+972 Magazine » +972 Blog http://972mag.com Independent commentary and news from Israel & Palestine Fri, 21 Nov 2014 14:47:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8 Goodbye status quo: Israel’s impending moment of truth http://972mag.com/goodbye-status-quo-israels-impending-moment-of-truth/99051/ http://972mag.com/goodbye-status-quo-israels-impending-moment-of-truth/99051/#comments Fri, 21 Nov 2014 14:10:13 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=99051 There are no guarantees that the near future will herald freedom for Israel/Palestine. It will, however, shatter the perception of comfort that has paralyzed Israel since the beginning of the millennium.

By Ran Greenstein

When we look at the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a curious pattern can be detected. Every 20 or 30 years a major turning point is reached. This happens in part due to pure coincidence, and in part due to natural processes involving generational change, which takes two or three decades to mature.

The cycle started in 1897 with the foundation of the Zionist movement, which gave a political dimension to the quest for Jewish settlement of Palestine. It continued in 1917 with the Balfour Declaration and the creation of Palestine in its current boundaries, and then on to 1947, when the UN partition resolution led to the establishment of Israel and the Palestinian Nakba. That was followed by 1967 – the re-unification of Palestine under Israeli military control – the First Intifada in 1987 and the onset of the current phase of territorial inclusion combined with Palestinian demographic exclusion.

Youth from Aida Refugee Camp rest during a lull in clashes with Israeli forces near the separation wall in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, November 16, 2013. The wall, which divides Bethlehem's land is a frequent entry point for incursions by Israeli forces into Aida Refugee Camp, and often a site of clashes with camp youth. (Photo by Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Youth from Aida Refugee Camp rest during a lull in clashes with Israeli forces near the separation wall in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, November 16, 2013. The wall, which divides Bethlehem’s land is a frequent entry point for incursions by Israeli forces into Aida Refugee Camp, and often a site of clashes with camp youth. (Photo by Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Nothing remarkable happened in 2007, which means that 2017 is next in line. What can we expect then in three years’ time?

Three crucial processes are under way, guaranteed to produce changes that would make the current status quo untenable. But a word of caution is needed here: change is bound to happen, but it will not necessarily be of a positive nature. It will open up new opportunities while also presenting new challenges. The exact direction will depend on proper preparation of activists and movements to make the most of the emerging circumstances.

What are these processes? Let us examine each in turn.

The first involves Palestinian resistance in the post-Gaza war period. It is too early to talk about a third intifada, the unity government has hardly made an impact so far, and the Palestinian Authority continues to make noises about taking its diplomatic campaign to the UN and the International Criminal Court but does nothing concrete. And yet, the nature of the political debate is changing – the voices calling for continuation of the U.S.-sponsored and Israeli-dominated “peace process” have almost disappeared. It is clear to Palestinians that nothing of value can possibly come out of that process, even if a formal notice of termination of talks is not likely to be served soon.

A child coming out of his destroyed home in the village of Khuza'a, eastern Gaza Strip, November 7, 2014. Six family members stay in the living room, which is the only room which was not destroyed. Big holes in the walls have been barely covered by pieces of wood and plastic sheet. Many Palestinians in the Gaza Strip face hard living conditions following the seven-week Israeli offensive during which 2,131 Palestinians were killed, and an estimate of 18,000 housing units have been either destroyed or severely damaged, leaving more than 108,000 people homeless.  Anne Paq/Activestills.org

A child coming out of his destroyed home in the village of Khuza’a, eastern Gaza Strip, November 7, 2014. Six family members stay in the living room, which is the only room which was not destroyed. Big holes in the walls have been barely covered by pieces of wood and plastic sheet. Many Palestinians in the Gaza Strip face hard living conditions following the seven-week Israeli offensive during which 2,131 Palestinians were killed, and an estimate of 18,000 housing units have been either destroyed or severely damaged, leaving more than 108,000 people homeless. Anne Paq/Activestills.org

What is the alternative then? Armed resistance has its symbolic attractions but exacts a very high price from the population with meagre results to show for it. Three months have passed since the last Gaza ceasefire without bringing residents any relief from the conditions that triggered the fire in the first place. Initiatives by individuals who use whatever means at their disposal to attack Israeli targets, whether military or civilian, grab headlines but remain isolated incidents. We may see more of these but they are very unlikely to bring about meaningful change.

With both the Oslo process and the armed struggle proving useless at best (if not outright damaging to the national cause), the only way forward is unarmed mass uprising, along the lines of the First Intifada, backed by a unified leadership. Conditions are still far from there yet, but encouraging signs are emerging, pointing to growing awareness of the necessity of this course of action. Direct action – protests, marches, building bridges over the apartheid wall (literally and metaphorically), boycotts of settlements and their products and refusal to become captive markets for Israeli products, forging political links across militarized boundaries – are some of the steps Palestinians have been taking already and will continue to take in an intensified form in coming years. And all that with a goal of making the Israeli regime ungovernable.

There is no telling how quickly, effectively and massively Palestinians will organize to pursue that goal. One thing, however, is clear: the delusion that the Oslo process can be salvaged has been laid to rest. Future efforts – on the ground and on the diplomatic scene – will take place outside its framework. It may take a while for the process to mature fully, and we can expect by 2017 to have embarked on a new paradigm of struggle.

Palestinians and international activists use make-shift bridges to cross the separation wall between Qalandiya and Jerusalem, November 14, 2014. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Palestinians and international activists use make-shift bridges to cross the separation wall between Qalandiya and Jerusalem, November 14, 2014. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

The second process complements the first; it involves the global arena. Under U.S. leadership no international pressure has been applied on the Israeli regime to change its policies. The formal excuse for that is the notion that the 1967 occupation is a temporary arrangement that would reach a resolution through a process of negotiations, culminating in the formation of a Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel. Any external interference in the dialogue between the two sides to the conflict would hamper the chances of a resolution. This notion is no longer tenable: there is no negotiation process, no dialogue, no movement toward a resolution. It is clear to global actors that Israel has no intention to withdraw from the occupied territories and that the U.S. – whether under Democratic or Republican administration – has no intention of using its power to make that happen.

This realization frees actors to pursue campaigns of external pressure on Israel, led by civil society organizations, academics, unions, solidarity movements – whether independently or under the label of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. The European Union has set in motion plans to impose sanctions on Israel should it continues with settlement policies that obstruct the prospect of an independent Palestinian state. These are all in their early stages, without having had much of an impact so far.

While little chance exists of a change in official U.S. policy towards Israel in the near term, the U.S. itself is experiencing an epochal change, with the demographic decline of the traditional support base for Israel (older white people) and the rise of younger more critical voices – including in the Jewish community.

