+972 Magazine » Haggai Matar http://972mag.com Independent commentary and news from Israel & Palestine Sat, 22 Nov 2014 15:10:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8 WATCH: Settlers assault, throw stones at Palestinian farmers http://972mag.com/watch-settlers-assault-hurl-stones-at-palestinian-farmers/98899/ http://972mag.com/watch-settlers-assault-hurl-stones-at-palestinian-farmers/98899/#comments Mon, 17 Nov 2014 13:32:59 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=98899 The villagers of Ash-Shuyukh have been trying to reach their lands for 10 years — each time they are attacked by settlers. When they arrived there on Saturday, Israeli activists had cameras ready.

Settlers attacked a small group of Palestinian farmers from the village of Ash-Shuyukh who came to work their land near the settlements of Pnei Kedem and Metzad on Saturday.

As can be seen in video filmed by an Israeli activist with Ta’ayush, a direct-action solidarity group, the settlers threw stones and physically assaulted the farmers while a group of soldiers stood between the two and attempted to stop the attackers. The soldiers, however, refrained from detaining the settlers.

“Farmers have been prevented from accessing the land for nearly 10 years,” says Danny Kornberg, an activist with Ta’ayush who witnessed the attack. “They say that every time the settlers come, they either attack the farmers or call the soldiers who detain the farmers for hours. The landowners were granted permission by the court regarding these specific lands, which proved that the land indeed belongs to them. This is the first time that we accompanied them to the area — I hope it isn’t the last.”

The video, which is edited, shows soldiers coming down to the valley and asking for identification documents from the farmers. Eventually the settlers arrive and waste no time before they begin throwing rocks at the farmers and physically assaulting the activists who are filming.

All the while, the settlers yell racist epithets at the Palestinians (“you nasty Arab, you have no right to be here) and demand that the soldiers remove them from the vicinity of the settlement. The soldiers attempt to separate the two groups, but refuse the activists’ demand to detain the attackers. When soldiers witness such acts of settler violence, they can summon the police and detain the settlers until police arrive. In practice, however, that rarely happens.

Eventually the soldiers get confirmation over their radios that the farmers are allowed to work their own land, and the settlers leave.

According to one of the activists in the video, and as confirmed by Peace Now reports, the Pnei Kedem outpost partially sits atop privately owned Palestinian land.

More coverage of settler violence:
Settler violence comes with the territory
Israeli inaction enables settler violence against Palestinians
Settler violence: Think of it like burning down a Jewish business

This article was first published on +972′s Hebrew-language sister site, Local Call. Read it in Hebrew here.

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WATCH: Police spray putrid water on Palestinian homes, schools http://972mag.com/watch-police-spray-putrid-water-on-palestinian-homes-schools/98840/ http://972mag.com/watch-police-spray-putrid-water-on-palestinian-homes-schools/98840/#comments Sat, 15 Nov 2014 18:20:37 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=98840 Two new videos catch a police ‘skunk’ truck spraying East Jerusalem neighborhoods with foul-smelling liquid. The smell was so bad that 4,500 students had to stay home from school.

The “skunk” trucks drives slowly through the neighborhood. It is evening, and there is no evidence of clashes in the area. The truck proceeds slowly, sprays putrid-smelling water on a nearby building, continues on and shoots once again. When it’s all over, the truck has tainted schools, homes, streets – entire neighborhoods – with its unbearable stink. Just like that.

Two videos that were filmed this past week by Palestinian residents of Jerusalem and were given to +972 support claims by residents regarding the inappropriate use of the skunk by the police. In August, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) filed a complaint to the police regarding multiple cases of the arbitrary use of the skunk, especially at times when there are no protests or clashes. It seems that the police has not changed its ways.

The common understanding among residents and human rights organizations is that the police are collectively punishing Jerusalem’s Palestinian residents, in light of clashes between youth and police in these neighborhoods. But the punishment neither begins nor ends with skunk water; the police block entrances to these neighborhoods with concrete blocks, detains residents for long hours at checkpoints and hands out petty fines – all at the behest of the Jerusalem municipality.

Police use the 'skunk' water canon to disperse protesters in Kafr Kanna, a day after Israeli police fatally shot an Arab man in the village. (photo: Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Police use the ‘skunk’ water canon to disperse protesters in Kafr Kanna, a day after Israeli police fatally shot an Arab man in the village. (photo: Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

In the A-Tur neighborhood, the police shot skunk water at four large schools, forcing the parents of 4,500 students to leave their children at home due to the unbearable smell. “It was this past Friday, at around 5:30 p.m.,” says Khader Abu Sabitan, a member of the parents’ committee in the neighborhood. “I was on the road and saw them pass with their machine, and saw how they began shooting water at the school. I’m telling you – there was nothing there. It is Friday at 5:30 in the evening, and there was no one in the school or on the streets. Nothing. Everyone was home. They went to all four schools in the neighborhood, shot the water, and left.”

WATCH: The ‘skunk’ sprays foul-smelling liquid on a school in A-Tur

The skunk water targeted the A-Tur elementary school for boys, the elementary and high school for girls, a high school for boys and the “Basma” elementary school for disabled children. All four schools are located on the neighborhood’s main street.

“After we saw what they did, we told the parents not to send the children to school on Saturday, which is a school day for us. We thought that the municipality would be able to solve the problem by Sunday, since the children didn’t go to school on that day. It wasn’t a strike – we just could not enter the area because of the smell. We sent letters through the teachers on Saturday and Sunday, but no one came. So we brought back the children to school on Monday, and told them to go straight to class ad not linger outside. The smell even permeated the classrooms, but they closed the windows and made do somehow. They stayed inside during the lunch break and then went straight home. It has been a week, and it still smells. Less, but you can still smell it.”

For anyone who has not experienced it, words cannot express the smell of the skunk. The Israeli-developed truck is primarily used by the army in the occupied territories over the past several years, although now it is slowly making its way to Jerusalem and Israel. The strong stench smells like a mix of feces and animal carcass – gagging is almost inevitable.

