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No, Jesus would not be a settler — he’d practice solidarity

Former Israeli ambassador Michael Oren says Jesus would be considered a settler if he lived in Bethlehem today. Such talk obscures the nature of the settlement enterprise and slanders Jesus.

Text and photos by Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org

Former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren has been saying a lot of obnoxious things lately. His recent book angered Jewish-American journalists by twisting the truth and burning bridges with the liberal Zionist establishment. And while it’s clear that diplomacy is no longer Oren’s priority, he may have crossed the line from belligerence to blasphemy with his latest remarks.While preaching to the choir of the Knesset’s Christian Allies Caucus, Oren took the name of Jesus in vain, using it to defend the settler enterprise.

“Jesus, Mary, and John the Baptist would today be considered Jewish settlers in Bethlehem,” said Oren, according to The Jerusalem Post.

Mike Huckabee has been saying some stupid stuff too — essentially calling Obama a Nazi — but such dangerous absurdities are nothing new when it comes to his Middle East policy. The last time Huckabee ran for president, he laid a cornerstone in the East Jerusalem settlement of Beit Orot and expressed willful ignorance of geography and international law:

Israelis can live in every part of Israel. It’s just that But Beit Orot is not Israel. East Jerusalem is not Israel. That’s why Israel does not grant the Palestinians in East Jerusalem and the West Bank the same civil rights as the Jewish Israelis who live in these same areas.

Are Oren and Huckabee really ignorant of what makes a settler a settler? According to international legal consensus, shared by virtually every other nation except Israel, all settlements are illegal. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC):

This is what makes settlements illegal. It’s not because they’re Jewish. It’s because they’re colonies built on occupied land outside of the state of Israel.

That’s also they key point in the unfolding case of the Palestinian village of Susiya and the Israeli settlement of Susya. While Israel considers the Palestinian village “illegal” because it doesn’t follow the rules of its occupiers, the rest of the world considers the nearby settlement Susya illegal because it was established on land outside of the state of Israel.

Of course, if you are a religious fundamentalist, you don’t care so much about international...

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Family, blood stains challenge Israeli account of Qalandiya killing

Muhammad Abu Latifa was killed during an early morning arrest raid. Israeli security forces say he died after falling from a roof but witness accounts and blood stains seen by +972 appear to contradict that narrative. Abu Latifa was the third Palestinian to be killed in Israeli arrest raids in one week.

Text and photos by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org

Israeli security forces shot and killed a Palestinian youth during an arrest raid in the Qalandyia Refugee Camp in the early hours of Monday morning. This was the third case in which Israeli forces killed Palestinians in the last week, all three during night raids.

Muhammad Abu Latifa, 18, was sleeping in his bed when a sizable force of Israeli soldiers and police commandos raided his house, in the center of the refugee camp, situated between Jerusalem and Ramallah. When the Israeli forces attempted to arrest him, he ran out to the balcony of his house and jumped to the roof of nearby house.

Read also: Video shows Israeli officer not in danger when he shot Palestinian teen

According to the official Israeli narrative, which was published in Israeli media outlets Monday morning, Abu Latifa resisted arrest and fled onto the roof, at which point the forces shot him in his lower body. According to the Israeli account, he then fell to his death while jumping to another roof. Police said Abu Latifa was wanted in connection with terrorism, an allegation that can at times refer to anything ranging from armed attacks to rock throwing.

A tour of the roof of the building next to his home exposes a compelling, conflicting narrative to that offered by police. Blood splatter on a retainer wall on the roof seems to corroborate that Abu Latifa was shot only after he already escaped from his home — while he was fleeing.

“The army is lying, he did not fall. The blood splash on the corner shows they shot him for no reason. He could not have run away,” asserted Abu Latifa’s cousin, a woman in her 20s who asked not to be identified. The Israeli soldiers ran after him onto the roof and then shot him, she recalled.

Another neighbor who said he saw the incident from his window described what happened after the shooting. “The soldiers carried him back to the roof of his house” he said, pointing to bloody footprints leading back toward the balcony. +972 saw only imprints of a left foot, which the neighbor claimed shows...

