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Farewell to an Israeli partner in the Palestinian struggle

Renen Raz died last week after a lengthy battle with an illness. For Palestinians activists, he was an example of an Israeli who truly believed in liberation for all.

By: Ahmad Al-Bazz / Activestills.org

Dozens of Palestinians have been expressing their condolences on social media since the death of Israeli activist Renen Raz last week, following a struggle with an illness.

Raz, who passed away at age 28, grew up on Kibbutz Dorot in southern Israel. From his home he could see Gaza, only three kilometers away, yet growing up he was never taught anything about the Strip or its inhabitants.

“I asked my teacher about Palestine. She was really terrified and said not to ever mention Palestine in school again,” Raz once said in an interview. The mystery shrouding Gaza motivated him to look into the history of Palestine and its inhabitants.

“I realized that there has been an ethnic cleansing, the Nakba, carried out by the racist Zionist movement which has nothing to do with Judaism,” Raz said. Later, he would come to terms with the fact that his own kibbutz was established on the ruins of the Palestinian village, Huj.

As a teenager he refused to be drafted into the Israeli army, leading to pressure from both his community and family, which he said grew ashamed of him, ultimately leading him to move to Tel Aviv.

Raz used to introduce himself: “I’m Renan Raz from Palestine, I live in Tel Aviv,” and described himself as “anti-Zionist, anti-fascist, and anti-apartheid.” He was an active member of Anarchists Against The Wall, Boycott from Within, and others.

Partners in struggle?

The concept of “occupation” is viewed differently by Israeli activists, some of whom see it confined to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (1967 borders), while Raz and his peers viewed it as including all of historic Palestine.

From a Palestinian perspective, these differences highlight the essential distinction between the Zionist Left, such as the Meretz party and a number of Israeli human rights groups, and the anti-Zionist Left, which analyzes the Palestinian-Israeli issue from its roots, often calling into question the legitimacy of the state itself.

Despite their radical ideas, the vast majority of Palestinians have not heard of these Israelis. They are entirely absent from Palestinian/Arab media outlets, which generally tend to ignore Israeli society out of a belief that there is “no dialogue with the oppressor.”

Anti-Zionist Israelis have been facing increasing internal pressure within their society, Read More

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PHOTOS: Palestinians hold pray-in to protest road closures

Palestinian residents of a village cut off by Israeli military closures hold prayer services at the roadblock to protest.

Photos and text : Ahmad Al-Bazz / Activestills

Tens of Palestinian residents of the village of Betia, south of Nablus, moved their Friday noon prayer from mosques to in front of Israeli dirt mounds that block the main entrance of their town, to protest an Israeli closure that was in its fifth day. The Israeli military roadblocks are unmanned, and entirely block Palestinian residents from using their vehicles on the main roads leading in and out of their villages.

Palestinian protesters condemned what they consider to be collective punishment and called on Israel to re-open the main entrance of their village, a road that serves tens of thousands of Palestinians who travel on it to and from their homes.

The road, which connects several Palestinian villages and town, leads to Road 60, a major Israeli-controlled highway that serves as an artery connecting the northern and southern West Bank.

An Israeli military spokesperson told Ma’an that the road was closed following numerous incidents of Palestinians throwing rocks at Israeli settler vehicles. He could not immediately specify whether any Israelis had been injured in stone-throwing incidents in the area recently.

It is worth mentioning that access road to Beita, in addition to six other Palestinian roads, was blocked in the beginning of September for about a week, before they were reopened again for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.

It is quite common for the Israeli military to block and shut down Palestinian roads in the West Bank. Usually, Israeli explains such steps as being necessitated by “security reasons” while Palestinians consider them to be collective punishment.

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PHOTOS: Palestinians visit beach during Eid al-Adha holiday

A few times a year, the Israeli army gives Palestinians tens of thousands of entry permits and thousands of Palestinians see the sea for the first time.

Photos by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org

Most of the West Bank is no more than an hour’s drive from the beach, but the Palestinians who live there cannot visit the Mediterranean without a special permit from the Israeli army. Those permits are usually difficult to come by.

A few times a year, however, the army issues large numbers of entry permits to West Bank Palestinians, mostly during Muslim holidays. During the Eid al-Adha holiday this week, for example, the army issued 100,000 permits to Palestinians valid from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., according to AFP. For many, it is their first opportunity to swim in the sea.

Many Palestinians were expelled from towns and cities inside Israel before and during the 1948 war, others temporarily fled the fighting but were not allowed to return once it ended. Jaffa, which was one of the largest Palestinian cities and economic centers before the war, was depopulated of the vast majority of its Palestinian residents.

