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Shin Bet photo lineup: Can you pick out the female suspect?

Palestinian MP Khalida Jarrar’s trial in Israeli military court has lasted more than six months. When the judge threatened to release her, the military prosecution said it would simply throw her back in administrative detention.

By Avi Blecherman

I’ve been in a few court hearings in my day. I’ve also seen a fair number of Law & Order episodes, and I’d like to think I have a pretty good idea of what a lineup of suspects is supposed to look like, be it an in-person or photo lineup. But nothing could have prepared me for the lineup I saw earlier this week during the trial of Palestinian member of Parliament Khalida Jarrar.

During his interrogation, the prosecution’s key witness was presented with seven photos. Six of the photos were of men. See if you can pick out which one of the photos is of the female Palestinian parliamentarian currently on trial?

The trial of Khalida Jarrar, an elected representative of the PFLP, has been going on for several months now at the Israeli army’s Ofer military court in the West Bank. Jarrar is on trial for 12 counts of membership and activism in her political party, which Israel has declared as an illegal organization. Almost all of the charges deal with her parliamentary activities, like participating in demonstrations, giving interviews to the media, visiting solidarity tents for prisoners and delivering speeches. The final charge is for incitement to kidnap soldiers, but the witness to that alleged incitement says he’s not sure he actually heard Jarrar speak the inciting words she is accused of speaking.

The trial has received significant international attention. Representatives of the European Union and human rights organizations have attended most of the trial in order to monitor the proceedings. The trial itself is only taking place because international pressure was put on Israel for initially holding Jarrar in administrative detention — imprisonment without trial. Palestinians in the West Bank are subject to military law and are brought before military tribunals instead of civilian courts. There has been a fair amount of criticism of the prosecution’s conduct in the case, which I began to understand when I attended a hearing of the trial on Sunday.

There is something unnerving about reading the strange charge sheet, which, as I said, includes giving media interviews. Jarrar has been imprisoned since last March, despite her senior...

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What Netanyahu can easily offer Obama on Gaza

Three ‘gestures’ Israel can easily make that will radically improve the lives of at least thousands of Palestinians — all without compromising one inch on its own security concerns.

By Amir Rotem

In the hall of mirrors that is international diplomacy, all is being polished for the Netanyahu-Obama summit. Lists of gifts the two are expected to present each other are being leaked and commented upon. One of the things being said is that, on the advice of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), Israel’s prime minister will offer up a number of gestures to Palestinian residents of both the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and lift some restrictions.

We’ve seen this before: defining a certain policy choice as absolutely essential for security and then suddenly, doing a complete 180 and reversing the choice. It will be labeled as a “gesture” instead of a fundamental change and no one will recognize, let alone repent for, the senselessness with which sweeping restrictions had been imposed on the entire population — a simple variation on the chorus, while the song remains the same.

Yet actual, radical change is exactly what’s called for, particularly with regard to Israel’s attitude toward Palestinians living in Gaza and it’s not as hard as it looks. The key for that change, is reversing the separation Israel insists on, between residents of Gaza and residents of the West Bank. Since the end of Operation Protective Edge one a year ago, Israel’s own top security officials have themselves articulated the need to improve conditions of life in the Strip as an Israeli security necessity. Such improvement is not possible without rehabilitating the economy and allowing Palestinian society to breathe, which itself is not possible without linking Gaza back up with the West Bank. For all these reasons, this particular moment in time presents an historic opportunity to change the momentum. A number of steps could be taken while still considering all necessary security precautions, which will help improve Israel’s international standing, but mostly, significantly improve the quality of life of millions of Palestinians living under its control.

Truly opening up possibilities for trade. Israel claims to be implementing a different policy than the full closure that reigned supreme for seven bad years from 2007– 2014. It boasts of the choice it made in late 2014 and early 2015 to allow Gaza-made...

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A Palestinian refugee's open letter to all Israelis

I know your fear is very real to you, even if it makes little sense to me. I know you see my desire to return to the land of my parents as an attack on your very existence. I wish our rights weren’t framed in zero-sum terms.

