Analysis News

Watch out war criminals, Mahmoud Abbas is coming for you

The PLO chairman told the UN that he won’t allow war criminals to escape punishment. The only problem: He still hasn’t applied to join the International Criminal Court, the one act that could actually lead to such punishment.

By Talal Jabari

There was an image that circulated on social media a few years ago that showed the area most of us consider to be Palestine – meaning the land occupied by Israel in the 1967 war – as an archipelago. It’s really not that far off.

The permanent checkpoints across the West Bank make clear that travel for Palestinians is a privilege and not a right. And no, I’m not talking about the terminals used to enter, or rather prevent entry into Israel. I’m talking about checkpoints like the “Container” checkpoint that is opened or closed seemingly at the whim of the commanding officer, thus transforming it from a checkpoint into a roadblock, and disconnecting the southern islands of the archipelago from the northern ones.

I personally hold this checkpoint dear to my heart. I have driven through it many a time, and have returned to find it blocked on quite a few occasions as well.

Illustrative photo of Israeli soldiers closing an internal West Bank checkpoint, May 15, 2012. (Photo by Ahmad Al-Bazz/ Acitvestills.org)

Illustrative photo of Israeli soldiers closing an internal West Bank checkpoint, May 15, 2012. (Photo by Ahmad Al-Bazz/ Acitvestills.org)

You can probably imagine, as the only road between the northern islands and the southern ones, this passage sees quite a bit of traffic. There are numerous private cars dotted between dozens of public orange taxi mini-buses. There are buses full of students visiting other islands for their school trips. But what always brings a grin to my face, are the Palestinian “National Security” Land Rovers and police cruisers traveling back and forth on this road. It’s not that I think those vehicles are particularly funny; what is amusing is that they have to cover their blue police lights with canvas, the officers inside need to be out of uniform, and of course they must be unarmed.

In fact, that’s the way they have to be whenever they travel outside of “Palestinian- controlled” territories. Yes, I put those words in quotes to highlight the farce that concept really is.

Here’s how ridiculous...

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Letter to the EU: Help! Everybody here has lost their minds

An open letter to the president of the Council of the EU: Don’t give us any more money to pay for the salaries and air conditioners, not in Tel Aviv and not in Ramallah. As far as I’m concerned, my Horizon 2020 is stuck underneath some house in Gaza that collapsed atop all of its inhabitants from an Israeli missile strike.

By Yoav Shemer Kunz

Italian Prime Minister and President of the Council of the European Union Matteo Renzi. (File photo by the EU)

Matteo Renzi. (Photo by the EU)

To:

His Excellency Matteo Renzi
Prime Minister of Italy
Current President of the Council of the European Union

I regretfully inform you that the citizens of the State of Israel have completely and officially lost their minds. It is pathological. Regrettable news, indeed.

It happened not too long ago. We saw a deterioration or two earlier, of course. But ever since they spent three weeks looking for three bodies in an operation very movingly described as “Brothers’ Keeper,” they completely lost it. And after that? Protective Edge. I’m telling you, Israeli society has lost it.

Yes, saw it coming. There were warning signs. Thank you for the commiserations. Yes, it is official: the situation is terminal and incorrigible. It is over. Don’t try to talk to anyone here; they don’t recognize anybody. And don’t tell them I spoke to you; they’ll come up with some law that bans meetings with foreign prime ministers without the expressed approval of Foreign Ministry spokesperson Yigal Palmor.

No, really. You have nothing to do here. They’ll say that you punched Avigdor Liberman in the back and everybody will buy it. Let me remind you of our lovely bearded friend, German EU Parliament President Martin Schulz’s speech at the Knesset in Jerusalem. He made the mistake of momentarily mentioning a young man who told him something during his visit to Ramallah, and that was it. He completely burned himself with that. That’s how it is over here now. In German, no less!

To make a long story short, It’s gone to hell. We’re completely helpless. That which we have dreaded has finally come. Death has its own government. However you want to put it. Poems can be written about it. “Breaking the Silence” will publish it in a special edition...

