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IDF soldiers shoot flare at teen's face, killing him

Israeli soldiers fire illumination flares, at a direct trajectory, at stone-throwers along the Gaza border. A 15-year-old boy is killed. The IDF says it’s conducting an ‘inquiry.’

Israeli soldiers killed a Palestinian teenager by shooting a military-grade illumination flare directly at him, shattering and setting his face on fire last month, according to investigations by B’Tselem, Defence of Children International — Palestine (DCI), and video footage seen by +972 Magazine.

The killing took place on September 9, when a group of roughly 100 Palestinian youths staged a demonstration near the border fence with Israel, east of al-Bureij Refugee Camp in the Gaza Strip. Some of the protesters threw stones toward the Israeli soldiers and attempted to cut the barbed wire near the fence. The soldiers initially responded with tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets.

Video shot at the scene, which we are unable to publish here, shows that the soldiers do not appear to be in any sort of danger. The soldiers stood on the other side of the fence, some dodging the occasional stone while others sat inside armored vehicles that were entirely unaffected by the stones.

Quite unusually, however, at some point the soldiers also fired illumination flares, which were fired toward the protesters in an attempt to disperse the demonstration.

Illumination flares are used by some military units to to illuminate large areas during nighttime military operations, or in order to mark targets. They are shot out of a rifle-mounted launcher at a high trajectory, and a small parachute deploys as the flare itself illuminates the ground below for less than a minute.

Illumination flares are not intended for firing at a direct trajectory, or to for use as a weapon or crowd dispersal tactic. It is highly unusual to see them used against people.

In this case, however, the video clearly shows that the illumination flares were shot directly at the protesters, despite the fact that the minor clashes were taking place in the light of day. In one of the video clips, the flare can be seen burning for a short period, after which the Palestinian youths pick it up while the parachute is still attached.

It was exactly that type of flare that appears to have been fired directly at the face of 15-year-old Abdel-Rahman al-Dabbagh. In the video (a screenshot of which appears above), al-Dabbagh is seen lying on the ground with smoke and fire streaming from his face,...

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Following murder, hundreds of Arab women march against gender violence

Hundreds protest the murder of a woman before her children’s eyes. While some of the male demonstrators preferred to focus on police inaction and racism, the women demanded to speak about what is actually happening inside Arab society.

By Haggai Matar and Hagar Shezaf

Around 500 women and men marched Friday afternoon in the city of Lod to protest the gender violence and murder of women in Arab society.

The march, which began in Lod’s old city and ended in a vigil outside the old municipality building, marked a week since the murder of Dua’a Abu Sharkh — a murder that sparked the largest-ever women’s protest movement, what Samah Salaime termed a “women’s intifada.” Both the protest and the vigil mark the height of the community involvement in Lod in the struggle against gender violence in Arab society, the result of the hard work of local women’s organization, Na’am.

The daughters and family members of murder victims marched while wearing shirts with the names of the dead printed on their shirt, along with the sentence: “The murderer roams free.” Joint List MKs Aida Touma-Sliman, Haneen Zoabi, Bassel Ghattas and Osama Sa’adi all marched, along with hundreds of other supporters, alongside the family members. The demonstrators shouted slogans against police inaction, blaming them for solving crimes committed against Jews only.

Dua’a Abu Sharkh, a mother of four who was 32 at the time her death, was murdered last Friday while in her car. She was shot while returning her children to her husband, from whom she was divorced. The family claims that he had threatened Dua’a in the past. The demonstrators have been holding daily protests outside Lod’s police station, demanding that the police take action and catch the killer.

“Usually the media and the police claim the murder was an ‘honor killing,’ but people today came to say that they reject this line of thinking, one that we have been hearing for years,” said Fida Shahada, one of the demonstrators. “We do not accept this message, and we demand that the real killer is found, as well as all the killers who are walking free. We ask that the media stop using the term ‘honor killing.’

“We see how the police catches people who steal phones and leak privates photos. But it’s impossible for them to solve a murder?” added Shayma Abu Sharkh, Dua’a’s sister. “A telephone is more important than...

