Analysis News

Facing increased right-wing violence, Israeli leftists learn to fight back

Attacks against Arabs in Jerusalem became routine this past summer and in Tel Aviv left-wing activists faced violence from the Right. ‘We don’t want to attack Baruch Marzel’s headquarters or anything, but we believe the victimhood of the Left must end here,’ one activists explains.

Thursday and Saturday nights in downtown Jerusalem have become terrifying. On those days, a group of youth gathers in West Jerusalem’s Zion Square, often next to a permanent pop-up stand manned by members of anti-miscegenation group Lehava. The youth meet there and then take to the streets chanting “Death to Arabs,” harassing and assaulting Arab cab drivers, women in hijabs and businesses that employ Arabs. Since they became active, fewer and fewer Palestinians have been stepping foot in this part of the city.

The few left-wing activists who dare to be out on the streets on these nights usually walk alongside the youth, quietly, documenting their actions and calling the police – but without getting involved, knowing full well that the violence could at any moment be directed at them. Recently, however, they decided to change their approach. Last Thursday, around 200 of them gathered in Zion Square to stand up to the violence.

That night marked the (temporary) crystallization of left-wing self defense groups in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and other cities in Israel. Not many could have known, but among those 200 protesters were a few dozen who came prepared for the possibility of a violent confrontation with right-wing extremists.

“It was the most significant left-wing event in Jerusalem since the protests in Sheikh Jarrah,” one veteran activist said.

“The collective, anti-racist presence was no less than amazing,” said Eyal, another activist from Jerusalem. “A month ago, you couldn’t imagine such an event; not just being defensive and under the radar, but attacking, marking territory, marking our enemies and saying loud and clear that they are illegitimate – that they have no place in the public discourse. It means coming out in numbers, coming with confidence, showing strength and being ready in the event we are attacked.”

Meaning?

“Let’s just say we came prepared. Definitely prepared. Out of 200 protesters, 40-50 knew how to respond. If the situation presented itself – they knew what to do. By interposing themselves and defending, not attacking or looking to fight. But they know very well how to if need be,” he said.

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Seven years later, Israel decides Gaza blockade is ineffective

After seven years of siege, the defense establishment has suddenly discovered that the blockade on Gaza is not helpful. It’s no coincidence, of course, that this realization comes after a war that devastated the Strip and has the Palestinians focused on reconstruction. 

“Israel now admits that the almost-airtight blockade of Gaza has done more harm than good.” I am always amazed at the ease with which these sentences are written by this or that analyst. Written so nonchalantly to the point that it feels like the writer might as well just shrug and say, “Well that didn’t work, let’s try something else.”

As if that same defense establishment and those same analysts weren’t the ones who actively promoted the policy of siege for the past seven years. As if they aren’t responsible for embittering the lives of 1.8 million people. As if they didn’t kill thousands in Gaza and dozens in Israel, sowing unbelievable destruction over the course of several wars and operations, all in the name of their holy policy. As if they didn’t allow the Israeli public to become accustomed to the claim that there is no blockade, and if there is then it is Egypt, not us, who is responsible, and if it is us then it is justifiable and we owe the Palestinians absolutely nothing and why the hell do they keep shooting at us anyway. As if they didn’t present the siege as the solution to rocket fire from Gaza and to the terrible conditions of the Israeli population living around the Strip. And as if, just two months ago, they didn’t praise, justify and march to war by sending soldiers into Gaza, while condemning the left, which claimed that the blockade is neither legal, moral or helpful.

Mariam Al Nawasra, age 85, cries when recalling the attack on her family's home during the last Israeli offensive, September 16, 2014. The attack killed four members of the family, Salah (age 24), his wife Aesha, who was 4-month pregnant, and brothers Mohammed (age 2) and Nidal (age 4).

Mariam Al Nawasra, age 85, cries when recalling the attack on her family’s home during the last Israeli offensive, September 16, 2014. The attack killed four members of the family, Salah (age 24), his wife Aesha, who was 4-month pregnant, and brothers Mohammed...

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How my Jewish grandfather spent WWII in a German uniform

What if I told you that my late grandfather was a Jewish Soviet spy who infiltrated a Nazi army unit during World War II to support partisans, Jews and the Red Army? This is the true story of Jacob Ingerman, recently published as an e-book in English, titled, ‘A Jew in the ‘Service’ of the Reich.’

