... in israel

Migrants erecting fences to keep out migrants

12 Mar 2011 | 411 words | border egypt israel migration

The border between Israel and Egypt certainly counts as one of the most dangerous borders for migrants. So far the main danger for african migrants trying to enter Israel from Egypt has been the Egyptian military, which seems to be exceptionally trigger happy when faced with migrants attempting to cross the border. Photo by Ahikam Seri Seems that the Israeli government is not satisfied with the services rendered by the Egyptian Army (or they expect that a post-Mubarak military has better things to do than shoot unarmed migrants who are attempting to leave the Egyptian territory) and has started to construct a border fence designed to keep out migrants attempting to enter via Egypt.

While building border fences is not that unusual these days, it is somewhat surprising to read (in an article published by Haaretz) that the Israeli government is employing migrants who have made it across that particular border in order to build the border fence:

The government is employing Eritrean asylum seekers to help build a border fence designed to keep out other migrants seeking to enter the country from Africa via the Sinai Peninsula.

A man who gave his name as August […] had arrived in Israel five months ago. According to August, the hardest part of the journey was trekking through the African desert. Now, once the border fence along the Egyptian frontier is completed, migrants will find it even more difficult to enter the country.

August laughed when asked if he felt guilty that he was helping put up a structure designed to keep fellow Eritreans out of the country. “I have a family that remained in Eritrea,” he said. “While they would love to come here, they know the journey isn’t easy.” As August tells it, he simply has no choice but to earn a living any way he can.

While the state has legally barred its citizens from employing asylum seekers from Africa, it doesn’t enforce the ban. Months ago, the Interior Ministry’s Population Registry inserted a clause in the temporary-status visas given to asylum seekers stating that under no circumstances could they be hired.

But it is in the state’s interests for asylum seekers to support themselves financially, so it has turned a blind eye to asylum seekers who break the law – until it can finish building a large holding facility that will provide the migrants with their basic needs. Only then will the state start enforcing the no-hiring law. […]

Cyclorama vs. Reality

09 Jan 2009 | 434 words | egypt israel propaganda war

During my recent trip to Cairo, in we visited [on suggestion of the my barbarian crew] the 6 october (a.k.a yom kippur) war memorial that is situated in Heliopolis just off the road to the international Airport.

The memorial consists of a large circular building housing a 360 degree rotating cyclorama surrounded an open-air display off tanks, fighter-jets, artillery pieces and anti-aircraft missiles [mainly those used by the Egyptian army during the war but also a few ones captured from the Israeli army].

Apparently the memorial has been designed by North Koreans after Kim Jong Il suggested to President Mubarak that he should build a memorial commemorating the 6 october/yom kippur war between Egypt and Israel. The memorial was completed in 1989 has been open to the public ever since. It seems that it is mostly visited by Egyptian university and high-school students on mandatory excursions but it is also open to ordinary tourists. A sign at the ticket office (£E20 per person) welcomes you with the following words:

Welcome to 1973 october war panorama, enjoy spending a good time by watching 1973 october war panorama accompanied by the sound effects and music program. special shows for tourist in different languages [see the sign on flickr]

We did not get a special show and the only language available (via IR headphones) was crappy English but the the 360 degree rotating cyclorama (a cylindrical panorama is rotated around cinema style seats that are installed in the middle of the the round room) is quite impressive indeed.

The cyclorama (and the accompanying narrative) narrate the first 48 (or so hours) of the 6 october war when the Egyptian army managed to cross the Suez canal, breach the Israeli sand fortification on the Sinai side of the canal (known as the bar-lev line) and established two small bridge-heads on the Sinai peninsula that had been occupied by Israel since the 6 day war in 1968. Both the visuals and the narrative give the impression that the Egyptian Army effortlessly overcame the Israeli defenses. By conveniently focussing on the initial 2 days of the war and ignoring the rest, the memorial gives the impression (much to the delight of the egyptian visitors) that Egypt had actually won the war and defeated Israel once and for all. Meanwhile, as we were leaving the cyclorama, the ‘defeated’ Israeli air force was busy bombing the shit out of the once Egyptian-controlled Gaza strip, while the ‘victorious’ Egyptian army was busy turning away [at gunpoint] wounded Palestinians from seeking treatment in Egypt.

Scene from the 6 october war cyclorama by Sara Kolster

God went surfing with the devil

21 May 2008 | 117 words | gaza israel drone wars

Seems to be a title of a documentary film about life in Israel and gaza in production right now (no IMDB entry yet). From what i can tell it looks like an attempt to portray everyday life in both Gaza and Israel by following surfers in both territories.