Participants in the Open Hillel Conference, Harvard University. (photo: Gili Getz)

Participants in the Open Hillel Conference, Harvard University. (photo: Gili Getz)

By 2017 we can expect these trends to gain momentum and puncture the immunity that Israel has enjoyed, having been shielded from criticism and protected from suffering consequences for its violations of international law and UN resolutions. This would make it much more difficult to maintain its current course: the pretense of negotiations together with the unilateral determination of their outcome through the use of force. Eating the territorial cake while keeping all options open will no longer be viable.

The third process is internal, and involves the perennial choices: between the Jewish and democratic nature of the state, and between guns and butter. The 2011 summer protests opened up, for the first time since the 1970s, a prospect of social change from within. But they dissipated without bringing about any short-term improvement in people’s living conditions, let alone structural economic changes. With the cost of living as high as ever, housing unaffordable to many families with two working parents, budgets diverted from social services to spending on settlements and the military, as well as deteriorating public facilities, the costs of maintaining the current trajectory of the regime are becoming unbearable.

So far, the strategy of war mongering (invoking external enemies from Iran, Hamas and the Islamic State to Ebola, African migrants, and the draft of ultra-Orthodox Jews into the army) has worked for the government. Instead of working out solutions for their own needs and concerns the bulk of the Israeli-Jewish population has fallen prey to political “boogeymen,” whose ability to gain popular support depends on spreading fear among their constituencies. How long will this continue to be effective?

Since nothing has improved since the last round of protests, and many social and economic indicators are showing signs of further, rapid deterioration, it is difficult to see how fear will continue to block protest for much longer. By 2017 we can expect the social rebellion to have revived its strength and erupt again in a powerful form. But to make a difference and sustain the choice of butter over guns, people must deal with the other crucial choice and realize that the forced marriage between the Jewish and ‘democratic’ aspects of the state is not viable. Only a struggle that overcomes fear and turns away from the heavily militarized and settlement-oriented priorities of the state can bring about real social improvement. This struggle can succeed if it mobilizes masses of people in a democratic movement, which breaks through ethnic and religious boundaries. The full incorporation of Palestinian citizens – who were left on the margins in 2011 – will be the crucial test of that. Confining social protests to the Jewish bubble is a sure recipe for repeated failure.

Protest in favor of an equal draft to all Israeli citizens, including Arabs and ultra Orthodox, July 7th 2012 (photo: activestills.org)

Protest in favor of an equal draft to all Israeli citizens, including Arabs and ultra Orthodox, July 7th 2012 (photo: activestills.org)

Signs pointing in this direction are meagre. We have mostly experienced moves in an opposite direction – increased racism, exclusion and violence against dissidents. On their own, internal Israeli dynamics are unlikely to result in a progressive outcome. But combined with intensified Palestinian resistance and greater external pressure, which will raise the cost of defying international legitimacy, the balance of forces may begin to change. Three more years are sufficient time in which the new dynamics can work themselves out, just in time for the centenary of the creation of modern Israel/Palestine, and half a century since the extension of Israeli domination over its entire territory.

Of course, conditions of crisis, tension and pressure can result in contradictory outcomes: movement towards greater repression, more focused and powerful struggle for freedom, attempts to find comfort in the oppressive consensus that shuns dissent. Or perhaps it can result in more openness towards society’s others, in order to solve together our common problems, tightening the Jewish nature of the state while also broadening its democratic horizons.

There are no guarantees that 2017 will herald freedom, but it will shatter the comfortable holding pattern that has paralyzed Israeli society since the beginning of the millennium: no more negotiations that serve only to entrench the occupation, no more diplomacy as usual, no more pretending that neutrality between the two sides is anything other than siding with Israeli oppression, no more peaceful coexistence between Jewish ethnocracy and liberal democracy, no more guns and butter. Choices will have to be made – it is up to activists to ensure they are the right ones.

Ran Greenstein is an Israeli-born associate professor in the sociology department at the University of the Witwatersrand, in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Related:
Welcome to Netanyahu’s ‘resolution’ to the conflict
There’s nothing static about the West Bank ‘status quo’
Apartheid or not, separation is the reality

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Israel’s top news channel: Gov’t asked us to show more Gaza devastation http://972mag.com/israels-top-news-channel-govt-asked-us-to-show-more-gaza-devastation/99033/ http://972mag.com/israels-top-news-channel-govt-asked-us-to-show-more-gaza-devastation/99033/#comments Thu, 20 Nov 2014 13:27:24 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=99033 Israeli consumers don’t want to know what’s happening on the other side, the station’s foreign editor explains. ’We don’t serve the regime, we serve the consumerist regime.’

By Oren Persico / ‘The 7th Eye

Palestinian children carry goods that were rescued from the village of Khuza'a, which has undergone of intense attacks and was largely destroyed during the Israeli offensive.

Palestinian children carry goods salvaged from the Gazan village of Khuza’a, which underwent of intense attacks and was largely destroyed during the Israeli offensive, Operation Protective Edge. (Photo by Activestills.org)

During this summer’s Gaza war officials in the Prime Minister’s Office and Defense Ministry contacted Israel’s Channel 2 News, asking why they were not broadcasting more images of destruction caused by the army’s bombing in Gaza.

Speaking at a panel discussion at Netanya College last week, Arad Nir, the company’s foreign news editor, said the news channel did not comply with the government’s request, instead decided to show what its viewers demanded.

The panel, which also included journalists Dror Feuer, Prof. Motti Neiger and Attoney El-Ad Mann, dealt with freedom of speech in Israel and the Israeli media’s coverage of Protective Edge.

“The Israeli media allows itself to be controlled by its consumers — it does this of its own volition,” said Nir.

“My personal, in-house claim is that if we provide our audience with a different type of journalism, even in certain doses, if we make it good enough and interesting enough — the public will know how to handle it,” he continued. “The media here has a kind of patronizing and arrogant attitude toward the public.”

Nir also spoke about the differences between the Israeli media’s coverage of the war as opposed to global media coverage.

“In Protective Edge, out of the 15 hours of straight news coverage per day showing what happened in this war, there were only 10 or 15 minutes dedicated to what happened on the other side,” he said, adding that “only five minutes of out two hours of every prime time news broadcasts were dedicated to what was happening on the other side, and not always [even that].”

“As someone who sits in front of the screen all day, I see two completely different wars,” the Channel 2 News editor explained. “There is one war that you see on BBC, CNN and all those channels, and another war that you see on [Israel’s] Channel 1, Channel 2 and Channel 10. Totally different pictures.”

“I have some news for you,” Nir went on. “Even the decision makers in Israel […] wanted us to show what was happening on the other side — they were under the impression that the public doesn’t understand how much they were doing or how hard they were hitting the other side. So they complained to us.”

“It’s not that we are serving the regime, the government — we are serving the consumerist regime, and those are not necessarily the same interests.”

“I know for a fact that there were phone calls by the Prime Minister’s Office and the Defense Ministry in which they asked us: “Why aren’t you showing what’s happening on the other side?” he detailed.