During Muslim holidays in which the Israeli army allows Palestinians to enter Israel, like Ramadan and Eid al-Edha, thousands make the journey to Jaffa to hold barbecues along the shore and enjoy the beach and sea. Others head to Haifa and Acre in the north of the country.

Although Jaffa still has a significant Palestinian population, it has a Jewish majority today and is in the process of rapid gentrification that is leading to the displacement of more and more Palestinian residents.

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PHOTOS: Israeli army blocks main roads to Palestinian villages

Photos and reporting by Ahmad Al-Bazz/Activestills.org

The Israeli army has blocked off with with concrete cubes, boulders and dirt seven main access roads to Palestinian villages in the Nablus area of the West Bank in recent days.

The roadblocks unmanned, and entirely block Palestinian residents from using their vehicles on the main roads leading in and out of their villages.

The army-placed roadblocks are currently blocking the main entrances to the the villages of Beita, Burin and Einabus.

Similar roadblocks have been placed on the road that connect the village of Beita to Awarta, and the road that connects Odala and Tapuah Junction. The army placed another roadblock on the road connecting Highway 60 and the village of Madama.

According to the villagers in Beita, the soldiers who blocked their road told them they were doing so in response to rocks that were thrown at vehicles on the major West Bank thoroughfare Highway 60.

Palestinian residents managed to clear the roadblocks in some locations, but soldiers returned to rebuild them shortly thereafter.

An Israeli army spokesperson said in response that it placed the roadblocks after it registered increased stone throwing in recent months, in order to try and preventing stone throwers from escaping and to try and stop the incidents.

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PHOTOS: Palestinian protestors offer soldiers popsicles, receive tear gas in return

The villagers of Kufr Qaddum look for a creative way to protest the occupation.

Photos and text by Oren Ziv / Activestills.org

About a hundred and fifty Palestinians, and a few Israelis, took part in a weekend demonstration against the settlements and occupation of Kafr Qaddum. The soldiers were waiting for them in the village, as they do every week. After the demonstrators marched a few hundred meters, the soldiers began shooting rubber bullets and firing tear gas. Some demonstrators threw stones in response, thus the cat and mouse game between soldiers and protesters began throughout the village.

Once a bulldozer arrived to clear the rocks blocking the road, the soldiers sat on the chairs strewn about, ostentatiously facing the demonstrators. The last standing demonstrators also sat on chairs facing the soldiers, whereupon one protester started handing out popsicles to the seated group to cool off. The protesters tried to offer popsicles to the soldiers, though they responded by firing tear gas again.

The demonstration ended, unusually, without anyone wounded or detained.

Kafr Qaddum is situated on the road between Qalqilya and Nablus. Although the village itself is located in Area B, which is under Palestinian civilian control as it were, a large portion of the villagers’ agricultural land is in Area C, which is under direct Israeli control.

For years, villagers have demonstrated every weekend to protest the closure of the road that connects the village to the adjacent Highway 55. The road was closed at the beginning of the Second Intifada because of its proximity to the settlement Kedumim, and has not been reopened.

Over the years, the army has used a variety of creative techniques in attempt to quash the protests: dogs, barriers used for collective punishment against the villagers; arrests; violent night raids; frequent use of tear gas and ‘skunk,’ which is sometimes sprayed directly into the residents’ homes; scattering leaflets threatening to arrest children of the village; shooting rubber bullets; and firing live ammunition.

 

 

 

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Police arrest nine during march in unrecognized Bedouin village

Nine Bedouin and Jewish activists arrested for trying to prevent JNF bulldozers from turning Al-Araqib’s land into a forest.

Text and photos by Oren Ziv / Activestills.org

Israeli authorities arrested nine Bedouin and Jewish activists in the unrecognized village of Al-Araqib Sunday morning as they attempted to block bulldozers from working to turn village land into a Jewish National Fund (JNF) forest.

Like every other morning over the past week, JNF tractors began working the land, which has been destroyed by Israeli authorities 100 times over the past six years, in order to plant a forest in its place.

The women of Al-Araqib, joined by a number of teenagers and local activists, marched toward the tractors, which were guarded by approximately 30 police officers.

After marching, the women took a break for lunch before marching once again toward the tractors, this time attempting to block them with their bodies. The police violently arrested two of the women, one of whom fainted. Three Jewish activists who attempted to assist her were detained and taken to a local police station.

Two teenagers and two men from the village were also arrested.