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Representing Palestine, not Israel: Arab Idol's contestants from Israel

The Shin Bet interrogated them, the judges were sympathetic. Their selection as representatives of Palestine, however, sparked a political controversy. Will Manal Moussa or Haitham Khalailah, both Palestinians from within Israel’s borders, manage to repeat Mohammed Assaf’s achievement and win the Arab Idol contest?

By Yael Marom (translated from Hebrew by Shoshana London-Sapir)

One year after Gazan Mohammed Assaf won Arab Idol, the Palestinians have two new and promising contestants in the pan-Arab competition in Beirut. Manal Moussa, 25, from Deir al-Asad and Haitham Khalailah, 24, from the neighboring village of Majd al-Krum were chosen to represent Palestine in the contest, one of the most widely watched programs in the Middle East.

But for Manal and Haitham it is not only a personal opportunity, they are also navigating a complex political reality: the Shin Bet, Israeli legal restrictions on the travel of Palestinian citizens, the complicated relationship between Palestinian citizens of Israel and the Arab world, and a huge sack of political expectations placed on their shoulders.

Haitham Khalailah’s first audition (Screenshot from Arab Idol, MBC)

Haitham Khalailah’s first audition (Screenshot from Arab Idol, MBC)

Hundreds of millions of viewers watch the contest, broadcast for the third year on the Saudi MBC network, uniting the whole Arab world around it. Most of them are young people, of course. The contestants are judged for their musical abilities, performance and charisma, but regional politics also plays a role.

The last program before the live performance stage of the contest aired last Saturday night, and 26 (9 women and 17 men) out of 52 contestants were selected to move on to the next round. The two Palestinian representatives from northern Israel made the cut. The contest also included three brothers, the children of Palestinian refugees living in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. One of the brothers also moved up to the live performance round.

Traveling to Lebanon through the PA

This year’s contestants also included male and female singers from Iraq and Syria who sang in Kurdish, Assyrians and Turkmen. The last selection stage included a contestant from Japan (a student of Arabic and oud player) and two devout Muslim women from Egypt and Algeria who appeared with their heads covered. To reach the live performance stage, contestants had to defeat tens of thousands of others who were tested in preliminary auditions all over...

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The mirage of Israel's 'diplomatic horizon'

The term ‘diplomatic horizon,’ a catch-phrase among Israeli politicians and the media, points to the need to offer a viable diplomatic plan together with military efforts against Palestinian violence. But can it offer Palestinians a real vision for their longing for statehood?

By Prof. Elie Podeh

Israeli political jargon occasionally invents “laundered” terms designed to create an illusion of a reality that does not exist. Such is the concept of the “diplomatic horizon,” which has become popular among politicians and the media. Even Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, during Operation Protective Edge, said on August 20 that “dramatic changes in the region promise a new political horizon.” What is this political/diplomatic horizon that has become such a catch-phrase?

It is difficult to trace the term’s origin. Haaretz’s archive, which provides statistical testing from only as far back as late 2001, reveals that since then the phrase has appeared hundreds of times in the paper, and in various political contexts.

In an editorial dated May 5, 2002 – during Operation Defensive Shield, at the height of the Second Intifada – and titled “Diplomatic Action Plan,” we learn that “in the past year the term ‘diplomatic horizon’ has taken root as an expression used commonly to describe the need to accompany military efforts against Palestinian violence with a viable diplomatic plan. Behind this phrase lies the recognition for the need to present the Palestinians with a vision – a goal – that can answer their longing for statehood. Such an initiative has been absent until the present from the stockpile of the Prime Minister’s [Ariel Sharon] ideas.” It is therefore reasonable to assume that the disappearance of the policy option – the failure of the Camp David talks (July 2000), the Clinton Parameters (December 2000), the Taba talks (January 2001) and the onset of the Second Intifada – has generated the need for a glimmer of hope in the form of a “diplomatic horizon.”

Former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon in Tel Aviv, December 16, 2001. (Photo: Moshe Milner/GPO)

Former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon in Tel Aviv, December 16, 2001. (Photo: Moshe Milner/GPO)

In general, the term was employed in the past by media pundits and politicians who identified as left-of-center. For instance, Joel Marcus and Aluf Benn in Haaretz once criticized the Sharon government for its lack...