Trying to tell my grandfather’s war story is quite difficult, considering how completely imaginary and unbelievable it sounds. His is the story of a Jewish man who wore Nazi uniforms for three years while actually serving as a Soviet spy, marching through Ukraine, Poland, Germany and Italy with a German army unit and also forming underground cells and smuggling information and weapons to partisans, Jews and the Red Army from wherever he was, spending time with rough Gestapo agents and at the same time avoiding medical examinations so his Jewish identity wouldn’t be revealed, and still finding the time to develop love affairs with socialist activists throughout Europe. Seriously?

Well, it does sound absurd, at least if you never knew my grandfather.

German soldiers and Jacob Ingerman (upper right) in Ukraine

German soldiers and Jacob Ingerman (top right) in Ukraine

I should state up front that I’m writing this post now because the Hebrew book written by my late grandfather, Jacob Ingerman, has finally been published as an e-book in English, which you can – and I think should – purchase here.

Jabob was born in Ukraine to a religious family and grew up to be a devoted communist and political activist in the USSR. After graduating with a degree in mathematics he went on to become a teacher in a remote village, and shortly after Germany attacked his country he joined the army and was wounded in combat.

Now, this is where things get really interesting. After going through special intelligence training, which included learning German, table manners and ballroom dancing, he was parachuted over enemy lines within Ukraine with a full cover story. It wasn’t even a week before he became friends with some German soldiers who told him about a tank division that was planning to pass over a nearby bridge that night. The intelligence was quickly transferred and that night the bridge – and quite a few German tanks – was bombarded and destroyed. The Nazi progress into...

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Short-term memory loss champions of the world: Gaza? What Gaza?

It’s amazing with what ease and speed everyone — politicians, journalists and the public — can forget about Gaza. Who really cares about another five-year-old girl dying on the other side of the fence?

Translated from Hebrew by Sol Salbe

Palestinians gather around a fire in the at-Tuffah district of Gaza city, which was heavily attacked during Israel’s latest offensive, Gaza City, September 6, 2014. The family of eight returned to their home, which is in danger of collapse due to the damage. Their home, like all the buildings in the area, is neither connected to the electricity or water infrastructure. (Photo by Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Palestinians gather around a fire in the at-Tuffah district of Gaza city, which was heavily attacked during Israel’s latest offensive, Gaza City, September 6, 2014. The family of eight returned to their home, which is in danger of collapse due to the damage. Their home, like all the buildings in the area, is neither connected to the electricity or water infrastructure. (Photo by Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Only a few weeks have passed since the end of Operation Protective Edge and it seems as if Gaza never happened. Politicians are carrying on with their budget wars and the diversion provided by the start of the school year. The newspapers are again preoccupied with scandals about a former chief of staff and a weird misogynist cult. And everyone, every single person around, is closely watching developments with the Islamic State and the U.S.’s new military campaign against it.

On the other hand, no one takes notice that yet another five-year-old girl died in Gaza this week. Rahaf Abu Jame’s parents were killed in an Israeli bombing, as were at least 24 more members of the Abu Jame’ family in a single strike. The girl died slowly and alone over a long period of time. According to the Ma’an News Agency, Abu Jame’ is the third Gazan to have succumbed to war injuries during the past week, but in Israel nobody knows about it. Not that the Gazan death toll played too much of a role in the Israeli discourse during the war, but why it is not possible to report on the matter now, when the roar of the canons has ceased?

Neither has the media reported on Palestinian fishermen who are once...

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IDF demolishes Hebron orphanage's dairy factory

The Hebron dairy is the primary source of income for an Islamic organization that runs two orphanages and nine schools.

The remains of the Al-Rayyan yogurt factory after the Israeli army demolished it. (Photo by Youth Against Settlements)

The remains of the Al-Rayyan yogurt factory after the Israeli army demolished it. (Photo by Youth Against Settlements)

Israeli army forces arrived to the outskirts of Hebron Tuesday morning and demolished the Al-Rayyan yogurt factory. The factory is owned by the Islamic Charitable Society (ICS) of Hebron and is the primary source of income for the organization, which runs two orphanages, nine schools and provides handicapped and impoverished populations with work and stipends. The organization directly aids 4,000 needy people in the Hebron area. Without the factory it will be have great difficulty continuing its charitable activities.

