Israel plans new law to ban Palestinians from Jerusalem

Israeli soldiers aim their weapons towards Palestinian protestors just outside of Nablus. (AFP)
Updated 20 February 2018
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Israel plans new law to ban Palestinians from Jerusalem

AMMAN: A proposed new law will give Israel wider powers to strip Palestinians of their right to live in occupied East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.
The legislation follows earlier attempts to remove social security benefits and family reunification rights from Palestinians in Jerusalem. “This time they are going after the right to residency,” Sani Khoury, a lawyer in Jerusalem, told Arab News.
The draft law approved by the Israeli parliament’s legislative committee allows the government to withdraw residency from any Palestinian deemed by Israel to be “involved in terrorism,” whether they have been convicted of a crime or not.
Right-wing Knesset members appear to be in a race to see who can sponsor the most racist law against Palestinians, Khoury said. “Note that they did not withdraw social benefits or the residency rights of Yigal Amir, the killer of former prime minister Yitshaq Rabin.”
Israel annexed East Jerusalem in 1967 and the Golan Heights in 1980. People who live there may remain if they abide by certain Israeli administrative procedures.
Palestinians with permanent residency cannot lose their right to live in Jerusalem provided the city is the center of their lives, Hanna Issa, a lawyer in Jerusalem who specializes in international law, told Arab News. “But if they are away from Jerusalem for seven years, or if they get residency elsewhere, this right can be withdrawn.”
Even living in nearby Ramallah or Bethlehem constitutes not living in Jerusalem and can be used against Palestinians to withdraw their residency, Issa said.
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel has documented the cases of nearly 15,000 Palestinians in Jerusalem who have lost their residency rights because of these administrative orders.
The new draft law appears to be aimed at thwarting an attempt by four Palestinians from Jerusalem to have their administrative banishment from the city overturned by the Israeli Supreme Court.
The former Palestinian Minister for Jerusalem Affairs, Khaled Abu Arafeh, and three elected members of the Palestinian Legislative Council — Ahmad Ottwan, Mohammed Totah and Mohammad Abu Tier — were banned from Jerusalem shortly after the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections. Their crime, according to the Israeli prosecutor, was that by taking part in the elections on behalf of the pro-Hamas Islamists Change and Reform List, they showed that they were “not loyal to the state of Israel.”
The four men have been arrested three times since 2006, and are engaged in a legal battle to have the ban reversed.
Abu Arafeh lives in a temporary home in Ramallah, and has been unable to travel or attend family events in Jerusalem or elsewhere.
“My son is graduating from university this summer in Jordan and my daughter will graduate from high school in Jerusalem’s Beit Hanina neighborhood, and I will not be able to attend,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Israeli government has also approved a draft law punishing the Palestinian government for making payments to the families of prisoners and those who have died resisting occupation. The new law will cut tax revenues allocated to the Palestinians by the same amount as those payments. The Palestinian government has called the law “theft of Palestinian money.”


‘Sand mafias’ threaten Morocco’s coastline

Updated 17 min 20 sec ago
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‘Sand mafias’ threaten Morocco’s coastline

  • Unscrupulous construction contractors illegally stripping beaches of sand
  • Beaches and rivers are heavily exploited across the planet, legally and illegally, according to UNEP

MOHAMMEDIA: Beneath an apartment block that looms over Monica beach in the western coastal city of Mohammedia, a sole sand dune has escaped the clutches of Morocco’s insatiable construction contractors.

Here, like elsewhere across the North African tourist magnet, sand has been stolen to help feed an industry that is growing at full tilt.

A report last month by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) on the global over-exploitation of this resource accuses “sand mafias” of destroying Morocco’s beaches and over-urbanizing its coastline.

“The dunes have disappeared along the entire city’s coastline,” lamented environmental activist Jawad, referring to Mohammedia, on the Atlantic between Rabat and Casablanca.

The 33-year-old environmental activist leads Anpel, a local NGO dedicated to coastal protection.

“At this rate, we’ll soon only have rocks” left, chipped in Adnane, a member of the same group.

More than half the sand consumed each year by Morocco’s construction industry — some 10 million cubic meters (350 million cubic feet) — is extracted illegally, according to UNEP.

“The looters come in the middle of the night, mainly in the low season,” said a local resident in front of his grand home on the Monica seafront.

“But they do it less often now because the area is full of people. In any case, there is nothing more to take,” added the affable forty-something.

Sand accounts for four-fifths of the makeup of concrete and — after water — is the world’s second most consumed resource.

Exploitation

Beaches and rivers are heavily exploited across the planet, legally and illegally, according to UNEP.

In Morocco, “sand is often removed from beaches to build hotels, roads and other tourism-related infrastructure,” according to UNEP. Beaches are therefore shrinking, resulting in coastal erosion.

“Continued construction is likely to lead to... destruction of the main natural attraction for visitors — beaches themselves,” the report warned.

Theft of sand from beaches or coastal dunes in Morocco is punishable by five years in prison.

Siphoned away by donkey, delivery bike and large trucks, the beaches are being stripped from north to south, along a coastline that runs from the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic.

FASTFACT

Siphoned away by donkey, delivery bike and large trucks, the beaches are being stripped from north to south, along a coastline that runs from the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic.

“On some beaches, the sand has nearly disappeared” in parts of the north, said an ecological activist in Tangiers. “There has been enormous pressure on the beaches of Tangiers because of real estate projects,” he said.

To the south, the UNEP report noted, “sand smugglers have transformed a large beach into a rocky landscape” between Safi and Essaouira. Activist Jawad points to “small scale looting, like here in Mohammedia.”

But “then there is the intensive and structured trafficking by organized networks, operating with the complicity of some officials.”

While the sand mafias operate as smugglers, “key personalities — lawmakers or retired soldiers — hand out permits allowing them to over-exploit deposits, without respect for quotas,” he added.

A licensed sand dredger spoke of “a very organized mafia that pays no taxes” selling sand that is “neither washed nor desalinated,” and falls short of basic building regulations.

These mafia outfits have “protection at all levels... they pay nothing at all because they do everything in cash,” this operator added, on condition of anonymity.

“A lot of money is laundered through this trade.”

A simple smartphone helps visualize the extent of the disaster.

Via a Google Earth map, activist Adnane showed a razed coastal forest, where dunes have given way to a lunar landscape, some 200 km south of Casablanca.

Eyes fixed on the screen, he carefully scrutinized each parcel of land.

“Here, near Safi, they have taken the sand over (a stretch of) seven kilometers. It was an area exploited by a retired general, but there is nothing left to take,” he alleged.

Adnane pointed to another area — exploited, he said, by a politician who had a permit for “an area of two hectares.”

But instead, he “took kilometers” of sand.

Environmental protection was earmarked as a priority by Morocco, in a grandiose statement after the country hosted the 2016 COP22 international climate conference.

Asked by AFP about measures to fight uncontrolled sand extraction, secretary of state for energy Nezha El Ouafi pointed to “a national coastal protection plan (that) is in the process of being validated.”

The plan promises “evaluation mechanisms, with protection programs and (a) high status,” she said.

Meanwhile, environmental activists are pleading against the “head in the sand approach” over the scale of coastal devastation.