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A court of non-convictions when the victim is Palestinian

When Israelis are accused of victimizing Palestinians, nearly 25% of convictions are simply thrown out — to avoid tarring the criminal with a criminal record.

By Yossi Gurvitz, written for Yesh Din

Every year Yesh Din publishes data about police investigative failures regarding crimes carried out by Israelis against Palestinians in the West Bank. They are usually quite similar: the police fails to investigate approximately 85 percent of complaints by Palestinians who report being harmed by Israelis. The rate becomes much higher when it comes to the destruction of Palestinian trees by Israeli civilians: that’s when the police failure rate reaches 97.4 percent.

The average Israeli may not be surprised to find that the police failure rates are so high, but he or she still has some expectations of the courts. After all, we are told time and again that Israel is governed by the rule of law.

Okay, the average citizen says to himself, we seem to have a problem when it comes to investigations, and naturally, if the investigation is a mess we are not likely to get to court. But once we step into the halls of justice, everything should be fine.

Or not.

Yesh Din’s latest data sheet, which was released in tandem with an exhaustive report on the failure of law enforcement in the West Bank, examines for the first time what happens to the cases the organization follows once they leave the limbo of the prosecution and make it to court. The situation, to put it mildly, is not “okay.”

To begin with, the chances that a complaint by a Palestinian victim will develop into an indictment against an Israeli felony suspect stands at a mere 7.4 percent. This means that the chances that an Israeli will appear in court for a crime he is suspected of committing is around 1 in 14. Most often, cases are closed due to police investigative failures; in a majority of the cases, the reason cited is the inability of the police to find a suspect – what is known as the the “unknown perpetrator clause.”

The fact that a case makes it to court does not, of course, mean it will end in a conviction. The defendants have the right to representation and have access to attorneys — as a human rights organization we entirely support this. The problem lies elsewhere.

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Palestinian prisoner nears 40th day of hunger strike

Khader Adnan, who became the symbol of Palestinian administrative detainees after refusing food for 66 days in 2011, is once again on hunger strike. Adnan’s wife: ‘He has no other choice. He is very strong and won’t budge until he is free.’

By Yael Marom

Khader Adnan, the symbol of Palestinian administrative detainees, is once again on hunger strike, having refused to eat for the past 37 days. He was transferred last Thursday to Assaf Harofeh hospital near Rishon LeZion, where he is being handcuffed to his bed by his legs and hands. Adnan, a baker from the West Bank village of Araba is striking against his prolonged detention with no indictment after being arrested in July 2014. His administrative detention was extended for a second time on May 6.

Adnan’s 2011 hunger strike ended in victory, after he refused food for 66 straight days. Israel decided to release him at the last minute before his administrative detention was up, after which Adnan ended his strike. Thus, the man who upon beginning his hunger strike was described by Israel as a “dangerous terrorist belonging to Islamic Jihad” was eventually released, after the state was unable to present evidence or put together an indictment. (Full disclosure: At the time I was the spokesperson for Physicians for Human Rights, which was very active in the struggle for his release.)

Adnan was re-arrested last summer during the IDF operation in the West Bank following the murder of three Jewish teenagers. The former administrative detainees — who were released after a successful hunger strike — were the first to return to Israeli prisons. Adnan was once again placed in administrative detention, without knowing what he was charged with, without the chance to prove his innocence, all while the state has the power to perpetually extend his detention every six months. On May 6, when his administrative detention was extended for the third consecutive time, Adnan announced that he would use the only nonviolent tool at his disposal and go on hunger strike.

Adnan’s hunger strike is considered a “full strike,” meaning that he refuses food, salts or additives, and drinks only water. He is also refusing all medical treatment by the Israel Prison Service or the hospital, and is demanding to be treated by an independent doctor. Creating a situation of mistrust between the hunger...

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Questions for an Israeli friend who thinks 'everything is okay'

You say that Palestinians are to blame for failing to stop terror, for not entering negotiations, for not signing a peace treaty with Israel. I cannot buy this argument. Not anymore. Not after 48 years.

By Gil Rimon

“You always oversimplify things,” you say whenever I mention the words “injustice,” “discrimination” or, god forbid, “racism” (not to mention the A-word). “Israel does not meddle with Palestinian rights. It’s not our fault they can’t manage their own people and corruption. They always choose violence, read your history, dude. They always choose the wrong people for their parliament. Don’t be ridiculous: they are the violent side in this story. I wish, but we have no partner for peace.”

