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When music becomes a place of subjugation

If we who consider ourselves to be ‘peacemakers’ cannot identify the power dynamics within our own programs and events, then what we are doing at the end of the day does more harm than good for peace, justice, and those most marginalized in this relationship: Palestinians.

By B.G. Silver*

Illustrative photo of a concert (Photo by Shutterstock.com)

Illustrative photo of a concert (Photo by Shutterstock.com)

In our ever-growing jungle of protracted conflict and systemic injustice, there is an unquestionable need for inter-group reconciliation encounters between Israelis, Palestinians, and Palestinian-Israelis constructed with peacebuilding and human rights education. What is often missed is that peacebuilding and reconciliation are not simply the answer. They must and can only be a solution when applied through a critical praxis that addresses systemic injustice and inter-group power dynamics even within peacebuilding and reconciliation endeavors.

As a musician-activist educator, and member of this extended peacebuilding and reconciliation community, it is my responsibility and the responsibility of my colleagues to speak out when this crucial aspect of our work has been violated. I experienced that violation a number of weeks ago when attending one of the only openly public “peace” events that seem to exist in Jerusalem. To my shock and dismay, we just don’t get it.

As widespread violence continued to blanket this divided city, there was a pocket of hope: this year’s first in a series of open and free-to-the-public musical “peace” events.  Several years ago, this idea was birthed with the purpose of uniting Israelis and Palestinians through song and dialogue. Israeli and Palestinian communities would come together for a night of bilingual singing and teaching of each others’ narrative songs, break bread together, and engage in dialogue. I had attended one of these events in Jerusalem in 2011. To my understanding at that time, it upheld many of the values it committed to as an equalizing, joint Israeli-Palestinian peacebuilding and reconciliation encounter.

Over the years, dozens of peacebuilding and reconciliation organizations have sprouted, focusing on many mediums such as sports, dialogue, and the expressive arts as a means and end to transforming conflict. While the aspirations of these organizations are noble and well-meaning, they often cloud overall peacebuilding and reconciliation efforts. More often than not, they do not address, whether through unwillingness or ignorance, the direct power dynamics and inequality that...

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Time for international community to hold Israel accountable — here's how

Resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is not impossible, but success requires bold measures and the courage to see them through. Following more than two decades of peace talks, the international community should give the law a chance.

By Hiba Husseini and Omar M. Dajani

The international community must not stand idly by as Israelis and Palestinians move ever faster along a trajectory that will end in tragedy for both peoples. Averting that outcome will require a bold new approach based on international law.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (centre) addresses the Council. He is flanked by Héctor Marcos Timerman (left), Minister for Foreign Affairs of Argentina; and Julie Bishop, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Australia and President of the Council for November. (photo: UN Photo/Devra Berkowitz)

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (centre) addresses the Council. He is flanked by Héctor Marcos Timerman (left), Minister for Foreign Affairs of Argentina; and Julie Bishop, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Australia and President of the Council for November. (photo: UN Photo/Devra Berkowitz)

Following the hideous violence last summer – the brutal tit-for-tat murders in the West Bank and the thousands killed during “Operation Protective Edge” in Gaza – the conflict seems poised to escalate in dangerous new ways. Rather than defusing the situation, Israel’s government is fanning the flames: stepping up land confiscation in the West Bank; threatening to disrupt longstanding arrangements for the sharing of holy sites; and pursuing discriminatory legislation that would further subordinate and estrange Israel’s Palestinian citizens.

Indeed, as Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territory approaches half a century – more than twice as long as Israel lived within the Green Line – it grows more firmly entrenched every day. At the same time, Palestinians in the West Bank are further squeezed into an archipelago of enclaves, most aspects of their lives controlled by a military administration that is unaccountable – and hostile – to them. And Israel’s so-called disengagement from the Gaza Strip has yielded not an end to occupation, but a virulent new form of it characterized by seven devastating ground operations in nine years and paralyzing restrictions on movement and trade.

As a result, Palestinian economic and political life remains fragmented and stagnant, undermining two decades of investment in state-building and security cooperation.

The international community is not powerless to alter these dynamics. But...

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Occupation: The missing context in Matti Friedman's 'inside story'

For several months now, a former Associated Press reporter in Jerusalem has been on a mission to ‘expose’ the media’s bias against Israel. Glaringly missing from his argument, however, is the occupation.