Last week the police arrested Sayekh, Al-Araqib’s sheikh, and his son Aziz, but was resigned to release them without any conditions after they were kept for hours at the police station in the Bedouin township of Rahat.

One of the village women, whose 20-year-old daughter was arrested, told +972: “The goal of the arrest was to pressure people to agree to restraining orders keeping them away from Al-Araqib. I hope the fact that the police chose to arrest women will cause people in Rahat and other places to wake up and come support us.” Over the past week the police refrained from arresting women, and focused on men in the hopes of quashing the protests.

The land in question is currently in the process of ownership registration and has yet to be legally resolved. In 2012 an Israeli court ruled that no irreversible changes should be made on these plots of land, which the Bedouin families claim as their own. Despite promises made by JNF chairman Efi Stenzler to halt any work until the issue is cleared legally, tractors began plowing this week.

It is one of 35 “unrecognized” Bedouin villages in the Negev desert in southern Israel, which means Israel refuses to provide residents with connections to the national water and...

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PHOTOS: Circus performers stage vigil for imprisoned Palestinian clown in Tel Aviv

Palestinian and Israeli performers set up shop in a central Tel Aviv pedestrian promenade to demand the release of Mohammed Abu Sakha, a Palestinian clown Israel is imprisoning without charge or trial.

Circus performers from the West Bank city of Nablus and jugglers from Israeli staged a protest performance in central Tel Aviv Tuesday calling on Israeli authorities to release Mohammed Abu Sakha, a Palestinian clown who has been imprisoned by Israel for seven months, much of which in administrative detention — a draconian tool Israel uses to hold Palestinians without charge or trial.

The performance, which Amnesty International helped organize, was held at Tel Aviv’s weekly artists market on Nahalat Binyamin Street. The central component of the performance was small cage containing a clown. Around him, the jugglers juggled and circus performers put on acrobatic maneuvers.

Israeli and Palestinian circus artists protest in Tel Aviv for the release of Palestinian clown, Mohammed Abu Sakha, who is being imprisoned by Israel, July 5, 2016. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Israeli forces arrested Abu Sakha last December at the Za’atara checkpoint while on his way to visit his parents in the West Bank city of Jenin. Shortly thereafter, he was placed in administrative detention. In June, his administrative detention order was renewed for another six months. Like all Palestinian administrative detainees, of whom there are over 700 at the moment, Abu Sakha does not know of what he is accused and has no opportunity to defend himself against the accusations.

Until his arrest, Abu Sakha operated the Palestinian Circus School in the West Bank, teaching circus performance to Palestinian children. Abu Sakha started learning the art of circus nine years ago, when he was 14 years old, and since then, it has become his entire life.

He lives near the circus and spends his entire day working there. He is also busy writing his book there about how to teach therapy for special needs children through the art of circus. His friends say that children that didn’t know how to take a step when they met him can now walk thanks to him.

The Palestinian circus is one of the rare pearls...

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Ethiopian Israelis protest police brutality in Tel Aviv

Hundreds close major streets in central Tel Aviv to protest police discrimination against black Israelis.

Photos by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org

Hundreds of Israelis of Ethiopian origin blocked streets and highways in central Tel Aviv Sunday to protest police brutality against black Israelis.

Police arrested 12 people for blocking streets. (Update: all of the arrestees were released in the early morning hours.)

Some protesters carried coffins bearing the name of Yosef Salaams, an Ethiopian Israeli man who committed suicide after suffering police abuse.

 

Large police forces met the protest, which took place near IDF headquarters in central Tel Aviv.

Last year, after several high-profile cases of police violence against Ethiopian Israelis, mass protests took place in cities across Israel.

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In Photos: Five years of popular struggle in Palestinian village Kufr Qaddum

After building an Israeli settlement next to the road connecting Kufr Qaddum’s to the West Bank city of Nablus, the Israeli military closed the road to Palestinian traffic. For the past five years, villagers have protested every Friday to demand it be reopened.

Five years ago this week, in July 2011, residents of the West Bank village of Kufr Qaddum began staging weekly popular protests demanding that the Israeli army open a road passing through the village to Nablus. The army closed the road to Palestinian traffic in 2003, citing security concerns to a nearby Israeli settlement partly built on the village’s land.

The army has used various tactics over the years in its attempt to suppress the popular struggle. It has utilized attack dogs, installed roadblocks and other forms of collective punishment, carried out waves of arrests and night raids into the village, shot tear gas and putrid ‘skunk water’ at village homes, hung posters threatening to arrest local children, used crowd-control weapons, and even live ammunition.

