood. Thus quotes "Jewish Times Asia" which just goes to show that the event is reaching a wide world audience.

The festival promotes cultural and artistic events that celebrate - Chanukah, Christmas and Eid al-Adha. This year, the festival includes an art exhibition featuring the works of 50 Jewish and Arab artists in Wadi Nisnas; an art trail and an exhibition of paper cuts by international artist Tzipora Neeman with the cooperation of Jewish and Arab women.

There are photography and video exhibits and an antiques fair that opened on 28 November and runs for five weekends at Beit Hagefen.

Further there is an arts and crafts fair; a children’s art exhibition; folklore concerts by the Romanian gypsy band Fanfara Shavale and others and music concerts in Haifa’s churches and concert halls that combine liturgy, Arab and Israeli music.

Also taking place are street activities and free shows for adults and children; art activities and creative workshops for children; ethnic food stalls; coexistence routes of song and literature in Wadi Nisnas - marked by posters lining the streets; processions, carnivals, folklore dancing and more.

The festival, which attracts tens of thousands of visitors every year, is produced by the Municipality of Haifa and Gefen House (a Jewish-Arab center in Haifa), in cooperation with residents of the Wadi Nisnas neighbourhood

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Even Beduin Leaders like the plan!!

Whilst many international news reports have a totally negative view on the plans for the Beduin in the Negev, several brave Beduin community leaders have begun to speak-out in favor of the Prawer-Begin plan, despite threats against them from militant Israeli Arab leaders. (with thanks to DAVID M. WEINBERG 12/05/2013, full article at )

a)               Sheikh Odeh Zanoon is the first Negev Beduin leader to reach agreement with the State of Israel to establish a modern Beduin settlement for his tribe members, near Yeroham.

The 300 families of the Zanoon tribe, currently spread across an area of 20,000 dunams without electricity, running water and roads, will move to a modern settlement of approximately 1,500 dunams. The settlement will be planned with their full participation. Many tribe members doubt Israel’s benevolence, but recognize that the plan constitutes an invaluable opportunity for real quality of life.

b)               Abed Tarabin is also moving his Tarabin clan from an illegal encampment near Omer to a properly- planned Beduin town, New Kfar Tarabin, with government support.

He says that “The government plan isn’t 100% perfect, but it is a great improvement over the current situation of Beduin in the Negev. We can build proper homes on recognized land, demand employment and health and education services, and make other demands of the government, like any other citizen. In our new town, we have asked for and received agricultural and industrial help.”

Tarabin adds, “The opposition to the plan comes from belligerent politicians, making noise for their own purposes. It doesn’t come from real Beduin leaders who are concerned with their people. There is plenty of room in the Negev for everybody, and it is good that the government is working to improve things and is investing money in us.”

c)               Kamel Jum’a Abu-Nadi of Lakia, a Beduin town founded in 1982 as part of a previous government project to settle Beduin in permanent towns, says that “The Begin plan is a fair proposal that seeks to end the saga of Beduin land claims. 85% of Beduin have no land claims; only 15% do, and these claims are holding up the development of the Negev for the Beduin. We simply have to reach a compromise on the land claims, since the government’s NIS 10 billion economic development plan for the Negev will improve our currently- very-bad situation in education, employment, welfare, transportation and other infrastructures.”

d)               Id Abu Rashed, a prominent leader of the Rashed tribe from the town of Abu Qrenat (a Beduin town of 2,700 people expected to grow to 7,000 people by 2020, that lies between Beersheba and Dimona) says that “Those who oppose the Begin-Prawer plan do so for political reasons, not substantive reasons. If you check just who has been demonstrating against the plan, you discover that half of the protesters are Arab-Israelis [i.e., not Beduin] from Israel’s north that are being bussed in from the north in organized fashion. The flags of Palestine that are flown at these demonstrations led by the Arab-Israeli Islamic Movement and its Balad political party in fact damage the reputation of the Beduin in the Negev. The Negev Beduin have no anti-Israel nationalist motivations, nor have they ever in past.”

e)               Hassan Ka’abia, a Beduin officer in the IDF from the village of Ka’abia who now works for the Israel Foreign Affairs Ministry, says that the sedentarization of the Beduin people is necessary and inevitable, and the alternative is poverty, crime and illness.

“This transition,” he says, “difficult as it may be, is fascinating and another piece in the cosmopolitan mosaic that is the modern State of Israel.”

Consequently, the Netanyahu government should be praised, not vilified, by Diaspora rabbis and human rights activists for proposing a comprehensive, judicious (and very expensive!) plan that will both facilitate proper development of the Negev and ensure advancement for the Beduin community.