+972 Magazine » +972 Blog http://972mag.com Independent commentary and news from Israel & Palestine Sat, 10 Oct 2015 19:34:22 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8 New video shows accused stabber posed no threat when shot http://972mag.com/new-video-shows-accused-stabber-posed-no-threat-when-shot/112593/ http://972mag.com/new-video-shows-accused-stabber-posed-no-threat-when-shot/112593/#comments Sat, 10 Oct 2015 14:40:16 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=112593 The Israeli media claimed that Fadi Alloun, who stabbed a 15-year-old in Jerusalem, was shot and killed while being chased as he was holding a knife. A new video reveals that he could have been subdued, and did not pose a threat.

By *John Brown

Last Saturday an Israeli policeman shot and killed Fadi Alloun, a 19-year-old resident of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya, after he was suspected of stabbing a 15-year-old Israeli near Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate.

A video that went viral following the incident shows young Jewish Israelis egging on the policemen to kill Alloun, despite the fact that it is unclear from the video whether he posed a threat when an officer shot him numerous times. The Israeli media reported that he was shot while “trying to escape from the security forces that began chasing him. After refusing to release his grip on the knife, the forces shot and killed him.”

It was clear that that first part was a lie from the get go: Alloun never tried to escape. However, a new video that captures the scene from a different angle shows that Alloun wasn’t holding a knife when he was shot, and therefore did not pose a threat. Moreover, this was the reason an officer who stood near the person filming the incident chose not to shoot Alloun. He chose neither to shoot nor use his weapon as threat as Alloun walked by him. He didn’t shoot when the teenagers nearby yelled “Shoot him, bitch!” or “Pepper spray? What kind of policemen are you?” while warning Alloun that he was “about to die.” When it was all over, the police officer who refused to shoot Alloun became the target of verbal abuse by those same teenagers.


And while this particular policeman acted appropriately, additional officers who arrived on the scene chose to act differentkly. Seconds after they exit their vehicles, one of the teenagers — who would later celebrate Alloun’s killing by shouting “death to Arabs” — tells the officers that Alloun had just stabbed someone and that they should shoot without any attempt to subdue him. The officers did not even yell at Alloun to throw down the knife — that’s because there was no knife and Alloun posed no threat. They did not even yell at him to give up or to let him know that he was under arrest.

The video shows that detaining Alloun was indeed possible. In fact, there is no other option but to determine that Israeli policemen shot and killed a man in cold blood, despite the fact that he did not pose a threat, and must be put on trial for doing so. Even a person who stabbed someone has the right not to be extrajudicially killed by the police, regardless of the pressure put on them by a racist mob.

Obviously this will not happen, since the killing was in line with the instructions that permit the shooting of Arabs suspected of terrorist attacks. “This is how these events must end,” say the police chiefs and government officials. This is exactly what the officer did. But they conveniently forget to mention that this order only applies to Arabs.

This is the reason the terrorist who stabbed four Palestinians in Dimona was not shot on the spot. In fact, if you look at the Israeli media, no one has even bothered to label him a terrorist. Eli Schlissel, who murdered 16-year-old Shira Banki at the Jerusalem pride march, was not shot, despite the fact that he clearly posed a threat to the marchers. This is the same reason that the IDF does not shoot settlers but does shoot Palestinian children who pose less of a risk.

This policy is based on the bloodletting of Arab citizens, a policy that is slowly becoming normalized among the Israeli public, and which leads to dozens of terrorist attacks against Arabs, including: settlers who throw rocks at Palestinians under the protection of the IDF; a racist mob in Israel’s northern town of Afula that attacks a television journalist because he is Arab; or a racist mob that attacks Arabs in Netanya (where the police handcuffed the victim, rather than the attackers); and a racist mob in Jerusalem that walks the streets in search of Arabs.

*John Brown is the pseudonym of an Israeli academic and blogger. This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call, where he is a blogger. Read it here.

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They weren’t born to be martyrs, they were born to live http://972mag.com/they-werent-born-to-be-martyrs-they-were-born-to-live/112407/ http://972mag.com/they-werent-born-to-be-martyrs-they-were-born-to-live/112407/#comments Tue, 06 Oct 2015 17:22:11 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=112407 Fifteen years after Israeli police murdered 13 unarmed Palestinian citizens of Israel, the sister of one of those young men asks whether the dominant national symbolism of martyrdom must trump the humanitarian aims and face of Palestinian liberation.

By Siwar Hasan-Aslih

An Arab youth lies bloodied on the ground after being shot by Israeli Border Police. (photo courtesy of Adalah)

An Arab youth lies bloodied on the ground after being shot by Israeli Border Police. (photo courtesy of Adalah)

If you ask Palestinians who lived through the the events of October 2000 what exactly happened and why, you would probably hear a range of answers reflecting a number of worldviews. Some might point to the martyrdom of Muhammad al Dura, others to Ariel Sharon’s violation of the sanctity of Al-Aqsa Mosque.


The first reflects a human — or humanitarian — perspective while the other points to religious and spiritual factors. Whatever the reason, there is no doubt that the events of October 2000 carried diverse messages for Palestinian society and came in varied shapes, whether in the goals of the Palestinian resistance, or the symbolism of the struggle.

Sharon’s visit to Al-Aqsa Mosque — surrounded by hundreds of Israeli police officers — at the end of September 2000 national rage on the Palestinians street from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank, and also reached Palestinians inside Israel. That rage, of course, was rooted in the occupation, racial discrimination and the failure of Oslo peace process. Despite all those other factors, however, it was the call to protect holy sites that pushed the mass demonstrations to start.

