+972 Magazine » +972 Blog http://972mag.com Independent commentary and news from Israel & Palestine Fri, 27 Nov 2015 18:20:31 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8 What the Israeli army takes, it doesn’t give back http://972mag.com/what-the-idf-takes-it-doesnt-give-back/114231/ http://972mag.com/what-the-idf-takes-it-doesnt-give-back/114231/#comments Fri, 27 Nov 2015 15:15:22 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=114231 The army maintains its hold on a piece of Palestinian land it seized in the late 1970s. Here’s the catch: the land has been abandoned for nearly a decade.

By Yesh Din, written by Yossi Gurvitz

Soldiers protecting illegal outpost (Mairav Zonszein)

Illustrative photo of soldiers protecting an illegal outpost in the West Bank. (photo: Mairav Zonszein)

Two weeks ago, the council chiefs of the West Bank villages of Jaloud, Douma and Qusra appealed to Israel’s High Court of Justice, demanding that the hundreds of dunams of land seized by the IDF in 1978 be returned to their rightful owners. The IDF built a military camp (Jaloud camp) on a small part of the land, yet it has been abandoned for many years. Now is the time to revoke Seizure Order T/5/78.

Readers of this blog are already familiar with the practice of land seizure by military order: we dealt with it in the case of the Dura Al Qara seizure (of which the Dreinoff houses affair is a descendent of): a seizure that was on its face illegal, as an IDF officer specifically wrote in the seizure order that it is to be hidden from the Palestinian residents. We also dealt with this very seizure practice when we managed to return the land taken from the residents of Burkeh for the purposes of building the settlement Homesh.

Military seizure have served, time after time, not to fulfill a military need but for settlement building. The government stopped using this procedure after the Elon Moreh ruling (the film “The Law in These Parts” has some interesting things to sayon the ruling), despite holding a significant part of the land seized prior to that ruling.

What is a military seizure? First, we must differentiate it from confiscation. International law prohibits an occupying power – the West Bank, even according to the government of Israel, is under belligerent occupation – from confiscating property or equipment of the residents of the occupied territory. On the other hand, it demands that the military commander protect the property of protected persons. The High Court has maintained, time and again, this double duty: to refrain from harming — and instead protect — private property.

And yet, international law permits the military commander to seize private property when there is a pressing need to do so. If you are contending with a counter-attack or an invasion, you may seize land to use it for defense. But the rights of the owner do not expire: when the emergency is over, the property is to be returned to its owners.

Does the case of Jaloud comply with the law? Not quite. True, originally the seizure order was used for military purposes – the construction of a military camp that only made use of a small part of the land, and which has not been active in years. There is a small communication installation there, but it is unclear whether it is a military or a civil one, and anyway it sits on a small portion of the land seized. If the IDF has a need for the land it seized, it doesn’t show.

To quote the appeal, “In practice, a military seizure intended for unknown purposes, and which is anyway not in use in the last few years, which no one denies harms the property of the persons and the communities represented by the appellants, has in practice become confiscation. This is contrary to law and contrary to the rulings of this honorable court.” The military commander, we note, has held on to the land for 37 years.

The State of Israel is not the habit of releasing land it seized, even when it does not use it. We have seen this in the Burkeh case: the state seized the land on which Homesh was built in 1978. The official pretext was the creation of a settlement for Nahal soldiers – officially a military use. But, as expected, within a short while the military settlement turned into the civilian settlement of Homesh.

The act of theft via the offices of the military commander has been completed: private land, through the designation of “military need,” has been transferred into the hands of the settlers. Had the Gaza Disengagement not taken four West Bank settlements, including Homesh, with it, the thieves would have still been holding on to the plunder.

But the disengagement happened, and once Homesh was dismantled there was no longer any logic in maintaining the seizure order. And yet, the state adamantly refused to cancel it and allow for a legal struggle against the cancellation until 2013. Why were so many resources directed toward this struggle? Perhaps one day we will know.

The suspicion regarding Seizure Order T/5/78 is that most of the land seized under it was never used for a military purpose. History shows that this scenario leads to – as in the case of the Dreinoff houses – the creation of a semi-wildcat settlement, which the government and the prosecution later attempt to legalize. There is no military need? Obey the law and return the land to its rightful owners.

Written by Yossi Gurvitz in his capacity as a blogger for Yesh Din, Volunteers for Human Rights. A version of this post was first published on Yesh Din’s blog.

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Democracy, the High Court and punitive home demolitions http://972mag.com/democracy-the-high-court-and-punitive-home-demolitions/114223/ http://972mag.com/democracy-the-high-court-and-punitive-home-demolitions/114223/#comments Thu, 26 Nov 2015 16:02:50 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=114223 Israeli politicians endlessly chastise the Supreme Court for doubting the use of punitive home demolitions. So what do the politicians do? Blame the judges for defending terrorists.

By Frances Raday

Palestinians from the Abu Jaber family sit on the ruins of their home that was demolished by Israeli authorities, East Jerusalem, October 6, 2015. The house belonged to the family of Ghassan Abu Jaber, who killed four worshippers in an attack on a synagogue last year. (photo: Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Palestinians from the Abu Jaber family sit on the ruins of their home that was demolished by Israeli authorities, East Jerusalem, October 6, 2015. The house belonged to the family of Ghassan Abu Jaber, who killed four worshippers in an attack on a synagogue last year. (photo: Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

The spate of stabbing and vehicular attacks by Palestinian youths over the past couple of months has brought along with it a spate of punitive home demolitions targeting the attackers’ family members. Both political leaders and Israeli Supreme Court justices have had something to say about the practice. The justices have expressed some doubt about the practice, and in some cases even issued injunctions delaying the demolitions. In response, politicians have blamed the judges for defending terrorists.