WATCH: The ‘skunk’ showers putrid water on homes in Jabel Mukaber

The worst part is that there is almost no way to get rid of the smell. Showering doesn’t help, and protesters usually deal with it is by taking a dip in the sea. Objects that have been sprayed with skunk water often smell for much longer periods of time. After being hit with a few drops of skunk water, my camera smelled for nearly half a year.

It is difficult to fathom exactly why such large amounts of skunk water must be sprayed at classrooms and homes, as can be seen in the second video that was filmed in the Jabel Mukaber neighborhood of Jerusalem. Like in the video from A-Tur, there are no stone throwers or protesters. The police act casually, there are no rocks being thrown in the air, no sounds of explosions, no screaming or bullets that characterize confrontations in East Jerusalem. Just a skunk truck spraying homes.

“The perception of the residents and organizations is that the police uses the skunk routinely, regardless of whether they are dispersing protests, as one can plainly see in the video” Oshrat Maimon, an attorney with the Ir Amim NGO. “The problem is that we don’t even know what the police’s procedure is when it comes to using the skunk. Therefore, we don’t know if the problem is in the procedure itself, or in the lack of implementation. The truth is that we’re a bit helpless in this situation.”

Over the past several weeks, activists from East Jerusalem have met with members of human rights organizations in order to attempt to formulate a response to the actions of the police and municipality. They, however, found it difficult to arrive at a solution. “Our field coordinators say that people are afraid of the police and do not want to provide testimonies,” says Maimon. “Even people who were shot, such as someone was hit with a sponge-tipped bullet in the head or a woman who was shot and her uterus was torn – when our investigators speak with them, they are afraid that if they speak up the police will find its way to them and find a way to harm them.

In response to ACRI’s request, the police responded that the skunk is used according to regulations, but refused to say explain what the regulation says. ACRI has attempted to force the police to publish the regulations vis-a-vis the skunk. Meanwhile in East Jerusalem, the occupation becomes smellier than ever.

+972 asked for a response from Jerusalem Police. Their response will be published here.

Hundreds of Palestinians, Israelis protest collective punishment in East Jerusalem
The hard fact is that Israeli repression works
What Palestinian media is saying about the Jerusalem violence

This article was first published on +972′s Hebrew-language sister site, Local Call. Read it in Hebrew here.

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10 years after Arafat: Where did the Palestinian leadership go? http://972mag.com/10-years-after-arafat-where-did-the-palestinian-leadership-go/98639/ http://972mag.com/10-years-after-arafat-where-did-the-palestinian-leadership-go/98639/#comments Tue, 11 Nov 2014 12:22:15 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=98639 In both Gaza and Ramallah the Palestinian leadership hasn’t gotten involved in the latest wave of violence. They’re not condemning it, they’re not supporting it, and they’re certainly not offering Palestinians any vision. But Israelis shouldn’t take comfort.

One of the hottest topics in the media recently is the question of whether we can call whatever is happening here lately an intifada. Regardless of whether or not there is an intifada, the source and solution still lie in the hands of the Israeli government, which chooses escalation instead of quiet and ending the occupation. But all that aside, it’s still worth asking: is this an intifada?

The answer for the time being is no, in my opinion. An intifada is a widespread popular uprising, like the First Intifada and like the early days of the second (when mass protests were crushed with overwhelming firepower, after which the terrorist attacks began). Nobody called the bomb attacks of the 90s or the rocket fire from Gaza “intifada.” Same goes for what we’re seeing now — vehicular attacks and stabbings that are the unorganized actions of young individuals, and dozens of stone-throwers in Jerusalem who are not part of a Palestinian societal movement.

Ismail Hanniyeh, Yasser Arafat, Mahmoud Abbas

Ismail Hanniyeh, Yasser Arafat, Mahmoud Abbas

Beyond the lack of — mass — public participation, the main difference between these past few weeks and the two intifadas is that there is not anybody or anything that can be considered leadership. Not local and not national. It’s nearly impossible to look at the the wave of violent incidents and to not wonder where the Palestinian leadership is. Both Mahmoud Abbas and and Ismail Haniyeh put out statements about the Aqsa Mosque. Gazan officials expressed support for the vehicle attack that killed baby Chaya Zissel Braun; officials in Ramallah sent a condolence letter to the family of Muataz Hijazi, Yehuda Glick’s would-be assassin, whose killing by police is considered by many Palestinians to have been an assassination.

But that’s it. Haniyeh is busy stopping whoever is shooting rockets at Israel, and arguing with Egypt about the destruction in Egyptian Rafah and the demolition of the tunnels. Abbas is still continuing his security coordination with Israel (which is a code word for oppressing any protest against Israel — or the Palestinian Authority), and promised the Americans that he will maintain quiet at least until the end of 2015. Aside from a few limited moves at the UN, which are completely disconnected from reality on the ground, he isn’t offering Palestinians any vision or hope, and is making absolutely no calls for a struggle of any sort.

Abbas and Haniyeh, by the way, are still in the middle of a crisis of rapprochement. Their ongoing non-reconciliation made headlines this week when Fatah canceled its planned Gaza Strip commemoration for Yasser Arafat following a series of explosions targeting the cars of Fatah personnel in the Strip. In Ramallah they blamed Hamas, Hamas rejected the accusation and the ceremony was canceled. In other words: Palestinian leadership? What Palestinian leadership?

Today, on the 10-year anniversary of the death of Yasser Arafat, it’s impossible not to wonder how he would have dealt with this. As Amira Hass wrote in Haaretz last week, Palestinian society has changed and quite dramatically crumbled over the past 10 years. Israeli measures — the separation between Gaza and the West Bank, the wall and Jerusalem and the “economic peace” that created an elite class in Ramallah that is disconnected from most of its people and which is reliant on foreign money and quiet in the streets — have managed to bring about social disintegration that, conveniently, is preventing a popular uprising, and prevents Abbas from encouraging one.