As a result, it was named the “Jerusalem Ignition” and later assigned religious character. But it was not only religious, Al-Aqsa and Al-Quds (Jerusalem) also reflect symbols in the discourse of Palestinian resistance.

Palestinians, like most societies, use symbols to help one understand one’s meaning in relation to the world and the one’s attachment to his or her culture. Symbols also have functional roles. They are tools of communication and help create collective identity, enabling the formation of society.

The Palestinian national experience has many symbols that are drawn from our reality of occupation, symbols that enable Palestinians to express their feelings and values of resistance. One of the most dominant symbols of October 2000 was the martyr. In the Palestinian context, a martyr refers to somebody who dies or sacrifices his life for the cause of liberty and justice for the Palestinian people, including both those who are murdered by the occupation and those who die fighting it.

The societal rituals and mythology surrounding martyrdom create a certain psychological atmosphere. But how does that affect the way Palestinian discourse treats more humanitarian symbols? Symbols of life?

The Palestinian national discourse is greatly influenced by our experience of death, but also by our resilience and survival. The result is that in our internal, national discourse, the tragic nature of reality often times trumps our humanitarian face. In our march for liberation we have created a discourse whose aims are measured in self sacrifice. The symbols of resistance and freedom are then used to call for more sacrifices of martyrs while eliminating the true, human, cultural and mythological face of martyrdom.

Martyrs are not heroes because they died, but rather because their humanity is manifested in their dreams, their connection to the land, their resilience in holding on to life in the face of oppression and occupation. The martyrs were not born to take part in a project of martyrdom, they were born to take part in the project called life. They sanctify life by sacrificing themselves for it.

Today, 15 years after the events of October 2000, we still discuss our martyrs in numbers and not in their human message for life. We commemorate them and yet we still imbue the hearts and minds of our youth with the ideas the sacrificing oneself and heroic descriptions of martyrdom.

Nobody exemplifies that idea more than the martyrs of October 2000, when Israeli police murdered 13 unarmed Arab protesters in northern Israel. How many Palestinian youths know the human face, the actual life of Emad Ghnaym, who was killed at a demonstration in his hometown of Sakhnin. How many people are made aware of the kindness for which he was known to his family and friends, or that he was deeply invested in developing sports in his hometown?

How many Palestinian youths are taught about how Rami Ghara, of Jat, also murdered by police in October 2000, was “kind and delicate, never harming a person or an animal,” as his mother described him? How many of our youths are taught that Rami, the martyr, never dreamt that violence would determine his destiny and end his short life?

It is important to rethink these symbols and the way they are used in Palestinian discourse because they have become so significant in our collective consciousness and the meaning of our resistance. For the sake of our own human liberation, we must bring back the humanitarian messages that are absent from our speeches and discourse, and replant the values and the meaning of homeland and humanity.

Siwar Hasan-Aslih is a doctorate student of social psychology at University of Groningen, and is currently working in the research lab for psychology of intergroup conflict at the IDC in Herzliya. She is the sister of Asel, one of the 13 Palestinians killed in October 2000.

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October 2000: How to get Israelis to empathize with Arabs http://972mag.com/october-2000-how-to-get-israelis-to-empathize-with-arabs/112405/ http://972mag.com/october-2000-how-to-get-israelis-to-empathize-with-arabs/112405/#comments Tue, 06 Oct 2015 16:49:51 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=112405 A former editor of Israel’s flagship weekend television news program reflects on the challenge of presenting the October 2000 events — when Israeli police killed 13 unarmed Arab protesters — in a way Jewish Israelis might empathize with the pain of the country’s Palestinian population.

By Anat Saragusti

Israeli police officers shooting at Arab protesters in northern Israel during the protests of October 2000. (Courtesy of Adalah)

Israeli police officers shooting at Arab protesters in northern Israel during the protests of October 2000. (Courtesy of Adalah)

It was an intense meeting in a small room on the second floor of Channel 2 news in Tel Aviv. We tried to come up with the perfect mix of views to make Israeli Jews make sense of what would eventually come to be known as the “events of October 2000.” Back then I was an editor on Ulpan Shishi, which was and remains the channel’s flagship weekend news broadcast. It is a show that summarizes the events of the past week, and provides enough time to tell a story, analyze it, bring in interviewees, and go beyond.


Historically, the High Holiday month is considered fairly quiet when it comes to news. The summers are usually dead, and the Jewish holidays do not fare much better. That is why in the short period between the end of summer vacation and Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year), news outlets go into hyperactive mode and prepare dozens of filler items for their holiday supplements.

But none of these harmless, personal interest stories were printed in Octover 2000. And it wasn’t the news that died, but rather 13 Arab citizens, one Jewish citizen, and a Druze Israeli soldier.

These were the pre-social media days, before Facebook and smartphones took over our lives and the way we consume news. The media was based on regular cellphones and pagers.

Even the internet was not, how should I put it, too sophisticated 15 years ago, such that the flow of news dependent entirely on the reporter’s ability to provide accurate, honest, fact-checked, and thorough information to the news desk. This was especially true on holidays when the desks functioned at lower capacity.

This is what was happening as we were thrust into the events of October 2000. No one expected the tsunami that hit nearly every corner of the country.

