+972 Magazine » Dahlia Scheindlin http://972mag.com Independent commentary and news from Israel & Palestine Mon, 30 Nov 2015 14:33:38 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8 Israelis only understand force — and it makes them angrier, polls show http://972mag.com/israelis-only-understand-force-and-it-makes-them-angrier-polls-show/113354/ http://972mag.com/israelis-only-understand-force-and-it-makes-them-angrier-polls-show/113354/#comments Thu, 29 Oct 2015 14:25:26 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=113354 New polls find that a majority of Jewish Israelis support the ‘voluntary transfer’ of West Bank Palestinians, a majority want to strip East Jerusalem Palestinians of Israeli residency. It’s true that most peace efforts followed war and violence — but not because the Israeli public wants them. Even in times of crisis, a brave leader can change all that.

Israeli army soldiers take part in the search operation for three kidnapped Israeli teenagers, on June 17, 2014 in the West Bank town of Hebron. (File photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Israeli army soldiers march through the Palestinian city of Hebron,  June 17, 2014. [Archive photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

The latest crisis of violence has become a successful campaign of terror: Israelis are profoundly shaken. Many have reverted to the Second Intifada mentality of personal risk calculations based on self-selected danger factors and fingers in the wind. People avoid Jerusalem and buses, and innocent people have been killed in frenzied anticipation of attacks.


It is too early to know what the lasting impact of the current violence will be, but Israeli attitudes being documented in real time raise some longstanding questions: is violence the only thing that shakes Israeli complacency and makes Israelis consider concessions? Or does it spark an eye-for-an-eye mentality?

A majority of Jewish Israelis supported giving up on the Palestinian areas of Jerusalem in two recent polls – 66 percent in a Maariv poll from mid-October, and 56 percent in a small poll of 300 Israelis for the Knesset channel, published in late October (Channel 2 reported 50 percent from the same survey). The reporting does not specify whether the sample includes Arabs, instead referring to “the Israeli public” – although it is a small sample with a nearly six percent margin of error.

Giving up parts of Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem has generally been considered a center-left position. It reflects the vision of the Oslo, Camp David and Clinton/Geneva two-state negotiations in which the city would be divided so that two states can have their capitals there.

Does this mean Israeli society has tacked to the left? If so, is it true that “Israelis only understand force?” (Of course Israeli Jews are also deeply committed to the image that Palestinians and Arabs only understand force. It is this axiomatic belief that the Right uses to advocate military action as the answer to nearly all political dilemmas.)

Some Israeli analysts insist that Israel has only ever made concessions or advanced peace negotiations after wars: the 1973 Yom Kippur War led to the first Camp David negotiations in 1977 and ultimately the peace agreement with Egypt; the First Intifada led Yitzhak Rabin to realize that the occupation must eventually end and pursued Oslo; the Second Intifada led Israel to withdraw, partly, from Gaza. In the most detailed book on public opinion during the Second Intifada, veteran Palestinian pollster Khalil Shikaki and Israeli academic Jacob Shamir showed that during the most violent years of the Second Intifada, public support for certain concessions such as withdrawing from settlements rose, and Ariel Sharon’s disengagement plan from Gaza emerged at this time with high support.

But the other side is that violence enrages Israelis. The mentality of reprisal floods the national consciousness and Israelis believe they must hit back hard to crush them – whatever “crush” and whoever “them” means. Shamir and Shikaki also found that during the most intense phases of violence in the early 2000s, support for tougher military action against Palestinians increased. The near-consensus support, often upwards of 80 percent, that Israelis displayed for all three wars in Gaza are further evidence that for Israelis, the only answer to rocket fire on civilians is a heavy military response.

Israelis gather on a hill to watch  the Israeli army attacks on rhe Gaza strip, and rockets that are fired from Gaza to Israel, near the city of Sderot, July 15, 2014.

Israelis gather on a hill to watch the Israeli army attacks on the Gaza strip, and rockets that are fired from Gaza to Israel, near the city of Sderot, July 15, 2014.

Further, one look at the last decade of elections shows that since the Second Intifada, Israelis have voted almost consistently for right-wing governments. This cannot be disconnected from the perception that left-wing political visions are irrelevant in the face of what the public perceives as exclusively Palestinian violence.

In other words, Israelis may express some declarative support for concessions when the price of violence is particularly high. But over the last decade, there have been two major qualifications.

First, they simultaneously embrace conditions that preclude reaching those concessions: undertaking harsh military action that can be a game changer in itself, and voting for politicians who are unlikely to advance real negotiations – which are viewed broadly as a matter of giving gifts to terrorists.

Second, the kinds of concessions Israelis tend to support at these times are piecemeal, aimed at patching up bleeding wounds rather than addressing root causes. Israelis do not wish to transfer areas of East Jerusalem like Kufr Aqab to the PA as a goodwill gesture or a way to reach a two-state solution. They want to get rid of these areas because Jewish Israelis never go there anyway and they hope that cutting off a diseased limb might save the patient. (To be clear, that is how Israelis see it, not my personal opinion.)

At the same time, another ominous trend is setting in: like in other countries, the wartime mentality leads to even greater disregard for democratic norms, and civil and human rights.

Fully 58 percent of the public polled for the Knesset Channel supported revoking the permanent residency status of East Jerusalem Palestinians – the equivalent of stripping someone of their citizenship, except that these people are already stateless.

In the Maariv poll, nearly 70 percent of the Jewish population supported a detailed plan to get rid of specific Palestinian neighborhoods and revoke the residents’ Israeli ID cards, stop providing social services (already far inferior to the services provided to Jews in Jerusalem and elsewhere), while allowing full freedom of military action for Israeli security services in the Palestinian neighborhoods “just like in Judea and Samaria,” Maariv reported.  It was essentially a question asking whether Israelis support expanding the occupation.

That same survey, for reasons hard to comprehend other than sensationalism, tested Jewish Israeli support for a “voluntary transfer” plan for “the Arabs of Judea and Samaria” advocated by the late far-right minister Rehavam Ze’evi, who was assassinated in 2001. Another strong majority of Jews, 58 percent, supported the idea.

Nearly 80 percent in the Knesset Channel poll also expressed support for house demolitions for the families of terrorists – though an IDF study concluded that this fails to deter – and Avigdor Liberman ranked first as the person Israelis would like to see in charge of security. It is therefore no surprise that three-quarters in the same survey said that a single bi-national state cannot be democratic. Yet there was no no outcry when Netanyahu recently stated that Israel must continue controlling all the territory for the meantime – a situation that is far less democratic than one state where all are citizens, even if they are not equal.

The Maariv analysis concluded that Israelis don’t mind pulling left or right – the goal is to “get rid” of Arabs. But I read this as a deep-siege mentality in which symptomatic treatment is preferable to underlying solutions, and democratic norms are thrown by the wayside, considered irrelevant at best, traitorous at worst. The danger is clear: the non-democratic mindset is leaking into other aspects of Israeli society, from the treatment of Palestinian-Arab citizens, to freedom of expression – and we can scarcely afford any further erosion. There should be no illusion that this violence will push Israeli Jews away from right-wing hardline attitudes, despite the fact that the associated policies have been a spectacular failure.

Finally, there is perhaps the most important takeaway: leadership matters. After the the peace treaty with Egypt public opinion shifted dramatically toward support for giving back the Sinai; after Oslo it shifted dramatically toward support for a Palestinian state. But by the same logic, Netanyahu’s suggestion of revoking residency for East Jerusalem Palestinians lends tremendous legitimacy to a fundamentally wrong idea that permanent residency can be stripped just like that – simply because Israel never granted full citizenship to people on the land it annexed.

Netanyahu’s power of persuasion may be frightening — but it goes both ways. More than anyone else in the past decade, Netanyahu could have legitimized a negotiated peace agreement. The fact that he has not is inexcusable.

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Jerusalem becoming mini-police state and ghost capital http://972mag.com/jerusalem-becoming-mini-police-state-and-ghost-capital/113003/ http://972mag.com/jerusalem-becoming-mini-police-state-and-ghost-capital/113003/#comments Tue, 20 Oct 2015 13:05:19 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=113003 As tension rises in Jerusalem, Israelis stay away and debate how to resolve problems there while ignoring the West Bank and Gaza. It can’t be done.