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PHOTOS: Palestinians reach the sea to mark end of Ramadan

As the Muslim holy month came to an end, Israel granted thousands of entry permits to West Bank Palestinians. Many took the opportunity to visit the beach and other places they are normally forbidden from reaching.

Photos by Oren Ziv, Yotam Ronen, Faiz Abu Rmeleh / Activestills.org

Thousands of Palestinian from the West Bank crossed the Green Line to celebrate the end of Ramadan on Israel’s beaches this past weekend. Israeli authorities issued thousands of entry permits, allowing Palestinians to visit Israel during the three-day Eid al-Fitr holiday. Many traveled as far as Tel Aviv-Jaffa and Acre in the north.

Palestinians in the West Bank are subject to a permit regime that not only severely restricts their ability to enter Israel, but also within the West Bank itself.

Throughout the month of Ramadan, Israeli authorities allowed Palestinian women as well as men over 40 to cross Qalandiya checkpoint in order to reach Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Young men who weren’t allowed to cross often used ladders to climb over the separation barrier

Related:
PHOTOS: Palestinians cross into Jerusalem for Ramadan
Palestinians cease being ‘threats’ — for a month
Ramadan is over, the Muslims are coming

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In BDS debate, both Jewish feelings and Palestinian lives matter

As the BDS movement grows, U.S. churches find themselves caught between a history of anti-Semitism, and a desire to stand alongside Palestinians.

Text by: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org

In recent weeks, three U.S. churches considered resolutions to divest from occupation-complicit corporations. The United Church of Christ passed its measure with a landslide vote. The Episcopal Church’s resolution was rejected by its House of Bishops. And the Mennonite Church USA—my church—tabled its resolution for two more years.

These were only the most recent examples of churches considering some form of boycott, divestment and sactions (BDS) to apply economic pressure on Israel. Last year, the Presbyterian Church USA passed a divestment resolution, and the United Methodist Church and various Quaker bodies have taken similar actions.

Criticism following this round of debate was no surprise, and it’s easy to dismiss fundamentalist gems like this one by Earl Cox in The Jerusalem Post:

Cox doesn’t mention that the “depart from me” quote is taken from the Gospel of Matthew Chapter 7—which begins with Jesus’ apt advice: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.”

It usually takes a right-wing fundamentalist with a literalist interpretation of the Bible to explain why all the stuff Jesus said about “blessed are the peacemakers” and “love your enemies” and “as you have done to the least of these you have done to me” have nothing to do with, say, Palestinian children in Gaza.

In response, I could be a left-wing fundamentalist and say that only true Jesus-following Christians support BDS. But I won’t. I know there are many reasons why people who actually care about things like peacemaking and human rights can’t get with BDS—some moral, some relational, some pragmatic (as in, people will stop donating to my church or organization if I support BDS).

What I can’t stand are accusations by self-described progressives or liberals against BDS that are simply untrue. These accusations come in the form of a question: What are these churches doing about [fill in the blank with thing ostensibly worse than Israel]?

While previous posts by myself and Dahlia Scheindlin drill down on this shopworn smear, a recent blog post by Mark Gammon on the religion site Patheos takes the “singling out” accusation to new levels, attempting to out-liberal the liberals by asking:

Gammon accuses BDS activists of a “breathtaking lack of historical consciousness” concerning...

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Asylum seekers say Israeli authorities use food to pressure them

A new report by a refugee organization says the food Israeli prison authorities provide to African asylum seekers being detained in Holot does not meet their nutritional needs. During the Ramadan fast, the many restrictions on food in the ‘open’ facility make life even tougher on Muslim asylum seekers from Darfur. Some detainees say the hardships are intentional, part of a wider policy aimed at pressuring them to leave Israel.