I visited the Al-Rayyan yogurt factory about two months ago, during Operation “Brother’s Keeper.” As I wrote at the time, ICS staff told me that during the operation soldiers raided their offices and seized computers and files containing information about all those who receive aid from the organization. Soldiers also came to the factory and delivered a demolition order.

A solidarity visit to the Al-Rayyan yogurt factory two months before the demolition. (Photo by Haggai Matar)

A solidarity visit to the Al-Rayyan yogurt factory two months before the demolition. (Photo by Haggai Matar)

The demolition order lists administrative reasons — a lack of building permits. However, in light of the fact that the factory has been operating for years without any interference, inside Hebron, and in light of the timing and claims made by the soldiers who raided the offices, ICS staff and management understood that the raid and demolition order came as revenge following the kidnapping (and murder, we would later discover) of three Israeli youths.

During the tour the organization’s staff told us that, indeed, it did once have some Hamas members. For the past five years, however, the Palestinian Authority has been operating the organization and it long ago switched out the management with its own people who oversee its activities to this day. The staff asked us to tell Israelis that they want peace and independence for both peoples, and they asked to spare the factory and the orphans...

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Gaza deaths aren't worth a mention in leading Israeli newspaper

Five members of the Joudah family were killed by an Israeli airstrike in Gaza on Sunday. Yedioth Ahronoth, one of Israel’s most widely-read papers, dedicated not a single word to the incident.

Monday’s issue of Yedioth Ahronoth, the “newspaper of the country,” includes not a single mention of the fact that the IDF killed a mother, her four children and another two-year old girl on Sunday. Nothing. Doesn’t exist. Didn’t happen.

This morning, Yedioth readers were greeted with plenty of information about what happened in southern Israel. The front page discusses the tragic death of four-year-old Daniel Tragerman, as well as the beginning of the new school year. The opening spread goes into detail about Tragerman’s funeral, followed by three pages dedicated to the school year (which is also discussed in the daily supplement), two pages on the hundreds of families who are leaving the towns surrounding Gaza, one page on the Palestinian Authority, a spread on Israeli soldiers and one more page on stone-throwing in the West Bank.

A view from Abu Odeh’s house toward the neighbourhood. August 12, 2014. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

A view of a neighborhood after an Israeli airstrike in the Gaza city of Beit Hanoun. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

The page dedicated to the Palestinian Authority includes a short blurb on the assassination of Hamas Financial Officer, Mohammed Al-Ghoul. Inside the text there is a mention of the fact that “several people were killed” in an attack on a commercial center. “Several people.” That’s it. Just like that. Page 10 at the bottom. And without a single word on the killing of five members of the Joudah family: mother Tasneem Issam and her children, Muhammad, Rawia, Rajd and Osama, along with another two-year-old girl. Nothing.

Twelve pages dedicated to news on the fighting, without any room for mentioning a family that was killed.

Every person in this country ought to be worried by this kind of reporting, especially from such a prominent newspaper. This isn’t even a question of concern and empathy. It’s a question of knowledge. Does the Israeli citizen have the necessary knowledge in order to understand the fighting? To understand what is happening or what each side sees in the other? To understand the motivation behind the fighting and what will help end it? Yedioth Ahronoth’s readers are justifiably flooded with...

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IDF spokesperson expresses regret over killing of single Palestinian child

You really have to give credit where credit is due. Even if it is to the IDF. Soldiers killed 12-year-old Muhammad al-Anati during clashes with local youth in the Hebron area on Sunday. According to reports, al-Anati was killed after being struck by a bullet in the back, and was not involved in the clashes.

An Israeli soldier throws a stun grenade at Palestinian protesters in Beit Furik. (photo: Ahmad al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

An Israeli soldier throws a stun grenade at Palestinian protesters in Beit Furik. (photo: Ahmad al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

However, it seems that the IDF is willing to learn from past mistakes. This time, unlike recent similar events, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit immediately released a message [Hebrew] saying an inquiry had been launched and that the army expressed its regret over al-Anati’s death. One can hope that the inquiry will be a serious and effective one.