Israeli police stop and inspect Palestinian residents of Jerusalem as they enter and exit their neighborhood, Issawiya, East Jerusalem, October 15, 2015. Following a spate of over a dozen stabbing attacks carried out by Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, Israel blocked off and erected checkpoints at the entrances and exits of most Palestinian neighborhoods of Jerusalem. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Israeli police stop and inspect Palestinian residents of Jerusalem as they enter and exit their neighborhood, Issawiya, East Jerusalem, October 15, 2015. Following a spate of over a dozen stabbing attacks carried out by Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, Israel blocked off and erected checkpoints at the entrances and exits of most Palestinian neighborhoods of Jerusalem. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

It has become common over the last few days to hear that, ironically, the political Right is dividing Jerusalem and not the Left, putting up blockades around Palestinian neighborhoods in response to a spate of attacks. But after two visits to the city this week, it feels like this isn’t just about separating the Palestinian and Israeli neighborhoods — Jerusalem is increasingly divided from Israel itself.


Last week, a colleague who works in Jerusalem proposed a meeting at a Tel Aviv café – he said he wouldn’t dream of dragging anyone to Jerusalem these days. A friend had planned her son’s Bar Mitzvah at the Western Wall, but moved it to Rehovot south of Tel Aviv. After attending a peace demonstration in Jerusalem Saturday night, I returned on Monday to speak on a panel. Organizers were worried about attendance. Apparently some people planning to travel from elsewhere had canceled, saying they had families and couldn’t take the risk.

Due to road work, cellular navigation apps automatically route drivers to Highway 443, which runs through the West Bank, rather than the main road from Tel Aviv. There have been scattered attacks on Highway 443 in recent months, but I decided to take it anyway, keeping my mind on the statistical odds. The road was empty – it could have been 2 a.m.

I have never seen less daytime traffic on the ring road around Jerusalem, or in the perennial car-swamp area of Talpiot. Only later, stuck in long strings of vehicles inching out of Palestinian neighborhoods, did I realize that Palestinian and Jewish areas that are adjacent, or intertwined, are one big jam.

I drove to the sprawling neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber to see the fresh-looking concrete panels that had been erected the previous day, a harbinger of more walls running through the city. The area lies next to the Jewish neighborhood Armon Hanatsiv –formally called East Talpiot. The website of Jerusalem’s municipality writes: “The construction policy [in East Talpiot] emphasizes the establishment of satellite neighborhoods to boost the Jewish population of the city, making it unnecessary of build additional… Jewish neighborhoods in the city.”

The lovely, landscaped promenade in Armon Hanatsiv overlooks the Old City. It is now dotted with olive-uniformed Border Police officers, jeeps and swirling lights. I turn down a lumpy and gouged road that descends sharply towards one part of Jabel Mukaber. When a car approaches in the other direction, one of us had to stop – there was no room for two cars. By the road there is a small cluster of young guys hanging around, tinkering with an open engine.

I address one of them in English, hoping for directions. He asks me to switch to Hebrew, and explains that the wall was in a different part of the neighborhood. In this part, he says, things are quiet. “I don’t go to al-Aqsa, so everything is OK. Why go?” he says. “I don’t pray. I drink. I used to live in Tel Aviv, for three years – I worked at the bar at Oman 17” – a legendary Tel Aviv mega club – “and I loved that.”

How will all this violence end? I ask. “Just let people move around,” he says, sheepishly. Israeli officials say the new wall is only temporary; I ask if he thinks it may actually become permanent. “There are Jews there,” he answers. “Where there are Jews, they will not have a wall.”

He holds traffic while I make an awkward three-point turn and climb back up the road.

Israeli police stop and check a Palestinian man exiting the Jabel Mukaber neighborhood of East Jerusalem, October 15, 2015. Following a spate of over a dozen stabbing attacks carried out by Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, Israel blocked off and erected checkpoints at the entrances and exits of most Palestinian neighborhoods of Jerusalem. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Israeli police stop and check a Palestinian man exiting the Jabel Mukaber neighborhood of East Jerusalem, October 15, 2015. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

At the other entrance to Jabel Mukaber there are enormous concrete cubes in the street, placed so cars have to weave slowly around them. A group of heavily armed Border Police eye all the cars, stopping some.

The few shops are empty. Two Palestinian men are sitting outside a grocery silently. The older one reflexively hands me half of the orange he has just peeled. The other is drinking a beer. I ask how they feel, but they aren’t much in the mood for conversation. The older one gazes at me sullenly and says a few halting words in English. “What do you think?”

The tall white slabs, a sort of disembodied piece of wall, have been plunked down right on a corner. Behind them a newly constructed house, nearly completed, is now practically sealed off from the street.

A Palestinian man walks past a newly erected temporary concrete wall that  in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber October 19, 2015. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

A Palestinian man walks past a newly erected temporary concrete wall that in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber October 19, 2015. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

The other side of the street is Armon Hanatsiv. Border Police sit on that side, looking down on the scattered people, a large Israeli flag hung over them on a fence. It looms in front of anyone emerging from Jabel Mukaber.

At the turnoff where the piece of a wall stands there is a second barrier. The massive gray blocks are placed closer together so that vehicles cannot pass. The openings are slim even for a person.

Something happens when you cross the blocks. There is a sense of being in a different country, world, or planet. It is oddly quiet, since there is no traffic. The physical landscape is ragged — blackened rubbish and overturned trash bins line the road along with small rocks and a traces of a burnt stench.

Israeli police and Border Police at a road block closing the entrance to the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber, October 15, 2015. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Israeli police and Border Police at a road block closing the entrance to the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber, October 15, 2015. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Four women in head coverings are waiting by the blockade. One of them, Nisreen, tells me they teach in a school here, but they live in different neighborhoods. They had to park some distance away because of the new barrier, so they are are waiting to be picked up by friends and driven back to their cars.

A steady trickle of drivers arrives from the main street. They approach the turnoff, peer out the window at the blocks, and curse. Where will they go? I ask an older man from the neighborhood. “The long way around. Maybe down the small road. Maybe they will have an accident.” I think of the steep gouged downhill road that couldn’t handle two cars side by side.

Behind her smart eye makeup and hijab, Nisreen looks weary. Everyone is scared, all the time, she says. “It’s not comfortable to walk around and have police pointing guns at your head.” She adds, “in America, do you see the videos of what is happening here? Do you see how the soldiers sometimes even pass things to one another, and pass a knife and put it by the person they killed?”

After she leaves, a platoon suddenly appears. Roughly 20 Border Police officers and navy-clad police special forces brandish weapons in the air, stride past the tight blockade and into the residential neighborhood. One of them wears a black mask over his face.

Israeli security forces enter Jabel Mukaber, a Palestinian neighborhood of Jerusalem (Photo: Dahlia Scheindlin, 19 October 2015)

Israeli security forces enter Jabel Mukaber, a Palestinian neighborhood of East Jerusalem, October 19, 2015. (Photo: Dahlia Scheindlin)

Some fan out in loose lines. The others disappear into the streets.

Border guards at the entrance to Jabel Mukaber neighborhood of Jerusalem (Photo: Dahlia Scheindlin, 19 October, 2015)

Border guards at the entrance to Jabel Mukaber neighborhood of East Jerusalem, October 19, 2015. (Photo: Dahlia Scheindlin)

A routine is quickly established: The outer line stops every Palestinian who wants to go home, people returning after school, from university or their jobs. Each person – while I was there, mostly men – walks toward the soldiers. They motion to stop. He points and says, but I live right there. Just to the left, just to the right, just a few houses down. The soldiers say “five minutes” – all in Hebrew.

The men stand still as they talk, making no sudden moves. They step back and wait. Some children are let through. Eventually the soldiers call one, look at his papers, then yell or use their devices to tell the next line down that the person is approved to go home. A few minutes later another one is allowed, and so on.

An Israeli Border Police officer stops and inspects Palestinians trying to leave their East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya, October 15, 2015. Police erected checkpoints at the entrances and exits of almost all Palestinian neighborhoods of Jerusalem, a form of collective punishment following a spate of stabbing attacks. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

An Israeli Border Police officer stops and inspects Palestinians trying to return to their East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya, October 15, 2015. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

One of them is a nursing student in Bir Zeit university. He says he doesn’t know what the soldiers might be doing, but like a few others waiting around, he guesses they are measuring a house prior to demolition, or serving a demolition order.

It is hot and unusually humid for Jerusalem. Time, or something, ticks slowly as we stand there; finally, a soldier motions for him to come over. He talks to the student, looks at his papers, and pats his back as he allows him to walk through.

This is a quiet day: only one Palestinian, an older woman, has died at a checkpoint.

The rest of the day in the rest of Jerusalem is normal, but quiet. The swirling police lights are everywhere; sirens echo regularly through the hills.

