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The three bullets that killed Israel's left-wing bloc

Without the Arab citizens there is no ‘left-wing bloc’ in Israeli politics. The only problem? The inclusion of Arabs was what led the Right to violently bring down the Left in the first place.

By Lev Grinberg

Since the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, there have been no political blocs in Israel. No Left and no Right — only survival combinations. Therefore, all the talk of the “size of blocs” only distorts the depressing reality in Israeli politics, wherein the real issues are barely discussed.

The reason there have been no blocs since 1995 is simple: the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin was an attack on the very existence of a “left-wing bloc” consisting of Labor, Meretz and the Arab parties. The message was well understood, and no such cooperation exists any longer. Since the assassination, all the Jewish parties have had little problem sitting alongside one another in the coalition: Meretz sat with the National Religious Party in 1999; and the other coalitions included Yesh Atid, Kadima and Labor sitting with Likud, Liberman and the Jewish Home. Labor not only sat alongside Likud in Ariel Sharon’s government (in 2001 and in 2004), but also under Netanyahu’s in 2009. The truth is that Livni and Herzog sat in Netanyahu’s government until they were kicked out, Herzog by Ehud Barak, and Livni by Netanyahu himself. Instead of an ideological split between the Right and the Left, the main gaps today are between the parties that are willing to sit in any government.

The “right and left” blocs are the ones that, in the past, allowed for the biggest changes in Israeli politics, such as Likud’s ascension to power in 1977, or Labor’s victory in 1992. Likud and Labor continue to speak of blocs today in order to preserve their status as a “cartel” whose leaders are the only candidates to become prime minister. This, despite the fact that the two have been downgraded to “third party” status in recent years (in 2006, when Likud received 12 Knesset seats, and in 2009 and 2013 when Labor received 13 and 15, respectively).

In the absence of ideological blocs, no major changes should be expected. Rather, we should expect new “survival combinations.” Instead of changes in foreign or domestic policy, the new government will present a new facade for external consumption. Significant changes take place only in the wake of serious ideological shifts that define...

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Prisoners in our own homes: A look at life in occupied Hebron

Twenty-one years have passed since Baruch Goldstein entered Hebron’s Cave of the Patriarchs and massacred dozens of Muslim worshippers. Since then, Palestinians in the city have been placed under a harsh regime of separation and movement restriction. Some of us can’t even leave our own homes.

By Zleikha Muhtaseb

Imagine that you are in your home, sitting on your comfortable couch, making a cup of tea or perhaps looking at the view through your window. You are safe and calm — here no one can hurt you. Now imagine that the front door of your home has been locked by a foreign army that forbids you from walking on the main street where your house is located. Imagine that in order to leave your house you are forced to break through another part of your house so as to create an alternative exit. Imagine that your balcony is closed off by a fence that you built in order to protect yourself from rocks thrown at your house by your neighbors. Imagine that at any given moment, soldiers can burst into your home and act as they want.

This is more than just a thought experiment — this is what my life looks like, living on Shuhada Street in Hebron. As a result of an order given by the Israeli military, my front door, which faces the street, has been locked. The neighbors who throw rocks at my fenced-off balcony are settlers, Israeli citizens who slowly took over buildings and homes in the area over the past decades. The soldiers who can enter my home at will are Israeli soldiers who patrol the street at all hours of the day and night. But if I ask them for help when rocks are thrown at my home, they will never respond.

Visitors who have never been here might have a hard time imagining what Shuhada Street looked like years ago, when it was full of life and shops — the commercial center of the city. Today only soldiers and settlers are allowed to walk down the streets, while the shops are closed and their doors locked. Almost 80 percent of the stores in this part of the city were shut down in the last 20 years, many times due to military orders in the name of “security.”

According to some estimates, nearly half the residents of the area...

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On second thought, no: Gaza students denied exit permits

The ease with which Israel can give and take away, allow and deny, isn’t just disturbing and depressing, it’s also further proof, in case anyone needed any, that Israel’s control over daily life in Gaza is immense.

By Amir Rotem

Early last week, the Palestinian media reported that the Palestinian Civil Affairs Committee had reached some new understandings in its talks with Gaza District Coordination Offices (DCO) officials and that, among other things, for the first time in 15 years, Gaza residents would be allowed to travel to the West Bank for academic studies. On Wednesday, the Israeli Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) posted (Hebrew) on its website that 50 students from Gaza would be permitted to study in the West Bank.