And you try to refresh my memory: “Do you even remember they have had their own civilian autonomy since Oslo? Do you even remember buses blowing up while Rabin was trying to grant them autonomy, peace, parts of the holy land? Most Israelis are holding their hand out for peace, but the Arabs just can’t leave us alone. They hate us.

Anyway, we have our own problems. And I almost forgot Gaza — well, let’s not even start.”

My friend, you admit you don’t care too much about human rights in the West Bank when times are peaceful, as it is none of your business. When confrontations start you are all for the IDF to end it abruptly and without too many Israeli casualties. When there are negotiations you are cautious about giving away too much land and not getting any peace in return.

But hey friend, take my other friend, Muhammad, as an example. He is living in Nablus and working in Ramallah where he is an Android developer for American clients.

Muhammad’s control over his life is so much more limited than mine and yours. It is clear that we are much more privileged. Like most Palestinian residents he was never involved in violence  —  but he can’t have our rights.

A universal view, which I strongly relate to, believes that human rights should be granted unconditionally and equally to all. When a sovereign country takes control over a new territory, especially militarily, the new individuals are now the subjects of that sovereign country.

The new subjects are entitled to a set of human rights. If an individual breaks the law — a terrorist, for example — it should not interfere with the...

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Asylum seeker who left Israel: 'I believed them when they said I could stay in Uganda'

The following is a redacted version of an affidavit that was attached to a petition filed by Israeli human rights NGOs and the Tel Aviv University Refugee Rights’ Clinic against the recently announced policy of indefinitely incarcerating Eritrean and Sudanese asylum-seekers who refuse to leave Israel for Rwanda or Uganda.

Under a new policy announced on March 31, 2015, asylum-seekers detained in Holot will be offered to leave Israel for an unnamed third country. If they refuse to do so, after 30 days, they would be incarcerated in Saharonim prison. Dozens of Eritrean asylum-seekers in Holot have since undergone interviews in which they were offered to leave, and are facing imminent transfer to Saharonim.

Based on testimonies of asylum-seekers who left Israel to those unnamed “third countries,” Israeli human rights NGOs know that they are Uganda and Rwanda. The petition was filed to the Beer Sheva District Court and was dismissed by Judge Bitan, who ruled the petition was premature because the transfer of detainees from Holot to Saharonim prison has not yet begun.

The following is an affidavit by “Robel,” an Eritrean national who agreed to voluntary deportation from Israel. (His name has been changed for his protection.)


I arrived in Israel in 2008. I asked for asylum every time I spoke to an Israeli official but I did not receive any reply to my asylum claim at any point.

I decided to leave Israel after I was detained in Holot for a year and stopped believing that I will ever be released in Israel. During the year I spent in Holot we conducted demonstrations. During the arrest that followed our march to Nizana, near the Egyptian border on June 29, 2014, I was badly beaten by Israeli Immigration officers. They forgot to take our cameras when they arrested us and I managed to transfer photos of my wounds to the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants. Despite the fact that the Hotline submitted a complaint against the immigration officers on my behalf, I was never questioned about the incident. Because of all these reasons, I felt that Israel cannot provide me and my friends a safe refuge and I decided to leave Israel no matter where to and look for refuge elsewhere.

After I told the Immigration Authority I wanted to leave, they told me that I will be leaving to Rwanda and...

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A city with no sovereign: The Jerusalem passport case

The U.S. Supreme Court rules that the State Department can continue refusing to print ‘Israel’ as the place of birth for American citizens born in Jerusalem. ‘Neither Israel nor any other country is acknowledged as having sovereignty over Jerusalem,’ Justice Kennedy writes in the majority opinion.

By Lolita Brayman

The U.S. might be Israel’s strongest ally but that doesn’t mean Washington is willing to toe the Israeli line on the status of Jerusalem. For decades, the United States’ policy has been in line with the rest of the international community, not recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The rationale is that since the city’s only internationally accepted legal standing is that of an international city, a product of the 1947 Partition Plan, its contemporary status must be determined via negotiations — and not unilateral declaration.