By Oren Ziv / Activestills.org

Just before eight at night, as dinner is being served inside the prison, hundreds of asylum seekers being held in Israel’s Holot “open” detention facility leave through the front gates into the open desert. Some of them head toward the hills in order to prepare meat over an open fire, others make their way to makeshift restaurants along the fence in order to break the daily fast during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. A large number of the detainees pass on the meals served inside.

According to a new report published by the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants on Wednesday, the food served to detainees in Holot does not meet their basic nutritional needs. “When the Holot facility fails to provide adequate nutrition options, and the detainees are not given enough money to buy food outside of Holot, a very real food insecurity problem is created,” public health researcher Megan Cohen wrote in the report.

Read also: A year since protests, detained asylum seekers hint at new strategy

The three meals a day Israeli prison authorities provide to detainees in Holot are largely composed of empty carbohydrates like white rice and bread. The only source of protein on most days is a hard-boiled egg and a small packet of cheese. “The food provided by Holot is not enough to meet basic nutritional requirements,” the report says. “Even in emergency contexts where there are limited resources available, international organizations consistently strive to uphold a minimum standard of basic nutrition for the population they are serving. This includes 2,100 calories per person.”

The fact that the Israel Prison Service refused to provide nutritional information makes it difficult to form nutrient calculations, Cohen noted, “but the information gathered from testimonies leads me to believe that basic nutrient requirements for an adult male are not being met.”

“The Ramadan fast in Holot is a lot easier,” Jack, an asylum seeker from Sudan and a...

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PHOTOS: Palestinians climb over the wall into Jerusalem for Ramadan

As Palestinians cross over into Jerusalem from the West Bank, an IDF officer shoots dead a 19-year-old Palestinian by the separation wall.

Text by Edo Konrad, photos by Yotam Ronen, Mustafa Bader / Activestills.org

Dozens of young Palestinians climbed the separation wall in order to reach Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque on Friday of last week, the third Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The men took taxis in the early hours of Friday morning to the separation wall at the Palestinian village of A-Ram, just outside of Jerusalem, where they used a ladder to cross over to the Palestinian neighborhood of Beit Hanina. After some of the men made it over, Israeli police officers arrived on the other side of the wall.

Meanwhile, over 10,000 Palestinians formally crossed through both the Qalandiya checkpoint near Ramallah and Checkpoint 300 in Bethlehem on their way to Jerusalem. While the army generally allows women to cross regardless of age, on Friday they restricted the crossing to women over 30 as well as men over 50, causing much confusion. During Ramadan, Israel generally eases restrictions on Palestinian access to Jerusalem.

As Palestinians crossed over into Jerusalem, an Israeli army officer shot and killed a 19-year-old Palestinian on the other side of the separation wall. According to the army, several Palestinians were throwing stones at an IDF vehicle heading toward Qalandiya checkpoint, smashing the windshield. The brigade commander exited the vehicle and opened fire at the Palestinians, killing Mohammed Sami al-Ksabeh, a resident of Qalandiya refugee camp.

Hundreds of people attended his funeral several hours after his death, where masked men fired shots in the air as the crowd called for revenge against Israel. According to Ma’an News Agency, Ksabeh had left his home early Friday morning to reach Al-Aqsa Mosque. Eyewitnesses say he was attempting to climb the separation wall when he was shot.

Ksabah is the second Palestinian to be killed by Israeli forces in the last week, after forces shot dead a Palestinian man last Friday when he opened fire at soldiers at the Beqaot checkpoint in the Jordan Valley.

Related:
PHOTOS: Palestinians cross into Jerusalem for Ramadan
Palestinians cease being ‘threats’ — for a month

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A Month in Photos: Global Pride, Ramadan and refugees

LGBTQ people and allies celebrate pride while others protest ‘pinkwashing’; tens of thousands of Palestinians from the West Bank head into Jerusalem for prayers during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, some climbing over walls to do so; African asylum seekers bring the theater to their detention center; migrants and refugees commemorate their dead in Europe; Israelis protest racism and the privatization of natural resources.