Would Arafat himself have acted any differently? Perhaps. Maybe the symbolic strength of the historical leader of the PLO could have organized a dramatic process of revival and shaking off in Palestinian society. But it could also be that the new reality in the territories would have tied Arafat’s hands, too. As Hass wrote, and as Rami Younis wrote in Local Call during this summer’s war, the Ramallah “coffee house camp” has trouble organizing anything more than conversations these days.

But Israelis shouldn’t feel happy or safe about the absence of a strong Palestinian leadership and the absence of a wide-scale intifada: that has been proven by the recent attacks and disquiet in Jerusalem. When there is no organization and no leadership, people find other ways to unload their rage against the occupation — and it’s a lot harder to deal with lone, scattered and unrelated attacks than it is to conduct negotiations.

Any people ruled by a foreign army and a foreign government that makes clear time after time that it has no intention to take its boot off their necks, will turn to protest. And if that protest fails, they will turn to violence; and if that doesn’t work, then they’ll turn to even more murderous violence. If Fatah can’t bring the goods, then Hamas will. If Hamas can’t, then even more radical groups will. And that will bring about stabbings, and vehicular attacks and in the future, once again, rockets from Gaza and god knows what else.

On the 10th anniversary of Arafat’s death, it needs to be made clear that the Israeli government’s generations of excuses about why the occupation hasn’t ended are empty, and always will be. If the excuses isn’t Arafat, it will be Abbas. If not Abbas, then Hamas. If not Hamas, then ISIS. There’s always a reason not to hold peace talks, there’s always an excuse not to ensure equality and hope and a future for millions of people whose lives we have ruled over for nearly 50 years. And that will always cost us dearly.

To stop the attacks, Israelis have to see the whole picture
What Palestinian media is saying about the Jerusalem violence
Netanyahu: Those who call to destroy Israel should have citizenship revoked

This article was first published on +972′s Hebrew-language sister site, Local Call. Read it in Hebrew here.

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WATCH: Police kill would-be attacker as he runs away http://972mag.com/watch-did-police-kill-an-arab-man-who-posed-no-threat/98508/ http://972mag.com/watch-did-police-kill-an-arab-man-who-posed-no-threat/98508/#comments Sat, 08 Nov 2014 10:55:34 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=98508 Police shot and killed 22-year-old Khir Hamdan in the village of Kafr Kanna overnight on Saturday after he attempted to attack them with a knife.

A security camera that captured the shooting show that Hamdan was fleeing from the officers when they shot him, which ostensibly means he posed no threat to the lives of the policemen at that moment.

The video shows Hamda trying to attack a riot police unit (known in Hebrew as “Yassam”) van that arrived in the village with what appears to be a knife. After several seconds, the policemen exit the vehicle and Hamdan backs off and starts running away. While he is fleeing, one of the policemen shoots him. Hamdan died a few hours later.

Hamdan’s family blames the officers for the “cold-blooded murder” of their son, who they claim posed no threat when shot. A demonstration against the killing was set to take place Saturday afternoon. Police told Ynet that Hamdan “tried to stab the policemen during the arrest of a village residents. That is why they shot him. We are continuing to look into the matter.”

The event took place just two days after Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich essentially endorsed the extra-judicial killing of murder suspects, in the wake of last week’s terror attack in Jerusalem. Aharonovich’s statement is an affront to the rule of law, not to mention police procedures, which require police to shoot in order to neutralize a threat, rather than to kill.

One must wonder whether Aharonovich’s statement influenced those policemen who acted Saturday morning in Kafr Kanna, this time within the Green Line.

Update (3:30 p.m.):

Israel Police announces it will open an investigation into Hamdan’s death. In Kafr Kanna, roughly 80 youths clashed with police forces in the run-up to the demonstration. Police were using sponge-tipped bullets and putrid “skunk” water canons to disperse the demonstrators. Inside the town, thousands turned out for a demonstration.

Minister: Demolish homes in response to deadly J’lem attack
WATCH: Footage shows Israeli army’s killing of two Palestinian teens

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Israeli conscientious objector ends hunger strike citing abuse http://972mag.com/israeli-conscientious-objector-ends-hunger-strike-citing-abuse/98369/ http://972mag.com/israeli-conscientious-objector-ends-hunger-strike-citing-abuse/98369/#comments Mon, 03 Nov 2014 09:52:51 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=98369 Prison guards put Udi Segal in isolation and threatened him with trumped up charges, alleges the jailed conscientious objector now serving his fifth term in Israeli military prison.

Udi Segal (right) arrives with supporters to an IDF induction base. The sign says, 'Refuseniks Against the Occupation' (Photo courtesy of 'Refuseniks Against the Occupation'

Udi Segal (right) arrives with supporters to an IDF induction base. The sign says, ‘Refuseniks Against the Occupation’ (Photo courtesy of ‘Refuseniks Against the Occupation’

Israeli conscientious objector Udi Segal stopped his hunger strike over the weekend, citing what he described as abuse by guards in the Israeli army’s “Prison 6.” Segal began his fifth prison term last Thursday when he once again registered his refusal to serve in the Israeli army for reasons of conscience, declaring a hunger strike to protest his continued and repeated imprisonment.

Since the start of his latest prison term Segal has been subject to degrading treatment by guards which led him to end his hunger strike, according to his attorney, Rawan Eghbariah of ‘New Profile.’ According to Eghbariah, Segal was placed in an isolation wing of the prison in a cell with broken windows, was not allowed to have any books — including religious books — with him and was forced to keep his hands on his knees anytime he was sitting.

Additionally, Segal was forced to go into the prison yard at least four times over the weekend, Eghbariah said. During one of those times, she added, he was ordered to carry out physically strenuous activities for 40 minutes at a time, and alternatively to stare at a specific point on the wall for 40 minutes. The prison guards told Segal they would prevent him from meeting with his attorney and, “we can do whatever we want to you and put you on trial because there are no witnesses.” The guards also told Segal that he is harming his family, according to his attorney.

Segal decided to stop his hunger strike on Saturday. He told his attorney, Eghbariah, that he did so because of the abuse he suffered and because “it turned into a power struggle, and I’m not interested in proving my strength or my ‘masculinity,’ in their language — that is the essence of my refusal.”

