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PHOTOS: Palestinian ‘return train’ is stopped at Israel’s wall

On Nakba Day, activists build a symbolic train to bring Palestinian refugees back to their homes in what is today Israel.

Photos and text by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org

Hundreds of Palestinians gathered outside the Bethlehem-area Dheisheh Refugee Camp on an unseasonably hot Sunday, Nakba Day, in order to board and accompany a symbolic “Return Train” meant to take Palestinian refugees back to their homes and villages from which they fled and were expelled in 1948.

Dheisheh is home to thousands of Palestinians who fled or were expelled from some 45 villages and cities in what is now the state of Israel.

The “train” was built by local activists. The locomotive was powered by an automobile, which pulled a number of passenger cars bearing the names of villages and cities to which the train was supposed to reach.

Read also: How I explained the Nakba to my kids

Dozens of older Palestinians along the train’s route appeared emotional at the sight of the “Return Train,” especially when one activist jumped atop the locomotive and started yelling, conductor-style, the names of its would-be destinations: “Haifa! Akka! Safed!”

One of the organizers explained to +972 Magazine that according to Palestinian folk lore, Palestinian refugees from all over the world will return to their homes by train one day: from refugee camps in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, from the West Bank and from Gaza. Therefore, he continued, they decided to build a symbolic train as a way of promoting the right of return.

Read also: Sentenced to life at birth: What do Palestinian refugees want?

Crowds gathered to see the train as it made its way along Bethlehem’s main road toward the Israeli separation all, which cuts off what used to be the main road connecting Jerusalem and the southern West Bank.

When the train neared the Israeli army’s “Checkpoint 300” soldiers and Border Police officers opened a massive steel gate in the wall, although not as some might have hoped to let the procession through. Instead, Israeli security forces crossed over to the Bethlehem side and fired tear gas toward the Palestinian youths who had started to gather while waiting for the train to arrive.

Read also: The Long Road to Bethlehem

Despite the tear gas, a number of Palestinian activists made it almost all the way to the wall itself, where a Border...

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IN PICTURES: Israel clamps down on Nakba Day 'return race'

Abdullah Abu Rahmah, one of the leaders of the 11-years-old Bil’in protests against the separation wall, has been arrested after confronting Border Police over the dispersal of the cycling event.

Text and pictures by Oren Ziv

Abduallah Abu Rahmah, one of the leaders of the Bil’in protest movements, was arrested on Friday during a bicycle race in the West Bank to mark the 68th anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba.

Hundreds of Palestinian and international cyclists participated in the so-called “return ride” that kicked off in Ramallah and ended in the village of Bil’in, where grassroots protests against the occupation and the separation barrier have taken place weekly over the last 11 years.

When the race ended and the participants gathered in front of the separation wall for the awards ceremony, a Border Police unit emerged from the nearby settlement of Modi’in Illit and told the crowd, which included numerous journalists, to disperse.

For the past year, the army has prevented protesters from approaching the wall and has blocked their passage in the village outskirts. This week, the protesters arrived two hours earlier than usual, and were met with stun grenades and tear gas canisters that drove them back to the village.

Almost every Palestinian protest in the West Bank is forcefully dispersed by Israeli troops, who declare the sites (including Bil’in) as a closed military zone. But the people of Bil’in are yet to be discouraged.

After the gathering was dispersed, a number of cyclists rode past the IDF and Border Police contingent that was stationed on the wall’s old trail, before it was relocated following a 2010 High Court injunction.

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One of them was Abu Rahmah, who got off his bike and asked the commander of the platoon why the awards ceremony was banned.

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“It’s not a protest, our children have the right to ride their bikes, just like Israeli kids,” he told the officer, who in turn instructed him to leave and said he risked being arrested.

But Abu Rahmah insisted: “It wasn’t even a protest, why did you fire tear gas on us?”

Nakba Day bicycle race in Bil'in, May 2016

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Israel releases 12-year-old Palestinian girl, highlighting dual legal systems

A Jewish child arrested for an identical crime in the same location would not have been sent to prison. Israeli authorities released the girl after the case got attention and a request from her parents.

