Analysis News

Ending the conflict means engaging Israeli, Palestinian civil society

How can the peace process in Northern Ireland help bring the occupation to an end? If that conflict teaches us anything, it is that engaging every level of civil society must come before signing an agreement.

By Gary Spedding

No two conflicts have exact the same circumstances; this is an important aspect to remember when comparing and contrasting seemingly intractable conflict anywhere in the world, especially considering the fact that quite often equalizing conflicts often evokes both hostility and enthusiasm in equal measure.

Recently, political analyst Tal Schneider, drew attention to what she described as the “non-existent engagement” with Israeli and Palestinian grassroots and civic society. Her criticism of the most recent Kerry-led initiative has accentuated one of the major flaws in the so-called peace process, thus bringing into sharp focus an “unpleasant top-down feeling.” This, according to sociologist John Brewer is a key problem, resulting from an attitude of imposing rather than building a durable peace. In his book Peace Processes: A Sociological Approach, he cites John Paul Lederach, who rightly contends that peace processes are too focused on reaching a political agreement rather than healing damaged relationships. Maintaining such a process exclusively at the macro political level in a deeply divided society fails to address grievances that extend to civil society.

By cutting swaths of grassroots and civil society representation out of the picture, those running the show have effectively dismissed the importance of community. Such a move can obstruct the required societal shift that often comprises a move away from violent, oppressive conflict, and into a non-violent and democratic political process. Without such a shift, communities most acutely affected by the conflict will remain unenthusiastic about sustainable change and lasting peace.

Netanyahu and Abbas in Washington, September 15, 2010 (State Dept. Photo)

Netanyahu and Abbas in Washington, September 15, 2010 (State Dept. Photo)

But the big questions remain: Why have both Israeli and Palestinian political leaders failed to actively prepare their own constituencies for peace? Why do political leaders continue to exploit fear in society instead of encouraging hope? Both Israeli and Palestinian populations need reassurances, not political grandstanding.

It could be said that the Israeli government, more so than the Palestinian Authority, deliberately polarizes their public on complex issues such as security. The need for security, arguably the biggest concern for the Israeli public,...

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In escalations of violence, Gazans pay the price

As Gaza teeters on the brink, a new Israeli offensive could spell catastrophe for the blockaded strip. One Gazan reminds us who foots the bill, each and every time.

By Abeer Ayyoub

“You don’t have to worry – it’s only thunder, not an explosion,” my sister assured me. We are trying to sleep for the fifth time tonight, after our slumber was repeatedly interrupted by the sound of Israeli rockets and thunder. After failing to distinguish between the two, we turn to local radio stations to find out what was actually happening.

Winter is special everywhere, and Gaza is no exception, of course. For the past week, as the violence escalated between Israel and Gaza, I could do nothing but recall the days of Cast Lead and Pillar of Defense. They are almost the same: extreme cold, no electricity, non-stop news broadcasts and crying children.

Palestinian women relatives of Matar Abu Al-Atta, killed the day before by an Israeli military attack, mourn during his funeral in the al-Shoja’iya neighborhood east of Gaza City , November 11, 2012. (photo by: Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Palestinian women relatives of Matar Abu Al-Atta, killed the day before by an Israeli military attack, mourn during his funeral in the al-Shoja’iya neighborhood east of Gaza City , November 11, 2012. (photo by: Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

And while Israeli airstrikes are not targeting my neighborhood,  I cannot remove myself from the violent atmosphere. I wake up every time there is an explosion, I hear the drones circling the sky above my head, as well as the ambulance sirens which mean I have to make sure that none of my relatives, friend or colleagues have been hurt. Most importantly, I have to calm down my nephews and nieces, who think that “death is coming to kidnap” them.

I have never been wounded in any of these Israeli attacks, yet I have to admit that I have been mentally traumatized for the last decade. My head is always about to explode from thinking about how this insane situation might end. I think of the young generation who were born, live and grow up under fire. I never stop wondering whether getting married and bringing children into this miserable situation is the right decision.

