Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Preparations begin to close Rafah crossing

January 28, 2008
As preparations begin to close the Egypt-Gaza border, Al Jazeera's John Cookson speaks to Palestinians on both sides of the Rafah crossing.

Protest in Tel Aviv against the Siege in Gaza 24-1-08

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Gazans clash with Egyptian police at Rafah

January 22, 2008

Shots have been fired at the Rafah crossing where Palestinians have been demanding that the crossing into Egypt be opened to ease the blockade imposed on the territory by Israel.

Several police were injured in the skirmishes, as well as protesters.

Gaza has been under lockdown for five days now, although the blockade was eased earlier when Israel allowed a fuel shipment through.

Palestinians flood Egypt for food

Democracy Now

Where Do the Presidential Contenders Stand on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict?

As the news out of Gaza makes international headlines, we take a look at where the Republican and Democratic presidential contenders stand on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We speak with the co-founder of the online publication Electronic Intifada, Ali Abunimah.

Palestinians break out from Gaza seige

January 23, 2008
Palestinians have poured into the Egyptian side of the Rafah crossing through holes blown along the border wall between the Gaza Strip and Egypt.

Al Jazeera's Jacky Rowland reports from Gaza, where, due to the border breach, she is joined by Amr el-Kahky, Al Jazeera's Cairo correspondent.

Palestinians break out of Gaza

January 23, 20008
Gaza is often described as the world's largest prison.

If so, then the world is witnessing one of the biggest ever breakouts.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians have poured across the border into Egypt, after a series of explosions breached the steel wall which divides the two territories.

Al Jazeera's Jacky Rowland is on one the Gaza side of the Rafah crossing.

UN security council fails to address Gaza

January 22, 2008
The UN security council held an emergency meeting on Tuesday to address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. But with the United States putting the blame on Hamas, the council failed to reach an agreement on a statement. Kristen Saloomey reports for Al Jazeera.

Inside Story - Blackout in Gaza

Al Jazeera English, January 21, 2008
What is the scale of the crisis and what does it mean for ordinary Palestinians?


Humanitarian impact of Israel's blockade of Gaza

Al Jazeera English, January 21, 2008
Gaza's 1.5 million residents are struggling to cope without electricity and other basic necessities on the fourth day of an Israeli blockade.

Hospitals have begun to run short of fuel for generators, and sewage has spilled out onto the streets.

Jacky Rowland reports.

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Palestinians suffer as the world fails Gaza

Michael Shaik - The Age - January 28, 2008
Talking is not enough to halt the colonisation of the West Bank.
ZIONIST colonisation, wrote the Zionist thinker Ze'ev Jabotinsky in 1923, can develop only "under the protection of a force independent of the local population — an iron wall which the native population cannot break through".

Before its "disengagement" from the Gaza Strip, the Israeli army decided to implement Jabotinsky's idea literally by erecting a six-metre-high concrete and steel wall across the Gaza's border with Egypt.

To prevent Palestinians from tunnelling under the wall, about 1800 houses in the Palestinian refugee camps alongside the wall were demolished. When American peace activist Rachel Corrie tried to save one such house, she was crushed under the blade of an Israeli bulldozer.

For the people of Rafah, the wall has been an ever-present reminder of Israeli power and the futility of resistance — a 21st century Berlin Wall amid the rubble of their ruined homes.

For Israel, the wall is the means by which it maintained control over Gaza Strip without having to garrison troops inside it. Since the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip in June, Israel has used this control to place Gaza under siege. Imports and exports have been suspended.

The supply of food, medicine and fuel for cooking, transport and electricity generation has been alternately reduced to a trickle or cut off altogether.

According to the UN, 80% of Gaza's population now lives in a state of extreme poverty — 72 Gazans have died because they were unable to leave Gaza for medical treatment.

While cautiously criticising the more draconian aspects of the siege, the West has lent its consent to its underlying premise: that the people of the Gaza Strip would rid themselves of Hamas when they realised how much worse off they were than their compatriots in other parts the occupied territories.

Over the past weeks this premise has collapsed. The Palestinian militants' success in puncturing Israel's blockade of Gaza has underscored the value of armed resistance as a way to improve Palestinian welfare, and contrasts sharply with the Annapolis peace summit's failure to halt Israel's deepening colonisation of the West Bank.

