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Under cover of Shabbat, settlers invade Palestinian property in Hebron

Neither the army nor the police bat an eyelid when settlers set up shop in the front yard of a privately-owned Palestinian home for an entire weekend. 

By Michael Salisbury-Corech

Dozens of settlers in Hebron took over the front yard of the home of well-known local Palestinian nonviolent activist Issa Amro over the weekend. Israeli soldiers remained with the settlers for over 24 hours, guarding them as they slept, prayed, and ate — all the while blocking the entrance to the house.

Amro rents the house from its Palestinian owner, using it as the community center for the “Youth Against Settlements” organization, which teaches local Palestinian youth about nonviolent resistance.

The settlers were eventually forced to leave Saturday evening when police arrived and declared the area a “closed military zone.” The Palestinians — aside from Amro — were forcibly removed from the premises, after which the settlers left on their own accord. The only person who the army is currently letting enter and exit the house is Amro.

The settlers arrived on Friday with mattresses and food in tow, following the arrest of a young Palestinian who volunteers at the youth center for allegedly carrying a knife. Amro was arrested alongside the youth.

Speaking to +972′s Hebrew-language sister site, Local Call, Amro described how he was arrested by the soldiers for trying to convince them the youth had been detained on false charges. Amro further emphasized that he and the rest of the activists in the organization do not believe in using violence.

Despite his protestations, Amro says he was taken to an IDF base in Hebron’s Tel Rumeida neighborhood and was locked in a bathroom stall for 4-and-a-half hours as punishment. He was then taken to the police station in Hebron where he was interrogated for allegedly disrupting the soldiers from fulfilling their duty, as well as for allowing a terrorist to stay in his home. He was released after an hour.

Amro claims that the police wanted to release the youth, too, but were afraid of the settlers’ reaction so they left him in detention.

Amro and his landlord filed a complaint with the police over the settler takeover, which blocked the path into the house. The police officers who arrived at the scene told Amro and the landlord that the Israeli army’s Hebron’s brigade commander authorized the settlers to be there, thus leaving the police powerless. Amro...

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What the Israeli army takes, it doesn't give back

The army maintains its hold on a piece of Palestinian land it seized in the late 1970s. Here’s the catch: the land has been abandoned for nearly a decade.

By Yesh Din, written by Yossi Gurvitz

Two weeks ago, the council chiefs of the West Bank villages of Jaloud, Douma and Qusra appealed to Israel’s High Court of Justice, demanding that the hundreds of dunams of land seized by the IDF in 1978 be returned to their rightful owners. The IDF built a military camp (Jaloud camp) on a small part of the land, yet it has been abandoned for many years. Now is the time to revoke Seizure Order T/5/78.

Readers of this blog are already familiar with the practice of land seizure by military order: we dealt with it in the case of the Dura Al Qara seizure (of which the Dreinoff houses affair is a descendent of): a seizure that was on its face illegal, as an IDF officer specifically wrote in the seizure order that it is to be hidden from the Palestinian residents. We also dealt with this very seizure practice when we managed to return the land taken from the residents of Burkeh for the purposes of building the settlement Homesh.

Military seizure have served, time after time, not to fulfill a military need but for settlement building. The government stopped using this procedure after the Elon Moreh ruling (the film “The Law in These Parts” has some interesting things to sayon the ruling), despite holding a significant part of the land seized prior to that ruling.

What is a military seizure? First, we must differentiate it from confiscation. International law prohibits an occupying power – the West Bank, even according to the government of Israel, is under belligerent occupation – from confiscating property or equipment of the residents of the occupied territory. On the other hand, it demands that the military commander protect the property of protected persons. The High Court has maintained, time and again, this double duty: to refrain from harming — and instead protect — private property.

And yet, international law permits the military commander to seize private property when there is a pressing need to do so. If you are contending with a counter-attack or an invasion, you may seize land to use it for defense. But the rights of the owner do not expire: when the emergency is over, the property is to be returned to its owners.


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Democracy, the High Court and punitive home demolitions

Israeli politicians endlessly chastise the Supreme Court for doubting the use of punitive home demolitions. So what do the politicians do? Blame the judges for defending terrorists.