Israelis appear agitated about the changing reality in the city. There has been speculation in the press about how to solve Jerusalem: grant the Palestinian residents full citizenship? Get rid of the neighborhoods, hand those areas to the West Bank authorities (whoever they are), and revoke Israeli permanent residency from the Palestinians there?

The problem is, that’s like asking how to solve Gaza: it can’t be done. There can be no resolution by addressing only one piece of the Palestinian community. The disengagement plan from Gaza failed because it was isolated from any larger political vision. The separation policy between Gaza and the West Bank failed to break the notion of a cohesive Palestinian entity in half and it cannot be broken into thirds. No wall, full patriation, or “getting rid” of Jerusalemites will make a genuine difference until the overall political, civil, human rights and humanitarian problem of the Palestinian people is addressed. The Israeli leadership steadfastly resists knowing this.

In the meantime, Jerusalem at present looks like mini-police state isolated from the rest of Israel. And it is already cut off for the majority of West Bank Palestinians by a strict permit regime.

It turned out that the German moderator of the panel event lives in Bonn. She and her husband explained that the city is still sore over losing its status as capital following reunification. The large-scale government infrastructure remains, six ministries and other venues such as an opera house far beyond what Bonn can fill. It sounds to me like a ghost capital, I said. Yes! They agreed. That is how it feels.

I left Jerusalem wondering whether it is a ghost-capital of a different sort in the making.

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Poll: Most Jewish Israelis think Arab citizens support terrorism http://972mag.com/poll-most-jewish-israelis-think-arab-citizens-support-terrorism/112877/ http://972mag.com/poll-most-jewish-israelis-think-arab-citizens-support-terrorism/112877/#comments Sat, 17 Oct 2015 16:01:23 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=112877 A new poll suggests regular people are now viewing everyone in the ‘other’ ethnic-national group as a violent threat. Is that an indication of the national conflict becoming an ethnic one?

Illustrative photo of Israelis taking a shooting class in a Jerusalem gun shop, October 15, 2015. A number of Israeli leaders have called on citizens to arm themselves in response to a wave of Palestinian stabbing attacks, and the owner of this shop reported an increase in demand for personal weapons. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Illustrative photo of Israelis taking a shooting class in a Jerusalem gun shop, October 15, 2015. A number of Israeli leaders have called on citizens to arm themselves in response to a wave of Palestinian stabbing attacks, and the owner of this shop reported an increase in demand for personal weapons. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Over three-quarters of Israeli Jews believe that either some (37 percent), most (33 percent)  or all (8 percent) Arab Israelis support the terror of recent weeks, according to a poll published by Israeli news site Maariv on Thursday. Just one-fifth (19 percent) of Jews said that “only a minority (of Arab citizens) support it and the majority oppose” the violence. The wording reflects how the survey was reported in Maariv; the Jewish sample included 503 respondents and a 4.3 percent margin of error; the Arab sample was 304 respondents, with a 5.2 percent margin of error.

The dramatic numbers reflect what I believe is a dangerous shift in the nature of the conflict. The fighting was once primarily over statehood, borders, territory, resources with embedded layers of identity, religion and ethnicity. Now regular people are committing violence primarily based on ethnic or national identity. The survey shows that Jews view anyone associated with the other ethnic-national group as prepared to commit violence against them.


The individual Palestinian attacks on civilians are a statement that for those regular Palestinians – not just members of terror organizations – Jews rather than just soldiers, are targets.

When regular people view all other regular people of the other group as a violent threat or target, it is open ethnic conflict.

Mass hostilities that characterize ethnic conflict are driven by rumor. The very idea that 78 percent of Jews broadly see Arab citizens as supporting the terror helps fuel the violent attacks that have been committed against Arabs in recent weeks.

But only two Palestinian citizens out of 1.7 million living inside Israel proper have actually been involved in attacking Israeli Jews. One brandished a knife, not actually stabbing anyone, before she was shot and wounded by security forces in Afula. Palestinians in East Jerusalem who received citizenship are not included in this count, since their lives and experiences are radically different from those who grew up as part of Israel.

The survey shows further indications that Israeli Jews view their fellow citizens who are Arab as inextricable from the violence. Over six in ten (61 percent) support an economic boycott against all Arab citizens of Israel despite the fact that only one in 750,000, way fewer than 99.9 percent, have committed no violence against other Israelis.

Nearly one-third of Israeli Jews (30 percent) say they have become more right-wing during the violence, a political attitude that in recent years is heavily associated with anti-Arab sentiment, not just hardline attitudes regarding negotiations and concessions.

How do Arab Palestinian citizens feel in the midst of the violence and hostility? Fully two-thirds (65 percent) of the Arab respondents of the survey – citizens of Israel – said they don’t feel safe in Jewish communities in Israel (the word “yishuvim” describes anything from a city to a town or small community). In other words, most Arabs don’t feel safe in most of the country.

Many feel leaderless: fewer than half, 41 percent, feel the Arab parliamentarians don’t represent them. Forty percent think the MKs do represent them – an even split. One reason has to do with the fact that Arab MKs inevitably disappoint them. Palestinians of Israel commonly believe that Arab parliamentarians have no real power; Arab parties on their own have never been part of the executive branch, Israel’s governing coalition.

However, it is notable that when asked about what kind of political framework they would like to live in, the strong majority of Arabs chose something reflecting a two-state solution: 11 percent cited “Israel as it is now,” 48 percent – the strong plurality – prefers Israel within the pre-’67 borders next to an independent Palestinian state – for a total of 59 percent.

Another 14 percent choose a single bi-national state, and an eight-percent minority opted for a state that is part of a larger Islamic caliphate. Nearly one in five (19 percent) gave no answer.

From my conversations with Palestinian-Arab citizens, this reflects a very widespread approach perhaps underrepresented in the survey: that there is nothing worth hoping for by way of political solutions, and that the whole situation is hopeless.

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What are the odds? A statistical look at the stabbing attacks http://972mag.com/what-are-the-odds-a-statistical-look-at-the-stabbing-attacks/112875/ http://972mag.com/what-are-the-odds-a-statistical-look-at-the-stabbing-attacks/112875/#comments Sat, 17 Oct 2015 15:26:31 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=112875 The chances I will be harmed in a terror attack are very low. A tiny fraction of one percent of Palestinians are involved in recent terror attacks against Israelis, and hardly any are citizens of Israel.

Israeli police at the scene of a stabbing attack near a Police station in East Jerusalem, October 12, 2015. A Palestinian teenager was shot and seriously injured after she allegedly carried out an attack that wounded two Israelis. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Israeli police at the scene of a stabbing attack near a Police station in East Jerusalem, October 12, 2015. A Palestinian teenager was shot and seriously injured after she allegedly carried out an attack that wounded two Israelis. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Walking past Dizengoff Center in Tel Aviv recently on a crowded sidewalk full of jostling youngsters, I found myself imagining someone attacking me with a screwdriver. It had happened a few days earlier, about one kilometer away. I had a flash of alternate reality, imagining the sharp point digging into my back or side, and doubling over while catching a glimpse of a person running, being caught, pummeled or maybe shot as I fall. I wasn’t exactly scared but it felt detailed, almost physically real. Or maybe that’s what being scared is.

To rid my mind of the gruesome scenario, I considered the actual chances that it would happen.


I calculated. There have been eight Israelis killed in the recent wave of violence, which began on Rosh Hashana, just about one month ago. In 2015 so far, there have been 276 car fatalities, or an average of is 27.6 per month according to Israel’s traffic-safety advocacy group, Or Yarok. The monthly average will probably reach 28 by the time October is over. An Israeli is between three and four times more likely to be killed in a car accident than by a terrorist.

Out of a population of 8.3 million Israelis, that’s one for over a million people. However, many of these were in Jerusalem. If they had all died in Jerusalem, which is close to 900,000 people, that’s just over .00089 percent – or one out of every 112,500 people.

In addition, in the last two weeks, 92 Israelis were wounded, according to a tally published by Ynet a few days ago. That was before a false alarm about a terrorist on a crowded train led someone to pull the emergency break, causing some light injuries and great fear. The Israeli press reported that the injuries included panic attacks. Let’s approximate roughly 120 wounded, including those treated for panic episodes. That’s about .00144 percent of the total population of Israel, or one in every 69,167 people.

There have been about 27 such attacks against Israelis in the current wave of violence depending on exactly which incidents one counts: this includes 23 listed on Israel’s Foreign Ministry website, added to the stone-throwing death of Alexander Levlovich on the eve of Rosh Hashanah and three more from Friday. Since nearly all of them are “lone” attackers, we can count about 29 people – two of the attacks were perpetrated by two people – who attacked Israeli civilians and soldiers. The Henkin murders involved a cell. So let’s round the total up to 40.