This month the UN reported that, despite its promises, Israel had increased the number of checkpoints and roadblocks throughout the West Bank to 563. Last week Israel announced that it would build 2461 new housing units for Jewish settlers on confiscated Palestinian lands in East Jerusalem.

The collapse of its iron wall in Gaza presents Israel with an embarrassing dilemma. Invading Rafah again to rebuild the wall would belie its claim that it no longer occupies Gaza, and probably prove ineffective unless it leaves behind a permanent garrison. Now it is insisting that the Egyptians close the border, but the Egyptian Government's willingness to abet the collective punishment of Gaza's people is doubtful, to say the least.

Accepting Hamas' offer of a ceasefire to end Palestinian missile attacks on Sderot would seem its most promising alternative, but this is unlikely for a number of reasons.

First, having spent the past two years insisting that Hamas is a terrorist organisation with which it cannot negotiate, Israel's Government would find it difficult to explain the sudden change of policy. Second, the illusion that the intelligent application of punitive measures is the only lasting solution to Arab resistance is so prevalent among both Israel's leadership and public that it is unlikely to be dislodged by the mundane reality of failure.

Finally, diplomatic pressure to moderate its actions in the occupied territories is almost non-existent.

After hesitantly voicing their "concern" over Israel's post-Annapolis decision to expand Jewish settlements throughout East Jerusalem, both the United States and the European Union have lapsed into an embarrassed silence.

All the frontrunners in this year's US presidential campaign — Clinton, Obama, McCain, Giuliani — have expressed their uncritical support for Israel as they compete for Jewish campaign funding.

And Australia? In December 2006, Melbourne mining magnate Rabbi Joe Gutnick declared that members of Australia's Jewish community could not help but support John Howard unless they saw "something amazing from Kevin Rudd".

Over the following months, Rudd ran four pro-Israeli Labor candidates in the federal election, and declared to a private function of Melbourne's Jewish leaders that his support for Israel was "in his DNA".

This month, the Australian Government voted against funding the 2009 Durban Conference to review the UN's progress in combating racism, discrimination and xenophobia. No official reason was given, but the vote follows an Israeli campaign to de-fund the conference, which it expects will criticise what Noble laureates Jimmy Carter and Desmond Tutu have described as its regime of apartheid in the occupied territories.

"Israel," Henry Kissinger once quipped, "has no foreign policy, only domestic policy." In this respect, as in many others, it is certainly not alone.

This story was found at:

Michael Shaik is the public advocate for Australians for Palestine

FREE GAZA DEMO - London, 26/01/08 - In support of relief convoy.

Friday, 25 January 2008

Comparing Gaza to the Warsaw Ghetto

Sydney Morning Herald, Letters page : 22-24 January
January 22 2008
Lesson unlearnt
Nearly 70 years ago, in a small eastern European city, an oppressed and occupied people were under siege, living under atrocious and brutal conditions, lacking food, medicine, electricity, water, and slowly being strangled in the hope they would just disappear. Warsaw Ghetto 1941 - Gaza 2008. Israel, you are a disgrace.
Zaid Khan Blakehurst


January 23 2008
Slight difference
I am not as familiar as Zaid Khan (Letters, January 22) with Europe 70 years ago but, to the best of my knowledge the oppressed minority in Warsaw were not firing Katyusha rockets indiscriminately into the surrounding area and neither were their kids being wrapped in explosives and sent out to blow up the neighbours.
David Calvey Vaucluse


January 24 2008
Warsaw and Gaza a difference of means and ends
What we can never know, David Calvey (Letters, Jan 23), is whether the oppressed in Warsaw would have retaliated had they been given the means with which to do so.
Rachel Merhebi Turramurra

You're right, David Calvey, the oppressed minority in Warsaw before World War II did not protest with rockets and suicide bombs. But I believe most of them ended up in the Nazi gas chambers.
Paul Sadler Newtown

The reason, David Calvey, that the oppressed minority were not fighting back with weapons and explosives is that they didn't have them. I am sure Polish Jews would have used anything available and done anything possible to disrupt the German war machine. I am sure what Zaid Kahn was getting at is the massive hypocrisy of Israel; it was oppression back then when done to them, but it is somehow OK to do it to someone else now.
Daniel Gardiner Camperdown

Maybe I'm not as familiar as David Calvey with Europe 70 years ago but, if the oppressed minority suffering in Warsaw was subjected to the same oppression for 50 continuous years or more, they, too, would take more extreme measures. Also, to the best of my knowledge, like the people in the occupied territories, the oppressed in Warsaw did eventually revolt against the oppression, and justifiably so.
Brad Spencer Ljubljana (Slovenia)

I don't need to visit Gaza to tell David Calvey that 99 per cent of its population don't have rockets in the back shed and bomb vests in the bedroom.

