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My Palestinian mother was like Baltimore’s Toya Graham

In the first Intifada, my mother recognized the need to resist but she also wanted to keep her daughter safe — so she locked the doors and hid the keys. But if we are to be consistent, shouldn’t police officers’ mothers be responsible for stopping brutality? Shouldn’t Israeli soldiers’ mothers put a stop the arrests and mistreatment of Palestinian children?

By Nadia Naser-Najjab

The image of Toya Graham berating her own son and pulling him away from confrontations between police and protestors in Baltimore, where police brutality has sparked violent protests, resonated so deeply for me. I had witnessed this scene before, in my own family.

After the first Intifada broke out in 1987, the Israeli government responded to a wave of strikes, protests and demonstrations with direct violence (Yitzhak Rabin, who was the Israeli defense minister at the time, famously ordered the army to ‘break the bones’ of Palestinian protestors). Palestinians, including children, were routinely subject to beatings and arbitrary detention. In forcibly repressing a largely non-violent uprising, Israeli soldiers killed more than 1,000 Palestinians and left tens of thousands with life-changing injuries.

During this period it was my own mother who was remonstrating with my teenage sister, who had joined protests that sought to challenge the Israeli occupation. My mother’s reaction might well come as something of a shock to those external observers who — upon the basis of decontextualized depictions of Palestinian mothers celebrating their children’s martyrdom — have come to believe that Palestinians hate Israel and Israelis more than they love their own children.

According to that (mis)representation, Palestinian parenting practices — and not the political context of dispossession, brutalization and occupation — are to blame for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Read also: Testimonies from detained Palestinian children

Of course that idea, made famous by Golda Meir, is nothing but a dehumanising and grossly offensive slur. Palestinian mothers and fathers have always been torn between their commitment to the broader Palestinian cause and their love for their own children. My father once told me that he would have a heart attack if I was arrested. However, both he and my mother risked arrest when they joined a protest after the funeral of a 10-year-old child who had been killed while playing in my home village of Burqa.

My mother recognized the need to resist and...

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The illusion of change in the West Bank military courts

Positive developments in the treatment of minors by Israeli security forces are overshadowed by partial and half-hearted implementation.

By Gerard Horton

In March 2013, UNICEF recommended that all children detained by the Israeli military in the West Bank must be given written information about their rights, including the right to silence and prompt access to a lawyer, at the time of arrest. This followed a finding by the UN agency that the ill-treatment of children detained in the system was “widespread, systematic and institutionalized.” In response, the Israeli Foreign Ministry announced that it would “study [the recommendations] and work to implement them through on-going cooperation with UNICEF.”

Two years on, Military Court Watch has documented a case in which a minor was actually provided with a written document which included information about his legal rights while in custody. However, when the circumstances of the case are considered in greater detail, this development is less than positive and suggests that the military authorities are either unwilling or unable to implement UNICEF’s recommendations in good faith.

According to a testimony provided by the 15-year-old youth from the al-Arroub refugee camp, the military came for him at 2.30 a.m. on April 7. After waking the family and checking ID cards, the youth was bound, blindfolded and taken away. The youth was not informed of his legal rights at this time as recommended by UNICEF. After being transferred on the floor of a military vehicle and physically assaulted, the youth was interrogated on two occasions at the police station in Etzion settlement.

The first interrogation was conducted at 9.00 a.m. by an unidentified individual in civilian clothes. According to the testimony, this individual did not inform the youth of his rights and proceeded to physically assault and verbally abuse the 15 year old in an attempt to obtain a confession. Following the first interrogation the youth was passed on to a second interrogator.

Prior to questioning, the second interrogator provided the youth with a document written in both Arabic and Hebrew. Before the youth could finish reading the document the interrogator asked him to sign it as proof that he had been informed of his legal rights prior to questioning. The youth recalls that the document referred to his right to consult with a lawyer. It may have included information about other rights but the youth was not given the opportunity to...

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The Palestinian soccer league: A microcosm of a national struggle

Originally founded in 1928, the Palestinian Football Association endured the many trials of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Ahead of the conclusion of an eventful season, we look at one of the only national institutions that unifies the Palestinians these days.