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The other, darker legacy of Shimon Peres

Shimon Peres, the last member of Israel’s founding generation, was feted internationally as a visionary man of peace. His legacy is in fact far more complex, and often nefarious

The passing of Shimon Peres, at the venerable age of 93, precipitated an outpouring of elaborate obituaries and eulogies around the world, with news outlets noting that his political life spanned the entire history of the state of Israel from its founding in 1948. Peres was, in fact, the last member of the founding generation — the men and women who settled for ideological reasons in British mandatory Palestine and dedicated their lives to building the state of Israel. But while in his later life he came to be known on the international stage as a visionary statesman and a pursuer of peace, his legacy is in fact much more complex, and often quite dark.

As an early protege of David Ben Gurion’s, Peres was appointed at the very young age of 29 to director-general of Israel’s Defense Ministry. In that position Peres built and grew Israel’s arms trade with France. He also helped to establish the reactor in Dimona. Due to Israeli censorship, journalists are not allowed to acknowledge that the nuclear reactor exists. But “foreign sources” (and Colin Powell) say that the Dimona reactor marked the introduction of nuclear weapons to the Middle East.

With Peres at the defense ministry, Israel took a lead role in the 1956 Sinai Campaign. He exploited his French connections to position Israel as a client state of the European powers, and to embark on a war whose primary goals were to: establish Israeli control over the Sinai Peninsula; seize the Suez Canal from Egyptian sovereign control and hand the reins back to the French and British; and weaken anti-colonial forces in the region. The United States and Russia, then the world’s two new superpowers, ultimately forced Israel into a full withdrawal from the Sinai, but the message Israel sent to its neighbors was clear: we’re with the other guys — the Europeans.

Peres later served as a junior minister in the governments that followed the 1967 war, and which kicked off the settlement enterprise — an ongoing project of land theft and oppression, which the government knew violated international law from day one. But in those early days, Israel’s settlements in the West Bank, Gaza and Sinai were presented as the continuation of the same settlement movement that established dozens of kibbutzim across Israel in the 1930s, 40s and...

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IDF Censor redacts 1 in 5 articles it reviews for publication

The Israeli military censor has redacted, in full or in part, over 17,000 articles since 2011. While fewer articles have been censored in 2015 and 2016, the new IDF Censor is attempting to redact already-published information with alarming frequency.

The Israeli Military Censor has outright banned the publication of 1,936 articles and redacted some information from 14,196 articles over the past five years. That is 1,936 articles that professional journalists and editors decided were of public interest but which never saw the light of day.

In fact, the IDF Censor redacted at least some information from one in five articles submitted to it for review since 2011, according to data provided by the Israeli army at the request of +972 Magazine, its Hebrew-language sister site Local Call, and The Movement for Freedom of Information.

Under the new chief IDF censor who entered the job last year, there has been a dramatic rise in the number of instances in which the Censor contacts publishers with demands to alter or remove items that have already been published — almost double the number of post-publication censorship attempts in years past. At the same time, the new IDF Censor is intervening slightly less in articles submitted to her office for review prior to publication.

Since the start of 2011, the years that saw the most censorship were those in which Israel was engaged in warfare in the Gaza Strip. The highest rates and frequency of censorship took place in 2014, the year of Operation Protective Edge, and the second-highest was 2012, the year of Operation Pillar of Cloud.

Furthermore, the data confirms that the IDF Censor’s office bans the publication of documents and materials from the State Archives, documents that have already approved for publication, and some of which have already been published in the public domain.

The Israeli military censor in Israel draws its authority from emergency regulations put in place during the British Mandate period, many of which have remained on Israel’s law books for upwards of 70 years.

While other countries have formal mechanisms for requesting that journalists refrain from publishing certain information relating to national security, Israel is all but alone among Western democratic states that have a legally binding state censor. Nowhere else must reported materials be submitted for prior review.

Media outlets in Israel, lately expanded to...

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Watching your son's killers walk free

This is the story of a Palestinian father whose son was shot in the back by two Israeli soldiers. In the bizarre reality of occupation, he is the one who must ask permission from the wardens while his son’s killers walk free.