Only a few hours later, when the news caught the media’s attention, COGAT’s spokesperson said that the publication was the result of an error. A copy of the “Closure Permissions Status” document, a document that lists the restrictions imposed on the Palestinian public and is updated every few weeks, was removed from COGAT’s website and was reposted only the next day, after the section was deleted.

What went on behind the scenes in those lost hours between the publication and the decision to remove it? According to members of the Palestinian Civil Affairs Committee, the issue was agreed in advance and the Israeli publication merely confirmed it. It takes a large dose of suspension-of-disbelief to simply accept COGAT’s claim that this was a “clerical error,” as they called it.

And why should news that 50 students who might, perhaps, at some point, under some conditions, receive a permit to study cause such a stir? Mainly because it was supposed to show yet another crack to Israel’s insistence that its closure concept, i.e. that isolating the Gaza Strip and separating its residents from the other part of the Palestinian territory, is legitimate and necessary for political and security reasons. Without going into the nature of this “policy,” which, as stated by a cabinet member, the defense minister could only say was a result of “inertia,” it is possible to say that the Israel-Hamas ritual of violence, with the terrible price it exacts, is probably the strongest proof that the system has failed. Surprisingly, top security officials have acknowledged this and have changed their tune (Hebrew) since the last round of violence...

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Partial win: No jail for Palestinian activist who blocked bulldozer

Abdullah Abu Rahmah is levied a fine and a suspended sentence for standing in front of a bulldozer. ‘I will continue my struggle and my protest, because it is our right,’ he says. In his sentencing hearing, the military prosecution described Abu Rahmah’s nonviolent protest as an ideological crime.

By Yael Marom

The Israeli army’s Ofer Military Court in the West Bank handed down a four-month suspended sentence and a NIS 5,000 ($1,290)to Abdullah Abu Rahmah, a central organizer of Bil’in’s nonviolent protests.

Abu Rahmah, one of the central activists in the Palestinian popular struggle in the West Bank, was recognized by the European Union as a Human Rights Defender. He convicted last October of interfering with the work of a soldier for a incident in May 2012, when during a demonstration he stood in front of a bulldozer that was clearing land on which to build the separation barrier near Ramallah.

“The court’s decision is disappointing and unacceptable,” Abu Rahmah said in response to the sentencing. “The purpose of the punishment is to make us stop our struggle. But I will continue my struggle and my protest, because it is our right.”

“I call on others and supporters to join us on Friday for the large protest marking ten years of our struggle against the fence,” Abu Rahmah continued. “I plan on standing in the front row, and to continue defending the rights of my people anywhere and everywhere.”

Abu Rahmah has been imprisoned in the past for his involvement in the nonviolent popular struggle against the occupation. He was in prison for over a year for organizing protests, all of which are illegal under military law, and incitement, along with various other arrests.

In his decision, the military judge noted the fact that Abu Rahmah has been convicted in the past of interfering in the work of a soldier during demonstrations. The judge didn’t send him to prison as requested by the military prosecutor, the decision explained, because of the long period of time that has passed since the event in question, and due to the fact that no injuries and that the offense was not grave.

In the sentencing hearing, the military prosecutor described Abu Rahmah’s nonviolent protest as an ideological crime.

Abu Rahmah’s attorney, Gaby Lasky, argued during the sentencing hearing that the offense was committed during a protest, and that it’s not reasonable for one to...

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What Malcolm X taught me about my best friend's murder

Malcolm X’s descriptions of the black experience in the United States helped me understand that Amir’s death was not ‘normal,’ but rather a result of Israel’s policies toward its Palestinian minority.

By Rami Younis

I lost my best friend on the night between June 28-29th, 2000. Amir Qadri (Arafat) was killed by a stray bullet shot by armed men who came into his neighborhood in the city of Lyd (“Lod” in Hebrew) and began firing. He was only 15 when he died. The gunfire was a result of a conflict between the shooters and Amir’s neighbors. Amir was sitting on the balcony of his other neighbors’ home, watching television and eating sunflower seeds as he was preparing for the big semifinal match between France (with our favorite player, Zidane) and Portugal in the UEFA European Championship.