By Frances Raday

The spate of stabbing and vehicular attacks by Palestinian youths over the past couple of months has brought along with it a spate of punitive home demolitions targeting the attackers’ family members. Both political leaders and Israeli Supreme Court justices have had something to say about the practice. The justices have expressed some doubt about the practice, and in some cases even issued injunctions delaying the demolitions. In response, politicians have blamed the judges for defending terrorists.

The trail of “politicians’ blaming” and “judges’ claims” regarding home demolitions merits an English style lampoon and quiz.

The politicians and ministers in our government cry out: we must unite against our judges for delaying home demolitions of terrorists — they are siding with the enemy. It’s not a matter of human rights, they say, these teenagers’ parents must be punished for their sons’ or daughters’ offenses, here and now. Forcing the state to wait until it can present evidence to the court proves that the judges are completely detached from reality. The politicians seem to wish the judges would behave like the Red Queen, and order “off with their heads,” instead of “only by due process will we remove the roof from over their heads.”

Quiz 1: If this is not a matter of human rights, as Israeli politicians claim, then what is? Is the demolition of a home not a criminal penalty? As such, does it not require a fair trial of the accused and conviction of all who are to be punished, including each parent and all siblings? Are Arab parents more responsible for the murderous misbehavior of their offspring than Jewish parents? Has anyone considered punishing Yigal Amir‘s mother or Baruch Goldstein’s parents as a deterrent for the growing phenomenon of Jewish terrorism? Are our politicians unaware that their very own Defense Ministry concluded that efficacy of house demolitions as a counter-terrorism tool is questionable and hence should not be employed?

Our judges responded timorously: the politicians’ attacks on the judges are in such bad taste, they said. Such attacks pander to the public mood and are “are unworthy of our government.” One wily and wise judge asked: Who delayed the demolitions? Is...

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Court shuts down left-wing lecture following threats of violence

‘Breaking the Silence’ planned to hold a speaking event at a local pub in Be’er Sheva. The police shut it down after it could not ensure the safety of the participants.

By John Brown*

A Be’er Sheva court barred a local pub from hosting an event put on by “Breaking the Silence” following threats by right-wing activists.

The Be’er Sheva Magistrate’s Court issued the order barring the event, which was supposed to take place Tuesday night at the Ashan Hazman pub, following a request by the police, which arrested a resident of the city on suspicion of threatening the pub owner earlier this week.

Breaking the Silence is an Israeli NGO comprised of former combat soldiers who try to expose the Israeli public to the realities of the occupation through discussions of their military service as well as tours to the West Bank.

In court, the police prosecutor argued that “according to our intelligence, extreme rightists called on other right wingers to come to the pub and torpedo the event. Our intelligence included remarks that were grave bordering on dangerous.” The judge accepted the appeal and barred the event from taking place at the pub. According to the judge, “the intelligence shows that there are those who wish to disrupt the gathering… and that they are willing to use violence to do so.”

According to the state representative, the request for a restraining order came too late — only four hours before the event was scheduled to take place — and that they only heard of the event the day before the hearing. This is a strange claim, when considering that the police arrested a right-wing activist suspected of threatening the event organizer two days on Sunday.

The request for a restraining order also came after the organization complied with a police request to compile and hand over a list of attendees. According to Breaking the Silence, the police also requested the owner take responsibility over what happens in the area surrounding the pub during the event, meaning he is responsible for protecting patrons from right-wing violence. The owner refused this request, leading the police to appeal to the court.

It is worth noting that the pub is not a publicly-funded institution, and that the Breaking the Silence event was cancelled because the police were unable to protect attendees.

Breaking the Silence responded to the court’s decision:

Breaking the Silence...

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Why aren't Israelis talking about extrajudicial killings?

Two Palestinian teenage girls were shot at point-blank range after attempting to stab passersby with scissors. Who said there is no death penalty in Israel?

By Rhona Burns

On Tuesday two Palestinian teenagers left their homes and went out to attack Jewish Israelis in Jerusalem with a pair of scissors.

Unsurprisingly, the girls, 14 and 16 years old, were unsuccessful. After all, they were armed with a pair of scissors. They managed to lightly wound an elderly Palestinian man, and were immediately attacked back by other witnesses, at least two of whom were armed with guns.