News studios were forced to go into emergency mode, complete never-ending live broadcasts. But the expectation was that Ulpan Shishi would, at least after the first wave, come away with some kind of summary. Some insight.

A demonstration in northern Israel during the events of October 2000. (Courtesy of Adalah)

A demonstration in northern Israel during the events of October 2000. (Courtesy of Adalah)

We expect television to bring us a bit of depth alongside the hard news, analysis, interviews, explanations, and reports from the field. We want the one story that will turn people’s heads — the indisputable kind of story.

This is not an easy task, considering the fact that there is simply not enough man power during the holidays, not to mention the fact we received our news using poor technological means. But the task became even more formidable because the dead were Arabs who were killed while demonstrating. How do you create sympathy when the country’s main junctions are blocked due to violent clashes between Arab protesters and the police, a situation that prevented Jewish families from traveling during the holidays?

How do you give a humanizing angle to this kind of story? How does one find the right moment? The right person? How does one say it gently? Arabs are barely recognizable in the media. Arabs don’t bring in ratings. Our ability to produce a story about an Arab citizen on Israel’s leading television station — one that will cause the viewer to identify, to feel something — is nearly impossible.

But the coverage of those 13 Arab citizens who were killed provided the answer.

Had a talented screenwriter or author sat down to try and write a fictional account of the incident, he wouldn’t have come close to getting across the real life story of Asel Aslih from the village of Arraba.

A 16-year-old with a round face and a soft look in his eyes. He was shot in a field, but never took an active part in the protests.

Asel was one of two children who were raised on tolerance and peace. Two years prior, Asel took part in a summer camp put on by “Seeds of Peace,” an American organization that brings together Israeli and Palestinian children so that they get to know one another and work to promote peace and acceptance of the other in their own communities.

Asel was a big supporter of Seeds of Peace’s mission. His room was plastered with the group’s posters, as well as photographs of him sporting a Seeds of Peace t-shirt.

Journalist Itay Engel went out to report on this story, which, after it aired on Ulpan Shishi, turned out to be even more powerful than we ever expected.

And that is how Asel, after his unnecessary death, became a symbol of those difficult weeks. No one could remain apathetic to a story of a life cut short. No one could argue with his father or sister, who turned into the most prominent and powerful spokespeople of the deep breakdown in Arab society during the October 2000 events. Aseel’s father would go on to become the spokesperson for the bereaved families of those killed, taking part in every meeting of the Or Commission, which was established to look into the circumstances surrounding the deaths of the 13 Israeli citizens.

It is painful to remember. It is disturbing to think that 15 years on, a good portion of the commission’s findings have not been internalized. That even today, one cannot safely say that these things won’t repeat themselves. So that Asel’s death won’t be in vain.

Anat Saragusti is an Israeli journalist and former editor of Ulpan Shishi. A version of this article was also published in Hebrew on Local Call.

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What we really need now? A politics of love http://972mag.com/what-we-really-need-now-a-politics-of-love/112328/ http://972mag.com/what-we-really-need-now-a-politics-of-love/112328/#comments Sun, 04 Oct 2015 19:54:58 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=112328 Fear and pain flow in the streets, between Gaza and Sderot, between Hebron and Jerusalem, forcing us to think about providing enough compassion for one another so we can come to solutions to the violence.

By Mijal Simonet Corech

Once, Israeli academic Yael Berda and I came up with an expression: “politics of love.” We never really got down it to its basics — we never needed to; somehow we both knew what we meant. According to this kind of politics, first and foremost, you feel sad when you hear that a man and a woman — parents of four children — were shot to death. You feel it in your body, and your feet have a hard time walking. And you cannot help but think about that four-month old girl who will never know her mother. Even if her mother made choices that I would not make, ones that I believe make other peoples’ lives difficult and prevent them from living a life of dignity — even then the politics of love mourn her.


Through the politics of love one can look at the 19-year-old who stabbed two people to death in Jerusalem’s Old City on Saturday night and see a child. A child who was so deeply hurt and humiliated by something — even if the entire world won’t understand (or doesn’t want to understand) how the holiness of a place, of the Noble Sanctuary, of a stone, can even hurt — that turned him into a murderer, and turned his mother into a bereaved parent.

And all the politics of love would see was the river of pain that flows between our fingers, between all those murdered, washing over our streets, between Gaza and Sderot, and think about how to provide enough compassion for one another so that we find solutions.

Looking back over these, I know that the politics of love can sound naive. After all, we are at war. All the time, everywhere, on every corner, with one another: Jews with Arabs, secular with religious, Ashkenazim with Mizrahim, and let’s not even start talking about women who must rescue themselves from men. After all, how will I implement a politics of love when it comes to arms dealers or the people who run this country?

There is no doubt that a politics of love is the most difficult kind. But even today I see no alternative. I have no clue how to implement it, and I find myself feeling — at least a thousand times a day — anger, hatred, fear (a lot of fear) walking through this hostile place full of the words we have spoken and deeds we have committed. But I have no choice. I must, somehow, find the way to implement a politics of love. Even if I have no idea how to do so yet.

Mijal Simonet Corech works for Shatil and is a former journalist for Haaretz and Ma’ariv. She lives in Jerusalem. This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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Motorcycle diaries: A brief moment of humanity with an Israeli policeman http://972mag.com/motorcycle-diaries-a-brief-moment-of-humanity-with-an-israeli-policeman/112310/ http://972mag.com/motorcycle-diaries-a-brief-moment-of-humanity-with-an-israeli-policeman/112310/#comments Sun, 04 Oct 2015 17:16:40 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=112310 He had no idea Palestinians couldn’t import high quality motorcycles. I had no idea Israeli policemen could be so friendly. How one motorcycle brought us together during a traffic stop in the middle of the West Bank.

