We are a group of people who first met during the “Social Justice” protests that swept Israel on the summer of 2011, in the “No Choice” protest tents that filled Jerusalem’s municipal parks.
Together, we waged a struggle for public housing. We worked to amplify the voices of people in Israel's socio-economic periphery in general, and in Jerusalem in particular. We worked in cooperation with the Public Housing Coalition, the Periphery Tent Movement, and the main Rothschild Blvd tent encampment.
We knew that it wouldn't be easy to protest in favor of public housing in a situation where the struggle as a whole has been tagged by the media, the government, and the Trajtenberg Commission as a student struggle and as a middle class struggle. However, we also knew that without this voice, the entire struggle would lose all meaning.
Our tent encampment, just like other "no option" tent camps in the country, were the last to stay standing, after the student camps were evacuated. We found ourselves struggling against the municipality in order to maintain the tent camp, with its residents that were offered no solutions and had no where to go.
In the past few months, we have liberated four deserted buildings in Jerusalem in order to create solutions for the tent camp residents-on King George St. in the city center, on Emek Refaim St. in the German Colony, on Shtern 61 in Kiryat Yovel, and on 11 Pinsker Street in Talbiya.
We have matured politically through the solidarity that grew within and between the “No Choice” tent encampments and out of our having to contend with the fact that the public housing issue, as well as numerous other issues concerning the periphery and the lower strata of Israeli society, has been given only a marginal place in the struggle and in news coverage. We believed then as we do now that these issues must stand at the center of the struggle. Our solidarity also grew out of the violence exercised against us by the authorities: the pressures from the municipality and its bureaucrats, the hypocrisy of Hebew University, who knew how to say some nice words about justice, but who sent their security guards and police to evict entire families out of 61 Shtern Street, the police violence in the buildings and during the protests, and the outsourced and brutal eviction from 11 Pinsker Street, which was done illegally without an eviction order, while the police backed the violent thugs.
From tent to Ma'abara (transit camp)
Today, the government adopted the recommendations of the Trajtenberg Committee, which pay no attention to the public housing issue. The different municipalities are fighting the tent camps in their cities and evicting most of them. The Israeli media, which is controlled by multi-millionaires, is telling the public about how “the protest is dying down” at the same time that the protests and the struggle are turning into a significant, global wave. At this critical moment in the struggle, we are establishing “The Ma'abara,” and we call on the public to join us and the struggle that we began-a struggle that is far from over. We hope that Inshallah, Be'ezreat Hashem, our struggle will lead to some solid results.
We draw our inspiration from past struggles in Israel against economic, class, geographic, and ethnic oppression: from the uprisings in the original transit camps, the Wadi Salib revolt in 1959, the struggles of the Black Panthers in the early 1970's that began in Jerusalem, to the struggles against the destruction of Kfar Shalem, which cost Shimon Yehoshua his life, to the tent protests throughout the last decades, Yisrael Twito's “Bread Square”, to the struggles of single mothers in Jerusalem and the tent city of people evicted by Amidar in Beit Shean.
We also draw inspiration from the Middle Eastern uprisings in the last year for democracy and distributive justice in Tunisia and Egypt, who proved their courage in their struggle for freedom and equality and against oppression and exploitation. We are deeply pained to witness the victims that continue to be murdered in Syria, Yemen, Bahrain and other countries as part of struggles oppression.
We express our solidarity with the spread of struggles for distributive and economic justice and against destructive capitalism and the rule of corporations to other parts of the world, among them Spain, India, Greece, Chile, as well as the 99% struggle in Manhattan. Although our struggle begins in our own local context in Jerusalem, it is clear to us that the injustices against which we fight, in our neighborhoods and streets, are connected to additional injustices in many other places.
We will continue the fight for public housing, in Jerusalem and throughout the country, and for constructing and unfreezing public housing. We will continue to fight for the integration of public housing in the urban and social fabric, by integrating it with affordable housing. We oppose the establishment of public housing projects as separated and segregated ghettos. We will continue the struggle for the construction of public housing that is decent and fitting for human life and human dignity.
We will continue to liberate houses in order to send the message that we will not tolerate the continuation of this situation in which people are homeless while entire buildings stand empty. We will continue to open the eyes of the public to two parallel issues that the government is trying to make disappear: buildings owned by the public are standing completely empty in many cities for many reasons (many because of corruption and contemptuous mishandling of public assets), while at the same time public housing is kept frozen as the population grows and available apartments are disappearing. For these reasons the government is breaking the law, and therefore it is the government who is criminal, not us.
We call for the establishment of additional “Ma'abara” groups in different cities outside of Jerusalem. We call for immediate steps to liberate houses for the purposes of providing housing, and for community and cultural spaces. We call for organizing for collective resistance to evictions attempted by the public housing corporations, Amidar, Amigur and Prazot. We call for action against the authorities to systematically change the rules of the game, action that is done in direct cooperation with the communities of the periphery and the bottom strata of Israeli society; action that aims to bring about social and distributive justice.