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How the army helps settlers establish illegal outposts

Through the use of civilian security coordinators in settlements and outposts, the IDF has, essentially, privatized law enforcement in the West Bank. A further aspect of this symbiotic relationship is the army’s use of the coordinators to promote de facto recognition of unauthorized settler outposts.

By Yossi Gurvitz, for Yesh Din

A Jewish settler from the illegal settlement of Mitzpe Yair chases the flock and threatens the shepherds of Gwawis. He is holding an M16 rifle, issued to him by the Israeli army, as part of his paid job as a security coordinator. The law states that he is not allowed to take any action outside the settlements' borders, September 18, 2012. (photo: Shiraz Grinbaum/Activestills.org)

A Jewish settler from the illegal settlement of Mitzpe Yair chases a flock and threatens shepherds of Gwawis. He is holding an M16 rifle, issued to him by the Israeli army as part of his paid job as a security coordinator. The law states that he is not allowed to take any action outside the settlement’s borders, September 18, 2012. (photo: Shiraz Grinbaum/Activestills.org)

Our first post about our report “The Lawless Zone” focused on the unclear relationship through which Israel effectively privatizes powers in the field of defense, law enforcement and policing, and transfers these to Israeli settlers. The security coordinators are residents of West Bank settlements who receive quasi-military powers. Although they are not formally empowered to issue commands to soldiers, in practice they do so, and in many cases they exploit their powers in order to expand their settlements’ territory.

This is the main problem created by the institution of the security coordinators, and accordingly our key recommendation is that the army should reassume these powers and appoint security coordinators who are officers in the permanent army and are accountable solely to the army and not to the settlements. There is another problem, however, one that highlights the symbiotic relationship between the army and the settlers.

Read the full Yesh Din report here

In the mid-1990s, the Israeli government decided not to establish new settlements unless they were approved by the entire government. Since then the phenomenon of the “outposts” has developed. An outpost is the result of the seizure of land that is ostensibly private and unauthorized, but enjoys...

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'A new page in human history': Darfuri refugee on landmark court ruling

Mutasim Ali is happy but he is not celebrating the landmark court ruling that will set him and thousands of other African asylum seekers free by the end of the year. There is a long, bumpy road ahead, he says, but ‘Israel will be a better place and it is our responsibility to make it so.’

By Mutasim Ali

Asylum seekers demonstrate in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square on the first day of a three-day strike protesting detentions and demanding refugee status, January 5, 2014. (Photo: Activestills.org)

Asylum seekers demonstrate in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square on the first day of a three-day strike protesting detentions and demanding refugee status, January 5, 2014. (Photo: Activestills.org)

A new dawn has come. A tremendous success has been achieved by everyone who believes in justice and equal rights for mankind. I wasn’t surprised by the resolution of High Court of Justice. No smart person would think differently.

The reason why I expected this [decision] is the same reason why I am in Israel. Israel is the only democratic and lawful country in the Middle East. Trust me when I say this; I believe in the Israeli judicial system and I mean that from the bottom of my heart.

Read also: Israel’s High Court orders closure of ‘Holot’

I’m happy not only because this is what we are looking for — we have worked so hard to make this happen and the journey is still very long. The path ahead will be bumpy but we made a commitment never to give up and we have to finish what we have started. This is not about us but it is also about Israel and Israelis: never lose hope and never lose faith. Israel will be a better place and it is our responsibility to make it so.

Mutasim Ali, an asylum seeker from Darfur, waves as he departs Tel Aviv for the Holot detention center, May 5, 2014. (Photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

The author, Mutasim Ali, waves as he departs Tel Aviv for the Holot detention center on May 5, 2014. (Photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

I am not celebrating this, because this is normal — what should happen. I knew from day one that Holot was illegal and that it was only a matter...

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Space for perpetuating the conflict: Tunnels, deterrence and profits

Israeli leaders cannot escape the idea that Palestinians must be controlled, all the time and in all areas of life. Indeed, if controlling the Palestinians is everything we want, then the separation wall and the ‘Iron Dome’ are excellent solutions. The longer this snowball rolls, however, any non-military option is ruled out more aggressively, and even relatively moderate military options become irrelevant.