By Bassam Almohor

Israeli police stop — Thursday, September 24, 2015.

An Israeli policeman standing at the entrance to Ofra settlement, just east of Ramallah, motions for me to park on the side go the road. He walks slowly with his M-4 rifle, inspecting the license plate on my motorcycle, then pats my shoulder: “With all due respect, this is great; you wear your helmet, your gloves, your jacket.. this is perfect.”


- So this is a new motorcycle?

- Yes.

- And you just take it everywhere?

- Everywhere in the West Bank.

- Oh nice, I am a biker too, you know. I have a big bike, a Honda CB 900, here take a look (he takes out his smartphone, and scrolls through photos of his bike.) Take a look, it’s all shiny and big.

- Very nice, is this your girlfriend riding on the back?

- No, this is my wife.

- Lovely. My wife doesn’t like to ride with me. Only my son.

- You take your son, wow.

- Yes, but only short distances in the city.

- But why don’t you get a big bike, this is only 250cc?

- Well, we can’t. The Palestinian importer is only allowed to bring in this bike.

- What? You mean you can’t get bigger one?

- No, and I can’t buy these from Israel either.

- But I see big motorcycles. The other day I stopped two Palestinians riding 600cc Hondas.

- Yes, perhaps they are the only ones.

- Too bad.

- Well, actually for the West Bank, and with the limited area we are allowed, 250cc is not that bad.

- Yes, that’s true. I have this 900 and there’s not much road out there. I live in Ariel, do you know it?

- Yes, of course I know it. I actually drove past it yesterday.

- I take my bike and drive those roads. I take my friends and they all love it, especially the hilly countryside — it’s great.

- Yes, Palestine is beautiful.

- I love riding here you know. So where are you coming from now?

- Well, I started at 6 a.m., leaving Ramallah on Road 60, before heading toward Jericho on Road 1. There I drank coffee and then continued on Road 90 until the Hamra junction, and back through the Jericho-Ramallah zig-zag road.

- Wow, that’s amazing. I wish you could take me all those beautiful roads — I love riding there.

- Unfortunately it’s not easy here, unless you don’t mind driving through Palestinian villages.

- I wish I could, but unfortunately they won’t allow me. I’m in the police, after all.

- Oh, so you are police. What kind?

- As you can see, traffic police.

- But you are a nice gentle policeman. Unlike any other I have ever met.

- True. That’s because you’re riding a bike.

- I guess bikers have no nationality then.

- No, they should open all borders to us.

- True, and then i will never stop until I reach China.

- Yes, take me with you.

- You are most welcome to come.

- Unfortunately it’s going stay like this for a long time. I’m not happy with it.

- Unfortunately. But at least we had a nice conversation.

- Yes, have a lovely day, man! I hope to see you while on my motorcycle, not in uniform.

- Same here. Have a great day.

I drive on to Ramallah. The policeman waves to me as his colleague stops an oncoming Palestinian car.

This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call, where he is a blogger. Read it here.

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What Abbas should have told the United Nations http://972mag.com/what-abbas-should-have-told-the-united-nations/112259/ http://972mag.com/what-abbas-should-have-told-the-united-nations/112259/#comments Sat, 03 Oct 2015 11:52:45 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=112259 What if the Abbas had announced this was his last UN speech as Israel’s security contractor? A reimagined version of the speech that wasn’t. (Read or watch Abbas’s actual speech.)

By Rida Abu Rass

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas address the general debate of the UN General Assembly’s 70th session, September 20, 2015. (UN Photo/Cia Pak)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas address the general debate of the UN General Assembly’s 70th session, September 20, 2015. (UN Photo/Cia Pak)

H.E. Mr. Mogens Lykketoft, President of the General Assembly,
H.E. Mr Ban Ki Moon, Secretary General of the United Nations,
Excellencies, heads of delegations,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I come before you today from Palestine to sound the alarm about what is happening in Jerusalem, about what is happening in the West Bank and Gaza and about what is happening in Israel. I come before you to sound the alarm about what has been happening to Palestinians for 67 years, in our own homeland.

We are often accused of refusing. Of refusing to negotiate, of refusing to settle, of refusing to compromise. In 1948, we were a naive, agrarian, developing people. 100 years after the spring of nations — that glorified winter of failed revolutions that gave rise to nationalism in Europe — we still knew nothing of nationalism and self determination. In 1948, when the Jewish people declared the establishment of the state of Israel in Mandatory Palestine, partition was out of the question for us. In the eyes of our forefathers, there was not a single doubt that this land belonged to us, for we have been living in it and nourishing it for longer than we can remember. We had no other land.

But we no longer refuse. For over 20 years, we have done nothing but reach out our hands for peace.

Ladies and gentlemen,


I remind you that history was not kind to us. Jewish militants, determined to create a state for themselves, ethnically cleansed us from our land in 1948. Those Palestinians that remained in Israel suffer from systematic discrimination every day. The Gaza Strip and the West Bank have been under one occupation or another for 67 years. Our brothers and sisters in Lebanon and Syria, third generation refugees, are drowning in the Mediterranean Sea.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We have had enough. We Palestinians understand the Jewish people’s unparalleled trauma. We realize the Jewish need for a safe homeland. But must their safety come at our expense?

