+972 Magazine » Haggai Matar http://972mag.com Independent commentary and news from Israel & Palestine Wed, 02 Sep 2015 14:38:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8 Israel’s new police chief: Architect of segregated West Bank roads http://972mag.com/israels-new-police-chief-architect-of-segregated-west-bank-roads/111017/ http://972mag.com/israels-new-police-chief-architect-of-segregated-west-bank-roads/111017/#comments Wed, 26 Aug 2015 11:47:31 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=111017 Three things to know about Gal Hirsch, Israel’s incoming police chief who has supported segregated roads and the shooting of a Palestinian youth.

Gal Hirsch (Police spokesperson)

Gal Hirsch (Israel Police Spokesperson)

1. During the Second Intifada, following a number of sniping and fire bomb attacks by Palestinians on Israeli cars, incoming police chief Gal Hirsch banned Palestinians from traveling on Route 443, turning it into a road for Israelis only. This despite the fact that the road was built on private and public Palestinian land, and with the understanding that Israel would see the road as a way to serve local Palestinian residents. This also created a situation in which Palestinians aiming to shoot Israeli cars could do so easily, since the road was made exclusively for Israelis.

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In 2009 the High Court rejected the racist policy of separation on Road 443. However, the army found ways to circumvent the decision. Today, although Palestinians are now allowed to travel on the road, traffic arrangements work to direct them to use poorer, alternative roads.

2. After being forced to leave the IDF in the wake of the Second Lebanon War, Hirsch became an independent contractor and started a company called “Defensive Shield,” after the name of the 2002 operation on Gaza in which he served as a top general. The company’s site reveals that it specializes in “supplying combat, police and military equipment,” in addition to providing security consultancy, among other fields.

3. Hirsch was recently among those who backed Brigade Commander Israel Shomer, who shot and killed a Palestinian stone-thrower, firing three bullets at his back and head. Hirsch described the boy as a “terrorist,” and justified shooting, despite a video that clearly shows that Shomer chose to get out of his military vehicle, chase the Palestinian boy who was trying to escape, and shoot him in the back even though there was no apparent threat to his life.

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

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British national challenges Israel’s policy of deporting peace activists http://972mag.com/british-national-challenges-israels-policy-of-deporting-peace-activists/110938/ http://972mag.com/british-national-challenges-israels-policy-of-deporting-peace-activists/110938/#comments Mon, 24 Aug 2015 11:36:52 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=110938 Israel’s Interior Ministry banned British peace activist Gary Spedding from the country for 10 years, claiming that he was an anti-Semitic liar who might start a riot. Unlike other activists who have suffered the same fate, Spedding isn’t giving up without a fight.

British peace activist Gary Spedding holds up his passport, with a refusal stamp from the Israeli border authorities. (photo: Aaron Dover)

British peace activist Gary Spedding holds up his passport, with a refusal stamp from the Israeli border authorities. (photo: Aaron Dover)

An Israeli court is slated to rule next month on a case involving a British human rights activist who was denied entry into the country, deported, and banned for 10 years, who claims that the Interior Ministry is targeting him for his political views.

It all began on January 9, 2014. Gary Spedding, a 25-year-old British pacifist and human rights activist, arrived at Ben-Gurion Airport for a short visit of a little over a week in Tel Aviv and Bethlehem in order to meet with local activists (myself included) and political leaders. It was supposed to be Spedding’s fifth visit to Israel/Palestine in four years, with the previous four going off without a hitch.

The visits were intended to allow Spedding, who is committed to peace between Israelis and Palestinians, to continue learning about the issue from up close, and talk to people about the relative success of the Northern Ireland peace agreement. Despite his young age, Spedding is a one of the central activists in the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland — the only joint Protestant-Catholic party in Northern Ireland’s parliament.

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But upon stepping up to the passport control at Ben-Gurion Airport, Spedding was taken to a small room where he said the security team logged onto his mobile phone without permission and scanned through his contacts, text messages and email, manually copying some of the content onto a notepad. He also underwent a lengthy full-body check, and was eventually jailed before being deported. I was told by the Administration of Border Crossings, Population and Immigration that Spedding had been banned for 10 years because of his activities on social media, fearing that he could start riots in Israel or the occupied territories if allowed into the country. Countless activists have undergone the same procedure, from artists to intellectuals to left-wingers.

