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For Israeli media, even the memory of the Nakba poses a threat

A new study reveals that although Israeli newspapers present an array of views on the Nakba, the most common one sees it as nothing less than a threat that seeks to delegitimize Israel.

By Oren Persico / ‘The 7th Eye

An ultra-orthodox Jewish man walks in the depopulated Palestinian village of Lifta, located on the edge of West Jerusalem, Israel, March 4, 2014. During the Nakba, the residents of Lifta fled attacks by Zionist militias beginning in December 1947, resulting in the complete evacuation of the village by February 1948. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/

An ultra-orthodox Jewish man walks in the depopulated Palestinian village of Lifta, located on the edge of West Jerusalem, Israel, March 4, 2014. During the Nakba, the residents of Lifta fled attacks by Zionist militias beginning in December 1947, resulting in the complete evacuation of the village by February 1948. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/

A new study reveals that Israel’s mainstream media maintains the state’s official stance toward the Nakba, and “puts full responsibility on the tragedy that occurred in 1948 on the Palestinian leadership, thus purifying Israel from any responsibility for the outcome of the war on the Palestinian people.”

The study, conducted by Amal Jamal and Samah Basool and published earlier this year by the I’lam Media Center for Arab Palestinians in Israel, is based on the way Israel’s five main newspapers – Yedioth Ahronot, Ma’ariv, Israel Hayom, Haaretz and Hamodia – describe the Nakba (the Arabic word for “catastrophe,” which Palestinians use to describe the expulsion of over 750,000 Palestinians from their homes during the 1948 War). The researchers looked at how the newspaper articles refer to the Nakba during the period in which the term comes up most naturally – two weeks before Israel’s Independence Day, and two weeks after May 15, Nakba Day. The study took place between 2008-2012 in an attempt to understand the “patterns of perceptions of the Palestinian Nakba in the Israeli collective consciousness, as they are reflected in Israel’s media discourse.”

In their study, Jamal and Basool stress that the goal is not “to argue over the stances in the articles sampled, but rather to classify their contents according to parameters of attitudes.”

As one could probably guess, the newspaper that publishes the highest number of articles relating to the subject is Haaretz. Surprisingly, Israel...

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Israel’s marriage police: An aberration from Jewish tradition

From interrogations to blacklists to computerized databases, Israel’s rabbinical authorities have adopted a coercive system of oversight that punishes violators of Jewish law’s bans on ‘certain’ kinds of relationships.

By Akiva Miller

Everyone knows that Israel’s Jewish-Orthodox-controlled marriage system must change. But while activists, lawyers and politicians struggling to reform it have won some important battles in recent years, one of the most important factors behind the crisis — the rabbinical authorities’ system of databases, investigative methods, and coercive powers — has received too little attention.

This system is best understood as a marriage police, motivated by an unprecedented zealousness to detect, enforce and punish would-be violators of Jewish law’s ancient bans on certain kinds of relationships as if they were criminal offenses — most notably the prohibitions on intermarriage and the marriage of a mamzer, the offspring of illicit relations. While the Jewish prohibitions date back two millennia or more, Israel’s marriage police is a new phenomenon of recent decades. It is not rooted in law, but almost entirely built upon a patchwork of administrative regulations and decisions by Israel’s rabbinical courts.

The first and best-known process for policing marriage prohibitions is the pre-registration interview. This interview is at times more like an interrogation; witnesses and relatives of suspect couples are brought before the marriage registrar to give testimony, asked to bring evidence, and are carefully cross-examined on the couples’ Jewishness. This can be a humiliating process, and makes ordinary Israelis feel that the religious authorities of the Jewish state are calling their Jewish identity into question.