Contrary to Netanyahu’s false accusations, we have continuously recognized Israel’s right to exist peacefully in its internationally recognized borders for over 20 years — despite the fact that those borders were drawn to include many of our home towns, and our own people. We wanted nothing more than a state within the 1967 borders, and indeed, the Oslo Accords brought a true hope for permanent peace in the region. But in recent years, Netanyahu derailed any attempt to negotiate, time and time again, despite the fact that we Palestinians expressed our willingness to make enormous compromises. The absurdity of negotiating with your own occupier became unbearably obvious for us Palestinians, as Israel continues its comfortable refusal to commit to a two-state solution.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I come before you today for the last time. As you know, our struggle has been focused on you, the international community in recent years. We thought you could help us, and I hope you still can. But what is clear to me and to the Palestinian people is that the Palestinian National Authority can no longer exist as Israel’s contractor in the West Bank. We refuse to continue playing the role of Israel’s riot police. Half a state is not a state at all.

Mr. President,

I thank you and the international community for giving us the status of permanent observer state. But we are not a state. We are treated as guests in our homes. Prisoners in our own land. I thank you for raising the Palestinian flag in New York. But what we urgently need is multilateral, international political action, not symbolic gestures of good will. Yet the Palestinian people are still in grave need of your assistance. I thank all of you that supported our bid for statehood, and I call upon you to accelerate your efforts in changing the status quo in Israel and Palestine.

Time and again, my hands as president of the Palestinian National Authority have proven to be tied.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Your Excellencies, Mr. Netanyahu,

I can no longer bear the enormous responsibility of speaking for a voiceless people, for you have rendered me mute. I hereby announce the dismantlement of the Palestinian National Authority, in order to reflect the reality on the ground: 6 million Palestinians between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean are systematically discriminated against, and they are voiceless.

We are not a state. We are not an authority. We are an occupied people with occupied territories. In dismantling the PA, the onus of this total occupation reverts to the Israeli government, the occupying power. We did our best to accommodate the Israeli need for a state alongside us, but the geopolitical reality that Israel created renders this solution impossible.

On behalf of all Palestinians, I declare that our hands are still outstretched to designing a peaceful solution for the region, but this time, as equal partners in our shared homeland.

Rida Abu Rass is a Palestinian citizen of Israel from Jaffa currently completing a graduate degree at Brandeis University in Boston.


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Oslo has become a tool for Israeli expansionism — it’s time to let go http://972mag.com/oslo-has-become-a-tool-for-israeli-expansionism-its-time-to-let-go/112254/ http://972mag.com/oslo-has-become-a-tool-for-israeli-expansionism-its-time-to-let-go/112254/#comments Sat, 03 Oct 2015 11:01:23 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=112254 The Oslo Accords have been manipulated for the unspoken goal of Jewish annexation of West Bank land. So long as both governments adhere to this failed system, they will be unable to pursue a real peace agreement.

By Nathan Hersh

U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (C), Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat (R) in Houghton House at the Wye River Conference Center, during the Wye River Memorandum talks, October 16, 1998. (US Gov photo)

U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (C), Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat (R) in Houghton House at the Wye River Conference Center, during the Wye River Memorandum talks, October 16, 1998. (US Gov photo)

The Oslo Accords are the banner accomplishment of the Israeli peace movement. But their impact on the West Bank is no longer to orchestrate a phased withdrawal of Israeli forces, which they intended to do. Instead, the leadership in Israel has become increasingly populated by settlers and their sympathizers, and it has used the Oslo Accords for its own ideological pursuits.

The lasting accomplishments of the Oslo Accords—the division of the West Bank into Areas A, B and C; the cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian security forces and the creation of the Palestinian Authority—have different uses under Netanyahu’s premiership. Ministers and MKs from coalition parties frequently call for the annexation of Area C instead of withdrawal from it; Palestinian police forces maintain order in the areas Israel does not want to operate in and the Palestinian Authority is implicitly cosigning all of it. The Oslo Accords have been manipulated to strengthen the occupation, not dismantle it.


I first recognized the political utility of the occupation for Israel as a soldier in the West Bank. My unit was protecting Israeli civilians, preventing Palestinian violence directed at Israeli settlers and containing Palestinian protests. As soldiers, our concerns were not meant to extend beyond those objectives, and questions about the direction our actions were leading our country were irrelevant; such thoughts were dangerous distractions from the imperative to keep our country and our people safe.

The army’s objectives are simple and its mission is clear: security above all else. But the military occupation of the West Bank does not exist in a vacuum. It exists in a context of official Israeli rejection of Palestinian national self-determination and sustained, illegal settlement expansion. A military occupation in this context is not purely about security; it is meant to protect the behaviors of the state.

This blindness ignores the Israeli policies that instigate violence. The growth of settlements, the refusal to negotiate with the non-violent Palestinian Authority and the current coalition’s rejection of the two-state solution makes any serious reference to the Oslo Accords’ potential for peace profoundly out of touch. And while the Accords remain an example of each side’s past willingness to make peace, that does not translate into an increased willingness to do so since then.

That’s because the army, by upholding the occupation, subtly protects and advances the settler ideology. In the winter and spring of 2011, my unit’s daily and nightly operations were exhausting and failed to procure tangible results. We had dealt with very few serious security threats. One soldier finally publicly told our commander, “Enough! What are we doing here? Let the Arabs police themselves!” One week later, Palestinian terrorists massacred the Fogel family in the West Bank settlement of Itamar, and the sentiment that soldier expressed vanished.