By Israa Thiab

Dear Israeli Citizen,

I am writing this appeal as a Palestinian refugee who is concerned with the endless cycle of violence that has continued throughout my life. There has been no time when I was not saddened to see fellow human beings supporting the oppression of another people, oppression so reminiscent of that suffered by their forefathers. While there are those in your country who strongly condemn and resist the actions of your government, the majority seems to support these actions. Chances are that you support them. And that is why I am speaking directly to you.

I believe that politics is inherently dirty, driven by personal interests of power and money, with true human interest playing too little a role. At the same time, I see how at the grassroots level ordinary people of all backgrounds can coexist peacefully together, and have always done so throughout human history when politics did not interfere. I believe that only human-to-human contact, free of interference from politicians, can bring people together. I believe in the inherent goodness of all people, and I refuse to believe that you are truly at peace with injustice or the oppression of anyone. To believe that would be to write you off as human beings, and thus to lose my own humanity.

History shows that entire nations have been consumed by hate and fear, and that these emotions can be destructive on the individual level. I know your fear is very real to you, even if it makes little sense to me. I know you see the simple desire of a person like me to return to the land her parents fled in fear as an attack on your very existence. I wish my right and yours to freedom, justice and security did not have to be framed as a zero-sum game.

I appeal to your reason, and ask you to think critically about what you hear from your government, as it is driven by politics and not by your true interests.

I appeal to your intelligence, to your ability to read history, to seek out the...

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How the government rewards its most violent settlers

One would expect the Israeli government to put an end to attacks by the settlers of Adei Ad on Palestinian civilians. In fact, it rewards them by planning to legalize their West Bank outpost.

By Yesh Din, written by Yossi Gurvitz

During the second Sukkot holiday and the weekend preceding it, Yesh Din investigators documented 29 incidents of assault on Palestinians and their property by Israeli civilians (note that these are only the incidents known to us). The majority of the Israeli media did not report on the incidents, which included an attempt to set the home of a Palestinian family on fire using a firebomb, as well as an assault on an ambulance near the village of Burin. In a series of cases, IDF soldiers reportedly stood idly by and did not prevent attacks on the innocent or their property, despite their legal obligation to do so.

People unfamiliar with the events in the West Bank may think that ideological violence by Israeli civilians only appears as a response to terror attacks. In reality, such attacks take place on ordinary days as well. The response of those responsible for law enforcement in the West Bank – the Israeli government and the IDF – is the same: to ignore Israeli law breakers as much as possible. Israeli civilians know that when they go on the prowl, not only (despite the claims of the Minister of Defense) will IDF troops treat them less harshly when they throw stones or set fields ablaze.The security forces will also aid them by using crowd-dispersal weapons against Palestinian landowners, not the trespassers – who often walk into the very center of Palestinian villages. They also know that no one else will do anything to them. The chance that the complaint lodged by a Palestinian will lead to the conviction of an Israeli who commits an ideological crime is only 1.9 percent.

And they know something else too: that the government of Israel, forced to pretend to be shocked, absolutely shocked by their attacks, is not all that perturbed. Two days before the recent wave of violence erupted, the prosecution informed the High Court of Justice, in response to our petition, that not only does it have no intention of removing the outpost of Adei Ad, it actually intends to legalize it.

Adei Ad, which was highlighted in our “The Road to Dispossession” report, is...

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The law is not enough to protect Palestinian children

In East Jerusalem, Israeli Police have been arresting and interrogating children as young as six, often without informing their parents.

By Alma Biblash

On Tuesday at around 2 p.m., two eight-year-old children were arrested by Israeli police officers in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan. The officers claimed the children were throwing stones — the kids say they were only playing in the street. Minutes later, they were already being driven to the police station.

This is a good time to remind the police that according to Israeli law, the age of criminal responsibility is 12, and despite the Netanyahu government’s checkpoints, closures, and concrete barriers, Israeli law — which stipulates that the police cannot under any circumstances detain or interrogate a child under the age of 12 — still applies to the residents of East Jerusalem.

The children were held at the station where not a single policeman took the time to notify their parents. The parents, who searched for their children everywhere, eventually turned to local activists, who then called a lawyer to help track down the children. By that time it was already 5 p.m. Attorney Muhammad Mahmoud, a well-known figure in the corridors of the courts and police stations, arrived at the Oz station to demand the children be released. According to Mahmoud, the head officer at the station asked to keep the minors in detention and turn them over to interrogators. After Mahmoud insisted, the two were eventually released. Just like that, without anyone having to answer for the fact that two small children were held — illegally — for hours. Just like in so many other cases.