The U.S. Supreme Court made a historic decision on Monday that rightly placed the politics of foreign affairs, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, outside its sphere of objectivity. In a 6-to-3 vote, the majority of justices struck down a 2002 congressional regulation that allowed those born in the city of Jerusalem to record the place of birth as Israel in their passports.

The case was about Section 214(d) of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, passed by Congress in 2002, which in contradiction of State Department’s guidelines allowed for listing only a city on a passport if a nation’s borders are in dispute. Moreover, under the U.S. Constitution, Congress is not permitted to interfere with the president’s authority to determine terms on which recognition is given to foreign states.

The validity of the congressional policy was brought to the Supreme Court by the parents of Menachem Binyamin Zivotofsky, who wanted their American son’s passport to list “Israel” as the place of birth and not simply “Jerusalem,” where he was indeed born in October 2002. When the case was first heard in 2012 by the Supreme Court, the majority opinion stated that the constitutionality of the statute could be resolved by the U.S. Court of Appeals because it was a separation of powers issue, even though such a decision might touch on political areas.

Fast forward to this Monday. The status of Jerusalem remains undetermined and the Supreme Court still refused — this time more definitively — to get tangled up in the weeds of diplomacy and foreign affairs. The State Department can continue to refuse to print...

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Why I won't be participating in Tel Aviv's Pride Parade

Israeli security forces exploit Palestinians’ sexual orientation to blackmail them into becoming collaborators. The Israeli LGBT mainstream’s silence about this persecution exposes a moral lapse.

By Fady Khoury

This weekend, LGBT Israelis will take to the streets of Tel Aviv as part of the yearly Pride Parade, this year under the banner, “gender equality and support for the transgender community.” People from all over the world will throng to the streets of Tel Aviv, adorned with rainbow flags and Israeli flags, all in order to take part in the days-long party. It is a massive tourist attraction and the pride and joy of Tel Aviv.

Historically, the Pride Parade is held in June to mark the Stonewall riots — large protests that were held in 1969 in response to the NYPD’s treatment of the community.

Pride parades, some of which look like massive parties, are really are political events meant to increase LGBT visibility and fight societal and institutional discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation. We could argue about the character of the various events, but I think there is something magical in the hybrid approach of a political protest held in a colorful, fun way.

However, the Tel Aviv parade is problematic, particularly from the perspective of LGBT Palestinians — which, if you ask me, should be problematic for the entire LGBT community. It is partly problematic because of its official institutional sponsorship. But primarily, it is problematic because while LGBT Jewish-Israelis take to the streets, either to celebrate or as an expression of political protest, the same state that is sponsoring their celebrations within the Green Line is also exploiting sexual orientation to blackmail gay Palestinians on the other side of the Green Line. There, the state threatens to expose Palestinians’ sexual orientation if they don’t collaborate with the security forces, which in certain cases, is a direct threat to their lives.

The story was widely told as part of the media’s coverage of a refusal letter by veterans from Israel’s elite intelligence unit, Unit 8200, in September 2014. According to those who signed the letter, which announced their refusal to continue serving in the reserves, Israeli intelligence and security services systematically used the sexual orientation of West Bank Palestinians in order to blackmail and threaten them. The army denied the story, of course, but testimonies from gay Palestinians, gathered and collected years earlier by...

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How American high school students taught me about the occupation

Filmmaker Lia Tarachansky has been showing her latest movie, ‘On the Side of the Road” — a documentary on how Israelis view the Nakba — around the world for nearly a year. What happened after she screened her film for a class of American high school students took her by surprise.

By Lia Tarachansky

The film’s credits come on, so I take a deep breath, turn on the lights and walk slowly to the center of the room. I want to stretch out the minutes to give them more time to digest. After a few long moments of standing there in silence, I turn around to look at the teacher. He ignores my stare, signaling that I am on my own on this one.

It has been more than a decade since I last stood before a high school class. Those 10 years fold neatly into a single breath as I stare at my feet and search my pockets with sweaty, nervous palms. I reassure myself with the thought that they probably won’t remember any of this when they grow up. Since my film tour began, I have presented it to dozens of audiences, but never have I been so nervous to hear what they think.