In a statement published last Thursday, Segal wrote, “I am not willing to participate in the denial of Palestinians’ freedom. I will not contribute to a situation in which four million Palestinians live in territories under a regime they did not elect.”

Segal’s case is not the first report of Israeli military prison guards abusing inmates in the isolation wing of Prison 6. Ultra-Orthodox conscientious objector Uriel Ferera, who at the start of his prison term refused to wear an army uniform, reported degrading treatment from prison guards. More recently, objector Omar Sa’ad suffered in prison, where he became sick and, according to him, was not provided medical care until his condition worsened to the point that he required hospitalization. Following that incident he was released from the military.

The IDF Spokesperson’s Office issued the following response: “The soldier was processed [into] Prison Base 396 on October 30, 2014, for [being AWOL]. The soldier is not hunger striking and is being cared for by the prison base’s staff. Accordingly, the soldier was in contact with his parents and his attorney.”

This article was first published on +972′s Hebrew-language sister site, Local Call. Read it in Hebrew here.

‘God can’t hear you’: Orthodox draft refuser’s first night in prison
Jailed Israeli conscientious objector starts hunger strike
IDF to release conscientious objector after 177 days in prison

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Rabin memorial makes clear Israel’s peace camp stuck in the 90s http://972mag.com/rabin-memorial-makes-clear-israels-peace-camp-stuck-in-the-90s/98320/ http://972mag.com/rabin-memorial-makes-clear-israels-peace-camp-stuck-in-the-90s/98320/#comments Sun, 02 Nov 2014 13:34:18 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=98320 Nearly 20 years after Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination, the Israeli peace camp is still talking about annexation and separation.

At the opening of Saturday night’s rally marking 19 years since the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, a video of the slain prime minister’s final speech was aired on giant screens, alongside shots of the protesters from that same night in November 1995. At the end of the segment, the screens showed an aerial view of last night’s actual protest. Were the protest not significantly smaller than the one in 1995, it would have been difficult to tell the two apart.

The opening symbolized the general atmosphere of the rally. The speeches, the crowd, the chants, the messaging – everything looked like it had been frozen in time since that fateful night. It was as if it wasn’t yet clear to the crowd how much damage the Oslo Accords had caused. As if those same people who led these rallies both then and now didn’t go along with the concept that “we have no partner.” As if they didn’t participate in a coalition of death and war or support the disastrous Gaza disengagement. As if we didn’t just participate in a war that ended with 2,300 deaths. As if Jerusalem isn’t burning. None of these issues were even mentioned.

The crowd at Saturday's memorial rally for Yitzhak Rabin. (photo: Haggai Matar)

The crowd at Saturday’s memorial rally for Yitzhak Rabin. (photo: Haggai Matar)

One after the other, the speakers (Shimon Peres, Haim Yalin, Gilead Sher and Yuval Rabin) got up and recycled the same old slogans: peace is made with enemies, being Jewish means searching for peace, we must separate from the Palestinians so as to preserve the Jewish character of the state, negotiations are the only way to peace, etc. Not one bit of introspection regarding the error of their ways. Not a sign that 20 years have changed their minds even in the slightest, or even raised the need to start talking about the details of a proposed peace plan that goes beyond the same statements that even Netanyahu and Liberman know to declare by now.

The only speaker who presented a concrete vision was Gilead Sher, a political ally of Rabin and Barak, who today leads the organization “Blue White Future.” Sher was the only person who spoke about setting a clear border for the country. And which border? The separation barrier. For years Sher has championed the annexation of lands and settlements that are located “by chance” to the west of the barrier, which itself was established solely for security reasons – as per the state’s promise to the High Court – but unsurprisingly ended up as the border that most in the center-left think is worth living with.

Thus, Sher’s vision of peace starts with the annexation of ten percent of the West Bank, as well as its bifurcation into two parts through a barrier that would swallow the Mishor Adumim area near Jerusalem. Thankfully he didn’t speak about Jerusalem, the Jordan Valley or Palestinian refugees.

Shimon Peres speaks at a rally in honor of Yitzhak Rabin, Rabin Square, Tel Aviv. (photo: Haggai Matar)

Shimon Peres speaks at a rally in honor of Yitzhak Rabin, Rabin Square, Tel Aviv. (photo: Haggai Matar)

Twenty years after Oslo, and the logic of separation has remained the dominant mode of thinking among Rabin’s successors. As if the state can simply be “Jewish and democratic” with a large Palestinian population that does not intend on giving up on the struggle for equality.

As if the economic system, the infrastructure, the resources and the regime of both societies haven’t been so deeply intertwined after nearly 50 years of occupation, that it is simply possible to disconnect the two. As if a real Left can only be Jewish, without cooperation with the occupied who are struggling for independence. One protester who came to the rally with a Palestinian flag was stared down by those around him, as well as some of the organizers.

There were, however, two moments of hope. One was a performance by “Women for Peace.” Nineteen women, Jews and Palestinians from different backgrounds and different areas of the country, got up on stage. Together, with a range of voices and opinions, they spoke of the need to stop the war and take the power from the men who have a monopoly over the state. This is a new group – neither political enough nor unified enough. But something in their presence on stage gave a feeling of change and hope.

Women for Peace speak at a rally to commemorate Yitzhak Rabin. (photo: Haggai Matar)

Women for Peace speak at a rally to commemorate Yitzhak Rabin. (photo: Haggai Matar)

The second moment was when Michael Biton, who heads the Yeruham local council, got up to speak. Biton described the social aspect of peace, which somehow has almost always absent from the Zionist left’s peace events. Biton spoke about social gaps as a security threat, and talked about his mother, a cleaner, who once enjoyed excellent health benefits. Today, no cleaner can even dream of those kinds of conditions, Biton said, emphasizing that the struggle for a just society must be more clearly connected to the struggle for peace – that one cannot exist without the other.