By Yoni Mendel

Soccer protest in Gaza (Photo by Anne Paq/

The Palestinian soccer league is experiencing one of the most dramatic moments in its history. The current season has seen an unexpected turn of events, in which the likely champion was relegated to a secondary league a mere few days before the final.

Throughout the season, the Jerusalem club Hilal Alquds was at the top of charts of the Champions League, together with Al Zahiriyyah and Balata. But then they played Jabel Mukaber, a much weaker team, and the match turned out to be quite different from the walk in the park they had expected.

Jabel Mukaber, also known as the “Eagles,” scored a first goal in the 16th minute. Hilal Alquds stepped up a gear and tied 1:1 in the 80th minute. The Eagles refused to relent, and in the 88th minute scored a winning goal and did the unthinkable.

Hilal Alquds’ ouster from the champions league left two teams to face-off each other in the championship match on Friday: The Al Zahiriyyah “Gazelles,” from a village near Hebron, and the Balata “Nobles,” from the eponymous refugee camp near Nablus, that is populated mainly by refugees from the Jaffa area and their descendants and is one of the most densely populated places in the world.

The Eagles are likely to win, but the team is careful not to become overconfident. After Friday’s match, we’ll know which team will participate in the Asian Champions League later this year. But the entire soccer community in the West Bank will be able to boast a significant achievement: the end of a smoothly run season, against all odds.

This is further proof that the Palestinian league is alive and kicking. Soccer is the most popular sport in the region and in spite of everything, even behind the separation wall and the checkpoints, the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank play every Saturday.

The Palestinian league, sponsored by the cellular phone giant “Jawal,” has been operating entirely professionally for the past four years, since the 2010/2011 season.

Because of the separation between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, the...

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Why the Arabs are coming to Tel Aviv

It used to be that when Israel demolished Arab homes there would be a spontaneous strike and reactionary protest in some of the Arab cities. But there is a new political force leading Palestinian citizens of Israel, and this time, the protest is coming to Tel Aviv.

By Samah Salaime

The average Israeli does not understand the dramatic changes taking place in their own back yard — in Arab society. Snippets of  information about Arab society’s agenda — house demolitions, a march here, a protest there — appear in the Hebrew media every once in a while, sparingly.

The way that the Arabs relate to the government is fairly predictable, it seems. For Jewish Israelis, the script probably seems to be the same. If something is going on with “the neighbors” — like land expropriation, the Prawer plan, a murder by the police, or even abhorrent statements by the prime minister on election day — the automatic Arab reaction will come on the streets, often spontaneous and angry. But most importantly, nobody will care — neither the government nor the media.

Lately, however, with the election of the Joint List and tremendous efforts to restructure the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee, there is a sense that Arab citizens are riding on a different wave. That change was evident in the message broadcast on the eve of elections, that Palestinian citizens of the state want to integrate on all levels and in all areas of life in the country — a revolutionary message in itself — and are determined to protect the weaker segments of society. That message is becoming a real plan of action on the ground today.

Let’s look at two of the small steps taken so far by the elected leadership of the Arab public: they rejected an offer to meet with the Arab League, a meeting that was its wet dream for decades, the dream of being given recognition and respect. Secondly they decided to allow MKs to respond in a number of ways when the national anthem is sung in the Knesset (to either stand quietly or to leave).

Those steps may seem small and symbolic, but they are far more. The establishment of a Knesset coexistence caucus, the rejection of immediate reactionary protests in response to home demolitions and setting an agreed-upon date for a general strike, in the middle of the week — these are all signs of a...

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To return, we must feel what our grandparents went through

So what if we didn’t liberate Palestine on our rain-soaked March of Return? Each and every one of us got a little taste of what life was like for our forefathers in 1948.

By Samah Salaime

There is no doubt that this year’s “March of Return” was the most difficult, physically and mentally, of these past years. The inclement weather forecasts did not deter thousands from coming to Hadatha, a small village located on the road between Kfar Tavor and Tiberias.