As Gaza teeters on the brink, a new Israeli offensive could spell catastrophe. The Rafah...

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To fight anti-democratic legislation, Palestinian citizens must unite

As Israel’s right wing escalates its attempts at silencing Israel’s Palestinian minority, Ran Greenstein offers the Arab street an alternative approach at fighting back. 

By Ran Greenstein

“At the end of every sentence you say in Hebrew there’s an Arab with a hookah” (Meir Ariel, a Song of Pain)

There is no Israeli politician, past or present, for whom this phrase is more applicable than Avigdor Liberman. His brainchild, the Governance Law, which was adopted by the Knesset earlier this week, raises the electoral threshold from 2% to 3.25%. This may not seem a lot, but had it been in effect at the time of the 2013 elections, it would have eliminated three small parties currently represented in Israel’s parliament. Given that two of these parties represent Palestinian citizens, and that Liberman was the main sponsor of the law, it is reasonable to assume that such an outcome was precisely the intention behind the law. A third party representing Palestinians would have just managed to pass the bar, though its supporters would have suffered very anxious moments during the elections period.

Of course, there is nothing in the letter of the law that applies specifically to Palestinians. Parties representing small Jewish constituencies would be affected in the same way. In a diverse society with many ethnic, religious and national minorities, a law of this nature is bound to have negative impact on the ability of groups to gain electoral representation. Thus, it would have a clear anti-democratic effect. That its most likely impact would be to reduce the parliamentary presence of a national minority, already subjected to formal and informal discrimination, would make the harm even greater.

MK Hanin Zoabi (photo: Oren Ziv/ Activestills.org)

MK Hanin Zoabi (photo: Oren Ziv/ Activestills.org)

In the face of such an obvious assault on democracy, what is to be done?

Setting aside efforts to change the law, which are likely to continue, the obvious course of action would be to present a united list that would face no problem crossing the 3.25% threshold. But how can such unity be achieved if it has proved impossible so far? How can the constituent elements overcome their existing differences? What do the communists of Hadash, the secular nationalists of Balad and the Islamists of the United Arab List really have in common,...

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How can you tell that Israeli refuseniks are scaring the system?

From talk show hosts to Finance Minister Yair Lapid, the new conscientious objectors are infuriating Israel’s elite.

By Moriel Rothman

This week, a group of 50+ Israeli high schools students and youth penned a letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu declaring their refusal to enlist in the army as an act of protest against Israel’s 47-year old military occupation of the Palestinian Territories.

And the system is scared.

Israeli talk show hosts Israeli refusenik. 'Do you understand where you live?'

Israeli talk show hosts Israeli refusenik. ‘Do you understand where you live?’

In light of the reactions to the letter, I think it is worth pointing out a few indications as to just how powerful this act is, and how deeply it scares the system.

Indication #1. This clip from Channel 2, Israel’s biggest TV news channel, in which a panel of public figures conducts a so-called “interview” with one of the young refuseniks:  http://reshet.tv/Shows/todays_talk/videomarklist,233902/

It’s in Hebrew, but it doesn’t really matter if you understand Hebrew or not. Starting from minute 3:00, it is virtually impossible to understand almost anything being said, because everyone is just yelling. (Okay, a few gems that did shine through the bellowing here and there: “you are dishrags,” “you will have the mark of Cain for the rest of your lives,” and “this act reminds me of the murder of Yitzhak Rabin”). Whether you speak Hebrew or not, watch this piece, or at least a few minutes of it, and tell me that you don’t see fear thinly veiled by bulging-veined aggression.

Indication #2. Yair Lapid, the politician elected on a ticket of Inoffensive Fluff and populist anti-Haredism (going so far, once elected, as to apologize to God last Yom Kippur for not yet having succeeding in drafting the Haredim (today his law passed)), has also lashed out on Facebook against the refuseniks: “…draft dodging is not an ideology,” he writes, calling the youth “spoiled” and concluding: “I am ashamed of you.” In response to Lapid’s post, the refuseniks wrote: “Yair Lapid, we are ashamed of you and your government. You claim to believe in democracy, but you are serving as a minister in a government that rules over millions of Palestinians who did not choose it and cannot legally impact its decisions…” Yair Lapid is intimidated by actions and words that are driven by...

