+972 Magazine » Haggai Matar http://972mag.com Independent commentary and news from Israel & Palestine Mon, 28 Jul 2014 18:21:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8 Mourning death wherever it strikes http://972mag.com/mourning-deaths-wherever-it-strikes/94039/ http://972mag.com/mourning-deaths-wherever-it-strikes/94039/#comments Mon, 21 Jul 2014 10:26:39 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=94039 (Translated from Hebrew by Sol Salbe)

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

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

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

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

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

And then I recalled my visit to Northern Ireland last year. During the visit I met protest singer Tommy Sands, who told me the following story: a few years after the Good Friday Agreement, he organized a meeting between former underground groups veterans – from the IRA and the Loyalists, people who fought each other, killed each other and served time in prison. When they arrived, they refused to shake hands. Then Pete Seeger arrived to sing in the meeting. He sang “Where Have all the Flowers Gone,” an American song in memory of the fallen, and he saw both groups singing and crying. At the end of the event Seeger told Sands “As far as I’m concerned they don’t have to shake hands. So long as they can sing and cry together, that’ll do me.” I wish this day would come here.

Translated by Sol Salbe. Read this post in Hebrew on Local Call.

Related:
Palestinian human rights leader: ‘Cast Lead was a joke compared to this’
PHOTOS: Scenes of devastation from deadliest day in Gaza
WATCH: Dozens of bodies strewn in the streets of Gaza
Gaza war diary: ‘A second of silence, then the bombs go off’

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The night it became dangerous to demonstrate in Tel Aviv http://972mag.com/the-night-it-became-dangerous-to-demonstrate-in-tel-aviv/93524/ http://972mag.com/the-night-it-became-dangerous-to-demonstrate-in-tel-aviv/93524/#comments Sun, 13 Jul 2014 12:20:19 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=93524 The fascists attacked. Police didn’t respond in time and ran away when the sirens wailed. We were lucky to get away with only three injured, one in the hospital and many traumatized.

(Translated from Hebrew by Michael Sappir)

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

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

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

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

It was clear from the start that it wasn’t going to end well. We came to protest the ongoing killing in Gaza, against both sides’ firing on civilians, against the occupation and to demonstrate for peace talks. We came to say that in Gaza and Sderot children just want to live. And there were some who didn’t want us to say those things.

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

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

Hundreds of Leftists protesting in the heart of Tel Aviv during a war usually bring out many dozens of police officers in order to violently disperse the demonstration, or if not that, then to separate between the protesters and counter protesters. This time it was clear there would be counter protesters.

Yoav Eliassi (“The Shadow”) called his people (“The Lions”) to demonstrate against the Left, and people wrote ahead of time on his Facebook wall that they were coming to beat people up. There were a few police officers on the scene, and unlike the usual setup for these situations, where the two demonstrations are allowed to take place facing one another from across the street, the police allowed the fascists to stand right next to our demonstration, calling out racist slogans and wishing death to those protesting for peace and against the fighting. All attempts to encourage the police to further separate the two groups, and to call for backup, were to no avail.

It also made no difference when once in a while a fascist went around the policemen, attacked protesters and tore up signs, or when they started tossing eggs. It made no difference that fascists had attacked demonstrators before (for example: just two weeks ago at the end of the demonstration outside the Defense Ministry) and the lesson was not learned – that these are the same gangs, among them masked men who rioted in Jerusalem just a week and a half ago, attacking Arabs. On the heels of the slogans and the incitement coming from the government, Muhammad Abu Khdeir was kidnapped and burned to death.

The policemen did not understand all of this, or did not want to understand. After the demonstration, Eliassi wrote on Facebook that the policemen had expressed their pride and support for him and his people. Past experience with the police, especially the Yassam special anti-riot unit, this does not seem at all unreasonable (and indeed, the regular policemen in their blue uniforms seemed a bit more concerned, a bit more quickly when things escalated.)

As nine o’clock approached we began thinking about what would happen if Hamas realized their warning and fired a barrage of rockets towards Tel Aviv. What if the siren sounded, and our 500 demonstrators along with dozens of theirs had to run together into a bomb shelter? We suggested to the policemen that they could announce in advance that our demo would run one way (the stairway, for example,) and the other the other way (down to the parking lot; or vice versa.) The policemen refused. We decided to take our demonstration, march away, and leave our would-be attackers behind. But they followed us.