“So… do you have any questions?” I desperately throw the bait at room, but they don’t go for it. Instead, they awkwardly stare at each other, at me and at the teacher. I pick one of the students out and ask her a direct question. Her demeanor is shy but she turns out to be the outspoken, articulate type.

“What did you think of the movie?” I ask.

She points out some things she liked and says she learned a lot. I cling to something she said and quickly find myself lecturing about Israel/Palestine politics. My mind starts frantically searching for an exit as their eyes begin to glaze over. Thankfully, she saves me.

“But to be honest, Ms. Lia, I just don’t get it.”

“What do you mean?”

“I just don’t understand why the people of Israel don’t just stand up and say something.”

“That’s an excellent question.”

“But most of them are like that,” another student joins in.

“I don’t know,” she answers him, “if people around me were acting like this, I would stand up and say something.”

“But you saw the guy at the...

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12 Palestinian members of parliament are in Israeli prison

While we often hear Palestinian prisoners in the news, little is said about the lawmakers currently sitting in Israeli prisons. Many of them have spent years in jail, often as political prisoners in administrative detention, suffering beatings, interrogations and imprisonment in difficult conditions. Yet many of them still see a chance of living side-by-side with Israel, whether in one or two states.

By Noam Rotem

An Israeli military court decided last week to continue detaining Khalida Jarrar, a member of the Palestinian parliament, who has been imprisoned by Israel for the past two months. Jarrar was first arrested and put in administrative detention, which in effect meant that she could be held indefinitely without being charged or seeing trial. However, in the wake of a global campaign for her release, the state decided to release her from administrative detention and put her on trial.

Jarrar is not the only member of the Palestinian parliament, known as the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), to be held by Israel. Israel is currently imprisoning 12 other Palestinians parliamentarians, who were elected in the last democratic elections to take place in the Palestinian Authority in 2006. Some are in administrative detention, which in the eyes of the international community makes them political prisoners who are being held solely due to their political and social activities.

According to statistics published by the Israel Prison Service on April 30, there are 394 administrative detainees in Israeli prisons. The very fact that Israel indefinitely holds Palestinian prisoners without charges is problematic in itself — but when we are talking about elected officials, the problem grows tenfold. Take Jarrar, for instance, who was placed under administrative detention until she was formally charged. Why? Because she belongs to an organization that she represents in the Palestinian parliament to which she was democratically elected.

Many of these political leaders have spent years in Israeli prisons, often as political prisoners in administrative detention. Some were arrested as “bargaining chips” after Gilad Shalit was taken hostage by Hamas; many of them suffer from difficult health conditions that are not properly treated by the Israel Prison Service. These, after all, are the officials that have been chosen by the Palestinian people to lead them toward a life alongside Israel.

Despite dozens of arrests, beatings, interrogations and imprisonment in difficult (and often humiliating) conditions, many of them still see a chance of...

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No permit, no entry

I thought of mandatory conscription as somewhat of an inconvenience — I never thought the army would be ‘fun.’ I never expected to serve at a checkpoint. I never expected to hate myself for it.

By Lauren S. Marcus

It was a balmy Saturday night in Tel Aviv. I stood on the smoking patio of a club which overlooks the sea, and there was a soft breeze which carried on it the scents of the Mediterranean, the various shwarma and falafel restaurants which dominate that part of the city, and the perfumes and colognes of the patrons around me. As I sipped my beer, a girl approached me. She was young, American. She had heard me translating something from Hebrew to English for my friend and she was impressed. “You know Hebrew?” she asked me.

“Yes,” I said.

“Did you make Aliyah?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said. I knew what was coming next.

“Were you in the army?”


“Did you have fun?” she asked.

I paused.

“No,” I told her. “It was the worst time of my life.”

“But why?” she continued, wrinkling her nose in confusion.

I was stunned.

In the United States, asking such a question so casually is unheard of; I can’t imagine a stranger pestering a veteran as to why their army service wasn’t “fun.” And you certainly wouldn’t expect such a question in a crowded nightclub while surrounded by partygoers downing shots of vodka. In Israeli society, military service can mean many different things, and is so normalized that one could reasonably expect a “yes” to this question. Furthermore, if one did suffer during their army service, there is intense pressure not to say so. A shrug and quick change of subject would be appropriate. Admitting that I didn’t enjoy my army service is a shocking act.