For the sake of comparison, it is worth remembering that over the course of the 14 years that preceded Operation Protective Edge, the Israeli army killed 1,384 minors in the West Bank and Gaza. Among them was 13-year-old candy seller Mohammad Jihd Dudin, who was shot to death by soldiers during riots he did not participate in. In May, two youths were shot dead while not posing any threat to soldiers during clashes in Betunia, one of them in the back. The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit changed its official statement several times, and to this day has not shown remorse or found anyone responsible for the killing.

Palestnians carry Mohammad Qasem Hamamreh, after he was injured in the head with a tear gas canister at the early morning of July 23, during clashes with the Israeli army in the West Bank village of Husan, 2014. Mohammad, 19 years old, died in the hospital the day after (Mustafa Bader/Activestills.org)

Palestnians carry Mohammad Qasem Hamamreh, after he was injured in the head with a tear gas canister at the early morning of July 23, during clashes with the Israeli army in the West Bank village of Husan, 2014. Mohammad, 19 years old, died in the hospital the day after (Mustafa Bader/Activestills.org)

Since the start of Operation Protective Edge, some 400 additional children have been killed in Gaza. Now...

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Mourning death wherever it strikes

(Translated from Hebrew by Sol Salbe)

Sometimes it feels like this is some sort of a test. Will the leftists mourn now? Will they say that they feel the pain? Will they dare criticize the war now that our soldiers have died?

So there, yes, it hurts. I know that that doesn’t necessarily apply to everyone, but it hurts me. From the moment I heard of the horror yesterday morning, it was as if a stone was laid on my heart. I prayed that it wouldn’t be one of the friends whom I know are there. I was partially relieved when it turned out that it was none of them, before turning horrible once more when I found out that one of those killed was a friend of a close friend. It pains me, but what can I do, I grieve not only for them. The death of dozens of Palestinians last night also pains me. Yes. It is okay to suffer the pain like this; to mourn death wherever it strikes. It does not diminish the pain.

A protest condemning the Israeli assault on the Gaza strip, held outside the Israeli consulate in downtown Chicago, IL on July 16, 2014.

A protest condemning the Israeli assault on the Gaza strip, held outside the Israeli consulate in downtown Chicago, IL on July 16, 2014.

And I don’t want to be tested. I don’t want to have to defend myself. I want the warmongers to defend themselves. Let them explain themselves. Let them say why, in their view, it was the right thing to do. Why the deaths of all those who perished in the past 24 hours and the past month were more necessary or more justified than those of Pillar of Defense or Cast Lead or Summer Rains or Hot Winter. Or maybe this time or in the next operation, which will surely come in another year or three if we do not stop the policy of blockade and war and begin to relate to people in Gaza as human beings with whom we sit down to negotiate a real peace. Let Netanyahu prove that he cares about soldiers and civilians. Let Yair Lapid be tested. Let Tzipi Livni make sure that it won’t happen again.

And then I recalled my visit...

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The night it became dangerous to demonstrate in Tel Aviv

The fascists attacked. Police didn’t respond in time and ran away when the sirens wailed. We were lucky to get away with only three injured, one in the hospital and many traumatized.

(Translated from Hebrew by Michael Sappir)

Police stopping right-wing nationalists from attacking left wing activists during a protest in central Tel Aviv against the Israeli attack on Gaza, July 12, 2014. The protest ended with the nationalists attacking a small group of left-wing activists with little police interference. (Photo by Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Police stopping right-wing nationalists from attacking left wing activists during a protest in central Tel Aviv against the Israeli attack on Gaza, July 12, 2014. The protest ended with the nationalists attacking a small group of left-wing activists with little police interference. (Photo by Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

When the sirens wailed in Tel Aviv last night one thing was clear to us: the fascists in front of us were more dangerous than the rapidly approaching rockets. One by one, the police ran to bomb shelters and left us face to face. Only one brave and wise officer remained in the middle and attempted to separate us. Only when the Iron Dome rockets lit up the sky with their golden blazes and intercepted a rocket right over us did the two groups stop their shouts for a moment, mesmerized by the sight, from the boom, and then once again: “Death to Arabs!”, “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies!”