The trail of “politicians’ blaming” and “judges’ claims” regarding home demolitions merits an English style lampoon and quiz.

The politicians and ministers in our government cry out: we must unite against our judges for delaying home demolitions of terrorists — they are siding with the enemy. It’s not a matter of human rights, they say, these teenagers’ parents must be punished for their sons’ or daughters’ offenses, here and now. Forcing the state to wait until it can present evidence to the court proves that the judges are completely detached from reality. The politicians seem to wish the judges would behave like the Red Queen, and order “off with their heads,” instead of “only by due process will we remove the roof from over their heads.”

Quiz 1: If this is not a matter of human rights, as Israeli politicians claim, then what is? Is the demolition of a home not a criminal penalty? As such, does it not require a fair trial of the accused and conviction of all who are to be punished, including each parent and all siblings? Are Arab parents more responsible for the murderous misbehavior of their offspring than Jewish parents? Has anyone considered punishing Yigal Amir‘s mother or Baruch Goldstein’s parents as a deterrent for the growing phenomenon of Jewish terrorism? Are our politicians unaware that their very own Defense Ministry concluded that efficacy of house demolitions as a counter-terrorism tool is questionable and hence should not be employed?

Our judges responded timorously: the politicians’ attacks on the judges are in such bad taste, they said. Such attacks pander to the public mood and are “are unworthy of our government.” One wily and wise judge asked: Who delayed the demolitions? Is the High Court really the cause of the delay when half of the disputed demolitions were not carried out even months after the court permitted them? And the champion of the judges, Justice Elyakim Rubinstein, took a stronger stand, saying the court had acted correctly in delaying the demolition until petitions against them were heard; if not, “We would be like Sodom and Gomorrah – destroying first and asking questions after!” He explained: “The court is part of the nation and the state, it is not the United Nations but it fights for the character of the state as a state of law, human rights and human obligations.”

Quiz 2: Are these attacks by our politicians really “unworthy of our government”? Are they not quite reflective of our present government whose ministers manifestly show little respect for human rights and the rule of law?

Quiz 3: What did our dear justice mean when he said the court is “not the United Nations?” In aiming to convince the public that the court is not alien to Israeli society did he not, perhaps inadvertently, pander to the public phobia about the international human rights regime, reinforcing a perception of meddling foreigners, along with isolation and victimization by the United Nations, which those very politicians who attack the court actually nurture? Did the learned judge miss out on that part of Jewish history in which it was the United Nations that gave birth to the State of Israel, which introduced international Holocaust Remembrance Day, which fights human rights violations affecting minorities, women, children, the disabled and the poor globally? Does our Supreme Court justice not fully acknowledge that the court itself is bound by the international human rights regime that prohibits punishment without due process or discrimination on grounds of race, religion or nationality?

We are indeed not cognizant of the UN. And we are worse off for that.

Frances Raday is the President of the Concord Research Center for Integration of International Law in Israel and a Professor of Law at Hebrew University.

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Court shuts down left-wing lecture following threats of violence http://972mag.com/court-shuts-down-left-wing-lecture-following-threats-of-violence/114216/ http://972mag.com/court-shuts-down-left-wing-lecture-following-threats-of-violence/114216/#comments Wed, 25 Nov 2015 19:26:29 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=114216 ‘Breaking the Silence’ planned to hold a speaking event at a local pub in Be’er Sheva. The police shut it down after it could not ensure the safety of the participants.

By John Brown*

Yahuda Shaul of Breaking the Silence leading a tour in Hebron (photo: Activestills.org)

Illustrative photo of Yehuda Shaul of Breaking the Silence leading a tour in Hebron. (photo: Activestills.org)

A Be’er Sheva court barred a local pub from hosting an event put on by “Breaking the Silence” following threats by right-wing activists.

The Be’er Sheva Magistrate’s Court issued the order barring the event, which was supposed to take place Tuesday night at the Ashan Hazman pub, following a request by the police, which arrested a resident of the city on suspicion of threatening the pub owner earlier this week.


Breaking the Silence is an Israeli NGO comprised of former combat soldiers who try to expose the Israeli public to the realities of the occupation through discussions of their military service as well as tours to the West Bank.

In court, the police prosecutor argued that “according to our intelligence, extreme rightists called on other right wingers to come to the pub and torpedo the event. Our intelligence included remarks that were grave bordering on dangerous.” The judge accepted the appeal and barred the event from taking place at the pub. According to the judge, “the intelligence shows that there are those who wish to disrupt the gathering… and that they are willing to use violence to do so.”

According to the state representative, the request for a restraining order came too late — only four hours before the event was scheduled to take place — and that they only heard of the event the day before the hearing. This is a strange claim, when considering that the police arrested a right-wing activist suspected of threatening the event organizer two days on Sunday.

The request for a restraining order also came after the organization complied with a police request to compile and hand over a list of attendees. According to Breaking the Silence, the police also requested the owner take responsibility over what happens in the area surrounding the pub during the event, meaning he is responsible for protecting patrons from right-wing violence. The owner refused this request, leading the police to appeal to the court.

It is worth noting that the pub is not a publicly-funded institution, and that the Breaking the Silence event was cancelled because the police were unable to protect attendees.

Breaking the Silence responded to the court’s decision:

Be’er Sheva Police has awarded right-wing terror a prize instead of doing its job and maintaining public order. It’s capitulation to right-wing terror does not happen in a vacuum, this is the spirit of the law that comes from above — from the prime minister, education minister, justice minister and their friends — who constantly incite against social activists and human rights activists. Neither their campaign of hatred and incitement nor will right-wing terror stop us — we will continue to meet today and in the future, with everyone who cares about the future of the state and Israeli society. They will not silence us.

