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My grandmother was murdered in Kafr Qasim, now these are my demands

I think about the events that led up to the murder of my grandmother and 48 other women, children, and men, along with dozens of survivors who carry their trauma until today. Will we ever see true justice?

By Reem Amer

Everyone speaks of the Kafr Qasim massacre of 1956 as if it were an isolated case. As if Border Police officers decided to carry out, without any connection to or orders from the government echelon or military establishment. Yet we tend to forget that the regime and the Zionist movement, which sought to empty the land of it inhabitants, was behind the massacre.

One cannot disconnect what took place in Kafr Qasim from the injustices and oppression that began in 1948 and continue until today in places such as Al-Araqib and Umm al-Hiran, where the authorities destroy homes and expropriate land on a regular basis. The massacre was yet another attempt to force Palestinians to leave their homeland and join the hundreds of thousands of refugees who were expelled during the 1948 war.

One of the journalists who came to interview me in the run-up to the 60th anniversary of the Kafr Qasim massacre asked about our demands, and whether we would forgive and move on if only the Israeli government would express remorse. We explained that an apology is not enough.

The goal remains the same

I am the granddaughter of Hamisa Farg Amer, who was murdered on that day in 1956. My grandmother was murdered while on her way back from the olive harvest with her friends who suffered a similar fate, save for one survivor, Hana’a Sliman Amer. My grandmother was born in Jaffa. She and her family lived in the Al-Manshiyya neighborhood, when her family became refugees and fled for the ’67 territories. We are in touch with some of them until today, we lost touch with others, and there are some whose fate we know nothing about.

I think about the events that led up to the murder of my grandmother and 48 other women, children, and men, along with dozens of survivors who carry their trauma until today. I think about them and about the fate of the activists who pledged to bring forth the full story of the massacre, to teach their children and grandchildren about the courage necessary to demand justice. These are people who, time after time,...

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One almighty military order and 49 dead Palestinians

Sixty years on, the Kafr Qasim massacre is a stark reminder of the buried past of the world’s ‘most moral army.’

By Sam Bahour

If your Palestinian neighbors and friends seem slightly on edge today, please excuse them. October 29th brings back horrific memories to Palestinians everywhere, young and old. It was 60 years ago today that a scene of cold-blooded murder fell upon the hilltop village of Kafr Qasim, located in Israel about 20 km east of Tel Aviv near the Green Line. It was in Kafr Qasim on this day in 1956 where the Israeli military mowed down in cold blood 48 innocent civilians, one of them a pregnant woman, whose fetus is counted as the 49th victim. It was said that all of this was done in the service of the almighty Israeli “military order,” which no one dared to challenge.

Sixty years is a long time to mourn a death, even cold-blooded murder. It is even longer when you must live among those, and under the system of those, who murdered your loved ones. Had this been merely an isolated incident of the Israeli military machine killing Palestinians, one may have already regulated it to the history books. But it was and is not.

There were others massacres prior to Kafr Qasim, such as the case of Deir Yassin in 1948. Since then there have been numerous other incidents, too many to list. One that comes to mind is 13-year-old Iman al-Homs who, in October 2004, was walking home from school in Gaza when an Israeli soldier emptied his magazine into her after she was wounded and lay on the ground. The soldier was caught saying he was “confirming the kill.” The most recent example that comes to mind is Elor Azaria, who was caught on camera in Hebron this past March as he executed an immobilized Palestinian, by firing a bullet into his head as his fellow soldiers casually watched on.

Unlike today, decades ago Israel did undertake more serious investigations its military’s actions. This is not to say that justice was ever served — it rarely is. One example of these investigations was the Kahan Commission, established by the Israeli government on September 28, 1982, to investigate the Sabra and Shatila massacre, in which between 1,000-3,000 (the exact number is disputed) Palestinians were slaughtered over three days.

The Kahan Commission was chaired by the Israeli President of the...

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Israel's national theater must resist normalizing occupation

By agreeing to perform in the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba, Habima is forgoing its values of Cultural Zionism while adopting the dangerous mindset of Miri Regev and Benjamin Netanyahu.