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Welcome to the era of the single-ethnic party

Inspired by the Israeli Arab parties of Knesset, who will likely be forced to join forces in order to remain politically relevant, Jewish Australian parliamentarians from the left and the right form their own joint party. Just cause they can. [SATIRE]

By Sol Salbe

In a move that has stunned observers, Australia’s three Jewish MPs have announced that they will be running in a joint electoral formation in the next elections. The move by the Opposition Australian Labor Party’s Michael Danby and Mark Dreyfus, along with the conservative Josh Frydenberg of Tony Abbott’s ruling Liberal Party, has been endorsed by the Greens’ Ian Cohen and John Kaye. The new parties are looking at defections from the Socialist Alliance and even the Socialist Alternative.

“Our inspiration has come from Israel where Jonathan Lis has reported in the Haaretz [Hebrew] that Arab members of Knesset with conflicting policies and views have been forced by legislation to field a single list in order to survive”, said group co-spokesperson Michael Danby. “If they can do it, so can we,” he added.

Ian Cohen chimed in: “I have about as much in common with Josh Frydenberg as a communist member of Hadash would have with members of the southern branch of the Islamist Movement. But we figured that if it was good enough for the Only Democracy in the Middle East (TM) it would be good enough for us. Over there they are all Arabs in their party and here we are all Jewish.”

Josh Frydenberg, who also attended the new party’s launch, said:

At this stage we are unaware as to whom the Jewish Greens would nominate, but we expect to go from our current three MHRs to four or five. The move has an inherent logic. Voters like having a choice and we’d be offering it to them. Our party will be simultaneously be supporting and opposing gay marriage. We’ll have candidates who would talk about ‘border protection’ and the need to expand facilities in Nauru and Manus Island to hold illegal migrants.

At the same time we’ll have other candidates speaking of ‘refugee rights’ and the need to immediately close those very same facilities. It’s the ultimate in being given a choice, voters can even change their mind on any issue and still know that they made the right choice. By raising the threshold, the ruling Israeli coalition is forcing...

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Poisoned by tear gas in the comfort of their own home

An IDF night raid on the West Bank village Qaddum left three family members in the hospital. Chances are we’ll never hear about it in mainstream Israeli news outlets.

By Yesh Din (written by Yossi Gurvitz)

The security forces have a problem with the village of Qaddum – we’re not quite sure why. Perhaps it is because the residents hold weekly demonstrations against the occupation. Whatever the reason, it is clear that the security forces have decided to teach the village a lesson. Recently, a mysterious officer, who according to testimonies of the residents calls himself Captain Sabri, walks around telling village residents that he will “teach them a lesson.” Some of the residents suspect him of being a Shin Bet officer.

Whatever Sabri’s organizational loyalty may be, he keeps his word. The Friday demonstrations are dispersed with an iron fist; beyond that the residents also report recurring attacks on the village, even on days when no demonstrations are held. These attacks include the throwing of stun grenades and CS gas canisters (a more aggressive form of tear gas).

In one case, which actually made it to the Israeli media – of course, under the pretense that one more person killed by the IDF will make the kettle boil and bring about a new intifada – Saeed Gasser Nassar Ali, an 85-year-old resident of the village, died after inhaling tear gas, which seeped into his house following a demonstration. The doctor who treated Ali found it hard to give him the best treatment possible, since he too was suffocating from the gas. Let’s say that again: the man suffocated in his house and died in the hospital shortly thereafter. Not during a demonstration. In his house.