When I was drafted to the IDF, I was incredibly naïve. Having immigrated to the country a mere seven months before, my expectations were based on the experiences friends shared with me. I had plenty of friends who had fun in the army. They mostly had jobs arranging field trips for soldiers from their bases and organizing special sports and relaxation days, and taking tourists from Zionist youth groups to volunteer in army bases for three-week sessions. I viewed mandatory conscription as something that would be inconvenient, but pictured myself posting for a few too many Facebook selfies in uniform...

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Israel's grip on the Palestinian tourism industry

Through a regime of permits, licenses and visas, Israel controls who guides most tourists to the Holy Land, what they are told and where they spend their money. Can Palestinians use tourism to take back the discourse on occupation?

By Amjad Alqasis

(See correction below.)

Israel’s occupation and colonization of Palestine is not limited to its military elements — the occupation is also manifested in Israel’s use of tourism as a political tool. Tourism is used to strengthen Israel’s position as occupying power, to maintain its domination over Palestinian land and people, but also as an instrument for the dissemination of propaganda to millions of tourists, including politicians, community leaders and journalists who sometimes receive free-of-charge first-class tours to Israel.

All of these trips are accompanied by well-drilled Israeli tour guides spread the official Israeli narrative among visitors. This narrative is crafted through the omission of crucial information, and by ensuring that there is little or no contact between visitors and local Palestinian communities.

Simply put, Israel knows that being exposed to the present and historical realities of the occupation would have a transformative effect on the majority of tourists to Palestine. Such tourists might then return to their home countries as opponents to Israel’s oppressive policies against Palestinians — the opposite effect of the tours sponsored by pro-Israel organizations. With that in mind, in 2008, an Israeli branding campaign was developed for the tourism industry to deflect attention from the occupation.

“Millions of tourists come to Bethlehem, Palestine, every year and, without talking to a single Palestinian, return home as enemies of Palestine and ambassadors of Israel,” explains Rifat Kassis, coordinator of Kairos Palestine, a Palestinian Christian anti-occupation movement.

Controlling the narrative


When Israeli-run tours avoid Palestinian areas it gives the message that Palestinians are dangerous and not to be trusted. The result is that tourists return home with false “confirmation” that Palestinians are indeed a threat to the safety of Israel and its tourists.

Additionally, the maze of unequal laws and restrictions gives Israeli tour companies an unfair advantage in their ability to provide seamless service for their groups. Israel follows a two-tiered strategy: firstly to invest millions of dollars into its tourism market in order to attract the maximum number of visitors; and secondly to cripple the Palestinian market as much as possible. Very few permits...

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How Israel's media turned a British NGO into terrorists

Israel’s two biggest newspapers didn’t hesitate to copy-paste a press release from the Foreign Ministry, turning a small London organization into ‘Hamas in Europe.’

By Yoni Mendel

I often hear Israeli friends and co-workers belittle the Arab-speaking media in Israel. Especially due to the fact that many Arab media outlets in Israel don’t actually employ journalists, and that any piece written in good Arabic for one of the more popular Arab news sites will likely be published without any changes.

I thought about it yesterday as I took the train from Tel Aviv to Haifa, while leafing through Yedioth Ahronoth and Israel Hayom, both of which were handed out to me free of charge. How easy it is, I thought to myself, to belittle local gossip stories published on an Arab site. And how difficult it is to deal with a bulldozer of messaging that hits Israelis on a day-to-day basis in the Hebrew-language newspapers.

For those who did not get a chance to look through the aforementioned dailies on Tuesday, I will point out that both published — and gave prominent placement — to an article about a group called the “Palestine Return Centre,” which is “identified with Hamas,” and which was granted observer status by the UN Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations. Whoever reads these articles, even without a critical eye, understands that they contain everything but journalism. This is how Israel Hayom dedicated half of page three to the story, with a headline that read: “Hamas-affiliated group received status of observer.” Rival newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth put the story on page 8, under the headline “From Hamas into the arms of the UN.”

Let’s look closely at the details provided by both papers on the story:

Israel Hayom: The PRC organization, which is based in Britain, publishes anti-Israel propaganda in Europe, whether on the political level or among campuses and the general public.