When it was all over, one of the girls was shot to death, the other was seriously wounded by gunfire.

Not enough has been said about this incident, not enough has been written, despite the fact that this event included what appears to be a most serious detail. This detail is the fact that the shooting of one of the girls seems to be happening while she is already lying on the ground, after someone had hit her with a chair.

The fact is that these incidents have become commonplace. The ends justify the means. “They are attacking us, they must know that there will be consequences.” And what of Israeli society? What are the consequences of what has been taking place here for the past two months for Israelis? What is the price of blood that seems to flow so cheaply here? What is the price of suffering? Of unnecessary death? What about the right to a fair trial?

Who said there is no death penalty in Israel?

When I see what appears to be a man shooting a teenage girl as she lays on the ground on a main street in Jerusalem from point-blank range, I ask myself whether I am witnessing an attempted murder. Whether I am witnessing an extrajudicial killing, without even the facade of a kangaroo court.

This was the case with the shooting death of Fadi Alloun. This was the case, despite the different circumstances, of the tragic death of Habtom Zerhum.

We must cry out against the images captured by the security cameras at the Mahane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem. Meanwhile, as many of us are crying out, the injustices continue, the violence undermines the fundamentals of democracy and a free society, violence wins out.

Rhona Burns is...

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More guns will not make Israelis any safer

The immediate solution to every threat or conflict in Israel is to give more weapons to civilians, which often end up killing innocents ad disproportionately affects women.

By Tanya Rubinstein

These days, and actually most of the time, violence in the streets is making headlines on a near-daily basis. The dangers of citizens arming themselves, of the growing militarization of our society, and the way these two intersect to create more violence — especially toward women — can hardly be found in our newspapers.

Israeli society’s sense of security greatly stems from both developing our weapons industry and the massive arming of the IDF. This is our answer to every threat, whether real or imagined. This is a society in which the army plays a significant role in our daily lives: in the education system, on the street, vis-a-vis almost everyone we know. This is a society in which weapons — both the private and public sphere — are completely normal. Specifically in the public sphere, weapons are viewed as something that protects us.

A significant portion of the Israeli economy is based on its security industry, whether development or importing and exporting arms and security technology. The government actively supports these industries, promoting a feeling that they are necessary in order to keep us safe.

The last few months have not only seen the streamlining of the process of procuring permits for firearms, but the active encouragement of civilians to arm themselves and to use their weapons as a response to the feeling of helplessness on the streets.

But is the proliferation of weapons truly the right answer to violence?

The fact is that there are many people who feel threatened by the sight of a weapon. Guns are a threat even for the average person on the street: only recently have we witnessed a number of cases in which security forces and civilians have used their weapons disproportionately, not to mention instances in which innocents have been accidentally wounded or killed in shooting incidents.

Violence, of course, is not solely relegated to the public sphere. A large part of violence against women takes place at home. The “Gun Free Kitchen Tables” has successfully forced the authorities to enforce instructions by the Defense Ministry published in 2013, which order security companies to collect guns handed out to their employees at the end of the day. The orders came in...

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Illegal settlements aren't rogue, they're government policy

Consecutive Israeli governments have fabricated a sophisticated system designed to lend a guise of legality to the seizure of land in the West Bank.

By Adam Aloni

A month ago, with nearly no public debate, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu retroactively approved an urban building plan (UBP) for the West Bank settlement of Itamar. A week later, on October 29, Netanyahu retroactively approved UBPs for another three settlements: Shvut Rachel, Sansana and Yaqir. Once again Israeli authorities “laundered” construction in the West Bank that even they deemed illegal for years. Contrary to attempts in the media to represent this move as a Netanyahu capitulation to settler leaders, this was nothing more than the implementation of a long-standing Israeli policy of extensive unauthorized construction followed by retroactive approval. This allows the state to maintain a semblance of the rule of law while violating it on a daily basis.

In many settlements, the government itself has been responsible for illegal construction, primarily through the Housing and Construction Ministry. An analysis of Defense Ministry data shows that in the overwhelming majority (approximately 75 percent) of West Bank settlements, construction – sometimes extensive construction – was carried out without the necessary permits or in breach of the permits that were granted.