“During all the wars we covered on Channel 2 News, during our post-mortem meetings there were many times that we made a mea culpa and admitted that perhaps the public’s feelings of bitterness in the wake of the war were because we did not show what was happening on the other side,” he admitted. “That is, we didn’t show the public the blood spilled in its name on the other side. Not because someone cared about what was happening there, not because someone thinks that this isn’t the way to behave, that we must think differently. Rather the opposite – because this is the way, because this is what we must do. But we didn’t show that.”

Channel 2 journalist Dana Weiss made a similar claim in a lecture at Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies last month. (Hebrew)

At a different point in the discussion at Netanya College, Nir admitted that the “reign of the consumer,” as he terms it, causes Channel 2 News to not only shape its content to the will of the people, but also the identity of its presenteres. Responding to a question by Mann regarding the make-up of Friday night’s highly-rated, primetime “Ulpan Shishi” news show, Nir responded: “Friday’s panel is influenced by Saturday morning’s ratings — unequivocally.”

This article was first published in Hebrew by The 7th Eye media watchdog website. It is reproduced here with permission.

More on the Israeli media’s war coverage:
For the Israeli media, Gazan lives are little more than expendable
Dispatch from Gaza: Why Palestinians should speak to Israeli media
Gaza deaths aren’t worth a mention in leading Israeli newspaper

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A House of God no more http://972mag.com/a-house-of-god-no-more/99013/ http://972mag.com/a-house-of-god-no-more/99013/#comments Wed, 19 Nov 2014 14:58:07 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=99013 ‘I refuse to let my humanity be stripped away. I refuse to build my national aspirations on the blood of civilians.’

By Talal Jabari

Israeli emergency services volunteers remove blood, according to Jewish tradition, from the scene of an attack by two Palestinians against Jewish worshippers at a synagogue in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Har Nof in West Jerusalem, November 18, 2014. Two Palestinians armed with guns, a meat cleaver and knives burst into a Jerusalem synagogue and killed four Israelis before being shot dead by Israeli forces. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Israeli emergency services volunteers remove blood, according to Jewish tradition, from the scene of an attack by two Palestinians against Jewish worshippers at a synagogue in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Har Nof in West Jerusalem, November 18, 2014. Two Palestinians armed with guns, a meat cleaver and knives burst into a Jerusalem synagogue and killed four Israelis before being shot dead by Israeli forces. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

The first thing I do every morning before getting out of bed is to turn off my phone’s airplane mode and read the news. There’s never any positive news, and I’m sure starting off the day this way probably isn’t healthy, but nevertheless, that’s what I do. On Tuesday, I woke up, as did many others, to this story: four dead Israelis in a synagogue shooting.

Personally, I just can’t accept gunning down people who are in the middle of prayer. After all, synagogues, churches and mosques are houses of God. But God wasn’t at home in the Kehilat Bnei Torah synagogue on this particular morning.

There are people who will disagree with me. Indeed there are those who even celebrated the attack at the synagogue. It’s possible some of them see it as vindication for the deaths caused by the Israeli army during the last Gaza war, revenge for the brutal slaying of Mohammed Abu Khdeir by Israeli settlers, or as protest over the ongoing situation at Al-Aqsa Mosque or some sort of retribution for the death of Yusuf Hassan al-Ramouni a day before.

What is certain from the events of the past six months is that increasingly, this conflict is stripping people of their humanity — on both sides of the divide.

As a human being, I find the synagogue attack unacceptable, and even more so as a Palestinian because it just feels so familiar. As I lay there in bed reading the news, I couldn’t help but remember my childhood. I thought back to the 1990 Aqsa Mosque massacre, in which tens of Palestinians were killed and injured. I thought back to the Ibrahimi Mosque massacre, when an American-Israeli surgeon gunned down dozens of Muslim worshippers as they prayed.

I thought back to the mosque that was burned earlier in November by Israeli settlers, and the numerous other mosques that have met the same fate through settler violence or army bombing. I thought back to the numerous churches that were defaced by right-wing Israelis with slogans insulting Jesus.

As I was filming for a documentary last week in Dura Al-Qare, a Palestinian village adjacent to the settlement of Bet El, I came across a shipping container with the Hebrew word for “revenge” spray-painted on the side by area settlers. And I couldn’t help but wonder for what it was that they sought revenge. Their government kills a Palestinian every three days on average. They are comfortably living on occupied territory in the West Bank. They carry out attacks against the Palestinian civilian population at will and with no recourse. And yet they call for revenge.

They build shrines to Jews who have killed Palestinians, like Baruch Goldstein and they idolize Rabbi Meir Kahane, whose anti-Palestinian sentiments were often translated into violent action. These are the people who slay innocents during prayer, who kill civilians on busses, who shoot at farmers.

That is why I don’t condone the attack against in the synagogue. Because I refuse to let my humanity be stripped away; because I refuse to build my national aspirations on the blood of civilians; because I refuse to stoop down the level of the very people who celebrate violence against Palestinians and call for “revenge.”

Talal Jabari is a Palestinian award-winning documentary filmmaker and journalist from East Jerusalem. He tweets from @TalalJabari.

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Jerusalem: Against the dying of the light http://972mag.com/jerusalem-against-the-dying-of-the-light/98981/ http://972mag.com/jerusalem-against-the-dying-of-the-light/98981/#comments Wed, 19 Nov 2014 00:15:14 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=98981 The streets are seething, a tautness hangs in the air, clinging to one as if walking through cobwebs. Yet in the middle of it all, I find a most profound reparation by the simplest means. A crack of light, and my heart hurts less.

By Natasha Roth
natasha1

“Do not go gentle into that good night.”

I am sitting in an archway in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City, taking a break from guiding a friend who is visiting from the UK. He is smoking a cigarette, and I am photographing the street sign across from us. We are on Misgav Ladakh Street, and as with all street signs in the Old City, the name is written in Hebrew, Arabic and English. On this sign, however, the Arabic has been completely covered by two identical stickers featuring a slogan in Hebrew, which translates roughly as: “Our soldiers’ lives come before the lives of the enemy’s civilians.” On a doorway across from the sign, next to us, the same stickers have been used to spell out – also in Hebrew – “The Lord is King.” The phrase about soldiers’ lives became popular during the summer, when the country shrouded itself in brute nationalism during Israel’s latest attempt to cripple the Gaza Strip. This message, and many others like it, appeared on posters, banners and bumper stickers throughout the country. What surfaced on social media was even less palatable.

The stickers, and their obscuring of the Arabic lettering on the street sign, are a most violent revision by the simplest means. They are a perfect distillation of how oppression against Palestinians works in this country: cover, conceal, remove, rub out. Build a house, knock down a house, plant a tree, place a wall, place a sticker.