Gaza and the West Bank contain about 4.5 million people. That’s one in 112,500 people who are involved in deadly attacks. Palestinians I’ve spoken to report that Hamas has been trying to foment violent action among West Bank Palestinians over the last year, without great success. After a year of trying, even a liberal estimate turns up only a few dozen people who have launched deadly Jewish Israelis.

Among Palestinian citizens of Israel, or Israeli-Arabs, two have been involved in this wave of violence, out of 1.7 million – not including any East Jerusalem attackers who may  turn out to have Israeli citizenship. Most East Jerusalemites are permanent residents and not Israeli citizens. As a percentage, Arab citizens participating in terror involve five zeroes after the decimal point — and the sixth digit is “1″.

I write this in no way to minimize each and every person harmed, killed, or even deeply shaken by proximity. The terrible feeling of being too close has stayed with me for 13 years, since the day a bomb went off a block away from me in Jerusalem. I am writing this as my small attempt to lower the level of panic, which is causing further damage in itself.

The vast majority of Palestinians, well over 99 percent, are not involved in the current deadly attacks.

Thirty-five Palestinians have been killed during this period, according to a report on Israel’s Army Radio at midday on Friday. Combining the different tallies available in news updates, about half were engaged in attacks – roughly 14 who committed or threatened a stabbing attack, and two used guns. The others, roughly 19, were killed during protests or while “disturbing the peace,” such as throwing rocks, maybe being near people who threw rocks or getting “too close” to the fence in Gaza. Palestinians, therefore, might logically conclude that Israel sees political protest and rock throwing as capital offenses, with no legal process.

The vast majority of Palestinian deaths, however, have not been perpetrated by Israeli civilians, fringe or otherwise, but rather by security forces. Data published by the New York Times on Thursday shows that even before the current round of violence, an average of nearly four Palestinians were killed every month between January and September of this year.

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Racial attack on Israeli TV crew a sign of extremism turning normal http://972mag.com/racial-attack-on-israeli-tv-crew-a-sign-of-extremism-turning-normal/112583/ http://972mag.com/racial-attack-on-israeli-tv-crew-a-sign-of-extremism-turning-normal/112583/#comments Sat, 10 Oct 2015 16:20:45 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=112583 An attack on a television news crew indicates that the violence of the far right has reached the heart of Israeli cities.

A television crew from Israel’s Channel 2 was attacked on Thursday evening by onlookers while covering a stabbing attack in the northern city of Afula. The reporter, Furat Nasser, is an Arab citizen, while the camera and sound man were Jewish. The men who surrounded them shoved and struck the sound man, who was later hospitalized. In the video men in the crowd can be heard cursing the police, the press, and Arabs. Channel 2 anchor Yonit Levy was visibly shaken as she spoke with Nasser; top media executives immediately condemned the incident.

But the attack did not happen in a vacuum. In just the few minutes of violence, several troubling currents in Israeli society clashed.

First, one of the people in the crowd shouts, “the police are shit,” as the shoving begins. The scuffling goes on and another one aims his words at Nasser – “Arab asshole.” Just before the end of the clip, another one says “take your cameras and leave – you guys coming in to film us – leave.”

In the emotional aftermath of a stabbing attack, why is the anger being pointed at the police? The Israeli right has long nurtured the perception that Israeli authorities are too lenient on Palestinians and do not sufficiently protect Jews – the towering example was the assassination Yitzhak Rabin. But the attitude is usually associated with radical fringes and extremist settlers. The far-right organization “Honenu,” which provides legal representation to Jews detained for violence against Palestinians, has a series of cartoon illustrations on its website; three of them are incendiary attacks on the police.

Screenshot of Honenu website (Dahlia Scheindlin, 10 October 2015)

Screenshot of Honenu website (Dahlia Scheindlin, 10 October 2015)

The Channel 2 attack indicates that far-right suspicions of the police are not limited to settlers, but have reached the heart of Israeli cities.

Similarly, the right in Israel has long held that the entire media has a left-wing bias. They view the liberal daily newspaper Haaretz as no different from the top-viewed television station Channel 2, which is geared at the most mainstream of Israeli viewers.

I have spoken to mainstream centrist and center-right Israelis who take it as a point of fact that the media is left-wing. What that means to these Israelis is that the press portrays religious Jews poorly. The media hates settlers and portrays them all as terrorists, troublemakers, extremists. Religious Jews and settlers are responsible for all that is wrong in society. The press sees Palestinians as the underdog.

The greatest resentment is reserved for the international press, on which there is practically a consensus of anti-Israel bias. The sense of being maligned in the international media therefore unifies rather than divides Israeli Jews.

Physical manifestations of that anger occur routinely. Just a couple of weeks ago, soldiers destroyed the equipment of Italian and Palestinian photographers in the West Bank. A few months earlier, there was a similar attack on journalists covering West Bank protests. In fact these attacks are fairly routine, but they are generally reported only when caught on film and rarely get any play in the Israeli press.

By contrast to the global media, hating the Israeli press corps is generally limited to the far right. But fringe attitudes are marching steadily towards the rest of the country. When Honenu publishes a cartoon illustrating the press roasting a settler and a soldier on a spit, the impact is apparently far-reaching.

Screenshot of Honenu website (Dahlia Scheindlin, 10 October 2015)

Screenshot of Honenu website (Dahlia Scheindlin, 10 October 2015)

In another Honenu cartoon, journalists are portrayed as headless – instead TV cameras and microphones emerge from their necks. In my interpretation, there is an implicit message that lopping off their heads would reduce the evil they do.

To paraphrase a United States Supreme Court judge, I can’t necessarily define incitement, but I know it when I see it. Honenu may be the extreme right, but it is one of the most commonly cited sources on Arutz 7, a mainstream right news media outlet. The Channel 2 attack no longer looks like an anomaly in this context.

But the racist element of the attack on a young Arab reporter indicates the greatest danger of all: that the political conflict is sliding into all-out ethnic war.

What’s the difference? It has always been an Arab-Israeli conflict, after all. Racism against the other ethnic group has always been a powerful dimension here.

But when ethnic identity becomes the basis for violence among ordinary people rather than specific political claims, things can get even worse. Ethnic conflict is no longer a typical war with institutions – states, armies, or militia groups – fighting organized militants on the other side. Rather, regular people go beyond racist attitudes and undertake vigilante violence against one another. It can be spontaneous, unorganized, individualized, and therefore harder to anticipate and control. It is fed by rumor, revenge cycles, and incitement. Simply belonging to the wrong ethnic group puts one at risk – whether one is a Palestinian combatant in the West Bank or a Palestinian-Israeli journalist inside Israel; whether one is an Israeli soldier actively fighting Palestinians, or a civilian in Kiryat Gat.

Once again, the origin of this slide lies in the margins. The right-wing Israeli press commonly refers to “Arabs” in news report rather than “Palestinians.” That is because the right is unwilling to acknowledge the national identity and the claim to statehood, but also to scramble any indicator of a political grievance behind the violence. Instead the right pins terrorism and violence on “Arabs,” implying, well, anyone who is Arab.

Palestinian rhetoric also frequently targets Jews – that is why there are often attacks on ultra-Orthodox people, who can be clearly identified. Whether one defines “Jewish” as an ethnicity or a religion is less relevant than the consequence – that all Jews become targets. Complicating things, far-right settlers leaders reinforce this by conspicuously using the term “Jewish” as a basis for Israeli political activity. A settler leader said that the “Jewish response” to the murder of a couple in the West Bank is more settlement construction; there are many similar examples.

I’ve often observed that occupation behavior does not stop at the Green Line. It now seems that the boundary between extremism and the mainstream is dissolving altogether.

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The right-wing solution for the violence http://972mag.com/the-right-wing-solution-for-the-violence/112562/ http://972mag.com/the-right-wing-solution-for-the-violence/112562/#comments Sat, 10 Oct 2015 09:13:52 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=112562 The Israeli Right has offered up legislation to deal with stone throwing, supported new settlements, and at times even championed annexation. The result has only led to a worsening security situation.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a situational security briefing at Jerusalem Police Headquarters amid growing unrest, October 7, 2015. (Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a situational security briefing at Jerusalem Police Headquarters amid growing unrest, October 7, 2015. (Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)

In the thick of a wave of violence between Israelis and Palestinians, Israelis are either looking backwards to figure out how we got here, or forward to see if tomorrow things will get worse. And tomorrow looks like a mystery; the Israeli media treats Palestinian violence like the autumn rains that began this week — it  comes and goes arbitrarily.