In 2005, the director general of the Settlement Division of the World Zionist Organization, which serves as the Israeli government’s branch for establishing and reinforcing rural settlements, testified that the Settlement Division expressly advocates violating planning and building laws in the West Bank. He said that the modus operandi is first to establish Israeli communities, then reinforce them, and only several years later to approve plans for the construction – “This is the mode of operation”.

The establishment of settlements – with or without building permits – violates international humanitarian law and the human rights of the Palestinian residents of the West Bank. Over the years, Israeli governments have all disregarded this prohibition and fabricated a sophisticated legal system designed to lend a guise of legality to the seizure of land in the West Bank.

While Israel employs the same planning and legal language to describe Israeli and Palestinian construction in the West Bank, in practice these procedures and regulations are implemented completely differently in Jewish-Israeli settlements and in Palestinian communities. In the case of settlements, Israeli authorities provide assistance, turn...

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I have a special ID card, Mr. Trump, and it is hell

The Republican presidential candidate wants Muslims to carry special ID cards. A West Bank Palestinian uses her personal experience to explain what that really means.

By Nadia Naser-Najjab

Donald Trump recently suggested that Muslims in the United States should be registered in a database and forced to carry special ID cards. This, he would have us believe, will help to make American citizens safer from the consequences of the wars successive U.S. administrations have waged around the world.

As a Palestinian who has studied and lived in the U.S., Trump’s disgusting bigotry offends me on a very personal level. However, the proposals also had an impact on me in another sense: as a Palestinian resident of the occupied West Bank I have to carry an ID card that I am required to produce whenever a representative of the Israeli state demands it of me. In my own country, I am the ones without rights; I am the one who has to justify my own presence to an occupying power.

Upon producing my ID, I am always aware of the fact that to the official glancing at the card I am little more than a few words and a photograph: I am, in effect, an accessory to this piece of plastic. And yet, in another sense, this document has no relation to me: it is part of an apparatus of control which reduces me to a unit of analysis that can be subtracted, divided and multiplied.

The card does not guarantee me rights nor does it enable me to make demands. Quite the contrary, it enables me only to respond to the demands of others, to present myself on terms that might satisfy the rude, abrupt and disinterested official who has deigned to take a few moments to bark questions at me. In producing this card for Israeli troops or officials I do not convey who I am, only what I am not. If I produce it I am not a threat, I am not a terrorist, and I am not guilty of an offense against his or her government or the laws the occupying authority has no right to pass or administer in the first place.

This card has become inseparable from the occupation itself, from the various ways it imposes itself upon everyday existence. In this aspect the occupation appears in its immediacy: the fences, the checkpoints, the armed...

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Providing settler terrorism with a tailwind

The police request to postpone the demolition of a synagogue built on Palestinian land for fear of right-wing attacks is a clear surrender to threat of violence.

By Yesh Din, written by Yossi Gurvitz

The case of the Givat Ze’ev synagogue combines almost all of the ills of the Israeli occupation in the West Bank. Last week we witnessed a new low, when the High Court of Justice dealt with a request that has sadly become all-too-common: to rescind, through postponement, its own verdict. This was a cowardly and audacious request by the police, to which the court acceded. How did we get here?

Let’s begin with the legal picture. On July 31st, 2014 the High Court ruled that an illegally-built synagogue in Givat Ze’ev is to be demolished, as it was built on private Palestinian land belonging to Rabah Abdallatif. In plain words: Israeli civilians stole and built a synagogue on it.

The sharp-eyed among you may notice that the original demolition date, July 31st, 2015 is more than three months behind us. Due to a series of empty motions, the demolition was postponed time after time. First to August 10th and then to October 13th – after the prime minister himself asked to postpone the demolition until after the Jewish High Holidays. A day before the demolition date, a new empty motion was served to the court, which was quashed with prejudice.

The new demolition order was set for October 20th. Two days earlier, the government asked for a new postponement, claiming the security situation does not permit it to allocate the forces required for the demolition. You would be surprised to hear, then, that a day after that request was served, Israeli Police actually found the necessary forces to evacuate two Palestinian families from a house in the village of Silwan in East Jerusalem, enforcing a court ruling in favor the far-right Ateret Cohanim organization. Turns out that finding the “adequate forces” is a matter of will. The government sought to postpone the demolition of the synagogue to December 1st; the High Court allotted it a shorter period of time – until November 5th.