The crowd was rather quiet during most of the rally. The only moments of excitement came when people spontaneously yelled “Bibi, go home!” during Sher’s portion, when the Women for Peace spoke, and of course during Shimon Peres’ ceremonious speech. The lack of enthusiasm only emphasized a lack of direction, as well as the feeling that the rally was actually more of a journey into the past, from which it could not return.

I believe that many of the attendees came with good intentions. Most of them probably would say that they oppose the occupation, and maybe even the siege on Gaza. And there is value in talking about peace and about a vision for ending the occupation – a word that was not uttered even once in all the speeches I heard.

But without going beyond the boundaries of Rabin Square, without Jewish-Arab partnership, without fighting for social justice, without actively opposing useless wars, and without proposing a detailed and clear alternative based on the need for full equality, freedom and democracy for all residents of this land, including a solution for Palestinian refugees, this peace camp will remain stuck in 1995 forever.

On democracy: There’s nothing “left” about the Zionist left
What went wrong? Learning from the mistakes of Oslo
An agreement on indefinite occupation: Oslo celebrates 19 years

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Major Israeli construction company pulls out of settlement industry http://972mag.com/major-israeli-construction-company-pulls-out-of-settlement-industry/98089/ http://972mag.com/major-israeli-construction-company-pulls-out-of-settlement-industry/98089/#comments Mon, 27 Oct 2014 15:39:01 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=98089 Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth reported Monday morning that Africa Israel Investments, an international holding and investment company based in Israel, will no longer build homes in the West Bank or East Jerusalem. This, after years that Africa Israel’s daughter company, Danya Cebus, has consistently built homes in settlements, contrary to international law.

There is no mistaking this decision. Lev Leviev, one of the most prominent tycoons in Israel, did not wake up one morning and understand, by chance, that the occupation is a terrible injustice toward millions of subjects who lack basic rights and who have been under our military rule for nearly 50 years. No. It took years. Years in which Leviev discovered that he could not continue building in the settlements while enjoying legitimacy in the international business world.

Settlement of Halamish, next to Nabi Saleh (Activestills)

Settlement of Halamish, next to Nabi Saleh (Activestills)

The opposition took the form of protests, pressure on the British government to cut business ties with Leviev, and divestment from his company. Between the profit he could make off the occupation and the profit he could lose in the rest of the world, Leviev chose the world.

This is another huge victory for the boycott movement and the activists who choose to fight against the occupation nonviolently. This is a victory for those who want to tell Israelis that even if the occupation is currently profitable, things can easily change. Africa Israel’s decision won’t stop the settlement enterprise, and its impact will likely be marginal. However, the message continues to permeate.

Figures show: Peace talks and settlement construction go hand in hand
What ‘painful concessions’ are left for Palestinians to make?

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IDF court convicts Palestinian non-violent organizer, EU human rights defender http://972mag.com/idf-court-convicts-palestinian-non-violent-organizer-eu-human-rights-defender/97965/ http://972mag.com/idf-court-convicts-palestinian-non-violent-organizer-eu-human-rights-defender/97965/#comments Thu, 23 Oct 2014 13:28:17 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=97965 Israeli military court convicts Abdullah Abu Rahmah of obstructing a bulldozer building the separation barrier. His previous trial and imprisonment was followed closely by western governments.

Abdullah Abu Rahmah at his trial in the Ofer Military Court, September 15, 2010. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Abdullah Abu Rahmah at his trial in the Ofer Military Court, September 15, 2010. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Abdullah Abu Rahmah, one of the central organizers of the popular resistance protests against the separation barrier in the West Bank village of Bil’in, was convicted of obstructing the work of a soldier by an Israeli military court this week. He will likely be sentenced to four months in prison.

Abu Rahmah, who was recognized by the European Union as a “human rights defender” dedicated to non-violence, previously served over a year in prison for organizing “illegal marches” as well as for “incitement.” All political demonstrations are illegal for Palestinians under Israeli military law.

+972 named Abu Rahmah “person of the year” in 2010. The choice was made, we wrote at the time:

Because he has become the face of the grassroots, unarmed resistance movement to Israel’s security barrier; because he is the person who has raised international awareness not only of the devastation caused by the barrier, but also the existence of a well-organized, non-violent grassroots opposition movement  – one that brings together Palestinians, Israelis and international supporters in a joint struggle. Because he is the answer to the question, “Where is the Palestinian Gandhi?” (answer: there are many; and they are languishing in Israel’s jails). Because he has never wavered in his commitment to non-violence – not even after his cousin Bassam Abu Rahmah was killed by a high-velocity tear gas canister shot by Israeli soldiers directly at his chest; nor after his cousin Adeeb Abu Rahmah was arrested and imprisoned for participating in weekly demonstrations against the barrier that separates the people of Bil’in from their own farmland.

Among other things, Abu Rahmah was arrested in the past for possession of spent tear gas grenades the Israeli army shot at protesters in Bil’in. The indictment, in which he was not convicted, referred to the used grenades as “weaponry.”

A display of spent tear gas canisters for which Abu Rahmah was indicted but not convicted. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

A display of spent tear gas canisters for which Abu Rahmah was indicted but not convicted, Bil’in, January 3, 2010. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

This week Abu Rahmah was convicted by a military court of obstructing the work of a soldier. The incident occurred in 2012 when he attempted to stop a bulldozer from clearing the route for the construction of a fence in the Beitunia area of the West Bank. According to AFP, Abu Rahmah’s conviction will include a four-month suspended sentence for an arrest in 2009, in addition to another that the court will decide on in the beginning of December.

Abu Rahmah’s attorney, Gaby Lasky, told AFP that the conviction is part of the army’s continual harassment of non-violent activists. The indictment is politically rather than criminally motivated, she added.

Regarding Abu Rahmah’s previous arrest, it is important to clarify that any and all Palestinian protests in the West Bank are illegal under Israeli military law. Therefore, any march is also deemed illegal. In addition, the crime of “incitement” does not necessarily refer to incitement to violence, but rather to any form of demonstration or protest.