By Idan Landau

It became official this summer: tunnels are the new centrifuges. For years, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been waving the Iranian threat in front of us, and one morning we woke up and… poof! – the threat vanished, at least from most of the prime minister’s speeches.

Then came the rockets – from Hezbollah and Hamas. The Israeli hasbara machine painted that capability in demonic dimensions, used to justify every crime and injustice against innocent civilians in Lebanon and Gaza. And yet, after each Israeli military operation Hezbollah and Hamas improved their ability to launch rockets.

But then the tunnels made an appearance, followed by their offspring: smuggling tunnels, terror tunnels, explosive tunnels, launching tunnels, and most recently – infiltration tunnels.

We need to raise some serious questions about the tunnels, just a moment before they become a holy cow no one can question.

Israeli soldiers discover a tunnel in the Gaza Strip during ‘Operation Protective Edge,’ July 20, 2014. (Photo by IDF Spokesperson)

Israeli soldiers discover a tunnel in the Gaza Strip during ‘Operation Protective Edge,’ July 20, 2014. (Photo by IDF Spokesperson)

My starting point is an extensive post I wrote two and a half years ago about the special elite combat engineering unit of the IDF, Yahalom, which described its deeds from the days of operation Cast Lead to today. A part of it was dedicated to the significant efforts that the IDF is investing, both technological and operational, in the training of this unit for “tunnel combat.” I emphasize the expression “tunnel combat,” not to be confused with “tunnel detection” and “tunnel destruction,” which are the focus of public attention these days. It’s not the same thing, though by the end we’ll see that the conclusions are not significantly different.

That is what I wrote then:

The notable examples from our days are the tunnels that the Chinese dug in Ranzhuang against the...

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How the IDF abdicates its monopoly on violence in the West Bank

The IDF grants arrest and other powers to civilians in West Bank settlements and outposts but fails to ensure they are held accountable. In essence, the army has privatized law enforcement.

By Yossi Gurvitz, for Yesh Din

Illustrative photo of an Israeli settlement's civilian security coordinator. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Illustrative photo of an Israeli settlement’s civilian security coordinator. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Privatizing the state’s use of force should be a source of concern to us all. Such a process – and particularly when the powers are transferred to a body with a clear political agenda – creates uncontrolled militias. This is the process that has occurred in the West Bank due to the army’s policy of delegating some of its law enforcement powers to civilian security coordinators, as discussed in Yesh Din’s new report, “The lawless zone.”

The institution of the civilian security coordinator in itself is not new; it is part of a spatial defense approach that predates the establishment of the State of Israel. This function was formalized in the Local Authorities Law (Arrangement of Guarding), 1961. That law established that the security coordinators and guards were to be accountable to the police or the army. In the West Bank, where this mechanism was introduced by a military order in 1971, is more complex.

Read the full Yesh Din report here

The security coordinators — and the guards accountable to them — enjoy quasi-military and law enforcement powers, such as the power to detain or search a suspect and to arrest him if he resists. Despite this, supervision over their actions is remarkably vague. In official terms, security coordinators derive their powers from appointment by the IDF’s Central Command. In practice, however, they are appointed by the settlements in which they work. In official terms, security coordinators are accountable to the army, which grants them their powers and provides training programs, and to military law. In practice, there is not even a single documented instance in which a security coordinator has been prosecuted for deviating from his authority, despite the fact that the new report itemizes a number of documented violations. In official terms, the security coordinator receives instructions from the army brigade; but he receives his salary from the settlement where he operates. The security coordinator is not an employee of the Defense Ministry...

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The U.S. is also guilty in Palestine

When an indigenous, stateless population is blocked access to opportunities for justice by superpowers like the U.S., something is wrong – deadly wrong.

By Sam Bahour

The U.S. is not a neutral mediator in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict; it is an active participant and is guilty of the crimes being committed by Israel against Palestinians, most recently, the mass killings and destruction Israel wrought on the Gaza Strip during the summer. The reality that the U.S. is an active supporter of unimaginable suffering may very well be the motivating force behind the U.S.’s adamant attempts to block the Palestinians from using any of the internationally recognized tools of accountability to hold Israel responsible, such as the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court. When an indigenous, stateless population is blocked access to opportunities for justice by superpowers like the U.S., something is wrong – deadly wrong.