We decided to leave early, after last year’s march in Lubya, when we were stuck in traffic for three hours right outside the entrance. This time the bus that drove 55 women and children (and one man) made it two hours before the march began. Some of us came equipped with warm clothes, others not so much. Sometimes there was rain, sometimes there wasn’t. A strong wind wind blew through everything that moved in the wheat fields at the top of the hill.

When we arrived, the women asked to pick almonds on the way from the almond grove that “belongs” to the Jewish moshav of Sarona. But we decided to restrain our authentic, natural Arab urges to pick.

One girl, who became excited after seeing a manmade irrigation pool and was sure of her geographical knowledge, told the bus that we had arrived at the Sea of Galilee, causing the children to rejoice. I calmed them down and told them that the Sea of Galilee is actually on the lefthand side and quite far away, and that the irrigation pools are probably full of rainwater. And just like that, the children’s wet dream of a trip to the Sea of Galilee disappeared.

We continued to climb toward the meeting point. We spent the journey singing “Mawtini” (“My Homeland”) and other patriotic Palestinian songs. At a certain point the children got tired of singing depressing songs and answering pop quiz questions on destroyed villages, and decided to lead the entertainment program. My son Adam embarrassed me by telling a dirty joke into the microphone — everyone, of course, laughed at me. One of the women called out from the back: “With all of your protests and work, look at what your son is learning at the bi-lingual bi-national school of yours. And yet you still pay them.” Of course, the kids from Lyd (Lod in...

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Israeli-Palestinian ‘normalization’ debate reaches NY theater

Palestinian solidarity groups and pro-Israel Jewish groups both stay away from a theater production that addresses the extremists on both sides of the conflict.

By Misha Shulman

“Thank you for reaching out to us, however, as SJP has a policy of non normalization, we will not be advertising this play.”

This was the response we received from a local chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine when we invited them to take part in a series of talkbacks that we are conducting in conjunction with Martyrs Street, my play about Hebron currently playing at Theater for the New City.

While I understand the frustrations and failures that led to the anti-normalization movement, I still questioned their response. Did it come out of the sense from the press release that the play equates Hamas with Jewish extremists? Was it simply the fact that I am a former commander in the IDF? Or does the rejection of dialogue include those working to end the occupation?

Another rejection came from a journalist for a Jewish publication, who wrote to me:

“Quite frankly, neither my readers nor I need another left-wing, New Israel Fund-type slander against the Jewish State. We have quite enough of it in real life.”

Whatever their reasons, both SJP and this journalist missed an opportunity to influence the way people think and act on issues of occupation and separation. While they may come from opposite sides of the conflict, both make the same mistake under the guise of anti-normalization – the refusal to build reciprocal relations with the other side.

Martyrs Street tells the story of two houses on the same street in Hebron. One is the home of a Palestinian professor who may be forced out of her home by Israel because of the actions of her son, a bomb maker for Hamas. The other is inhabited by a cell of radical Jewish settlers who plan to bomb a rally by anti-settlement Jews in Jerusalem, in order to prevent the coming evacuation of their home. The stories that unfold intertwine to reveal how moderates are left with fewer and fewer options as the logic of radicals appeals to increasing numbers.

Both Jewish and Arab publications have praised the play for its fairness. Audiences have expressed leaving with a far more nuanced sense of the complexities of a conflict with many different sides. People who have not...

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If you really love Israel, boycott Bob Dylan

An Israeli college includes the recital of a Dylan song at its Memorial Day ceremony, but some students weren’t having it. We dig a little deeper and find that ‘the voice of a generation’ is more anti-Israel than you ever could have imagined.

By John Brown*

A small controversy erupted on Israel’s Memorial Day, threatening to shatter whatever remains of national unity in Israel following the most recent elections. The Memorial Day ceremony at Oranim College in northern Israel included a reading of Bob Dylan’s song, “Masters of War.”

The song, it seems, caused a fair bit of resentment. Students at the educational college claimed, rightfully so, that the song calls for the killing of IDF soldiers, and that it addresses them, specifically. One can clearly see it in the following lyrics:

Come you masters of war
You that build all the guns
You that build the death planes
You that build all the bombs
You that hide behind walls
You that hide behind desks

You fasten all the triggers
For the others to fire
Then you set back and watch
When the death count gets higher
You hide in your mansion’
As young people’s blood
Flows out of their bodies
And is buried in the mud.