Breaking the Silence eventually held the event in a number of private apartments in Be’er Sheva.

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

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Why aren’t Israelis talking about extrajudicial killings? http://972mag.com/why-arent-israelis-talking-about-extrajudicial-killings/114209/ http://972mag.com/why-arent-israelis-talking-about-extrajudicial-killings/114209/#comments Wed, 25 Nov 2015 17:08:59 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=114209 Two Palestinian teenage girls were shot at point-blank range after attempting to stab passersby with scissors. Who said there is no death penalty in Israel?

By Rhona Burns

On Tuesday two Palestinian teenagers left their homes and went out to attack Jewish Israelis in Jerusalem with a pair of scissors.

Unsurprisingly, the girls, 14 and 16 years old, were unsuccessful. After all, they were armed with a pair of scissors. They managed to lightly wound an elderly Palestinian man, and were immediately attacked back by other witnesses, at least two of whom were armed with guns.


When it was all over, one of the girls was shot to death, the other was seriously wounded by gunfire.

Not enough has been said about this incident, not enough has been written, despite the fact that this event included what appears to be a most serious detail. This detail is the fact that the shooting of one of the girls seems to be happening while she is already lying on the ground, after someone had hit her with a chair.

The fact is that these incidents have become commonplace. The ends justify the means. “They are attacking us, they must know that there will be consequences.” And what of Israeli society? What are the consequences of what has been taking place here for the past two months for Israelis? What is the price of blood that seems to flow so cheaply here? What is the price of suffering? Of unnecessary death? What about the right to a fair trial?

Who said there is no death penalty in Israel?

When I see what appears to be a man shooting a teenage girl as she lays on the ground on a main street in Jerusalem from point-blank range, I ask myself whether I am witnessing an attempted murder. Whether I am witnessing an extrajudicial killing, without even the facade of a kangaroo court.

This was the case with the shooting death of Fadi Alloun. This was the case, despite the different circumstances, of the tragic death of Habtom Zerhum.

We must cry out against the images captured by the security cameras at the Mahane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem. Meanwhile, as many of us are crying out, the injustices continue, the violence undermines the fundamentals of democracy and a free society, violence wins out.

Rhona Burns is a critic and author based in Jerusalem. This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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More guns will not make Israelis any safer http://972mag.com/more-guns-will-not-make-israelis-any-safer/114206/ http://972mag.com/more-guns-will-not-make-israelis-any-safer/114206/#comments Wed, 25 Nov 2015 13:54:27 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=114206 The immediate solution to every threat or conflict in Israel is to give more weapons to civilians, which often end up killing innocents ad disproportionately affects women.

By Tanya Rubinstein

Israeli shows a tear gas gun he just bought at a gun shop in Jerusalem on October 15, 2015. Arms shop's owners report a rise in demand for wepons and other self deface gear as violance continues around Jerusalem. (photo: Yotam Ronen)

Israeli shows a tear gas gun he just bought at a gun shop in Jerusalem on October 15, 2015. Arms shop’s owners report a rise in demand for wepons and other self deface gear as violance continues around Jerusalem. (photo: Yotam Ronen)

These days, and actually most of the time, violence in the streets is making headlines on a near-daily basis. The dangers of citizens arming themselves, of the growing militarization of our society, and the way these two intersect to create more violence — especially toward women — can hardly be found in our newspapers.


Israeli society’s sense of security greatly stems from both developing our weapons industry and the massive arming of the IDF. This is our answer to every threat, whether real or imagined. This is a society in which the army plays a significant role in our daily lives: in the education system, on the street, vis-a-vis almost everyone we know. This is a society in which weapons — both the private and public sphere — are completely normal. Specifically in the public sphere, weapons are viewed as something that protects us.

A significant portion of the Israeli economy is based on its security industry, whether development or importing and exporting arms and security technology. The government actively supports these industries, promoting a feeling that they are necessary in order to keep us safe.

The last few months have not only seen the streamlining of the process of procuring permits for firearms, but the active encouragement of civilians to arm themselves and to use their weapons as a response to the feeling of helplessness on the streets.

But is the proliferation of weapons truly the right answer to violence?

Israelis attend a shooting practice in a gun shop in Jerusalem on October 15, 2015. Arms shop's owners report a rise in demand for weapons and other self defence gear as violence continues around Jerusalem. (Activestills.org)

Israelis attend a shooting practice in a gun shop in Jerusalem on October 15, 2015. Arms shop’s owners report a rise in demand for weapons and other self defence gear as violence continues around Jerusalem. (Activestills.org)

The fact is that there are many people who feel threatened by the sight of a weapon. Guns are a threat even for the average person on the street: only recently have we witnessed a number of cases in which security forces and civilians have used their weapons disproportionately, not to mention instances in which innocents have been accidentally wounded or killed in shooting incidents.

Violence, of course, is not solely relegated to the public sphere. A large part of violence against women takes place at home. The “Gun Free Kitchen Tables” has successfully forced the authorities to enforce instructions by the Defense Ministry published in 2013, which order security companies to collect guns handed out to their employees at the end of the day. The orders came in the wake of many cases of domestic murders using guns belonging to security guards. From the moment these orders went into effect, not a single woman or family member was murdered by security guards.

But this decision was annulled by then-Minister of Public Security Yitzhak Aharonovitch in November 2014, allowing security guards to carry weapons outside their places of work. Aharonovitch explained his decision as stemming from the “need to strengthen the feeling of security among the population,” following a wave of terror attacks.