According to juxtapoz.com the film should be ready in about a year, but for now the filmakers have a daily blog covering the process of shooting in Isreael and Gaza (where they have just been arrested by hamas) with some of the best photography I have seen online in a while:

Surfer in Gaza

Lets hope that the film comes close to the beauty of the photos… [via nomoresleep.net]

If lives are in immediate danger, then lethal force is permissible. If not, it is not....

24 Feb 2008 | 535 words | border israel migration dead people

Since about a year i have been coming across reports of sub-saharan migrants getting shot by Egyptian border police when attempting to enter Israel from egypt. So far i have refrained from listing them as part of the noborder.org dead count because Israel is not really Europe (although they participate in the UEFA cup and the Eurovision song contest). Since the beginning of 2008 these incidents seem to have increased in frequency as noted by Amnesty International (UK):

On 19 February Egyptian security forces shot dead a Sudanese man trying to cross into Israel bringing the total to five. Security officials said 50-year-old Ermeniry Khasheef was shot in the back after he ignored orders to stop as he attempted to cross barbed wire near the border town of Rafah, in the north of the Sinai Peninsula.

Three days earlier, an Eritrean woman, Mervat Mer Hatover was shot dead after she ignored orders to stop as she was attempting to jump over the barbed wire in the El Kuntilla border region, in south-eastern Sinai Peninsula. […]

An Amnesty International spokesperson said: ‘We’re concerned that the Egyptian border police are disregarding their duty in opening fire on people who may have in no way presented an immediate threat to life. ‘The international standards are clear: if lives are in immediate danger, then lethal force is permissible. If not, it is not. ‘Desperate migrants should not be at the mercy of border guards who disregard basic international standards over using their weapons.’

On 30 January two migrants from Ivory Cost were shot and killed trying to cross the border south of Rafah. According to the Egyptian security forces, a 22-year-old man and an 18-year-old woman bled to death before an ambulance could reach them. […] On 19 January, another man from Ivory Cost bled to death after he was shot in the thigh at the border with Israel.

Of course these are not the only cases where lethal force is being used against migrants trying to enter relatively wealthy countries and it is sickening to see how the border guards of Egypt, Morocco and Turkey are doing the dirty work of the governments of the EU or Israel who could never justify their own border guards opening fire on migrants trying to enter their territories. As the amnesty spokesperson said: ‘if lives are in immediate danger, then lethal force is permissible. If not, it is not.’ Africans crossing a fence hardly can be seen as posing a danger to anyone except themselves.

And while we are talking about dangerous behavior involving Israeli borders, i was quite stunned to read a couple of days ago that there seem to be people engaging in drug smuggling across the Lebanese – Israeli border. This particular border, between to countries that are technically at war with each other and which is probably one of the most surveilled and unstable places on the entire planet does not really strike me as the best place to run a drug smuggling outfit (unless of course if the inhabitants of northern Israel decided that getting stoned is the best way to ignore the whacky predictions of Hassan Nasrallah and pay a premium for their red lebanese).

Essential humanitarianism (the Gaza Zoo)

02 Feb 2008 | 404 words | gaza energy israel

Leila points to a pretty intresting article by Darryl Li written after a recent visit to the Gaza strip. In his article ‘From Prison to Zoo: Israel’s “Humanitarian” Control of Gaza‘ (watch out, this is a link to a .doc file, what the fuck are they thinking at adalah.org?) he examines the policy of essentail humanitarianism develloped by the Israeli state after the take-over of the Gaza strip by Hamas last summer. Li claims that the conditions in Gaza have changed in such a way that it is more accurately described as a Zoo (as opposed as a prision) these days (and no he is not talking about the actual gaza zoo, where masked gunmen steal lions & parrots):

The metaphor of the Gaza Strip as the world’s largest prison is unfortunately outdated. Israel now treats the Strip more like a zoo. For running a prison is about constraining or repressing freedom; in a zoo, the question is rather how to keep those held inside alive, with an eye to how outsiders might see them. The question of freedom is never raised. The ongoing electricity crisis helps to illuminate this shift, so to speak. […]