Clearly the song is talking about the simple, lowly soldier, the grunt in the field. It is not talking about those who sent him there, or the corporations or the military-industrial complex and politicians who make billions off of war, as Dylan and millions of fans understood decades ago.

The students’ claims seem legitimate to me, and are in no way the result of the dissonance that has caused them to misinterpret the lyrics of the song. Dissonance that, quite possibly, is the result of an inability to cope with an anti-war movement. Because if war is a bad thing, then what does that say about those who died in war? What does that say about their memory? Can heroes die in an unnecessary war? Are we responsible for not stopping it? Such issues cannot be discussed, lest false accusations render the entire enterprise illegitimate.

The lyrics weren’t written in a settlement

I decided to...

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Liberating Israelis from the mentality of occupation

The occupying identity has become second nature — a state of being. Recognizing the Nakba and Palestinian right of return would go a long way toward liberation — of Israelis.

By Eitan Bronstein Aparicio and Dr. Eléonore Merza Bronstein

On the 67th Independence Day of the State of Israel, its citizens appear to be further than ever from the “liberation” promised on the day of its founding. A war that was intended to “liberate” us (‘us’ being Jews alone, of course) in 1948 ended in military occupation and the expulsion of most of the Palestinians from the country. Even more severe than that, the occupation turned the Israeli-Jewish collective identity into an occupier’s one, which since then has been, in its great majority, committed to continuing the enterprise of occupation.

The vast majority of Israelis do not question the sacrifice of their sons and daughters in this ongoing war, let alone that they are being turned into Spartan subjects whose goal is to kill the opponent in the name of the holy nation. There is a small but growing number alongside them who are taking civic responsibility and refusing to serve in the Israeli army.

The successful implementation of the occupying identity is reflected in the concealment of the occupation itself. Most of those in the peace camp and the Israeli left refer to the occupation as an undertaking that began in 1967. They have also succeeded in bestowing on the world the derogatory term “settlers,” thereby creating the illusion that the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, and the continuing military control over them, are an anomaly or deviation from a supposedly pure original path.

The fact is that the occupation of 1967 is the obvious culmination of an enterprise that began in the dawning days of Zionist immigration. The segregation between settlers and natives in the name of “redeeming the land” was a guiding principle that reached its ultimate form in the establishment of a Jewish state, by way of expelling most of the Palestinians and turning them into refugees during the Nakba.

That the ministers of education and culture define the Nakba as a day on which Palestinians mourn the founding of the State of Israel not only displays ignorance, it also bolsters Israelis’ sense that Palestinian identity is limited to hatred of Israel and Jews.

The first Zionist leaders in Europe used the term colonialism in order...

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West Bank outposts: An entire system of dispossession

At the core of Israel’s settlement outpost system lies the systemic violation of Palestinian human rights.

By Yossi Gurvitz, written for Yesh Din

If we had to look for a good example of the meaning of the outpost system – the unofficial settlements Israel builds in the West Bank – we could hardly expect a better one than that supplied by the minister of defense himself. Commenting on a legal appeal that — contrary to some reports, Yesh Din is not part of — demands the removal of the Mitzpe Kramim outpost, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said (Hebrew): “This location was established legally, with the support of the prime minister and the defense minister. True, later someone appealed, an Israeli organization of course, a leftist organization that found some Arab who claims ownership.” As painful as it is that this is the level of understanding displayed by a senior government minister, the interesting part here is actually the where Ya’alon talks about “some Arab who claims ownership.”

With some brutality, Ya’alon touches on the main problem of the outpost movement: its violation of Palestinian human rights in the West Bank. Yesh Din’s research over the years, and particularly its report, “The Road to Dispossession,” which uses the outpost Adei-Ad as a microcosm, finds that the creation of an outpost is a steady source for unceasing violation of the rights of the Palestinian residents in adjacent villages. This violation is inherent in existence of the outpost.