+972 Magazine’s 2010 Person of the Year: Abdullah Abu Rahmah
PHOTOS: What the press missed in Bil’in tear gas flower garden
WATCH: Hundreds commemorate nine years of popular struggle in Bil’in

A version of this article was first published on +972′s Hebrew-language sister site, Local Call. Read it in Hebrew here.

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For the Israeli media, Gazan lives are little more than expendable http://972mag.com/for-the-israeli-media-gaza-lives-are-expendable/97927/ http://972mag.com/for-the-israeli-media-gaza-lives-are-expendable/97927/#comments Wed, 22 Oct 2014 13:35:06 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=97927 Nearly two months after the end of Operation Protective Edge, the Israeli media refuses to ask the difficult questions. Who decided that killing entire families is now allowed? What is the justification for doing so? And why won’t the army explain why it killed five members of the Joudah family?

Why doesn’t anyone care about the Joudah family? Nearly two months have passed since Israeli Air Force pilots bombed their yard in Gaza, killing the mother of the family and four of her children. Until today, the IDF has not published an explanation of the incident. Actually, almost no one has bothered to ask. A mother and four of her children were sitting in their yard and were killed with no prior notice, and the Israeli media doesn’t deem this worthy of a story. Why?

It happened on August 24. According to Issam Joudah’s testimony, the family was sitting in the shade of their yard in order to get some fresh air during the hot summer months. Issam was making coffee in the house when the missile exploded in the yard, killing his wife and four of his children. Only two children survived – one of them was badly wounded and is undergoing rehabilitation in Germany.

Palestinian children carry goods that were rescued from the village of Khuza'a, which has undergone of intense attacks and was largely destroyed during the Israeli offensive.

Palestinian children carry goods that were rescued from the village of Khuza’a, which has undergone of intense attacks and was largely destroyed during the Israeli offensive.

Why was the home bombed? The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit had this to say: “We do not respond to specific events, the updates on investigations that have been opened can be accessed via the Military Advocate General’s website.” Scanning the website, one cannot find the Joudah family’s name, but rather a list of seven incidents that took place during Operation Protective Edge that the Military Advocate General decided to investigate. That’s it. Any further questions were not answered by the IDF Spokesperson.

As I previously wrote, the Yedioth Ahronoth daily did not even report on the deaths of the family. Not a single word has been written about the bombing since. Even media outlets that initially reported on the deaths of the family members did not come back and demand answers from the army.

And really, why should they demand them? It’s just another incident, after all. Another family. One of more than 70 families who were bombed in a similar fashion, some of them much larger. The dead members of the Joudah family are just five out of over 540 family members who were killed in their homes, among them 250 minors. And if we don’t demand answers for all those deaths, what makes the Joudah family so special?

Nothing. The only thing that makes the Joudah family special is that I read more about them than any other family, not to mention the fact that Yedioth completely ignoring their deaths. Or perhaps it is that that blogger Awni Farhat interviewed the father of the family last month (Hebrew). Or that the photo he took of Rawan Sabah, friend of Raghed Joudah, still lingers in my mind. It could have been any other family. Each family and its “specific incident.”

Rawan Sabah sits next to where her friend, Ra'ed Joudah, used to sit in class. Joudah was killed by an Israeli airstrike along with five of her family members. (photo: Awni Farhat)

Rawan Sabah sits next to where her friend, Raghed Joudah, used to sit in class. Joudah was killed by an Israeli airstrike along with five of her family members. (photo: Awni Farhat)

But we simply do not hear these stories anywhere. Even two months after the fighting ended, no media outlet has seen fit to go back and examine exactly what happened there: How did Israel’s policy change since the assassination of Salah Shehade in 2002? Who decided that it is now logical to blow up entire families? Which intelligence, air force, state attorney or military command experts sat down and agreed that the killing of hundreds of innocent civilians is justified if there is a suspicion that a Hamas member is in the area? Is it true that there was a Hamas member or rockets near every home that was blown up or family that was decimated? Is this what happened in the case of the Joudah family?

These questions remain unanswered. The media, and most likely the Israeli public, simple don’t care for the answers. One need only remember the way in which the horrifying murder of the Fogel family was covered, in order to examine the differences in media coverage between incidents where Israelis are killed by Palestinians, and those in which Palestinians are killed by Israelis.

This article was first published on +972′s Hebrew-language sister site, Local Call. Read it in Hebrew here.

Gaza deaths aren’t worth a mention in leading Israeli newspaper
PHOTOS: Gaza’s children face an uncertain future

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Facing increased right-wing violence, Israeli leftists learn to fight back http://972mag.com/facing-increased-right-wing-violence-israeli-leftists-learn-to-fight-back/97486/ http://972mag.com/facing-increased-right-wing-violence-israeli-leftists-learn-to-fight-back/97486/#comments Tue, 14 Oct 2014 11:01:28 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=97486 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.”


“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.

You can’t see it, but people here are ready to respond to violence. A protest against racism in Jerusalem. (Photo by Activestills.org)

You can’t see it, but people here are ready to respond to violence. A protest against racism in Jerusalem. (Photo by Activestills.org)

Taking back the streets

No confrontations took place that night. Members of Lahava didn’t arrive in Jerusalem’s Zion Square, instead spending the holiday evening in the Old City’s Jewish Quarter. But two weeks earlier, the confrontations were very real. A bus full of Lahava members from Jerusalem rode down to Tel Aviv in order to hand out anti-mysogination fliers on the city’s central Allenby Street. A group of left-wing activists, some affiliated with the trained self defense groups and others not, showed up and prevented Gupstein and his followers from getting off their bus.

Police intervened and separated the two sides, sending the busload of Lahava members on to the Tel Aviv Port, in what the activists perceived as an accomplishment. “We met an hour beforehand, we decided who would be in charge at the scene, and with the support of attorneys made an action plan,” one of the Tel Aviv-based activists who was there.

“Originally we didn’t even think to block them [from getting off the bus] — we just prepared fliers and were going to march alongside them in order to deliver a message that racist incitement is unacceptable,” the activist added. “We thought that if they went north of Bialik Street that we would back off, because that’s an area with more drunk people and others who might join them against us. But anywhere south of there, the chance that the street would back us increased. Looking back, I think the message that they have no place here was made very clear.”