Text by Oren Ziv / Activestills.org

Twelve-year-old Dima al-Wawi, the youngest Palestinian in Israeli prison, was released after two-and-a-half months on Sunday. Israeli authorities delivered her to the Jabara checkpoint in the West Bank in the early afternoon hours, where she was met by her parents and waiting journalists.

Al-Wawi was arrested 75 days earlier at the entrance to the Israeli settlement of Karmei Tzur near Hebron for being in possession of a knife. She surrendered the knife to a security guard at the entrance of the settlement and was arrested without incident.

She was sentenced to four months’ imprisonment as part of a plea deal in which she was convicted of attempted manslaughter. The Israel Prison Service agreed to release the 12 year old two months before the end of her sentence, however, after an appeal by her parents and a growing international campaign.

The case highlighted the separate legal systems that Palestinian and Jewish children are subject to in the West Bank. Al-Wawi, a Palestinian, was sent to prison under military law.

A Jewish child of the same age living on the same land and accused of the same crime would be subject to Israeli law, which forbids sending anyone under 14 to prison — the Jewish child would not be have been jailed.

Read also: Two legal systems — discrimination under military occupation

Al-Wawi ran to hug her parents as soon as she was released from the Israel Prison Service transport vehicle Sunday afternoon.

Dozens of Palestinian and international journalists and photographers rushed her and tried to get her to make a statement.

The 12-year-old girl had difficulty speaking but eventually said she wasn’t scared and that she hopes all Palestinian prisoners are released soon.

Her mother, Umm Rashid, told +972, “I am happy that she was released but am furious about the situation. I was angry the day she was arrested and on every one of the 75 days that she was in Israeli prison. She was a girl who was always happy and wanting to play and now she came out of prison scared and weak.”

“Maybe she had a knife when they arrested her but...

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Temple Mount activists 'practice' sacrifice in East Jerusalem

The practice run, ahead of what some groups believe will be the construction of a Third Temple, was co-ordinated by dozens of groups from the Temple Mount Movement — including those who call for the destruction of Muslim holy sites.

Warning: This article contains a graphic image of animal slaughter.

Text by Tali Janner-Klausner
Photos by Tali Mayer

A crowd of hundreds came to watch the fifth and largest tirgul korban pesach – an annual re-enactment, or “practice run” of the paschal lamb sacrifice that was the central ritual of the harvest festival of Passover during ancient times. The ceremony took place on Mt Scopus overlooking the Old City, in a Dati Leumi (religious Zionist) Yeshiva in Beit Orot, which is a Jewish settlement in the Palestinian neighborhood of at-Tur.

In the afternoon there was a panel discussion with several high-profile rabbis, as well as lectures covering in detail the practical aspects of recreating the ritual life of the Temple – for example, the challenge of sourcing the correct dyes for priestly robes. Outside children stroked the sheep and goats and teenage boys built an oven by the stage. A young man played the harp opposite a stand selling popcorn, hotdogs and candy-floss and some children ran around with a Lehava stickers on their clothing.

The ceremony was preceded by dramatic speeches and festive musical performances. Biblical passages describing each stage were read out as the Cohanim – men said to be descended from the priestly tribe – washed their feet and hands before pouring the blood of the animal onto the makeshift altar, accompanied by blasts of silver trumpets. Afterwards, the cooked meat was shared out among the attendees; the Passover offering of ancient times was unusual in being consumed by all of the people, not only by the priestly caste.

Read also: The fraud that is the Temple Mount movement

The practice run was co-ordinated by dozens of groups from the Temple Mount Movement, with a broad range of religious backgrounds and political strategies represented. There are those that call for the violent destruction of Muslim sites of worship; others work within the remit of Israeli law and deploy a civil and religious rights rhetoric to expand Jewish prayer access to the the Temple Mount (Haram al-Sharif). However the distinctions between these camps are not always clear cut.

Alongside Religious Zionists there were...

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Palestinians protest surge in home demolitions by Israeli army

The Israeli army has displaced more Palestinians since the start of this year than it did in all of 2015, the UN reports. Dozens protest the fourth such demolition in Khirbet Tana in recent months.

By Ahmad al-Bazz / Activestills.org

Around 100 Palestinians protested the Israeli army’s stepped-up campaign of home demolitions by holding Friday prayers in front of a partly demolished mosque in Khirbet Tana, a small village east of Nabus. The mosque dates back to Ottoman times.