And then came the siren. The policemen disappeared. And the fascists attacked. They chased down people who were running to shelter, pushing them, swearing at them and sexually harassing them. With no other choice, we grouped up tightly, surrounded by a human chain, linked arm to arm. We called out all the slogans we had, to keep up morale and unity, to stay safe from fear, to cheer up in the face of the menacing, impassioned mass in front of us.

People watch as the iron dome system intercepts a missile fired from the Gaza Strip to Tel Aviv during a protest in center of the city, against the Israeli attack on Gaza, Israel, July 12, 2014. The protest ended with the nationalists attacking a small group of left-wing activists with little police interference. Three activists injured. (Photo by Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

People watch as the iron dome system intercepts a missile fired from the Gaza Strip to Tel Aviv during a protest in center of the city, against the Israeli attack on Gaza, Israel, July 12, 2014. The protest ended with the nationalists attacking a small group of left-wing activists with little police interference. Three activists injured. (Photo by Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

The siren ended, the boom was heard, the policemen came back to separate us, and then another siren, again the police ran away as one, and again we were left alone, face to face, them with their curses and blows, we holding hands and pushing them back. Terrified. And the Iron Dome, a pause, an interception, slogans, and again the police came back.

We decided to march to King George Street and to disperse from there in an organized way. We asked the policemen to block the fascists, so they would not follow us. They agreed, and we started marching. At some point, someone at the café near the square, Nechama VaHetzi, shouted something to the fascists, and they stormed the café with their flags and their fists. I couldn’t see what happened. I think one of them was arrested. But we had to get away, down the boulevard, while the police delayed the rioters.

By the time we got to the corner of Ben Tsion Blvd. and King George Street, and a moment before we started dispersing, a group of thugs that flanked the police again came and attacked. We ran away and managed to take shelter for a moment in the café at the corner. Just for a moment. They stormed the café, broke cups, threw people on the ground and on tables, raised chairs and threw them at people. They broke a chair over one comrade’s head. He’s in hospital now. All of this was accompanied by swearing and sexual threats. The people working at the café were startled at first, and one of them did not want us to come in. “Go somewhere else,” she said, frightened. The others understood quickly what was going on and agreed to shelter us. They brought out water, and ice for our injured friend, shouted at the fascists not to come in, and called the police.

After a while, the policemen arrived. Still not enough of them, but enough to stop the assault for now. We were far fewer than we had been at the start, several dozen, and we set out to march together towards Allenby Street, to quietly disperse from there. Now the police really did do its job, even though just a small force of theirs was there, allowing us to get far enough away to make sure everyone was safely boarding buses or cabs together and disappearing into the night. There were two or three policemen there who really cared, really did their job, and my gratitude goes out to them.

I have been at demonstrations that were attacked in Tel Aviv before. Many times by police, a few times by fascists. One time I was saved from a raging, incited mob in the Hatikva neighborhood. There I had a bicycle, and when the police delayed them I managed to make myself scarce, quickly. This time I was on foot, with a lot of people who could not be left behind. It was really scary. Something like this has never happened here before, but it is crystal clear to me that it will again.

Israel right-wing protesters attack left-wing activists after they protested in central Tel Aviv against the Israeli attack on Gaza, July 12, 2014. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Israel right-wing protesters attack left-wing activists after they protested in central Tel Aviv against the Israeli attack on Gaza, July 12, 2014. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

I have to say this clearly: it is not just these fascists, Eliassi and his people, or those carrying Liberman’s posters and the rest of the thugs. It comes from the top. It comes from a government which serially incites against Arabs and the Left. It comes from MK Yariv Levin sitting in the Channel 10 News studio, boldly lying about the Gaza siege policy, and refusing to allow Ran Cohen from Physicians for Human Rights to talk, calling him a liar, saying Channel 10 was derelict in its duty when it allows the government to be criticized on the air – criticism which was entirely hard, dry facts. It comes from policemen, who are quite adept at attacking Left-wing demonstrations, or ultra-Orthodox ones, and of course Arab ones – but somehow stand in silence in the face of fascists marching through the streets. And it comes from a prime minister who has been silent for weeks while masses flood the streets, attacking Arabs, swearing, humiliating, a whole population group feeling threatened and isolated, with nobody to turn to.