If an individual is suspected of being subject to a marriage prohibition, their case is brought before the rabbinical courts. Ordinarily, these cases involve only adults who have applied to marry and were turned away. In recent decades, however, rabbinical courts have adopted the view that they have the authority to initiate investigations into the marriage eligibility of minor children who were born under circumstances that may make their marriage prohibited – whether suspected mamzerim or children of suspected non-Jewish or convert parents. Once any person — adult or child — is caught up in the rabbinical courts, the ordeal can last for years and extracts a heavy financial and emotional toll.

The system of marriage police relies on modern information technologies. One such tool is the “blacklist,” a national database containing thousands of individuals suspected of being under marriage prohibition. A...

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'Activestills' photographers featured in 'Local Testimony' competition

Photojournalism exhibition opens in Tel Aviv. Works by Tali Mayer, Yotam Ronen and Oren Ziv of Activestills are among those being featured for their work in 2014.

Photographers from the Activestills collective, partners of +972 Magazine, Yotam Ronen, Tali Mayer and Oren Ziv are among the winners of the 2014 “Local Testimony” photojournalism competition.

The “Photograph of the Year” was taken by Yuval Chen of Yedioth Aharonoth, who documented the girlfriend of 20-year-old fallen IDF soldier Guy Algranati standing over his grave, surrounded by members of his army unit in the Kiryat Shaul cemetery. Daniel Tchetchik of Haaretz won the prize for “Series of the Year” for “Sunburn,” photos from around the country. Taking the prize in the “News” category was independent photographer Avishag Shaar-Yashuv.

Taking first place in the “Photographed Story” category was Dan Haimovich, who documented the homeless population of an encampment in Tel Aviv, parts of which were published in +972’s Hebrew-language sister publication, “Local Call.”

The competition is part of an exhibition that opened this week in the Land of Israel Museum in Tel Aviv, featuring photojournalism images from local and global photographers.

In the News category, Activestills’ Tali Mayer’s photographs were featured in the “Curator’s choice” selection:

The 2014 “Local Testimony” competition. (

The 2014 “Local Testimony” competition. (Tali Mayer/

Photos by Activestills’ Oren Ziv took second place in the same category for his series on the struggle of African asylum seekers in Israel:

Second place in the “Curator’s Choice” category. (Oren Ziv/

Second place in the “Curator’s Choice” category. (Oren Ziv/

Second place in the “Curator’s Choice” category. (Oren Ziv/

Second place in the “Curator’s Choice” category. (Oren Ziv/

Ziv’s photo from May 1 protests were also selected in the curator’s choice category for religion and community:

Curator’s choice in “Local Testimony” for Religion and Community. (Oren Ziv/

May Day, 2014. Curator’s choice in “Local Testimony” for Religion and Community. (Oren Ziv/

In a selection featuring photos of the violence this past summer, photos by Activestills’ Yotam Ronen were included:

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WATCH: A heartbreaking portrait of life in Hebron, in 9 minutes

By Moriel Rothman-Zecher

What does life under occupation look like for a teenage Palestinian?

A new, powerful short film by filmmaker and activist Yuval Orr attempts to show exactly that, by following 15-year-old Awni Abu Shamsiya as he attempts to maintain some shred of normalcy in his hometown of Hebron.

Hebron, where the occupation is in many ways manifested in its rawest form, is the only Palestinian city inside which there is an Israeli settlement. It is a junction of direct and daily conflict between Palestinian civilians, Israeli soldiers and Jewish-Israeli settlers. It is a city where streets are segregated between Jews and Palestinians,and one of the places where freedom of movement is most restricted. It is the site of some of the worst civilian-led massacres, on both sides, since the beginning of Jewish-Arab conflict. No single work can summarize this city and its machinations, in nine minutes or nine days, but Yuval’s film, in zooming in on one day in Awni Abu Shamsiya’s life, gets as close as anything I’ve seen recently.

Maybe it’s the throat-clench of absurdity or the dull-throb of heartbreak, but “Khalil Helwa” (Hebron is Beautiful) is one of the most powerful films about life under occupation in Hebron that I’ve seen in years. The film leaves room for the viewer to come to her own conclusions, while maintaining a clear, humane and empathetic view of the gallingly unfair situation.