A total of 54 structures were demolished in nine Palestinian communities across the West Bank on Thursday alone, displacing 124 people, including 60 children, according to the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). On Wednesday the army demolished six structures in the Palestinian village of Umm el-Kheir.

Read also: IDF admits discriminating against Palestinians in home demolitions

The most recent demolition in Khirbet Tana Thursday, which was the fourth demolition in the village this year, destroyed several tents, homes and livestock structures. The army also confiscated one car, a tractor and some water tanks.

Several decades ago Israeli military authorities declared Khirbet Tana and the surrounding area as a live-fire army training zone, a tactic Israel uses in various parts of the West Bank to push Palestinian communities out.

UN Coordinator for Humanitarian and Development Activities for the occupied Palestinian territory Robert Piper visited the village in late March.

“It’s hard to see how demolitions like the ones in Khirbet Tana are about anything other than pushing vulnerable Palestinians out of certain parts of the West Bank,” Piper said at the time.

Research by OCHA shows that some 18 percent of the West Bank is designated as military training areas, although “nearly 80 percent of such military areas are not used for training.”

In 2014, a senior IDF officer admitted in a Knesset committee meeting that the army uses live-fire zones as a method for displacing Palestinians from areas in which it does not want them, or in other words, for political purposes.

Speaking at the protest on Friday, Abu Mahmoud Hanani, a resident of Khirbet Tana said, “This is an ongoing campaign to uproot us from this land even though we were living here even before the creation of Israel.”

Another resident, Rasem Hussein took a resilient tone: “we are used to this kind of Israeli occupation demolitions. It will never force us to leave.”

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Anti-war activists disrupt Israeli weapons conference

Anti-war activists disrupt the International Air Conference, which was dedicated to the Israeli Air Force’s latest purchase: 33 F-35 fighter aircrafts.

Photos by Oren Ziv / Activestills.org

Conference goers at the “The International Air Conference,” the vast majority of them men dressed in suits and ties — did not expect to see a group of anti-war activists on Sunday morning at the Tel Aviv Hilton.

The activists, who belong to Coalition of Women for Peace, held up signs in Hebrew and English reading, “The next war starts here.” The demonstration came to an end after security guards and police officers intervened.

This year’s conference, organized by Israel Defense and the Fisher Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies, focused on the Israeli Air Force’s new purchase: 33 F-35 Fighters. According to conference organizers, the aircraft is a “war machine in itself.” The goal of the conference is to form connections between the heads of the security industry and researchers, developers, project managers and weapons experts from Israel and the world.

Israel purchased the fighters from Lockheed Martin for over $120 million per plane with U.S. military aid following heavy American pressure. The deal is a clear example of the cooperation between Israel and the U.S.’s security industries, which takes advantage of the security situation in Israel in order to push through deals on experimental military equipment.

Israel is one of the largest weapons exporters in the world, and the conflict with its neighbors provides fertile ground for developing an array of weapons. From the moment a weapon is used by the Israeli army and is battle-tested, its worth on the global market goes up.

Tanya Rubenstein, who heads the Coalition’s “Hamushim” project — which investigates Israel’s security industry — told +972 Magazine: “We are here to expose the fact that generals and decision-makers are meeting here with businessmen in order to launch the countdown to the next war. This war will include using the new F-35 plan, whose simulator can be found here in the conference. This will promote its sale around the world, after it establishes its reputation with the blood of the victims from the coming war.”

This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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PHOTOS: Thousands take part in Palestine Marathon for free movement

Israel denies permits to over 100 runners from Gaza. ’Freedom of movement is not only a right in itself, but is essential for the enjoyment of many other human rights,’ the United Nations says of the fourth annual marathon.

Photos by Ahmad al-Bazz/Activestills.org
Text by Michael Schaeffer Omer-Man

Thousands of Palestinian and international runners from 64 countries participated in the fourth annual Palestine Marathon in the West Bank city of Bethlehem Friday morning. The run was held under the banner of the right to freedom of movement, a theme that was accented by Israel’s concrete separation wall along which much of the route was forced to follow.