That same day we came back from the gym. We parted ways at 7:30 p.m. after Amir tried to convince me to come watch the game at his place. “We’ll sit outside, it won’t be too hot today. Don’t be a jerk,” he said. He even promised that we’ll be able to sneak a few puffs from the nargileh. “Forget it, I’ll watch the game at home. I’m tired of you, I’ve been around you all day,” I responded as we stood outside his house. “You jerk,” he responded, and turned to walk inside. These were the last words we ever exchanged.

The period following Amir’s death was the most difficult of my life. I only understood the significance of what had happened several months later, as the walls of denial came down, only to be replaced by a deep, painful sorrow.

It was around then that I first encountered Malcolm X. I learned his life story in reverse chronological order, from his assassination to his joining the Nation of Islam under Elijah Muhammad. I couldn’t get his biography story out of my head; twenty years before I was born, people close to Malcolm – from his own community – shot him, despite the fact that both the FBI and the CIA knew about the plan to assassinate him. My best friend, who was like a brother to me, was killed by members of his own community, and like in Malcolm’s case, the authorities knew that Amir’s killers were in Lyd and never acted. In Amir’s case, those responsible for the murder (like those...

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How does the army please settlers? By upping its violence

When the settlers of Halamish complained that the IDF isn’t being violent enough, a brigadier-general assured them that he orders his troops to use unnecessary force against Palestinians. 

By Yesh Din, written by Yossi Gurvitz

Near the Palestinian villages of Dir Nizam and Nabi Salah lies a settlement named Halamish, also known as Neve Tsuf.

About a month ago, after Palestinians threw stones at their vehicles, the settlers of Halamish took the law into their own hands and began “securing” the road leading to the settlement. The IDF didn’t like the initiative, but – lo and behold – did not use its legal authority against Israeli civilians carrying out military actions on their own initiative. Instead, it sent the commander of the AYOSH (Area of Judea and Samaria) Division, Brig. General Tamir Yadai, to talk to the lawbreakers.

This conversation, published on the website of the Hebrew daily Makor Rishon (and which includes recordings) is very interesting for several reasons. Take, for instance the comment by Gen. Yadai after a short lecture about the differences between the military situation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (listen at 4:37 in the first recording):

Hold it. If firing tear gas or rubber bullets was sufficient in the past, what necessitated the change? According to Yadai, nothing changed and the threat level vis-à-vis the soldiers did not increase in any way. So what did change? Well, the atmosphere in the IDF, for one. The army decided to teach the Palestinians a lesson, and therefore increased the level of violence it uses towards themregardless of the threat they represent. The brigadier-general’s comments are not empty ones – they are mere attempts to boast. B’Tselem, which noticed Yadai’s comment, recorded a series of such shooting incidents [Hebrew].

The Ruger is a .22 caliber rifle, colloquially known in Hebrew as “Tutu,” whose bullet is a relatively weak live one. Rifles are, how shall I put it, deadly weapons. When Gen. Yadai orders his troops to use a Ruger rifle or live bullets against demonstrators, he is using a deadly weapon that puts their lives at risk, especially when he knows such risk is unwarranted. Prior to his new orders, the IDF faced the same level of violence, but used rubber bullets (which may still be deadly, but the likelihood of death is smaller) and tear gas (which are not...

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A glimmer of hope against incitement and racism

Jamal Zahalka promises that the Joint List will remain together for a long time, Dov Khenin tugs at our heart strings, the head of the Islamic Movement speaks of the men and women who make history, and Ayman Odeh, who heads the slate, calls on Arabs members of the Zionist parties to come back home.

By Samah Salaime Egbariya (translated by Sol Salbe)

Holding the Joint List’s Arabic-language campaign launch after sundown on a Saturday evening made it seem as if the Arabs were observing the Jewish Shabbat. The location was Nazareth, which once again earned the title of being the Arab community’s capital. The hall was filled with activists from towns and villages from north to south. Already in the parking lot, I saw dozens of people milling about and I thought they were leaving, but soon enough I saw that the hall was simply packed to the rafters.

