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Photos of the Month: A long, hot summer of hate crimes

A Palestinian family is burned alive in their sleep, a 16-year-old Israeli is stabbed to death during the Jerusalem pride march, a hunger-striker calls the shots, and more. These are the best Activestills photos of the month.

Photos by: Keren Manor, Ahmad Al-Bazz, Yotam Ronen, Faiz Abu-Rmeleh, Omer Sameer, Oren Ziv / Activestills, Edited by: Anka Mirkin

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PHOTOS: The Gaza families obliterated in just 51 days

Out of the 2,200 Palestinians killed in last summer’s assault on the Gaza Strip, over 80 percent were civilians. Nearly 150 families lost three or more relatives, with some families disappearing entirely. Activestills’ Anne Paq returns to Gaza to tell the story behind the numbers.

Photography: Anne Paq / Activestills.org, Editing: Shiraz Grinbaum / Activestills.org

“Time will reduce the pain, but we will not forget our brothers”, told me 18-year-old Ibrahim Al Khalili in the midst of the burned ruins of the family factory, when I visited them in November 2014.

The entire immediate families of Ibrahim’s brothers, Ashraf and Ahmed, were killed: Ashraf’s wife, Nedaa’ (28) and their children Deema (4), Ziyad (3) and Mahmoud (8); as well as Ahmed’s wife, Aya (23), and their daughter Lama (5). A big fire broke out in the factory due to the plastic and wood materials stored there. The bodies were burned so badly that when they arrived to the morgue they were burned beyond recognition.

The eight members were the last ones waiting to be evacuated when an Israeli soldier fired a shell that fell on them. Seven-year-old Mahmoud was the only person who wasn’t killed on the spot; he remained conscious and witnessed the death of his entire family. At the Shifa hospital he fell into a coma, and died four days later.

I was at the morgue of the Al Shifa when the bodies arrived. One carbonized arm, unable to bend, was sticking out of the green plastic bag where the bodies were put before being taken for burial. In another plastic bag, three bodies, the one of a woman and two children, were glued together.

On that same day I stood outside the morgue and took a photo of Ismael, another Khalili brother, embracing someone while collapsing in tears. How can one forget such a scene of devastation? I tried to find out their names, and the location from which they arrived. Someone explained that this was the Al Khalili familiy from Al Tuffah. “They were unable to escape, and because of the factory, they were caught in the fire,” I was told, writing down the details. But in the chaos at hospital, flooded with constant flow of dead and injured, it was often impossible to even catch the family’s name.

The Khalilis were one of many families in the Gaza Strip that were obliterated last summer by Israeli attacks....

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PHOTOS: Hundreds of asylum seekers released from Holot — with nowhere to go

Approximately 600 African asylum seekers were released from Holot on Tuesday morning, following a High Court ruling. But their ban from entering Tel Aviv or Eilat — where much of their community lives — left them feeling helpless and confused.

By Oren Ziv / Activestills.org

Hassan, a Sudanese asylum seeker, looks on as he stands outside Holot detention center, where he has been held for the past 20 months. Tuesday was supposed to be a happy day for him — the day he was being released following a High Court ruling two weeks ago.

But the decision by Interior Minister Silvan Shalom, which forbids the released asylum seekers from living in Tel Aviv and Eilat, caused Hassan to decide to stay in Holot. “They told me this morning that if I refuse to be released, they will take me to Saharonim prison, and that I will not be able to stay in Holot,” he told +972. Eventually he agreed to be released, and decided to look for friends to stay with outside of Tel Aviv.

Although the state has attempted to present Holot as an “open detention center,” and despite the fact that the number of roll calls per day has been reduced from three to one, Holot does not allow these people to lead normal lives. The detainees there have repeatedly complained of poor food, of being stuck in the middle of the desert and of having no way of getting to work or studies.

At 8:30 a.m., immigration enforcement authorities began releasing hundreds of asylum seekers who have been detained in Holot for over a year. According to the High Court ruling, detention of refugees Holot will be limited to one year. A total 1,200 asylum seekers are expected to be released in total.

