May 14 is celebrated in Israel as Independence Day—the day in 1948, when the British removed all their troops from the areas of the Mandate and Israel declared their independence and the formation of the State of Israel.
May 15 is commemorated by Palestinians as Al-Nakba, “the catastrophe,” because Israeli independence meant the removal of 700,000 Palestinians from their homes and their lands as Jewish militias attacked villages and forced families out of their homes—or, families fled in terror, hearing of massacres in nearby towns and villages. Like all people fleeing violence, they assumed that they would return to their homes in days or weeks, when the fighting was over. However, they were prevented from returning to the homes; Jewish soldiers guarded their villages and farms. Many of their homes were destroyed by shelling; many of their lands were declared parks or simply given to Jewish refugees from Eastern Europe. Palestinian olive orchards were burned to remove any trace of the former landowners. Bank accounts were confiscated and village names were changed to Hebrew names on the road signs.
(for stories of these families, read The Olive Grove, by Deborah Rohan; or Blood Brothers by Elias Chacour, or, for the story of both a Palestinian and an Israeli family who at different times lived in the same house, read The Lemon Tree by Sandy Tolan.)
Click on the picture to view a 10-minute video describing the history and documenting the removals of Palestinians in 1948.
Free Ameer Makhoul—on May 7, I sent out information about the arrest of Ameer Makhoul, a Palestinian Israeli leader in the movement for Palestinian political rights, director of Ittijah, which works to promote the development of Palestinian civil society, advocating for political change, economic and social development. See the information below to advocate for his release.
Write to the US consulates in Israel:
In Jerusalem-- Email: UsConGenJerusalem@state.gov
In Tel Aviv-- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
In Haifa—(where Ameer Makhoul lives) E-mail: email@example.com
The US Canmpaign to End the Occupation provides more information on his case:
In yet another disturbing sign of its increasing repression against Palestinians working to defend their civil and human rights, Israel has arbitrarily arrested and detained one of its most porminent citizens working for civil equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel, Ameer Makhoul, the General Director of Ittijah-The Union of Arab Community-Based Associations.
The following is adapted from an action alert on Makhoul's arrest issued by Addameer:
Ameer Makhoul was arrested on 6 May 2010 at 3:10 a.m. when Israeli Security Agency (ISA) agents accompanied by Israeli police raided his family home in Haifa. According to his wife, Janan, the police confiscated items including documents, maps, the family's four mobile phones, Ameer and Jana's laptops, the hard drives from the girls' two desktop computers, a camera and a small tape recorder containing not-yet transcribed oral histories Janan collects as part of her work.
Approximately 40 minutes after their arrival, a group of the security forces left with Mr. Makhoul in custody. Makhoul was transported to Petah Tikva interrogation center, where he remains. At around the same time, the Israeli authorities raided the office of Ittijah - The Union of Arab Community-Based Associations and confiscated documents and the hard drives from all of the organization's computers.
Ameer Makhoul's arrest, detention and a previously imposed travel ban are based on emergency regulations and "secret" information that is never disclosed to the defense. They are a flagrant violation of the UN Declaration and the EU guidelines on Human Rights Defenders. Palestinian human rights of freedom of movement, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and association as well as the right to protection from arbitrary arrest are daily violated.
Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association in Palestine urges the international community to take action to help Ameer Makhoul:
- Write to your own elected and diplomatic representatives urging them to pressure Israel to release Mr. Makhoul and to put an end to the ongoing harassment against Palestinian human rights defenders.
- Write to the International Bar Association to protest Israel's use of arbitrary detention and the use of 'secret information' and incommunicado detentions; and,
- Write to the Israeli government, military and legal authorities and demand that: Mr. Makhoul be released immediately, and the travel ban against him be lifted; Israeli security authorities immediately cease their unlawful arrest and detention policies of Palestinian human rights defenders; and, Israeli authorities end the practice of arbitrary detention, the use of "secret information", and incommunicado detention. For more information, click here.