A child holds a spent tear gas cartridge labeled "Made in U.S.A." as Bethlehem-area activists displayed U.S.-made crowd control weapons in Manger Square, West Bank, December 2, 2013. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

A child holds a spent tear gas cartridge labeled “Made in U.S.A.” as Bethlehem-area activists displayed U.S.-made crowd control weapons in Manger Square, West Bank, December 2, 2013. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Three weeks before Ali died, M., a resident of Qaddum, woke up at around 1 a.m. His brother warned him that the army was raiding the village, and that all windows must be closed. Soon after, even...

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Palestinian and proud: Celebrating International Women's Day in Gaza

In honor of International Women’s Day, Abeer Ayyoub pays respect to her mother, who taught her that being a woman in Gaza is as much about liberation as it is about survival. 

By Abeer Ayyoub

Gaza women protest in International Women's Day. (photo: Hosam Salem)

Gaza women protest in International Women’s Day. (photo: Hosam Salem)

Although March 8th has always marked International Woman’s Day, this year was the first time I ever felt like it belonged to me as a Palestinian woman. Perhaps it is because I recently turned 25, or perhaps it is because of the awareness I have gained regarding my role as a Palestinian woman living in Gaza.

Early on, I felt that I had to become a great woman with an impact on my society, especially after I realized that my mother had always tried to bring out the best in me and my nine siblings. Despite being simple housewife, my mother was the one who helped me during my first three years in elementary school. Without her support, I would have never been able to become one of the best students in my class.

I graduated from high school with top honors, after which I was accepted to study English literature at a local university in Gaza. In 2007, Israel imposed a siege on the Gaza Strip, causing great economic distress to the people there. My family was no exception. My parents could not afford to pay mine or my sister’s college tuition, so instead of leaving me in the middle of my degree, my mother sold all of her gold jewelry to allow us to continue studying.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. My mother is a woman who had to raise her children under occupation. She had to protect us during both intifadas on our way to school, at a time when confronting Israeli soldiers was a part of our daily life. She had to deal with our fears during Operation Cast Lead and Pillar of Defense, as well as during countless days of escalation between the two sides.

Click here for +972′s coverage of International Women’s Day

I graduated from the English literature department, learned how to edit news, got my own bylines in some of the most renowned international newspapers, and am now working on my...

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Women behind the lens: Palestinians filming the occupation

For the past several years, Palestinian women from all walks of life have been taking part in a video project to document human rights violations under occupation. In honor of International Women’s Day, one of them tells her story. 

By Manal Ja’bri

My name is Manal Ja’bri, I am 38-years-old and I have seven children, between the ages of 9 and 18, and I am the sole breadwinner in my family. I grew up in a house near the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba. Settlers burned my family’s home and used to beat us on our way to school. One of the problems in Palestinian society is that people don’t differentiate between Israelis, Jews and settlers – they are all settlers to us. I used to think the same way, but over the years I learned to tell the difference.

Three years ago, I read a wanted ad in the newspaper for field researchers for B’Tselem, an Israeli organization dedicated to documenting human rights violations in the occupied territories. B’Tselem trains Palestinians in specific locations in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, where tensions are high and clashes are commonplace, to use video cameras to capture those violations. The footage exposes the Israeli and the international public to the reality of life under occupation.

'Atta Najar, Salam Najar and Mi’ad Najar check out the cameras and compare footage in Hebron. (photo: B'Tselem)

‘Atta Najar, Salam Najar and Mi’ad Najar check out the cameras and compare footage. (photo: B’Tselem)

When I first started working for B’Tselem, I was frequently criticized by Palestinians for working for an Israeli organization. Over time, however, Palestinians have learned to trust B’Tselem, because they know that our cameras are out there to safeguard their human rights. Today, I am in charge of B’Tselem’s video project, and I feel prouder, stronger and more self-confident.

My children used to get criticized at school by their friends because “their mother works with the Jews.” Meanwhile my family did not approve of my work, claiming that “it is a man’s job.” Yet, as time went by, everyone saw that what I did worked for their benefit, and my family saw how I was able to support my children.

Watch: Ja’bri’s films the IDF detaining two eight-year-old Palestinians:

My phone rings non-stop: victims call in...

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What 'painful concessions' are left for Palestinians to make?