So yes, it will happen again. We will keep demonstrating, as we demonstrated this evening also in Haifa and Jaffa and earlier in Tira and Sakhnin and other places. But we have to know this will happen again, and prepare accordingly.

***

Updated with a response from the Israel Police spokesperson:

In the evening ours yesterday a social protest took place in the Bima Square. Despite the fact that the organizers didn’t inform the police about the gathering and didn’t ask for a permit, it was decided to allow them to express their protest and many police officers arrived in order to ensure their safety and security.

During the course of the protest sirens were sounded throughout the city and the officers ordered everyone at the location to go to protected spaces.

No participants were arrested during the protest and they dispersed when it ended. Additionally, at this point no complaints have been filed.

The police spokesperson didn’t answer my question about why they didn’t call for backup when it was needed, and whether the police had noted any lessons and will operate differently in the future. Additionally, the police are lying when they say that this was an illegal protest. Israeli law does not require notifying the police of a protest as long as it doesn’t include a march or political speeches. Neither took place at the demonstration.

Read this article in Hebrew on Local Call.

Related:
Not just escalation: A frightening new era of Jewish-Arab relations in Israel
What ‘no country in the world’ should tolerate
In Jerusalem, Jews and Palestinians pay the price for latest wave of violence

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The IDF doesn’t only aim at Hamas targets http://972mag.com/the-idf-doesnt-only-take-aim-at-hamas-targets/93519/ http://972mag.com/the-idf-doesnt-only-take-aim-at-hamas-targets/93519/#comments Sun, 13 Jul 2014 11:21:04 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=93519 Over a 160 people killed, entire neighborhoods which receive arbitrary warnings, entire families that have been bombed using hundreds of tons of explosives, shooting at a journalists’ car  and hitting hospitals and schools. No, we do not only shoot  at Hamas targets.

(Translated from Hebrew by Sol Salbe)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In addition, several days ago the army sent messages to about 100,000 Palestinians who live in areas relatively close to the border fence and called on them to leave their homes. It’s difficult to imagine that an area in which 100,000 people live, is in its entirety, a Hamas “terrorist den.”

On Wednesday, the army killed journalist Hamdi Shehab, an employee of News Media 24, while he was riding in a car with other journalists on the way to cover an event. The other journalists were injured. The car was clearly marked with big red letters saying “TV”.

Responding to an inquiry from +972, the IDF Spokesperson’s Office’s only response was to say that “the army doesn’t attack civilians, only terrorist targets.” I asked if there was an intention to hit that particular car at all, whether Shehab himself was a terrorist target or was it someone else in the vehicle? If the answer is yes, I wanted to know whether the categorization as terrorists was related to their work as journalists or some other reason. The IDF Spokesperson refused to answer any of these questions. By the way, to date, Oren Persico of “The Seventh Eye” has not received any answers to his questions about the killing of three Gazan journalists during Pillar of Defense. Unlike the case of those three, I’m not aware of any links between Media 24 and Hamas.
Among the sites affected by the bombings: five hospitals and clinics and 32 schools.

One last thing: every woman and man who writes or is being interviewed from Gaza in various media outlets shares the same experience: we are all a target. The shooting is directed at dwellings. There is no way of knowing if you will be hit, when, how, where or why.

Roof knocking’ is not a solution

So what have we got? Shooting at the houses of entire families, sometimes without warning. Warnings that sometimes do materialize and sometimes do not. So people cannot decide whether to stay at home or to leave, and if so, for how long. Warnings given to entire areas, not limited to a specific purpose or for a certain time – and even if there were limited – are illegal. A shooting that killed a journalist without an explanation. Over 150 killed, many of whom were civilians and lots of children. And an entire community that senses it has no safe place in which to hide.