But forget what I have to say. The work speaks for itself, whether you’ve been to Hebron 50 times or only know the vaguest contours of its story.

Watch the full nine-minute film:

Moriel Rothman-Zecher is a writer and activist, based in Tel Aviv. He blogs independently at Follow the filmmaker (@yuvalorr) and the author (@Moriel_RZ) on Twitter.

In Hebron, terror begets a reign of terror
This is what a military operation in Hebron looks like
Former Israeli AG: We should have evicted Hebron settlers

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A land without a people?: A visit to Russia's Jewish autonomous region

A visit to Birobidzhan, where Jewish autonomy hasn’t exactly worked out — and yet, the sign for Lenin Street is still written in Yiddish and public monuments commemorate Sholem Aleichem.

By Yakov Rabkin

Last summer, after three months of teaching in Japan, I decided to return home to Montreal via Birobidzhan, in Russia’s Far East. The Jewish Autonomous Region was getting ready to celebrate its 80th anniversary, and I easily found people to host me.

Built by Jewish enthusiasts from a dozen countries including Argentina, Canada, France, the United States and British Palestine, Birobidzhan is conceptually akin to Israel, which also considers Jews as a nationality rather than a confession. But unlike the State of Israel, Birobidzhan was built on a true “land without a people” and did not have to displace anyone to make the Communist Jewish dream come true. This is one of the reasons an earlier plan to create a Jewish autonomous region in the Crimea, populated for thousands of years, was abandoned in favor of the Far East. Of course, most settlers came from within the Soviet Union, particularly from the Ukraine and Belorussia, where millions of Jews had been living for centuries. They wanted to contribute to the edification of socialism explicitly as Jews.

Two local Jews, cousins Sasha and Igor, met me at the Khabarovsk airport, the closest to Birobidzhan. Igor had recently returned from Israel after 17 years, two of which he spent in the military.

A sign marks the entrance to Birobidjan. (Photo by Yakov Rabkin)

A sign marks the entrance to Birobidzhan. (Photo by Yakov Rabkin)

As we were approaching Birobidzhan, I noticed a white entrance arch with the name of the town spelled in Russian and Yiddish. Impressed by the appearance of Hebrew letters a few miles from the Russia-China border, I stopped the car to take pictures. It did not take me long to get accustomed to street signs in Yiddish, a menorah in front of the train station and a statue of a shofar-blowing Hasid in the middle of Lenin Street (also spelled in Yiddish).

The sign for Lenin Street, in Yiddish. (Photo by Yakov Rabkin)

The sign for Lenin Street, in Yiddish. (Photo by Yakov Rabkin)

Unlike most Soviet towns, Lenin street is not the main thoroughfare in Birobidzhan; instead, the...

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From Gaza to Salameh: A Palestinian refugee's journey home

A Palestinian refugee from Gaza journey’s to his family’s hometown in present-day Tel Aviv. Standing on what used to be the village cemetery, he feels the ghosts of the past as he must reckon with the currently reality.

By Eitan Bronstein Aparicio (translated by Charles Kamen)

On International Human Rights Day, he took advantage of his basic rights and returned to Salameh, which today is known as Kfar Shalem. It is the first time he has visited the place where his parents were born. His father was born in 1936 and was 12 when he, along with the rest of the residents of the town, was forced to leave his home and move to the Gaza Strip where they still live today. I won’t mention his name so as not to endanger him.

He’s excited as we make our way to Salameh, growing quiet for a long time as we go from the village mosque and the mukhtar’s house. He spends some time on the exercise equipment in a local playground while his four-year-old nephew plays on the slides. The playground was erected on Salameh’s cemetery, of which nothing remains.