Mervin Steenkamp of South Africa won the race with a 2:35:26 finish.

The marathon, which started at the Church of the Nativity in Manger Square and passed through two refugee camps, Aida and Dheisheh, included two full loops. The wall, along with the Israeli military checkpoints that surround Bethlehem and nearby villages and towns, made finding a full marathon route difficult if not impossible.

The Israeli army had 96 permanent checkpoints in the West Bank as of April 2015, according to Israeli human rights group B’Tselem. Only 39 of those checkpoints separate the West Bank from Israel; the rest restrict Palestinian movement within the occupied territory.

In addition to manned checkpoints, Israeli troops deploy hundreds of physical obstructions (roadblocks, mounds of dirt, etc.) hampering free Palestinian movement inside the West Bank.

Israeli security forces have deployed some 90 new obstacles to Palestinian movement in the West Bank since the latest round of violence began in October 2015, according a UN study conducted in the last week of December.

Some restrictions have since been eased, although Israel in recent months has repeatedly implemented a policy of putting entire villages under days-long lockdowns following stabbing attacks perpetrated by residents from those locations. Considering that the perpetrators themselves are either taken into custody or killed during the attacks, such moves can be seen only as collective punishment.

“Freedom of movement is not only a right in itself, but is essential for the enjoyment of many other human rights,” the office of the UN Coordinator for Humanitarian Aid and Development Activities said in a statement on Friday. “Restrictions on freedom of movement imposed by Israel on the occupied Palestinian territory permeate almost all facets of everyday life and continue to separate Palestinians and...

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PHOTOS: Israelis hold Purim rally for jailed conscientious objectors

Israeli demonstrators gather in central Tel Aviv to support Tair Kaminer and Ayden Katri, two Israeli conscientious objectors who refuse to serve in the army because of its actions in the occupied territories. 

Dozens of Israelis demonstrated last Thursday in central Tel Aviv in support of two Israeli conscientious objectors, one of whom is currently serving time in military prison.

The demonstration, which coincided with the Jewish holiday of Purim — when Jews typically celebrate by dressing in costume — was organized in support of Tair Kaminer, who has sat in prison for a total of 75 days and is expected to be sentenced to another term next week, as well as Ayden Katri, a 19-year-old transgender conscientious objector from the city of Holon, who is expected to be officially enlisted on Tuesday.

Both Kaminer and Katri have stated their opposition to the occupation, and their hopes to build bridges of peace between Israelis ands Palestinians.

MK Dov Khenin (Joint List) was present at the demonstration, telling the crowd that “conscientious objection does not threaten our society; the biggest threat to our society is unconscionable obedience.”

Protest organizer Noa Levy told +972, “On a day in which an 18-year-old soldier shoots a wounded, helpless Palestinian to death, we see how the army is sending young people into impossible situations of occupation and terror that turns them into murderers. We demonstrated in Tel Aviv in solidarity with Tair Kaminer and Ayden Katri, two conscientious objectors who present a counter model to all Israeli teens as well as a more optimistic way for the entire Israeli public — the way of peace.”

MK Dov Khenin (Joint List) speaks to demonstrators at a rally to support conscientious objectors, central Tel Aviv, March 24, 2016. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

MK Dov Khenin (Joint List) speaks to demonstrators at a rally to support conscientious objectors, central Tel Aviv, March 24, 2016. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Kaminer, 19, recently finished a year of national service with the Israeli Scouts (“Tzofim”) in the southern development town of Sderot. There she volunteered with children who suffer from trauma due to multiple wars in Gaza and continual rocket fire on the city. “The children I worked with grew up in the heart of the conflict and have had extremely difficult...

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PHOTOS: IDF demolishes Palestinian homes in occupied Jordan Valley

Demolitions take place in two areas of the West Bank as Israel’s High Court prepared to hear a high-profile case on the matter.

Photos by Ahmad Al-Bazz/Activestills.org
Text by Haggai Matar

The Israeli army demolished 17 structures, including family homes, in the Khirbet Tana, an impoverished Palestinian hamlet in the occupied Jordan Valley on Wednesday.

This was the third time Israeli forces demolished homes in Khirbet Tana in recent months, according to Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, including shelters that were donated for families made homeless by previous demolitions.