Constant exposure to Palestinian violence combined with a systemic inability to see Israel’s role in the conflict has propelled it away from an agreement. As generations of Israelis were introduced to the conflict with the Palestinians through the lens of security, without any acknowledgement of the Israeli government’s behavior, the problem morphed from a complex and often violent conflict between national narratives, ethnicities and religions, to a singular problem of security from violent Palestinians. Israelis, the occupying force, felt they lost their agency.

This has not only produced an Israeli society that rarely acknowledges its own behavior, but it has impeded the work of Israeli peace activists and their allies abroad, too. Oslo is widely seen in Israeli society as a failure because the agreement was not able to hinder Palestinian violence. The two most prominent examples the Israeli right wing uses in rejecting the peace process are the withdraw from Gaza, which gave way to Hamas rule and thousands of rockets, and Oslo, which legitimized the Palestinian Liberation Organization, up until then considered a terrorist organization.

For the past 15 years, the Oslo Accords have been manipulated to hold the Palestinians accountable for the unspoken goal of Jewish annexation of West Bank land, and the P.L.O. has collaborated with it. That tacit alliance will severely undermine the possibility of serious peace negotiations between leaders from either side going forward.

So long as both governments adhere to this failed system, they will be unable to pursue a real peace agreement. The Palestinians — and the possibility for a two-state solution — do not have to be bound to the Israeli government’s expansionism.

Nathan Hersh served in a combat unit of the Israel Defense Forces from 2009 to 2011 and has an MA in Conflict Resolution and Mediation from Tel Aviv University. He is the former managing director of Partners for Progressive Israel. Follow him on Twitter: @nathanhersh.

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Are European settlement labels a double standard? http://972mag.com/are-european-settlement-labels-a-double-standard/112226/ http://972mag.com/are-european-settlement-labels-a-double-standard/112226/#comments Thu, 01 Oct 2015 19:08:53 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=112226 Israeli government allegations of an EU double standard are largely grounded on misguided or incomplete information.

By Lorenzo Kamel

Illustrative photo of a man reading the labels of two products. (Shutterstock.com)

Illustrative photo of a man reading the labels of two products. (Shutterstock.com)

In 2005 the European Union clarified that products originating in areas beyond Israel’s pre-1967 lines do not benefit from preferential tariff treatment under the EU-Israel Free Trade Agreement (FTA). Ten years later, on September 10, 2015, the European Parliament passed an historical resolution calling on the EU to issue labels for products from those areas — settlement products. It passed 525 to 70 (with 31 abstentions), and will likely be effective from October 1 of this year.

Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely reacted by saying Israel would not accept “discrimination” between goods produced in different parts of “its territory.” Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon argued that labeling goods “reeks of boycott.” Echoing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Nahshon claimed that, “Europe treats Israel with sanctimonious hypocrisy, while it doesn’t raise the issue of similar solutions in Northern Cyprus and Western Sahara.”


Allegations of an EU double standard are largely grounded on misguided or incomplete information. Just as the EU does not support Israeli entities in the Palestinian territories, the EU does not provide support to Turkish entities established in Northern Cyprus under Turkey’s national law. Just as it relates to Israeli nationals in the occupied Palestinian territories, the EU evaluates the most suitable implementation methods for “individual projects” in Northern Cyprus, where perhaps half of the estimated 300,000 residents were either born in Turkey or are children of settlers.

As the EU itself clearly states in its own report, it does not enter into financing agreements with the Turkish Cypriot authorities, “because they are not officially recognized by the international community, the [EU] Commission has primarily implemented the assistance by entering into contracts directly and acting as the sole contracting authority.”

These EU policies are carried out with the express purpose of “facilitate[ing] the reunification of Cyprus” and with the aim of “improving the contacts between the two communities.” They are fully consistent with international law, including with Article 43 of the Hague Regulations, according to which building infrastructure is to a certain extent part of the occupier’s obligations, as long as the infrastructure is built for the benefit of the local population.

As for the Western Sahara case, the EU signed a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) only with Morocco and not with any other entity that lays claim to the disputed territory. In the Palestinian context, however, the EU also signed a FTA with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). As argued by Israeli scholars Neve Gordon and Sharon Pardo, each of the two FTAs, with Israel and the PLO, has its own territorial scope and “there is no overlapping between the two.”

The four-year agreement with Morocco that the European Parliament approved in December 2013 to allow European boats to fish in territorial waters off Western Sahara is hardly free of defects. If nothing because the aspirations of the local indigenous Sahrawi population as well as the concerns expressed by several international organizations were largely ignored. Yet, the two contexts should not be conflated, both from an historical and a strictly legal point of view.

The double standard claim is thus largely misplaced and the resolution passed in September 10th by the European Parliament can hardly be conflated with a form of boycott. It is indeed a belated step that tries to hinder the ongoing status quo through the labeling of products manufactured beyond Israel’s internationally recognized sovereign territory.

To maintain what has been for years a blurred approach, allowing preferential treatment for products manufactured in settlements, would in fact function as a sort of incentive for the ongoing status quo. This is particularly meaningful considering that many of the products originating from settlements are destined for Israeli markets and that most of the natural resources exploited by Israeli companies in the Palestinian Territories are aimed to the benefit of Israeli citizens (about 94 percent of the materials produced in the Israeli quarries in the West Bank is transported to Israel).