Let me explain. When an outpost is created, it grabs territory, which later becomes the core of the outpost. This territory often includes private Palestinian land. Around the core there is what is known as the SSA – “special security area” – which Palestinians may not enter except on special occasions, since it serves as the perimeter of the outpost. Outside the SSA there is Palestinian land that becomes a source of friction.

outpost ring

Why is it a source of friction? Because the goal of outposts is to expand. Adei-Ad, our test case, now includes territory nearly 30 times its original size. How do outposts expand? Israeli civilians arrive in the vicinity and either attack Palestinian farmers or damage their crops. This is done in order to terrorize them and force them to abandon their land. When the land is abandoned, it is taken over.

In order to do so, of...

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Israel must provide alternatives to prison for Palestinian minors

It’s time to advocate for the mental health treatment and education of Palestinian children detained in Israeli military prisons. Untreated post-traumatic stress disorder will only fuel their continued hatred and aggression towards the authorities.

By Leah R. Platkin

A painfully violent video went viral last month, showing two Israeli soldiers ordering dogs to attack a 16-year-old Palestinian Hamza Abu Hashem. The incident took place months earlier but the video was only circulated in March by former Knesset member Michael Ben-Ari, on the eve of Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress. Ben Ari hoped the video would teach Palestinian children a lesson, but his plan backfired. The video sparked outrage over the violence and brutality inflicted upon this traumatized teenager. In response, the IDF announced that it would temporarily discontinue using attack dogs in West Bank demonstrations.

There was a surge in media coverage criticizing IDF tactics once the world watched video of this traumatized child being bitten by an attack dog. The aftermath and next steps for Hamza and his family were not part of that discourse. The prospect of any discussion of Hamza’s fate and well-being was lost somewhere between Netanyahu’s speech to Congress and coverage of the Israeli election.

After the attack and arrest, Israeli authorities took Hamza to the hospital for his injuries, interrogated him, detained him in a military prison, and a military court fined him NIS 4,000 ($1,000). Hamza’s parents were not permitted to visit him for several weeks. He was imprisoned for three months, without mental health treatment for trauma stemming from the assault, or any option for continuing his education.

Hamza was released from prison earlier this month. He is now suffering from undiagnosed psychological trauma, according to Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy. Hamza is withdrawn, isolated, has both insomnia and nightmares, is startled by dogs barking, and is in critical need of mental health treatment, Levy reported. He has not received any psychological intervention and his family is unable to pay for private services. Hamza’s family is likely traumatized by the attack, the arrest, and their concern for his well-being and mental heath subsequent to the severe physical and psychological abuse he experienced before and during his incarceration.

The time has come not only to watch and talk about videos like this, but also to take action. Now, while the new government is being formed by presumptive Prime Minister Netanyahu, the public...

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Why I'm thinking of leaving Israel

I don’t feel a sense of belonging in the place where I was born. I want to live in a place where my right to vote is not seen as a threat to the regime, where my ethnicity doesn’t hold me back and where my language is not a barrier. One day I will leave, but it won’t be by choice.

By Somow Younis

Another weekend approaches and I’m packing my suitcase to go north from Jerusalem to visit my parents. It’s become my tradition, every week since I moved out of the house, only this time the process of folding clothes and packing my suitcases is accompanied by a strange fear, brought on by thoughts that still linger, which I’m not sure will ever stop.

I’ve written a few articles based on personal experiences. One article discussed the racism prevailing in Israeli sports, another discussed patterns in Palestinian society in Israel regarding educated youth and my own uncertainties on the matter, and another article discussed the under-representation of women in recent elections. And now, as I write these very words, my soul is in distress. Racism, uncertainty and dreams, the oppression of women — those are the main ingredients of my existence.

I go back to packing my bags. There have been more suitcases in past visits. There is more in my bags this time than just the clothes for my mother to wash. There is more than just the empty containers, to be filled with
tasty food over the weekend, like everything that leaves behind an emptiness in its absence, filled in due course by somebody else.

I hit the road at the dizzying pace that things happen in this country I live in, in every sense of the word. Nevertheless, I need a break, to disconnect for a week, at least. For the next week I won’t have to deal with politics or the occupation or ethnic-based oppression.