By Daniel Reisel

Following this summer’s bloody campaign in Gaza, former AP journalist Matti Friedman has dedicated himself to a series of media analysis articles purporting to provide the “inside story of the story.” In a widely reported piece for Tablet, with a follow-up piece, CNN interview, Haaretz coverage and now in The Atlantic, he has tried to make the case for media bias against Israel.

Friedman wants to look at context, but it would be fairer perhaps to question the context of all this context-seeking. Israel finds itself at a crisis point today. There is bad news from successive European governments lining up to recognize Palestinian national rights, there is bad news on the home front with unprecedented racism, arson attacks and renewed violence in the streets of Jerusalem. In all this, Matti Friedman tries to convince us that there is a media bias against the Jews and that the world should stop obsessing about Israel. Does that not feel a bit disingenuous?

Disregarding the current fires, Friedman picks sour grapes with the media coverage of the Goldstone Report which investigated Cast Lead, and the reporting of the 2008-9 Gaza war itself. He accuses his former employer, AP, of burying stories that might present Israel in a better light. The relevant AP bureau chief, Steven Gutkin, has written rebuttals here and here, calling Friedman’s Tablet article “well-written hogwash.”

Friedman bemoans the fact that right-wing outfit NGO Monitor is being silenced by powerful editors. Could it not be that many editors believe NGO Monitor to be a morally bankrupt, hysterical organization obsessed primarily with harming and delegitimizing those who tirelessly work for peace and coexistence? Do no other right-wing sources satisfy his sense of objectivity because NGO Monitor has been kept out?

Perhaps the most insidious of Friedman’s claims is the wrongful reframing of the conflict. In his mind, the problem is is not the occupation and the growth of settlements. He writes, “This summer, with Yazidis, Christians, and Kurds falling back before the forces of radical Islam not far away from here, this ideology’s local franchise launched its latest war against the last thriving minority in the Middle...

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Why is Jewish violence always a reaction to Palestinian violence?

The arson attack against the bilingual school in Jerusalem was committed within a broader political framework: it is an extension of institutionalized violence and ought to be traced back to incitement by right-wing Israeli politicians preaching for blind patriotism and hatred of the ‘other.’

By Fady Khoury

A teacher inspects the damage from an arson attack that targeted first-grade classrooms at a Jewish-Arab school near the Palestinian neighborhood of Beit Safafa in southern Jerusalem, November 30, 2014. Spray painted on the walls were racist slogans in Hebrew reading: "Death to Arabs" and "There's no coexistence with cancer". (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

A teacher inspects the damage from an arson attack that targeted first-grade classrooms at a Jewish-Arab school near the Palestinian neighborhood of Beit Safafa in southern Jerusalem, November 30, 2014. Spray painted on the walls were racist slogans in Hebrew reading: “Death to Arabs” and “There’s no coexistence with cancer”. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

After every act of violence perpetrated by Palestinians against Jews, Israeli politicians waste no time framing it as an act of terror that can be traced back to the incitement of Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority, some local Palestinian leadership or Palestinians’ “intrinsically violent” culture. The violence is always part of something broader than the act itself.

The arson of a bilingual school in Jerusalem Saturday night will most likely be framed as the doing of Israeli society’s “bad apples.” Israel’s right-wing political leadership will continue to enjoy impunity for its role in the incitement against the Arab-Palestinian population — and the left wing — that leads to such violent attacks. Organizations like Lehava will never be outlawed for their racist discourse. “Price tag” terrorism will continue to be viewed as “just graffiti.”

The narrative within Israeli society, according to which Jewish violence is foreign and exceptional, will continue to be perpetuated. Meanwhile, that same society will continue to present Palestinian violence as an intrinsic cultural characteristic.

Read also: ‘We will overcome’: Arson and mourning at J’lem bilingual school

This narrative, however, ignores the institutionalized violence committed by the Israeli security agencies. Private violence from the Israeli side is not necessary, however, because they have said agencies to carry it out on their behalf. The thirst for harming the “other” is satisfies by the harm inflicted by these officials bodies.

We...

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Israelis deserve more from their leaders

We deserve thought-out policies that can bring an end to the current cycle of violence and prevent the next.