The ease with which civilians can obtain gun licenses — as well as the panic and feeling of danger in the streets — leaves us vulnerable to physical harm. We must openly oppose a culture in which weapons are the solution to every danger or conflict, against a culture of violence and arming, against a culture in which women suffer from violence that grows more extreme as the tension in the streets grows — a culture that inevitably permeates the home.

This militaristic worldview, which relies on more murderous weapons in the streets and our homes, must be replaced with a worldview that protects the life of women and the population at large. A worldview that strives to reduce the violence in our lives.

Tanya Rubinstein is the head of the “Hamushim” project, as part of the Coalition of Women for Peace. This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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Illegal settlements aren’t rogue, they’re government policy http://972mag.com/illegal-settlements-arent-rogue-theyre-government-policy/114182/ http://972mag.com/illegal-settlements-arent-rogue-theyre-government-policy/114182/#comments Tue, 24 Nov 2015 13:57:55 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=114182 Consecutive Israeli governments have fabricated a sophisticated system designed to lend a guise of legality to the seizure of land in the West Bank.

By Adam Aloni

Israeli soldiers stand in front of the West Bank settlement of Beitar Illit, which was partially built on expropriated land belonging to the Palestinian village of Wadi Fukin, West Bank, September 26, 2014. (Ahmad al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

Israeli soldiers stand in front of the West Bank settlement of Beitar Illit, which was partially built on expropriated land belonging to the Palestinian village of Wadi Fukin, West Bank, September 26, 2014. (Ahmad al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

A month ago, with nearly no public debate, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu retroactively approved an urban building plan (UBP) for the West Bank settlement of Itamar. A week later, on October 29, Netanyahu retroactively approved UBPs for another three settlements: Shvut Rachel, Sansana and Yaqir. Once again Israeli authorities “laundered” construction in the West Bank that even they deemed illegal for years. Contrary to attempts in the media to represent this move as a Netanyahu capitulation to settler leaders, this was nothing more than the implementation of a long-standing Israeli policy of extensive unauthorized construction followed by retroactive approval. This allows the state to maintain a semblance of the rule of law while violating it on a daily basis.


In many settlements, the government itself has been responsible for illegal construction, primarily through the Housing and Construction Ministry. An analysis of Defense Ministry data shows that in the overwhelming majority (approximately 75 percent) of West Bank settlements, construction – sometimes extensive construction – was carried out without the necessary permits or in breach of the permits that were granted.

In 2005, the director general of the Settlement Division of the World Zionist Organization, which serves as the Israeli government’s branch for establishing and reinforcing rural settlements, testified that the Settlement Division expressly advocates violating planning and building laws in the West Bank. He said that the modus operandi is first to establish Israeli communities, then reinforce them, and only several years later to approve plans for the construction – “This is the mode of operation”.

The establishment of settlements – with or without building permits – violates international humanitarian law and the human rights of the Palestinian residents of the West Bank. Over the years, Israeli governments have all disregarded this prohibition and fabricated a sophisticated legal system designed to lend a guise of legality to the seizure of land in the West Bank.

Construction in the Israeli settlement of Gilo is seen over the West Bank separation barrier. (Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Construction in the Israeli settlement of Gilo is seen over the West Bank separation barrier. (Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

While Israel employs the same planning and legal language to describe Israeli and Palestinian construction in the West Bank, in practice these procedures and regulations are implemented completely differently in Jewish-Israeli settlements and in Palestinian communities. In the case of settlements, Israeli authorities provide assistance, turn a blind eye to violations, and retroactively approve unauthorized construction, all as part of a long-standing policy to facilitate the de facto annexation of West Bank land to the sovereign territory of the State of Israel. Palestinian communities on the other hand, face an exacting, by-the-book, bureaucratic approach, a freeze on planning, and extensively implemented demolition orders, all as part of an ongoing policy to prevent Palestinian development and dispossess Palestinians of their land.

Israeli government policy regarding planning and construction for Palestinians in the West Bank is the very reverse of the modus operandi described above. With regard to Palestinian construction in Area C, the Israeli government cynically explained to the UN that in order “to facilitate proper planning procedures, illegal construction is not tolerated. Such illegal construction harms the local population, given the fact that it does not take into consideration planning policies that will ensure a reasonable quality of life, and public needs.”

However, in practice the government has no such planning policy, nor will it have any such policy. In approximately 70 percent of Area C, Palestinian construction is completely prohibited, while stringent restrictions are imposed on another 29 percent of the area. In the remaining one percent of Area C – some 1,824.3 hectares – there are approved outline plans that enable Palestinian development. However, most of this area is already built up.

In recent years, the Palestinian Authority has prepared outline plans for 116 communities, and 67 plans have already been submitted to the planning bodies in the Israeli army’s Civil Administration for approval. However, these efforts have been to no avail. Only three plans have been approved, and they cover a total area of a mere 57 hectares (equal to 0.02 percent of Area C). This outcome is hardly surprising, given that Palestinians are completely excluded from the decision-making process with regard to planning in Area C.

Israel has surrounded the Palestinian residents of the West Bank in a planning stranglehold, while at the same time approving outline plans for settlements that already cover a total area of 28,217.4 hectares, equal to 8.5 percent of Area C. In addition, Israel has allocated extensive areas to the municipal authorities of the settlements, thereby blocking any Palestinian use of the land and ensuring that it remains available as a reserve for settlement expansion. Given the relative size of the two populations, the planned area for each settler is at least 13 times greater than that for each Palestinian. And that is how Israel expropriates West Bank land for itself at the expense of local Palestinian residents.