The point must be made clearly: the fact that the army has decided a certain building or neighborhood is a target for bombing does not automatically makes those places legitimate targets. Text messages, “roof knocking” bombs or even candy thrown from airplanes does not release us from the responsibility for the lives of the citizens whose crowded homes we have showered with hundreds of tons of explosives in a few days. The mantra of, “why do they not leave their homes,” so prevalent in the past two days in the media and social networks cannot, and will not, be the ultimate panacea for cleansing our consciences.

The Abu Leila family home in the Al Sheikh Radwan neighborhood, which was destroyed by an Israeli Airstrike early Friday morning, Gaza City, July 11, 2014. The neighborhood was severely damaged. (Photo: Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

The Abu Leila family home in the Al Sheikh Radwan neighborhood, which was destroyed by an Israeli Airstrike early Friday morning, Gaza City, July 11, 2014. The neighborhood was severely damaged. (Photo: Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

All this is not meant, heaven forbid, to detract from our recognition of the terrible suffering of the residents of southern Israel, who are also the target of arbitrary, illegal and intolerable attacks against civilians. They have always had suffered this and in recent days we, who live anywhere as far north as Hadera and Jerusalem, have also been suffering, albeit to a lesser extent. At least we have the Iron Dome system, which is a good thing. We have to be grateful for all the lives that it has saved, even if it makes it easier for politicians to launch wars that we could do without.

But the solution to the rockets and mortars from Gaza and the dread with which southern residents live, surely cannot be the killing of innocents in Gaza and forcing its inhabitants to live in a horrible fear and dread themselves. Recently a unity deal between Fatah and Hamas was signed, giving both parties significant public legitimacy that neither had for a fair while. The current Palestinian government is willing to take the path of negotiations for peace based on a two-state solution. Israel is the one who does not recognize this unity. Israel is the one who took advantage of the abduction of the three youths to launch an unrelated operation against Hamas, and it is now continuing along that path of war instead of negotiations.

The military operation should be halted now in the context of a ceasefire deal with  Hamas. Proper serious negotiations with PLO Chairman Mahmoud Abba should be commenced immediately. This, more than anything else, will bring real peace to the residents of Gaza and Sderot. It will not happen tomorrow and not the day after but if we want long-term solution, not a short-term solution until the next ceasefire violation and the next assassination and the next operation in a month, six months or two years, this is the only path we have.

Read a version of this article in Hebrew on Local Call.

Related:
Shock, not awe, among ‘battle-hardened’ Gazans
What ‘no country in the world’ should tolerate
‘We stay together, or we leave this world together’

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It’s time to talk about Gaza http://972mag.com/its-time-to-talk-about-gaza/92942/ http://972mag.com/its-time-to-talk-about-gaza/92942/#comments Thu, 03 Jul 2014 22:56:55 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=92942 For the sake of both the residents of Israel’s south and the Palestinians, we must speak about Gaza as a place with real people, rather than as a science experiment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Female Israeli anti-occupation activists protest the siege on Gaza at the Erez Crossing on International Women's Day. (photo: Activestills)

Female Israeli anti-occupation activists protest the siege on Gaza at the Erez Crossing on International Women’s Day. (photo: Activestills)

We must speak about Gaza in a wider context. We must remember that Israel undertook to treat the West Bank and Gaza as one territorial entity under the Oslo framework. We must remember that if a Palestinian state is to ever come into existence, it will be established in the West Bank and Gaza. And even if not, Gaza is not going anywhere. We must remember that the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are part of the same nation, and that over 1.5 million people have lived under blockade in the largest open-air prison in the world for nearly a decade.

For the sake of the residents of Israel’s south, for the sake of everyone involved – if we want a permanent calm, we must speak about Gaza as a place with real people, rather than as a science experiment.

Read this article in Hebrew on Local Call.