Like the Jews in Warsaw, most Palestinians in Gaza are being held captive with the barest of essentials purely on the basis that they were "accidentally" born of the wrong blood in the wrong place. How can an average Palestinian Joe hope to stop the actions of a few mad militants? And why should the Israelis or we expect them to do so? The current policy effectively holds every man, women and child responsible for any act of terrorism.

Last thing I heard, there are quite a few unsolved murders in Sydney. I say we lock the whole place down until people there realise that the rest of the country won't tolerate it. After all, if they are prepared to murder their fellow Sydneysiders they might come after the rest of us.
Anura Samara Geneva (Switzerland)


British MPs compare Gaza to Warsaw ghetto
Press Association

Thursday June 19, 2003
Guardian Unlimited
Israel's treatment of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip was today compared to the Nazis' creation of the Warsaw ghetto by MPs who recently returned from the region. The controversial comparison, drawn by Oona King and Jenny Tonge, will anger the pro-Israel lobby and the visiting Israeli finance minister, Benyamin Netanyahu, who met Tony Blair at Downing Street this morning.

Labour MP Ms King, who is Jewish, said Gaza was "the same in nature" as the infamous Polish ghetto.

UN Humanitarian Monitor - Occupied Palestinian Territory, December 2007

This monthly UN report monitors of situation and changes using humanitarian indicators in sectors such as health, employment and the protection of civilians. Report uses both measurable humanitarian indicators and verified field observations The Humanitarian Monitor

For more information please contact Khulood Badawi 054 44 84 632

United Nations Office for the
Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
Mac House
P.O.Box 38712
Tel:++ 972-2-5829962/5853

Gaza Humanitarian Situation Report | 18-24 January 2008

On Friday 18 January, Israel closed all crossings from Israel into Gaza, cutting it off from all supplies of food, medicine and fuel including humanitarian aid. On 22 Jan, Israel's closure was relaxed but only limited goods were allowed in. Situation reports


· From 18-21 January, no food, medicine or fuel entered the Gaza Strip

· Power cuts, which were frequent prior to 19 January, were extended in duration to 12 hours per day everywhere in Gaza except Rafah

· The electricity shortage led to at least 40 percent of Gazans being denied access to running water and a breakdown in the sewage system which led to raw sewage being released into the sea at a rate of 30 million liters per day

· Hospitals were forced to rely on emergency generators and reduced their services

· The World Food Programme reported shortages of meat, wheat flour and frozen food in shops. On 23 January, WFP were unable to provide 10,000 of the poorest Gazans with three out of the five foodstuffs they normally receive

· On January 23, more than 100,000 Gazans crossed the border into Egypt after militants blew passages into the steel wall along the border

For more information please call Khulood Badawi 054 44 8 632

United Nations Office for the
Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
Mac House
P.O.Box 38712
Tel:++ 972-2-5829962/5853

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

End the Siege on Gaza Demonstration, Downing St, London 12 Jan, 2008

Approximately 200 protesters, including former Minister Tony Benn, converged opposite Downing Street to call for an end to the siege on Gaza.

Friday, 11 January 2008

VIDEO: Inside Story - Bush wants peace in 2008

This episode of Inside Story aired on Thursday, January 10, 2008


Ilan Pappe, 2001 : "Together with the Palestinian Intifada, the issue of the Palestinian right of return has effectively erased the Israeli left from the political map in this election. And this is because of the peculiar character of the left in Israel. For this is not a 'left' in the European sense, in the sense of being socialist or even social democratic in its economic, social or human policies.

"It is 'left' solely vis-à-vis the peace process with the Palestinians. It saw itself as the 'vanguard' of Israeli Jewish society. Its self-appointed task was to be the 'enlightened minority' that would help other Israelis cross the bridge from war to peace. Yet when that decisive moment came, between the failure of the Camp David meeting in July and the Palestinian uprising in October, the left betrayed its promise. And it did so precisely on the issue of the Palestinian right of return.