Aside from the most recent cycle of ruination in Gaza, nowhere is this methodology currently more evident than in Jerusalem. The city – particularly the East – is under a series of slow-burning sieges that are gradually reaching the end of their fuse: official government settlement plans; unofficial settler takeovers of Palestinian property; the entire ethos of EladAteret Cohanim, the Temple Mount movement and their ilk; street-level thuggery perpetrated by fascist groups such as Lehava; house demolitionsracist vandalism; night-time round-ups and arrests, including of children.

Two attacks on or near the Jerusalem light rail that left four dead, and the attempted assassination of Yehuda Glick – a leading figure in the Temple Mount movement – by, respectively, Abdel Rahman al-ShaloudiIbrahim al-Akri and (suspected) Muataz Hejazi resulted in the killing of all three men by Israeli security forces, sparking demonstrations in East Jerusalem. The worsening collective punishment of East Jerusalem Palestinians – such as the spraying of ‘skunk’ water at a number of schools last week – and the shooting of two pre-teen Palestinians in the head, on consecutive days, typify the seeming increasing lack of control among Israeli security forces in the city. Most recently, the smoldering situation took a drastic turn with the murder of four Jewish Israelis at prayer in a West Jerusalem synagogue, by two Palestinians from the city’s East.

The city’s totemic position as the final resting place of Jewish history is cloaking it in an ever-thickening smog, under which the streets are seething: the soundscape of the city is now pockmarked with helicopters and gunfire. Israeli security forces are amassed at every corner and a tautness hangs in the air, clinging to one as if walking through cobwebs. Jerusalem is gradually being blinded by its own unreachable significance, and it has the capacity to blind the rest of the country, too.

***

“Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

Jerusalem has grown on me like a second skin. There is something about the city that opens and closes me. I am not always consciously aware of it, but it is in the soles of my feet when I walk, in my mouth when I speak, and behind my eyes when I think. When something snags at this new layer to draw my attention to it once more, I find myself able to focus on little else. My heart is torn and mended each time I am there, and often when I am observing from afar. All the conflict and contradictions Jerusalem contains provide the epitome of an earlier musing I had about living in this land: that being here is like walking on broken glass in a cave of wonders.

So it is on this afternoon under an archway in the Jewish Quarter that I gaze on a crude, obstructive slogan and feel a dark cloud settle over the extraordinary light of this city. As I am busy digesting this familiar crushing sensation, a small group of people appears next to the street sign. My friend and I hear the tour guide translate the Hebrew slogan into English, explain how racist it is, and then finish with the words: “As a Jew, I find this deeply offensive.” Then he peels off both stickers and the Arabic is visible again — a most profound reparation by the simplest means. A crack of light, and my heart hurts less.

Later, my friend and I are making our way back down from the roofs of the Christian Quarter, after bathing in the cross-weave of multiple calls to prayer from the minarets that encircle us. The sun has set, but there is still enough light to be able to see a sticker on an electricity box that we walk past on St Mark’s Lane. It reads, in Hebrew and Arabic (addressed to a man): “Don’t even think about going with a Jewish woman!” It is a slogan of the above-mentioned fascist anti-miscegenation group Lehava, which actively works to prevent and disrupt intermarriage between Arabs and Jews – specifically Arab men and Jewish women. We have already seen this sticker countless times during our day in Jerusalem; on this occasion, however, someone has already tried to tear it off. I think about the tour guide from earlier, and take courage once again from how the smallest act of decency from an enlightened individual can pierce the fog. Jerusalem seems to be paralyzed under endless black skies, but there may just be enough humanity and history in the city to make its heart beat again.

The light here is ancient, and it will not go gentle into the night.
Natasha2
Quotations taken from ‘Do not go gentle into that good night,’ by Dylan Thomas.

Natasha Roth, a British immigrant to Israel, is a freelance writer and researcher, and a former coordinator at the ARDC. She can be found on twitter at @NatashaRoth01.

Read also:
PHOTOS: Palestinians build a bridge over the separation wall
To stop the attacks, Israelis have to see the whole picture

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‘Draft dodger law’ robs Israel’s poor of higher education http://972mag.com/draft-dodger-law-robs-israels-poor-of-higher-education/98968/ http://972mag.com/draft-dodger-law-robs-israels-poor-of-higher-education/98968/#comments Tue, 18 Nov 2014 16:52:30 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=98968 The vast majority of draft dodgers and deserters refuse to serve for economic reasons. Those youngsters, who already come from Israel’s weakest communities, are the ones who will be harmed most by a new law that strips them of funds for higher education.

By Sahar Vardi

New IDF conscripts put on uniforms for the first time, November 20, 2006. (Photo by IDF Spokesperson)

New IDF conscripts put on uniforms for the first time, November 20, 2006. (Photo by IDF Spokesperson)

While clashes between in East Jerusalem took place surrounding the funeral of Yusuf al-Ramouni, and as the government was busy arguing about the ‘Jewish nation-state bill,’ the Knesset voted on the final approval of the “Draft-Dodgers Law.” The media coverage of the law, first proposed during ‘Operation Protective Edge’ this summer, primarily conveyed that draft dodgers will not receive any governmental subsidies for higher education. They will not receive state-funded scholarships, but more importantly, they will receive no tuition subsidies, which will means they will pay roughly four-times more than their peers.

The “law” is actually an amendment to Israel’s Council for Higher Education Law of 1958, and determines that people who did not serve in the military, and who were not legally exempt from serving, will not receive any governmental funding for their education. This means that anyone who did receive a legal exemption: Palestinians, the ultra-Orthodox, those who are exempt for psychological or other medical reasons, as well as recognized conscientious objectors, will all not be affected. So who does this bill affect?

At any given moment there are roughly 5,000 deserters from military service in Israel. About 3,000 of them never showed up for conscription and are commonly referred to as “draft dodgers.” Another 2,000 or so started their service but deserted mid-way. According to non-profit organizations working with these youth, the vast majority of them (up to 90 percent) desert for economic reasons.

In January 2015, for the first time since 1986, conscripted soldiers will get a pay raise. For most — non-combat — soldiers they will get NIS 500 ($130), up from NIS 352 ($91.50) a month. With or without the expected increase, these figures mean that anyone from a low-income family literally can’t afford to serve in the military. These youth, for lack of any better choice, just go on and continue working, contributing to the income of their families — and for that they become outlaws. Very few of them ever manage to study in higher education while working, certainly while paying tuition. Therefore, this law will affect fewer than several hundred people a year. It will likely affect the lowest economic classes in Israel.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews gather during a protest against their military conscription outside a military prison on December 9, 2013 in Atlit, Israel. Hundreds of Ultra-Orthodox Jews protested outside the prison following the arrest of a young man who refused to serve in the Israeli the army, September 12, 2013. (Photo by Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Ultra-Orthodox Jews gather during a protest against their military conscription outside a military prison on December 9, 2013 in Atlit, Israel. Hundreds of Ultra-Orthodox Jews protested outside the prison following the arrest of a young man who refused to serve in the Israeli the army, September 12, 2013. (Photo by Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

With this law having so little effect in reality, and for the most part not even targeting the stereotypical group of “draft-dodgers” Israelis love to complain about — people shrugging off their social responsibility for their own egoistical reasons — we must ask how it will work and what purpose it serves.