Photo by: Oren Ziv, Anne Paq, Ahmad Al-Bazz, Yotam Ronen, Faiz Abu Rmeleh
Photo editing: Anka Mirkin, Keren Manor


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Call for action: Street campaign remembers Gaza's 'obliterated families'

There were 142 so-called ‘obliterated families’ in Gaza last summer — families that lost three or more members in Israeli attacks during the military offensive. Marking one year since the war, the Activestills photography collective wants your help to launch an international street exhibition to bring their faces and names to public spaces in cities around the world.

One year on, the Activestills photography collective is launching an international street campaign to the Israeli offensive in Gaza last summer. Activestills is calling on activists — with a downloadable street exhibition kit — to bring the faces and names of Gaza families killed last summer to the streets around the world.

The exhibition, #ObliteratedFamilies, features family photos of those killed and portraits of survivors. Activestills photographer Anne Paq visited more than 50 families in Gaza when putting together the project, which aims to shed light on these families and calls upon people of conscience to demand justice for the victims.

Read also: One year since Gaza: Why there’s no such thing as a ‘precision strike’

More than 2,200 Palestinians were killed in Gaza last summer by Israeli attacks, most of them civilians; more than 500 children were killed. According to the United Nations, 142 families lost three members or more. Some families were wiped out entirely. Some families lost loved ones from three generations — grandparents, parents, and grandchildren.

Activestills has been staging street exhibitions for the past 10 years as part of its attempts to raise public awareness of issues ignored or distorted by the mainstream media. By using city walls as a platform to exhibit our work, we try to reach wider audiences in independent, unfiltered, and direct ways. We believe that the streets should be reclaimed for political discussion.

Read also: Street exhibition confronts Israelis on Palestinian Prisoners’ Day

The Activestills collective calls upon activists to spread these photos in their communities. A digital street exhibition kit is available online, accompanied by full instructions and ready-to-print photographs.

The collective asks participating activists to upload photos of the street exhibits to Twitter and Facebook, with their location and the hashtag #ObliteratedFamilies, or to send photos by email. Thanks for joining this global campaign to demand justice for these families, to call for end to the blockade on Gaza, and the dismantling of the military occupation and colonization of Palestine.

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Major U.S. church backs divestment from Israeli occupation

In a landslide vote, the United Church of Christ passes a divestment and boycott resolution targeting ‘companies profiting from, or complicit in, human rights violations arising from the occupation.’

Text by: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org

The United Church of Christ voted by an overwhelming margin Tuesday to divest from companies complicit in the Israeli occupation. The resolution, which passed by a 508 to 124 vote, also calls for a boycott of settlement products, congressional accountability regarding U.S. foreign military aid to Israel, and ongoing commitment to interfaith dialogue.

According to a UCC news report, the resolution, which had initially been limited to five companies for their involvement in occupation activities (Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard, Motorola, G4S and Veolia), was expanded to include, “any direct or substantive indirect holdings in companies profiting from, or complicit in, human rights violations arising from the occupation.”

“In approving this resolution, the UCC has demonstrated its commitment to justice and equality,” said Rev. Mitri Raheb in a press release from the UCC Palestine Israel Network (UCC PIN). Raheb, pastor of Christmas Lutheran Church in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, had addressed the assembly prior to the vote. “For Palestinians living under occupation or facing systematic discrimination as citizens of Israel, enduring the destruction of their homes and businesses, the theft of their land for settlements, and living under blockade and siege in Gaza, this action sends a strong signal that they are not alone, and that there are churches who still dare to speak truth to power and stand with the oppressed.”

A separate resolution declaring that Israeli policy meets the international legal definition of apartheid won a 312-295 majority but failed to meet the two-thirds majority needed to pass the general assembly.

The UCC joins the Presbyterian Church USA, United Methodist Church, several Quaker bodies, and Mennonite Central Committee among U.S. churches and organizations that are using various forms of economic leverage to protest Israeli policy and to ensure that their investments are not profiting from harm done to Palestinians.

