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How to stop Palestinians unionizing: Security, security, security

When Palestinian workers at the Tzarfati garage in the West Bank settlement of Mishor Adumim unionized, management made up criminal accusations against the Palestinian chairman of the workers’ committee, exploiting the hostile war-time environment at the time. Management brought in the army, the police, and sent him to military court — resulting in the revocation of his work permit.

By Niv Hachlili / ‘The Hottest Place in Hell

Hatem Abu Ziadeh (Photo courtesy of WAC-MAAN)

Hatem Abu Ziadeh (Photo courtesy of WAC-MAAN)

It’s seven o’clock on a Thursday evening and Hatem Abu Ziadeh sits behind the wheel of the taxi he drives to support his family. He’s been on the go since early morning, ferrying passengers on the winding roads between Ramallah and the surrounding villages.

Abu Ziadeh is from Jibiya, a village near Bir Zeit, and is the proud father of four sons and two daughters. For 17 years he was employed as a mechanic at the Tzarfati garage in the Mishor Adumim industrial zone. But last summer he was dismissed following a unionizing drive which he led together with the independent Trade Union Center WAC-MAAN.

Ostensibly, this is just another story, becoming increasingly common, of workers standing up and demanding their legal rights. However, unlike organizing initiatives within the “Green Line”, the fact that this case involves Palestinian workers employed in a Jewish settlement means it has unique characteristics.

A particularly worrying aspect of Abu Ziadeh’s story is not the ease with which the employer violates labor laws and the rights of Palestinian workers – such cases are commonplace. What makes this case important is the way it exposes how official state bodies grant assistance, both direct and indirect, to employers who violate employees’ basic rights.

Why are you raking up the past?

The organizing at Tzarfati began in June 2013. Some 40 Palestinians joined WAC-MAAN and a letter in their name was sent to the employer, asking that a general workers’ assembly be held. In July of that year, elections were held for the workers’ committee, and Abu Ziadeh, who had been instrumental in the unionizing efforts, was elected as chair.

“Before the organizing,” Abu Ziadeh said, “Tzarfati did whatever he felt like. He said we were employed according to Jordanian law, and that he wasn’t obliged to pay us minimum wage....

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UN aid agency to Gazans: Sorry, but there's no money

Only $135 million of pledged donor money has been delivered to Gaza, hundreds of millions short of what’s needed, the UN agency says. As a result, it is suspending its aid programs for those most affected by the war.

By Yael Marom

Palestinians stand in front of the entrance of Remal Elementary UNRWA School which is used as a temporary shelter by Palestinians living in the Norther part of the Gaza Strip, Gaza City on July 13, 2014. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Palestinians stand in front of the entrance of Remal Elementary UNRWA School which is used as a temporary shelter by Palestinians living in the Norther part of the Gaza Strip, Gaza City on July 13, 2014. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

UNRWA, the UN relief agency charged with providing aid to Palestinian refugees, announced Tuesday that it is suspending its financial aid program to the thousands of Gazans whose homes were destroyed during Operation Protective Edge last summer. The program was intended to assist them in repairing houses, as well as renting apartments for those who have remained homeless since the assault.

According to a statement by UNRWA, more than 96,000 homes belonging to refugees were damaged or destroyed during Protective Edge, and the cost to repair them is estimated at $720 million. Until now, UNRWA claims that it only received $135 million of the pledges for the program.

Read also: Report details IDF ‘double tap’ bombings in Gaza war

At a summit held last October in Cairo, donor states pledged over $5.4 billion for reconstruction in the Strip. The head of UNRWA in Gaza, Robert Turner, said that only a small portion of that money made it to Gaza, and called the decision to suspend the program troubling and unacceptable.

“If we cannot continue the program, it will have grave consequences for affected communities in Gaza,” Turner said in a statement. “People are desperate and the international community cannot even provide the bare minimum – for example a repaired home in winter – let alone a lifting of the blockade, access to markets or freedom of movement. We’ve said before that quiet will not last, and now the quiet is at risk.”

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How the joint Arab slate challenges Israel's discriminatory politics

For the first time, the Knesset could have a sizable political bloc that is ’100 percent for equality, 100 percent against occupation.’ The joint Arab slate should use this to not only challenge the right-wing’s discriminatory agenda, but to expose the center-left’s distorted idea of democracy. 