By Ilan Manor

Henry Ford once said that thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it. Over the past few days, some Israelis have felt that their elected officials in the Knesset have given up on thinking all together. First came the revelation that our elected representatives in the Knesset approved the state budget in a preliminary vote without even having the opportunity to read it and understand what they were voting on. This was followed by a legislative committee decision to approve a proposal allowing first-time apartment buyers to take out mortgages for up to 90 percent of the value of the apartment, despite the role such irresponsible loans played in the devastating 2008 financial crisis.

Yet it was the reaction of three senior members in the Netanyahu government to last week’s horrid murder of four men in a Jerusalem synagogue that truly demonstrates the intellectual paralysis that has spread through the Israeli leadership.

Israeli emergency services volunteers remove blood, according to Jewish tradition, from the scene of an attack by two Palestinians against Jewish worshippers at a synagogue in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Har Nof in West Jerusalem, November 18, 2014. Two Palestinians armed with guns, a meat cleaver and knives burst into a Jerusalem synagogue and killed four Israelis before being shot dead by Israeli forces. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Israeli emergency services volunteers remove blood, according to Jewish tradition, from the scene of an attack by two Palestinians against Jewish worshippers at a synagogue in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Har Nof in West Jerusalem, November 18, 2014. Two Palestinians armed with guns, a meat cleaver and knives burst into a Jerusalem synagogue and killed four Israelis before being shot dead by Israeli forces. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

The first to offer a solution to the escalating cycle of Palestinian violence was Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich, who proposed easing gun permit regulations enabling more Israelis to carry arms in the streets, including former IDF officers and veterans of elite army units.

Aharonovich’s policy, even if limited to IDF veterans, is sure to achieve one thing: more violence. The fact that lax gun ownership...

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New academic boycott effort — still the wrong target

Over 1,000 American anthropologists have signed onto a boycott Israel petition. What this type of activism fails to do is to target the occupation in its essence – as an international system, sustained by an array of multinational interests.

By Gil Hizi

Illustrative photo of boycott advocates. (Photo: Brian S / Shutterstock.com)

Illustrative photo of boycott advocates. (Photo: Brian S / Shutterstock.com)

The American Anthropological Association (AAA) will hold its annual conference in Washington DC next week. This year there are several panels scheduled to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian issue, with particular focus of how to promote sanctions on Israeli academic institutions. At present, almost 1,000 anthropologists have signed a petition in support of a boycott and the AAA will supply plenty of ink for scholars who wish to add their signature to the cause.

The occupation is a grave matter and international intervention is necessary. Yet what this type of signature-activism fails to do is to target the occupation in its essence – as an international system, sustained by an array of multinational interests.

The AAA petition explains how Israeli universities participate in the occupation. It demands very generally to end the siege on Gaza, to provide Palestinian refugees the “right of return” and to guarantee equal citizenship rights to Israeli Arabs. While one letter of reply from Israeli anthropologists supports this petition, the official response from the Israeli Anthropological Society is highly critical of the boycott. It laments that the AAA, the largest anthropological association in the world, is exercising its power over Israeli anthropologists and the fact that the boycott ignores the “complexity” of the conflict.

Read also: The academic boycott of Israel: No easy answers

Another response, a worldwide petition of anthropologists against the boycott, emphasizes that the occupation must end immediately and that Israel carries responsibility for the situation. Its criticism of BDS lies in the probability that sanctions will only serve the interests of the Israeli government, which wishes to mute radical voices inside local academia. Left-wing anthropologists such as Dan Rabinowitz, Edna Lomsky-Feder and Eyal Ben-Ari, who have all dedicated the last decades to criticizing Israeli institutional power, are supporters of this initiative.

While that second message expresses important ideas, even it fails to point out the...

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Gaza quiet shows Hamas' pragmatism

Despite violence in Jerusalem and the West Bank, for the past three months Hamas has maintained calm on the Gaza border — curbing rocket-fire against Israel.