Reaction from major Jewish organizations was swift and predictable, echoing similar denunciations of the PCUSA vote one year ago. According to a statement by Rabbi Noam Marans of the American Jewish Committee, the measure is...

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'The great gas robbery': A chronicle of civil resistance

A photo chronicle of the past few years of protest against the Israeli government’s handling of newly discovered offshore natural gas reserves. Social activists, and economists, believe that Israeli citizens — and the state — are getting an unfair deal from the private companies who own the drilling rights.

Photos by Activestills.org
Text by Michael Schaeffer Omer-Man

For the past few years a dedicated group of Israeli social activists have been protesting what they, some economists and even a number of members of Knesset have termed “the great gas robbery.”

The protests came on the tail end of a wider social protest movement, the lasting and central message of which focused on anger toward the concentration of wealth among a small number of tycoons with close ties to the government and politicians.

Read also: Gas exports: Is the government with us, or against us?

Nobody ever really thought that one of the largest gas discoveries in recent history would benefit Israel. Since the country’s inception, Israelis have been mocking themselves for establishing a Jewish state on the one piece of the Middle East with no oil.

Then Leviathan happened. When the discovery of the Tamar and Leviathan offshore natural gas fields was made, countries throughout the neighborhood — Turkey, Greece, Cyprus, Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and Palestine — all started jockeying for a piece of the pie. Israelis did to.

When Israel granted the licenses to drill for gas, because nobody believed that there was any gas, the contracts were very favorable for the drilling companies — less so for the country. Ever since the discoveries were made, Israelis have been demanding that the flow of gas benefit, first and foremost, Israelis.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, however, wanted to overrule the anti-trust commission. The only problem? He doesn’t have the authority to do so. The only government official endowed with the authority to over-ruled the anti-trust commissioner is Economy Minister Moshe Kahlon, who along with two other ministers, has recused himself from the entire affair due to personal ties with one of the small group of tycoons who control the Israeli side of the gas resources.

Netanyahu is being blackmailed by the energy companies who are threatening to indefinitely delay the flow of gas with litigation if the current arrangement is changed in a way that harms their interests. So the prime minister did what any good...

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A year since protests, detained asylum seekers hint at new strategy

When I meet Jack outside the “Holot” desert detention facility in southern Israel, currently home to some 1,900 asylum seekers from Sudan and Eritrea, the first thing he wanted to tell me is what bothers him about the Israelis that come to visit him and his friends.

“Not many people come to visit us at Holot. The few that do come — they help us, and that’s great. But that is not going to change our situation here in Israel. We expect every Israeli to try and affect change through the political system — specifically, the government’s policy toward us, the refugees,” he says.

I met Jack almost exactly a year ago, when hundreds of asylum seekers detainees in Holot decided to up and leave the detention facility and march toward the Egyptian border, demanding that they be allowed to leave Israel.

They had lost hope of being recognized as refugees in Israel, they were unwilling to resign themselves to indefinite detention in the Israeli desert, and thought just maybe they could raise some international awareness. They hoped they could push the United Nations to address their refugee claims.

I had not seen Jack for exactly one year so I went down to Holot to meet him one afternoon last week. As I arrived, many of the detainees were taking advantage of the waning daylight hours when the heat breaks just long enough to take a walk or go for a run.

The asylum seekers detained at Holot are allowed to leave the facility during the day but they must be back in time for a 10 p.m. roll call. Because the detention facility is nearly 50 miles from the closest city, Beersheba, and without any real planned activities, many of the asylum seekers simply wander around the desert around the prison.

Like most of the people who marched on the Egyptian border a year ago, Jack is still detained at Holot. In the year that passed, Israel’s High Court struck down — for the second time — the law that authorized the indefinite detention of African asylum seekers. In response, the Knesset passed a new version of the law, this time limiting detention at Holot to 20 months and reducing the number of times detainees must be present for roll call.

Jack says he sleeps most of the day, breaking up his waking hours by teaching English and...