By Amjad Iraqi

Last week, the four main political parties representing Palestinian citizens of Israel announced their agreement to run as a joint slate in the upcoming elections. Although there is popular support for the decision, Palestinian citizens are uncertain of what the slate can achieve. Personal conflicts, ideological differences and other disputes will make it difficult for the parties to stay together after the elections. Moreover, its members will still be attacked in the Knesset by right-wing parties such as Likud and Jewish Home, and will likely be ignored by the center-left “Zionist Camp” led by Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni.

Hatnua leader Tzipi Livni, December 10, 2014. (Photo by Activestills.org)

‘Zionist Camp’ leader Tzipi Livni, December 10, 2014. (Photo by Activestills.org)

But despite the justified pessimism, a unique opportunity has emerged with the creation of the joint Arab slate. For the first time, the Knesset could have a sizeable political bloc that is “100 percent for equality, 100 percent against occupation.” The four Arab parties have always represented these views, but never as a single body with the potential to control nearly a dozen seats.

This development is significant since it not only challenges the right-wing’s discriminatory agenda, but also exposes the center-left’s distorted idea of democracy in Israel. Many in the international community believe that the “Zionist Camp” will diverge from the racist policies of the right-wing – both in relation to Palestinian citizens of Israel and to the wider Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But this is hardly the case. The discrimination faced by Palestinian citizens, along with the occupation of the Palestinian territories, did not begin when the right-wing came to power. It is a systemic reality born out of Israel’s “Jewish state” mission since 1948, which grants Jews privileges and rights not afforded to non-Jews, while seeking to force indigenous Palestinians to accept their inferior, second-class status.

The center-left has been both an architect and accomplice to this system, including as coalition partners to Netanyahu’s governments in 2009-2012 and 2013-2015. The difference is that while the right-wing wants...

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Israel won't become part of the Middle East until the occupation ends

The chance of Israel’s re-admittance to the Middle East lies in its ability to show initiative, originality and flexibility of thought. Only by attempting sincerely to solve the Palestinian problem will it have a chance to become a public and recognized player.

Prof. Elie Podeh

A few months ago, former Justice Minister Tzipi Livni traveled in secret to New York to a meeting attended by the foreign ministers of several Arab countries, Arab League officials and European foreign ministers. The topic of the meeting was the formulation of a regional coalition, or cooperation, against ISIS. Participation of an official Israeli representative of such a call marked a significant achievement in Israel’s foreign policy, and confirms that the post-Arab Spring developments in the region have created an opportunity for Israel to forge new alliances and coalitions with regional actors. Recently, it has been revealed that Foreign Minister Liberman secretly met Arab and Palestinians officials in Paris with the aim of promoting a regional initiative. In light of the diplomatic impasse, this is good news.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman (photo: Yotam Ronen / activestills)

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Why won’t Israel’s leaders hold public meetings with their Arab counterparts? (photo: Yotam Ronen / activestills)

The bad news is that these exchanges are held in the dark. This once again highlights the fact that Israel is still suffering from a “mistress syndrome” in the Middle East— relations with her must be kept a secret.

Since its existence, Israel has conducted secret contracts with individuals and countries in the Middle East. Common interests led to occasional cooperation, which needed to be hidden so as not to endanger the collaborators. Jordan’s King Abdullah and his grandson King Hussein held many talks with Israeli leaders. Abdullah even paid with his life for secret contacts that almost led to the first ever peace agreement with an Arab country. Even ties in the late 1950s and early 1960s between Israel, Turkey, Iran, Ethiopia and perhaps Sudan—the so-called “Periphery Alliance”—were kept secret.

Cooperation in the 1950s was designed to combat the threat posed to the Middle East by the pan-Arab ideology under the leadership of Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser. Thus, for example, Israel was covertly involved in the Yemeni civil war of the 1960s, in which it helped royalists in their struggle against the republican...

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The Arab parties united? Great, now it's time to get to work

After a great deal of work, the joint Arab election slate has finally come into fruition. But what does the list say about the place of women in Arab politics? Who proved himself to be the real leader of the group? And what can the Arab public do now?