From accepting a state on 22 percent of Mandate Palestine to Israel’s facts-on-the-ground in the West bank and the loss of rights for refugees, Palestinians have already made significant, historic compromises.

By Willem Aldershoff and Jaap Hamburger

PA President Abbas holding up the application for UN membership in September 2011 (photo: UN/Marco Castro)

PA President Abbas at the UN in September 2011 (photo: UN/Marco Castro)

Despite the U.S.’s optimism, recent comments and statements coming from Israel and Palestine indicate that the U.S.-led Israeli-Palestinian negotiations are not progressing well. This is not only due to the relative complexity of the subject matter at hand, but first and foremost, due to the fact that the Palestinians and Israel differ greatly in power and position: one being the occupied, the other the occupier that maintains an “unbreakable bond” with the world’s only military superpower. Americans and Europeans do not tire of insisting that only “painful concessions” by both sides can make a just and lasting agreement possible. The central question is; what additional concessions can, or should the Palestinians still make without undermining the very idea of a two-state solution?

The territory of Israel already covers 78 percent of the former Palestine Mandate: this is almost 50 percent more than what the 1947 UN partition resolution recommended, which allocated 55 percent of the land to the Jews. Even under the most optimistic scenarios nowadays, a Palestinian state will never comprise more than 22 percent of Mandate Palestine. Accepting this unequal distribution is by far the greatest Palestinian concession, made by late PLO-leader Yasser Arafat when he formally agreed to a two-state solution in 1988.

Read +972′s full coverage of the peace process

As a condition for admission to the UN in 1949, Israel accepted UN Resolution 194, which stipulates that Palestinians who fled or were expelled during the Jewish-Arab hostilities of 1947-49, have the right of return. Israel has not respected this obligation. On the contrary, after its unilateral declaration of independence in 1948 Israel began destroying hundreds of deserted Palestinian villages in order to prevent the refugees from returning and confiscated the land they left behind, without compensation. The chance that large numbers of Palestinians will be allowed to return under a future two-state deal is nil. That is the second – forced – “concession” from the Palestinian...

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Gentrification leaves one Jaffa family caged in their own home

Ismail Shawa never expected that a new luxury apartment building would have such an immediate and dramatic effect on his family’s life — that was until contractors sealed off the entrance to their home with a concrete wall, effectively trapping them inside.

By Yudit Ilany

Ismail Shawa standing in the window he is forced to climb through in order to exit and enter his Jaffa home. (Photo by Yudit Ilany)

Ismail Shawa standing in the window he is forced to climb through in order to exit and enter his Jaffa home. (Photo by Yudit Ilany)

To exit or enter his Jaffa home, Ismail Shawa, 62, has to remove the bars from his bedroom window and climb out and over the neighbor’s water pipes. He still has to cross a yard that doesn’t belong to him but for the time being, no has told him not to. The other option is to exit over another neighbor’s flimsy and crumbling asbestos roof.

When his wife, Itidal Shawa, 67, fell ill a week and a half ago, paramedics had to call in the fire brigade to extract her because there is no longer any other way out but to climb through the small window — or over the neighbor’s roof.

A judge from the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court described the arrangement as “not easy,” but asserted that the family “can still enter and exit their home.” Perhaps the judge wouldn’t mind entering his courtroom through a small, high-placed window.

And all of this because a contractor building a fancy new luxury apartment building next door erected a concrete wall that blocks the entrance to the Shawas’ home.

The plot on which the fancy housing complex sits was bought from the Israel Land Authority some years ago. Perhaps no one paid attention to the fact that the only entrance to the Shawa family home is through the same plot. Or perhaps they did pay attention but simply didn’t care.

Rights of way are recognized by Israeli law, so the Shawas should have been safe. They should have been able to continue entering their home through the neighboring plot, the same way they have since they first moved into their home 37 years ago.

The Shawas are a regular Jaffa family, simple people. And fancy housing developers do what they want; they...

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WATCH: Where are the Palestinian Journalists in Israeli media?