But what about the longer-term future? Is there any chance for a policy shift? After three wars in Gaza, nothing there fundamentally changed. Regarding the West Bank, several main policy approaches have emerged in recent days: from the broad left, the far right, and the prime minister, who reflects the mainstream right wing in Israel today.

The Israeli Left calls half-heartedly for a negotiated two-state solution. But there is a feeling in the air that they must apologize or keep silent for the special crime of believing that ending military rule through a negotiated political framework could reduce violence. Their voice is stifled, because at moments like these, Israelis view a two-state solution as a prize for violence, or at the very least, a generous concession Palestinians do not deserve.

The left’s all-but discredited approach hardly matters anyway, since it has no political power. The two streams of right-wing thinking are those that will determine Israeli policy now and for the foreseeable future.

The prime minister, as usual, indicates no overall vision regarding the future of the conflict. Instead, Netanyahu used his press conference on Thursday to insist that the current violence is not caused by settlements (or by extension, the occupation). He scoffed that the attackers inside the Green Line “just want to destroy.” He talked about protecting the security of Israeli citizens; nary a word about the long term. It is fair to conclude that there will be no change in his no-policy approach.

The response of the further-right — settlers and certain members of the Jewish Home party and Likud — involves several themes.

Get tough. Many demand a crackdown, as if Israel has been soft until now. Over the summer, Israel passed legislation stipulating sentences of 10-20 years’ prison time for different types of stone throwers. Now the security cabinet has decided to make it easier to shoot people who throw stones. House demolitions are back in use. Leaders have called on citizens with a gun license, the Jewish ones, to carry their weapons, encouraging them to be “ready” — generally understood as an instruction to shoot.  There is an atmosphere of increased legitimacy for killing attackers, which is understandable in the case of stopping an attack in the moment — but encourages light trigger-fingers against suspected and potential attackers, too.

A special forces policeman fires tear gas at protesters during clashes between Israeli Police and Palestinians at a protest calling to protect Al-Aqsa Mosque in Nazareth, October 8, 2015. (Omar Sameer/Activestills)

A special forces policeman fires tear gas at protesters during clashes between Israeli Police and Palestinians at a protest calling to protect Al-Aqsa Mosque in Nazareth, October 8, 2015. (Omar Sameer/Activestills)

I include these measures in an analysis of future policy because they will last long after the current cycle of violence is over. Should there be no other significant change, this is what people, particularly Palestinians, will feel most until the next escalation.

Build. There has been a floodgate of demand for settlement construction, from government ministers, settler leaders, and ordinary citizens. Some have used the opportunity to say settlements should be expanded in all situations, not only as a response to violence.

Annex. The term “window of opportunity” appears repeatedly in the right-wing press lately, among those who advocate annexing the entire West Bank. Noting that it is increasingly acceptable to consider extending Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank, Shlomit Goldin Halevy wrote in the right-wing outlet Arutz 7:, “After 48 years, we can say it out loud.”

Also in Arutz 7, Yehudit Katzover laid out his detailed plan for annexation: Palestinian civil autonomy in concentrated urban areas, with Israeli-supervised education and policing. “Arabs” will be given “the right to ask” for citizenship, which will be granted only under strict conditions such as loyalty declarations that will be tested every few years, “like in the U.S. and other advanced countries.” Never mind that a routine loyalty check-up for fully naturalized immigrants in the U.S. is nonsense; anyway, Palestinians aren’t immigrants.

But not only are private citizens talking about annexation. During the UN General Assembly, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely told CNN that Israel should annex the whole of Area C, 60 percent of the West Bank under full Israeli military control.

What is notable is that the right-wing responses represent continuity, not change. For a number of years, political status quo has been the norm. Legislation for harsher measures against stone throwers was advanced about a year ago, and numerous  Palestinian stone-throwers or demonstrators have been wounded or killed outright — including at least half a dozen in Gaza on Friday. Settlement construction or claiming land for future settlements, usually in strategic locations to link existing settlements or break up Palestinian contiguity is routine. And creeping annexation of Area C has already accelerated in recent years, both under the radar and openly. In the absence of a vision, these represent Israel’s policy. The result is a worsening security situation.

There are of course two sides to the violence: Palestinians have also attacked Israeli civilians in recent days, unjustifiable under any circumstances.

As for Israel, it can continue to look at the outburst of violence like the weather. But we now know that even the weather is affected by human behavior.

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Israeli settler couple killed, and the band plays on http://972mag.com/israeli-settler-couple-killed-and-the-band-plays-on/112239/ http://972mag.com/israeli-settler-couple-killed-and-the-band-plays-on/112239/#comments Fri, 02 Oct 2015 12:39:16 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=112239 Our hearts are desensitized by horror fatigue, convinced that nothing can change. But we must still try, if not for the dead then for the living.

Magen David Adom ambulance, illustrative (Photo: Mattes)

Magen David Adom ambulance, illustrative (Photo: Mattes)

A lifetime of sorrow lies before four children who became orphans last night when their parents were killed in a hailstorm of bullets on a West Bank road. The children were in the car when it happened, including a four-month-old infant. The oldest was nine. They were unharmed physically, but their suffering is indescribable.

But it’s time to admit that aside from their circle of family and friends, no one else really cares. If we did, we would change our circumstances. Instead, the conditions and sentiments before and after the attack are routine — ritualized. We are caged inside a dystopian daily theater performance, in which actors respond like robots programmed to repeat their lines forever.


The Right, whose settlement expansion agenda has run roughshod through the West Bank for nearly five decades, says the attack demands further settlement expansion. On Wednesday, about 50 families made a pilgrimage to a new site they call “Shalem” – meaning whole – in the same area as the attack, dancing and celebrating the future settlement. Thursday evening, the family was killed on that road. Friday morning, right-wing websites announced a march to the site in response.  It’s a settle-die-and-settle dance.

Prime Minister Netanyahu also repeats his lines verbatim, like a mad caricature of himself: Palestinians, and first of all Mahmoud Abbas, incited the attack and didn’t condemn it. His “sounds of silence” speech in the UN just hours earlier now has a perfect bookend soundbite: “look at the PA’s deafening silence,” despite the fact that “we condemned the attack in Duma.” To Israeli ears, this translates as: Israel wants peace, Palestinians are “bloodthirsty,” as per the right-wing commenters.

The Left, too, offers the usual answers: Zuhair Bahalul from the Zionist Union (Labor Party) said that regular people are paying the price for the frozen political situation. After another recent death, my colleague Lisa Goldman argued that the only way to stop stone throwing in East Jerusalem is to give residents full rights and end the occupation. The left-wing script reads, broadly: the lack of a political resolution feeds the violence. We don’t condone such things, but what can you expect. If we end the occupation and reach a final status accord, the violence will subside.

But these stock lines are shutting down our minds. Our hearts are desensitized by horror fatigue, convinced that nothing can change, so why try. That’s because the failed interpretations and prescriptions no longer describe reality. If we call our current ills by their name, maybe better ideas about solving them will emerge.

First, Netanyahu is obsessed with the idea that there is no alternative to the deadly status quo. I wonder if the four orphans of the Henkin family want to maintain the status quo. I feel sure the Dawabshe family doesn’t, nor the family of 18-year-old Hadeel Hashlamoun, or Alexander Levlovitz. Netanyahu’s  sorrow for them is one big shameful lie unless he rejects and changes the status quo.

Next, the condemnation game – “you didn’t! I did! No you didn’t” – must be scrapped. When Abbas condemns an attack, Israel dismisses it. While valuable in principle, condemnation no longer matters when the words are so vacuous. Instead, the condemnation test must be replaced by the justice test: which murderers are apprehended? Which murderers are brought to justice? Since Israel is in control, the question is: which murders does Israel apprehend, or bring to justice?

The answer is that Israel finds Palestinian murderers within hours, days, or weeks. They are either killed on the spot (unfortunate but unavoidable, it says), or their homes are destroyed – even while they are still suspects, and sometimes when they have not yet committed an attack. Were they to be apprehended, they would be tried in military court.

The suspected Jewish murderers of the Dawabshe family have been detained but not charged. There is no collective punishment, but also no due process punishment to provide either justice or deterrence. In the burning-death of teenager Muhammed abu Khdeir, three suspects are standing trial in a civil court, a case that has dragged on and fallen off the headlines. We must stop demanding condemnations and demand justice – with civil rights, equally, swiftly.