By Aaron Magid

A Palestinian youth holds a mock rocket as thousands of Palestinians celebrate Hamas' 25th anniversary in the West Bank city of Hebron, December 14, 2012. This is the first time since 2007 that the Palestinian Authority has allowed Hamas to celebrate its anniversary in the West Bank. (photo by: Oren Ziv/ Activestills.org)

A Palestinian youth holds a mock rocket as thousands of Palestinians celebrate Hamas’ 25th anniversary in the West Bank city of Hebron, December 14, 2012.
This is the first time since 2007 that the Palestinian Authority has allowed Hamas to celebrate its anniversary in the West Bank. (photo by: Oren Ziv/ Activestills.org)

Opponents of Hamas often accuse the Islamist organization of acting irrationally. In a National Review article titled, “Hamas’ Suicidal Tendencies,” the author writes, “[w]hy is Hamas pursuing such a self-destructive strategy? Ideology.” Yet, in the months since the Gaza war, Hamas’ leadership in Gaza has repeated its pragmatic approach by not launching rockets into Israel, instead choosing to downgrade its ideology so that it may fight Israel more effectively in the next war.

After the bloody summer war, the Gaza-Israel border has remained remarkably quiet. Hamas has deployed a special unit to guard its border with Israel and prevent smaller militant groups from shooting rockets at Israel. A Hamas security source told Al-Monitor, “Gaza’s border will not be violated by group firing rockets at Israel in light of a national consensus for a cease-fire.” Hamas security forces have been successful in preserving the calm — only one rocket has been fired in three months at Israel — despite the growing unrest in Jerusalem and the West Bank. After this rare cease-fire violation on October 31, Hamas criticized those responsible and quickly arrested the five suspected individuals. This dramatic reduction in Gaza attacks dispels another myth: that Hamas is incapable of cracking down on other Gaza militants.

Read also: How Israel taught Hamas that violence is effective

Although Hamas leaders have offered mixed appraisals about future violence, senior official Ahmad Yousef emphasized that with the growing reconstruction needs, the current situation “mandates a cessation of armed operations for two or three...

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Abiding by international law — when it's convenient

Israeli institutions seek to obtain the benefits of the international legal order while refusing to accept the corresponding burdens and obligations.

By Gerard Horton

For some time now the Israeli army’s Military Courts’ Unit has distributed a five-page briefing paper to foreign delegations visiting military courts in the West Bank. The briefing paper is intended to persuade the reader that the military courts — which have been used to prosecute approximately 755,000 Palestinian men, women and children since 1967 — were established, and are currently operating, in accordance with international law. The document commences with the following statement:

This statement is significant because the only provision of international law that authorizes the prosecution of civilians in military courts is the Fourth Geneva Convention (the Convention). Under Article 64 of the Convention the penal laws of the occupied territory should remain in force, but may be temporarily suspended and replaced with military law in cases of security or in order to facilitate the application of the Convention.

In circumstances where military law has been imposed, Article 66 of the Convention provides that persons accused of violating the temporary measures can be prosecuted in “properly constituted, non-political military courts.” These are the legal provisions the Military Courts Unit is referring to when it asserts that Israeli military courts “were established in accordance with international law.”

However, in circumstances that can only serve to undermine the rule of law, the political, military and judicial authorities in Israel refuse to apply the same Convention, for example, in relation to settlement construction or the transfer of Palestinian detainees to prisons inside Israel.

Article 49 of the Convention provides that Israel is not permitted to transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies, thus making all settlement activity in East Jerusalem and the West Bank illegal – a conclusion confirmed by the UN Security Council and the International Court of Justice.

Article 76 of the Convention prohibits the transfer and detention of Palestinian detainees outside occupied territory – a legal conclusion confirmed by the U.K.’s Foreign Office and senior government ministers. Be that as it may, approximately 90 percent of Palestinian prisoners continue to be transferred and detained inside Israel.

This gives rise to the untenable situation whereby Israeli institutions seek to obtain the benefits of the international legal order while refusing...

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PHOTOS: Palestinian home set ablaze in overnight attack

Text by Yael Marom
Photos by Oren Ziv / Activestills.org

Huda Abu Ghani in her home. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Huda Abu Ghani in her home, November 23, 2014. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Residents of Khirbet Abu Falah, near Ramallah, reported Sunday morning that settlers set a house in their village on fire, while 50-year-old Huda Abu Ghani was inside. No one was injured, although the building sustained heavy damaged. The phrases, “we will get revenge,” “price tag” and “death to Arabs” were found spray painted on the walls of the house.