At the protest this week, marking five years of popular struggle, the Israeli military wounded three Palestinian demonstrators with live fire. Hundreds of people reportedly took part in the demonstration.

Villagers of held their protests to re-open the village’s main road to Nablus every Friday since July 2011, accompanied by a small number of international activists, and an even smaller number of Israelis.

From day one, the army has responded to the protests with violence. There is no legal avenue for protest available to Palestinians in the West Bank, who live under an Israeli military regime. In response to the army’s presence and violent suppression of the demonstrations, village youths often burn tires, lay large rocks to impede military jeeps, and throw stones toward the soldiers.

Kufr Qaddum lies on the main road between the northern West Bank cities of Qalqilya and Nablus. Although the village itself is situated in Area B, the Oslo Accords designation that means civil planning is supposed to fall under Palestinian Authority jurisdiction, most of the village’s lands are located in Area C, under complete Israeli military planning and security control.

Of the village’s 24,000 dunams (6,000 acres), the Israeli military seized 4,000 dunams (1,000 acres) for use by nearby Israeli settlements. The army requires the Palestinian residents to obtain special military permits in order to accessing another 11,000...

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Palestinian man serves full prison sentence — Israel refuses to release him

Bilal Kayed was supposed to leave Israeli prison on June 13, after serving nearly 15 years behind bars. But on the day of his release, Israel decided to put him in administrative detention.

By Ahmad Al-Bazz / Activestills.org

Palestinian prisoner Bilal Kayed should have been out of prison by now. But on the day of his release and despite serving close to 15 years behind bars, Israel’s military authorities decided to put him in administrative detention for a period of six months.

On Saturday dozens of Palestinians took part in a solidarity march with Kayed in the West Bank town of Asira ash-Shamaliya, near Nablus. Kayed was supposed to be released from Israeli prison on June 13th.

Administrative detention is a procedure that Israel uses to imprison detainees based on secret evidence, without charging them or allowing them to defend themselves at trial. Administrative detention orders may be renewed indefinitely.

The demonstrators gathered at the center of town and marched to Kayed’s family’s home while holding up his photo, as well as Palestinian and Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine flags (PFLP).

Outside the family home, PFLP activists read a press release written by party leaders, calling for massive protests across the country in support of Kayed.

“June 21 and 22 will be days of hunger strike in all Israeli prisons” said the statement, which described the step as an “initial one that could be followed with an open hunger strike among all PFLP prisoners if they bring about no Israeli response.” The statement also condemned Israel’s punishment of PFLP prisoners by preventing family visits.

Palestinian Legislative Council member Hosni Burini of Hamas, who took part in the demonstration, denounced Kayed’s detention. “It is not only us who do not respect Israeli courts and rulings, Israel doesn’t respect them either. What do they want from a prisoner who served more than 14 years sentence in their prisons?”

According to Burini the decision aims to punish the prisoner and his family, since it was issued at the last moment while his family was awaiting his release.

Kayed, 34, has been imprisoned by since December 2001 on charges of membership in the PFLP, as well as participation in activities against the State of Israel. He was 19 years old at the time of his arrest. Kayed is now among 750 Palestinians held in administrative detention without charge or trial.

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PHOTOS: Tens of thousands of Palestinians cross Israeli checkpoints for Ramadan prayers

Nearly 70,000 Palestinians from the West Bank and 300 from Gaza take advantage of a temporary relaxation of Israeli restrictions on movement in order to attend Friday prayers at Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

Photos and text by Ahmad al-Bazz / Activestills.org

Thousands of Palestinians left their homes in cities and towns across the West Bank early Friday morning in order to make their way through a number of Israeli checkpoints leading to Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Old City.

The Palestinian worshipers hoping to attend prayers at Al-Aqsa for the second Friday of Ramadan were subject to strict criteria set by the Israeli military. Only men over the age of 45 years and women of all ages were allowed to enter without special permits.

Earlier in the month, in what has been described as collective punishment for a shooting attack in Tel Aviv, the army suspended 83,000 special holiday entry permits it had issued to Palestinians for Ramadan.

Buses organized to bring worshipers to Israeli checkpoints faced severe difficulty in traffic jams on many major roads in the West Bank.

Hundreds of young Palestinians hoping to cross into Jerusalem gathered at the Qalandiya and Bethlehem checkpoints, at the northern and southern ends of Jerusalem, respectively. Israeli soldiers and Border Police officers refused to let them through without permits.