Related:
In escalations of violence, Gazans pay the price
Israeli right: Take measures against Palestinians following murders
The three truths the U.S. needs to accept about Gaza

 

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West Bank kidnapping: Israel’s crackdown moves beyond Hamas militants http://972mag.com/west-bank-kidnapping-israels-crackdown-moves-beyond-hamas-militants/92162/ http://972mag.com/west-bank-kidnapping-israels-crackdown-moves-beyond-hamas-militants/92162/#comments Tue, 17 Jun 2014 11:48:03 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=92162 By arresting Hamas-affiliated journalists, charity workers and parliament members, Israel is going way beyond any attempt at trying to find the kidnapped teens.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

While military operations grow, both Israel’s military and political leadership are undergoing a certain change. If, during the first two days, the rhetoric included talks of a general search for the teens and blaming the Palestinian Authority and Mahmoud Abbas, we now see a clear focus on Hamas. Anonymous senior officers told the media that the goal of the operation in the West Bank is focused on “all things green,” and that it will last even after the search for the teens is over. Furthermore, we are hearing more and more positive statements regarding the cooperation with the Palestinian Authority (without mentioning that Hamas is part of its government) as well as that of Abbas.

We must put these things in context: last week, Netanyahu found himself a bind. He failed miserably in his attempt to mobilize the world against the new Palestinian technocratic government. The same government that won universal support, and even received a “launch present” from the EU in the sum of millions of euros. After years of division within the Palestinian leadership, and political division between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (a division Israel itself laid the foundation for), all of a sudden a renewed PLO and an unarmed, united Palestinian struggle focusing on international pressure on Israel became a distinct possibility.

Read: How Israel taught Hamas that violence is effective

And Netanyahu couldn’t do a thing about it. He, who released endless statements, could neither boycott the new Palestinian Authority, nor send thousands of soldiers into the heart of Area A in order to arrest Hamas parliament members for nothing. Then came the kidnapping, and all of a sudden the rules of the game changed. All of a sudden we can attack Hamas as much as we want, where we want, how we want, and no one in Israel or around the world can oppose us. And all of a sudden we can divide the Palestinians once more by labeling the PA and Abbas Israel’s favorite collaborators, while labeling Hamas the biggest threat that must be uprooted.

Israeli soldiers walk near a burning tire in Hebron. (photo: Activestills)

Israeli soldiers walk near a burning tire in Hebron. (photo: Activestills)

This, despite the fact that Hamas never claimed responsibility for the attack, that its representatives in the West Bank have not responded to the incident, or that carrying out a kidnapping at a time like this would mean political suicide for the organization. It must be remembered that Hamas was pushed into joining the PA after it lost much of its support in the Arab world, and suffered from the strengthening of Egypt’s blockade on Gaza. There was no other way out. It received a life preserver in the form of a new government, as well as the possibility of elections and international recognition.

And then came the kidnapping. There are those who say that Hamas, and each of its members, are a legitimate target for Israel. I believe that Hamas is a terrorist organization that attacks and kills Israeli citizens without justification. But Hamas is also a political party that received a majority of the votes in the last election that took place in the occupied territories. It is also comprises an array of charity groups that have no connection to terror. It is also a political group that has changed its positions over the last years and is now willing to negotiate with Israel. As my colleague Noam Sheizaf previously said: if the Israeli government was truly interested in peace, Palestinian reconciliation would have presented a wonderful opportunity.

IDF soldiers in Hebron. (photo: Activestills)

IDF soldiers in Hebron. (photo: Activestills)

But even those who support full-scale attacks on Hamas must also know that this current attack is a cynical exploitation that seeks achieve other aims that have nothing to do with the release of the teenagers. It is sad that Netanyahu has chosen this path, rather than investing all efforts in retrieving them.

Read this post in Hebrew on Local Call.

Read more on the West Bank kidnapping:
Sheizaf: Reward activism and diplomacy, not violence
Derfner: The kidnapping is indefensible – but Israel helped provoke it
Zonszein: Israelis aren’t the only ones facing national tragedy

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West Bank kidnapping: The Palestinian unity government’s first real test http://972mag.com/west-bank-kidnapping-the-palestinian-unity-governments-first-real-test/92053/ http://972mag.com/west-bank-kidnapping-the-palestinian-unity-governments-first-real-test/92053/#comments Fri, 13 Jun 2014 15:57:29 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=92053 Regardless of who is responsible, the new Fatah-Hamas unity government will be watched closely for its response to the kidnappings.