Adam Aloni works as a researcher at B’Tselem – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories. A version of this article first appeared in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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I have a special ID card, Mr. Trump, and it is hell http://972mag.com/i-have-a-special-id-card-mr-trump-and-it-is-hell/114148/ http://972mag.com/i-have-a-special-id-card-mr-trump-and-it-is-hell/114148/#comments Mon, 23 Nov 2015 15:13:19 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=114148 The Republican presidential candidate wants Muslims to carry special ID cards. A West Bank Palestinian uses her personal experience to explain what that really means.

By Nadia Naser-Najjab

American presidential candidate Donald Trump at an event in New York City, September 3, 2015 (cropped). (A. Katz/Shutterstock.com)

American presidential candidate Donald Trump at an event in New York City, September 3, 2015 (cropped). (A. Katz/Shutterstock.com)

Donald Trump recently suggested that Muslims in the United States should be registered in a database and forced to carry special ID cards. This, he would have us believe, will help to make American citizens safer from the consequences of the wars successive U.S. administrations have waged around the world.


As a Palestinian who has studied and lived in the U.S., Trump’s disgusting bigotry offends me on a very personal level. However, the proposals also had an impact on me in another sense: as a Palestinian resident of the occupied West Bank I have to carry an ID card that I am required to produce whenever a representative of the Israeli state demands it of me. In my own country, I am the ones without rights; I am the one who has to justify my own presence to an occupying power.

Upon producing my ID, I am always aware of the fact that to the official glancing at the card I am little more than a few words and a photograph: I am, in effect, an accessory to this piece of plastic. And yet, in another sense, this document has no relation to me: it is part of an apparatus of control which reduces me to a unit of analysis that can be subtracted, divided and multiplied.

The card does not guarantee me rights nor does it enable me to make demands. Quite the contrary, it enables me only to respond to the demands of others, to present myself on terms that might satisfy the rude, abrupt and disinterested official who has deigned to take a few moments to bark questions at me. In producing this card for Israeli troops or officials I do not convey who I am, only what I am not. If I produce it I am not a threat, I am not a terrorist, and I am not guilty of an offense against his or her government or the laws the occupying authority has no right to pass or administer in the first place.

An Israeli soldier checks a Palestinian man’s identity card. Israel controls the Palestinian population database and issues green ID cards to Palestinians whereas Israelis receive blue cards. (Photo by Activestills.org)

An Israeli soldier checks a Palestinian man’s identity card. Israel controls the Palestinian population database and issues green ID cards to Palestinians whereas Israelis receive blue cards. (Photo by Activestills.org)

This card has become inseparable from the occupation itself, from the various ways it imposes itself upon everyday existence. In this aspect the occupation appears in its immediacy: the fences, the checkpoints, the armed soldiers. However, the occupation also exerts control through more subtle psychological means; that is, through a sense of uncertainty and unpredictability. Both aspects – the material embodiment of occupation and the more elusive sense of arbitrariness and powerlessness – are embodied within this piece of plastic.

To even obtain the ID card in the first place is to make a concession to a hated occupation whose only authority is derived from the violence and brutality it exercises to control your life. Every minutiae of your existence is subject to its unyielding gaze. Nothing else is to be expected or demanded: with the security of the state as its overarching justification, the bureaucracy need recognize no limitation or constraint. Once Palestinians have been defined as a threat they can be subject to any impediment, any control and any petty restriction. It is for this reason that I did not graduate from Birzeit University on time. The university was closed several times by an Israeli military order in the early 80s. In early 90s the closure of Jerusalem forced me to resign from my job because I was unable to enter the city.

Reflecting upon these features of the occupation, I often find it is the small details that are as telling as the larger ones. To take one example, in the pre-Oslo era, even a driver’s license were regulated and issued by Israeli military authorities – the color of your license plate indicated the area of the occupied territories in which the car had been registered. In reflecting upon this, I would suggest that it is not in the grand and imposing structures of the occupation – the walls, the prisons, the roadblocks – where one can find its essence, but rather in these small details, which correspond to a desire to control each and every aspect of Palestinian life. In registering the tenacity and pervasiveness of this desire, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that it knows no limitation or constraint and will only stop at the point where it meets active resistance.

On closer reflection, I found that the response of those subject to these petty restrictions is equally telling. Before the Oslo Accords, upon attaining a driver’s license, successful Palestinian applicants frequently celebrated by sharing kanafe (the Palestinian dessert) with relatives and friends. For Americans this would of course be inconceivable – could the likes of Donald Trump ever envisage celebrating the mundane occurrence of being granted the most basic of rights? Could he ever acknowledge how it feels to live in a society where every right is not enshrined in law but is subject to the benevolence of a bureaucrat? And, finally, could he ever acknowledge that an ID card is more than a piece of plastic — that it is the material embodiment of a system that dehumanizes both those who control it and those who are subject to it? If he cannot, then let us at least hope that ordinary Americans will do so on his behalf.

Dr. Nadia Naser-Najjab has a PhD in Middle East Studies and is an Associate Research Fellow at the European Center of Palestine Studies-Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies at the University of Exeter.

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Providing settler terrorism with a tailwind http://972mag.com/providing-settler-terrorism-with-a-tailwind/114054/ http://972mag.com/providing-settler-terrorism-with-a-tailwind/114054/#comments Sat, 21 Nov 2015 16:56:01 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=114054 The police request to postpone the demolition of a synagogue built on Palestinian land for fear of right-wing attacks is a clear surrender to threat of violence.