What took place at the Ramle Magistrate’s Court on Thursday morning was beyond bizarre. Every encounter between a grieving family and those who killed their child is, without a doubt, terrible — but they usually look different than what I witnessed. Most of these meetings take place in district courts. Usually the ones who killed the child are brought to court house from prison, led by guards, while the family walks free. Not today. Not in this story.

In this story Ahmed Awad, whose 16-year-old son Samir was shot in the back and killed by two soldiers after he was already wounded, was the one who had to wake up early in the village of Budrus, obtain a special entry permit ahead of time to leave the West Bank and show up in a court where the prosecutor is not the same prosecutor from the previous hearing (perhaps the case is not important enough). The prosecutor did not utter a word to Awad. No condolences, no update — nothing.

At the end of the five-minute hearing Awad was resigned to request — with the help of an Israeli friend, since the court does not provide a translator for the victim of the crime — that the court allow him to be present at the next hearing. Then he had to go to the court clerk in have the judge’s decision written out as a court order, which he will need in order to obtain an entry permit at an Israeli army base in the settlement of Beit El. That hearing certainly won’t have a translator either, the prosecutor won’t say a word to him, because what difference does it make that Ahmed’s son, Samir, died after being shot in the back by the soldiers he is prosecuting?

Then there were the two now-discharged soldiers who aren’t sitting in prison, nor do they need special jump through bureaucratic hurdles and obtain special permits just to make it to the courthouse. They are not even accused of manslaughter, only reckless and negligent use of a firearm. The soldiers’ names cannot be published, despite the fact that they have been published in the past, since that is what their attorney requested in the previous hearing. The judge slapped a gag...

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A 'wave of violence' that never actually ends

When the Israeli media talks about the latest ‘wave of violence,’ it leaves out the five unarmed Palestinians who were shot to death by soldiers and police officers in the past few months.

The newspaper headlines over the past few days leave no room for doubt regarding what has been happening here lately. “Terror returns,” read Yedioth Ahronoth‘s headline on Sunday, while Haaretz and Ma’ariv ran similar headlines on Tuesday morning.

Indeed the last few days have been full of stabbing and vehicle-ramming attacks by Palestinians in Jerusalem and Hebron, the vast majority of them directed at soldiers and police officers, rather than citizens. The recent wave of violence has not claimed any Israeli lives, but it has left six of the attackers dead. Five police officers and soldiers were wounded, one of them severely.

If we put aside the recent attacks on Israelis, it is clear that this “wave” never actually ended. Only two weeks ago did Israeli police officers shoot and kill Mustafa Nimr, a Palestinian who was traveling by car in Jerusalem’s Shuafat refugee camp. At first the police claimed Nimr and his cousin, who was driving, had attempted to run them over. Very quickly, however, it became clear that this was patently false, and that the officers continued to shoot at the car even after it had come to a complete stop. A little over a week later soldier shot Iyad Hamed near the West Bank village of Silwad. Here, too, soldiers alleged Hamed had shot at them, although it later became clear that he was unarmed and posed no threat, and was possibly shot in the back.

In mid-July Border Police officers shot and killed Anwar a-Salaime in the village A-Ram, as he sat in his car. The police argued that he had attempted to run them over, although video footage clearly shows that the police shot at the car from behind after he drove past them, and that a-Salaime was shot in the back.

Or go back to June 22, when soldiers riddled a taxi on Route 443 with bullets, killing 15-year-old Muhammad Badran and wounding four others. Once again the army released an initial statement that they had killed a terrorist who threw Molotov cocktails. And again it became clear that Badran and his friends had no connection to the Molotov cocktails that were indeed thrown at the...

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Israeli forces shoot Palestinian journalist in head with tear gas canister

Nidal Eshtayeh, who has been attacked by Israeli troops and officers multiple times, is still recovering from the impact of the projectile that broke through his helmet.

Israeli Border Police officers shot Palestinian photojournalist Nidal Eshtayeh in the head with an extended-range tear gas canister last week, which shattered his helmet and left him with a concussion from which he has yet to recover.

The shooting took place during the course of a weekly protest against Israeli settlements in the Palestinian village of Kafr Qaddum. Like almost every week, the protest devolved into clashes between Israeli soldiers and Border Police officers, who shot tear gas and sprayed local homes with putrid “skunk” water, and young Palestinian protesters who threw stones at the armed and armored soldiers.