By Samah Salaime Egbariya

Members of newly announced "United List" of Arab parties in Israel ahead of March 17, 2015 election Photo: Courtesy Balad)

Members of newly announced “United List” of Arab parties in Israel ahead of March 17, 2015 election Photo: Courtesy Balad)

You know that joke about how Arabs can’t agree about anything but the fact that they disagree about everything? Well, it is officially no longer relevant!

With the looming elections and the raising of the electoral threshold, Israel’s Arab population went into a long state of difficult contractions. A group of talented gynecologists, nicknamed the “agreement committee,” were appointed to bridge the gaps between the Arab parties and worked without a midwife, trying everything they could in order to birth to a united election slate.

Let’s just say it was a vacuum delivery, and that the committee was resigned to do it forcefully. But why ruin our most joyous occasions? The main thing is that the list was born and that Arab society is now recuperating from a difficult birth. The decision over which MKs will receive ministerial portfolios (should it ever come to that) could bring about a world war, so we’ll set aside these issues for a different time.

For now let us read between the lines of the agreement, which was disseminated across social media outlets and was signed by all the respectable men present during the negotiations. The agreement, which is similar to Israel’s Declaration of Independence with its colorful signatures, was sent out alongside a photo of tie-wearing men straight out of Kafr Kara. What do we see in this new list?

1. Women

Representation of Arab women in the next Knesset will double. To two. It all sounds much nicer when we look at it in terms of percentages: a 100 percent increase in Arab women in the Knesset! Ahmed Tibi’s Ta’al faction started acting like a proper political party and struggled to get one of its own women into the list —...

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Arab parties likely to announce historic joint election slate in coming days

Islamists, Marxists, women and Jews: The Arab parties have done the seemingly impossible and are likely announce a united election slate in the coming days.

By Yael Marom and Nadav Frankovich

Ra’am-Ta’al MK Ahmed Tibi. (photo: Activestills.org)

Israel’s Arab parties are expected to announce the formation of a combined election slate in the lead-up to the upcoming elections. The slate, which will group Ra’am, Balad, Hadash and Ta’al into one party (without formally merging), has been named “The United List,” and is set to include secular, religious, female and Jewish politicians.

While the different Arab parties have historically run separately, a law spearheaded last year by Avigdor Liberman and Yair Lapid raised the election threshold to 3.25 percent (four seats), and has effectively forced the parties to consider joining forces in order to remain relevant. The new threshold has sparked a fierce debate about the possibility of giving an equal voice to all sectors of the Arab population, as well as the inclusion of Hadash’s Jewish members.

According to +972 Magazine’s sister site, Local Call, which spoke to several sources, the list will likely headed by Hadash’s Ayman Odeh, who was elected party chairman last week, followed by Masud Ghnaim of the Islamist Ra’am and Balad’s Jamal Zahalka in third place. Ahmed Tibi (Ta’al) will take the fourth place, followed by Aida Touma-Sliman from Hadash.

Read: Joint Arab list would raise voter participation, +972 poll shows

Abdel Hakim Haj Yahia (Ra’am) will take the sixth place, and Hanin Zoabi (Balad) will be placed number seven. Eighth place will go to Hadash’s Dov Khenin, the only Jewish member of the slate who is likely to be elected, followed by Ra’am’s Taleb Abu Arar.

The biggest controversy is between Balad and Hadash over spots 10 and 11 (between Balad’s Basel Ghattas and Yousef Jabareen from Hadash), and places 13-14 (Jum’a Azbarga from Balad or Abdullah Abu-Ma’arouf from Hadash). Furthermore, spots 12 and 15 have yet to be decided between representatives of Ra’am and Ta’al.

Hadash's new party chairman, Ayman Odeh. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Hadash’s new party chairman, Ayman Odeh, along with the party’s second in command, Aida Touma-Sliman. What kind of compromises will Hadash have to make as part...

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The importance of being earnest about human rights

In an open letter, one of Israel’s foremost refugee rights lawyers calls on the deputy attorney general to follow her conscience.

By Asaf Weitzen

Thousands of African asylum seekers leave Holot detention center without intention to come, June 25, 2014. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Thousands of African asylum seekers leave Holot detention center without intention to come, June 25, 2014. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Dear Deputy Attorney General Dina Silber:

I am familiar with a bit of your academic work, including two books you authored and speeches that you give from time to time. You have demonstrated a deep commitment to basic rights and an understanding that the any government must be checked if and when it seeks to infringe upon basic rights. What I find incomprehensible is the disparity between those views and your intensive involvement in legislating the amendment to the Prevention of Infiltration Act. Hence this letter. Due to the importance of the issue at stake and its relevance to the public, I feel that it should be published and I would appreciate the publication of your response to it as well.