Spedding began his legal battle against his deportation while still in detention, and continued to pursue upon his return to Britain. After Attorney Gabi Lasky failed to convince the Interior Ministry to change the decision, Spedding submitted an appeal to the Entry to Israel Law Review Tribunal.

These kinds of bans have become more common over the past few years. Those banned include the likes of Professor Noam Chomsky, the 2012 Flytilla activists, activists from Christian organizations or Palestinian aid groups — not to mention foreign nationals of Palestinian descent, who come to visit their families.

This is just a short list, but it is rare that someone takes these cases to court. The court’s ruling could have potential consequences on the Interior Ministry’s policies vis-a-vis other foreign nationals, whose political beliefs are critical of the government.

The ‘anti-Semite’ who marks Holocaust Remembrance Day

According to the Interior Ministry, Spedding was lying about the reasons behind his visit to the country, had previously volunteered for an organization despite only holding a tourist visa (which does not allow volunteering), entered areas administered by the Palestinian Authority without Israeli approval, and that there is a potential that he could cause a riot.

On the face of it, the ministry’s claims seem serious. Upon closer examination, it is difficult not to laugh at their absurdity. For instance, while searching his phone, the security team at the airport found that Spedding had been briefed on “how to act and what to say at the passport control” in order to enter the country. However, according to the conversation included simple instructions such as “be yourself” or “be polite,” adding that should he be detained, Spedding ought to drink water and read a book.

Israeli activist Michal Vexler arrested at TLV airport while demonstrating in favor of the 'Welcome to Palestine' fly-in protest on April 15, 2012 (photo: Activestills.org)

Israeli activist Michal Vexler arrested at Ben-Gurion Airport while demonstrating in favor of the ‘Welcome to Palestine’ fly-in protest, April 15, 2012 (photo: Activestills.org)

According to a report by the Administration of Border Crossings, Population and Immigration, Spedding was also hoping to travel to the West Bank village of Bil’in. How did they know? Because after announcing on Facebook that he would be traveling to Israel/Palestine, one of his Facebook friends asked him whether he is planning on coming to the village, a question Spedding did not answer. This is how the State of Israel determined that Spedding is on his way to Bil’in, where he may lead demonstrations and riots.

The report also claimed that Spedding had made anti-Semitic remarks in one of his correspondences. In a private chat with one of his friends, which took place after he was accused by right-wingers on the internet of being anti-Semitic, Spedding joked that he is “looking forward to our anti-Semitic adventure together.” Spedding, who is active in raising awareness over Holocaust Remembrance Day and has organized and spoken at conferences on the Holocaust, was offended by the baseless claim.

Another allegation made against Spedding was that he was involved in organizing a protest against an Israeli speaker at Belfast’s Queens University in 2011. Following the protest the speaker’s car was attacked by people unrelated to Spedding, and whom he tried to stop and later denounced, suffering himself from persecution for supposedly supporting the Israeli speaker. Queens University later officially stated that Spedding had nothing to do with the attack, and since that incident he had already been in Israel three times with no problem whatsoever getting in or out. And yet, the Interior Ministry still lists the incident as a reason for banning him from the country.

Classified material

The report also includes a summary of Spedding’s interrogation by border security agents, which is full of lies and inconsistencies. It falsely claims, for example, that Spedding stated that he had previously volunteered for an organization while in the country, and includes a quote in which he allegedly stated that he came to Israel in order to meet with “members of Knesset who support the Palestinian people.” While Spedding is in contact with a number of MKs, and did not hesitate to tell this to the agents, he never described them as “supporters of of the Palestinian people.”

In the first appeal, Lasky debunked the state’s claims one by one, emphasizing that while the state has the right to determine who can come in to the country, it does not have the right to act arbitrarily without any criteria. In Spedding’s case, Lasky explains, the decision was unreasonable and disproportionate, and was a result of the Interior Ministry’s objections to his political beliefs and activities.

In its response to the appeal, the state simply reused the same arguments it had brought up earlier, completely ignoring Lasky’s claims. In addition, the state also handed over a folder full of classified material against Spedding, preventing him from defending himself from the claims made against him.

Fundraising for future activities

I first met Spedding in 2013, when he invited me to speak about the Israeli occupation before the Northern Ireland Assembly. He also helped me to set up personal meetings with some of the assembly members to talk about the country’s relatively stable peace agreement, which I ended up turning into an article in Haaretz.