Eshtayeh, a freelance photographer who works with Chinese news agency Xinhua and who is accredited by the Israeli Government Press Office, was clearly identified as a journalist, wearing protective gear marked “PRESS” and carrying large professional cameras. According to his attorney, Itay Mack, who filed a complaint about the incident to the Israeli army and police Internal Affairs, Eshtayeh was standing in a group of photographers, making it impossible to misidentify him as anything but a news photographer at the time he was shot.

“I was standing behind the protest, not next to the protesters. I fell and wasn’t able to move, so they carried me to an ambulance and took me to Rafidia Hospital [in Nablus],” Eshtayeh told +972’s Hebrew-language sister site, Local Call. “More than a week later, my head is still spinning; I am in pain and I can’t work.”

“I have no doubt that if my client had not been wearing a helmet that he would have lost his life,” Mack added. “There was no justification for shooting directly at journalists.”

[Video of the clashes, from the Kafr Qaddum YouTube page. Eshtayeh and his damaged helmet are shown in an ambulance at minute marker 1:29]:

This was not the first time Nidal Eshtayeh has been injured by Israeli security forces. Just over a year ago, an Israeli soldier shot a rubber bullet at his face, shattering the protective glass on his gas mask and pushing a glass shard into his eye. His eyesight in that eye is still damaged.

In September 2013, Israeli soldiers attacked Eshtayeh, confiscating his cameras and handing them over...

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IDF shuts down Palestinian radio station — but won't explain why

The Israeli army shuts down the West Bank-based ‘A-Sanabel,’ claiming it incites against Israelis without so much as providing any evidence. Such is life under a military regime. 

The Israeli army shut down Palestinian radio station A-Sanabel in the early hours of Wednesday morning, arresting five of employees and confiscating equipment. According to the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, the station was closed “due to inciting broadcasts.” However, the IDF Spokesperson could not provide examples or statistics on such incitement.

According to Israeli news site Ynet, A-Sanabel openly supported “harming Israelis,” praised violent attacks, backed campaigns for rebuilding demolished homes of Palestinian attackers, and “promoted participation in resistance marches.” That is, the reasons provided by “army sources” — without going into detail — include a strange mix of incitement to violence and calls for completely legitimate actions.

I had never heard of A-Sanabel before. I have no idea what kind of content they broadcast. It could very well be that they call for the murder of Jews. Perhaps. But it is also possible that they broadcast news and lifestyle shows, that they employ journalists who report on local corruption cases or broadcasters who promote positive, nonviolent actions such as protesting the occupation or repairing the damage that results from the army’s collective punishment.

The point is that we cannot know, since the army neither needs nor wants to provide details beyond a general statement on “inciting broadcasts.” The army does not need to give explanations about its actions to the station, the journalists who lost their jobs, or the listeners.

Last November, when the Shin Bet and the police shut down two newspapers belonging to the Islamic Movement in Israel (the stations were never accused of partaking in incitement, just ask the head of the Government Press Office Nitzan Chen), the Union of Journalists in Israel sent a leader to Prime Minister and Communications Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denouncing the closure. According to the union, even if the Islamic Movement’s stations did publish a certain text that includes incitement, “the way to deal with it is through criminal proceedings vis-a-vis the inciters — not through shutting down a media outlet and firing many journalists who did nothing wrong, and silencing a voice among the public discourse.”

Read: Israel’s covert war against Palestinian media

The same goes for the journalists in Dura. It is unreasonable that the army can simply shut down a radio station without explaining...

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IDF releases conscientious objector after 67 days in prison

Omri Baranes sat in military prison for 67 days for refusing to join the Israeli army.

After spending 67 days in military prison, Israeli conscientious objector Omri Baranes was officially released from IDF service on Thursday. Baranes, from the city of Rosh HaAyin in central Israel, was recognized by an IDF committee as a pacifist and was thus released on conscientious grounds. The conscientious objectors committee originally rejected her request, leading Baranes to refuse to serve in the army and sit in prison.