The interaction between the state and the court is telling as regards the post-disengagement management of Gaza and the mentality of zoo-keeping. In 2006, Israel decided that the best way to punish Gazans for the capture of one of its soldiers was a one-off, spectacular act of violence that would lead to widespread deprivation. Now it seeks similar results - the loss of electricity and the resulting disruption of everyday life - through more calibrated, long-term means. This shift in approach is akin to the difference between clubbing an unruly prisoner over the head to subdue him and taming an animal through careful regulation of leash and diet. […]

The notion of “essential humanitarianism” (it is unclear what would constitute the “inessentially” humanitarian) reduces the needs, aspirations, and rights of 1.4 million human beings to an exercise in counting calories, megawatts, and other abstract, one-dimensional units that measure distance from death. It distracts from, and even legitimizes, the destruction of Gaza’s internal capacities and resources: its economy, institutions, and infrastructure. And even if implemented in good faith and with the best of intentions, it promises nothing more than turning Gazans one and all into beggars - or rather, into well-fed animals - dependent on international money and Israeli fiat.

Defiance chocolate bars

26 Nov 2007 | 265 words | iran food israel war united states

While traveling through Iran there are very little signs of the looming crisis over Iran’s alleged nuclear arms programme. There are a couple of down-with-the-U.S.A murals and posters here and there (but i believe they have been all over the place since 1978) and there is a fairly large number of anti-aircraft guns and rockets sticking out of the desert around the nuclear facility at Natanz. More interesting however is the fact that on a beautiful autumn day there are lots of Iranian families picnicking right in the shadow of the AA-guns, on the lawn in front of the facility (it appeared to me that the lawn was there for exactly of that reason).

Popular defiance to the threats of an attack in response to the alleged nuclear arms programme does not stop here: There is a brand (Anata/Jet) chocolate bars on sale in iran that depicts both a photograph of a F-15E Strike Eagle (on the box) and a drawing of a F-16 Fighting Falcon (on the wrapper):

Picture taken at a fresh fruit juice stall on the main street in Shiraz on 14-11-07

It is kind of remarkable (and maybe a good indication of the schizophrenic split between the official anti-americanism/imperialism and the popular fascination with the American way of life) that one can market candy bars with the same planes on them that the US (and Israel for that matter as the the F-15/F-16 combination makes up the entire long range strike force of the IAF) will use to bomb the shit out of Iran, should they ever decide to attack Iran.

Wearing clown's hats in Beaufort castle

22 Oct 2007 | 543 words | israel lebanon occupation war movies film

Finally managed to source a copy of Beaufort (בופור) with english subtitles yesterday. Had been waiting to find a version that i could understand for a while and it was definitely worth the wait.

Beaufort tells the story of the last IDF unit occupying Beaufort castle in Southern Lebanon in the days before the withdrawal of the IDF from Lebanon in the spring of 2000. It is one of the most impressive war movies i have seen in a while, also because it is the only war movie that i remember that does not show ‘the enemy’ (in this case the enemy is Hizbullah) at all. This seems to confuse some people a great deal, but i think it worked very well. As a whole, the movie does not really take a position on the israeli occupation policy but generally portrays the situation as fucked up and senseless, which works pretty well for me (plus i somehow like the look of the Mitznefet (a.k.a clown’s hats) that the IDF soldiers are wearing most of the time (picture here)).

When i was in Lebanon in May 2005 (exactly 5 years after the liberation of the south by Hizbullah) we went to visit Beaufort Castle (which apparently exists since roman times, but in its current incarnation is a crusaders castle). It occupies an amazing location, overlooking the southern end of the Biqa’a valley (to the North), the Golan heights (to the East), the South Lebanese Mediterranean coastline (to the West) and the north of Israel (to the South). According to the official beaufort movie website, it also overlooks Damascus but that is pretty much impossible if you ask me.

There is one particular exchange in in the movie that made me think back to our visit to Beaufort a lot. it is an exchange between Liraz, the young outpost commander and an unnamed combat engineer, who has just been send in to blow up the outpost so it won’t be of use to Hizbullah after the departure of the IDF:

Combat engineer: It will be quite a job blowing all of this up Liraz: I just can’t imagine it. Combat engineer: What is the problem? Imagine a mountain with no outpost Liraz: can’t Combat engineer: You got a girlfriend? Liraz: Why? Combat engineer: Answer me, i asked a simple question Liraz: Yes i do Combat engineer: Imagine yourself with her. Here on the mountain, sunset, the most amazing landscape on earth. You are holding her hand, walking around with her, showing her: here was ‘green’, the observation post, here was the gate. She looks around and all she sees is nature, a tourist attraction, no sign of any of this, paradise. Liraz: I just can’t picture this. Combat engineer: It will come, don’t worry…