On October 21, a 10-year-old boy was arrested at his relative’s home in Silwan. Despite his age, he was taken in for investigation. His mother arrived at the police station where she was refused entry. The boy’s 13-year-old cousin, who was also arrested, was interrogated without the presence of a parent. On October 25, two brothers, age 6 and 9 — also from Silwan — were taken to the police station and only released after several hours. These are just two examples from one neighborhood in recent weeks. One can assume that many such cases go under the radar.

Israeli laws pertaining to the rights of teenagers during arrest and interrogation are actually fairly progressive on paper. They ensure that teens are interrogated at appropriate hours...

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Two Palestinians and an Israeli walk into a mall...

For years I have been escorting Mohammed and Maha to an Israeli hospital and back to Gaza. That is, except for those times when Israel denies him an entry permit. This week, as the illusory stability of daily routine disintegrates around us, something feels different.

By Deb Reich

We had stopped in a giant shopping center near Ashkelon on the way south to find Mohammed a new pair of sunglasses, because some kid in Gaza stole his recently. We hadn’t found any that he liked in Jaffa, where we lunched together as usual after Mohammed’s clinic check-ups at Tel Hashomer Hospital in Tel Aviv. For young Mohammed Mehanna, his aunt Maha Mehanna, and me, this has been a long-established routine every few months for the last several years, except every once in a while when despite Mohammed being due at the hospital he and Maha don’t get permits to leave Gaza.

Since his 2008 bone marrow transplant at the age of 14, Mohammed needs good sunglasses because of a problem with GVHD (graft-versus-host-disease) of the ocular cavities. Meantime at the shopping center, while I parked the car, he and Maha surveyed the ice cream on offer. I shouldn’t have sent them on ahead. What was I thinking? I came hurrying over to find two security guys in reflective vests, standing maybe two meters away, facing in their direction, speaking Hebrew. The thought crossed my mind – Jeez, guys, don’t shoot them before I can explain in Hebrew that they’re not terrorists.

The guards moved on. I’m not even sure they had been looking at Maha and Mohammed, but the very real potential for disaster was creepy. It was October 29, 2015 in Israel. The illusory stability of daily routine was disintegrating all around us.

At this mall near Ashkelon, an area with virtually no Palestinian residents after 1948, the young ice cream barista clearly didn’t know what to make of our mixed little Arab-Jewish group, yet she seemed okay with us and served us politely. I left a tip.

Ice cream cones in hand, and conscious of needing to reach the Erez crossing by 7 p.m. (Erez is the only passenger crossing between Gaza and Israel), we decide to try the supermarket and SuperPharm for shades. Tired, I said I’d sit in the car while they go in. Mohammed said something I didn’t quite catch, and Maha turned to me and...

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Pilot limiting night arrests of Palestinian kids falls short

The Israeli army implemented a pilot program last year to serve Palestinian children with summonses instead of snatching them from their beds in the middle of the night. Some of those summonses, however, were delivered by soldiers in the middle of the night.

By Gerard Horton

Following widespread criticism of the the Israeli army’s use of night raids to arrest minors in the West Bank, in February 2014 military authorities announced a pilot program to issue minors with summonses instead. The thinking behind using summonses is that you limit the need for night raids, which generally terrify individual households and entire neighborhoods.

Further, if a minor — accompanied by a parent — voluntarily presents himself at a police station during the day in response to a summons, reports of physical violence, painful hand ties, blindfolds and other abuses that frequently accompany night arrests are also likely to decline.

For six months commencing in early 2014, the military operated the pilot program in the Jenin, Nablus, Ramallah and Hebron districts. In or about September 2014, however, the program was temporarily suspended due to “increased violence.” As odd as it may sound, the military authorities said that they did not keep any statistics relating to the program during this period, making it difficult to understand how they intended to assess its success or otherwise.

During the same period UNICEF documented 24 cases in which summonses were issued to minors. After assessing this evidence, the UN agency noted that some of the summonses were actually delivered by soldiers in terrifying night-time raids. Violations also continued to be reported during the subsequent interrogation process at military detention centers or police stations. Similar conclusions were reached by Military Court Watch which also found that the military used summonses in approximately nine percent of cases in 2014.