By Yesh Din, written by Yossi Gurvitz

Palestinians from the village Duma gather at the Dawabshe house, which was attacked by two arsonists Friday morning. Ali , an 18-month-old toddler, was burned to death in the attack. His parents and four-year-old brother are currently hospitalized in Israel in serious condition. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Palestinians from the village Duma gather at the Dawabshe house, which was attacked by two arsonists Friday morning. Ali , an 18-month-old toddler, was burned to death in the attack. His mother and father later succumbed to their wounds. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

The case of the Givat Ze’ev synagogue combines almost all of the ills of the Israeli occupation in the West Bank. Last week we witnessed a new low, when the High Court of Justice dealt with a request that has sadly become all-too-common: to rescind, through postponement, its own verdict. This was a cowardly and audacious request by the police, to which the court acceded. How did we get here?


Let’s begin with the legal picture. On July 31st, 2014 the High Court ruled that an illegally-built synagogue in Givat Ze’ev is to be demolished, as it was built on private Palestinian land belonging to Rabah Abdallatif. In plain words: Israeli civilians stole and built a synagogue on it.

The sharp-eyed among you may notice that the original demolition date, July 31st, 2015 is more than three months behind us. Due to a series of empty motions, the demolition was postponed time after time. First to August 10th and then to October 13th – after the prime minister himself asked to postpone the demolition until after the Jewish High Holidays. A day before the demolition date, a new empty motion was served to the court, which was quashed with prejudice.

The new demolition order was set for October 20th. Two days earlier, the government asked for a new postponement, claiming the security situation does not permit it to allocate the forces required for the demolition. You would be surprised to hear, then, that a day after that request was served, Israeli Police actually found the necessary forces to evacuate two Palestinian families from a house in the village of Silwan in East Jerusalem, enforcing a court ruling in favor the far-right Ateret Cohanim organization. Turns out that finding the “adequate forces” is a matter of will. The government sought to postpone the demolition of the synagogue to December 1st; the High Court allotted it a shorter period of time – until November 5th.

Lo and behold: in what became a routine procedure for a government that dares not enforce the law when it comes to its political supporters, the police informed the High Court on the eve of November 2nd that due to the security situation, it once more wants to postpone the demolition.

This time, the police came up with an even more audacious and dangerous claim, according to which the security situation and terror attacks are “causing bitterness, frustration and restlessness with the current situation. These feelings are a platform among extreme right wing for ‘price tag’ actions.” Thus, the police asked for a postponement.

Read: Israel admits right-wing violence works

This is what the police is telling us: Listen, there are some hooligans here. If we try to enforce the law, they will harm people and we can do nothing to do about it.” In the classic blackmail scenario, there is a goon and the person who kindly explains to you that you’d better do as the goon says. Threatening you? Not at all! He’d be insulted at the suggestion. He merely suggests you do the logical thing, security-wise. It would be such a shame if a fire broke out here, no?

And if the lawbreakers are the hooligan in this story, then the police plays the part of the person convincing you to give in to the threats. The police. You know, the people supposed to protect you from lawbreakers.

In case the justices of the High Court didn’t get the hint, a day before the planned demolition — in a step that was no less than a threat toward them — a protest slogan was spray painted on the walls of the court. The message is clear: we can get to you, just as we can get to the houses of Palestinians in the West Bank.

And if the High Court folds before the threats presented by the police, one thing is certain: these threats will repeat themselves. The government of Israel is happy to give in to the threats of these fearless, uncontrolled zealots. And if it could convince the court that there is no choice but to do so, the threats will continue. Because when all is said and done, these threats work.

The government came out of the courtroom with some success: the demolition was postponed – again – to November 17th, with the justices unable to hide their own impatience.

(Update: On November 18, the High Court partially accepted the state’s offer to spend NIS 5 million to relocate rather than demolish the synagogue.)

And one more thing: the people barricading in the synagogue call the structure a “minor temple.” Let them learn that a temple is not built on robbery, that it is not built on blood, and that virtue is not supported by sin. Let them learn that King David bought the thrashing floor of Aruanah the Jebusite by paying its full worth, not seizing it by force. Zion shall be redeemed with justice, and her repentant ones with righteousness.

Written by Yossi Gurvitz in his capacity as a blogger for Yesh Din, Volunteers for Human Rights. A version of this post was first published on Yesh Din’s blog.

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Number of Palestinian minors in Israeli prisons doubles http://972mag.com/number-of-palestinian-minors-in-israeli-prisons-doubles/114031/ http://972mag.com/number-of-palestinian-minors-in-israeli-prisons-doubles/114031/#comments Fri, 20 Nov 2015 17:50:02 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=114031 There are so many new Palestinian minors being sent to Israeli prisons that authorities had to open a new wing to house them. Rights groups report numerous cases of mistreatment, and that the children are moved outside of the West Bank in violation of international law.

By Noam Rotem

Israeli border police arrest a Palestinian youth in East Jerusalem’s Shuafat Refugee Camp, file photo. (Photo by Tess Scheflan/Activestills.org)

Israeli border police arrest a Palestinian youth in East Jerusalem’s Shuafat Refugee Camp, file photo. (Photo by Tess Scheflan/Activestills.org)

Israeli authorities have arrested hundreds of Palestinian minors since the latest uprising began in the start of October. They have been sent to four different facilitates run by the Israel Prison Service (IPS) on both sides of the Green Line.


When the pace of arrests picked up, the IPS decide to open a new, temporary wing for minors at the Giv’on prison in order to ease overcrowding at existing facilities. Until that time, Giv’on only housed “light” criminal offenders with sentences under five years, including asylum seekers and Palestinians who entered Israel without the proper permits.

According to the Palestinian Prisoners Club, 62 Palestinian minors are being held in the facility. Attorneys for Palestinian prisoners’ rights organization Addameer who visited the facility a few days earlier counted 56.