The son of refugees from Salameh stands outside the village mosque. Today Salameh is known as 'Kfar Shalem' and is part of Tel Aviv. (photo: Eléonore Merza)

The son of refugees from Salameh stands outside the village mosque. Today Salameh is known as ‘Kfar Shalem’ and is part of Tel Aviv. (photo: Eléonore Merza)

When we arrive at the mosque he calls his father. Even before he tells him where is, his father asks whether he has already visited Salameh. He tells his father that although the village in which he was born has become a neighborhood in Tel Aviv, some of the original buildings and the winding village streets preserve its memory. His father doesn’t speak at length. “It must not be easy for him,” he says and asks me about the village school. His father, who had been a pupil there, asks whether it’s still standing. I take him to the school which today houses the offices of the National Insurance Institute. When the construction plans are complete and the remaining residents who currently live in Salameh’s buildings are evacuated, only the mosque will remain. Its dome was damaged by rioters in 2000 and has yet to...

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'Truth commission' uncovers the history of Bedouin dispossession

An informal ‘Public Truth Commission’ set out to find exactly what happened to the Negev Bedouin between 1948 and 1960. While Bedouin witnesses told stories of massacres, rape and expulsions, former Israeli soldiers said they were just following orders. 

By Tom Pessah

Negev Bedouin speak during Zochrot's Public Truth Commission, Be'er Sheva, December 10, 2014. (photo: Ahmad al-Bazz)

Negev Bedouin speak during Zochrot’s Public Truth Commission, Be’er Sheva, December 10, 2014. (photo: Ahmad al-Bazz)

I identify as straight, so I cannot claim to know how it feels to be in the closet. But I do have friends who identify as LGBTQ, and they have taught me a little about what it is like: to constantly evade the subject is exhausting. If you demand that people hide such central parts of their identities, you’ll never have close relationships with them. Likewise many people I know see themselves as “pro-peace” or “pro-Palestine,” but expect Palestinians to remain “in the closet” about their history, particularly that of 1948.

Zochrot, an Israeli NGO, is experimenting with ways to bring awareness about the Palestinian Nakba to the Jewish Israeli public. After two years of preparations, they convened an informal Public Truth Commission at Ben-Gurion University in Beersheba last week, in order to examine the displacement of Palestinians in the Negev/Naqab by Israeli forces that took place from 1948 to 1960. Why until 1960? Most people are actually unaware of the fact the majority of local Bedouin tribes were driven off their lands into either Sinai, the West Bank, or an isolated reservation east of Beersheba (the “Sayag”) in the 1950s – long after the war ended.

But how can “nomads” be driven off “their lands?” Most people also do not know about the Bedouins’ semi-nomadic form of settlement, which included tilling plots of land in particular areas associated with each tribe. The Ottomans had noticed this practice in the 16th century, but Israeli state representatives have continued to deny this in court in order to justify the present-day eviction of entire communities.

The first to share details of these events were several Bedouin witnesses. Still residing within Israel, they recounted how the army had ordered them to leave their lands, promising that the move would only be temporary. Another witness spoke of an unknown massacre in al-Araqeeb, where 14 men were executed in 1948....

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The day that Mandela Square graces Jerusalem

Like Mandela, we in Israel have fought for our liberation from colonialism. But the world Mandela inspires is far from accepting Israel’s occupation of Palestine.

By Ilan Baruch

Bethlehem-area activists honor the memory of Nelson Mandela at a ceremony in Manger Square, West Bank, December 7, 2013. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/

Bethlehem-area activists honor the memory of Nelson Mandela at a ceremony in Manger Square, West Bank, December 7, 2013. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/

On December 5th, South Africa and the world commemorated the passing away of Neslon Mandela, one of the most illustrious men in the history of modern times. In the duration of my tenure as Ambassador of Israel to South Africa, Mandela was no longer playing a role in the political dynamics of the country, and ambassadorial courtesy visits to his office were nearly impossible. Thanks, however, to the extraordinary help of a prominent Jewish advocate in Johannesburg and his close confidant, such a meeting was afforded to my wife and I in May 2006. Needless to say we were overwhelmed when stepping into the offices of the most universally admired individual in our times. Upon entry, Zelda, his mythological Chief of Staff, responded to my whispered, diplomatic question: “Twenty-eight minutes, tight!”