I pushed myself forward and got in, passing through the pillar of cloud emanating from men smoking in the doorway. At least they were outside. There used to be a time when one could only dream of asking Arab men to step outside to smoke. In some places such a request is considered to be offensive and disrespectful of the guests. And how do these Jews dare say that we are not progressing or that we are not civilized?

On my way to the event I heard a report that Taleb a-Sana, whose own Arab list is not part of the Joint List, had addressed the gathering by phone. I couldn’t quite figure out why he was speaking at his competitors’ event, but it’s probably a good sign, a sign that he found his way back after wandering in the Negev Desert for 40 days.

Friends and comrades, men and women, brothers and sisters

I arrived late, toward the end of a moving speech by Jewish Knesset (and Hadash) member Dov Khenin. He ended with the most Jewish-Arab poem imaginable, one which Culture Minister Limor Livant hasn’t yet declared to be anti-Zionist. “Me and you will change the world! Me and you. And then everyone else will join in.” It was too romantic for the old man sitting next to me, who couldn’t understand just where Dov Khenin was planning on dragging him, but he applauded enthusiastically when the MC thanked Dov for his speech. Then Abbas...

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The key to an election victory for the Israeli Left

The Right in Israel will not fall over economic issues, period. It will fall only if its lies about political solutions are disproved.

By Eli Shmueli

No one in the Israeli public dares convey three simple messages: 1) There is a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; 2) We have a partner for peace; 3) The Israeli Right, not the Palestinians, are preventing the solution. No one in the Left is trying to explain to the public, step-by-step, why these messages are correct. No one is trying to debunk the lies of the right wing. Instead, they speak about economic issues.

The Right will not fall due to economic issues, period. It will fall only if its lies about political solutions and security issues are disproved. Tell me that many years will have to pass before people can hear the words “an agreement with the Palestinians” without it being automatically translated to “these damn leftists want thousands of people to be murdered here – just like what happened during the Oslo accords.” But this is exactly what I mean. The Left must debunk the story told by the Right about Oslo.

Fighting extremists on both sides

The Right’s story about Oslo began in 1994. Before this story, every terrorist attack by Hamas (which was a small organization at the time) was seen in the prism of another Holocaust – the first step toward the annihilation of the Jews. A terrorist attack represents all Palestinians, while an agreement on security cooperation represents no Palestinians. In 1993, the Right’s goal was to incite against any compromise in order to prevent the return of the West Bank or Gaza to Palestinian hands. Israel was only the means, and no price was too high: a bi-national state, a dictatorship or the danger of unraveling the state through outside pressure, similar to what happened in South Africa during apartheid.

The Left’s inability to counter that manipulative story was born back in the 1990s. Even back then there were no left-wing politicians who could tell the story of “the moderates and the extremists.” The story about two societies at war, initiatives for compromise — the story that says that if we continue fighting the extremists, peace will be possible. (There is a new war taking place in which the moderates from both sides are taking on the extremists who are trying to prevent a compromise.)...

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The threat of hope and truth in elections devoid of both

Proponents of a strong democracy should welcome young citizens sounding their voices. But a prime minister who builds his campaign on fear mongering clearly feels threatened by anyone grouping together the words ‘hope,’ ‘truth’ and ‘politics.’

By Don Futterman

There is nothing Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Likud party finds so threatening as hope and truth. While the official campaigns of the two leading parties – the Zionist Camp and the Likud – stagger along with minimal substance, younger and vibrant progressive voices are starting to make themselves heard. The Likud recently attacked two of them, V15 and 61, and sought an injunction to shut them down until after the elections.

Likud not only accused the groups of breaking election campaign laws but resorted to their usual delegitimizaion toolbox – in this case attacking the organizations’ funding sources and hinting at a leftist cabal – which reveals that they are paying attention, and running at least a little bit scared.

V15- or” Victory in 2015” is a group of idealistic 20-somethings who are going online and door-to-door encouraging Israeli citizens not to despair over our demoralizing political culture, and to have enough hope to go out and vote on March 17. V15 claims it is not advocating that Israelis vote for any particular party, but are telling them to vote for change – which means a government not led by Netanyahu or Naftali Bennett.