Ignoring this reality would betray the principles on which the unity of the European continent was forged.

Dr. Lorenzo Kamel is a Research Fellow (2013-16) at Harvard’s CMES. Among his most recent publications: ‘Imperial Perceptions of Palestine: British Influence and Power in Late Ottoman Times’ (I.B. Tauris 2015) and ‘Arab Spring: The Role of the Peripheries’ (Special issue of Mediterranean Politics, May 2015, co-edited with D.Huber) 

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The Syrian child who became a symbol in Beirut — and Germany http://972mag.com/the-syrian-child-who-became-a-symbol-in-beirut-and-germany/112188/ http://972mag.com/the-syrian-child-who-became-a-symbol-in-beirut-and-germany/112188/#comments Thu, 01 Oct 2015 15:09:17 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=112188 Twelve-year-old Fares al-Khodor sold roses in West Beirut for five years until he was killed in an airstrike during a visit to his hometown in Syria. Touched by the massive outpouring from people who knew him in Lebanon, artist Yazan Halwani brought his memory all the way to Germany.

By Avi Blecherman

A street portrait of Fares al-Khador by Lebanese photographer Hussein Baydoun.

A street portrait of Fares al-Khador by Lebanese photographer Hussein Baydoun.

Yazan Halwani, a Lebanese street artist known as “the Banksy of Beirut,” went all the way to Dortmund, Germany in order to paint a portrait of Fares, a refugee Syrian child who was killed recently in the ongoing war.

Fares al-Khodor, 12, charmed business owners and passersby with a special smile and and captivating personality on Hamra Street in West Beirut, where he sold roses. He first came to Lebanon in the end of 2010 at age seven with his family and quickly became a fixture on Beirut’s streets, lugging around his makeshift vase of roses.


Fares was killed in a coalition airstrike that missed its target and hit his family home in the northern Syrian city of Hasakah in July. He and his family visited their hometown every summer.

“I did not know him as well as others,” Halwani wrote on his Facebook wall, “[but] I remember him and his distinctive smile from the few times I bought flowers from him.”

“I decided to paint him on a building in Dortmund (Germany) during the Huna/K Festival, so that he can keep on spreading his positive vibe, and charming pedestrians to buy flowers from him,” Halwani continued. “I think I also wanted to say that people who flee their houses in Syria have a good reason to do so. Fares was not an add-on to Beirut, he was an integral part of it; during his stay in Syria he was not safe. I regret not painting him during his life.”

Yazan Halwani’s mural of Fares al-Khodor in Dortmund, Germany, September 28, 2015. (Yazan Halwani)

Yazan Halwani’s mural of Fares al-Khodor in Dortmund, Germany, September 28, 2015. (Yazan Halwani)

Halwani, 22, was invited to Dortmund by the organizers of the Huna/K Festival of art and Arab culture, which began last week and will continue until October 4. He enlisted the help of the Anne Frank School in the city, whose students enthusiastically pitched in. The students were split into three groups: one that worked on the drawing on the wall with Halwani, another that dealt with the Arabic calligraphy that was also drawn on the wall, and a third that documented the entire project.

Explaining why he created the mural in Germany and not Beirut, Halwani wrote, “I wanted to do a mural worthy of the little man, and the wall that was offered to me in Germany was the size that he deserved.”

Halwani also said he hopes the mural of Fares will have a wider political and social impact amid the refugee crisis that after years of affecting Lebanon, is now reaching Europe. Politicians and regular citizens often portray refugees as “alien organisms,” Halwani wrote. “I think by painting Fares, telling his story, showing how he was part of the identity of Beirut, and highlighting the sad ending to a beautiful person, might change the perspective that people around the world have of a refugee to a more positive direction.”

The portrait of Fares holding a bucket of roses, with his delicate smile and sharp appearance and gelled-back hair, is based on a photo by Beirut photographer Hussein Baydoun.

“Fares was a wonderful child,” says Baydoun, who would run into Fares on a daily basis outside his Beirut studio. “He always smiled at people. For anybody who ran into him on Hamra Street, and certainly anybody who worked there or passed by there, he was a part of the scenery, and they fell in love with him. His dream was to be a lawyer, so that he could made sure no children ever had to live on the streets. ‘I want to protect them,’ he would always say. His family immigrated to Beirut a little before the war broke out but they maintained close ties to home. They would spend the summer months there each year, although that became more difficult and dangerous as the war got worse.”

Yazan Halwani working on the mural of Fares in Dortmund, Germany. (Photo by Alex Volkel)

Yazan Halwani working on the mural of Fares in Dortmund, Germany. (Photo by Alex Volkel)

Yazan Halwani, joined by local students, working on the mural of Fares in Dortmund, Germany. (Photo by Alex Volkel)

Yazan Halwani, joined by local students, working on the mural of Fares in Dortmund, Germany. (Photo by Alex Volkel)

Some responses to Fares’s death that I found on the Internet, and which demonstrate what a special child he was:

“Fares was not just another child flower seller. He was a shining boy who worked hard and made everyone around him smile and feel good. He knew how to become a better person out of his own pain and hardships,” one read.

Another tells how “he was the best flower seller I’ve ever met. The rest of the children wanted to be him. I noticed that everyone started using gel, to try and dress sharply like him, in order to succeed like him. He invented something. Before him it was always the opposite: in order to make money you had to look neglected and dirty. Collect a little charity. Fares would never accept money from somebody who didn’t buy a flower.”