In order to enforce this law the minister of education must create regulations regarding the way in which the information from the academic institutes will flow from and to the military. This way the Education Ministry, and academic institutions in particular, will become the enforcers of the military draft on campuses.

The explanatory note on the law states:

We must not reward those hundreds of draft-dodging students every year, who both don’t perform their duties to society and the state, and during their academic studies — for a number of years — enjoy state funds and the state’s funding of the [academic] institution.

That is what was really voted on in Knesset yesterday – tightening the linkage between one’s military service, and one’s rights as a citizen in Israel.

When over 50 percent of Israeli citizens do not serve in the army, linking more and more rights to military service (or lack of) codifies millions of people’s status as second-class citizens. The two main groups that do not serve in the military are Palestinian citizens of Israel and ultra-Orthodox Jews; these two already — socially and economically — marginalized groups will now be further discriminated against under the pretense of not serving in the military.

This law is another step, not the first nor the last, towards social and legal linkage between military service and Israeli citizenship. Bills proposing that those who don’t perform military or national service be denied the right vote have already been drafted. It’s only a matter of time before they pass; time, and the Israeli public’s silent acceptance of laws like the one that past last night.

The author is the Israel program coordinator of the American Friends Service Committee and an Israeli anti-militarist activist. Read this article in Hebrew on +972 Magazine’s sister site here.

Related:
[WATCH] Druze refusal in the Israeli army (part 1): A history lesson
Four young Israelis refuse army draft in new refusenik wave
IDF on ‘hunt’ for draft dodgers, deserters

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Five killed in attack on Jerusalem synagogue http://972mag.com/four-killed-in-attack-on-jerusalem-synagogue/98948/ http://972mag.com/four-killed-in-attack-on-jerusalem-synagogue/98948/#comments Tue, 18 Nov 2014 12:54:59 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=98948 Two Palestinian men murdered four Jewish worshippers with a meat cleaver, knives and a pistol in a gruesome attack at a synagogue in the Har Nof neighborhood of Jerusalem Tuesday morning. Eight others were wounded, four seriously. The two attackers were shot dead by Israeli police in a firefight at the scene.

Update: A police officer succumbed to his wounds late Tuesday night, bringing the death toll to five.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu quickly put out a statement blaming Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas, pointing to what he described as their incitement. For his part, Abbas quickly condemned the attack.

Israeli emergency personnel remove victims’ bodies from the Jerusalem synagogue where two Palestinians killed four worshippers and seriously wounded seven others. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Israeli emergency personnel remove victims’ bodies from the Jerusalem synagogue where two Palestinians killed four worshippers and seriously wounded seven others. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

ZAKA volunteers collect blood, according to Jewish ritual, at the scene of a Jerusalem synagogue where two Palestinians killed four worshippers and seriously wounded eight others, November 18, 2014. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

ZAKA volunteers collect blood, according to Jewish ritual, at the scene of a Jerusalem synagogue where two Palestinians killed four worshippers and seriously wounded eight others, November 18, 2014. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Families mourn as the victims of a terror attack at a Jerusalem synagogue are laid to rest, Jerusalem, November 18, 2014. (Photo by Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Families mourn as the victims of a terror attack at a Jerusalem synagogue are laid to rest, Jerusalem, November 18, 2014. (Photo by Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

According to Palestinian and Israeli media, the attackers were from the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber. When their identity became known, residents said, Israeli police closed the entrance to the neighborhood with concrete blocks.

Police were reportedly using the “Skunk” truck to spray putrid water near the attackers’ families’ homes, along with other crowd dispersal means as clashes broke out. Police arrested 12 relatives of the attackers, according to Ma’an, and a number of others were injured.

Israeli police outside the family home of one of the men who killed four Jewish worshippers in a Jerusalem synagogue hours earlier, Jabel Mukaber, East Jerusalem, November 18, 2014. (Photo by Orly Noy)

Israeli police outside the family home of one of the men who killed four Jewish worshippers in a Jerusalem synagogue hours earlier, Jabel Mukaber, East Jerusalem, November 18, 2014. (Photo by Orly Noy)

The aftermath of a police raid on the home of one of the men who killed four Jewish worshippers in a Jerusalem synagogue hours earlier, Jabel Mukaber, East Jerusalem, November 18, 2014. (Photo by Orly Noy)

The aftermath of a police raid on the home of one of the men who killed four Jewish worshippers in a Jerusalem synagogue hours earlier, Jabel Mukaber, East Jerusalem, November 18, 2014. (Photo by Orly Noy)

The attack against the synagogue came a day after a Palestinian bus driver was found hanged inside his bus. Israeli authorities ruled his death a suicide but Palestinians officials and media contend he was murdered by Israelis.

Read also:
Hundreds protest collective punishment in East Jerusalem
In wake of stabbing attacks, Bibi says protesters ‘can go to Palestine’

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Apartheid or not, separation is the reality http://972mag.com/apartheid-or-not-separation-is-the-reality/98908/ http://972mag.com/apartheid-or-not-separation-is-the-reality/98908/#comments Mon, 17 Nov 2014 17:44:01 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=98908 After nearly 50 years of occupation, it has become impossible to differentiate between Israel’s ‘security concerns’ and flat-out apartheid policies.

By Hagai El-Ad

“So far as the issue is security, these considerations are relevant and the role of the minister of defense indeed is to defend Israeli citizens. And I also realized that he said he did not give that kind of directive, so it’s all okay [...] but I realized that it’s the result of pressure from settlers who do not want to travel with Arabs on the bus. I read what was said at the Knesset committee discussion, [and] it is intolerable that they claim that they need to have their own buses, because no one got up for a woman or for someone old or it’s not convenient for them or unpleasant. That’s apartheid. Security is security. That is why I contacted the Attorney General asking him to look into this. If it’s security reasons per se, it’s something I can not only live with, but also back. But if it comes from settler, political pressure [because] it is not comfortable for them [and] unpleasant for them to travel with Arabs in the very places they wanted to live at, knowing that these are places where Palestinians live, that is unacceptable to me and I will work against that. This discrimination is prohibited by law in the State of Israel.”

This quote, from a recent radio interview with Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, is a uniquely transparent example of how people who perceive themselves as moral – Livni of course being one of them – manage to wrestle with themselves in order to justify acts that cannot be justified. After all, if an act were morally unacceptable, one would certainly be against it. But the desire is to succeed in holding on to a self-perception of being moral while also supporting the occupation. Therefore it is necessary to find a way, every time, to justify that which is unjust. In this way both the occupation and one’s morality can remain untouched.