The website 61 specializes in telling truth to power through biting, satirical, graphically designed montages, each skewering a particular government bluff or failure, mocking the politicians, but also bringing the background research to support its claims. 61 is the brainchild of Molad, a think tank and research institute led by a group of passionate 30-somethings, trying to bring reliable, evidence-based data and creative thinking to Israel’s political discourse and decision-making. (Full disclosure – I am the program director for Israel of the Moriah Fund, which funds Molad.)

Along with attacking Molad ,61 and V-15, Likud officials also went after One Voice, a 12-year-old movement created to rally support for the two-state solution. Likud MKs Ofir Akunis, Miri Regev, Tzippy Hotovely, Yariv Levin, and Netanyahu’s personal lawyer, David Shimron, sought injunctions against each of these organizations, ostensibly for breaking election campaign laws by having links to or indirectly campaigning for the Zionist Camp or Meretz.

On the surface these would seem to be legitimate...

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Tel Aviv cuts homeless camp's electricity on eve of storm

The encampment has been home to some 50 people for two years. A court had ordered the installation of electricity, which the city says has been used illegally.

By Avi Blecherman

The Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality on Wednesday cut off electricity to one of the city’s largest homeless encampments one day before the arrival of what is expected to be a heavy winter storm. The city claims the electricity connection was illegally installed.

As the result of a court order, a generator caravan was recently installed in the camp near the city’s Arlozorov train station, providing enough electricity to charge cellular phones, power refrigerators and electric kettles. A guard is posted outside the generator most of the day.

According to the Arlozorov camp’s residents, they didn’t make any illegal connections to the generator caravan, adding that they have taken care to guard it themselves.

The illegal connections, the residents say, were made by others, explaining that there is a family of Iraqi refugees and Palestinian laborers who also live in the same park.

The bottom line, however, is that when the storm arrives on Thursday residents of the encampment will be without electricity. At the time of writing, they said a nearby bomb shelter — in which the city allowed them to take shelter during the previous storm — was shuttered.

Responding to the removal of the electricity, Tel Aviv-Jaffa city councilwoman Shelly Dvir wrote to municipal deputy director-general Rubi Zluf:

Dvir was told that the matter was being taken care of, and members of the Antifa group received the following response from the city:

The camp was established in June 2012 during massive social demonstrations as a protest tent, with the approval of Mayor Ran Huldai. For over two years some 50 people, most of them homeless people of various ages. With all of its difficulties, the encampment enables its residents to have a space of their own, with relative security and a place to store their belongings.

The camp is a last chance of sorts for a relatively safe life and cutting off electricity may seal its residents fate. Some of the residents came there as part of a social struggle, but for others it is the only place they can sleep with quiet and security.

This article was first published on +972′s Hebrew-language sister site, Local Call. Read it in Hebrew here.

The storm...

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Demolishing Arab women's homes is the easy way out

What are Arab citizens expected to do when the city only builds for Jews, and why do single mothers almost always pay the price?

By Samah Salaime Egbariya (translated by Eppie Bat Ilan)

On the surface, it was just another illegal dwelling demolished in the city of Lyd (“Lod” in Hebrew). The image of a violence, crime-ridden city combined with that of too many law-breaking Arabs is particularly blinding for both the media and social activists. After all, we are simply talking about a municipality attempting to get its zoning matters straight, that’s all. But let me invite you to take a closer look at what is actually taking place in Lyd, where for the past 10 years, investment and high-momentum construction have been named national-level goals by one government decision after another.

There has been no approved zoning plan for decades. Arabs cannot build on their own lands, and plans that are meant to authorize legal construction in the Arab neighborhoods are stuck in bureaucratic pipelines – at least according to the plan for the improvement of the Lyd municipality that was passed by Netanyahu’s government. Meanwhile, the municipality collects its arnona tax, and homeowners are levied enormous fines in the process of procuring permits, all while leaving roads unpaved and offering no basic services, as well as continuing to threaten residents home demolitions whenever there is a dispute between the mayor and the head of the opposition.

Not a single housing project has been built for Arabs, not even one meant for the general population where Arabs would also be permitted to purchase homes. None. On the other hand, thousands of new housing units have been built at lightning speed right across from the Arab neighborhoods for the latest gari’n of religious settlers (small communities of religious Jews who move, usually from the occupied territories, into cities with mixed Arab and Jewish population) or other religious groups. Furthermore, the plan to encourage more privileged families to settle in Lyd has been making much progress, with families of army and police veterans moving into the city. A young Arab couple cannot even go near the sales offices of these projects, much less dream of the huge subsidies and grants that are offered to the city’s new residents who have come to “strengthen” Lyd.