By Misha Shulman

Earlier this year Israeli Minister of Culture Miri Regev announced a new policy for the funding of the arts: artistic organizations that agree to serve the settler population in the occupied West Bank will see a budget increase of 10 percent. Conversely, those who refuse to perform in the West Bank will see a 33 percent decrease.

This policy ignores the fact that under international law, settlements in the West Bank are not part of the State of Israel, which should preclude them from having to perform there, thus further normalizing Jewish life in the territories. Indeed, this week Israel’s national theatre, Habima, announced it will perform for the first time in an ideological settlement in the occupied territories, bringing famed author S.Y. Agnon’s A Simple Story to both Kiryat Arba — adjacent to Hebron — as well as Ariel, the largest settlement in the West Bank.

Habima is more than just a theatre. Since 1917, it has been a bastion of the Hebrew cultural revival — the beating heart of the Zionist Movement. The theatre played a major role in the unimaginable rise of the Hebrew language from its two thousand-year-old nap. By presenting plays by great Hebrew writers of every generation beginning in the 1920, Habima has allowed Jews everywhere to believe in the possibility of a thriving, Hebrew-speaking culture, which draws from history and tradition to create a new, vibrant way of life for our people.

The theatre’s name provides a prime example of the way the nation moved forward, remaking itself out of the beloved traditions of Judaism. Habima, the Hebrew words for “the stage,” refers to the physical platform upon which the hazzan (Hebrew for cantor) stands as she/he leads religious services in a synagogue. For several generations, Israelis have seen its national theatre as its spiritual leader, singing the song of God and Nation, challenging us to repent and improve — to celebrate our struggles, successes, and differences. However one interprets Zionism in today’s landscape, for many of us, Habima has always represented the best side of a complex political movement. Until this week, Habima lived and breathed the vision of the founding figures of Spiritual or...

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Palestinian citizens must decide what kind of future they want

Despite the racism and violence, Palestinian citizens must not despair. Instead they should nonviolently challenge the majority as part of a discussion on rights, democratic values, and opposition to the occupation.

By Marzuq Al-Halabi

Although there exists a multitude of Palestinian political parties and movements in Israel, there are three main currents among them that cross boundaries, find expression in different organizations and lifestyles, and crop up in day-to-day practice and discussions. However, the borders between these currents have hardened as a result of internal social, local and national developments.

The central current tries creatively and with all its might to reconcile its Israeliness with its Palestinian national character. It tries to mediate between its past and collective memory as part of the “people of the Nakba” and day-to-day necessities, as well as the latent opportunities in the present and the future. This movement has, over the past few years, advanced the discourse on rights at the expense of that on identity.

The second stream is tired of exclusion, of deprivation, of the inflammatory racist discourse, the injustices of the occupation, and Israel’s stubborn refusal to agree to or even imagine two states. This movement is returning to a discussion concerned with identity alone, a pre-state discourse about existential struggle and not about rights — one that places the “existential” before the “day-to-day.”

The third stream rarely speaks out, continuing to integrate itself into the Israeli experience and the opportunities it presents, without asking questions or being party to public discussions and debates. This stream sees in the Jewish city its future and self-fulfillment; it works alongside Zionist parties and tries to improve economic positions and enjoy the mobility that being Israeli brings.

Establishment indifference and internal weakness

Although these three streams are expressed through various political organizations in one way or another, I do not want to discuss them in the political context. It would be a mistake for us to try and examine the internal dynamics of Arab society in Israel solely through the lens of political entities, if only for the fact that the voter turnout among Arab citizens over the last three elections stands at around 60 percent. In other words, 40 percent — and sometimes more — do not, for various reasons, participate in general elections.

This group cannot be omitted from the discussion about the internal transformations taking place in Palestinian Arab society in...

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Unsure of shelter, yet praying for rain

Spending the Sukkot holiday on a Palestinian farm highlights the stark contrast between a holiday in which Jews celebrate in temporary structures, and a reality in which Palestinians are forced into an existence of impermanence and military demolition orders scattered across hilltops.

By Sarah Stern

Daoud Nassar carries 54 keys on his belt loop, in rotation. His sprawling family property, on the last Palestinian hilltop in the middle of the Gush Etzion settlements, is dotted with tented structures, caves, and gated areas, all fastened with a lock. As the family orients me on the property for a long weekend of volunteer work, they remind me to lock each time I exit the kitchen, or anywhere else for that matter. They say it’s to keep out mice and stray dogs.

Locking has become a sort of ritual and mentality at the Tent of Nations. It’s about dogs and mice, but it’s also about ensuring ownership and security — two things this Palestinian family sorely lacks.

From farm to tent

The Nassar family purchased the land exactly 100 years ago, just before the fall of the Ottoman Empire. They subsequently registered the land with British Mandate authorities. Despite ample documentation, however, in 1991 the Israeli army declared the area “state land” and the family has been embroiled in an expensive legal battle ever since. Daoud tells volunteers to look out for Israeli army demolition orders scattered across their 100 acres. Often times, the family won’t even know they’ve received a new order.

The Tent of Nations project started in 2001. The family was searching for solidarity and help with manual labor on their vast agricultural land. But just as important, they realized that just having internationals consistently sleeping in one of their 20-person tents helped the family establish and maintain their presence on the land, especially now that some of them live in Bethlehem most of the time. Since 2002, there has been no harassment from surrounding settlements.

Historically, the Nassar family lived in an underground cave near the property’s current main structure stands. Today, they use caves as a loophole to escape the demolition orders above ground. Although some of their unique lifestyle is desired and traditional, the “impermanent” structures on the land are more complicated. They are a testament to the limbo of permanent impermanence into which the Israeli government has forced them through demolition orders and intimidation.

Temporary huts and...Read More

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Israel's wars in Gaza propel child labor for Palestinian kids

The military offensives enmesh and worsen widespread poverty in Gaza, which in turn drives children into the labor market to help support their families.

By Cody O’Rourke

When an Israeli airstrike destroyed 12-year-old Rezek’s house west of Gaza City in 2012, his family lost everything, forever altering his life. His family fell into economic hardship and had no money for food, so Rezek dropped out of school to work to help his family. As humanitarian conditions deteriorate in Gaza, and the blockade continues to stifle rebuilding efforts and destroy livelihoods, many children, like Rezek, work in dangerous conditions.

One year after losing their home, Rezek’s family was destitute. “My dad owned a bakery, but he lost everything,” Rezek told Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCIP) field workers. “He became jobless. He had money to provide for us, but soon ran out of money and could not feed us.”

In September of 2015, Rezek began working in his uncle’s bakery. Working 11-hour shifts, six days a week for about five dollars a day, he operates the furnace and dough-cutting machine, both posing serious safety risks to a child.

“I work on the dough cutter, with knives cutting the dough. It could cut off your hand if you get distracted for a second,” Rezek told DCIP. “My co-worker, Luai, was distracted and had three of his fingers cut off.”

Rezeq’s story is not unique. An investigation by DCIP between January and April 2016 revealed the deplorable work conditions for child laborers in Gaza. From scouring trash pits for re-sellable materials to working long shifts on fishing boats for a few shekels, child labor in Gaza has doubled over the past five years as families struggle to survive.

Each morning, Atef, 14, from the now devastated neighborhood of Shuja’iyya, scavenges in the Gaza City trash pits for five hours before attending school. He collects materials to be re-sold, making around 10 to 20 shekels ($2.60 to $5.20) a day.

“My father worked as a crossing inspector, but lost his job in 2007,” Atef told DCIP. “He worked as a taxi driver to support us after that.”

Atef’s father’s taxi was destroyed during Israel’s 2014 military offensive on Gaza. It was the family’s main source of income.

“After the airstrike, Kamal,...

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Clinton speech was scrubbed of Palestinian rights, emails show

Hacked emails show Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair urging speechwriters to tone down language on Palestine, and reveal what language was removed from the candidate’s speech to the Saban Forum last December.

By Eli Clifton

WikiLeaks released a hacked email this week from Hillary Clinton campaign chair John Podesta in which he urged Clinton’s speechwriters to tone down language that might “evoke how people feel about how Israel is treating the Palestinians,” in a speech she was to deliver at the Saban Forum in Washington last December.

It was unclear what, if any, changes were actually made following his email, and the section in question appears largely unchanged in the remarks delivered at the event hosted by billionaire Haim Saban, who Podesta described in another email as “not [being] with [Clinton] if she wasn’t totally committed to Israeli security.”

But the new email released this week reveals that an extensive section on Palestinian rights was completely removed from an early draft of the speech.

Palestinian rights and any acknowledgment of their national aspirations are nearly completely lacking from the final version. The speech only made a brief reference to Israeli settlement construction, which Clinton loosely described as a “damaging action.” It also made only one passing, and indirect, acknowledgement of Palestinian suffering, saying, “Israeli children have been killed as have Palestinian children.”

The new email from Podesta sheds light on what was removed from an early draft of the speech.

A December 4, 2015 version of the speech, apparently drafted by Clinton speechwriter Dan Scherwin, made specific references to Palestinian suffering and right to self-determination. Although holding to the position of the Democratic Party and the Clinton camp that a two-state solution cannot be imposed by outside actors like the United Nations, this earlier version of the speech explicitly mentioned settlement construction as an impediment to the peace process.

Scherwin’s draft contained the following section that was completely missing from the delivered version:

Israelis cannot live forever in a state of siege. They must not be condemned to the constant fear that they might be stabbed in the street or attacked on a bus. Generation after generation of parents should not have to send their children off to combat. Israelis deserve security, recognition, and a peaceful, normal life. They deserve to live in a nation defined by its founding ideals – democratic, Jewish, and free.

And Palestinians have the...

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Are litmus tests on culture spreading from Israel to Berlin?

Pro-Israel journalists and politicians in Germany target a Palestinian arts and culture festival, its curators and the venue hosting it.

By Inna Michaeli

A celebration of Palestinian arts and culture in the city of Berlin has sent a few German journalists and local politicians over the edge. “After the Last Sky,” a first-of-its-kind interdisciplinary and international festival of contemporary Palestinian artists. Over the course of September and October, the festival sought to “transgress the boundaries of Palestinian life and identity,” and to do so through theater, cinema, performance, literature, spoken word, music, dance, visual art, panel discussions, and more.

In a particularly vile article in the Tagesspiegel daily newspaper, journalist Johannes Bockenheimer accused the Palestinian and Jewish presenters of incitement, that is, being too critical of Israel. Showing no interest in the artistic program, his article attacks the curator Anna-Esther Younes and other organizers and presenters personally, for what he assumes to be their “proximity” to non-violent struggles for Palestinian rights.

Furthermore, Bockenheimer accused the Berlin Senate of supporting “anti-Israeli” activities, in an attempt to compromise the festival and its venue’s funding. Repeatedly referring to Israel as “Judenstaat,” the Jewish state, he equates Israel with Jews and manipulates any critique of Israel to appear essentially anti-Jewish.

Accusations of anti-Semitism are familiar to every person in Germany who is supportive of Palestinian rights. Being Jewish doesn’t help much, and in fully absurd situations, Jews like me are accused of anti-Semitism by Germans if we are not patriotic enough for their taste.

In the same spirit, Klaus Lederer, the head of the Left Party in Berlin, claimed that using terms like apartheid and colonialism should disqualify cultural events from public funding. He argued that such negative depictions of Israel would feed anti-Semitism.

People like Bockenheimer and Lederer don’t like words like apartheid and colonialism. I don’t like them either. People living under the weight of their violence every day, like them even less. We use these words because we believe they describe the harsh reality in Palestine/Israel most accurately.

Clearly, this is not just about money, but about legitimacy and power. The threat to withdraw cultural funding is a threat to strip people of the power to describe their past and present, to attribute meaning to it, and to explore it by artistic means. Nonetheless, the sovereignty to define Palestinian past, present, and future belongs to the Palestinians. It does...

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How thousands of Palestinian and Israeli women are waging peace

The thousands of Palestinian and Israeli women who marched in Jerusalem and Jericho this month are not only demanding peace from their societies, they are reaching through stereotypes and artificial boundaries to find true partners.

By Riman Barakat

Less than a year ago a group of Palestinian and Israeli women spent a weekend in Tantur, situated between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, brainstorming what we could possibly do to break the cycle of violence and political stagnation. Everyone had their own personal reason for being there, whether it was the Israeli mothers who had to send their children to war or the Palestinian women who were exhausted by the daily incursions of the Israeli army, checkpoints, and the inability to live freely and imagine a hopeful future for their children. Personally, I felt torn apart having seen Jerusalem split into a hundred pieces, a place that should be the inspiration for coexistence instead oozing with the blood of Palestinians and Israelis on a near daily basis.

Over the last 11 years I have done my best to be involved in any possible initiative that attempts to bring about Israeli-Palestinian peace. Why is Women Wage Peace different? My belief has always been that if any group professes that they will bring about Israeli-Palestinian peace, they must have to want it so much so that they are willing to wed themselves to the cause. These women are of that character; they are unstoppable and determined but most of all, they believe they can create their own future. In order to create a different reality, we believe that we have to be that reality.

“We need to think outside of our surroundings,” Lily kept saying, and together we visualized the March of Hope, a march of togetherness — a cry to the whole world, coming from a mother’s womb, to stop the violence. We resolved not to stop, even in the midst of most terrible acts of violence. We met and shouted out, “ Enough! Enough!” in Arabic, Hebrew and English. We resolved to propose a shared language of hope, of humanity, of an unshakable commitment to peace, and we rejected the language of separation.

When I stood in front more than 500 women at Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam earlier this month, I was not yet sure everyone truly understood or believed what was about to happen two days later — a joint march of thousands of Palestinian...

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Following attacks, B'Tselem donations increase tenfold

Over 3,700 people have signed on to a call supporting the human rights organization, after the Knesset coalition chair calls to revoke its executive director’s citizenship.

By John Brown*

B’Tselem Executive Director Hagai El-Ad addressed the UN Security Council last week, calling on its members to take real steps toward ending the military dictatorship over the occupied territories, which is nearing its 50th year.

Following El-Ad’s speech, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu published a statement condemning B’Tselem for joining the “chorus of slander” against Israel. It was only a matter of time before thousands of right-wingers took to social media to call for El-Ad’s execution. As expected, Israeli police did nothing to stop the incitement, and not a single person has been arrested.

In the week that followed, however, B’Tselem reported a fivefold increase in “small” donations, which come from individuals, rather than from organizations.

Following Knesset coalition chair David Bitan’s proposal to revoke El-Ad’s citizenship, the donations have increased tenfold. Meanwhile, over 3,700 people have signed on to a call supporting B’Tselem on social media.

*John Brown is the pseudonym of an Israeli academic and a blogger for Local Call, where this article was first published in Hebrew. Read it here.

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The two-state solution is dead. Let’s move on

It’s time for both Israelis and Palestinians to recognize that we’ve reached a stalemate: nobody is leaving, and the status quo just isn’t pragmatic.

By Talal Jabari

Whenever I think of the predicament of the Palestinian people, the voice of Juliet in Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” inevitably comes to mind: “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

After all, what is left of Palestine besides the memories and the name, and the former is quickly disappearing as the 70th anniversary of the creation of the State of Israel looms around the corner. To put it realistically, nobody under the age of about 73 remembers life in historic Palestine, and no Palestinians living in the West Bank or Gaza Strip under 55 know what it’s like to not live under military occupation. Despite all that, almost all of the nearly 13 million Palestinians living around the world still call it Palestine.

When you come to think of it, the majority of those Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip don’t even know what life was like before the Oslo Accords. They’ve only experienced the status quo. That is scary for a number of reasons — besides the fact that it makes me feel old.

Yet Palestinians still refer to this land as Palestine. When they cross the border from Jordan and they’re met by Israeli soldiers who decide whether or not they enter the country and how, they call it Palestine. When they use Israeli shekels to purchase Israeli products set by market prices governed by the Israeli economy and its regulators, they call it Palestine. When the Israeli army enters Palestinian cities and towns, when Israeli police stop Palestinian cars and fine Palestinian drivers, when the Palestinian police cover their lights and change out of their uniforms so they can travel between Palestinian towns — they still call it Palestine.

When they talk about going back, knowing they most likely won’t be going back, when they fight, when they die, when their homes are destroyed, when settlements take more and more of their family’s land — they still call it Palestine.

So does it matter what it is called?

For over 70 years, Palestinians have been fighting for their existence, for their...

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Using education to normalize horrific acts of violence

This is how the Israeli education system makes it possible for generation after generation of Israelis to accept the most brutal forms of state violence. 

By Gil Gertel

October provides Israelis a number of opportunities for self examination, one of which happened just a week ago, on October 14. On that night in 1953, 600 Israeli soldiers — half of an infantry battalion — raided the Palestinian village Qibya, located just over a kilometer from Israel’s border with the West Bank, then under Jordanian control. The soldiers opened fire, threw grenades, laid explosives, and blew up 45 homes. Sixty-nine residents of Qibya, the majority of them women and children, were killed in the attack.

Israeli public intellectual, Yeshayahu Leibowitz, wrote an article on the moral failure of the massacre, in which he stated:

I suggest a response: it happened due to Zionist education, which creates a distorted view of reality, along with existential fears that can erupt in a rage against an imaginary enemy. The following are the building blocks that make up this education as they were expressed in the Qibya massacre. The readers are welcome to compare them to all other Israeli military actions taken that night in October 1953.

1. Lies and denial

The first step is creating a smokescreen of lies and denials. On October 19, 1953, Prime Minister David Ben Gurion gave a radio address to the nation: “The Government of Israel rejects with all vigor the absurd and fantastic allegation that 600 men of the IDF took part in the action against the village of Qibya.”

Media outlets proceeded to tow the government line, as John Brown previously pointed out. The Ma’ariv daily, for example, established that the story of the village, “which was erased from the earth” is nothing more than the descriptions of “Radio Ramallah, with its exaggerative, Oriental imagination.”

During a Knesset hearing on the condemnations against Israel in the United Nations, MK Mordechai Nuruk said: “It is a lie that this was committed by the IDF. Anyone with a brain will not believe that the heads of the state were able to take such a step… the truth is that the residents on the border, who have weapons for self protection, are the ones who did it.” It was Ben Gurion who spread the idea that angry Israeli citizens carried out a revenge mission in response to a Palestinian infiltration attack,...

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It's 2016 — let's say goodbye to Zionism once and for all

Zionism today is the fence that encircles the Jewish people, granting it supremacy over the other people of this land. 

By Noam Rotem

The State of Israel is a Zionist state. All of us graduates of the Israeli educational system know this. Israel’s first prime minister said it, Ehud Barak said it, even Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said it. This declaration can be found in our educational curriculums, and even in the IDF’s educational curriculum. That is all good and well, but nowhere have I been able to find a formal definition for the term “Zionism”put forth by the Israeli government.

Is the goal of Zionism to ensure a Jewish majority in the State of Israel, as former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon claimed? Is Zionism “Israel’s heritage over the generations,” as Netanyahu stated. Or perhaps it is a political goal, as the prime minister argued elsewhere? Or maybe Netanyahu was right when he said that “Zionism is the return to Judaism, which preceded the return to the Jewish state.”

Or maybe Zionism is the “outlook that believes in the Jewish people’s sovereignty in the Land of Israel and the obligations of the believer to take part, all while working toward the common good,” as is written in the IDF’s educational curriculum?

Or perhaps Zionism is actually a race, as members of Knesset Yuri Stern and Esterina Tartman claimed?

Or maybe “the essence of Zionism,” according to Netanyahu, is loyalty to the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state? Or is a Zionist, according to the Education Ministry, a person who believes that we are growing ever closer to redemption?

Even the Jewish Agency, the oldest Zionist establishment in the world, which was founded at the behest of the “father of Zionism,” Benjamin Ze’ev Herzl, admits that, “it is difficult to define Zionism, but in general one could say that Zionism is the love of the Land of Israel, loyalty to the state, and an aspiration to live in it.”

An empty slogan

Zionism began as a national awakening of Jews in Europe, part of the same awakening that was taking place in other nations. The leaders of this national awakening anchored it in religion, thus tying a modern national liberation movement to ancient, theological traditions. Everything was fine until that point: Zionism, like other national liberation movements of its time, called for establishing a nation-state for the Jewish people. The problem...

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