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Palestinian Woman Gives Birth in Street at 3am After Soldiers Delay her at Checkpoint

Woman Gives Birth in Street at 3am As Soldiers Closed Checkpoint
January 8th, 2008 Posted in Reports - Hebron Region

Tel Rumeida

At 3am on Monday January 7th, Ahmad Sider was born in the street ten metres from an Israeli checkpoint in Hebron, after Israeli soldiers prevented his mother from passing for 25 minutes.

She went into labour during the night and shortly before 3am attempted to pass the checkpoint with her husband. They live in Tel Rumeida, in H2, the area of Hebron controlled by Israel under the Hebron protocols.

To reach the hospital they must pass the checkpoint on foot and meet an ambulance on the other side, as Palestinians are not permitted to drive in H2. The soldiers manning the checkpoint refused to let the couple pass, although his mother, Kifah (whose name means 'struggle'), was screaming and pleading with the soldiers to open the checkpoint, telling them she was about to give birth.

They continued to refuse, saying they required permission from their commander, even though there was no curfew in place and this checkpoint is supposedly open 24 hours a day. Kifah and her husband were finally allowed to pass 25 minutes later. However, just ten metres beyond the checkpoint, she collapsed on the street in pain.

Residents of a nearby house brought out a mattress and Ahmad was born on the street in below-zero temperatures. His father wrapped him in his jacket and within a few minutes a Palestinian ambulance took mother and child to the hospital.

Thankfully Kifah and Ahmad are now both safe and well.


Twilight Zone / Born in the shadow of a checkpoint
Gideon Levy, Ha'aretz, Friday, 25 January 2008
"You'll never walk alone." It's doubtful that a slogan used by the Israel Defense Forces has been read in such a macabre context. The slogan, in the name of the 92nd Auxiliary Unit, appears on the sign next to the checkpoint that blocks off the Tel Rumeida neighborhood in Hebron. True, Kifah Sider did not walk there alone. Her husband and brother-in-law were with her. In fact, she did not exactly walk. Groaning with contractions, she was carried by her husband. The young woman of 23 was in labor.

The soldiers held her up at the checkpoint for 20 critical minutes, the family says. In any case, she had to proceed on foot because this neighborhood, where evil stalks - a place ruled by a handful of sometimes-violent settlers who have forced out half the inhabitants - is barred to Palestinian vehicles. Including ambulances that can rush a woman in labor to the hospital in the dead of night. Evildoing resides here. The windows are barred because unruly settler children
throw stones. Cars are forbidden entry, and the way home passes through the checkpoint, with the message "You'll never walk alone" on the gate. But the 92nd Auxiliary offered no support that night. Its soldiers only delayed the pregnant woman until her screams finally persuaded them to let her through. On foot, of course. That was 20 minutes too late. It was no longer possible to rush the woman to Aliyah Hospital, a five-minute drive away. Kifah lay on the road, the neighbors brought a mattress, the husband took off his jacket, and in the subzero cold another checkpoint birth took place, delivered by the Israeli occupation. It wasn't the first, it won't be the last.

Ahmed was born under a bad sign, blue with cold. The drive to Tel Rumeida is harrowing. It's a ghost neighborhood: Everyone who was able to leave did so long ago. No decent Israeli can pass through without a choking feeling in the throat and chills down the spine. There are dozens of shuttered stores whose owners were forced to look for a different source of livelihood, hundreds of abandoned apartments whose occupants were terrorized by the settlers and fled. The streets,
including the famed Shuhada Street, where the stores were once renovated by the U.S. government to allow life to carry on, are appallingly deserted. Only a settler's car or an army jeep speeds by from time to time, shattering the oppressive silence. The neighborhood school once had 400 pupils; now there are 90, and the children who attend are in constant danger of being attacked by settlers. Happily residing amid this desolation are the settlers, the lords of the land. When Kifah was in her eighth month, she was assaulted by a settler. He pushed her and spat at her until she fled into her brother-in-law's home, taking refuge behind the iron door. Just routine. Settlers once threw stones at her mother-in-law as she was hanging out the laundry on the roof of her home. The elderly woman was wounded in the head. The police came and left. "They are small kids," the policemen said before leaving without taking action, at the sight of the settler children who had thrown the stones and were still on the street when the forces of law and order arrived. That was a few months ago. In the wake of that event, the Sider family - who have not left because they are unable to - decided not to file any further complaints with the police. "There is no point," the father of the family, Ashraf, says drily.