But our fear was justified. By the end of the protest (and a little after it, when they chased us through the streets) one person who had a chair broken over his head was injured and evacuated to hospital, another got punched hard in the head, and one came our with a black eye, someone else had their expensive video camera stolen, and dozens of others hit, pushed, or eggs thrown at them. Some also said that the fascists attacked them with pepper spray. And that’s how it became dangerous to demonstrate in Tel Aviv. Less so because of rockets from Gaza – more because of the fascists and the government’s incitement.

It was clear from the start that it wasn’t going to end well. We came to protest the ongoing killing in Gaza, against both sides’ firing on civilians, against the occupation and to demonstrate for peace...

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The IDF doesn't only aim at Hamas targets

Over a 160 people killed, entire neighborhoods which receive arbitrary warnings, entire families that have been bombed using hundreds of tons of explosives, shooting at a journalists’ car  and hitting hospitals and schools. No, we do not only shoot  at Hamas targets.

(Translated from Hebrew by Sol Salbe)

On Saturday evening, Hamas issued a warning, saying it was going to bomb Tel Aviv at 9 p.m. It did, and luckily the rockets were intercepted by Iron Dome. Sunday morning the IDF issued a similar warning to all residents of “the northern Gaza Strip,” saying it will attack the entire area at noon. Can anyone see the difference? Does saying you’re going to attack a civilian area exempt you from responsibility for the civilians you target? I don’t think so.

But let’s start with the facts: so far, IDF bombing of the Gaza Strip has killed more than a 160 people, of whom at least 24 were children and infants.

Ruins of the home of Al Haddad family, which was destroyed by an a Israeli drone missile, in Al Shaja'ia neighborhood, Gaza City, July 12, 2014. The family of 25 people evacuated the building before the home was hit. (Photo: Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

Ruins of the home of Al Haddad family, which was destroyed by an a Israeli drone missile, in Al Shaja’ia neighborhood, Gaza City, July 12, 2014. The family of 25 people evacuated the building before the home was hit. (Photo: Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

A large proportion of the bombings is directed at residential buildings. Sometimes a warning is provided and sometimes it isn’t.  And according to the military, in at least one occasion it was in error. A mistake that killed eight members of a family. In some cases fire was directed at homes in which Hamas members live, and in the process many members of their families and passersby have been killed.

Sometimes the army announces its intention to attack a home but it simply just doesn’t. Journalist Abeer Ayyoub and her family waited 24 hours (and perhaps they’re still waiting) in trepidation and fear of a bombing of neighbor’s house who has received a telephone warning (Ayyoub reported her account in Haaretz).

Read +972′s full coverage and analysis of the operation in Gaza

In addition, several days ago the army sent messages...

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It's time to talk about Gaza

For the sake of both the residents of Israel’s south and the Palestinians, we must speak about Gaza as a place with real people, rather than as a science experiment.

Over the past few years, the Israeli public discussion has reduced conditions in Gaza to one of two situations: either it’s the place where rockets are fired from, or it’s the place where rockets are momentarily not being fired from.

Responses to the rocket fire are determined accordingly: attack with vigor or hold back; refrain from entering the Strip or recreate the “achievements” of Operation Cast Lead; allow building materials or don’t; escalate or refrain. Gaza is a kind of scientific experiment where Israel tries to reach the perfect degree of “deterrence” or “restraint” in order to maintain “quiet.”

Palestinian workers salvage building materials near Erez Crossing at the northern border between Gaza and Israel, Beit Hanoun, February 18, 2014. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Palestinian workers salvage building materials near Erez Crossing at the northern border between Gaza and Israel, Beit Hanoun, February 18, 2014. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Now, we are once more in a period of escalation. Once more “code red” alarms tear the residents of Sderot and the rest of the area near the border from their beds in the middle of the night and threaten them during the day. Rockets fall on homes and factories, and normal life comes to a complete halt. Once more, the Israel Air Force bombs the Strip and prevents its residents from a full night’s rest. Only a month ago did the IAF kill seven-year-old Abed Awar. But who even remembers that? It’s likely that the current round won’t end in a ground operation, and things will return to normal. Until next time.