Twenty percent of Israel’s citizens are Palestinian but they are covered in only 2 percent of prime time news. Part of the reason why lies in who reports the news.

By Lia Tarachansky/The Real News

Lia Tarachansky is an Israeli-Canadian filmmaker and journalist with the The Real News Network.

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When shooting a 14-year-old boy in the neck is a minor infraction

Firing live ammunition at civilians is a crime, more so when minors are involved. Such an incident should not end with a disciplinary procedure but with a criminal investigation. That is not what happened.

By Yesh Din, written by Yossi Gurvitz

Illustrative photo of an Israeli soldier aiming his weapon at Palestinian protesters. (Photo: Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Illustrative photo of an Israeli soldier aiming his weapon at Palestinian protesters. (Photo: Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

At the end of last July, J., a boy from the village of Silwad, set out with his brother and two other boys to visit family friends in the western side of Silwad, a distance of about one kilometer from his house. One of the boys was asked to deliver a bundle of clothes to the family. They reached the house, handed the bundle over and headed back. On their way, they met a friend shepherding his flock and sat down next to him. And then J.’s world turned upside down.

He noticed three soldiers coming out of the trees behind them, blocking the path they had intended to take home. Soldiers on the village roads are not a common sight, so the group changed its course, and started climbing the nearby mountain.

As they reached a bend in the path, they heard gunshots. The group scattered instantly. J. himself says he went into shock, since this was the first time he had heard gunshots so close to him. He was slower than the others. He heard a second volley and then felt a hit in his right arm; a third volley came and a bullet hit him in the neck. J. managed to walk a few more steps and then collapsed by the wall of a house. He was evacuated to a hospital in Ramallah where it was determined that the bullet entered the right side of his neck and existed through the left. He was hospitalized there for four days.

J., a 14-year-old Palestinian boy who was shot through his neck and arm. (Photo courtesy of Yesh Din)

J., a 14-year-old Palestinian boy who was shot through his neck and arm. (Photo courtesy of Yesh Din)

Yesh Din wrote to the IDF demanding an investigation into the incident. Four months later, the IDF...

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The power of speaking Hebrew in Gaza

Can Gazans boycott Israel while also studying Hebrew at university? One Palestinian believes in the power of understanding Israeli culture and people in their own words.

By Abeer Ayyoub

Palestinian children walking by demolished buildings of the Civil department of the Interior Ministry heavily bombed during last November's Israeli assault against the Gaza Strip, February 10, 2013.

Palestinian children walking by demolished buildings of the Civil department of the Interior Ministry heavily bombed during last November’s Israeli assault against the Gaza Strip, February 10, 2013.

“It is 6:30 a.m. Jerusalem time, this is the broadcast from Voice of Israel.” This is how my mornings have always started since I was six years old, or at least on days when I had to wake up for school. Not because I was always interested in the news, but because my father, who gets up for the Fajr morning prayer, can never start his day without listening to the “local” news.

It is a bit ironic that listening to Israeli news always meant listening to the local (Gazan) news at a time when we did not have Palestinian radio or television. I remember most of my childhood was spent in front of the television watching Arabic cartoons on Israel’s state-owned Channel 1 with with my sisters and cousins. I blame my parents for allowing me to watch Israeli children’s programs without raising my awareness about what I was watching and how it reflected the ongoing conflict.

I grew up confused about the notion of a “democratic state of Israel” that I heard about on television, contrasted with the constant invasions and curfews Israel imposed on my neighborhood, the repeated use of the words “peace” and “security,” and the Israeli soldiers carrying their guns while I carried my bag to my elementary school.

Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005, yet its footprints were never totally erased. When you arrive in Gaza, you will see traces of Israel here and there. While it is obviously expected, it shouldn’t be accepted. No one said that normalizing with the occupation is only about recognizing its illegal existence and dealing with it; it is a bit more than that.

When you arrive in Gaza you will find Hebrew words everywhere: you can see the word “delek” (Hebrew for “gas”) at one of the gas stations;...

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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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