Based on recent evidence it appears that the pilot program recommenced sometime in early 2015 and is now being implemented in about five percent of cases. However, even this limited use of summonses is not without significant and avoidable shortcomings

For instance: Summonses are still being delivered by the military after midnight; Relevant parts of the summonses are frequently handwritten in Hebrew without translation; Relevant information, such as the nature of the accusation, is missing; Although the military acknowledges that there is a discretion to permit a parent...

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As tensions run high, Arab workers pay the price

As a result of the latest round of violence, Arab workers are becoming subject to harassment, boycotts, and arbitrary dismissals.

By Maha Shehade Switat

These are days when calling for the boycott Arab workers and “expelling” them from their workplace is received with open arms. These are days when cities refuse Arab workers entry into schools during school hours. Days when Arab workers go through security checks on their way to work for the sake of public safety. These are days when we understand that morality, not to mention the rule of law, doesn’t exist in the workplace. This is how Arab workers have been abandoned.

This racist public discourse erupted and has continued since last summer, in light of the tensions between Jews and Arabs. Since then employers, managers, and employees have enlisted in the fight for a common goal: maintaining the Zionist consensus.

The rights of Arab workers are violated on a regular basis: they are fired from their jobs arbitrarily, are sent to their homes until “things calm down,” suffer from harassment at work and changes in the conditions of their employment solely because they are Arabs — because of their national identity, their worldview, and their ideas — not to mention pressure from a public that calls for boycotts and exclusion.

During the last war on Gaza, Israeli employers kept their eyes on Arab workers. The wave of dismissals solely affected Arabs, despite the fact that both the public sphere and social networks were awash with incitement and racism against Arabs by Jewish coworkers. Employers turned into the thought police, summonses looked more like interrogations, and dozens of Arab workers were fired.

However, if during the war on Gaza Arab workers were fired primarily for remarks made on social media, today they are being fired simply because they are Arab.

Today, in order to hold on to their job and livelihood, Arab workers are resigned to suppress their feelings, while self-regulating and censoring their thoughts. After all, the walls have ears, especially those on Facebook.

This behavior by employers goes against the Law for Equal Opportunity in the Workplace, which forbids employers from discriminating against his employees based on their nationality, worldview, origin, or religion. It also goes against their constitutional right to free speech — one of the cornerstones of any democratic society — anchored in international conventions.

Despite what is written...

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Shin Bet threatens Bedouin activist, offers money to prevent protests

Agents of Israel’s security services raid the homes of several young Bedouin activists, summon them for ‘friendly chats’ and attempt to coax them into suppressing protests they claim undermine the ‘fundamental principles of the state.’ 

By John Brown*

It’s Tuesday, just after midnight in the Bedouin town of Lakia in the Negev Desert. Black jeeps carrying approximately 15 plainclothes Shin Bet agents come to a screeching halt in front of one of the houses before bursting into it. The agents wake all the residents, including a young girl with a flashlight to her face, and take all the men outside. The men are forced to line up facing the outer wall of the house while the agents search them.

The agents demand to know the whereabouts of R., one of the brothers in the family. The men do not know. An agent who presents himself as “Haim” (a pseudonym) instructs one of them to phone R. and demand that he come home. R. doesn’t even live in this house, and the men refuse to call him. Haim happens to have R.’s number on his phone, so he makes the call instead.

R., who works as an organizer at the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality, eventually arrives at the family home, where he sees his brothers lined up against the wall. Haim hands him a Shin Bet summons for questioning, a “chat,” two days later. In a conversation following the incident, R. said that when he asked the agent why he was summoned, Haim answered: “Think for yourself about what you did — you know,” as if he were his school teacher.

R., it turns out, had no idea what Haim was talking about. “Maybe it has to do with work,” he told me later on, although it was clear that Haim’s request had far more to do with threatening R. than work-related issues.

‘I need the protests to stop’

Although there is no legal requirement to show up for these “chats,” the threatening nature of the summons, which the Shin Bet agents said would repeat itself, was enough to make R. show up for the interrogation last Thursday, hoping to understand what it was all about. Very quickly, he understood that Haim was not planning to interrogate him about anything specific. “The conversation was friendly. Haim asked about my life, friends, work, and studies,” R. tells me.