Kifah and Ashraf Sider, a young couple, have two children: Shireen, not yet 2, and Ahmed, about two weeks old. Ashraf works for a local factory that makes heaters, but his home is freezing. Only a small spiral electric heater tries vainly to dispel the unbearable cold in the stone building that houses their well-kept home. They are wrapped in coats, the children in woolen blankets. It was bitterly cold on the night of January 7. Shortly before 3 A.M. Kifah was awakened by her
contractions. The hospital where they had registered for the birth lies 250 meters from their home, but on the other side of the checkpoint. Crossing it, at least at night, is like venturing into the back of beyond. The checkpoint is open to pedestrians day and night, but crossing it at night is hard. Kifah woke Ashraf. The bag was ready with warm clothes for the baby about to be born. Their home and their children are well looked after - a glass cabinet filled with small dining utensils, a splash of plastic flowers, a "spritz" finish on the ceiling. And even the fan attached to the wall is kept under a colorful cover during the winter.

They called the family of Ashraf's brother, who live across the way, and asked them to watch little Shireen. They took the bag for the hospital and walked slowly down the stairs to the cold, dark street. It's a steep walk of a few dozen meters to the bottom of the street where the pedestrian checkpoint is located; you can see it through the bars on the family's window. The brother-in-law, Firas, who works in the Mishor Adumim settler industrial zone in the West Bank and speaks a little Hebrew, joined them on the way to the hospital to ease the passage through the checkpoint. Kifah could hardly walk; Ashraf decided to carry her in his arms. She groaned. They reached the checkpoint in a few minutes. Before leaving home they had called an
ambulance, knowing it would not be allowed to enter their street but wanting it to be waiting for them on the other side of the checkpoint. So they thought. Musa Abu Hashhash, a fieldworker for the B'Tselem human rights organization, says a Palestinian ambulance can sometimes enter Israeli-controlled territory in Hebron, but only to save lives, and then the "coordination" takes up to two hours. At the checkpoint they somehow managed to get Kifah on her feet, with the help of her husband. Firas tried to explain to the soldiers that Kifah was about to give birth any minute. It was very cold. The checkpoint's door was closed. The soldiers said they had to call their commander and ask him. Firas retorted that there was no curfew in the neighborhood and
what was there to ask - the woman was obviously in labor. The soldiers told them to wait in the street. Firas asked them to open the door at least and let them into the heated space, but no. "Wait, wait," a soldier said, "just a second, just a second." They stood and waited. Kifah started to scream. She told her husband that she felt the baby was about to enter the world. Her cries intensified. It was only after what they estimate was 20 minutes that the soldiers agreed to let them through. "Only when they realized that it was serious," Ashraf says. "Then they opened the door and said, 'Yalla, yalla, go through.'" It was now about 3:15 A.M. They passed through the checkpoint. But after a few more steps Kifah felt she could wait no longer. Actually, it was
the baby that could wait no longer. "The baby is coming out! The baby is coming out!" Kifah shouted to the cold, empty night, seconds after going through the checkpoint. The ambulance they had called was waiting but could not get closer because of the concrete cubes that block the passage. Ashraf had his wife lie down in the street.

Neighbors who heard Kifah's screams hurried downstairs with a mattress for her to lie on, to ease the street birth as much as possible. Two paramedics rushed over from the ambulance. By the time they arrived the infant was out. They saw to mother and child, cutting the umbilical cord on the street. They asked for something warm to wrap the baby in, and Ashraf took off his jacket and covered his newborn son with it. Kifah tells us now, apologetically, that her clothes were bloodstained and so she could not use them to wrap the baby in. Ashraf says the infant was dark blue, "like my pants." The paramedics decided to leave Kifah where she was, lying in the street - they asked her not to move - and to rush the baby to the hospital to rescue him from the
freezing cold. Kifah says she was certain he was already dead. He did not cry when he was born. She was sure that all her nine months of waiting had been in vain. The ambulance returned 10 minutes later to evacuate Kifah. They carried her to the ambulance on the neighbors' mattress and from there to the hospital. Kifah was admitted at 4:15 A.M., one hour after leaving her home on her way to the hospital, a five-minute drive. Throughout, they say, the soldiers watched the
unfolding events from the checkpoint. "I thought they would have a different humanity," Ashraf says. The IDF Spokesperson's Office issued the following response: "On the night of January 7, 2008, a Palestinian women accompanied by two young men arrived at the checkpoint near Tel Rumeida, as she was about to give birth. When the soldier saw that she was pointing at her belly and expressing herself in an articulate manner he immediately called for an army medic,
ambulance and doctor in order to assist her. The Palestinian woman passed through the
checkpoint with no delay whatsoever and within a few minutes she was evacuated by a Red Crescent ambulance. The IDF employed all means possible in order to assist the birthing
mother." Ahmed was placed in an incubator for a few hours, to raise his body temperature. He weighed 2.5 kilograms. The next afternoon the family was quick to check him and his mother out of the hospital because of what they describe as the inferior conditions of the obstetrics ward. "It's better at home." Mother and son are doing well, as the saying goes, despite everything, almost miraculously. His name was given to him long before, because as a child his father, Ashraf, was called Abu Ahmed - father of Ahmed. Since the birth their home has been filled with well-wishers. The happiness this time is greater than when Shireen was born. With her they reached the hospital in time; she was born in the morning. They sit for a group portrait - mother, father, daughter and son - showing the semblance of a happy, secure, tranquil family.