I am not trying to convince you that you are perpetrating an injustice. I am not calling on you to “refuse.” I am only asking you to help me understand. To reveal what it is that allows you to work with such devotion and intensity on the legislation of an additional amendment to the Prevention of Infiltration Act. How do you remain so devoted to a law that translates into the continued deprivation of liberty, all while doing nothing for overburdened neighborhoods like south Tel Aviv that have high concentrations of asylum seekers and other non-deportable foreigners.

I make three basic assumptions in this letter. The first assumption is that you have freedom of choice and that you would not pay a catastrophic personal price should you refuse to take part in the legislative process. The second assumption is that you believe the denial of liberty from the innocent and harmless should be a last resort, and that every man and woman has a right to weave his or her own life story. In other words, I assume that if it were up to you, the phenomenon of unauthorized entry into the country — which has all but stopped — were to be addressed entirely...

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Why EU recognition of Palestine isn't enough

If the European Union wants to play a more active role in Israel-Palestine peacemaking it should first articulate a common policy and decide whether it can continue playing second fiddle to Washington.

By Charalampos Tsitsopoulos

EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, July 11, 2014. (EU Photo)

EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, July 11, 2014. (EU Photo)

Much has been made of recent European initiatives to symbolically recognize a Palestinian state in pre-1967 borders. On December 17, 2014, a European Parliament resolution supported “in principle recognition of Palestinian statehood.” The move followed similar resolutions in individual European parliaments in previous months. Meanwhile, there was no shortage of commendation for European recognitions, welcomed by the Arab League as a measure that will “undoubtedly put pressure” on Israel.

While far from speaking with one voice, the Europeans at least seemed to agree on basic common denominators for their regional policies, something no shortage of observers have described as vital if Europe is to advance stability in the region. Articulating coordinated policies would also signify something else: that Europe has come a long way from its eternal policy of playing ‘second fiddle’ to the United States.

Yet, hailing Europe’s supposed resurrection ignores the deeper question of the efficiency and impact of its actions. Are Europe’s recent initiatives a renewed push for bolstering the resolution of the conflict? Have Europeans calculated the potential impact their actions have on regional stakeholders? Or are these merely a fig leaf meant to conceal the absence of true progress in Israel/Palestine? It would be hard to ignore the latter. And here is why:

Europe’s approach does not seem to be particularly nuanced. Had it wished to play a constructive role in the region, it could have formulated a clear objective and a strategy for achieving it. True, the EU Parliament resolution talks about two states living side by side in security and under international law. But this in itself is simply a repetition of what every institution and individual hoping for a two-state solution has said for decades: one could hardly be accused of pedantry for expecting a more sophisticated approach from the EU. For example, the Resolution calls settlements “illegal under international law”. That’s hardly a surprise....

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Netanyahu blames Abbas for Tel Aviv stabbing attack

Palestinian man boards public bus during rush hour, stabbing at least 10 before being shot in the leg and apprehended.

Photos by Oren Ziv, Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org

Medics treat a victim of a stabbing attack on a Tel Aviv bus line, January 21, 2015. (Activestills.org)

Medics treat a victim of a stabbing attack on a Tel Aviv bus line, January 21, 2015. (Activestills.org)

A Palestinian man from Tulkarm stabbed at least 10 people on a public bus in Tel Aviv Wednesday morning. Three of them were in serious wounded, four moderately.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu placed blame for the attack on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, saying that it “is the direct result of the poisonous incitement being disseminated by the Palestinian Authority against the Jews and their state.”

“[Abbas] is responsible for both the incitement and the dangerous move at the ICC in the Hague,” he added.

Just after 7 a.m., during rush hour, the 23-year-old from Tulkarm boarded public a bus on Begin Road, a major thoroughfare in the city. He reportedly starting stabbing the driver and other passengers before fleeing.

An Israel Prison Service officer who happened to be nearby shot him in the leg and apprehended him.