The tall man received us in his usual batik and warm smile. Soon, the conversation flowed. Mandela opted for a conversation on Judaism, the Jewish nation and above all his sense of gratitude to the Jewish community in South Africa. He told us of his first employers, a Jewish Law firm in Johannesburg, where upon day one he was told “indoors we are all equal.” Then he told us of his bosses who suggested that he buys his daily lunch, for which they generously paid, in a certain eatery. When he asked about the bosses’ insistence, they answered: “the Jewish lady running it lost her husband recently and is in dire need of the income.” Reminiscing, Mandela said: “this kind of solidarity the Jews are entitled to be proud of and we need to learn from.” We felt very proud indeed.

Read: The most hypocritical Mandela eulogies by Israeli politicians

Mandela liked us, and kindly refused Zelda’s explicit hints to round our meeting up. He told us of his political conversations in the infamous Robben Island prison, particularly with the younger...

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U.S. torture report shows the danger of Israel's legal loopholes

In American discourse, torture is a dark stain on the country’s recent history. In Israel, there is no law against torture and the justification of its use is still mainstream.

By Nadeem Shehadeh and Amjad Iraqi

Illustrative photo of protests against Guantanamo (Photo by Lilac Mountain/

Illustrative photo of protests against Guantanamo (Photo by Lilac Mountain/

The United States Senate this week released its long-awaited report on the CIA’s use of torture during the so-called “War on Terror.” A significant revelation in the report was that the CIA relied upon an Israeli High Court decision on torture and other Israeli policies as legal justifications for its own torture practices. These include the vague concepts of “necessity” and “ticking bombs,” and the use of enhanced interrogation techniques defined misleadingly as “moderate physical pressure.”

Since the Israeli High Court handed down its decision on torture 15 years ago, the ruling has been lauded by many observers as “revolutionary” for its supposed regulation of the use of torture to obtain information from suspects for urgent security purposes. However, as demonstrated by the Senate report, and as Israeli and Palestinian human rights organizations have long-argued, the High Court’s ruling is riddled with serious flaws – or more accurately, deliberate shortcomings – that merely grant the appearance of a progressive approach to the use of torture.

A chief problem is that torture is not a crime under Israeli law. From the outset, this violates provisions of international human rights covenants ratified by Israel, such as the Convention Against Torture, that forbid the use of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment (CIDT) in all their forms. Among other recommendations, international human rights bodies have consistently called on Israel to explicitly prohibit torture through legislation in line with these treaties; to this day, no such legislation exists.

In part because torture is not a crime, there are no criminal prosecutions of its perpetrators, and hence no legal remedies for victims. Israeli agencies that routinely use torture in their work – including the military, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), and prison authorities – enjoy extensive impunity. While the High Court’s ruling and various internal state bodies give the illusion of oversight and regulation, in reality these ‘torture agencies’ are essentially free to act without fear of punishment....

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Disengagement? Israel's interests in Gaza are stronger than ever

There is something ironic and self-contradictory about the Israeli Right’s plans for managing the conflict instead of solving it: Israel doesn’t have a real interest in truly disconnecting from Gaza. And Gaza isn’t going anywhere.