Lawyers from the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) met with a number of Palestinian minors being held in Giv’on, none of whom had criminal records, some of whom were just 14 years old and stood accused of various crimes. They said they were being held in small cells, two meters by one meter, three boys to a cell. Some of them still hadn’t seen any of their family members since their arrests several weeks ago.

Electronic Intifada interviewed the families of some of the Palestinian minors being held in Israeli prisons, and reported that some families were not even notified where their children were being held. Only days later, and with the help of the Red Cross, did they manage to find their children in the new Giv’on prison wing. “Once they were allowed to enter the facility, the families had to divide among themselves the 30 minutes they were allotted to speak to their children on a phone through a plexiglass screen,” EI reported.

The story doesn’t end with overcrowding and a lack of communication with the minors’ families, however. The minors imprisoned in Giv’on complain of the harsh and humiliating treatment they receive from the guards. Members of the Public Committee Against Torture say that in one case, guards entered their cell with batons and beat them for nearly an hour, as retribution for setting off a smoke detector. When they finished up, PCATI members say, one minor was taken out of his cell and a guard strangled him until his vision became blurry. He was then put into an isolation cell, his hands and legs shackled, and left there from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m. in drenched clothes and with no food or water. When he asked to go to the bathroom, it took two hours before he was taken. “There is a basis for believing that other minors were shackled and beaten in the same incident,” PCATI said, noting it planned to file an official complaint.

The Prison Service confirmed that the incident took place, adding that “a number of minors caused a disturbance and intentionally broke the fire sprinkler in their cell, which flooded the cell and caused thousands of shekels of damage. To prevent further disturbances, four of them were restrained and shackled for the rest of the night, after which they were returned to the [prison] wing. All those involved were charged and the process was documented. The complaint received about violence on the part of the guards was passed along to the [internal affairs division].”

Addameer claims that on November 1st one of the minors was taken to the bathroom, where he was stripped, restrained and searched. The same day, according to the organization’s lawyers, guards attacked a number of minors as they searched their cells. Lawyers for the Prisoners Club reported the case of “Z”, a 16-year-old Palestinian boy from Jerusalem, who says he was hit on his arms and legs and forced to kneel facing the wall for hours on end during which time he was periodically struck on his neck.

The organizations also say that the minors have complained about the food they are being given in the facility. According to their attorneys, they complained they are not receiving enough food, that it is cold and inedible.

The Prison Service rejected the claims about the quality and quantity of food, saying that: “the youths receive (nutritionally) fortified food, according to the IPS menu suited for their age, five meals a day. The food is transported to the [prison] wing in heating devices so claims that it is cold are not logical. That said, as a result of their request, pita bread is now distributed during every meal.” The IPS added that in recent weeks third-parties have inspected the facility and did not discover any violence or issues with the food.

According to IPS figures, as of the end of September it was holding 182 Israeli minors (Jewish and Arab citizens and residents) and 187 Palestinian “security prisoners” under the age of 18, mostly from the West Bank. Since the start of October the number of Palestinian minors who have been sent to Israeli prisons has more than doubled. The Palestinian Prisoners Club reported that as of November 20, Universal Children’s Day, more than 400 Palestinian minors were being held in Israeli prisons.

Many of the Palestinian minors being held in Israeli prison facilities are disconnected from their families, who must apply for permits to enter Israel where those facilities are located. (Moving prisoners out of occupied territory is a violation of the Geneva Conventions, partly for this very reason, but that’s another story.) They are under the supervision of guards who oftentimes don’t speak their language, they are often denied rehabilitation services, and education and social activities. There is television, PCATI says, but that’s all.

Noam Rotem is an Israeli activist, high-tech executive and author of the blog o139.org, subtitled “Godwin doesn’t live here any more.” This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call, where he is also a blogger.

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Evidence casts doubt on IDF version of deadly West Bank shooting http://972mag.com/evidence-casts-doubt-on-idf-version-of-deadly-west-bank-shooting/113951/ http://972mag.com/evidence-casts-doubt-on-idf-version-of-deadly-west-bank-shooting/113951/#comments Mon, 16 Nov 2015 16:06:28 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=113951 The IDF Spokesperson and Israeli media outlets said that a young Palestinian man from the village of Budrus was shot while trying to snatch a soldier’s weapon. An eye witness, photographs and the autopsy tell a different story — that he was shot in the back, from some distance.

By John Brown*

An Israeli solider shoots tear gas toward Palestinian demonstrators during a protest against the occupation in the West Bank village of Budrus, three days after soldiers shot and killed 16-year-old Samir Awad, January 18, 2013. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

An Israeli solider shoots tear gas toward Palestinian demonstrators during a protest against the occupation in the West Bank village of Budrus, three days after soldiers shot and killed 16-year-old Samir Awad, January 18, 2013. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Soldiers from the Israeli Border Police and the IDF’s Home Front Command shot and killed 22-year-old Yousef Awad in the West Bank village of Budrus last Friday.

“During a violent and illegal riot in the village Budrus, in which approximately 80 Palestinians threw stones and Molotov cocktails toward the security fence, a main rioter who resisted arrest was detained and even tried to grab the weapon of one of the soldiers. The troops responded by shooting him and a hit was confirmed. The incident will be investigated.” That’s how the IDF responded to the event.

Walla! News reported the IDF’s version as fact, without any real evidence to back up the claim: ”A Palestinian tried to grab a weapon from a soldier and was shot to death.”

A number of findings which obtained by Local Call, +972′s Hebrew-language sister site, cast doubt on the the army’s version of the events. First and foremost, Awad was shot in the back, and likely from a distance — which seemingly contradicts the army’s claim that he attempted to snatch a soldier’s weapon.