The encounter with Gupstein didn’t happen by accident. There, just like in Jerusalem a week prior, a number of groups came together, organizations and independent activists who decided that they were going to stop turning the other cheek, to stop surrendering to extreme-right wing violence, and would start taking back their place in the public arena. For that reason, some of them decided to establish a few groups to train in self defense, seminars in active non-violence, action plans for protecting protests and planning for situations in which they might face violence on the street.

Some of those groups refused to be interviewed for this article, and most of the activists only agreed to speak on the condition that they not be identified, out of fear of harassment by police or right-wing activists. They also asked that some of their tactics not be revealed. But beyond their cloak of secrecy, who are these people who are for the first time in years organizing a strong response to the radical Right? How did they come together and what do they intend to do? In order to find out, and before I begin to detail the various groups, we need to take a quick look back at the events of this past summer.

‘Death to Arabs’

The wave of violence against Arabs began in Jerusalem on June 30, the day the funeral for the three kidnapped Israeli teenagers was held. Every day more than 1,000 people overran the streets, attacking Arab passersby. A few days later, Palestinian teenager Muhammad Abu Khdeir was murdered, leading to protests and riots in East Jerusalem. Those protests continue to this day, and include rock throwing and damage to the Jerusalem light rail.

“I’ve been in Jerusalem for 40 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this,” says Eyal. “At first it was every night, and then a few times a week, people walk through the streets, pulling out Arab drivers from their cars and assaulting them. They are on the hunt in the streets.”

The attacks led left-wing Jerusalem activists, who since the days of the protests in Sheikh Jarrah, have split and gone in different directions, to regroup for action. They formed internal communication networks and began organizing patrols in the more sensitive areas in the city center. When they could, they tried to physically protect Arabs who were being attacked. When they couldn’t, they would film, call the police and warn Palestinians from going to certain areas. “It wasn’t ideal, but if felt like the only option at that time,” Eyal told me in frustration.

With time the group grew and came to be known as the “Local Guard.” They were joined by activists and young people with diverse opinions. The group began organizing more straightforward briefings, and took upon itself to provide support during a weekly march for peace and tolerance, organized by the local bilingual school during the war. They were small marches that, despite not having any slogans, were attacked by young Jews and needed the protection of the “Local Guard.”

Alongside larger groups and coalitions, from the communist Arab-Jewish Hadash party to Labor and other organizations, these were the people who organized last Thursday’s protest in Zion Square.

Meanwhile in Tel Aviv, things developed quite differently. On July 12, right-wing extremists attacked the first anti-war demonstration in Tel Aviv, injuring several people. The police did not do anything. The incident gave incendiary rapper HaTzel (“The Shadow”) a public platform during the war,  which made it clear to Tel Aviv activists that such an event could not repeat itself.

“The violence that took place during that protest made it clear that the rules of the game had changed. It is unclear if they changed permanently or temporarily, but something happened,” said B, one of the demonstrators. “An immediate need emerged to meet before every protest, to plan what to do, think about how to prevent confrontations, where to stand, how we can form a partition that controls the attacks on us as well as those from our side who want to escalate.”

“When we form a tough, dense human chain and hold hands and don’t respond even when they spit in our faces or curse us, it sends a message that we do not back down, that we are confident, that we are providing protection and security to those who want to protest the war and would otherwise be too scared. People thanked us profusely for bringing them a sense of security.”

As the protests continued, the group used techniques such as human chains, organizers who maintained eye contact, lookouts, people in black who were spread out in the area and were ready to intervene when necessary, a system of safe dispersal and huge banners that formed makeshift protective boundaries around the protests. As someone who was at these protests, I can say – it worked. It really did provide demonstrators with a feeling of safety, and minimized the points of confrontation with the rightists.

Protecting a protest against the war outside Israel’s national theater in Tel Aviv.

Protecting a protest against the war outside Israel’s national theater in Tel Aviv.

No more Mr. Nice Guy

Beyond ad-hoc organizing before each protest, which included demonstrators who did not belong to any groups, the rising violence of the extreme right in the streets led to the establishment of several organized groups.

The anarchist “Achdut” group organized the “Black Guard,” which trained in self-defense and Krav Maga. Other activists established “Antifa 972″ (no relation to the magazine), a shorthand for “anti-fascists.” At least two other groups, which asked not to be included in the article, also began training and taking part in self-defense activities.

The activists in each of these groups stress that there is no one organization, nor is there any attempt to build political power or a new movement. They also hope that this is not a new trend, but rather a need to respond and protect from new dangers that have become a reality for Palestinians and left-wing activists in the streets. All in all, including the Jerusalemites from the “Local Guard,” the members of the groups amount to approximately 100 people.

“The radical left didn’t have the experience or the militant spirit to deal with the fascist’s violence,” explains Yigal Levin from Achdut’s Black Guard. “That is why we brought people who know martial arts, and began free weekly lessons for any interested leftists. It wasn’t only the anarchists or communists who attended – even liberals feel like anyone who is seen as a ‘leftist” can be hurt now.’

“Just before the war, friends in the ‘Socialist Struggle’ group were beaten up at a protest. They were four against two rightists, and the rightists assaulted them. We don’t want this thing to happen again. We don’t want to be abused children – we want to respect ourselves. We don’t want to attack Baruch Marzel’s headquarters or anything, but we believe the victimhood of the Left must end here.”

Self defense training (Courtesy of ‘Solidarity’)

Self defense training (Courtesy of ‘Solidarity’)

Members of Antifa, one of the more active and well-known groups, preferred not to be interviewed for the piece, but sent a statement in which they wrote that they are a national group whose goal is to “be present when the bastards arrive, to protest them, to protect our communities and the communities with whom communities we are are in solidarity, and sometimes only to watch and document.” The basic principles of the group as described in their statement include being present everywhere there is incitement or attacks on oppressed groups or leftists, to fight against any form of racism, capitalism, occupation, sexism and more, to act directly with no assistance from the police or any arm of the state, to be in solidarity and unified – without internal leftist factionalism.