Israeli police evacuate the Palestinian suspect in a bus stabbing, whom an Israel Prison Service officer shot in the leg and apprehended. (Photo by Activestills.org)

Israeli police evacuate the Palestinian suspect in a bus stabbing, whom an Israel Prison Service officer shot in the leg and apprehended. (Photo by Activestills.org)

Several months ago there was a string of deadly of stabbing and vehicular attacks against Israeli civilians and security forces, culminating with a terror attack in a Jerusalem synagogue.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu placed blame for the attack on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, saying that it “is the direct result of the poisonous incitement being disseminated by the Palestinian Authority against the Jews and their state.”

Related:

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Is Eastern Europe the next front for fighting the occupation?

While Israel’s behavior has managed to antagonize many European countries, some former Soviet states have yet to take a stand against the occupation. That may just change soon enough.

By Inna Michaeli

Israeli Foreign Minister and chairman of Israel Beitenu, Avigdor Lieberman (photo: Israel IMFA / flickr)

Israeli Foreign Minister and chairman of Israel Beitenu, Avigdor Lieberman (photo: Israel IMFA / flickr)

The vile and repugnant behavior of Avigdor Liberman and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs toward Sweden (one of my favorite countries) has re-lit a spark of optimism. At least among those of us who hope that international pressure will force Israel to end the occupation.

When it comes to international relations it isn’t the human rights violations or war crimes that cause antagonism toward Israel. Rather, it is the use of tactics such as “defense is the best offense” and representatives such as Liberman that do the trick. But the journey from interpersonal hostility to sanctions is long, much like the journey from headline-making political theater to actual change in policy. It seems, however, like those roots are being firmly planted.

Four years ago I traveled to Brussels for a series of meetings at the European Union as part of my previous job with Coalition of Women for Peace. It was a year after Liberman was appointed foreign minister. During that year, he not only managed to cause the entire EU leadership to hate him, he also brought up fond memories of his predecessor, Tzipi Livni.

Pearl of wisdom #1: Diplomatic work is superficial

It doesn’t matter that as part of her job Livni worked to whitewash mass killings during the Second Lebanon War and Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. For her European colleagues, Livni was far easier to work with. Liberman’s macho chic, not to mention his caveman style, was less successful.

Understanding the goings-on in the corridors of the European Union is like an allegory for understanding art history. In art history, one learns a lot about the gossipy relationships between the different artists. The EU gives similar weight to interpersonal relationships, and its agenda is affected by fads. Truly, it’s all very tiring.

So what is the positive side of it all? Israeli behavior leads to antagonism against it, mostly due to a series of personal and national...

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In Tunisia, Muslims and Jews come together to honor Paris victim

A vigil in honor of Yoav Hattab, who was killed in the terrorist attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris, brought together Tunisians of all faiths to Tunis’ Grand Synagogue. Together they formed a united against all forms of terrorism and extremism.

By Houda Mzioudet

TUNIS — Approximately 200 people gathered Saturday night at the Grand Synagogue in Tunis to pay tribute to Yoav Hattab, the young Tunisian Jew who was killed in the attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris last week. The crowd, which was comprised of different religious groups and nationalities, lit candles in honor of Hattab, sang the Tunisian national anthem and chanted “Viva Tunisia!”

A Muslim woman and her daughter attend the vigil in honor of Yoav Hattab, Tunis, January 17, 2015. (photo: Houda Mzioudet)

A Muslim woman and her daughter attend the vigil in honor of Yoav Hattab, Tunis, January 17, 2015. (photo: Salma Jarad)

Both local and international media outlets were present at the event, which included renowned academics, Tunisian Jews from across the country and even several foreign embassy employees. The Grand Synagogue is located in Tunis’ Lafayette neighborhood, home to Tunisia’s Jewish community, where Hattab is remembered for attending Shabbat services on a regular basis. His family did not attend the vigil, as they are still mourning in Jerusalem, where Hattab was buried.

One Tunisian Jew paid tribute to those who died defending the Tunisian state – especially the soldiers who were killed by Islamist militants in the Chaambi Mountains near the Algerian border in July 2014. Hattab also died trying to defend hostages during Amedy Coulibaly’s attack on the Hypercacher store in Paris.