By Itamar Sha’altiel

A Palestinian child sits in front of a wall riddled with shrapnel, in the city of Beit Hanoun, Gaza Strip on November 17, 2014. (photo:

A Palestinian child sits in front of a wall riddled with shrapnel, in the city of Beit Hanoun, Gaza Strip on November 17, 2014. (photo:

Over the past several years Yoaz Hendel has been been positioning himself as a natural candidate to be Israel’s prime minister. With a column in Yedioth Ahronoth, his own radio show and an opinion on everything, Hendel is everywhere. Among other things, he also has an opinion on Gaza. It’s worth taking a look at:

According to Hendel, Israel has only two option: replace Hamas or turn Gaza from a “non-defined entity into a proper enemy state.” The first option is irrelevant. If we replace Hamas, he says, we’ll face another regime that will act against Israel. Therefore the second option is the only relevant one — properly disconnecting from Gaza:

This paragraph contains Hendel’s only political strategy vis-a-vis Gaza. Really. Read the original. These are the main principles:

- Disconnecting Israeli infrastructure, while creating alternatives
- Allowing imports and exports under Israeli supervision
- Full cooperation with Egypt for the reduction of weapons smuggling into Gaza

Between imagination and reality

It isn’t fair to ask Hendel to lay out a fully developed plan on his Facebook page. It is difficult, however, to ignore the big question marks in his remarks. Hendel writes that we need to create “alternatives” for the electricity, water and infrastructure that Israel supplies Gaza. (Israel actually sells them, but who has time for details?) He does not delve into these alternatives. The power station in Gaza has been partially operating for years, and even if all of its turbines are fixed it will not be able to supply enough electricity for all of Gaza’s residents. Does Hendel think about building a new power station? Where will the gas come from? Who will provide the building supplies? And what about water? And Internet? And phones? Hendel does not go into details.


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How a Galilee Palestinian beat the odds to become an Arab Idol finalist

On his way to the finale of one of the most important shows in the Arab world, Haitham Khalailah had to deal with the Shin Bet, restrictions on the movement of Palestinian citizens and the fraught connection between Palestinians in Israel and the rest of the Middle East. Will he be the second Palestinian in a row to be crowned winner?

By Yael Marom and Henriette Chacar

Haitham Khalailah, a 24-year-old Palestinian singer from Majd al-Krum, competed Friday night in the finale of Arab Idol – the most popular singing competition in the entire Arab world. Hundreds of millions of viewers will have to decide by Saturday night whether Khalailah — who was able to unite Palestinians in the occupied territories, Israel and around the world — should win. The other two finalists are Hazem al-Sharif of Syria and Majd al-Madani from Saudi Arabia.

Haitham sang two songs in the semifinals, the first of which was Saber Ruba’i's “Ahla Nisaa al-Dunia” (“The most beautiful women in the world”), followed by “‘Ala Dal’ona,” one of the most important and well-known Palestinian folk songs, which had the entire studio audience on their feet.

Khalailah performs “‘Ala Dal’ona” during the Arab Idol semifinals:

Khalailah began his Arab Idol journey alongside Manal Moussa, another contestant from the north who caused quite a bit of controversy and was subsequently voted off in the quarterfinals. Moussa took a different approach than Khalailah, and succeeded in angering just about everyone.

Moussa started off strong, and seemed like she had a very good chance of reaching the finals. But something happened along the way, likely due to her political, pro-Palestinian rhetoric – which may have been used to get more votes – and the rhetoric of her family members, which contradicted her stance.

Two months ago we wrote about the complexities of Manal and Haitham’s appearance on the show, which included dealing with the Shin Bet, restrictions on the movement of Palestinian citizens of Israel and the fraught connection between Palestinian in Israel and the Arab world.

Read more: Representing Palestine, not Israel: Arab Idol’s contestants from Israel

While the songs and performances are the most central element of the show, Arab Idol also serves as the political focal point of the Arab world. And Khalailah is the shining hope of the Palestinians, who have experienced unrelenting attacks in...

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The first step toward Jewish-Arab cooperation is a knock at the door

Could the upcoming elections bridge the gap between Israeli Jews and Arabs? Lebanese human rights lawyer Chibli Mallat says that contrary to popular belief, there are more possibilities for cooperation than one might think.