Meanwhile, Israel’s immigration authority issued thousands of new orders summoning asylum seekers to Holot starting on August 31.

The 600 asylum seekers released Tuesday morning (600 more are expected to be released the following day) gathered outside Holot, looking confused and carrying with them the few items they have managed to amass. For many, the decision to prevent them from working and living in Tel Aviv and Eilat is “worse than imprisonment,” according to the released detainees.

Without the option of living and working in the area where the majority of their community lives — or even to be...

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WATCH: Christian, Muslim Palestinians protest separation wall route

Days after the army uprooted Palestinian-owned olive trees to pave the route of the separation barrier in Beit Jala, Christians and Muslims from the town hold a joint protest to try and put a stop to the plan.

By Oren Ziv

Hundreds of Muslim and Christian Palestinians protested Sunday morning in the West Bank town of Beit Jala against the future establishment of the separation wall that would cut them off from Jerusalem.

Protesters marched Sunday toward the work zone where the wall is route is being paved, just days after the army uprooted dozens of ancient olive trees to pave the route for the wall last week.

The demonstrators marched toward the area where the trees were uprooted, and began destroying a checkpoint that prevents farmers from reaching their land in an area that, upon its completion, will be on the “Israeli” side of the wall. Border Policemen arrived on the scene and shot stun grenades and tear gas. At least three of the demonstrators were evacuated by an ambulance. The demonstrators took pieces of the checkpoint back with them to the village.

Father Paolo from the Catholic church in Beit Jala, told +972 Magazine: “We are here because they are building a wall that will separate Beit Jala from Jerusalem. We came here to say that this is our land, and that we are against the wall and for living together in peace. All the churches in Beit Jala are opposed to the building of the wall, and we are here to tell the army — get out of here, this is not your land.”

“The goal of the wall is to close off Beit Jala from all directions,” says Salah, who arrived from the village of Ni’ilin, near Ramallah, to take part on the protest. “They took the land, the trees, and the livelihood, and have punished the residents here for no reason. We have come here to send a message, that we can defeat these walls when we, the Palestinian people, are united. Both Christians and Muslims.”

In the past, Israel’s High Court of Justice has recommended the state reconsider the planned route of the separation barrier in the area, as it seriously affects the residents of the area. The Defense Ministry, however, began its work on the wall last week, without altering its route. The ministry has promised to leave a 200-meter gap in the...

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IDF falsely arrested photographers during Palestinian protest, court rules

Israeli soldiers arrested two Israeli and one Palestinian photographers during a demonstration in the West Bank. What followed showed just how differently Israelis and Palestinian detainees are treated.

By Oren Ziv / Activestills.org

Israeli soldiers arrested three photographers, two Israelis and one Palestinian, during the weekly protest in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh last Friday. On Saturday night, an Israeli court ruled that there was no reason for the arrests and released the two Israelis from detention.

On Sunday morning, Israel Police agreed to release the third photographer, Bilal Tamimi, without conditions, following a request by his attorney. Tamimi is expected to be released soon.

Weekly anti-occupation demonstrations have been taking place in the village of Nabi Saleh, near Ramallah, for the past several years. Every week, dozens of Palestinians, Israelis and international activists march toward a spring that has been taken over by residents from the nearby settlement, Halamish. The soldiers arrested Tamimi, himself a resident of the village, toward the end of the demonstration, as village youths clashed with soldiers on a nearby hill.

A short while later, the soldiers arrested B’Tselem Spokesperson Sarit Michaeli as well as Israeli artist David Reeb, both of whom have been documenting the protests with their cameras for years. The two were arrested for refusing to clear the area, which they deemed a “closed military zone.” The soldiers, however, refused to present the required, written order.

The three were taken to the Binyamin Police Station, where they discovered that along with violating the closed military zone order, Reeb and Tamimi were accused of attacking an officer, while Michaeli was accused of obstructing a police officer in the line of duty. After their interrogation, Michaeli and Reeb refused to sign off on the conditions of their release, which would ban them from the village for two weeks, while setting their bail at NIS 1,000. Upon refusing, the two were taken into detention. Tamimi was not offered these conditions and was taken straight to jail at Ofer military prison.