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

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

Read: Three Israeli teens feared kidnapped in the West Bank

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

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the swearing in ceremony for the new unity government, Ramallah, June 2, 2014. (Photo: Mustafa Bader/Activestills.org)

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the swearing in ceremony for the new unity government, Ramallah, June 2, 2014. (Photo: Mustafa Bader/Activestills.org)

In less than two weeks, the Ad-Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC), a coordinating body formed to regulate donations from various states to the PA, with Israel as a monitoring party, is set to meet in Brussels. Despite the hardline position against the new government, Israel is expected to be present at the meeting and call on the international community to keep funding the Palestinian Authority. Will it continue doing so even if it turns out that Hamas either had a hand in the kidnapping or didn’t do enough to secure the release of the teenagers? If not, could it endanger the survival of the PA? There are many questions, and few answers.

And lastly: if the teens were indeed kidnapped, one cannot help but wonder whether the perpetrators acted out of seeking to use them as bargaining chips for the release of Palestinian prisoners, who, due to a massive hunger strike, are high on the priority list for Palestinians these days.

Read this post in Hebrew on Local Call.

Related:
Three Israeli teens feared kidnapped in the West Bank
Is Israel recognizing the Palestinian national unity government after all?

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Is Israel recognizing the Palestinian national unity government after all? http://972mag.com/is-israel-recognizing-the-palestinian-national-unity-government-after-all/91952/ http://972mag.com/is-israel-recognizing-the-palestinian-national-unity-government-after-all/91952/#comments Wed, 11 Jun 2014 18:05:36 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=91952 If the Israeli government insists on boycotting the new Palestinian unity government, how can it also insist on pouring money into the Palestinian Authority?

By the end of June, Israel is expected to once more sit at the same table as the Palestinian Authority – the same Palestinian Authority that it has been so adamant on boycotting following the formation of the new national unity government. The two parties will sit together with the Ad-Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC), a coordinating body formed in 1993 to regulate donations from various states to the PA, with Israel as a monitoring party, at an annual meeting in Brussels on June 24th.

A spokesperson for the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs told +972 that Israel plans to take part in the meeting, although formal invitations have not yet sent out by the chairman, who is based in Norway.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the swearing in ceremony for the new unity government, Ramallah, June 2, 2014. (Photo: Mustafa Bader/Activestills.org)

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the swearing in ceremony for the new unity government, Ramallah, June 2, 2014. (Photo: Mustafa Bader/Activestills.org)

Since its formation , Israel has been trying to discourage the international community from recognizing  the national unity government – and has been failing miserably. The U.S., Russia, EU, UN and many other countries have ignored Israel’s warnings that because the new government includes Hamas, it is therefore considered a terrorist-influenced government. Israel itself has announced that all negotiations will come to a halt, that it will forbid Palestinian elections from taking place in East Jerusalem and that new construction in the settlements will be launched in retaliation. In spite of all this, it appears that in two weeks, the same Israeli government will be encouraging donor states at the AHLC to send their money in order to sustain the PA. How is this possible?

The fact is, it is not only possible but also quite reasonable for Netanyahu to act this way. From the Israeli political center’s point of view – which strives to keep the status quo going for as long as it can – there is nothing worse than the idea of the PA collapsing. Even recognizing the Hamas-supported government is better than losing the authority that serves as the occupation’s sub-contractor – the one running the daily lives of Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip and the walled-in cities of the West Bank. It might be a bit embarrassing, but if it helps keep international money flowing to fund Palestinian salaries, and keep the lid on the possibility of future uprisings – we’ll just have to take it.

The Prime Minister’s Office has yet to respond to my question on how attending the AHLC meeting corresponds with the PM’s stated attitude towards the new Palestinian government. The question, I might add, was sent over a week ago.

Read this post in Hebrew on Local Call.

Related:
Five possible consequences of Hamas-Fatah unity
More than just the PA at stake in Palestinian reconciliation

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‘Administrative detainees must have done something wrong’ http://972mag.com/administrative-detainees-must-have-done-something-wrong/91582/ http://972mag.com/administrative-detainees-must-have-done-something-wrong/91582/#comments Mon, 02 Jun 2014 14:45:22 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=91582 When discussing administrative detention with Israelis, there comes a point when the discussion becomes an argument like one about religion — based on blind faith in the security establishment.