Coming out of many months of struggle for public housing, we have developed a sense of solidarity for parallel housing struggles taking place throughout the country. We wish to connect the struggles of mortgage evictees against the tyranny of the banks and the debt collection agencies to the struggles of the Bedouin against evictions and for government recognition of their villages. We wish to connect the struggle of the development towns for expanding their jurisdictional borders to the struggles of Arab cities for developing just municipal zoning plans and the expansion of their jurisdictional lines as well. We wish to connect the struggle against the eviction of Kfar Shalem's residents to the struggle against the eviction of Jaffa's original residents. We wish to connect the struggle for affordable housing, and the struggle for oversight of rent prices to the struggle against home demolitions and land expropriations in East Jerusalem and the occupied territories, including the eviction of Palestinian families from Sheikh Jarrah, which takes take place with the backing of the High Court of Justice.
A Social Democratic Front
The Ma'abara wil be a platform for organizing radical action which will move from the local struggles in East and West Jerusalem to the national level, from issues of public housing to all issues having to do with distributive justice and social equality, and out of the Israeli socio-economic periphery's affinity to the Middle East and the struggle spreading throughout the entire world.
We will cooperate with other groups and initiatives including but not limited to those that grew out of the tent protests here in this land and abroad. We will work to establish a wide social-democratic front, a struggle to actualize our citizenship through active, political-democratic participation for a welfare state, for the right to decent housing, for decent education and healthcare, for decent employment (not through manpower companies), and for the right to unionize. We will struggle against the erosion of human and civil rights, against the erosion of the democratic sphere in Israel, against the rule of the rich and powerful, against police violence, and against all forms of political, economic, gender, and cultural oppression in Israel and in the territories.
In our sacred texts it is written: “Justice justice you shall pursue (Deuteronomy 16:20).” Why was “justice” written twice in this verse? It is written twice because you must pursue justice where you are, and if you do not find it, you must leave your place in order to find it. Another interpretation teaches that there are different types of justice in the world, and you cannot repair the world with only one type of justice. Rather, you must learn of the different types of justice from different people in order to bring about repair. Therefore, we begin from where we are but we are prepared to move beyond, and we are open to learning and teaching different forms of justice, in partnership with both Muslim and Jewish traditions that teach us the importance of pointing out injustice, and struggling to repair the injustices in this world.
Injustice knows no borders, and therefore our struggles must know no limits. International corporations and banks know no state borders, and sometimes their power is stronger than that of states. First world states abuse third world states as well as many people within their own borders who live in third world conditions. So too is it here in Jerusalem, where injustices of different types are connected and inter-connected, taking place in the east of the city and in its west, in its north and in its south.
Therefore, we call on the general public to join us and the actions that we initiate-Jews and Arabs, Israelis and Palestinians, Mizrahis, Ashkenazis, Russians and Ethiopians, women and men, Haredis, orthodox, progressive, traditional and secular, Muslims and Christians, young and old, members of the disadvantaged neighborhoods and the middle classes.
We will act out of a deep connection between social-political struggle and cultural-artistic creation, and out of a belief that all human beings can contribute to the struggle against the exploitative system, and for the founding of a more just society.
The Ma'abarot (Hebrew: מַעְבָּרוֹת plural) were refugee absorption camps that were built in Israel during the 1950s. The Ma'abarot were meant to provide accommodation for the large influx of Jewish refugees and new Olim (Jewish immigrants) arriving to the newly established State of Israel, the vast majority of them Mizrachi Jews. (North african, Middle east and Asian origin)
Most of ma'abarot residents were housed in temporary tin dwellings. Conditions in the Ma'abarot were very harsh, with many people shared sanitation facilities. In one community it was reported that there were 350 people to each shower and in another 56 to each toilet. In the beginning of the 50's many revolts took place in the transit camps protesting the harsh housing conditions, the transformation of these harsh conditions from temporary to permanent and the discrimination of Mizrachi immigrants in comparison to the European and North American immigrants in Israel.
The Ma'abarot began to decline by mid 1950s and were largely transformed into Development Towns. The last Ma'abara was officially closed by the state in 1963, but in reality many of the development towns in the periphery and in the margin neighborhoods in the big cities became a direct continuity of the transit camps, continued to lack development of decent infrastructure, education and employment, and suffer from economic and cultural oppression.
On October 27th, 2011, about 40 bullys and private security company men stormed on the house on Pinsker st. 11, protected by the police. The bullys refused to identify themselves or the one who sent them. They broke down the house doors and evacuated, with great use of violence, the residents of the house — men, women, children and babies. Since the house was inhabited for 37 days, eviction without a court order is illegal , the residents called the police, but the police did nothing but watch.
During the eviction the residents were beaten and struck, including a seventh month pregnant woman. Two residents were slightly injured and taken to hospital. None of the bullys were arrested, but the police did see fit to arrest four of the residents. The belongings, as their owners, were thrown to the street. Until the eviction, the house was populated with 40 people, most of them without a home. Prior to that time, the house stood abandoned and deserted for a year and a half at least.