“It was clear that the arrest was unlawful,” Michaeli said following her release. “The fact is that they agreed to release us, even on condition, while it was clear that they would never allow Bilal the same conditions. That is why we refused to agree to those terms, even if it meant a night in jail.”

Michaeli and Reeb...

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WATCH: Dozens of Palestinian-owned trees uprooted to build separation wall

Dozens of Palestinian-owned olive trees uprooted to complete separation wall that will eventually fully encircle the Bethlehem area. 

Text and photos by Oren Ziv / Activestills.org

The Israeli Defense Ministry renewed its efforts to build a section of the separation wall in the Bethlehem area this week, sending bulldozers and Border Policemen to uproot dozens of olive trees in Wadi Ahmed, on the outskirts of Beit Jala.

The plan is to completely enclose Bethlehem and the surrounding villages — closing all entrances to the area — by the separation wall. Entire areas of the separation wall have yet be built, including in southern Jerusalem; they are slated for completion in the coming years.

WATCH: Bulldozers uproot Palestinian-owned olive trees near Bethlehem

“The role of the wall here is very simple: to cut off Beit Jala from Wadi Ahmad, an agricultural area of 3,500,000 square meters with thousands of olive trees,” Mazen Qumsiyeh , a veteran Palestinian activist, told +972. “Building this part will complete the ghettoization of Bethlehem. The route has nothing to do with security — the entire goal is to annex the valley.”

As we speak, Caterpillar bulldozers climb to the top of a nearby mountain, toward Route 60, and return with olive trees that were uprooted from the route of the planned wall. The company contracted to build the wall moves the trees, and re-plants them on land that will remain on the “Palestinian” side of the wall. “They don’t care to destroy a few dozen trees,” says Qumsiyeh , “They are going to be receiving thousands of olive trees on the land they are taking over.”

“This is not merely cosmetic work,” he continues. “They want to show that the army doesn’t uproot olive trees, but rather move them somewhere else. But the way they are doing it, there is no chance these trees survive. You must remove the tree carefully with the roots in tact — not in such a brutal way.”

Over the last few days, Palestinian Christians from the nearby Beit Jala Church have made their way to the area in order to pray next to the work site. On Wednesday, Border Policemen violently arrested three of the worshippers. Local activists have promised that they will continue to pray at the site as long as the work continues.

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PHOTOS: LGBT activists confront far-right protest in south Tel Aviv

‘We are here to protest those who were a part of the incitement that led to the death at the pride parade in Jerusalem,’ says one participant.

Text by Oren Ziv, Photos by Oren Ziv and Keren Manor/ Activestills.org

Some 50 LGBT activists confronted a right-wing protest in south Tel Aviv where leaders called to condemn the “dictatorship of the High Court,” for a recent decision that may soon allow the release of African asylum seekers from detention. The protest involved some 30 right wing activists and residents of south Tel Aviv who gathered Wednesday night in Levinsky park, a working class area home to many African asylum seekers.

The right-wing activists were taken aback by the LGBT protestors—who hoisted LGBT flags and signs with slogans such as, “homophobia — racism. It’s the same violence,” and were deterred for a few minutes before returning to their plans to march.

The right-wing protesters had gathered under the leadership of a number of high profile, far-right figures, including Michael Ben-Ari, Baruch Marzel, Itamar Ben Gvir, and May Golan, who criticized the recent High Court ruling that limits the detention of African asylum seekers in the Holot detention center to up to one year. Israel is expected to release more than 1,000 asylum seekers from the center in the upcoming week.

As they marched, the group cried out slogans such as “traitorous left-wingers,” “Go to Syria,” and “take the refugees to north Tel Aviv.”

“We arrived here to protest that extremist right wingers, those who also protested at the gay pride parade and were a part of the incitement that contributed to the death of Shira Banki at the pride parade in Jerusalem,” said one participant from the “pride in solidarity” organization that arranged the counter protest.

“We will go to every place that the Kahanist…racists and homophobes will go,” she said.