It was clear then that Spedding is a true pacifist who opposes all forms of violence, racism, or oppression. “Gary is one of those souls who you can tell feels it on a personal level when there is no peace in the world, and especially in this country,” says Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg, who met Spedding in Northern Ireland as part of an envoy of Israeli MKs who traveled to the country to learn about the Good Friday Agreement.

Solidarity with Palestinian prisoners on Republican walls (Haggai Matar)

Solidarity with Palestinian prisoners on Republican walls, Belfast, Northern Ireland. (photo: Haggai Matar)

“I’m hopeful the court will see that most of the ‘evidence’ the Interior Ministry is presenting is of a heavily politicized nature, taken from right-wing blogs and doesn’t substantiate an actual ‘case’ unless they want to admit banning someone purely because they don’t like their politics.” Spedding tells me.

Spedding explains that his presence in the country is important to him, and that both his ban and the outrageous claims of the Interior Ministry have left an indelible stain. “What makes my case unique is that it was the first time the ministry has publicly admitted they monitored my social media feed and gave that as partial reasoning for my deportation. I hope that if my case is won it might open up a route for other activists to challenge their deportations.”

Spedding’s legal battle against the Interior Ministry is a costly one, and he cannot take on all the expenses himself. He is still a student, and his political activities — whether on internal issues in Northern Ireland or those relating to Israel/Palestine — is done in his free time and on his dime. The legal expenses cost tens of thousands of shekels, and he has been able to fundraise nearly all of the money from friends and supporters, but would appreciate any assistance. You can help Spedding and donate to his efforts through Paypal or with a credit card here.

Dimi Reider contributed to this piece. This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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The IDF’s new tool for tracking Palestinian protesters: Drones http://972mag.com/the-idf-has-a-new-way-of-tracking-palestinian-protesters-drones/110419/ http://972mag.com/the-idf-has-a-new-way-of-tracking-palestinian-protesters-drones/110419/#comments Sat, 15 Aug 2015 11:08:39 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=110419 What has four propellors and a camera?

Participants in the weekly protests against the separation wall in the West Bank village of Bil’in were surprised Friday to find that the army was using a new tool to put down the demonstrations. For the first time, a small drone equipped with four propellors and a camera hovered above the protesters as they marched toward the wall and chanted slogans.

I asked the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit what the purpose of the drone was; I have yet to receive a response. The camera can be used for a number of purposes, although in light of past experience, it is likely to be used to assist soldiers in dispersing demonstrations or photographing protesters for arrests or to use in future trials. Bil’in photojournalist Haitham Khatib managed to snap a photo of the drone as it hovered above the protesters on Friday:

An IDF drone hovers above the West Bank village of Bil'in. (photo: Haitham Khatib)

An IDF drone hovers above the West Bank village of Bil’in. (photo: Haitham Khatib)

Photos taken at the demonstrations help the army arrest and interrogate protesters, especially young ones, are often used to incriminate protest organizers.

In April 2014, the army revealed yet another weapon for suppressing demonstration: a remote-controlled water canon that was installed atop the separation wall in Bethlehem, which allows the tracking and dispersal of protesters without the presence of soldiers.

Related:
Israeli army installs remote-controlled weapon atop separation wall
‘Israel increasing use of live fire at West Bank protests’
Bil’in: Photographing a decade of popular struggle

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

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High Court approves detention of asylum seekers without charge, but only for 12 months http://972mag.com/high-court-approves-revised-law-for-detention-of-asylum-seekers/110145/ http://972mag.com/high-court-approves-revised-law-for-detention-of-asylum-seekers/110145/#comments Tue, 11 Aug 2015 16:20:48 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=110145 The High Court of Justice capitulates to the threats of Israel’s right wing and approves the prolonged detention of asylum seekers.

By Haggai Matar

African asylum seekers jailed in the Holot detention center protest behind the prison's fence, February 17, 2014. (Photo by Activestills.org)

African asylum seekers jailed in the Holot detention center protest behind the prison’s fence, February 17, 2014. (Photo by Activestills.org)

Israel’s High Court of Justice approved on Tuesday the third and latest version of the Prevention of Infiltration Law, after it struck down the two previous versions passed by the Knesset. In doing so, the justices have approved the law, which would see asylum seekers who reached the country temporarily jailed for three months, while limiting imprisonment at the Holot detention center — for all asylum seekers — for a period of a year, rather than a year-and-a-half.