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Church-based BDS does not unfairly ‘single out’ Israel [op-ed]

Opponents of church-based boycott initiatives often accuse advocates of unfairly ‘singling out’ Israel while ignoring Islamist violence in Syria and elsewhere. Here’s why they’re wrong.

Text and photos by Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org

In the coming days, three more U.S. churches will consider resolutions to apply economic leverage against the Israeli occupation.

The Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA), United Methodist Church (UMC), and various Quaker bodies have taken similar actions in previous years. Now, as the United Church of Christ (UCC), the Episcopal Church, and Mennonite Church USA (MCUSA) meet for national conventions, divestment activists say their case has never been clearer.

The bloodshed in Gaza, Netanyahu’s election rhetoric, and a peace process in which even President Barack Obama has lost hope have convinced many that the movement for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) is the best remaining hope for a just peace.

Now, those who “support divestment or other economic activism will have more space in which to make their voices heard,” says Michael Merryman-Lotze of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), a Quaker agency whose resources have been used by other churches to develop their resolutions.

But as new voices rise up, the Israeli government and its allies are trying to shout them down with an unchanging refrain of anti-BDS slanders. Apart from broad-brush charges of anti-Semitism, these opponents often accuse churches of unfairly “singling out” Israel while ignoring Islamist violence in Syria and elsewhere.

Here are three reasons why they’re wrong.

1. Moral consistency

When asked the “what about Syria?” question, Merryman-Lotze, who recently served as the AFSC’s Interim Middle East Regional Director, offered a pointed response (emphasis added):

We have publicly spoken out against violence in Egypt, Libya, Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere and have opposed policies and actions that contribute to violence in the Middle East. We have worked on the ground in Syria supporting those working to end the Syrian civil war.

We also work across the U.S. and in Indonesia, Myanmar, Burundi, Kenya, Guatemala, and other locations around the world. Our work in Indonesia is not legitimated by our work in Guatemala.  Our work in Ferguson, Missouri is not legitimated by our work in Myanmar. Equally, our work on Israel-Palestine is not legitimated by how we respond in Syria.

What gives credibility to our work is our relationship with the communities with whom we partner and our consistent application...

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PHOTOS: Palestinians cross into Jerusalem for Ramadan

Tens of thousands of Palestinian women and men over 40 make their way to Qalandiya checkpoint to cross over to Jerusalem in honor of the second Friday of Ramadan. Those who aren’t allowed to cross? They found their own way.

Photos and text by Oren Ziv / Activestills.org

Dozens of young Palestinians crossed Qalandiya checkpoint Friday morning in order to make it to the second Friday prayer of Ramadan at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

Since Israel allows only men above 40 to cross the checkpoint, dozens of young Palestinians attempted to climb the separation wall and reach Jerusalem using ladders which they leaned on the eight-foot tall wall. “We don’t need any permits from the army, we just cross to Jerusalem by ourselves,” said one young man from Jenin.

But the clever strategy only worked for a few minutes. Soldiers and policemen arrived on the scene, and many of the men who waited patiently for their turn to climb went home disappointed.

Hundreds of buses brought men, women and small children to the Qalandiya checkpoint starting at 4 a.m on Friday morning. There they were dropped off and cross over to Jerusalem on their way to the mosque. Throughout the year, Palestinians are required to obtain special permits in order to ender Israel. During Ramadan, however, women of all ages and men above 40 are allowed into Israel without any permits.

The Qalandiya checkpoint has one crossing for women and children, and another for men, who undergo a more rigorous search. Some of the women used their time waiting in line to snap photos with the separation wall in the background.

Meanwhile, at the Bethlehem checkpoint the number of people who wanted to enter Jerusalem was so large that the soldiers at the checkpoint were unable to check everyone entering; hundreds simply ran toward Jerusalem. Soldiers searched East Jerusalem’s Gilo neighborhood, near the checkpoint, checking vehicles and passersby in an attempt to find those who entered without permits.

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+972 is an independent, blog-based web magazine. It was launched in August 2010, resulting from a merger of a number of popular English-language blogs dealing with life and politics in Israel and Palestine.

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