Naturally, nothing justifies law breaking or illegal construction. We get that. Until an Arab family is...

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It's time to disqualify Israel's Central Elections Committee

In the run-up to every general election since 2003, Arab parties and candidates have been forced to appear in front of this committee to prove that they deserve to participate in Knesset elections. The only thing worse than the process itself is the racist atmosphere in the meetings.

By Salah Mohsen

The Central Elections Committee (CEC), which votes on disqualification motions submitted against political parties and candidates, and has the power to ban them from running in the Knesset elections, has in recent years become a farcical and undignified charade. In the run-up to every general election since 2003, Arab parties and candidates have been forced to appear in front of this committee, composed primarily of marginal political players from parties that represent the Jewish majority, in order to prove that they deserve to participate in the Knesset elections.

What is worse than the process itself – which amounts to the repeated trial of the political representatives of the Palestinian minority in Israel – is the hate-filled and racist atmosphere that saturates these sessions. From the moment they enter the chamber, the representatives of Arab political parties face a barrage of racist remarks and slurs that ends only when they leave the room. In a true democratic state, the mere utterance of such racist statements would be sufficient grounds to bar a member from the committee, and the offender may even find him or herself facing criminal prosecution.

As someone who has attended all the CEC’s disqualification sessions since 2003, I can attest that in its recent review of the disqualification motions against Arab MK Haneen Zoabi, the committee slumped to a new low. As soon as MK Zoabi stepped up to the podium to deliver her response to the disqualification motions, the CEC members turned into a baying mob that interrupted her speech countless times. They repeatedly subjected MK Zoabi to racist and chauvinistic insults, and slandered her as a terrorist and a subversive character.

The peak of their impudence came when MK Zoabi read aloud a sentence in Arabic, after which one of the committee members shouted out: “I’m scared that you are going to say ‘Allahu Akbar’ and blow yourself up!” The chair of the CEC, Supreme Court Justice Salim Joubran, did not fulfil his duty to defend MK Zoabi’s right to voice her response to the disqualification motions, which were filled with slanderous and racist...

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The casualties of the next Gaza war

The awful experience of the past few years suggests that in about two years time will be ripe for yet another war with predictable outcomes: thousands of dead, each and every one of them a person who meant the world to their families and loved ones.

By Hagai El-Ad

One month after the end of the war in Gaza – was it the second Gaza war? The third? – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stood in front of the UN General Assembly and declared that, “no other country and no other army in history have gone to greater lengths to avoid casualties among the civilian population of their enemies.” This declaration came just a few weeks after that day in early August 2014, when the home of the Abu Madi family in a-Nuseirat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip was bombed. The attack took the lives of the grandfather, Yusef Daud Abu Madi, three of his sons and two grandchildren. Shadi Abu Madi, one of the family members who survived, but lost two of his children, 6-year-old Yusef, and two-week-old Hala, says their siblings ask about them every day. He tells them that Hala and Yusef went to heaven. His wife sometimes imagines that baby Hala is hungry and asking to be nursed.

On the 22nd day of the war it was Isaac Herzog, the leader of the opposition, who was making declarations: “There is no dispute between the coalition and the opposition on this. We are fighting a just war over Israel’s image and the image of the Israeli people.” Herzog made this statement on July 29, the day the Abu Jaber family home in al-Bureij Refugee Camp, the a-Dali home in Khan Yunis, and the Balata home in Jabalya Refugee Camp were bombed. In the al-Bureij bombing, 19 people died, 17 of them from the same family. In Khan Yunis, 34 died, more than half of them minors. In Jabalya, 11 were killed, all from the same family. Hanneyeh Abu Jaber survived the al-Bureij bombing. She remembered the Id al-Fitr holiday meal. The family had been dining together. She did not hear the explosion. When she woke up at the hospital, she was told that her son, his wife and their daughters had died. The next day, her niece told her about the other family members who had been killed.

Four months after the fighting ended, the Military Advocate...

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