Now the irony is that these days the place looks pretty much the way that the combat engineer described it (although there are some remains of the outpost, that serve as some kind of memorial of the Israeli occupation) but that a real-life Liraz and his girlfriend will probably never have the opportunity to go there in their lifetime as the IDF has caused way too much harm in Southern Lebanon for any Israeli to be welcome there any time soon…

Hollow land

02 Sep 2007 | 300 words | occupation israel border

Just finished reading Eyal Weizman’s impressive Hollow Land – Israel’s Architecture of Occupation. In the book Weizman describes of how the Israeli occupation gradually hollows out what is left of Palestine, by means of architecture. His understanding of architecture is fairly broad and includes aspects like spacial theories of urban warfare, the separation wall, airborne occupation, the strategic locations of west-bank settlements and the system of checkpoints. The chapter on checkpoints (‘The Split Sovereign and the One-Way Mirror’), which is one of the strongest one’s in the entire one includes this fantastic quote, which perfectly illustrates the insanity of the entire occupation project:

The checkpoints do not only carve up space, but also divide up time as well. Israel changes to daylight saving time a month after the rest of the world because of coalition agreements with ultra-Orthodox parties whose constituency’s hours of prayer are governed by celestial composition and level of daylight. The Palestinian Authority shifts it’s clocks to daylight-saving time in tune with the rest of the Northern hemisphere. In spring, a one-hour time difference opens up across the two sides of the checkpoints, creating two time zones. ‘The working day ends at 6pm local time but 7pm checkpoint time. the checkpoint shuts at 7pm it’s time. Until everybody got used to move the clock backwards and finish work an hour earlier, the checkpoint was blocked with hundreds of winter time people begging the summer time soldiers to allow them back home’.

[i think either Weizman or Azmi Bishara, from whom the the quote in the quote is taken must have confused summer and winter time here. if the initial explanation is correct then the soldiers are still on winter time and the workers are on summer time].

A number of more extensive reviews are available at roundtable.kein.org.

Border economies

06 May 2007 | 241 words | border gaza israel food business

One of the things that has always fascinated me about borders is the way they structure the local economies of adjacent regions. People one the one side suddenly start selling ridiculous amounts of all kind of things that are not available – or much more expensive – on the other side. Particularly vivid examples of this phenomenon can be observed on the fringes of France. The area around Calais is full of shops selling booze and cigarettes to busloads of brits & in Portbou just across the border to Spain where there is not a single store that does not sell Pastis in 5 litter bottles to visiting Frenchmen. Laila adds another although – although completely unrelated to leisurely border crossing – example from the border between Gaza & Israel:

“Yes, you know, the Imsaddar household. Their farms are near the border with Israel, in eastern Gaza… their bees fly across the border and gather pollen from the Kenya trees and Orange groves in their farms. So the honey is just better.”

How is it that honey from bees gathering pollen from trees across the border is better? Is it because the flowers are freer? Less empty or trapped or sad? Less occupied, perhaps?

“I think they just have more trees and flowers there. After all, most of our groves were razed during the Intifada,” explained a friend.

Taken from her excellent ‘Raising Yousuf, Unplugged: diary of a Palestinian mother‘ blog

The war is over...

31 Mar 2007 | 134 words | war israel lebanon beirut advertisement banking photos

… and everybody is talking about the next war. seems to somehow involve iran, the US, israel, the valet parkers, Syria and Lebanon, but there is neither real agreement about the constellation nor does anyone come up with a credible motivation for someone to attack the others or the other way around (except maybe for the US to attack Iran). Meanwhile last summer war has once again (see here for last years favorite ad) been picked up by the advertising industry, this time in the form of an billboard-advertisment for a teenagers credit card, which seems to be inspired by this years world press photo (which caused quite a bit of confusion after it won the award):

Bank Audi teen master-card billboard in downtown Beirut

World press photo 2006 by Spencer Platt, Getty Images

meanwhile... is the personal weblog of Paul Keller. I am currently policy director at Open Future and President of the COMMUNIA Association for the Public Domain. This weblog is largely inactive but contains an archive of posts (mixing both work and personal) going back to 2005.

I also maintain a collection of cards from African mediums (which is the reason for the domain name), a collection of photos on flickr and a website collecting my professional writings and appearances.

Other things that i have made online: