Analysis News

Who will protect Palestinian journalists?

Between shootings, beatings and arrests, Palestinian journalists are subject to violence and restrictions that their Israeli counterparts generally avoid.

Last week at a protest in the West Bank city of Beitunia, a group of Palestinian protestors attacked Israeli journalist Avi Issacharoff and photographer Daniel Book. According to Issacharoff, he was told to leave the protest by Palestinian journalists, and when he refused he was surrounded by a group of angry Palestinian protesters, who he says wanted to “lynch” him. Eventually, he was escorted out of the area with the help of two Palestinian officers. Such incidents are depressing, especially for journalists who are simply trying to report the news.

This incident, however, raises several issues regarding access and cooperation among Israeli and Palestinian journalists.

After years of conflict and a failed peace process, trust has been shaken between Palestinian protestors and Israeli journalists. Many Palestinian protestors worry that they cannot trust Israelis with photographs that could lead to their arrest. In addition, the knowledge that Israeli journalists could, at any time, be called up for their annual reserve service in the IDF further complicates their relationship with Palestinian society.

Israeli security forces detaining, assaulting and obstructing Palestinian journalists (Photos: Activestills.org)

Israeli security forces detaining, assaulting and obstructing Palestinian journalists (Photos: Activestills.org)

On a personal note: when I was filming National Geographic’s Conflict Zone, the biggest hurdle I had to overcome was the issue of trust. This was true for the settlers, the IDF and the Palestinian protestors in Nabi Saleh alike. For example, it was understood from the onset that we wouldn’t film the faces of stone throwers, since our footage could potentially lead to their arrest. And while on their base, the Israeli army asked us on several occasions not to film certain things or people for security reasons.

+972 Editorial: Demanding freedom of movement and access for Palestinian journalists

Another sore spot mentioned by Issacharoff is the fact that many Palestinian journalists have no access to Israel, and therefore cannot cover anything beyond the West Bank and Gaza. The access Israeli journalists have to both sides creates an unfair advantage over Palestinians. Therefore, it is no surprise that some Palestinian journalists are calling for limits on Israeli access to the West Bank; some of them feel that the privileges held by Israeli...

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At summer camp, Syrian child refugees recall a lost homeland

At the Syrian refugee educational camp. (photo: Aziz Abu Sarah)

SYRIA-TURKEY BORDER – Last week, my colleagues and I started a summer camp for hundreds of Syrian child refugees on the Syrian-Turkish border. While pundits and self-proclaimed “experts” are debating what to do in Syria, or whether the US should strike or not, we decided to act rather than talk. After all, over a 100,000 people have been killed and millions have been left displaced. Whether the US bombs Assad or not is not in my control, but being active to help those in need is.

For the past few weeks we started fundraising for educational camps for Syrian children, which make up nearly almost half of all Syrian refugees. Some of those we met do not attend school, either because they don’t have books or have yet to gain refugee status, while others are extremely poor and devastated. Most of the children I talked to have lost a family member in the ongoing conflict.

These children do not talk like children anymore. They have lost one of the most valuable things children have: innocence. They talk about loss of homes, family members and dangerous situations as if it were a normal thing. Perhaps the most worrying thing is the uncertainty of what could become of this generation without serious intervention.

Two sisters I spoke to, Amneh (11) and Arwa (8), told me about their life. Amneh told me about her fear of the sound of airplanes, even while in Turkey. Her younger sister quickly interrupted and said, “I am not afraid.” Amneh told me that her younger sister would comfort her and hold her hand when during air strikes. When I asked Arwa, why wasn’t she afraid, she responded “What is the worse thing that can happen? I die? It is better than this life even without knowing whether I will go to heaven or hell.”

Amneh also told me about how she was shot at while bicycling around her home. She is traumatized and is unlikely to receive help. Most help is focused on humanitarian aid, which is still way below the actual need. Very few people focus on addressing the effects that the ongoing killing have on these children.

Finally, both girls told me that they miss Syria and they want...

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WATCH: The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Zone series produced by National Geographic

Just over a year ago I started filming for a web series produced by National Geographic. My goal was to highlight the conflicting narratives and the different points of view while inspiring hope. As Obama is visiting the region, I no longer believe that he or other leaders will bring an end to this conflict. It must be people who lead the leaders. However, I have found that the majority of Israelis and Palestinians are indifferent and ineffective. Indifference is the greatest enemy to peace and justice. In this series, I try to understand why this conflict is still going on. I try to examine the narratives and perspectives. But most importantly I also explore the effect of interactions between the sides.

This special online 4-part video series, Conflict Zone, follows Aziz Abu Sarah, a cultural educator, a native of Jerusalem, and a National Geographic Emerging Explorer who works in international conflict resolution. 

Part 1: Uneasy Coexistence
This first segment shows Israelis and Palestinians trying to lead ordinary lives, but the complications of living in a conflict zone can be extraordinary.

Part 2: Israel Defense Force
This segment features the Nabi Saleh protest from the Israeli military’s point of view.

Part 3: Palestinian Protesters
This segment features the Nabi Saleh protest from the Palestinians’ point of view.

Part 4: A Space to Talk
This segment highlights the process of creating safe places for dialogue among people who are on opposing sides of a conflict.





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Watching elections I cannot vote in

Until few days ago, I wasn’t able to vote. According to the Israeli system, I still cannot vote. However, my friend Liel Maghen asked to vote in my place, an act that if taken en masse, has the potential to shock and challenge Israel’s policies of oppression like never before.

Ras al-Amud, East Jerusalem (photo: Activestills)

Many Palestinians in Jerusalem are watching the Israeli elections unfold before their eyes without being able influence their outcome. After 1967, Israel annexed Jerusalem but didn’t annex its population. Palestinians in Jerusalem became “residents” in their homeland. They were given some rights but were given no way to influence the government or its policies that regulate every small detail in their lives.

My life is a good example. I am a Palestinian, born and raised in East Jerusalem, yet I have no right to vote in Israel. In addition to not having the right to vote, I have no right to build on my land and no right to celebrate my identity. If I choose to live abroad for a while, I am not allowed to come back. When I was 16, I lived two miles outside Jerusalem and I was told my Jerusalem residency would be revoked if we didn’t move to East Jerusalem. We had to leave our house, which we owned, to move to rental home in the center of Jerusalem. On our way to Jerusalem we passed by the Ma’ale Adumim settlement, which is also couple of miles outside Jerusalem. However, Israeli Jews can live there with in settlements with no objection by the government that they are living outside Jerusalem. It was yet another reminder that I am not an equal under Israeli law. Settlers can live anywhere, but I cannot. Even in my homeland, someone else decides where I am allowed to live or not live.

My residency in Jerusalem is conditional and according to Israeli law it is quite easy to lose. A few years ago, I started working for extended periods of time in the U.S. Soon after, I was told by the Israeli Interior Ministry that if I stayed abroad for too long I would lose my residency. Later I was told that if I receive American citizenship, which I am eligible for, I...

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Eviction of Palestinian outpost exposes double standard on settlements

The consequences of the the Israeli government decision go beyond the action against the Palestinian community in Bab Al-Shams. By evicting the residents, Netanyahu has made a mockery of the Israeli High Court and, in turn, the rule of law.

Soldiers prevent activists from reaching the main gate of the E1 area where the Palestinian outpost “Bab Al-Shams” is located, January 12, 2013. (photo: Ahmad Al-Bazz/Activestills)

In the early hours of Sunday morning, hundreds of Israeli soldiers stormed the newly-founded Bab Al-Shams village, evicting Palestinian and international activists. The eviction took place despite an injunction by the High Court of Justice. However, Palestinians at the site were notified ahead of time that they will be removed regardless of the decision.

The Bab Al-Shams village was created only three days ago by over 250 Palestinians and internationals as a nonviolent response to Israel’s recent decision to build settlement units in the E1 area. According to Irene Nasser, an activist who was present at the scene last night, activists at Bab Al-Shams were arrested and  later released at the Qalandiya checkpoint near Ramallah. Six Palestinians were injured during the eviction and taken to hospitals in Ramallah and Jerusalem.

The Israeli government’s decision to ignore the High Court injunction and evict the Palestinians from E1 was justified by urgent security needs. However, there was no further explanation regarding said security threat. (In Israel, the term “security threat” can often be used as a license for any oppressive actions toward the Palestinian people.) It is probably that Prime Minister Netanyahu, who ordered the eviction, made the hasty decision due to considerations having to do with the upcoming elections, rather than with security. However, the consequences of the the Israeli government decision go beyond the action against the Palestinian community in Bab Al-Shams. Netanyahu has made a mockery of the Israeli High Court and, in turn, the rule of law.

According to Haaretz, the village was built  mostly on private Palestinian land, rather than “state land.” Therefore, the government’s decision lacks any legal standing, since the Palestinians were not given a chance to defend their case in court.

Palestinians have...

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Life in Gaza: Letter from a Palestinian woman

My friend Oded Adomi Leshem from Tel Aviv sent me an email he received from a friend of his in Gaza. She writes about what she is going through and what she does when missiles hit her neighborhood. She puts a human face on the suffering of people in Gaza. After all, it is ignorant to think this is a war affecting the IDF or Hamas. Civilians are paying the highest price in this war. Some Israelis are describing it as though it were the First World War, the  so-called “war to end all wars.” But just as the 1914-18 war led inexorably to the 1939-45 conflagration, so this military clash will only cause more resentment and suffering that will perpetuate the cycle of violence.

Here is the letter from Gaza:

Thanks for your nice message. We are alright so far, and I truly hope your family is well and safe.

The situation here is really terrible and it’s getting worse day after day, and I’m sure the same applies in Israel. Our leaders don’t care about us. They are playing with our lives and the ordinary people of both sides are the ones who always lose. This has to stop!!

This morning, the Israeli F16 military jets hit our area twice. The first time, they hit the building of the council of ministers with 5 huge missiles just a few homes away from our home. Our home was shaking like an earthquake and our windows broke and shattered everywhere, and I felt the missiles inside our home. It was very scary. Of course serious damages happened to all surrounding buildings in the area.

The first time, the Israeli F16 military jets hit Palestine stadium, which is located in the neighborhood next to my neighborhood, with 4 huge missiles, and caused some damages to my home as well. I heard the huge explosions and saw the flames and it was very terrifying. We see and feel death very close with each bombing. Israel is bombing everywhere in Gaza all the time by air, sea and land. Nowhere to hide … Nowhere is safe … We don’t have shelters … We just stay at home so all of us can die at once if a missile would strike our home.

We are still recovering from the trauma of the first war [Operation Cast Lead in 2008-9 - editor]. How will...

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Israeli police shut down, attempt to raid Palestinian school in East Jerusalem

Israel Police yesterday shut down a Palestinian school in East Jerusalem for a period of a week. The school has over 1,200 students between the ages of 12 and 18 years old. The police justified their actions to the students and teachers by voicing suspicion that stones were thrown at settlers by students from the school. +972 magazine learned from students and teachers that the school doesn’t allow students to throw stones from the school, but they cannot monitor students outside the school. It is unreasonable and unrealistic, a teacher said, “to be held responsible for individual students’ actions outside the parameters of the school.”

Palestinians gather outside the boys school in East Jerusalem to stop police from entering (Photo: Eyad Abu Sarah)

Earlier in the day, stones were thrown in the At-Tur neighborhood at settlers, and one of them was hit. The police arrived immediately to the scene and launched an attack at the school, suspecting that students were involved in the stone-throwing. Residents from the neighborhood and teachers clashed with the police and stopped them from storming the school and arresting students. According to eye witnesses, the police resorted to punishing the teachers by issuing traffic violations and parking tickets to them upon leaving the school.

+972 magazine talked with some of the parents who refused to identify themselves or their children because of fear of retaliation from the police. One of the parents described a phone call he received from his son:  ”I received a horrifying call from my son whose voice was shaking, he said he can’t leave the school and it is besieged by police. My son was terrified that he would be arrested or killed. He was begging me to get him out of school.”

Collective punishment against Palestinian communities and schools is not a new policy of the Israeli police. Throughout the First Intifada in the late 1980s, similar actions were taken to shut down universities and schools. However, this strategy never succeeded in stopping protests or stone-throwing during the First Intifada. The opposite process happened, with more people becoming active in protesting the occupation.

The police action raises another question regarding their response to stone-throwing at settlers. In an incident that I wrote about last month, a Palestinian beaten by Israeli Jews was barely given any attention...

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Fresh price tag attack against Jerusalem monastery; no arrests made

Another “price tag” hate crime was carried out today against the Franciscan monastery on Mount Zion in Jerusalem. The monastery was spray painted with slogans against Christianity and Jesus. Names of Jewish outposts in the West Bank were also sprayed, indicating that settlement supporters carried out the attack. This is the latest hate crime in a series of attacks on Christian holy sites in Jerusalem. The last took place only a month ago, when the door of the Latrun Monastery was set on fire.

In February 2012, Dr. Marc Gopin and I wrote about the attack on the Baptist church in Jerusalem. Back then, price tag attacks against churches were new. The police issued a statement that they were investigating the incident and would prosecute those responsible. However, little has been done against the perpetrators. This is not surprising, considering the number of price tag attacks against Muslim sites in the past few years, which resulted in almost no arrests. I wrote in October last year about the repeated attacks on mosques that went unnoticed. Now, it seems that we are witnessing the same story all over again.

I find it hard to believe that the Israel Police and Shin Bet security service are unable to find the perpetrators. Many consider the Shin Bet to be one of the top security agencies in the world. However it seems that its ability is limited to arresting Arab suspects, and it is unable to overcome an ethnic bias. Nationalist crimes carried by Jews against Muslims and Christians receive no more than condemnations. The offenders against Christians and Muslims know that they are not going to be held accountable. I am willing to bet money that no one will be prosecuted for this attack. Unfortunately, I also believe that attacks against Christian and Muslim holy sites will continue to take place.

Israel is in dire need for a major reform. It needs to transform from a state that exists to only protect the Jewish people, Jewish sites and Jewish identity to become a state willing to respect and protect all its citizens equally. Israel cannot continue to claim democracy when vandalism against a Jewish site ends with immediate arrests and prosecution while vandalism against Muslim and Christian sites are met with no more than condemnations and lip service.

Democracy is more than holding regular elections. It also entails the development of a...

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The Palestinian dilemma: Between ideology and reality

Palestinians in the West Bank often face an internal clash between identity, ideology, politics and reality. In truth, they live in a place where making any decision in life is a dilemma.

Handala graffiti in the West Bank village of Bil’in. (Photo:Palobserver/Wikicommons)

A few weeks ago, on a tour I was leading through the Old City of Jerusalem, I stopped next to a souvenir shop with a t-shirt display outside. I wanted to explain certain cultural and political things that were printed on these shirts. On one of the shirts was the famous cartoon figure “Handala,” created by Naji al-Ali, the most well known Palestinian cartoonist. Al-Ali was assassinated due to his controversial cartoons.

I told the group about al-Ali’s life – he was a Palestinian refugee and a fearless man who spoke his mind. Everyone was subject to his criticism. I continued by describing Handala, a cartoon which depicts a 10-year-old boy with his back turned to the reader. The cartoon has become a symbol of the Palestinian struggle for freedom and justice.

After a few minutes, the owner of the shop came out and started nodding his head in approval. I asked him if it was okay for me to continue talking about the shirts. He said yes. After I was done with my remarks, the shopkeeper told me that I was excellent, saying “I am happy with your explanation, it was remarkable and well done.”

Soon thereafter, the co-leader of the tour, an Israeli named Shira Nesher, turned the attention of the group toward the other t-shirts displayed outside the shop. One was an IDF shirt, another was an Israel Police shirt. There were other funny ones, such as a t-shirt that read “Super Jew.” There were also shirts with political slogans like “America don’t worry… Israel is behind you.”

Suddenly, the shopkeeper face turned into a frown. He looked at me and said “I am not happy with what she is saying.” I asked him why he is selling such t-shirts if he is not happy with them. He stumbled and finally said “tell them that I am forced to sell these shirts – they force me to display them,” referring to the Israeli government.

However, reality is different. I know of shops in Jerusalem that do not sell these kind...

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Violent protests are the true insult to Islam

The real challenge facing the Muslim world today is how to stop violent protesters from becoming the face of the religion. In order to do that, we need more Muslims to get rid of their indifference and speak against the misrepresentation of Islam. 

Research shows that the people behind “Innocence of Muslims,” the film which disrespects Islam and the Prophet Muhammad and set off riots across the Middle East after it was uploaded to YouTube, are nothing more than a few Islalmophobic individuals. They produced a very a low cost, low quality film which aims to mock the Prophet Muhammad, and present Islam as a violent and irrational religion.

The producers of the film were able to achieve more than what they desired or expected. It was not the film itself that had an impact on those watching, but rather the violent response of Muslims protesting the film in Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Sudan and other countries. These violent protests gave power to the producers. Without them, it is probably fair to guess that the film would not have gotten any attention or almost any views.

However, by now thousands of people watched the trailer due to the protestors. Since one of the goals of the film is to show Muslims as violent irrational people, the violent protestors confirmed the negative image of Muslims. Those who do not know much about Islam or Muslims are watching the protests on television; they see Muslims attacking embassies, and appearing angry and untrustworthy.

If we take a deeper look, I am convinced that the self-proclaimed Muslims attacking embassies and foreigners are the true enemies of Islam. It is they who are insulting the Prophet legacy more than any film or production. The real challenge facing Muslims today is how stop such people from becoming the face of Islam.

The film is disgusting and disrespectful, but should these protestors punish diplomats from foreign countries? Aren’t these diplomats guests that should be respected? One cannot fix a wrong with another wrong, and attacking Americans or foreigners to punish few individuals behind the film is a criminal act. Instead, a good Muslim would follow in the footsteps of Prophet Muhammad. The Prophet used to tell his followers not to respond to insults with insults, but rather to do good to those who insult. He said, “I have family that I do good to them, but they insult me,...

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Palestinian beaten by Jews in Jerusalem: Attacks against us happen here every day

In the past few weeks, there has been a rise in attacks against Palestinians in Jerusalem. A few weeks ago, a Palestinian was beaten, almost to death, on suspicion that he spoke with a Jewish girl. A few days, later another Palestinian was beaten up for giving a ride to a Jewish female.

Another attack took place last Friday, in a gas station, against a Palestinian worker. All of these attacks have one thing in common: groups of racist Jewish groups feeling safe enough to attack Palestinians without fear of being brought to justice. The Israel Police is yet to deal with this epidemic in the city, or work to protect Palestinians as it works to protect Jerusalem’s Jewish population.

Nassim Abu Ramuz, who was attacked by Israeli Jews in Jerusalem on Friday, September 7, 2012

To understand these attacks more, I spoke with Nassim Abu Ramuz, 21, from East Jerusalem and learned from him about his confrontation with three Jewish men at his work. Below is the interview.

Where do you work?

I work in a gas station in Katamon. I have been working there for three years.

Were you ever attacked or assaulted before while working there?

No, Things were okay until this event.

So, tell me what happened on that night you were attacked.

I was doing the night shift, there is not much work so I work on my laptop. A car pulled in with three men and a woman. The woman asked for the bathroom key and I gave it to her. Then one of the guys called me to fill gas with NIS 20. I asked him to turn the car around because the gas tank was on the other side. He said that he was tired and high, so I pulled the gas pipe toward the other side of the car.

Did you notice anything wrong with them?

They had beer with them, they might have had too much to drink.

What happened next?

They were cussing at each other in the car. One of the guys came out from the car. He said that he needed help because the car was overheating. I helped him and gave him water...

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Palestinians take to streets in call for Fayyad to step down

In the past few days, protesters have filled the Palestinian streets. This time, their protest is not against Israel, but rather against the Palestinian Authority and specifically Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. The Palestinians are coming out to protest the rising prices in the West Bank, which have increased at a time when the Palestinian Authority has been unable to pay its employees their full salaries on time.

Protest against the rising cost of living in Bethlehem, West Bank (photo: RRB/Activestills.org)

Prime Minister Fayyad found himself at the center of the anger and frustration of the Palestinians. In the first few years following his appointment, Fayyad received rave reviews by locals and internationals alike for his work in reviving the Palestinian economy and tackling corruption. However, he is now facing a financial crisis, considered the worst since the Palestinian Authority’s inception, due to a dip in donor funding and rising costs of living.

Despite an expected 5 percent growth in the Palestinian economy this year, this growth is a deceptive figure. The Palestinian economy is captive to the Israeli occupation and is regulated and handcuffed by the Paris Protocol, an agreement that preceded the Oslo Accords. In a recent post, Haggai Matar explained new modifications to the Paris Protocol, which reaffirm Israel’s control over the Palestinian economy. Haggai explains how in a time when Palestinians are shifting towards popular resistance, an economic agreement with Israel contributes to the irrelevance of their  government. While Palestinian activists have been calling on the Palestinian Authority to annul the Paris Protocol, Fayyad has defended the agreement, claiming the present problems are not related.

Based on the Paris Protocol, every new economic opportunity in the Palestinian territories is subject to Israeli approval. For example, it took the Wataniya telecommunications company years to get Israel’s approval to launch. Wataniya, like the Palestinian economy on the whole, was held hostage by the Israeli government as a bargaining chip.

The Palestinian economy is dependent on foreign support to the PA and NGOs, which are the biggest employers in the Palestinian territories. Even now, as Palestinians protest against Fayyad, some are calling him to solve the unemployment problem among youth by increasing government jobs. Many Palestinians have begun to see government and NGOs jobs as their only employment possibilities.

Yesterday, Fayyad responded to his critics in...

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Bloggingheads: The U.S. election and the fate of Israel-Palestine

Mitt Romney sparked controversy during his visit to Jerusalem last week, thanks to a series of comments he made about Jews and Palestinians. Naturally, his comments about Palestinian culture being inferior to Jewish culture, and God’s unfavorable bias against Palestinians, angered many Palestinians, who are worried that Romney could win the election.

However, does that make Romney the preferred candidate for Jews or Israelis?  In this video produced by Bloggingheads.com, Matt Duss from the Center for American Progress and I discussed Romney’s visit to Jerusalem and its consequences, the U.S administration’s policies in the region, and the viability of the two-state solution.

Related posts:
Romney visit: Hitting the ‘Palestinian punching bag’ again
Romney’s trip shows us his non-approach to the Israel-Palestine conflict
Jewish Democrats use rightist tactics to attack Romney on Israel




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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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