I sit down on the bed, my eyes find a photo on the wall, a photo of bicycles in Amsterdam, a photo that induces a sense of serenity. As the calm fades I sigh and wonder: could you take a photograph in Israel — even by the best photographer in the world, with the most advanced equipment — that gives one such a good feeling? Thoughts like these race through my head, quietly. But the answer comes out...

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Thousands in Gaza plan int'l protest: It's impossible to live here

A group of young activists in Gaza are organizing an international day of solidarity to protest against the impossible conditions and human rights violations created by Israel’s and Egypt’s siege, the occupation, internal Palestinian conflicts and poverty.

By Yael Marom

“Life in Gaza has always been hard. But after Israel’s last attack it became impossible to live here. The problems became worse and the conditions deteriorated to the point that it is no longer possible to live humanely — and nobody cares,” Sajida Alhaj, 21, says in a Skype interview.

Alhaj is part of a group of young activists in Gaza that last month published a call for a mass protest in the Strip on April 29, demanding an end to the siege, the occupation and the human and civil rights abuses that accompany them.

The activists are calling on anyone who believes in freedom, justice and equality, the world over, to join them and organize parallel protests in their own countries, to express solidarity and to recognize their suffering.

“The situation in Gaza is disastrous,” she says. “We are calling on people to support Gaza by demonstrating in front of the Israeli and Egyptian embassies in every country, and force them to open the borders and break the siege — let building materials in to allow rebuilding, and let sick people out for medical treatment.”

Alhaj is a student and Palestinian refugee who lives in the central Gaza Nusirat Camp. In the past, the activist group she is a part of has mostly worked with women, children and the wounded in Gaza. Now, they are trying to unite the entire Strip.


“This action is our answer to the siege under which we live,” she explains. There are more and more human rights violations each year, and there is no sign that anything is getting better, she adds.

When you walk down the street, she explains, you see one house standing and one house in rubble, one after another, on and on. In order to reach her university every morning, Alhaj says she must “walk between homes damaged in the war, to walk through places where people were killed.”

“And all that to reach my damaged university...

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High Court on BDS: Somewhere between terror and Holocaust denial

The High Court decision on the ‘boycott law’ uses the word terror 11 times, likens BDS supporters to Holocaust deniers and quotes a right-wing columnist who makes it his duty to target boycott supporters.

By Yael Marom

The justices of Israel’s High Court upheld the controversial “boycott law” Wednesday, giving ground for individuals to sue anyone who calls for a boycott of Israel, or areas under its control (read: the occupied territories).

But beyond the consequences, questions and political issues that arise from the ruling, there are also a few gems that would be a shame to miss. The word “terror” is mentioned 11 times in the entire verdict. Justice Rubenstein says the word “Holocaust” three times, while the High Court makes two references to the book “Industry of Lies,” by conservative Yedioth Ahronoth columnist Ben-Dror Yemini (known for his articles against the boycott movement, and for attacking leftists for positions they often do not hold). Because the decision is 233 pages long, I decided to pick out the best parts for the readers.


“Thus the call for boycott falls into the category that is known in constitutional literature: the democratic paradox, which allows for limiting the rights of those who seek to enjoy the fruits of democracy in order to harm it. Calling for boycott and participating in it, therefore, can sometimes be considered ‘political terror.’”
(Justice Meltzer, pg. 37)

Holocaust deniers

“Even the boycott against Israel, in its old form, which Israel — as well as other countries, headed by the United States — worked to combat, falls within the realm of freedom of speech; it would be terrible for this freedom of speech to reach its goals. It may be akin to — without comparing — Holocaust denial and anti-Semitic and racist remarks, which in my eyes must enjoy the protection of free speech.”
(Justice Rubinstein, pg. 164)


“These lines are written on the eve of Passover. In the Passover Hagadah, we read about the same promise made from above to ensure the survival of the Jewish people, despite its enemies — ‘And this is what kept our fathers and what keeps us surviving. For, not only one arose and tried to destroy us, rather in every generation they try to destroy us, and God saves us from their hands.’ There is no problem with the fact that the Knesset passes a law...

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