Palestinian residents of the West Bank are only allowed into Jerusalem and Israel with special military issued entry permits most of the year. During the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, the army eases restrictions on Fridays. Therefore, Palestinians who meet the criteria of traveling without a permit Ramadan take advantage of the exceptional situation on the four Fridays, often doing shopping and heading to the beach, which they cannot access the rest of the year.

A small number of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip also generally receive permits to attend Friday prayers at Al-Aqsa during Ramadan. Last week, Israeli officials rescinded those permits in the wake of the Tel Aviv shooting attack. This week, 300 Palestinians from Gaza were allowed into Jerusalem for prayers.

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Palestinian prisoner placed in admin. detention — after serving 15 years

Bilal Kayed was supposed to be released from Israeli prison after serving a nearly 15-year sentence. Instead, he was placed under indefinite detention without charges or trial.

Photos and text by Ahmad al-Bazz/Activestills.org

Palestinian prisoner Bilal Kayed was meant to be released from Israeli prison on Monday after serving 14.5 years. Instead Israeli military authorities decided to put him in administrative detention for a period of six months, which means he will be held indefinitely without charge or trial.

On Tuesday dozens of Palestinians took part in a solidarity protest in the West Bank city of Nablus. Kayed’s detention came as a shock to his family and relatives. “His lawyer called us to say that he will not be released today,” said his brother Mahmoud Kayed, adding that only a few hours later did they discover that he was put in administrative detention.

During the protest the demonstrators chanted against the decision, while raising photos of Kayed along with Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) flags, the leftist Palestinian party to which he belongs.

Administrative detention is a procedure that Israel uses to imprison detainees based on secret evidence, without charging them or allowing them to defend themselves at trial. Administrative detention orders may be renewed indefinitely.

The family confirmed that their son is planning on starting a hunger strike to protest his administrative detention. According to a statement released by the PFLP on Monday, its members in prison will begin an initial two-day hunger strike in solidarity with Kayed. “The hunger strike is just the beginning in a series of escalating steps to be implemented by all comrades in Zionist prisons and detention centers,” said the statement.

Kayed, 34, has been imprisoned by since December 2001 on charges of membership in the PFLP, as well as participation in activities against the State of Israel. He was 19 years old at the time of his arrest. Kayed is now among 750 Palestinians held in administrative detention without charge or trial.

Last Friday Israeli authorities placed a Palestinian prisoners’ rights activist under administrative detention for six months, 40 days after he was first detained and taken in for interrogation.

Hasan Safadi, who works as media coordinator for Addameer, an NGO that supports Palestinian prisoners in both Israeli and Palestinian prisons, was set to be released from detention on June 10 by order of Jerusalem’s Magistrate’s Court, after paying NIS 2,500 in bail and obtaining...

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WATCH: Palestinians cross Israeli checkpoint into Jerusalem on Ramadan

Despite Israel revoking tens of thousands of entry permits, some Palestinian worshippers were able to travel from the West Bank to Jerusalem to mark the first Friday of Ramadan.

Photos by Ahmad al-Bazz, Oren Ziv / Activestills.org
Text by Oren Ziv

Thousands of Palestinians crossed through Qalandiya Checkpoint in the West Bank to Jerusalem on Friday, to participate in the first Friday prayers of Ramadan, the holy Muslim month of fasting, at Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Buses from across the West Bank brought worshippers to the checkpoint, which they then crossed on foot. On the other side of checkpoint were buses that took them to Jerusalem’s Old City.

On Thursday Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a series of retributive actions following the shooting attack by two young Palestinians in central Tel Aviv on Wednesday, which left four Israelis dead. Netanyahu’s ordered the revoking of 80,000 entry permits that had been previously issued to West Bank Palestinians over Ramadan. On Friday Israeli authorities restricted entry to Jerusalem to Palestinian men over 45, while all Palestinian women were allowed to cross.

The number of Palestinians who arrived at the checkpoint was relatively small, as most of the Palestinian public is still unsure of the criteria for entering Jerusalem. In previous years the second, third, and fourth Fridays of Ramadan brought with them large amounts of worshippers from across the West Bank, often leading to long waiting times at the checkpoint.

On Friday morning Hebrew-language news websites ran headlines declaring the IDF had put the West Bank under full closure due to the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, as well as in response to the shooting attack. However, those who read the articles in full discovered that the closure did not apply to those who came to pray at Al-Aqsa. Furthermore, the 80,000 cancelled permits did not apply to Palestinians who travel to Jerusalem on the weekends for purposes of worship.

As opposed to previous years in which Palestinian youth found ways to climb over the separation wall and reach Jerusalem, on Friday morning large police forces were stationed on the Jerusalem side of the wall in order to prevent them from doing so.

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