Throughout the...

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My friend is in jail for something he wrote on Facebook

My friend Anes Khatibi is 19 years old. We met at ‘peace school.’ If he were Jewish he would not have been arrested for a Facebook status. Alas, he is Palestinian.

By Ariel Schendar

Two police officers arrested Anes Khatib, 19, from his home in Shefa-’Amr on a Friday evening last month, and took him to the police station in the city. The original reason for the arrest was “a clarification.” Anes has yet to be returned home.

It later became clear that Anes was arrested for publishing a status on Facebook, in which he wrote, among other things, that kind words should be written about the Palestinians who died, and included slogans such as “long life the intifada,” “Jerusalem is Arab,” and “and eye for an eye.”

I had read about chilling arrests like these during “Operation Protective Edge” on “leftist” websites. This time it was personal; I know Anes and love him like a brother.

Early in the summer of 2014 Anes and I participated in a storytelling workshop as part of the “International Peace School.” Our group was made up of Arab and Jewish teens who shared a common goal of dialogue and coexistence. The workshop took place in the Netherlands, and Anes was one of the first people I connected with, already at our first meeting at the airport. He was especially friendly and full of positive energy. Throughout the workshop I was exposed to difficult stories of his life. The more we spoke, the more I was impressed by his politics and activism.

A film by Anes Khatib, Ariel Schendar and their friends in the International School for Storytelling and Peace:

The workshop, as I mentioned, took place in the summer of 2014, at the start of Operation Protective Edge — the war in Gaza. We got into a lot of discussions about the situation and I discovered Anes’s enthused and impassioned side: he was critical of the occupation and its consequences, the same way the Israeli-Palestinian conflict stirs an emotional storm among so many others.

Everyone in the workshop was critical of the political situation in some way or another, but we all held onto the belief that the solution would come from dialogue, patience, and coexistence. More than anybody, it was clear that Anes wanted to bring us all together in a friendly, loving atmosphere nourished...

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The only way to end the violence in Hebron

They tell us that terror and violence must be met with force, and if that doesn’t work — then even more force. But the military occupation of Hebron has not achieved security for either its Jewish or Palestinian residents.

By Yehuda Shaul

Over the past few weeks we have not only borne witness to a wave of attacks in Jerusalem and throughout Israel, we have also seen a string of violent incidents in and around Hebron. Commentators are already talking about a new flashpoint of violence.

I know Hebron pretty well. As a soldier and commander I served in the city for over a year during the Second Intifada. Since my release, I have guided hundreds of tours in the city and its surroundings for people who wanted to get to know the city through the eyes of the soldiers that served there.

So let’s talk about Hebron, the city of the patriarchs, whose significance in Jewish history no one can dispel. It is one of the largest cities in the West Bank, with a Palestinian population of roughly 200,000, and 850 Israeli settlers who live right in the city center.

Over the last few decades, Hebron, especially the heart of the city, has turned into one of the most heavily guarded areas under Israeli control. At least 650 IDF soldiers are stationed in the city on any given day. It cannot be said that Israel withdrew from Hebron, forgot about it, or that the IDF stopped protecting it.  We are constantly there.

An accurate description of the security measures that we have taken in Hebron over the last 20 years requires an entire book, not a short article.  I will try nonetheless to touch on a few important points.

The foundation of Israel’s security policy in Hebron since the 1994 Goldstein massacre is the “principle of separation,” which in practice means restricting freedom of movement for Palestinians in areas near Israeli settlements in the city. In order to implement this principle, Palestinians were banned from driving their cars on streets that run near the settlements and some were even closed to pedestrian traffic.

Hundreds of Palestinian shops were shut down over the last 20 years due to military orders, and on Shuhada Street, a main thoroughfare, doors to Palestinian homes were welded shut, preventing the residents from walking onto the street on which they live.

These areas...

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Netanyahu's transfer plan: Turning dispossession into tradition

Netanyahu recently proposed that Israel revoke the residency status of tens of thousands of Palestinians in East Jerusalem who live beyond the wall. This appalling idea will merely continue what is already in motion: years of ‘quiet transfer.’