According to the IDF conscientious objectors who oppose all forms of violence or service in any army are eligible for exemption, as opposed to those who refuse to enlist due to their opposition to a specific army policy — such as the occupation. These kinds of conscientious objectors usually sit for a lengthy period in military prison and are usually released on grounds of unsuitability, as was recently the case with Tair Kaminer, who sat in prison for around 150 days.

“I am very happy that I finally received an exemption from the conscientious objectors committee,” Baranes told +972. “It was a long journey and perhaps I could have avoided it, but now that I am exempted it is all behind me. The first step of not joining the army is over and now I will work through different channels toward peace and equality.”

In her original declaration to the army, Baranes wrote that “bombs and weapons are not the solution to conflicts. War carries the heavy price of victims: our soldiers are killed, as are citizens and residents from both sides. I refuse to be part of an organization that sees things in black and white, which views all the residents of an enemy country as potential enemies, and thus may harm innocent people.”

Yasmin Yablonko, an organizer for conscientious objector organization “Mesarvot,” responded to Baranes’ release:

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

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Palestinian journalist ordered to spend three months in admin. detention

The Supreme Court upheld the army’s request to extend Omar Nazzal’s remand by three months only, instead of four. The judges did not specify why he posed a security threat, and how he would cease to in three months’ time.

Palestinian journalist Omar Nazzal, who was detained in April while trying to leave the West Bank en route to an international conference, will spend at least another three months in administrative detention, the Israel Defense Forces ruled on Friday.

Since his arrest at Allenby Bridge border crossing, Nazzal has been in administrative detention with no charges, a formal indictment or a scheduled court hearing.

The Israeli army and Shin Bet Security Service claim that he is affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which Israel views as a terrorist organization. Nazzal denies the charge and demands either to be sentenced or released.

Administrative detention is an extreme measure meant to be adopted rarely and with moderation. Administrative detainees are held indefinitely without charge or trial — without any way to defend themselves.

Two weeks ago, the Supreme Court ruled, based on classified evidence that the defense was unable to view, that Nazzal’s remand must be extended by up to three months, instead of the four months the army had planned.

The judges did not specify why Nazzal would be a security threat for the next three months, but not for another month afterwards.

Nazzal has been huger striking for the past 19 days, protesting his administrative detention and in solidarity with another administrative detainee, Bilal Kayed.

Journalists’ associations worldwide have condemned Nazzal’s detention and called for his imminent release. The Union of Journalists in Israel (of which the author of this piece is a board member) has yet to weigh in.

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

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Left-wing Palestinian parties join forces for upcoming elections

Five parties announced the establishment of the ‘Democratic Alliance’ that will run in the upcoming municipal elections. The goal: a third party option to Fatah and Hamas.

Five left-wing Palestinian parties in the occupied territories announced they will run on a joint list in the upcoming municipal elections. Elections are expected to take place on October 8th in over 300 municipalities, village councils, and regional councils in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The parties, which will run together under the name the “Democratic Alliance,” have not ruled out the possibility that this will be the first step in forming a similar alliance on a national level.

Senior officials of the five parties are trying to position the leftist bloc as an alternative to Fatah and Hamas, which will focus on both the unity of the Palestinian struggle against the occupation and, yes, on social justice. Namely, equality between men and women (the alliance is committed to ensuring that at least 30 percent of its representatives are women) and resistance to corruption.

The platform also includes support for full access to electricity, water, social services, infrastructure, lighting, and free public parks. According to some members of the party, the alliance drew inspiration from the establishment of the Joint List during the last elections to the Knesset.

Counting on undecided voters

Should they take place, these will be the first municipal elections in the occupied territories to succeed. The 2005 elections were not completed in full and elections in 2012 only took place in the West Bank, as they were boycotted by Hamas in Gaza. It will also be the first electoral event shared by the West Bank and Gaza in a decade, since Hamas’ victory in the general elections of 2006, its rise to power in Gaza, and the ensuing rift between both parties. Hamas’ participation in the upcoming elections, and its concurrent presence in both Gaza and the West Bank, is seen as a positive sign toward mending the rift.

Although they ran independently, each of the left-wing parties partook in those same elections, reaching a little less than ten percent of electoral support. The latest poll conducted by Khalil Shikaki’s Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found that were general elections to be held today, Fatah would win by 34 percent, Hamas by 31 percent, and left-wing parties (independently) by...