By definition, administrative detainees have not committed a crime. An administrative detention order is issued against people (almost all of whom are Palestinians) against whom there is no evidentiary basis to be put on trial. None at all. Because there is no evidence, there is also no indictment, no trial, no opportunity for the detainee to dispute the charges against him, no conviction and no verdict or sentencing to determine the length of a prison term. On the one hand an administrative detainee has committed no crime, and on the other hand, there is no limit to the amount of time he or she can be jailed.

True, there is “judicial oversight” by a military judge — behind closed doors — over the detention orders that are renewed every six months. Anyone who happens to read the protocol of such hearings will figure out very quickly that they are a joke. Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) agents present secret evidence and and interrogations of the detainee and they refuse to answer any of his lawyers’ questions about the rationale for issuing the detention order. The detainee has no way of defending himself because he does not know of what he is accused. And so people end up in prison — for many years sometimes.

I’ve met administrative detainees — before, during and after they were held in administrative detention. Some of them are political activists and protest organizers. Others, like some of those who are currently imprisoned and have been on hunger strike for more than a month now, they are Hamas members of the Palestinian Legislative Council. Some of the detainees are sick or elderly. And there are others, like Palestinian soccer player Mahmoud Sarsak, who was imprisoned for three years without ever being indicted and was released only after launching a three-month hunger strike. It is not known, nor has it been published exactly how he threatened or harmed Israeli state security.

Palestinian youth protest in solidarity with soccer player Mahmoud Sarsak, who was held in administrative detention for three years. Nablus, 2012. (Photo by Ahmad al-Baz/Activestills.org)

Palestinian youth protest in solidarity with soccer player Mahmoud Sarsak, who was held in administrative detention for three years. Nablus, 2012. (Photo by Ahmad al-Baz/Activestills.org)

Despite it all, and despite the fact that two years ago Israel committed to reducing the number of administrative detainees as part of a deal to end a mass hunger strike (it did reduce the number for about a year — and then started using administrative detention orders again), and despite the fact that over 100 administrative detainees have been on a hunger strike for more than a month and many of them have been hospitalized — there is no serious cry to release them and to put an end to the use of this anti-democratic tool.

Some of that silence, of course, stems from the wider lack of of interest in the occupation in general, in every regard. Aside from a shocking video here or there, or another fictitious round of “peace talks” (this time they called it a process), Israelis don’t really care what happens in the occupied territories. And the media also reflects that lack of interest.

But the issue of administrative detention diverges from the political plane and crosses into the realm of religious-like faith that Israelis have in the security establishment. Time after time, facts are exposed, like those with which I started this article, and every discussion is met with the same answers: “they don’t just lock people up for the hell of it”; “they’re not angels”; “nobody locks people up for fun,” and; “if they’re in jail they must have done something [wrong].”

Those are empty phrases, unfounded statements, not based on any specific piece of information about a specific detainee, about administrative detainees in general, or about the Shin Bet and army’s decision-making process in issuing administrative detention orders. They are phrases that fail to consider the possibility that this is an unacceptable practice, bad judgement in the best case (a naive conclusion), or a tool of political oppression in the worst case (the actual case). But never that Shin Bet interrogators are simply lying.

People who say such things don’t want to actually confront the meaning of administrative detention, of imprisoning hundreds of people without trial in a country that presents itself as a democracy. And so they simply choose to believe — with their eyes covered — that the “forces of good” in the security establishment act only in order to protect us, day in and day out, from the “forces of evil,” the Palestinians who are trying to hurt us.

There are no humans involved, no criminal procedures, nothing. Just faith. Try arguing with that.

Read this post in Hebrew on Local Call.

More on administrative detention:
Israel admits: Administrative detention unnecessary
Hunger-strikers are another statistic in an unjust legal system
Administrative detention: Months or years without due process

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Hamas, Fatah say unity gov’t could be finalized in days http://972mag.com/hamas-fatah-say-details-of-a-unity-govt-being-finalized/91438/ http://972mag.com/hamas-fatah-say-details-of-a-unity-govt-being-finalized/91438/#comments Wed, 28 May 2014 13:23:05 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=91438 The makeup and formation of a technocratic unity government could be announced within days, or as soon as Egypt’s elections are finalized, Palestinian officials tell +972.

Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas agreed on the formation of a unity government in accordance with the reconciliation deal reached last month, a number of Palestinian officials told +972 Magazine on Wednesday. An official announcement about the formation of the government is expected in the coming days or as soon as Thursday.

The announcement is being delayed until the results of Egypt’s presidential elections are published, along with a few final disagreements about appointments to government positions. Both sides estimated that the remaining disagreements are not insurmountable.

Read also:
Why Fatah-Hamas reconciliation might just work this time
True Palestinian reconciliation must include refugees

The new Palestinian government is expected to be composed of technocrats and will be headed by current caretaker Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah. It will be designated as temporary government until general elections can be held in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The last Palestinian elections took place in 2006, when Hamas won.

According to Nasser Laham, editor-in-chief of Palestinian news agency Ma’an, no major changes are expected in day-to-day life in either the Strip or the West Bank following the announcement of a new government. The separate security forces of Hamas and Fatah are expected to continue ruling their respective territories.

In what it said was its last-ever meeting, the Hamas cabinet in Gaza said on Tuesday that it, “is ready to hand over its full responsibilities to the unity government,” the Associated Press reported.

A senior official in Hamas confirmed to +972 Magazine that the government should be announced this week. However, it will not likely take place before the results of Egypt’s elections are published.

The assumption is that Egypt’s deteriorating relations with Hamas — since the coup that ousted President Morsi — was one of the major factors that led to Fatah-Hamas reconciliation. Additionally, the continued rule of Gen. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi will only increase the Gazan government’s interests in reaching a deal with Ramallah.

In addition to the formation of a unity government, the Palestinian reconciliation deal is slated to lead to Hamas’s inclusion in the Palestinian Liberation Organization.

Related:
More than just the PA at stake in Palestinian reconciliation
Why Fatah-Hamas reconciliation might just work this time

Read this article in Hebrew on Local Call here.

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Young Palestinian girls detained on suspicion of – eating cherries http://972mag.com/young-palestinian-girls-detained-on-suspicion-of-eating-cherries/91411/ http://972mag.com/young-palestinian-girls-detained-on-suspicion-of-eating-cherries/91411/#comments Tue, 27 May 2014 12:49:50 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=91411 Four Palestinian girls, at least one of whom is under the age of criminal culpability, are detained and brought for interrogation — without their parents being present — based on a complaint made by a local settler.

Israeli soldiers and police detained four Palestinian girls between the ages of 11 and 15 on suspicion of — eating cherries from trees belonging to the Jewish settlement of Maon in the south Hebron hills on Tuesday. The four were held at the Kiryat Arba police station.

The girls, who live in Khirbet Tuba in the south Hebron hills and go to school in a-Twane, are escorted to and from school on a daily basis by Israeli soldiers. The escorts are a response to years of harassment by settlers who attack Palestinian children on their way to and home from school.

According to B’Tselem, a settler from Maon told the soldiers who were escorting the Palestinian girls that they ate some cherries from the settlement’s trees. According to the report, the soldiers immediately called the police, who took the girls to the Kiryat Arba police station to be interrogated.

Special coverage: Children under occupation

Atty. Gaby Lasky, who is representing the minors, spoke with police on the phone and she was told that the 11 year old and another girl, who apparently has learning and speech disabilities, were released once their parents were contacted. The two others were being held for questioning.

“I have a murder and manslaughter cases that they haven’t questioned the suspects for over a year, but [these girls] need to be interrogated immediately, and without the presence of their parents,” Lasky said.

If the girls were Jewish, it would be illegal for the police to question them without the presence of their parents.

A request for comment was sent to the police and IDF spokespersons. We will update this article if and when they respond.

Update: According to B’Tselem, the two remaining girls were being released without charge or bail.

Related:
WATCH: IDF detains 5-year-old Palestinian in Hebron
Assessing developments in Israel’s juvenile military courts

Read this post in Hebrew on ‘Local Call’ here.

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