Yedioth Ahronoth: The PRC organization, short for the “Palestinian Return Centre,” is based in Britain and publishes anti-Israel propaganda in Europe, on the political level, on campuses and among the general public.

Israel Hayom: In 2010, Israel declared the group an illegal organization due to its affiliation with Hamas. According to Israel, Hamas members rank high in the organization, the organization promotes Hamas’ goals in Europe and maintains strong ties with the rest of the group’s wings, including the heads of Hamas in Damascus.

Yedioth Ahronoth:...

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When the judge is your enemy, to whom shall you complain?

The Israeli justice system – from its inaccessible police stations to its lenient prosecutors, from its negligent investigators to its judges who won’t convict – makes it clear to the Palestinians that there is simply no point in lodging complaints.

By Yossi Gurvitz, written for Yesh Din

Yesh Din comic

“The spectrum of possible reasons for the lack of complaints may range from acceptance of the fact and a natural inclination not to complain, to disinclination to come in contact with the authorities, to fear resulting from a threat or concern of retribution, to reaching the conclusions from the lack of results in earlier complaints to the police, or the refusal of the police to deal with complaints”.

These words were spot-on when they were written in the Karp Report, presented to the Attorney General in May 1982. Back then the report broke new ground on the issue of the lack of law enforcement in the West Bank, and are even truer today, after 30 years of distrust in the Israeli law enforcement system.

Yesh Din recently published a new report, Mock Enforcement, which describes the state of law enforcement in the West Bank based on the data collected over the 10 years of the organization’s activity. The increasing refusal by Palestinians to complain to Israel Police about offenses against them should be one of the phenomena that Israeli decision-makers.

Yesh Din began focusing on documenting this phenomenon in 2013, so as to get a better understanding of the circumstances surrounding victims’ refusal to complain to the police. The organization decided to do so after a long series of meetings with victims, who made it clear to that they would not complain. The victims kept repeating was an Arab proverb: “When the judge is your enemy, to whom shall you complain?”

Between January 2013 and November 2014, Yesh Din documented 282 violations against Palestinians. In 66 cases (23 percent) members of Yesh Din were expressly told by the victims that they did not wish to lodge a complaint with the police.

There are several reasons for this. The first is that the victims are right: filing a complaint is a waste of their time. According to Yesh Din’s latest data, the chances of the police getting someone indicted as a result of a complaint by a Palestinian stands at...

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Meet Palestine's first all-female race-car team

A new documentary tells the story of five brave Palestinian female race-car drivers who must learn to challenge their own society’s norms while facing the violence of Israel’s military occupation.

By Samah Salaime

That pursuit of something good, which fills you up with hope and positive energy, has become mission impossible even for optimists such as myself. Over the weekend I planned to watch a movie with a friend who suffers from “temporary depression” (such as myself), until our plot was foiled by a little thing called children and husbands. On Sunday we tried our best to head out to a stand-up comedy show, but in the end we decided we could just watch the Knesset Channel. And on Monday our plan to go to a spa was thrown away into the same dresser drawer as all the other socks and pairs of underwear that had just come out of the wash.

But that was before Haggai Matar told me that a new film titled “Speed Sisters” (“السابقات” in Arabic), had its Palestinian premier in Ramallah last Saturday. After two minutes of watching the trailer I knew I had to watch the movie. An unspeakable energy burst forth from the screen, where I saw five Palestinian women, dressed in rally clothing, large helmets with colorful race cars plastered with lightning-bolt stickers. I forced myself to get over my exhaustion and come back to life, lest my theories about women’s empowerment collapse upon themselves.

Speed Sisters is a documentary film that tells the captivating story of five exceptional Palestinian women who decided that cars, driving, speed, drifting, dirt, wheels and engines simply do it for them. Together they decided to form the first all-women automobile racing team in the occupied territories. Five young women sharing the same dream: to conquer a male-dominated world and speed forward, without restraints or checkpoints.

Marah Zahalka is the champion from Jenin refugee camp. Her grandfather is a refugee from Haifa, and her father is the invisible hero who supports her dream. He works 18-hour-days to support his family and help Marah soup up the car of her dreams. I loved his theory, according to which he won’t wait for the end of the occupation and the establishment of a Palestinian state — like he did when he was young — because his daughter needs to do what she wants with her life, and his...

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