By Chibli Mallat

A Palestinian and a Jewish Israeli activist confront Israeli soldiers during a weekly demonstration against the Israeli occupation and Separation Wall in the West Bank village of Al Ma'sara, April 5, 2013. The Wall, if built as planned, would cut off the village from its agricultural lands.

A Palestinian and a Jewish Israeli activist confront Israeli soldiers during a weekly demonstration against the Israeli occupation and Separation Wall in the West Bank village of Al Ma’sara, April 5, 2013. The Wall, if built as planned, would cut off the village from its agricultural lands.

The death of Palestinian Authority Settlement Minister Ziad Abu Ein serves as another reminder of the senseless deadlock in Israel-Palestine. We all mourn the loss of an advocate of nonviolence who joined the universal call to breathe. Something must give. History might predict another bout of violence, but the Israeli elections on March 17 might create a different, more positive opportunity. This is how:

The political scene in Israel is in disarray. In part this is due to bickering among the ruling elite over positions, and a particularly mercurial prime minister, but it comes mostly from a loss of compass. Two narratives are in competition. The traditional separation of 1948 territory into two states alongside the 1967 borders is giving way to a one-state discourse introduced by Zionist leaders, mostly from the Right, designed to avoid giving up any territory. The Palestinian scene is also divided. The mantra remains for a “sovereign Palestine in Gaza and the West Bank, with Jerusalem for capital.” But the temptation is strong for one-state advocacy, which before 1967 was the main plank of the then emerging Palestinian Liberation Organization.

In the resulting confusion, possibilities are unexpectedly opening up. For now, the Jewish ruling elite rejects any coalition with the 20 percent of “Palestinians in Israel,” as they like to call themselves. These “Arab Israelis” are wary themselves of any such arrangement. Traditionally, the fear factors on the Jewish side, and the diffident atmosphere on the Palestinian side, have both undermined such an opening. But the reality is...

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Palestinian non-violent activists: Army violence won't stop our resistance

The Palestinian minister who died after a non-violent protest on Wednesday was a symbol the Palestinian Authority’s support for non-violent popular struggle. Non-violent Palestinian leaders from across the West Bank talk about how Israel responds violently toward their activities.

By Yael Marom

Ziad Abu Ein exits a Palestinian home that settlers vandalized with graffiti reading "Death to Arabs" in late November. (Photo by Rabbis for Human Rights)

Ziad Abu Ein exits a Palestinian home that settlers vandalized with graffiti reading “Death to Arabs” in late November. (Photo by Rabbis for Human Rights)

A general strike in Ramallah, three days of mourning in the Palestinian Authority and calls for increased protests and non-violent resistance to the occupation. Those were only some of the responses to the death of Palestinian Minister Ziad Abu Ein, who died during a protest marking International Human Rights Day Wednesday.

Abu Ein, who was the Palestinian Authority official responsible for popular resistance against West Bank settlements, took part in a press conference organized by four Palestinian villages and Israeli human rights group Yesh Din Wednesday morning. The press conference was timed to coincide with a petition to the Israeli High Court of Justice demanding that the Israeli army dismantle the illegal settlement outpost of Adei Ad, in the northern West Bank, and International Human Rights Day.

“We tried to go and plant olive tree saplings today when the soldiers attacked us,” said Abdallah Abu-Rahme, of the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee (PSCC). “The soldiers pushed Abu Ein; he was injured and fell to the ground. He is an older man who had various health conditions, and he died as a result of the blows he sustained.”

The type of direct action used Wednesday is an example of the way non-violent popular resistance has been organized in the West Bank since the Second Intifada. The struggle, which initially came in response to construction of the separation barrier and the ensuing land grabs, uses tools aimed at bringing resistance against injustice to the locations where they those injustices are taking place. When the resistance is against the separation barrier — they march toward the wall, when it’s about land theft, they attempt to reach those lands and demonstrate there. In the case of today’s action, the activists set out to plant olive trees, a Palestinian symbol, on lands...

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