While Israeli bombs were hammering Gaza, Alice Lynd with the assistance of Staughton Lynd, drafted a 32-page pamphlet which was published by the Palestine-Israel Working Group of Historians Against the War (HAW) titled, Violations by Israel and the Problem of Enforcement (August 2014). The policy paper places the U.S. in front of its own mirror and meticulously documents how one hand of the U.S. government systematically documents Israeli violations of U.S. law and international law, while the other hand unconditionally dishes out financial, military, and diplomatic support to Israel.

The study notes that:

Israeli and American F-15 airplanes cooperating during the "Blue Flag" exercise in November 2013. (Photo by Gui Ashash/IAF)

Israeli and American F-15 airplanes cooperating during the “Blue Flag” exercise in November 2013. (Photo by Gui Ashash/IAF)

This contradiction of its own policy would seem incriminating enough, but if all the other means of U.S. support to Israel are added – especially the U.S.’s unwavering role in the UN Security Council as a proxy for Israel’s interests by vetoing and thereby blocking international steps for justice – the evidence that the U.S. is an active player in Israel’s onslaught and continued military occupation becomes overwhelming.

It stands to reason that the U.S. very rightly fears that any step to hold Israel accountable for crimes against humanity would ultimately incriminate the U.S. as Israel’s funder, diplomatic cover, political handler, and arms supplier for decades.

While this new document was being...

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Contradicting its own ruling, Israel’s Supreme Court legalizes segregated communities

The Israeli Supreme Court Wednesday dismissed various petitions against the Admissions Committees Law, which allows admissions committees in hundreds of communities in Israel to reject housing applicants based on their “social suitability.”

By Amjad Iraqi

March 8, 2000 marked a unique moment in Israeli history. In a major decision, the Supreme Court of Israel ruled that the town of Katzir, which was established on state land by the Jewish Agency, could not deny the right of the Arab Ka’adan family to live in the town simply on the basis that they were not Jewish. This was the first time that Palestinian citizens of Israel successfully challenged the legality of “Jewish-only” communities in the state, generating cautious optimism that it could set an important precedent for Palestinian rights in land and housing.

Fifteen years later, on September 17, 2014, these hopes came to an abrupt end. In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court dismissed various petitions filed by human rights groups against the Admissions Committees Law, enacted by the Knesset in 2011. The law allows admissions committees in 434 communities in the Negev and the Galilee (about 43 percent of all towns in Israel) to reject housing applicants based on their “social suitability” and the communities’ “social and cultural fabric.” In effect, these committees are now legally permitted to refuse residency based on any “undesired” identity, including Palestinian, Sephardic, African, gay, religious, secular and others.

The Admissions Committees Law is the Israeli right wing’s response to the Supreme Court ruling in the Ka’adan case. Realizing that marginalized groups were increasingly challenging the state’s discriminatory practices, the Knesset under the 2009-12 Netanyahu government sought to turn Israel’s historical policies against these groups into law. Many Knesset members openly declared that the purpose of these laws was to subdue the “threats” posed by Palestinian citizens to the Jewish character of the state. The authors of the Admissions Committees Law even stated that, though deliberately written in neutral language, its main aim was to prevent Arab citizens from living with Jews.

This objective of segregation is not a new phenomenon in Israel, and has in fact been a central, ongoing practice since the state’s establishment in 1948. Legislation ranging from the Absentees Property Law (1950) to the Negev Individual Settlements Law (2011), along with the policies of the Jewish National Fund, Israel Land Authority and the government itself, operate with...

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COMIC: Rome's finest progressives and the scourge of Masada

Stanislaus and Cecelia, progressive Romans living in Judea, wanted nothing more than peace — but the Masadans gave them no choice.

By Eli Valley

Eli.Valley.Masada

Eli Valley is a writer and artist whose work has been published in New York Magazine, The Daily Beast, Gawker, Saveur, Haaretz and elsewhere. He is currently finishing his first novel. Eli’s website is www.EVComics.com and he tweets at @elivalley.