Lo and behold: in what became a routine procedure for a government that dares not enforce the law when it comes to its political supporters, the police informed the High Court on the eve of November 2nd that due to the security...

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Number of Palestinian minors in Israeli prisons doubles

There are so many new Palestinian minors being sent to Israeli prisons that authorities had to open a new wing to house them. Rights groups report numerous cases of mistreatment, and that the children are moved outside of the West Bank in violation of international law.

By Noam Rotem

Israeli authorities have arrested hundreds of Palestinian minors since the latest uprising began in the start of October. They have been sent to four different facilitates run by the Israel Prison Service (IPS) on both sides of the Green Line.

When the pace of arrests picked up, the IPS decide to open a new, temporary wing for minors at the Giv’on prison in order to ease overcrowding at existing facilities. Until that time, Giv’on only housed “light” criminal offenders with sentences under five years, including asylum seekers and Palestinians who entered Israel without the proper permits.

According to the Palestinian Prisoners Club, 62 Palestinian minors are being held in the facility. Attorneys for Palestinian prisoners’ rights organization Addameer who visited the facility a few days earlier counted 56.

Lawyers from the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) met with a number of Palestinian minors being held in Giv’on, none of whom had criminal records, some of whom were just 14 years old and stood accused of various crimes. They said they were being held in small cells, two meters by one meter, three boys to a cell. Some of them still hadn’t seen any of their family members since their arrests several weeks ago.

Electronic Intifada interviewed the families of some of the Palestinian minors being held in Israeli prisons, and reported that some families were not even notified where their children were being held. Only days later, and with the help of the Red Cross, did they manage to find their children in the new Giv’on prison wing. “Once they were allowed to enter the facility, the families had to divide among themselves the 30 minutes they were allotted to speak to their children on a phone through a plexiglass screen,” EI reported.

The story doesn’t end with overcrowding and a lack of communication with the minors’ families, however. The minors imprisoned in Giv’on complain of the harsh and humiliating treatment they receive from the guards. Members of the Public Committee Against Torture say that in one case, guards entered their cell with batons and beat them...

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Evidence casts doubt on IDF version of deadly West Bank shooting

The IDF Spokesperson and Israeli media outlets said that a young Palestinian man from the village of Budrus was shot while trying to snatch a soldier’s weapon. An eye witness, photographs and the autopsy tell a different story — that he was shot in the back, from some distance.

By John Brown*

Soldiers from the Israeli Border Police and the IDF’s Home Front Command shot and killed 22-year-old Yousef Awad in the West Bank village of Budrus last Friday.

“During a violent and illegal riot in the village Budrus, in which approximately 80 Palestinians threw stones and Molotov cocktails toward the security fence, a main rioter who resisted arrest was detained and even tried to grab the weapon of one of the soldiers. The troops responded by shooting him and a hit was confirmed. The incident will be investigated.” That’s how the IDF responded to the event.

Walla! News reported the IDF’s version as fact, without any real evidence to back up the claim: ”A Palestinian tried to grab a weapon from a soldier and was shot to death.”

A number of findings which obtained by Local Call, +972′s Hebrew-language sister site, cast doubt on the the army’s version of the events. First and foremost, Awad was shot in the back, and likely from a distance — which seemingly contradicts the army’s claim that he attempted to snatch a soldier’s weapon.

One would think that after soldiers from the Home Front Command lied in March 2013 about an incident at Allenby Bridge — in which they claimed the exact same thing happened — and Ynet reported that a “Palestinian tried to grab the soldier’s weapon and was shot to death,” a claim that was later found to be untrue (the soldiers will likely be charged), journalists would be a bit more careful when it comes to these kinds of reports.

The fact that during that same month, soldiers of the Home Front Command were involved in the unlawful discharge of a weapon toward Palestinians and another soldier from the same unit was convicted of the involuntary manslaughter of Uday Darwish, did not cause the reporter to think twice the article.

So what happened in Budrus?