Another protestor waving a pride flag approached Michael Ben Ari and Baruch Marzel, who in the last elections ran on the “Jewish power” list that did not make it into the Knesset.

“If you represent Israel, why didn’t you have enough votes to enter the Knesset?” the protestor cried.

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Exclusive: Despite dangers, Israel sending asylum seekers to home countries

For the first time, new statistics reveal that nearly 4,600 Sudanese and 1,000 Eritreans were sent back to their countries of origin, possibly against international law. Israel’s Interior Ministry claims they are returning ‘voluntarily.’  A +972 Magazine exclusive.

By Oren Ziv / Activestills.org

Israel has been sending thousands of African asylum seekers back to their home countries as part of a plan for “voluntary return.” According to new statistics, which are being published here for the first time, most of the returnees have been sent back to their countries of origin — Sudan and Eritrea — rather than “third countries,” in accordance with Israel’s previously-announced arrangement, which would ostensibly ensure their safety.

According to Interior Ministry numbers revealed following a freedom of information request by Dr. Gilad Liberman and Attorney Itay Mack, and were passed on to +972, 4,608 asylum seekers have been sent back to Sudan, while 1,059 have been sent back to Eritrea. Over 4,200 asylum seekers have been sent to third countries, of which 2,600 are Sudanese and Eritrean. The vast majority of Sudanese asylum seekers who have left Israel were returned to Sudan.

The Sudanese government has committed genocide in Darfur, as well as political and ethnic persecution in other parts of the country. Eritrea is under the control of a tyrannical military regime, which forcefully enlists its citizens into the army for long periods of time or puts them in forced labor, while women are forced to serve as sex slaves for soldiers. Citizens from both Sudan and Eritrea are considered “protected groups” — a status that forbids the Israeli government from returning them to their home countries.

In response to the findings, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) stated that while Sudanese and Eritrean citizens have the full right to voluntarily return to their country — their return is recognized only when the returnee has a valid visa and earns a living. “However, leaving the country is not an alternative to detention and — as a response to any denial of rights — does not count as voluntary, and could even be considered illegal deportation according to both Israeli and international law, which endangers the life and safety of the returnee.”

In the past, UNHCR has said that “deporting Sudanese to Sudan constitutes a severe contravention of the [refugee] convention Israel has signed on to.”

Due...

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PHOTOS: Gaza and Hebron go head-to-head in Palestine's soccer championship

Gaza’s Ittihad Shejaiya traveled to Hebron’s Hussein Bin Ali Stadium on Friday night for the first Palestine Cup since 2000. But due to Israel’s harsh restrictions on Palestinian movement, the match almost didn’t happen.

Text by Yoni Mendel, photos by Oren Ziv / Activestills.org

In front of 11,000 fans, and for the first time in 15 years, the top teams from Gaza and the West Bank met to determine Palestine’s soccer champion in the Palestine Cup on Friday night in Hebron’s Hussein Bin Ali Stadium.

Hebron’s Al-Ahly defeated Gaza’s Ittihad Shejaia 2-1, with Ahmed Maher scoring the winning goal in the first minute of injury time to secure his team’s place in the next African Football Confederation (AFC) Cup. Al-Ahly will join the Al-Zahiriya team after it won the previous West Bank championships.

Palestinian Football Association head Jibril Rajoub attended the match, along with the mayors of Hebron and Bethlehem, respectively, and MK Ahmad Tibi.

Friday’s game was the first time in 15 years that the Palestine Cup has taken place. Following the Second Intifada and the restrictions on movement between the West Bank and Gaza, the championship game could never come to fruition.

Since Shejaiya fans could not obtain permits to accompany their team to the championship, hundreds of Hebron residents cheered on the team from Gaza.

Following pressure by Palestinian Football Association President Jibril Rajoub at the FIFA Congress in May, Israel began allowing Palestinian players from Gaza into the West Bank, and vice versa. The first match between Al-Ahly and Shejaia took place in Gaza last week and ended in a 0-0 tie.