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Palestinian hunger striker to remain handcuffed to hospital bed

The Beersheba District Court also ruled that Bilal Kayed, who has been hunger striking for 58 days, will be prevented from seeing his doctor, citing ‘adequate’ treatment he receives at Ashkelon’s Barzilai hospital.

The Beersheba District Court decided in a precedent ruling that Bilal Kayed, a hunger-striking Palestinian administrative detainee, would be prevented from seeing his doctor.

The court also ruled that he would remain handcuffed to his bed, and accused Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), the organization that represented him, that they petitioned in bad faith.

Kayed went on a hunger strike 58 days ago to protest his extrajudicial detention, which could be extended indefinitely. On July 17, he was hospitalized at Ashkelon’s Barzilai Medical Center after his health deteriorated.

In hospital, despite his poor health, he was handcuffed to his bed and guarded 24/7. In addition, he made a request to see his own doctor, but was refused by the Israel Prisons Service (IPS). Kayed’s unsuccessful petition was against these two provisions. His lawyers said he would appeal.

Hidden agenda

The court upheld IPS’ assessment that he might escape or be smuggled out, because the window in his ground-floor room has no bars.

In coming to assess the detainee’s risk, the court relied in this case – as in all administrative detentions – on classified reports, to which the detainee and his lawyers have no access. It was to protest this injustice that Kayed started hunger striking.

As for Kayed’s request to see his doctor, the judge ruled that it would be unnecessary because he receives “adequate” medical attention. He stated that Barzilai’s medical staff are “experienced” in treating Palestinian hunger strikers, and that he receives regular visits of the Red Cross. On this basis, the judge ruled that a second opinion is not indispensable.

“It is hard not to believe that the petition wasn’t motivated by a genuine concern for the petitioner’s health, but a hidden agenda that does not belong in court,” he wrote. “I have come to the conclusion that the request to see a private doctor was not made in good faith.”

“During the hearings, the IPS claimed that PHR are driven by a hidden agenda that has nothing to do with the petitioner’s health,” says Amani Dayif, the head...

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Israeli jurists to IDF: Release conscientious objector Tair Kaminer

Kaminer has spent nearly 170 days in prison for refusing to enlist in the IDF due to her opposition to the occupation.

Dozens of Israeli jurists sent a letter last friday to the Military Advocate General, calling for the release of Israeli conscientious objector Tair Kaminer, who has spent nearly 170 days in military prison for refusing to enlist in the IDF over its policies in the occupied territories.

The jurists argue that Kaminer’s sentence is disproportionate, and that she should be released from the army and allowed to take part in civil service. Kaminer is the longest-serving imprisoned female conscientious objector.

Kaminer, 19, appeared last Thursday before the IDF’s conscientious objectors committee, and has yet to receive a response regarding her exemption request. The committee has historically decided to not exempt female conscientious objectors such as Kaminer, who declare their refusal to enlist in the army due to their explicit opposition to the occupation (as opposed to pacifism, for example).

In their letter the jurist state that while they have differing opinions on the nature of Kaminer’s refusal, they are unanimous in their belief that there is no reason to imprison someone who believes that military service goes against their core moral beliefs, and that Kaminer’s refusal to enlist is an expression of “freedom of consciousness.”

“Under circumstances in which there is no real fear that a moderate response toward a person who refuses to serve will lead many others to refuse and put state security at risk,” they write, “the state is not allowed to punish a person with a lengthy prison sentence for conscientious objection. This kind of sentence is disproportionate.”

Before her imprisonment, Kaminer performed a year of national service with the Israeli Scouts (“Tzofim”) in the southern development town of Sderot. There she volunteered with children who suffer from trauma following multiple wars in Gaza and continual rocket fire on the city. “The children I worked with grew up in the heart of the conflict and have had extremely difficult experiences from a young age, experiences that caused them to feel hatred, which can be understood, especially when it comes from young children,” Kaminer wrote in a statement published this past January.

“Like them, many children who grow up in Gaza or in the West Bank, in an even more difficult environment, learn to hate the other side,” the statement read. “They, too,...

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