The right-wing script that settlement is the answer is a used-up ruse — it too must be replaced. The truthful right-wing response is: the political meaning of settlement is a Jewish-controlled single state between the river and the sea, and we hope it will be so uninviting for Palestinians that they will leave. The religious meaning is fulfillment of a messianic prophesy. The meaning for individuals is that you will lose your lives – either as soldiers, as civilians, and sometimes as children. Your survivors will live in misery.

And the left-wing approach that a political resolution ending the occupation through two states, or any other just political framework, will end terror must be revisited as well. Over the last two decades, the Left lost so much credibility on this point that it has never recovered.

We must look human nature in the eye and admit: there will never be perfect security – not here, not anywhere. As the Henkin parents were murdered, 10 young people were being executed at a college in Oregon, for no reason at all.

The truthful answer is that a political resolution is mandatory not because it will end death, but because the current situation is misery for the living. The lives of Israelis are mostly fine. Israel can strum the victimhood chord, but Israeli Jews just told a right-wing newspapers, Israel Hayom, how overwhelmingly happy they are. The lives of Palestinians are unlivable. They are trapped geographically, economically, professionally, and politically.

A political resolution will never stop the crazies. But it will remove as many of the reasons as possible for normal people to join their ranks. And if only one less person dies, it will be as if we saved the whole world.

Correction: Several early reports of the attack stated that the family had six children in total, which was originally stated here. The  family has four children and this article has been updated.

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Polls: Israelis despair of peace, Palestinians have other priorities http://972mag.com/polls-israelis-despair-of-peace-palestinians-have-other-priorities/112145/ http://972mag.com/polls-israelis-despair-of-peace-palestinians-have-other-priorities/112145/#comments Tue, 29 Sep 2015 16:16:55 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=112145 New polls show most Israelis supported last summer’s Gaza war, are not interested in taking in Syrian refugees, and agree with Netanyahu on the Iran deal. 

Refugees, some of them from Syria, camp in front of the closed Serbian-Hungarian border, September 15, 2015.

Refugees, some of them from Syria, camp in front of the closed Serbian-Hungarian border, September 15, 2015.

At the start of a Jewish New Year, Israelis took stock of their lives in a series of polls. The highest circulating newspaper, the free right-wing daily Israel Hayom, wrote flashy headlines on the cover of its holiday supplement about what “Israelis” think, but conducted its survey only among Jews. Haaretz’ survey included Arabs but not politics, instead posing fun questions about life habits and some public issues, while ignoring the conflict. The Peace Index, a monthly poll by the Israeli Democracy Institute and Tel Aviv University, asked about the conflict and other foreign policy issues, which is its raison d’etre. But the results confirm longtime patterns: the majority of Israelis fear existential threats, and despair of peace.


The media-commissioned polls reflect what Israelis prefer to think about: the optimistic personal and public mood, pastimes and choices such as vegetarianism, reading, pot-smoking, vacation activity and sex, social values, cost of living, a smattering of politics. Here are some highlights about how the country thinks.

Closed military zones

- Consistent with all historical findings, the IDF is the most trusted institution tested, with 8.1 average on a scale of 0-10 (10 indicates the highest trust); but Arabs were not asked. (Israel Hayom)

- Seventy percent say it was the right decision to go to war in Gaza last summer – among Jews, 80 percent. Nearly 70 percent percent of Arabs said it was not the right decision. (Peace Index)

- Less than half of the Israeli public (43 percent)  think the results of the war were “good” or “very good.” (Peace Index)

- A majority (53 percent) of Jews believe Israel is a “villa in the jungle.” (Israel Hayom)

- Over three-quarters (78 percent) of Israeli Jews say Israel should not open its doors to refugees from Syria, Iraq, or other countries. (Israel Hayom)

- When told that Europe is absorbing hundreds of thousands of refugees, half of Jews (51 percent) are unmoved. Nearly half (46 percent) say this made them less interested in taking refugees. (Israel Hayom).

- A minority of Jews say Israel should take in a few thousand refugees (16 percent) or an unlimited number (2 percent — Israel Hayom)

Existential threats, no peace

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javed Zarif meets with IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano. IAEA, Vienna, Austria. 18 July 2014. (Photo: Dean Calma/IAEA)

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javed Zarif meets with IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano. IAEA, Vienna, Austria. 18 July 2014. (Photo: Dean Calma/IAEA)

- Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) agree with Netanyahu that the Iran deal is an existential threat to Israel (Peace Index)

-Seventy percent say Iran is not upholding its end of the deal. (Peace Index)

- Two-thirds do not believe negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians will yield an agreement any time soon. (Peace Index)

- Nearly half (43 percent) percent think Netanyahu’s behavior is harming Israel-US relations, and 60 percent thought his protests against the Iran deal would not stop the agreement. (Peace Index)

Domestic: Not so liberal, feminist, equal, or intellectual

- Fewer than half, 42 percent, support same-sex marriage (Haaretz). For comparison, as of May 2015, 60 percent of Americans support it.

- Just over half (55 percent) support civil marriage, which cannot currently be performed in Israel.

- One-third of women, and 41 percent of men think mothers should work full time. The plurality of women thought mothers should work part-time. The question did not appear to offer an answer “whatever the woman chooses.” (Haaretz)

- Nearly 40 percent of Jewish Israelis alone believe ethnic origin (which includes Ashkenazi-Mizrahi) is important for success in Israel. A high portion of Arabs would probably also agree.

- Only one-third (34 percent) are currently reading a book. One-quarter don’t normally read (24 percent), similar to the percentage of Americans who haven’t read a book in the last year. Nearly 60 percent watched the country’s top-ranking reality show this year, Master Chef (Israel Hayom).

Domestic: But we like it like that

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in front of a painting of former Likud prime minister Menachim Begin. (Photo: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in front of a painting of former Likud prime minister Menachim Begin. (Photo: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

- Over 60 percent of Israelis are personally happy – the more religious, the happier. (Haaretz)

- Among Jews, nearly 70 percent are very proud to be Israeli (95 percent in total “very” and “pretty” proud); 73 percent say Israel is a good place to live. (Israel Hayom)

- Benjamin Netanyahu is considered by Jews the most suitable to be Prime Minister of six options by a plurality of 33 percent, more than double the second-ranked politician – Yair Lapid (14 percent). (Israel Hayom)

- Two-thirds believe the US is still committed to Israel’s security. (Peace Index)

- Minority disgruntled: between 14 percent and over one-quarter (28 percent) are considering leaving the country or would prefer to live abroad (Haaretz, Israel Today, respectively)

Palestinians have a vastly different set of concerns on their minds. The latest poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research headed by Khalil Shikaki shows deep concern over Palestinian politics, fear of settler violence, falling support for a two-state solution and rising support for violent opposition to Israel.

What Palestinian state?

- Under half (48 percent) of Palestinians support the two-state solution, a slight dip from 51 percent three months earlier.

- Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) think this solution is no longer practical because settlements have expanded so far into West Bank territory. This is a 10-point rise from three months earlier.

- Over three-quarters (78 percent) say the chances of a Palestinian state being established in the next five years are slim to nil.

- When asked about Palestinian priorities, the top-ranked goal is to end occupation and build a state within the 1967 territories (48 percent) – but apparently the type of state is not a high priority: the lowest ranked goal (among four listed) is ”to establish a democratic political system that respects freedoms and rights of Palestinians” (9 percent).

Fear, abandonment, corruption, repression

Palestinian policemen block protesters during a demonstration against the visit of US President Barak Obama to the West Bank, Ramallah, March 21, 2013. (photo: Keren Manor/Activestills.org)

Palestinian policemen block protesters during a demonstration against the visit of US President Barak Obama to the West Bank, Ramallah, March 21, 2013. (photo: Keren Manor/Activestills.org)

- Eighty-one percent of Palestinians interviewed worry that they or their families will be harmed by Israel, have their land confiscated, or homes demolished.

- Eighty-five percent believe that Israel’s long-term goal is to annex all the land conquered in 1967 and either expel Palestinians or deny them their rights.

- Eighty percent say the Arab world is too preoccupied with other problems to make the Palestinian issue a priority and two-thirds say the PA security forces are not doing enough to protect them.

- Nearly 80 percent believe there is corruption in Palestinian Authority institutions.

- Less than one-quarter say there is press freedom in the West Bank, and just one-fifth (19 percent) say the press is free in Gaza. Fewer than one-third believe the Palestinian authorities can be criticized freely.

Anger at Palestinian leadership

- Nearly two-thirds want Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) to resign, but two-thirds think his resignation from the PLO Executive Committee is not real.

- Job approval for Abbas stands at 38 percent, down six points from the poll three months earlier.