The attackers spray painted "death to Arabs" on the outer walls of the house. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

The attackers spray painted “death to Arabs” on the outer walls of the house, November 23, 2014. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

At approximately 3 a.m. Abu Ghani woke up to the sound of someone trying to break into her house. She then heard voices outside speaking in Hebrew, followed by the shattering of windows. After a failed attempt at breaking in, the attackers allegedly spilled flammable liquid and lit the house on fire.

The home that was burned in Khirbet Abu Falah, north of Ramallah. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

The home that was burned in Khirbet Abu Falah, north of Ramallah, November 23, 2014 (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Yael Marom is Just Vision’s public engagement manager in Israel and a co-editor of Local Call, where this article was originally published in Hebrew.

Related:
WATCH: Soldiers protect settlers attacking West Bank village
WATCH: IDF soldiers escort settlers attacking Palestinian village
Settler violence: It comes with the territory

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A West Bank water crisis for Palestinians only

When Israel’s national water company operates more than 40 wells in the West Bank, appropriates Palestinian water resources and controls the valves, is it any surprise that priority is given to Israeli settlements?

By Stephanie Westbrook

Qarawat Bani Zeid is a small Palestinian town of 3,500 north of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank. There are no Israeli settlements in the immediate vicinity. The route of Israel’s separation wall does not run through the area and Qarawat is in Area A — under the full control of the Palestinian Authority. And yet, Israel’s military occupation and discriminatory policies manage to cut into everyday life.

Children bring water from home to the school in Qarawat Bani Zeid where water from the school’s well is not safe to drink. (photo: Cinzia Di Napoli)

Children bring water from home to the school in Qarawat Bani Zeid where water from the school’s well is not safe to drink. (photo: Cinzia Di Napoli)

“Our biggest problem is water,” explained Sabri Arah, a member of the town council.

Qarawat sits atop the Western Aquifer, the largest and most productive sub-basin of the Mountain Aquifer, the main groundwater source in the West Bank, yet 80 percent of the town’s taps are dry. “Water is pumped out before it arrives to the town,” noted Arah.

New water infrastructure in the Jordan Valley. (photo: Cinzia Di Napoli)

New water infrastructure in the Jordan Valley. (photo: Cinzia Di Napoli)

The company pumping the water out is Mekorot, Israel’s national water company. Mekorot not only operates more than 40 wells in the West Bank, appropriating Palestinian water resources, Israel also effectively controls the valves, deciding who gets water and who does not. It should be no surprise that priority is given to Israeli settlements while service to Palestinian towns is routinely reduced or cut off.

The right to water was the focus of a recent delegation of the Italian Forum of Water Movements visiting Palestinian communities in the West Bank and Israel as part of the Beyond Walls project of Servizio Civile Internazionale, an Italian NGO committed to human rights and social justice.

Last December, during the Italy-Israel bilateral summit, a cooperation agreement was signed between Mekorot and Acea, Italy’s largest water utility.

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Goodbye status quo: Israel's impending moment of truth

There are no guarantees that the near future will herald freedom for Israel/Palestine. It will, however, shatter the perception of comfort that has paralyzed Israel since the beginning of the millennium.

By Ran Greenstein

When we look at the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a curious pattern can be detected. Every 20 or 30 years a major turning point is reached. This happens in part due to pure coincidence, and in part due to natural processes involving generational change, which takes two or three decades to mature.

The cycle started in 1897 with the foundation of the Zionist movement, which gave a political dimension to the quest for Jewish settlement of Palestine. It continued in 1917 with the Balfour Declaration and the creation of Palestine in its current boundaries, and then on to 1947, when the UN partition resolution led to the establishment of Israel and the Palestinian Nakba. That was followed by 1967 – the re-unification of Palestine under Israeli military control – the First Intifada in 1987 and the onset of the current phase of territorial inclusion combined with Palestinian demographic exclusion.

Youth from Aida Refugee Camp rest during a lull in clashes with Israeli forces near the separation wall in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, November 16, 2013. The wall, which divides Bethlehem's land is a frequent entry point for incursions by Israeli forces into Aida Refugee Camp, and often a site of clashes with camp youth. (Photo by Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Youth from Aida Refugee Camp rest during a lull in clashes with Israeli forces near the separation wall in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, November 16, 2013. The wall, which divides Bethlehem’s land is a frequent entry point for incursions by Israeli forces into Aida Refugee Camp, and often a site of clashes with camp youth. (Photo by Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Nothing remarkable happened in 2007, which means that 2017 is next in line. What can we expect then in three years’ time?