Palestinian workers holding an Israeli work permit wait in line to board an Israeli bus designated for Palestinians only after the Eyal checkpoint, near the West Bank city of Qalqiliya, March 4, 2012. The Israeli transportation ministry launched a bus line designated for Palestinians only, running from Eyal checkpoint to Tel Aviv and Kfar Saba, and back to the checkpoint. The line was opened after Israel settlers living in the West Bank complained that Palestinians use  Israeli buses that run through the West Bank on their way to and from work inside Israel. The new policy will mainly effect  workers returning to the West Bank with Israeli buses, as police will force workers to go off buses when they enter the West Bank. (Photo by: Oren Ziv/ Activestills.org)

Palestinian workers holding an Israeli work permit wait in line to board an Israeli bus designated for Palestinians only after the Eyal checkpoint, near the West Bank city of Qalqiliya, March 4, 2012. (Photo by: Oren Ziv/ Activestills.org)

This convoluted internal process has many variations, but it is not often that they are exposed so openly. Therefore it is worth pausing on Livni’s thought process, since these moral acrobatics serve as a key mechanism to sustaining the prolonged occupation.

The issue at hand, segregated buses, is morally unfathomable. In the words of the justice minister, it is apartheid. Something that is unacceptable, amounts to prohibited discrimination and is the result of unacceptable political pressure.

However the very same abomination, when properly explained by the defense minister using the justification of “security concerns,” is magically transformed from unspeakable “apartheid” into something that one can not only tolerate, but also publicly endorse.

Security concerns, indeed. Security concerns (and not the taking over of Palestinian land) that justify the “temporary” route of the separation barrier; security concerns (and not severing of Gaza from the West Bank) that are the core of the policy of continued closure of the Gaza Strip; security concerns (and, heaven forbid, not demographics) that explain the Citizenship Law; security considerations that are, of course, the only reason for the establishment of settlements and outposts, not to mention the need to protect them; and on and on. Indeed, what would happen to the moral justification of the occupation without “security considerations”?

But even if the moral flak jacket of “security considerations” is waived around endlessly, its essence remains intolerable. How can one calmly accept the very thing that has just been declared morally bankrupt?

Palestinian workers wait in line to board an Israeli bus line meant for Palestinians only after crossing the Eyal checkpoint from the West Bank into Israel proper. (Photo by Activestills.org)

Palestinian workers wait in line to board an Israeli bus line meant for Palestinians only after crossing the Eyal checkpoint from the West Bank into Israel proper. (Photo by Activestills.org)

Setting aside apologetic self-righteousness enables us to focus on the essence of the situation. Those actually concerned with that essence must come to the conclusion that it is not “okay” and that, indeed, it cannot be “okay.” Just like the segregated reality in the center of Hebron (motivated, of course, only by security concerns and fully backed by Israel’s High Court of Justice) will never be “okay.” Just like the fact that the settlers and the Palestinians answer to separate legal systems will never be “okay.” Just like will never be okay that all Palestinian demonstrations in the West Bank, for security reasons no doubt, are considered illegal. Just like the occupation will never be okay.

It is impossible to have it both ways: there is no moral occupation based on security excuses. Those who accept these excuses not only live with them in peace, but actually support them wholeheartedly. Those who do so are helping to perpetuate the occupation.

Hagai El-Ad is the executive director of B’Tselem. This article was first published on +972′s Hebrew-language sister site, Local Call. Read it in Hebrew here.

Related:
Segregating the evening commute to the West Bank
If this isn’t apartheid, then what is it?
What can we learn from the Israel apartheid analogy?

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Is every Palestinian kid who throws stones a terrorist? http://972mag.com/is-every-palestinian-kid-who-throws-stones-a-terrorist/98730/ http://972mag.com/is-every-palestinian-kid-who-throws-stones-a-terrorist/98730/#comments Sun, 16 Nov 2014 13:06:04 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=98730 In a reality where children aged 10 and 11 are arrested by 18- and 19-year-old soldiers who have been indoctrinated for military service since kindergarten, this kind of discussion seems completely out of place. A human rights attorney spends the day at one of the occupation’s more bizarre PR events.

By Smadar Ben-Natan

Israeli Border Police officer detains a Palestinian child at a protest in Kufr Qaddum, January 25, 2013. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Israeli Border Police officer detains a Palestinian child at a protest in Kufr Qaddum, January 25, 2013. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

“Involvement of Children in Terrorism.” That was the rather confusing name given to a conference organized by the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya (IDC).

What is the context for discussing the involvement of children in terrorism? What is meant by the word “terrorism?” Are we supposed to be more afraid of these children? Are we to condemn terrorism for the moral corruption of conscripting children? Do we try and help those children trapped in its claws? Should we punish them severely or have mercy on them?

The confusion only grew in light of the fact that the conference marked the fifth anniversary of the establishment of the Israeli Juvenile Military Court in the West Bank. The fact that minors in the West Bank have been brought before military courts for nearly 50 years should have provoked shame and embarrassment. Instead, the establishment of this court is a source of great pride for the military court system in the occupied territories.

Read +972′s special coverage: Children Under Occupation

The session dedicated to the Juvenile Court served as yet another self-congratulatory event of the military court system. Its participants included President of the Military Court of Appeals Nathaniel Benisho, former president of the court Aharon Mishniot, president of the Israeli civil juvenile court system Galit Vigotzki-Mor and Deputy Attorney General Raz Nazari. The high-ranking members of the Israeli civilian legal system exemplified the extent to which the Israeli legal system is involved in the legislation of military law in the occupied territories — and in maintaining the occupation, including the facade of benevolence.

To avoid any doubt, trying minors in a juvenile military court is always preferable to trying them in regular military courts. However, both are terrible options that give us only the slightest glimpse into the unbearable life of children and teenagers in the occupied territories, which have been under a brutal military regime for nearly 50 years.

A pretense of distinction

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)

But like its title, the conference did not deal with questions of juvenile justice; it dealt with the involvement of minors in terrorism. The opening lecture, delivered ICT founder and executive director Boaz Ganor, presented frightening videos showing children serving in the ranks of the Islamic State and the Nusra Front. Most of the discussion, however, dealt with Palestinian children in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, who are mostly involved in stone throwing and what is termed “disrupting public order.”

Ganor did make the distinction and said that not all stone throwing should be considered act of terror. Only actions instigated by a terrorist organization with the aim of achieving political goals count as terrorism, rather than spontaneous and independent actions. This, of course, is one central criterion. The important question that should have been at the center of the discussion, however, was immediately and intentionally overlooked throughout the rest of the discussion by all the speakers, who continued to discuss the violent protests in Jerusalem.

The cleverness of the conference’s title lies in the intersection between the problematic prosecution of minors in military and civilian courts alike — for offenses relating to the Palestinian struggle against the occupation — and the international discourse relating to child soldiers. The latter concerns the participation of children in any kind of hostilities, not only in terrorism, or in protest or resistance to oppression and occupation.