- In most combinations of realistic candidates, the front-runner is Marwan Barghouti, who is seen as outside the political system at present as he is serving life-sentences in an Israeli prison.

Violence or nonviolence?

Palestinians in the West Bank city of Nablus demonstrate their support for Hamas resistance in Gaza Strip three days after a deal signed by Israel and Hamas ended a 50-day Israeli attack, August 29, 2014. (Photo: Ahmad Al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

Palestinians in the West Bank city of Nablus demonstrate their support for Hamas resistance in Gaza Strip three days after a deal signed by Israel and Hamas ended a 50-day Israeli attack, August 29, 2014. (Photo: Ahmad Al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

- Two-thirds supports launching rockets from Gaza if Israel does not end the blockade.

- Forty-two percent think force is the best way to achieve a Palestinian state, up six points from three months ago.

- But a slight majority – 53 percent – believe non-violent means are the more effective to reach statehood: diplomatic negotiations (29 percent) or non-violent resistance (24 percent).

- Nearly two-thirds support a long-term truce (hudna) between Israel and Hamas.

Interestingly, the strongest consensus is found regarding ISIS: 91 percent believe it is a radical group that does not represent true Islam, and 83 percent support the actions of Arab countries and the West against it.


Information on surveys cited:

Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip; 17-19 September, 2015. N=1270, face to face interviews, 127 randomly selected locations. Margin of error: +/-3%

Haaretz: Poll conducted by Prof. Camil Fuchs. N=1,028 (825 Jews and 203 Arabs. The Jewish respondents were surveyed by an Internet panel conducted by Dr. Ariel Ayalon. The Arab respondents were surveyed by telephone, but Stat-net, under the supervision of Yosef Maklada. (MoE not cited)

Israel Hayom: Poll conducted by New Wave research, 8 Sept. 2015; n=500 Hebrew-speaking Israeli Jews, . Margin of error: +/-4.4%

Peace Index (Israel Democracy Institute/Tel Aviv University): Poll conducted by Midgam Research Institute, N=600 (Jews and Arabs), August 30-31, 2015. Margin of error: ±4.1%

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A place of dignity for refugees in Berlin http://972mag.com/a-place-of-dignity-for-refugees-in-berlin/111877/ http://972mag.com/a-place-of-dignity-for-refugees-in-berlin/111877/#comments Mon, 21 Sep 2015 12:58:28 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=111877 An outpouring of hospitality is on full display at a shelter in the German capital, where volunteers insist on treating refugees as people, not just victims. But as the gifts pour in, how deep is the well of kindness — and what is brewing under the surface?

Refugees march toward the Hungarian-Austrian border. (Keren Manor/Activestills.org)

Refugees march toward the Hungarian-Austrian border, hoping to reach Berlin. (Keren Manor/Activestills.org)

BERLIN — A few young teenage Arab boys line up loosely, side by side, in a concrete courtyard. They are concentrating hard on four big guys dressed in black, who are busting hip-hop moves to music blaring from an amplifier. The boys bounce a little with the beat, then follow after the big guys, giggling and shaking their legs and hips, executing jumps and turns. One wears sport pads over his knobby knees.

A girl of four or five runs by, curls flying, her face painted from the nose up with swirls of red and silver. A skinny boy tries to stand straight, his feet plunged deep inside bright pink plastic roller blades. A group of men gaze at a guitar player, clapping and filming on their phones.


As scenes of misery roll in from the borders of Hungary, Austria, and the Balkans, this is not a calm country fair, but a snapshot of 763 refugees (last Thursday) from 32 different countries, living in a vast, vacated city hall building in the Wilmersdorf district of Berlin.

In mid-August, German authorities began sending refugees here, with no infrastructure. The Arbeiter Samariter-Bund (Workers’ Samaritan Federation), an independent charity, got involved.

“When this place started,” said Holger Michel, one of the volunteers who is there every day, “there were 150 people, a security team that the municipality brought in, and nothing else.”

That was the situation when a young man named Philipp Bertram heard about it and came to see what he could do to help. He is 24 years old, with the blond boyishness of a surfer. He is originally from Saxony – an area with heavy anti-refugee sentiment, where the anti-Islamic movement Pegida was born. Philipp had worked with refugee projects in the past, and quickly developed “an idea” of the kind of place he wanted to be able to provide.

A few days later, Philipp established a Facebook group to recruit help. Within hours, 300 hundred people had “liked” the page. By that evening, there were one hundred actually volunteering, he says. One month later, there have been a thousand volunteers, some showing up just once, others working regularly. The number of refugees have swelled and since my visit, has reached capacity of 800 – some have had to be turned away. Syrians make up about 65 percent. Besides Arabic, some of the other languages include Urdu, Farsi, Albanian, Kurdish, and Tigrinya.

Holger is a 35-year-old freelance PR consultant who works largely for politicians. He had planned to be a one-timer. “I came for two hours and stayed.” That was weeks ago. His client aren’t thrilled with all the lost time and his friends tell me they are worried about his health. Philipp has been there for five weeks. He says he works 17 hours per day, and hasn’t taken a day off. Last Tuesday, the ASB formally hired him.

Philipp says that there is something addictive about being there. He recalls how, after helping one Syrian family deal with a range of needs, the man gave him a present. He digs into his slim jeans pocket to show me a small loop of red plastic prayer beads. “It was the only thing at all that he kept with him from Syria. He had nothing else. And he gave it to me.”

There is no mistaking his shy smile for self-gratification. Philipp had a fast and clear vision of what he wanted the shelter to be. “We always see them as refugees, poor victims. I wanted us to treat them like people, just people like us but from a different state, with a different history. So we try to make a place where they can be people.”

The values are in the details. Volunteers are scurrying around the rooms, busily arranging orange canvas cots. It is the only shelter, they tell me proudly, where people live three to a room, rather than communally in a large hall. Volunteer nametags bear the slogan “refugees welcome.”

A tight assembly line of young volunteers runs down a long hallway and they are shunting boxes along the smooth floors, hands slapping the boxes along. The contents are sorted with cliché precision. One room is stacked to the ceiling with boxes of shoes, each one marked by gender, adults or children, and size. A chart on the wall explains how to measure feet for European size numbers.

Boxes of shoes in a Berlin refugee shelter (Dahlia Scheindlin, 17 Sept 2015)

Boxes of shoes in a Berlin refugee shelter (Dahlia Scheindlin, 17 Sept 2015)

Another room contains shelves full of boys’ T-shirts, and racks hung neatly with men’s blazers and shirts, and other clothing groups. Only five people can enter at once. “We wanted it to be calm. But also we didn’t want to shove charity packages at them. It’s not exactly a shop, but at least it’s their choice,” Holger tells me.

Locals have donated a dizzying array of items. The hip hop teachers outside are volunteers, as is the vigorous acoustic guitar player, hairdressers and the circus I am told will visit the following day. Philipp says that some volunteers are charged with just walking around and talking to people: “to be social, to interact. Find out if they’re OK.” When residents go to the cafeteria for meals, names and room numbers are registered so volunteers can track if someone hasn’t shown up and check in on them.

One day a fancy black car pulled up outside, Holger recalls. An old man who looked over 80 emerged and said, “’I’m too old to help, but I am rich. What can I buy?’ It was getting chilly just around then, so I told him, blankets. The man went away and came back with 1,000 blankets. He didn’t say who he was, but now we have blankets!” Others have donated furniture, including chairs, a leather sofa, a flat-screen TV. One hundred teachers have volunteered to provide daily German classes.  During my visit, conversations are interrupted by the thrum of brand-new washing machines being rolled through the hallways.

There are volunteer interpreters, doctors, a dentist, psychologist, and a midwife; they are expecting three babies. That day, an eight-day-old infant is checked in from the hospital.

The classrooms happen to be empty while we walk around and suddenly a small boy speeds headlong into the room, stopping unexpectedly when he sees us. Holger ruffles his hair. “Kif halek” I say spontaneously and the boy curls up a bit and laughs “hamdallilah.”

Holger says, “we wanted to make them into children again. You see them when they arrive, some of them are just blank, dead in their eyes. Little by little, days at a time, they become children again.”

Signs posted on the walls in a Berlin refugee shelter (Dahlia Scheindlin, 17 Sept 2015)

Signs posted on the walls in a Berlin refugee shelter (Dahlia Scheindlin, 17 Sept 2015)

The results couldn’t be clearer. A 30-year-old Syrian with flashing eyes and a broad smile tells me, “the people here – Germans – they are angels. Their hearts are white.” The man, whom I’ll call Khaled, repeats this at several points throughout our long conversation of his journey.