First, the Palestinian testimony. According to Iyad Awad, who was at the scene, the soldiers set up an ambush near the fence. When Yousef approached they hit him,...

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The Israeli media's outsized influence on Jewish-Arab relations

Though every fifth Israeli citizen is Arab, most Jewish Israelis only know of them and their political thoughts and identity through the Israeli media, and only two polar opposite stereotypes are portrayed in the Hebrew media: the apolitical ‘good Arab’ and the terrorism-supporting ‘bad Arab.’

By Edan Ring

Despite the fact that every fifth Israeli citizen is an Arab, media coverage of the most significant minority in the State of Israel is for the most part sparse and one dimensional. Only a small percentage of the interviews and reports in the various media outlets deal with the Arab population, and even those only usually discuss security, political or criminal issues — with a negative slant. In the Hebrew-language media you will rarely find Arab experts discussing science, medicine, arts or entertainment.

Despite far-reaching changes in the integration of Arab citizens into the labor market and the public space in Israel in recent years, most of the Jewish public still has little daily contact with Arab citizens. Jews and Arabs usually live in separate communities and work separately. In the formative stages of life in Israel, such as military service and studies, there is almost total separation. Most of the Jewish public’s knowledge of Israel’s Arab citizens comes via the media.

The obvious conclusion is that the Israeli media has great responsibility and influence when it comes to Jewish attitudes toward Arabs and the future of Jewish-Arab relations in general — and the media is not always aware of that. The escalation this October clearly illustrated the extent to which media coverage of Arab citizens can be biased, and the great influence that bias has on citizens in the streets and on the social networks, and on the level of tension between the two most important population groups in Israel.

Because of the political tension, Arab citizens’ presence in the Israeli media was far greater in October, but it also became more polarized and extreme, as many media outlets mobilized to contribute to the national morale and resilience, in a quasi-warlike atmosphere.

Although the general Arab public included a wide variety of views and opinions regarding the conflict and the use of violence, the media for the most part presented two diametric stereotypes. On the one hand we were presented with the “good brother” who is uninterested in politics, wants to continue working unobtrusively in...

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Hey Hillary Clinton, Palestinian lives matter too

You claim to support peace, but your words imply that Palestinian lives are less valuable to you than Israeli lives. I implore you: please do better.

By Leanne Gale

Dear Secretary Clinton,

I have faith that you want to stand with the Jewish people as we work toward peace with the Palestinians. But your recent article in The Forward did exactly the opposite.

You glorified Israel without mentioning its nearly 50-year-old military occupation and outlined how you plan to “reaffirm our unbreakable bond with Israel” without addressing its rightward anti-democratic spiral. This was a faulty political calculation, marginalizing a powerful progressive constituency in the American Jewish community. Further, your rhetoric on the situation in Jerusalem deliberately ignored critical context, fanning the flames of incitement. I implore you: please do better.

Over the past decade, the community of American Jews who oppose the Israeli occupation has built impressive political power. Perhaps most obvious is the rise of J Street, the “pro-Israel, pro-peace” lobby that supports a two state solution. In synagogues, community centers and college campuses across America, J Street has become a part of the Jewish mainstream, creating space for activism critical of Israeli policy. J Street has also flexed its muscle in Washington, notably in a massive campaign to secure the Iran nuclear deal. Make no mistake—the Iran deal was no less a victory for the Obama administration than for the progressive American Jewish community, exercising our growing strength in the pursuit of peace.

And there are more examples. Following Operation Protective Edge—an unprecedented Israeli assault on Gaza leaving over 2,100 Palestinians dead—the membership of Jewish Voice for Peace swelled, leading to 30 new chapters and 60,000 new online supporters. That same summer, young American Jews founded If Not Now, a protest movement seeking to end Jewish communal support for the occupation. And we have seen the growth of Open Hillel, a student-led organization seeking to challenge the red lines dictating discussion about Israel and Palestine in Jewish communities on college campuses.

The flourishing of Jewish anti-occupation organizing aligns with the statistics. According to the 2013 Pew Research Center’s report, “A Portrait of Jewish Americans,” just 38 percent of American Jews say that the Israeli government is making a sincere effort to make peace, and only 17 percent think the continued building of settlements in the West Bank is helpful to Israel’s...

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