Culpability and exploitation

Evolving international policy regarding child soldiers does not distinguish between fighting in terror organizations and fighting in national armed forces. This policy seeks to keep children and youngsters from conscription into any armed activities, whether into taking a direct part in hostilities or indirectly supporting fighting forces, such as young girls who serve as wives or slaves for fighters — a phenomenon that has come to be known as “bush wives.” From that perspective, Israeli military boarding schools and pre-conscription preparations can be seen in a different light.

The fundamental rationale behind the prohibition against conscripting child soldiers is that these children are exploited, turned into victims, suffer acute psychological and social damage and cannot bear full responsibility for their actions as combatants. Moral judgment is not sufficiently developed at these ages (according to Judge Vigotzki Mor, 22 is the average age at which people are able to make sound moral judgments), and the dependence on adults facilitates the recruitment of youngsters into fighting and sometimes committing atrocities that would make most adults recoil. This combination of victim and abuser, embodied in the child soldier, makes the issue extremely complex.

The way in which the International Criminal Court (ICC) has chosen to deal with the issue is primarily by defining as a war crime the conscription of children under the age of 15 into national armed forces or actively participating in hostilities. Concurrently, the ICC’s authority only applies to people over the age of 18. In the Special Court established after the civil war in Sierra Leone — in which many child soldiers took part — the minimum age of criminal responsibility was set at 15. In reality, however, the court did not try teenagers under 18; instead, its efforts focused on adults who recruited those children.

Border Police officer chasing Palestinian boy at Jerusalem Day event, 2012. (photo: Activestills)

Border Police officer chasing Palestinian boy at Jerusalem Day event, 2012. (photo: Activestills)

Have such proposals been raised in the military court system? Apparently not.

In a reality where — although the minimum age for criminal culpability is 12 — children aged 10 and 11 are arrested by 18- and 19-year-old soldiers who have been indoctrinated for enlistment since kindergarten, this kind of discussion seems completely out of place. The UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict presents troubling statistics regarding the situation in Israel and the West Bank, noting the large number of Palestinian children who are either killed, arrested, or suffer from inhumane and humiliating treatment. She further notes the worrying number of Israeli Jewish children who have been wounded, and IDF activities that are directed at or take place near schools.

Speaking about child soldiers and children’s’ involvement in terrorism sounds better than the oft-heard talk about heavy handed law enforcement against children who throw stones or disrupt public order. The total misunderstanding of these categories assists in creating this confusion.

Make no mistake, what troubles the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism and Israeli military commanders in the occupied territories is not the unbearable living conditions of children in the West Bank, East Jerusalem or the Gaza Strip, or even Sderot — living conditions that could lead to exploitation and cruelty. This is just another PR campaign for the fight against terror and the benevolent occupation, waged on the backs of children whom no one cares about.

Smadar Ben-Natan is a human rights and criminal lawyer, a doctoral student in the law faculty of Tel Aviv University, and researches Israeli military courts. A version of this article was also published on +972′s Hebrew-language sister site, Local Call. Read it here.

Read also:
Detained: Testimonies from Palestinian children imprisoned by Israel
A pretense of progress for children in Israel’s military courts
Palestinian kids detail abusive interrogations, arrests

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Kafr Kanna isn’t Ferguson, it’s much worse http://972mag.com/kafr-kanna-isnt-ferguson-its-much-worse/98800/ http://972mag.com/kafr-kanna-isnt-ferguson-its-much-worse/98800/#comments Fri, 14 Nov 2014 12:59:21 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=98800 Imagine that at the peak of the Ferguson protests, President Obama — or any other American official — had issued a formal statement threatening to revoke the citizenship of African Americans who chose not to keep their mouths shut.

By Seraj Assi and Lawrence McMahon

Arab youth clash with Israeli riot police in Kafr Kanna, Israel, November 8, 2014. The protests took place after an Arab man from the village was shot and killed by Israeli policemen. (Photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Arab youth clash with Israeli riot police in Kafr Kanna, Israel, November 8, 2014. The protests took place after an Arab man from the village was shot and killed by Israeli policemen. (Photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Israeli police shot dead a young Arab citizen in the town of Kafr Kanna in the lower Galilee this past week. Numerous reports have suggested that the victim, Kheir Hamdan, was shot simply because he was an Arab. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seemingly conceded the same conclusion when, prior to any investigation whatsoever into the incident, he issued a statement scolding Arab youth.

In the meantime, local journalists rushed to compare Kafr Kanna to Ferguson, Missouri, invoking the shooting of African-American teenager Michael Brown as a parallel example of a racial divide. Kafr Kanna, however, is not Ferguson, and here is why:

The conflict between the Arab minority of Israel and the State is not truly an American-style “civil rights” struggle. Arabs in Israel cannot be classified as second-class citizens when senior Israeli officials, including Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, continue to portray them as enemies from within, a demographic time bomb, and a fifth column population. While the Arabs in Israel experience exclusion and brutality just as African Americans do, they also face — to use a popular phrase — an existential threat.

Read also: The difference between Israel’s racist cops and America’s

The so-called Liberman Plan, named after the foreign minister, proposes transferring territory in Israel populated by Arabs to the Palestinian Authority in exchange for territory in the West Bank populated by Israeli settlers. Liberman grumbles that it makes no sense to create a Palestinian state devoid of Jews while Israel has turned into a bi-national state with over 20 percent Arabs.

In other words, the Israeli foreign minister wants an Israel completely devoid of Arabs.

This week, Netanyahu echoed the Liberman Plan. In response to the shooting and the protests it sparked, the prime minister publicly challenged Arab protestors to go and live under Palestinian rule in the West Bank and Gaza. To justify his position, he invoked what he described as their lack of loyalty to the State of Israel.

In a radical move, Netanyahu also ordered his interior minister to look into whether Israel could strip citizenship from those Arabs who dared to speak out in support of a Palestinian state. Before Netanyahu, Liberman had already proposed loyalty tests for the Arab minority, threatening to deny citizenship to those who failed. Of course, there is no chance whatsoever that similar statements would ever be directed at Jewish citizens.

Now imagine, for comparison, that at the peak of the Ferguson protests, U.S. President Barack Obama—or any other American official—had issued a formal statement threatening to revoke the citizenship of African Americans who chose not to keep their mouths shut. There are plenty of reasons why such a scenario is unimaginable. Even at moments of great racial tension in America, nobody is going to threaten the citizenship clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

American history may be littered with both white-sponsored and black-sponsored “Back to Africa” movements, but in the year 2014, they don’t hold much sway in either the White House or Congress. In Israel, though, these are the exact sort of measures that authorities are debating, right here and right now.

Read also: Why are Palestinian citizens expected to be loyal to Israel?