More from Eli Valley:
What if Mahmoud was named Jonah?
COMIC: Consensus in the Conference
Why even god can’t reach a two-state solution




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PHOTOS: Anti-Zionists join rally against anti-Semitism in Berlin

Our joint Jewish-Palestinian-German protest confused participants at the rally against anti-Semitism, and definitely confused the German police. We wanted to chip away at the automatic linkage between Jews and the State of Israel.

Text by Inna Michaeli
Photos by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org

Demonstration against anti-Semitism and all racism in Berlin, September 14, 2014. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Demonstration against anti-Semitism and all racism in Berlin, September 14, 2014. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

BERLIN — By the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin on Sunday, some 3,000 people rallied against anti-Semitism, at the initiative of the Central Council of Jews in Germany. As promised, German Chancellor Angela Merkel gave a speech. Many in the crowd were touched by her declaration of historical responsibility for the crimes of the past, and for ensuring that Jews are welcome in Germany.

We also came to the march — around 100 activists, a lot of Jews, Germans, Palestinians and others, and no small number of Israelis. We demonstrated with banners reading: “No to attacks on synagogues and mosques in Berlin and in Gaza”, “anti-Semitism ≠ anti-Zionism”, and some of the Israelis in the crowd carried a sign reading, “Merkel, give us German passports, not weapons.”

Israelis demand Merkel for German passports, September 14, 2014. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Israelis demand Merkel for German passports, September 14, 2014. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks at the demonstration against anti-Semitism, September 14, 2014. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks at the demonstration against anti-Semitism, September 14, 2014. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

The goal of the non-Zionist bloc was to show that we exist as Jews and others, who oppose anti-Semitism and all racism, and who reject the automatic linkage between Jews and the State of Israel. Indeed, it was evident that the bloc’s presence sparked many discussions — not only between us and the other marchers, but also among the other groups. Along with hostile reactions, demands that we leave and those doubting the Jewishness of the Jews among us, many of us had open and positive discussions.

The police were pretty confused. They came and listened to our slogans through their walkie talkies and tried to understand whether we were for or against. The police officers stressed that they were in no...

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Returning to Gaza's devastation after summer peace camp

During Operation Protective Edge, dozens of Israeli and Palestinian children spent their days at a summer peace camp in the U.S. When one of those children returned to Gaza and found his family homes destroyed, he wrote a letter to the new Israeli friend he’d made at camp.

By Orly Noy

Just days before the start of the latest Gaza war I had the opportunity to speak with Noa, my daughter’s good friend, who told me excitedly about her upcoming trip to a camp run by Seeds of Peace, an a-political organization that works to introduce youths from conflict zones around the world in a neutral location – in this case, Maine.

Like her classmates in her bi-lingual school in Israel, Noa doesn’t really need well-intentioned Americans to introduce her to the “other side”; they have been some of her closest friends since age five. Nevertheless, the upcoming trip was exciting to her, partly out of the knowledge that a different setting could make her face a different discourse – her own and that of other participants. That was especially true in anticipation of meeting the “other” whom she hadn’t yet met, particularly young people from the West Bank and Gaza.

A Palestinian woman stands near laundry hanging over a destroyed quarter of the Shujayea neighborood, Gaza City, September 4, 2014. (Activestills.org)

A Palestinian woman stands near laundry hanging over a destroyed quarter of the Shujayea neighborood, Gaza City, September 4, 2014. (Activestills.org)

As her departure got closer and closer, and against the backdrop of the atrocities in Gaza and the terror in southern Israel, it became clearer that the camp was going to be much more sensitive and charged than she had imagined. I thought about her frequently while she was at the camp, but because they weren’t allowed to write or speak with the “outside world” I didn’t know what she and the other children were going through. So, I waited for Noa’s return.

Once she returned to Israel I understood that it had been a significant and moving experience for her. Noa came back with a skill that very few adults I know possess: the ability to listen, to really listen to another, and that’s what she did. Quite naturally, good friendships and strong connections were made, ones that now, upon the children’s return...

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+972 is an independent, blog-based web magazine. It was launched in August 2010, resulting from a merger of a number of popular English-language blogs dealing with life and politics in Israel and Palestine.

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