As Jack Khoury reported today in Haaretz, Hamas is not interested in an escalation and denies responsibility for the kidnapping. Despite the army’s major raid on the party’s institutions in the West Bank, the arrest of hundreds of its members and the bombings in Gaza – Hamas has signaled to Israel that it wants to restore calm. In the current political situation, with its recent agreement to enter into the Palestinian technocratic government (and with no ability to work outside that government due to hostility from Egypt and a lack of support from the...

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West Bank kidnapping: Israel's crackdown moves beyond Hamas militants

By arresting Hamas-affiliated journalists, charity workers and parliament members, Israel is going way beyond any attempt at trying to find the kidnapped teens.

Someone’s gotta say it: what Israel has been doing in the West Bank over the past several days goes way beyond any attempt at trying to find the kidnapped teens. It is a military and political attack on Hamas intended on serving the government’s agenda, with no connection to the attempts to find the teens, and no clear connection between Hamas and the kidnapping.

Israeli soldiers smile as they arrest a Palestinian man in Hebron. The army has put the city under closure while it searches for three kidnapped teenagers. (photo: Activestills.org)

Israeli soldiers smile as they arrest a Palestinian man in Hebron. The army has put the city under closure while it searches for three kidnapped teenagers. (photo: Activestills.org)

Let me clarify: I am sure that the army is making efforts to find the three, and I hope they are found and returned, safe and sound, as soon as possible. But this does not justify the cynical exploitation of the circumstances for other political goals entirely.

Over the last couple of days, the army’s operations have extended into Bethlehem and Nablus – the heart of Area A (where the Palestinian Authority is in charge of both security and civil matters). The army arrested members of Hamas’ charity organization, as well as journalists affiliated with Hamas and the head of the Palestinian Legislative Council, who is a member of the party. A total of 200 people. Computers and weapons were also confiscated. And all this while the search after the teenagers is focused on the Hebron area, which is under closure. There is no doubt that many of these operations are unrelated to the teens, and that no one in the army thinks that charity workers, journalists or parliamentarians know where they are.

A Palestinian youth, arrested and blindfolded by Israeli soldiers during the closure on Hebron. (photo: Activestills)

A Palestinian youth, arrested and blindfolded by Israeli soldiers during the closure on Hebron. (photo: Activestills)

While military operations grow, both Israel’s military and political leadership are undergoing a certain change. If, during the first two days, the rhetoric included talks...

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West Bank kidnapping: The Palestinian unity government's first real test

Regardless of who is responsible, the new Fatah-Hamas unity government will be watched closely for its response to the kidnappings.

Hours after a gag order prevented the Israeli media from publishing the story, we can now report that three Israeli teens, who study in the West Bank, have even missing since Thursday night. The IDF fears that their lives are in danger after being kidnapped, and that they may be held in the Hebron area. Both Palestinians and settlers have been reporting about military operations in both the south Hebron Hills and the nearby city of Yatta throughout the day. There were also reports of gunfire being exchanged between the army and armed Palestinians. Rumors abound on social media outlets, though it is too early to say what exactly happened.

What is certain is that if the three were indeed kidnapped by Palestinians, and let’s hope they are released soon, it will be the first test for the new Palestinian unity government. With the its establishment in Ramallah last week, Mahmoud Abbas declared that the Fatah-Hamas partnership, which is at the basis of the government, includes respecting prior agreements signed with Israel, such as opposition to violence. Even Israel, which announced that it was cutting ties with the Palestinian Authority, as well as a total cessation of peace negotiations (due to Hamas’ inclusion in the government), committed to continued security coordination. Even this, according to many Palestinians, is too close for comfort.

Read: Three Israeli teens feared kidnapped in the West Bank

We will have to wait and find out the identity of the kidnappers and to which organization they belong. But come what may, it is clear that the world will closely examine the new government’s response to the incident, as well as that of Hamas. To what degree do the Palestinian Authority’s security forces cooperate with the IDF? Are Hamas members involved in the kidnapping? If so, did they act with permission from the higher-ups, or against their will? How will Hamas respond to the incident? And if Hamas was not involved, which organizations stand behind it? Does this signal a new opposition to the new PLO, similar to Hamas’ position vis-a-vis the old one?

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