This brings us to the key difference, namely Israel’s self-definition as a “Jewish democratic state.”

Naturally, and regardless of what happened in Kafr Kanna, a state cannot be both Jewish and democratic, unless by “democracy” you mean an exclusively “Jewish democracy.” Israel’s basic laws and policies are predicated on Jewish exclusiveness and privilege.

In other words, Israel is a democracy, but it is a democracy for — if not exclusively of — its majority Jewish population. It should come as no surprise, then, that many in the Arab community view their Israeli “citizenship” as a mere political fiction. And when the State of Israel kills its Arab citizens in cold blood, one is left to wonder exactly what moral mandate it has to demand their unconditional loyalty.

Seraj Assi is an Arab citizen of Israel. He is currently a PhD candidate in Arabic and Islamic Studies at Georgetown University, Washington DC. Lawrence McMahon is a historian-cum-labor union staffer living in Baltimore. He is a Ph.D. candidate in history at Georgetown taking a hiatus from his dissertation, working as editorial assistant for the flagship quarterly publication of a major U.S. labor union.

Related:
The difference between Israel’s violent, racist cops and America’s
How police lied about the deadly shooting of Khir Hamdan
PHOTOS: Protests in northern Israel after police kill Arab man
PHOTOS: Tear gas not the only thing connecting Ferguson and Palestine

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Hundreds of Palestinians, Israelis protest collective punishment in East Jerusalem http://972mag.com/hundreds-of-palestinians-israelis-protest-collective-punishment-in-east-jerusalem/98732/ http://972mag.com/hundreds-of-palestinians-israelis-protest-collective-punishment-in-east-jerusalem/98732/#comments Thu, 13 Nov 2014 14:54:29 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=98732 Over 800 people marched in the streets of Issawiya to call for an end to the mayor’s policies of road closures, petty fines and home demolitions.

By Moriel Rothman-Zecher

In the midst of the heightened tension gripping much of Jerusalem over the past few weeks, over 800 people marched peacefully through the village of Issawiya Wednesday, calling for an end to collective punishment of East Jerusalem residents and protesting the occupation. The majority of marchers were Palestinians from the neighborhood, along with a sizable contingent of outside activists, both Palestinian and Israeli, coming from the nearby Hebrew University campus and elsewhere to show solidarity with the people of the Issawiya. The march, organized by an ad-hoc coalition of Palestinian and Israeli activists, was intended to highlight the ways in which residents of East Jerusalem, and Issawiya in particular, have faced severe collective punishment over the past few weeks.

The demonstration yesterday began at 4:00 p.m., and was guarded by dozens of Border Police officers dressed in riot gear and armed with tear gas, rubber bullets and other crowd dispersal measures. Some of the officers were mounted on horseback, and behind them a “skunk” vehicle loomed.

Palestinian protesters and Israeli activists demonstrate against new concrete blockades put in place by Israeli police restricting access to the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Issawiya, November 12, 2014. Israeli police had blocked off three of the four entrances leading to Issawiya due to recent clashes between Palestinian youths and Israeli police. (Faiz Abu Rmeleh/Activestills.org)

Palestinian protesters and Israeli activists demonstrate against new concrete blockades put in place by Israeli police restricting access to the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Issawiya, November 12, 2014. Israeli police had blocked off three of the four entrances leading to Issawiya due to recent clashes between Palestinian youths and Israeli police. (Faiz Abu Rmeleh/Activestills.org)

Haithem Mahmoud, a resident of Issawiya who attended the march, explained to me that for the past two weeks, two of the three main access roads into Issawiya have been blocked off. I asked him what the explanation was for these blockades, and he said that police had informed them that the roads were blocked in order to “stop stone throwing by youth.”

“They’re treating the whole village like trash,” he continued, “It’s harder to get food, harder to get medicine. Students are late for school every day. If someone is sick, and wants to get to the doctor, it might take him an hour to get to get to Hadassah [a nearby Hosptial; Google maps reports the drive should take 6 minutes; apparently Google hasn’t updated its services to account for the conditions on the ground under Israeli occupation - MRZ].

Haithem Mahmoud’s explanation aligns directly with an explicit statement made by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat on October 29th, in which he ordered municipal department heads to punish East Jerusalem residents by closing off roads, handing out tickets for the smallest traffic violation, and demolishing homes. According to Barkat, the goal of this policy is to “compel the Palestinian public to act against Palestinian youth who have been clashing virtually daily with police in East Jerusalem neighborhoods.” As Rabbi Barry Leff put it in the Jerusalem Post: ‘’In other words, collective punishment.’’

Israeli policemen are seen as Palestinian protestors and Israeli activists demonstrate against new concrete blockades put in place by Israeli police restricting access to the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Issawiya, November 12, 2014. (Faiz Abu Rmeleh/Activestills.org)

Israeli policemen are seen as Palestinian protestors and Israeli activists demonstrate against new concrete blockades put in place by Israeli police restricting access to the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Issawiya, November 12, 2014. (Faiz Abu Rmeleh/Activestills.org)

In addition to road closures, traffic fines and demolitions, residents of Issawiya reported that Israeli forces have been firing of tear-gas and nauseating “skunk” water directly into homes, injuring innocent civilians and creating a climate of general misery in the village. A letter sent by the Association for Civili Rights in Israel (ACRI) to the Israeli police included reports of stun grenades being “flung into residential buildings containing families with young children,” and police usage of a new type of “sponge bullet” that can cause “serious bodily damage.” The letter further asserts that these bullets may have been used in the incident in which 16 year-old Mohammad Sunuqrut was shot and killed during an East Jerusalem demonstration on September 9th.

It must be noted that there were no violent clashes during Wednesday’s protest, perhaps due to the presence of Israeli activists. As Border Police officer Yasmin Levy explained in Just Vision’s 2009 film, Budrus: “At times, left-wing Israelis joined the Palestinians. And because they were Jews, we couldn’t use force against them.’’

Palestinian protesters and Israeli activists demonstrate against new concrete blockades put in place by Israeli police restricting access to the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Al-Issawiya, November 12, 2014. (Faiz Abu Rmeleh/Activestills.org)

Palestinian protesters and Israeli activists demonstrate against new concrete blockades put in place by Israeli police restricting access to the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Al-Issawiya, November 12, 2014. (Faiz Abu Rmeleh/Activestills.org)

The crowds had dispersed by 6:00 p.m.. Meanwhile, the policy of collective punishment remains intact in East Jerusalem neighborhoods like Issawiya, and reports from the village this morning are that the situation in Issawiya is only getting worse.

Moriel Rothman-Zecher is a writer and activist, based in Tel Aviv. Follow him on Twitter for updates, pictures and more at @Moriel_RZ. He blogs independently at www.thelefternwall.com.

Related:
The hard fact is that Israeli repression works
What Palestinian media is saying about the Jerusalem violence
No one left for Bibi to blame – except, of course, Abbas

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