The Palestinians did not give up on participating in the game as planned, even after Israel hampered attempts by four of the players from Shejaia to enter the West Bank. Shejaia announced that it would only travel to the West Bank as a team — either everyone goes or no one goes. Eventually, all of the Gazan players were granted entry permits, and were greeted with celebrations as they entered Hebron.

Who says soccer doesn’t bring hope?

Related:
How one soccer match tells the entire Palestinian story
The Palestinian soccer league: A microcosm of a national struggle
What Israelis don’t get about attempts to boot Israel from FIFA

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A Month in Photos: After violence, the joy of Eid becomes a blur

A Palestinian family is burned alive in a settler attack, Jerusalem’s Pride Parade ends in terror, and three Palestinian youths are killed by Israeli soldiers. The three-day Eid al-Fitr holiday, during which thousands celebrated on the shores of the Mediterranean, seems like a lifetime ago.

Photos by: Oren Ziv, Ahmad al-Bazz, Faiz Abu-Rmeleh, Keren Manor, Mustafa Bader, Anne Paq, Yotam Ronen, Tess Scheflan / Activestills.org, Edit: Anka Mirkin.

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'Why did they burn a baby alive? What did he do?'

Hours after the terrorist attack that took the life of Palestinian toddler Ali Saad Dawabshe, relatives and friends are still trying to make sense of what happened in the early hours of Friday morning.

Text and photos by Oren Ziv / Activestills.org

In the hours of the morning, the road leading from Nablus and the nearby settlements to the West Bank village of Duma is empty. Generally, when Palestinians attack Jewish settlers, the army hermetically seals the roads and raids the neighboring villages. Things are different this time around.

Inside Duma, dozens gather around the two homes that were set ablaze in the early hours of Friday morning. In one of them, 18-month-old Ali Dawabshe was burned to death in an attack by Jewish Israelis. His mother, father and four-year-old brother Ahmed were badly wounded.

The family’s home is almost entirely burned, including the bedroom, the kitchen and part of the living room. It is hard to recognize the remains of furniture or even clothing. Relatives are busy trying to salvage whatever they can. Inside the charred bedroom, relatives have places photographs of Ali on the ground as a makeshift memorial.

Yousef, a paramedic from the nearby village Aqraba, described the events of the morning to +972: “At 2 a.m. we received a report about an incident. I arrived with my ambulance and saw the house engulfed in flames. We evacuated the family to Rafidia Hospital in Nablus. The little boy died and the rest were in such bad condition that we needed to transfer them to Israel. A helicopter came and took them.”

A relative of the Dawabshe family who lives next door — and whose house was also targeted in the attack — also described the incident: “I woke up from a noise at 2 a.m. Luckily my children were sleeping in Nablus, otherwise they would have been killed,” he explains while pointing at the burned-down bedroom next to the entrance of the house. He walks around the house restlessly, still staring incredulously at the soot-covered walls hours after the attack itself.

“When I woke up,” he continues, “I saw the entire house in flames. They threw something through the window and everything just lit up.”

“I didn’t see who did it,” he adds, pointing at the Hebrew graffiti reading “Revenge” and “Long live the Messiah” scrawled outside the house. “But I have no doubt who...

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Palestinian baby burned to death in West Bank arson attack

Photos by Ahmad Al-Bazz, Oren Ziv / Activestills.org

A one-and-a-half year old Palestinian baby was burned to death Friday morning in the West Bank village of Duma in an attack on his family’s home allegedly by Israeli settlers.

According to reports, two masked men arrived at two homes in Duma, near Nablus. They spray painted the words “revenge” and “long live the Messiah” in Hebrew, broke the windows of the homes and threw two firebombs inside. The attack killed Ali Saad Dawabsha, and wounded both his parents and four-year-old brother.

According to Ma’an News Agency, the homes were located near the main entrance to the village and the settlers were able to flee the scene quickly before residents identified them.

Dozens of villagers from Duma rushed to help rescue the two families from their burning homes, witnesses said. The family members were evacuated to a hospital in Nablus in the West Bank before being taken to the burn unit at Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Israeli settlers have carried out at least 120 attacks on Palestinians in East Jerusalem and the West Bank since the start of 2015.

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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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+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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Illustrations: Eran Mendel