The group gets its inspiration from similar groups in Europe, where the violent struggle against fascism in the streets is a time-honored tradition. Even the name and the symbol of the group were copied from European groups, and there are many similarities in the rhetoric and tactics that were learned by activists who spent time abroad. In a video released by the far-right, anti-miscegenation group Lehava from the confrontation on Allenby Street, one can see several of the activists yelling “No Pasarán,” (“They shall not pass”), a slogan used by the Republican fighters against fascism during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s.

The European model. An ant-fascist protest in the UK. (Photo by Tim Buss/CC)

The European model. An ant-fascist protest in the UK. (Photo by Tim Buss/CC)

 A culture of force

The new mode of activity, especially the blocking of the members of Lehava in Tel Aviv, necessarily gives rise to dilemmas and controversies among the activists. Because these methods of organization are very new and not yet fully crystallized, the debate is in its initial stages, but it already addresses the questions of what is forbidden and what is allowed, what dangers emerge with more violent organizations, and what are the limits of discourse about the prohibited and the permissible within a political framework.

“We have here a group of people whose experience is one of persecution, and if it changes in the future — which is not the situation today — we will have to assess the meaning of violence exerted against the persecuted as opposed to violence against those who are not,” says Kobi Snitz, a veteran activist in radical leftist groups. “I look at the movements confronting the Right in Europe, and the picture is not pretty. I see enthusiasm arising from violence. There is a psychological or political phenomenon whereby achieving something by means of violence justifies more violence. We see this on a daily basis among soldiers serving in the occupied territories.”

“I have no qualms about what we did in the summer. It was right to get organized and defend ourselves, in addition to protection by the police, which had to defend us after the first demonstration for political reasons. We have to pay attention to what is happening in Europe, although there is a basic difference: there, the rightist groups are outside the law, whereas here, threatening the Left is institutionally supported by the authorities and the leadership.”

There are some among the activists who fear the rise of militaristic culture, which respects those who can deliver more protection, to come to a demonstration with more muscle, more presence, more “combat experience,” more “bravery,” and are apprehensive about the consequences of this situation and its influence on the culture of the Left. An additional question is who exactly is the enemy being confronted.

“I have no doubt that Benzi Gupstein (Lehava’s leader) is my enemy, a self-declared disciple of Kahane, but the question is who are the young people around him who shout ‘Death to the Arabs’ in Jerusalem. I am not seeking a fight with them. These are not people who come with the ideology of the hilltop youth. Often they are the products of distress, who feel marginalized by society. I went on patrols in the city with teachers who identified their students among them. I really do not want to push them into a corner and make them our enemies, but it is hard.”

“Focusing on the Kahanists as symbols of Israeli racism is somewhat problematic,” Snitz added. “The Kahanists do form a part of the racist infrastructure, the vanguard, but they are a fringe culture. Confronting extremists can lead to missing the rest. Preventing them from handing out flyers in Tel Aviv will not lead to accepting Arabs as kibbutz members, or to the revocation of the Law of Return, or to the cessation of searches at Ben Gurion Airport. These things do not originate with the Kahanists.”

But is the distribution of flyers such a threat that must be fought or forbidden, even if the content is racist?

“I do not think that democratic speech should provide cover for incitement”, says B., and many in the circles of the defense cells agree with her. ”If these people come to manhandle Arab workers in restaurant kitchens, or to advance positions which were designated as illegal as early as in the eighties, then yes - there is justification for action. I am not necessarily saying that the police has to act –  prohibitions agains them can impact us too down the line, but personally I react with firmness when I see such things in my space.”

A sign as a protective wall, Tel Aviv.

A sign as a protective wall, Tel Aviv.

Getting ready for next time

Where is this movement headed now? We have seen that these groups, without exception, arose as a reaction to the events of the summer, what will become of them when the first rains come?

In Tel Aviv, a few activists arrived Sunday evening at the demonstration of the far right in Levinsky Park in south Tel Aviv,  positioning themselves discreetly around the demonstration in order to protect business owners and asylum seekers against potential attacks. In Jerusalem, the Local Guard continues its patrols, although the attacks against Arabs in the streets have substantially decreased since the end of the war. And what about organizing for defending the demonstrations of the Left?

“In case of a demonstration that has to do with the [occupied] territories – these groups will be there for sure, just as they were there in summer,” B. clarified. “If Lehava attempts to return to Tel Aviv, we’ll be there too. Personally, I do not feel that we have to go to places where we are not invited and try to save the world everywhere, but some people do go. Organizing in Europe always has a local character, of people defending the space in which they live, which I feel is the right approach.”

“The street in Jerusalem is not like that of Tel Aviv,” countered Eyal. “Here, everyone in the street is likely to be against you. Our goal is to brand racism as abnormal, as illegitimate. It has to be at the street level, and at the level of demands from politicians – at the municipal and national level.”

“In any event, although things have calmed down somewhat, we have really not returned to the situation before the war, which in itself was not idyllic. Arabs are still afraid to walk about in the streets and they ask us to accompany them to the post office or to the National Insurance Institute offices. I fear that the next wave, when it comes, will start at the point where the recent wave ended, and will be more violent and more dangerous. Our job is to at least change the starting point of the next round.”

After a version of this article was published in Hebrew, the Social Struggle movement wrote in response: “Contrary to claims by ‘Solidarity’ activists, our members, one of whom is a martial arts trainer, did not ‘turn the other cheek.’ The two people who were cowardly attacked from behind got a response before running away. The bottom line is that effective self defense is primarily dependent on the capacity to organize protests that are large enough in relation to their threats — independent, firm and level-headed organizing along with a serious political struggle to undermine the public’s support for the Right.”

This article was first published on +972′s Hebrew-language sister site, Local Call. Read it in Hebrew here.

The night it became dangerous to demonstrate in Tel Aviv
Palestinian Jewish couple hires wedding security for fear of anti-misegenation group
Silencing dissent in Israel – continued

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