One would think that after soldiers from the Home Front Command lied in March 2013 about an incident at Allenby Bridge — in which they claimed the exact same thing happened — and Ynet reported that a “Palestinian tried to grab the soldier’s weapon and was shot to death,” a claim that was later found to be untrue (the soldiers will likely be charged), journalists would be a bit more careful when it comes to these kinds of reports.

The fact that during that same month, soldiers of the Home Front Command were involved in the unlawful discharge of a weapon toward Palestinians and another soldier from the same unit was convicted of the involuntary manslaughter of Uday Darwish, did not cause the reporter to think twice the article.

So what happened in Budrus?

First, the Palestinian testimony. According to Iyad Awad, who was at the scene, the soldiers set up an ambush near the fence. When Yousef approached they hit him, shot a rubber bullet in his leg and grabbed him. When his friends saw what was happening, they tried to free him, he pushed one of the soldiers and managed to escape. As he ran away, one of the soldiers shot him from a distance of 10 meters — this was the shot that killed him.

According to this version, Awad was shot in his back while running away. According to the IDF’s version, if he was shot while trying to grab a weapon, then it is likely that he was shot on his front side. Photos that were given to Local Call clearly show that Awad was shot in his back; there is an entry wound in the center of his back, and an exit wound in the left side of his stomach. There difference between the wounds is stark: the entry wound is close in diameter to a 5.56 millimeter bullet, which is used by the IDF. The exit wound in Awad’s stomach is far larger, which is usually the case with such bullets. We chose not to publish the photos, although we did manage to confirm their authenticity.

The testimonies and photos are buttressed by an autopsy conducted in Qalqilya, whose results were passed on to Local Call by Israeli human rights group B’Tselem. The autopsy showed that Awad was indeed shot in the back, and that the bullet hit two aortas, a kidney and his pancreas. His feet and knees were also bruised. According to the pathologist, the findings show that Awad was shot at a range of up to 10 meters — not at point-blank range during a struggle.

The physical findings are consistent with the Palestinian version. It is possible that while Awad was being attacked he may have touched the soldier’s weapon, which means that the IDF’s version is not entirely a lie. It does not, however, explain why Awad was shot. We can assume that Awad’s back did not constitute a threat to the troops.

In addition, the soldiers’ actions are not consistent with the version according to which Awad tried to steal a weapon. They did not bother to catch him and detain him after wounding him, as one might expect had he been a terrorist. In fact the soldiers did not even know that Awad died of his wounds — they left him there. His friends and family were not interrogated as is common in such cases.

So why was Awad shot? The area of the clashes near the separation fence is constantly monitored by Israeli army cameras, and there is a high possibility that the entire incident was captured on tape. Usually the IDF releases the footage of terrorist attacks. Why don’t they do so this time?

We turned to the IDF Spokesperson with all the questions and doubts raised here. We received the exact same response to all the media outlets.

A replay of events

Samir Awad is evacuated for medical treatment after being shot in the back of the neck by Israeli soldiers. He later died. October 15, 2013. (Nader Morar/B’Tselem)

Samir Awad is evacuated for medical treatment after being shot in the back of the neck by Israeli soldiers. He later died. October 15, 2013. (Nader Morar/B’Tselem)

This isn’t the first time the IDF has refused to release footage of what ostensibly appears to be unlawful discharge of a firearm against Palestinians in Budrus. A chillingly similar thing happened two-and-a-half years ago in the exact same spot. On January 15, 2013 soldiers from Unit 71 ambushed young men from the village, who tend to throw stones at soldiers in the area near the separation fence. Some of the teens planned to go to the fence after school, but only one of them, 16-year-old Samir Awad, did so. Witnesses at the scene described what followed:

Samir Awad climbed the first fence, and found himself caught between two fences — the one he had just climbed and the separation fence, which he is not allowed to climb. The soldiers shot two warning shots in the air while as they leapt from the ambush. Awad became frightened and tried to climb back over the first fence toward the village, but at that moment the soldiers shot him in the thigh. Awad, despite being wounded, managed to cross the first fence and began running toward the village.

One of the soldiers who followed him grabbed his arm, yet Awad managed to free himself and continued to run. The soldiers caught up, and when they were about 10 meters away, two of them shot him in the nape, killing him. This description is provided by both B’Tselem, Amnesty, and Awad’s autopsy.

Following the opening of the investigation, it became clear that the soldiers’ versions were deceitful and contradictory. It was clear that the soldiers did not follow the army’s rules of engagement, which despite their lenience, do not permit shooting a teen, who does not pose any danger, in the back or the nape.

Last April, after more than two years, the state prosecutor decided to indict the soldiers for “reckless or careless use of a firearm.” This law was amended in 2005 in order to prevent gunfire at weddings, such that its use in the case of a near-execution of a teenage boy is beyond unreasonable. “A reckless act” is a crime that does not require intention while ignoring the actual killing, and in which the guilty part is not sentenced to jail time, and tends to carry a sentence of community service. In this case, one can only assume that the indictment will lead to a plea bargain, one that doesn’t include prison time or even a conviction.

This week, after another delay of half a year — due to a petition to the High Court — the state prosecutor announced that it would finally serve the indictment. According to state, the Military Police’s investigation failed to determine which of the two soldiers shot the fatal bullet, since both of them fired their weapons, yet it remains unclear which one of them shot Awad in the nape. This is an absurd argument, and becomes even more so in light of the fact that the cameras likely caught the incident on tape. The IDF, however, refuses to release the footage, perhaps to prevent criticism of a potential plea bargain.

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

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