By Hagai El-Ad

The latest proposed experiment to emerge from the Prime Minister’s Office – revoking the residency of Palestinians who live in the areas of Jerusalem that Israel abandoned east of the separation barrier – is, of course, disgraceful. The idea, which has since been rejected, exemplifies an instrumental approach to people based on racist demographic considerations, using revocation of residency to maximize territorial control while minimizing the presence of Palestinians in that territory, entailing various forms of human rights violations.

Netanyahu looks at Shu’fat, at Ras Khamis, at Samiramis, and at Kafr ‘Aqab and does not see people. He does not see more than 100,000 Palestinian residents of Israel – families who wish to earn a living; children in need of schools; individuals with personal, national and religious identities whose lives are intertwined with the city of Jerusalem. Instead, he sees a demographic bloc that can and should be removed.

This proposal may come as a shock but in fact, every part of it has already been successfully tried, and has been under way in Jerusalem for years. The only novelty is combining all these elements – status, territory, and demography – in a single initiative.

Change of legal status? Already happening. Since 1967, Israel has slowly but surely revoked the residency of more than 14,000 Palestinians in East Jerusalem. This “quiet transfer” – first exposed in a report by HaMoked and B’Tselem in 1997, almost 20 years ago – uses administrative excuses to revoke the permanent resident status that Israel gave Palestinians after annexing East Jerusalem. Since residency status can be revoked, the only permanent aspect of it for Palestinians is the possibility that it may be temporary.

Physical separation from Jerusalem? Already happening. Many Palestinian neighborhoods in Jerusalem have recently been cut off from the city with roadblocks, hopefully only for the time being. Examples include Issawiya, Jabal Mukaber, a-Tur, and Sur Baher. Yet tens of thousands of Palestinians have lived like that for a decade, separated from the rest of Jerusalem by a high concrete wall. To enter their city they must go through a checkpoint — at Qalandiya or at...

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Palestine's battle for hearts and minds in the Arab world

A new Palestinian PR campaign attempts to recast the conflict by comparing Israeli violence against Palestinians to methods used by Islamic State.

By Jacob Wirtschafter

CAIRO — Eager to re-enlist Egyptian public opinion to their cause, the Palestinian Embassy in Cairo hosted a rare press conference Thursday outlining Ramallah’s current diplomatic agenda. The agenda includes a definitive UN Security Council resolution with a timeline for two states, deployment of international forces to protect the population of the West Bank, and an international fact-finding mission to determine the “root causes” of the current phase of the conflict.

It’s a hard sell, especially as Egypt’s military has intensified security coordination with Israel and after a two-year war by the Sisi administration against the Muslim Brotherhood. A substantial chunk of Egyptians have absorbed the consistent official message linking the banned party of deposed President Mohammed Morsi to terrorists from Hamas and Islamic State.

Last week Karem Mahmoud, Secretary General of the Egyptian Journalist Syndicate, condemned the sporadic coverage of the unrest in Jerusalem and the West Bank characteristic of the large commercial TV channels.

“Some big newspapers in the Middle East have been adopting Israeli narratives. We need to change the Arab media’s narrative to a pro-Palestine one,” Mahmoud told the Cairo daily Al-Ahram.

The new Palestinian PR campaign attempts to recast the storyline by comparing settler and right-wing violence against Palestinians to methods used by IS.

“It is the settlers that work day and night to destroy the two-state solution. They kidnapped and burned Mohammed Abu Khdeir in Jerusalem and they firebombed the home of the Dawabsheh family in Duma. These are ISIS tactics,” said Palestinian Ambassador at the press conference.

Similarly El Shobaky advanced the argument that ambivalence over moving forward with a two-state solution is emanating from the Israeli government and not from the Palestinian Authority.

“Egypt has a strategic interest to put an end to the conflict and bring the stability to the region,” El Shobaky added, “and we appreciate the effort being made here to get a Security Council resolution passed. They have also taken the same position we have both on settlements and Al Aqsa.”

In addition to emphasizing that Netanyahu’s government includes politicians who favor of a change in the status quo arrangements at Al-Aqsa and Dome of the Rock, Palestinian public diplomacy increasingly contests the interchangeability of terms in the...

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