One Beirut resident who spent a lot of time on the street where Fares sold his flowers, and who befriended him, told a Lebanese newspaper that one night Fares insisted on taking him out for dinner at a restaurant. “It should have been the other way around,” he said, “but he wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Many people called him “the mascot of Hamra Street,” and showered him with praise. Fares once told a newspaper that did a profile on him that “Hamra Street is my family.” The news of Fares’s death in the Syrian war spread through the neighborhood quickly and the mourning was widespread. That mourning descended on Hamra Street and spread through West Beirut. The local media covered the tragic story, and social media quickly filled with messages from heartbroken people whose lives had been touched by Fares, wandering Hamra Street selling roses out of a small bucket to support his family.

Many cafe and store owners and regulars on Hamra Street — Fares’s family — held a memorial service and lit candles and left roses next to a copy of The Little Prince that somebody left on the street.

Fares al-Khodor is one of tens of thousands of Syrian children who have been killed in the ongoing Syrian civil war. It is estimated that over 200,000 people have been killed thus far in Syria.

Avi Blecherman is an activist and journalist. This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call, where he is a blogger. Read it here. Follow him on Twitter: @yomgashum

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How a ‘security threat’ disappears in the blink of an eye http://972mag.com/how-a-security-threat-disappears-in-the-blink-of-an-eye/112176/ http://972mag.com/how-a-security-threat-disappears-in-the-blink-of-an-eye/112176/#comments Wed, 30 Sep 2015 18:54:12 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=112176 A month ago, administrative detainee Muhammad Allan was deemed a major security threat to Israel. Now the army has decided to release him on the condition that he does not go back on hunger strike.

By Yael Marom

Palestinian activists hold up photos of administrative detainee, Muhammad Allan, during at the entrance to the Israeli city of Ashkelon, where Allan was being treated at Barzilay Hospital, August 17, 2015. (photo: Keren Manor/Activestills.org)

Palestinian activists hold up photos of administrative detainee, Muhammad Allan, during at the entrance to the Israeli city of Ashkelon, where Allan was being treated at Barzilay Hospital, August 17, 2015. (photo: Keren Manor/Activestills.org)

One day a man wakes up to find out he no longer constitutes a threat to the State of Israel. After being imprisoned for an entire year without trial, going on hunger strike for more than two months until he suffered brain damage, was sent back to administrative detention once he began his recovery and went back on hunger strike, the army has decided to release Muhammad Allan.


On Tuesday it was announced that Allan’s administrative detention will not be extended, and that the army will agree to release him on November 4. According to a report by Haaretz, the defense establishment confirmed that the military prosecution will not extend Allan’s administrative order, stating that “his release is conditioned upon him not going back on hunger strike.”

Allan, a 33-year-old attorney from the village Anabous near Nablus, was detained on November 6, 2014. Since then he has been held in administrative detention without having been accused of any wrongdoing. After his detention was renewed a second time — without allowing him a chance to defend himself — he decided to go on hunger strike.

Throughout the strike, the defense establishment claimed that Allan is a member of Islamic Jihad, has been involved in violent activities, and served a three-year sentence after he was convicted for taking part in recruiting suicide bombers and aiding wanted suspects. Even after he was arrested yet again in Barzilay Hospital, the defense establishment claimed that Allan was supporting terrorist attacks, and that it has “a great deal of severe” intelligence on him. The Israeli justice system has yet to present any evidence to back up those claims.

Allan’s struggle reveals the defense establishment’s arbitrary and vengeful decision making process, and the complete lack of any monitoring of the state’s use of administrative detention, which is meant to be used only in special cases. These mechanisms make it possible to determine whether a person is such a grave threat that he/she need to be immediately imprisoned without access to evidence against them, and to release him/her only after the ostensible danger disappears.

So how did November 4 become the date on which Allan will no longer pose a danger? Where is the secret intelligence that determined two weeks ago that, even after suffering brain damage, Allan still posed a threat?

Allan’s hunger strike came to an end after 65 days, when his attorneys petitioned the High Court of Justice with a medical opinion stating that he had suffered potentially irreversible brain damage as a result of the hunger strike. The High Court froze — rather than annulled — the administrative order, claiming that Allan was no longer a threat. This made it possible for police officers to arrive at his hospital bed nearly four weeks after he ended his strike, and return him to the prison clinic in Ramle. There Allan declared that was going back on hunger strike, which ended 10 days prior after negotiations for his release. The army claimed that it had gathered new intelligence proving that Allan still poses a danger.

It seems, however, that since Allan has begun his hunger strike, his most severe crime has been the fact that he has brought attention to his cause. The defense establishment’s response raises many questions regarding the motives for his detention, as well as the way of determining a person’s threat level. Is the defense establishment actually saying that should Allan return to hunger striking, it will be evidence that he has, once again, become a security threat?

Allan’s case demonstrates how easy it is to imprison someone indefinitely without providing evidence against them — without someone so much as raising an eyebrow. This includes the courts, of course, who in a democratic country would have refused to jail people in such an arbitrary manner using procedures that clearly do not meet any standard of law and justice.

If Muhammad Allan will not be dangerous on November 4, he is not dangerous now. He must therefore be immediately released and allowed to continue his treatment at hospitals in the West Bank. Continuing his detention, in the poor conditions of the Israel Prison Service’s medical center, is a vengeful form of abuse that only harms his health.

Yael Marom is Just Vision’s public engagement manager in Israel and a co-editor of Local Call, where this article was originally published in Hebrew.

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