“They were were not only martyrs – they should be elevated to the status of saints,” said the man. “Charlie Hebdo cartoonists such as George Wolinski and Elsa Cayat, who died from the terrorist’s bullets, were also Tunisian. Some of the four Jews who died in the kosher market were of Tunisian origin, including Yoav,” he added.

Tsion Cohen, 22, from Djerba attended the vigil to honor Hattab and show support to his family and friends. “We are like a family,” he said, “We wanted to show that Tunisia is the land of all faiths, to show that Tunisians are all brothers – be they Muslims, Jews, Christians or atheists.”

Cohen admitted that although...

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This election, Liberman's racism is going mainstream

Liberman launched his election campaign under the slogan ‘Ariel to Israel, Umm al-Fahm to Palestine,’ once again signaling his willingness to expel Palestinian citizens from the country. The only difference? This time around he is being flagged as a moderate.

By Samah Salaime Egbariya

Avigdor Liberman speaks at the campaign launch for the upcoming elections. (photo: Yotam Ronen/Activestills)

Avigdor Liberman speaks at the campaign launch for the upcoming elections. One of the campaign slogans reads “Ariel to Israel, Umm al-Fahm to Palestine.” (photo: Yotam Ronen/Activestills)

Every time Avigdor Liberman opens his mouth to speak, one can smell hate and fear-mongering. In a speech during his election campaign launch Thursday morning, Liberman went a step further in his racist and inciting speech against Israel’s Arab citizens.

While his Yisrael Beiteinu party is being investigated for a major corruption scandal, Liberman is pulling out his most powerful weapon – one that always works in catching the attention of both the Left and the Right (assuming there is such a thing in Israel): attacking the Arabs, threatening in the most obscene way to harm their lives, security and rights to their land.

Once again he pulls the rabbit out of the hat: “population exchange.” Again? Yes, again and again. And this time, like all the other times, the idea that once seemed so out of touch is beginning to permeate into the political “center.” It goes something like this: Liberman lets fly another crazy idea into the political ether, repeats it at any given opportunity, forcing citizens and the media alike to play around with it. At a certain point they start to discuss it as a serious possibility. “Moving Umm al-Fahm to Palestine.” Slowly but surely the idea sounds like it is becoming more acceptable and possible. It is a classically racist plan whose goal is to erase, demonize and take whatever rights are left to the oppressed minority. Time after time it’s the same message: transfer, population exchange, expelling the local population, loyalty oaths and more.

Liberman is thus crowning himself as the expert on discrimination and violence. He demands the expulsion of Arabs from Wadi Ara in Israel’s north, as well as from everywhere else, while continuing to fan the flames of war in the occupied territories. He is not willing to see the Palestinians who were...

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Losing my faith in humanity: Six years since 'Operation Cast Lead'

Somewhere between that Saturday, when the gates of hell had opened on Gaza, until the ceasefire 22 days later, everything I had known about human beings, about my society, even about myself had been blown to pieces.

By Lilach Ben David

File photo of an Israeli air strike on the Gaza Strip (Photo by ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock.com)

File photo of an Israeli air strike on the Gaza Strip (Photo by ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock.com)

It happened exactly six years ago. Three weeks of murder, blood and unfathomable cruelty came to a sudden halt. All of a sudden the noise was gone.

As my life quieted down following weeks of protests, violence, news and arguing, I felt it for the first time. Or perhaps it is more accurate to say that for the first time I had the breathing room to comprehend just what had changed inside me.

Don’t get me wrong. This wasn’t my first “operation” as an activist. I was already yelling into the megaphone during the Second Lebanon War in 2006, and the smell of tear gas is something I have gotten quite used to. I remembered the horrors of Operation Defensive Shield during the days of the Second Intifada, the killing of 13 unarmed Palestinian youth during the events of October 2000, and despite my age, even Operation Grapes of Wrath in 1996 left a mark on me. None of what was coming should have taken me by surprise.

But despite those memories, when the three weeks of Operation Cast Lead ended, it felt like someone had reached into my chest, tore out a piece of my heart, and left me breathing.

Somewhere between the Saturday I spent with a group of lovely women near the end of December, which was cut short by the news that the gates of hell had opened on Gaza, until the ceasefire 22 days later, everything I had known about human beings, about my society, even about myself had been blown to pieces. My heart broke during Cast Lead like no unrequited love, unfaithfulness or false hopes could ever break it until then or even since.

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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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