Israeli authorities refuse to connect the village to the electricity or water grids or approve any building permits.

Elsewhere, the Israeli army’s Civil Administration, the military government ruling over Palestinians, confiscated solar panels and demolished several structures in another impoverished Palestinian community, Khirbet Jenbah on Tuesday.

That seizure, of solar panels donated by international humanitarian agencies, took place a day before a case on Khirbet Jenbah and 11 other surrounding villages was set to take place in Israel’s High Court of Justice.

The solar panels are intended to provide electricity to Palestinian communities that Israel refuses to connect to the power grid because they do not have building permits and zoning master plans — which the army refuses to approve. The army has declared the area a live-fire training zone, “Firing Zone 918,” a designation human rights groups say is illegal.

The Israeli army has dramatically increased the number of home demolitions in the West Bank since the start of 2016, especially in the Jordan Valley and South Hebron Hills, where Khirbet Jenbah is located. February saw the most demolitions in seven years.


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PHOTOS: A year of women's struggles in Palestine and Israel

They confronted Israeli soldiers in the West Bank and police in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square, opposed the occupation, violence against women, and fought against racism and police brutality. A year of women’s struggles.

Photos: Anne Paq, Ahmad Al-Bazz, Faiz Abu-Rmeleh, Mohannad Darabee, Mohannad Saleem, Oren Ziv, Yotam Ronen, Keren Manor
Photo Editing: Keren Manor


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PHOTOS: Palestinian teachers shut down Ramallah

Palestinian teachers in the West Bank have been on strike for the past month — yet neither the Palestinian nor Israeli media seem to care.

Photos and text: Oren Ziv / Activestills.org

Nearly 10,000 Palestinian teachers demonstrated in Ramallah for better working conditions Monday, the largest such demonstration the West Bank has seen since the anti-Gaza war protests in 2014.

Protesters gathered in front of the local government offices and marched to Manara Square in central Ramallah through the city’s main thoroughfares while chanting “They won’t be able to break our teachers.”

The protest took place on the fourth week of a mass teacher’s strike across the West Bank — the largest workers action in the occupied territories in the last few years — for higher salaries (veteran teachers earn approximately $615 per month).

Palestinian police, under orders of the Palestinian Authority, prepared to block the streets leading to the government offices. However, the police could not hold back the demonstration, which shut down the West Bank’s economic capital.

Like in previous protests, Palestinian police erected checkpoints at the entrance to Ramallah and in the city’s main streets. Many teachers who were prevented from taking part in last week’s demonstration arrived in Ramallah the previous night in order to participate in the protest the following day. According to several reports, Palestinian police detained and even beat a number of protesters traveling on the road that connects Bethlehem to Ramallah. A teacher at the protest joked that his friends from Nablus found a way out of the city that was not blocked by the Israeli army, yet had to wait at a Palestinian checkpoint upon entering Ramallah.

“We have been suffering for over 20 years,” Adib Fadel, a schoolteacher in the village Aqraba near Nablus, told +972 Magazine. “There are 40,000 teachers in the West Bank, and we demand justice from the Palestinian Authority — our salaries do not allow us to make a decent living. A standard salary is NIS 2,000 per teacher. This is not enough for food or even to put clothes on our children’s backs. We have been on strike for over a year and have not stopped.”

“Prime Minister [Rami] Hamdallah told us ‘wait until we find oil in Ramallah, and then we’ll pay gratuities to the teachers,’ but we are not in Saudi Arabia and there is no oil here. The students, teachers, and community...

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A Month in Photos: Israel/Palestine, February 2016

Photos by: Ahmad Al-Bazz, Oren Ziv, Faiz Abu Rmeleh, Keren Manor, Photo editing: Anka Mirkin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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PHOTOS: What it's like to ‘commute’ through an Israeli army checkpoint

Thousands of Palestinians who have entry permits, along with residents of East Jerusalem cut off by the separation wall, must pass through the Israeli military’s Qalandiya checkpoint every morning and evening in order to go to work, school, do shopping, receive medical care and visit family members. The following is a small snapshot of what that means for the individuals forced to endure its humiliation on just one morning.

Photos by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org

 

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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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Illustrations: Eran Mendel