Three crucial processes are under way, guaranteed to produce changes that would make the current status quo untenable. But a word of caution is needed here: change is bound to happen, but it will not necessarily be of a positive nature. It will open up new opportunities while also presenting new challenges. The exact direction will depend on...

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Israel's top news channel: Gov't asked us to show more Gaza devastation

Israeli consumers don’t want to know what’s happening on the other side, the station’s foreign editor explains. ’We don’t serve the regime, we serve the consumerist regime.’

By Oren Persico / ‘The 7th Eye

Palestinian children carry goods that were rescued from the village of Khuza'a, which has undergone of intense attacks and was largely destroyed during the Israeli offensive.

Palestinian children carry goods salvaged from the Gazan village of Khuza’a, which underwent of intense attacks and was largely destroyed during the Israeli offensive, Operation Protective Edge. (Photo by Activestills.org)

During this summer’s Gaza war officials in the Prime Minister’s Office and Defense Ministry contacted Israel’s Channel 2 News, asking why they were not broadcasting more images of destruction caused by the army’s bombing in Gaza.

Speaking at a panel discussion at Netanya College last week, Arad Nir, the company’s foreign news editor, said the news channel did not comply with the government’s request, instead decided to show what its viewers demanded.

The panel, which also included journalists Dror Feuer, Prof. Motti Neiger and Attoney El-Ad Mann, dealt with freedom of speech in Israel and the Israeli media’s coverage of Protective Edge.

“The Israeli media allows itself to be controlled by its consumers — it does this of its own volition,” said Nir.

“My personal, in-house claim is that if we provide our audience with a different type of journalism, even in certain doses, if we make it good enough and interesting enough — the public will know how to handle it,” he continued. “The media here has a kind of patronizing and arrogant attitude toward the public.”

Nir also spoke about the differences between the Israeli media’s coverage of the war as opposed to global media coverage.

“In Protective Edge, out of the 15 hours of straight news coverage per day showing what happened in this war, there were only 10 or 15 minutes dedicated to what happened on the other side,” he said, adding that “only five minutes of out two hours of every prime time news broadcasts were dedicated to what was happening on the other side, and not always [even that].”

“As someone who sits in front of the screen all day, I see two completely different wars,” the Channel 2 News editor explained. “There is one war that you see on BBC, CNN...

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A House of God no more

‘I refuse to let my humanity be stripped away. I refuse to build my national aspirations on the blood of civilians.’

By Talal Jabari

Israeli emergency services volunteers remove blood, according to Jewish tradition, from the scene of an attack by two Palestinians against Jewish worshippers at a synagogue in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Har Nof in West Jerusalem, November 18, 2014. Two Palestinians armed with guns, a meat cleaver and knives burst into a Jerusalem synagogue and killed four Israelis before being shot dead by Israeli forces. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Israeli emergency services volunteers remove blood, according to Jewish tradition, from the scene of an attack by two Palestinians against Jewish worshippers at a synagogue in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Har Nof in West Jerusalem, November 18, 2014. Two Palestinians armed with guns, a meat cleaver and knives burst into a Jerusalem synagogue and killed four Israelis before being shot dead by Israeli forces. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

The first thing I do every morning before getting out of bed is to turn off my phone’s airplane mode and read the news. There’s never any positive news, and I’m sure starting off the day this way probably isn’t healthy, but nevertheless, that’s what I do. On Tuesday, I woke up, as did many others, to this story: four dead Israelis in a synagogue shooting.

Personally, I just can’t accept gunning down people who are in the middle of prayer. After all, synagogues, churches and mosques are houses of God. But God wasn’t at home in the Kehilat Bnei Torah synagogue on this particular morning.

There are people who will disagree with me. Indeed there are those who even celebrated the attack at the synagogue. It’s possible some of them see it as vindication for the deaths caused by the Israeli army during the last Gaza war, revenge for the brutal slaying of Mohammed Abu Khdeir by Israeli settlers, or as protest over the ongoing situation at Al-Aqsa Mosque or some sort of retribution for the death of Yusuf Hassan al-Ramouni a day before.

What is certain from the events of the past six months is that increasingly, this conflict is stripping people of their humanity — on both sides of the divide.

As a human being, I find the synagogue...

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