His tale is a litany of hell in Syria, taking his wife to Egypt and then going to Turkey on his own. From there he paid double, 2,000 euro, he says, in order not to travel in a rubber dinghy. “We got in the wooden boat and prayed to god not to drown.” What followed was a chain of relentless exploitation by smugglers from the moment he reached Greece straight through every Balkan country, to Hungary, through Austria, and finally Germany.

“When we first entered Serbia from Macedonia,” he said, “we reached a Muslim village. They said ‘Salam Aleikum! Welcome, our brothers’ – and they asked us if we had called our parents to say we are OK. Of course we had not. They sold us SIM cards for eight euro to call home. When we got to Belgrade we saw the same SIM cards sold for two euro. ‘Our brothers!’” he says bitterly.

But transportation was the real sinkhole of money. They are charged between 50 to hundreds of euro from their dwindling funds for taxi rides, both short and long. A public bus in Serbia, he says, knows not to stop for refugees so that only the taxis will take them.

“I was a rich man in Syria,” he says. He is a veterinarian who has completed medical school, but at 30, he has not yet practiced. Before this, he had a textile business, exporting throughout the Middle East. He lost most of it as the Syrian currency plunged and he took the remaining 6,000 euro in cash. The best place to hide it, he shows me, is in the waistband seam of his pants, opened up and stitched shut. “Because everyone knows that everyone hides it in their underwear, and they will make you take off your pants. But they never look here.”

I can’t use his Khaled’s real name, which he was happy to tell me, for political reasons. He says he is being treated here like “the president.” A volunteer befriended him and has since invited him to live with his family – a couple with two children. Khaled has only amazement at the kindness he has received. He wants to bring his wife and make his life here. Germany, he says, is “the mother of veterinary medicine.”

A Der Spiegel cover depicting Chancellor Angela Merkel as Mother Theresa.

A Der Spiegel cover depicting Chancellor Angela Merkel as Mother Theresa.

But it is not clear how long the good will can last. Germany may budget as much as 9 billion euros to handle the influx of possibly 1.2 million refugees; when I landed there last week, the estimated number was 800,000 people. Projections are rising constantly. The country’s finance minister will ask all other ministries to cut their budgets, along with other means, to save roughly 2.5 billion euros from the 2016 budget, reports the German magazine Speigel Online.

“People think a dollar spent for the refugees is one less dollar spent for them,” say friends in Berlin. They point to the worrying spate of refugee centers being torched, the growing voices of the anti-refugee organizations, and mocking photos of Chancellor Angela Merkel dressed as Mother Theresa. Underneath the material outpouring on display at the Wilmersdorf shelter there is a tense expectation that the goodwill is shallow, and resentment lies just ahead. Philipp, the 24 year old, says he has received death threats – by regular mail, to his home address.

For Khaled, none of this has registered yet. For him, “everybody’s good, trying to help.” Moreover, he is inspired and passionate. He says he writes unapologetically on Facebook. “I say openly, to me own people – we need to change…We have to learn the language of this country, be one of them. They took us in.”

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Are Israelis too scared to have opinions anymore? http://972mag.com/are-israelis-too-scared-to-have-opinions-anymore/111586/ http://972mag.com/are-israelis-too-scared-to-have-opinions-anymore/111586/#comments Thu, 10 Sep 2015 14:38:37 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=111586 A law barring public broadcasters from expressing opinions is just the latest in a long line of legislative and regulatory attempts to limit speech in Israel.

A right-wing Israeli activist yells at a left-wing Israeli activist in East Jerusalem. (Photo: Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

A right-wing Israeli activist yells at a left-wing Israeli activist in East Jerusalem. (File photo by Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

At 3:24 a.m. on September 3rd, Israeli parliamentarians passed a controversial law to revamp the Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA), the body responsible for public radio and television. At the last minute, right-wing members of Knesset from ultra-Orthodox party United Torah Judaism and Likud snuck in an article stating that public news broadcasters must “avoid one-sidedness, prejudice, expressing personal opinions, giving grades and affixing labels, ignoring facts or selectively emphasizing them not according to their newsworthiness.”


Only 43 out of Israel’s 120 legislators were present and voting at that hour: 25 supported it, with 18 opposed. Journalists were furious and instantly dubbed it a “gag law.” Radio hosts joked that they could no longer say things like “very interesting!” to their guests. Public radio and television in Israel offers high-quality reporting and hard-hitting interviewers who lean both left and right. Most assumed the article would eventually be used to target specific shows – left-leaning ones.

After the outcry, the prime minister promised to strike the offending provision. Ofir Akunis, the Likud minister who had advanced the bill, stepped down as minister responsible for the IBA (he continues as minister of science, technology and space). Nevertheless, The Marker reported that the legislation is already on the books as passed, since it cannot formally be changed until the Knesset returns from recess after the Jewish holidays.

The Communications Ministry said it will not enforce the law. But its Orwellian description as part of the “ethical code” and justifications have been ringing through the public sphere. The Jerusalem Post quotes what amounts to an irreconcilable clash of meanings of freedom of speech:

I’m for freedom of expression,” Eichler (from UTJ, who initiated the item – ds) said…“but no one should be paid with tax money to give one-sided opinions…using a microphone that belongs to the nation… “it is unthinkable that I, as a taxpayer, am paying someone who incites against my beliefs and views.”

… (Ofir) Akunis defended the provision…Journalists send out rude tweets against politicians and don’t show any respect,” he lamented on Army Radio.”

It is the latest in a trend of Israeli politicians using their formal powers to define acceptable and unacceptable terms of debate.

One of the first acts of the new minister of culture, Miri Regev of Likud, was to attack beloved Arab actor Norman Issa for refusing to perform in the West Bank, by threatening to pull funding from his children’s theater in Jaffa. She then waged a high-volume battle against a local Arab theater for a production dramatizing the prison story of an Arab-Israeli serving life for kidnapping and killing a soldier in 1984. Education Minister Naftali Bennett had already directed the Education Ministry to pull the play from a list of subsidized productions for students. The Culture Ministry and Haifa Municipality both suspended funding to the theater.

The argument that Israel has full freedom of expression but that taxpayers shouldn’t have to support what they don’t like, is curious. UTJ won a mere five percent of the vote in the last parliamentary elections, so Eichler’s personal tastes don’t seem like the strongest basis for national legislation. Still, this defense was successful for passing the “Nakba Law” in 2011, a turning point in Israel’s efforts to legislate thought; the Boycott Law that followed went a step further, theoretically making people pay for their political opinions: boycott advocates can now be liable for a civil suit and their organizations can be punished by the government. We were scandalized then, but I wonder if we are desensitized now.

The justifications pale compared to the message, which targets of the laws hear loud and clear: politicians now undercut what artists and journalists can or cannot say. The ramifications are real. In a cash-strapped field like the arts, revoking public funding can spell the death of a small theater company. With journalism in crisis too, a lost job can be impossible to replace.

It is not only the targets of gag policies who get the message. Politicians keep ever-tighter control over their own words: Netanyahu himself recently cancelled the annual tradition of interviews with the prime minister before the Jewish new year in favor of a recorded message.

And perhaps taking their cue from leaders, private citizens feel increasingly empowered to police what people can say or see.

On Wednesday, Haaretz film critic Uri Klein wrote a cri-de-coeur after three screenings of a bland documentary covering a trauma treatment program in Gaza after the 2014 war were cancelled. Right-wing activists bullied local venues in three different cities until they scrapped the screenings. The film has no political narrative, Klein wrote; Israel isn’t even mentioned. But the community center management in Yeroham that cancelled the event, reported Klein, wouldn’t know that because they refused to see it. He believes the right-wingers are terrified of confronting the humanizing impact of the film.

What’s also striking is the fear of their own countrymen among those who do wish to see the film. Without romanticizing, the Israel of yore famously relished disagreement and dissent, and the worst fate was to be a “frayer” (sucker). Years back, the management would have responded to such protests with “bring it on! Just let ‘em try!” and probably would have embraced the resulting attention. It was what once made Israel vital.

But there is reason for the fear. Later on Wednesday “Walla! News” reported that the woman who initiated the screening in Yeroham had her car tires punctured. She reported receiving a phone call late the previous night from someone asking where the screening would be held instead of the community center. She said it wasn’t yet public.

Uri Klein, the film critic, was so shaken that he wrote an uncharacteristically emotional plea:

“The fear of “Shivering in Gaza” is the peeling-off of another layer of our humanity, of our ability to acknowledge human complexity.” He recommends showing and watching it around the country, “Screen it wherever possible, because “Shivering in Gaza” is causing trembling in Tel Aviv.’”

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