Friday, 4 January 2008

Citizenship, Zionism, and separation of religion

Michael Warschawski, Alternative Information Center (AIC), 31 December 2007
It is customary to say that Haaretz is a progressive newspaper. However, its progressive character is generally no where to be seen when Israel initiates a war against one of its neighbors - its opposition to the previous two wars came only after the newspaper provided support to the policies of the government and the military - or a buses against the Palestinian people. However, when dealing with matters of religion, and particularly hatred of the religious, the progressiveness of Haaretz, its editors and community of readers, isendless.

In the op-ed from 27 December, the writers rail against the "ultra-orthodox blockade" that prevents the conversion of hundreds of thousands of new immigrants from the former Soviet Union: "the ultra-orthodox rabbis are pressuring and threatening the government, and causing intentional difficulties for the rabbinical courts, which are acting under state authority. The ultra-orthodox are truly not interested in additional members joining the chosen people."

This criticism represents a common opinion amongst what is dubbed "the progressive liberal camp" in Israel.

Truly liberal? And indeed progressive?

This same camp accepts the assumption that in a Jewish state, full and real citizenship is possible only for a Jew. And not just for any Jew, but a Jew according to the definition of the religious establishment. It is difficult to perceive in such a definition, any sign of progress or enlightenment. This definition is based on the legitimization of an ethnic state, in contrast to a civil one, as the defining criteria for residency and connection to the land.

Indeed, the religious perception does not always suit national interests, including the need, in a Zionist state, to increase as much as possible the number of non-Arabs in the population registry. This contradiction, between the reliance on religion for the definition of citizenship, and the national need to increase the number of residents defined as Jews, compels the liberals to become analysts and reformers of religion. Members of Knesset who desecrate Shabbat in public, and non-religious newspapers, rely on structures of the religious canon to bolster their ideology and national interests! This is unacceptable interference in the internal affairs of religion, generally characteristic of totalitarian regimes that bend religion to their needs. This has absolutely nothing to do with progress and liberalism.

Of course, there exists another way: to preserve the autonomy of religion through a separation between religion and the needs of thestate. This path prevents the interference of religion in state affairs, but also ensures that the state does not interfere in religious affairs. It protects the citizen from interference of religion in her/his private life, and further preserves the possibility that believers can live their lives as they see fit. This is the meaning of the concept of "secularism," which is one of the foundational characteristics of modern democracy.

The editors of Haaretz and their friends from the liberal camp,however, are not secular at all. The majority loathe religious people with a racist hatred, but do not raise the idea of separating the state from religion, for religion provides them with justification for the claim to exclusive ownership over the territory, in addition to the definition of citizenship that removes the Palestinian from the whole and leaves them, in best case, in the position of second-class citizens.

In order for Israel to be transformed into a democratic state, it must, amongst other things, become a secular state. That is to say, religion needs to be made the private affair of each citizen, with no attempt to determine what is a "reasonable religion," a "progressive religion" or a "modern religion." This is the democratic right of each citizen, to live according to her/his religion. In a secular state, religion does not determine who a citizen is and what the rights of each citizen are, and the state does not determine who has the right to belong to one religious group or another. In a democratic state,the religious community is a private and exclusive club, only the members of which have the right to determine who belongs and who does not.

The attempt to "convince" rabbis to convert hundreds of thousands of immigrants from the former Soviet Union is not only a racist act against Palestinians, but also gross injury to religious autonomy and a transformation of religion into a tool in the service of foreign political goals.

Haaretz and the Military Press Bureau - Who Inspires Whom?