In her opinion, President  Justice Miriam Naor wrote that she believes the state when it claims that detention in Holot is not an attempt to “break the spirit” of the asylum seekers and cause them to leave the country. Following the announcement of the rule, Culture Minister Miri Regev said that she hopes the decision will not harm the “infiltrators’ return to their home countries.”

However, Naor found that the detention period of 1.5 years to be unreasonable. Thus the justices rejected the clause regarding the length of detention, giving the state six months to come up with a new one. Until then, detention in Holot will be limited to one year.

The decision will likely directly affect the nearly 2,000 asylum seekers currently in Holot, who will be made to remain there (aside from those who have been in the detention center for over a year, who will be released), and many others who have either received or will receive summons to Holot. As opposed to claims made by the right, the effect on the residents of south Tel Aviv — where the vast majority of asylum seekers are concentrated — will be minimal as long as the government refuses to implement a proper policy for dealing with asylum seekers. After all, Holot can only hold 3,000 people, despite the fact that there are tens of thousands of asylum seekers in Israel.

Tuesday’s ruling comes on the heels of continuous threats from Israel’s ministers, headed by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, against the High Court. The ministers have openly stated that should the High Court reject the law for the third time, the government would push legislation that will limit the court’s ability to intervene in legislation. Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu party has already announced that it would oppose such legislation, but with a coalition so narrow and fragile, it is difficult to say whether or not such a law has a chance of passing.

It is difficult to know for sure how much of an effect these threats had on the justices. But the fact is that after they rejected the previous iterations twice — both of which were not fundamentally different than the current one — this time the justices capitulated and let the government continue with its policies of detention.

Who is responsible for south Tel Aviv?

On Tuesday Justice Minister Shaked took to Facebook to state that should the justices reject the law, it will be akin to declaring south Tel Aviv “an official detention center for infiltrators.” Let’s remember that it wasn’t the High Court of Justice who put asylum seekers on buses from the border with Sinai and drove them to Tel Aviv’s Central Bus Station — it was the government. It wasn’t the High Court that led to the extremely difficult living conditions that have plagued south Tel Aviv for years.

Opposite a pro-refugee rally, residents of south Tel Aviv protest the presence of African asylum seekers in their community, Tel Aviv, May 2, 2015. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Opposite a pro-refugee rally, residents of south Tel Aviv protest the presence of African asylum seekers in their community, Tel Aviv, May 2, 2015. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

But even in the previous version of the law, the justices recommended that the government take on a policy of spreading the asylum seeker community in different parts of the country. This policy has been deemed acceptable to many veteran residents of south Tel Aviv, as well as human rights organizations, some left-wing parties and a number of asylum seekers. In short, there is no direct link between detaining asylum seekers and the future of south Tel Aviv, which is in desperate need of an immediate solution by the government. This solution is necessary for both veteran residents as well as asylum seekers — especially in the wake of the High Court’s ruling.

What’s the difference?

The High Court rejected the previous two versions of the anti-infiltration law that were passed by the Knesset in an attempt to regulate the detention of asylum seekers. Last time, the justices ruled that detaining asylum seekers who cannot be deported for an indefinite period is unconstitutional.

In its current iteration, which was passed in December 2014, the Knesset decided to limit the jailing of newly-arrived asylum seekers to Saharonim prison for a period of three months, while detaining those who have been here longer in Holot for 20 months.

Although the state tries to present Holot as an “open detention center,” and despite the fact that the number of roll calls per day has been reduced from three to one, Holot does not allow these people to lead normal lives. The detainees there complain of poor food, of being stuck in the middle of the desert and of having no way of getting to work or studies.

The human rights organizations that petitioned the law claimed that the new version of the law does not essentially change the problems that arose with its previous versions, specifically the jailing of asylum seekers for long periods of time in order to pressure them to leave the country. Meanwhile, the state itself recognizes the fact that it cannot deport them, and is well aware of the danger that awaits them should they be returned to their home countries.

The state, however, also claims that the changes made in the current law are dramatic, as they reduce the detention period and provides more liberties to those jailed in Holot.

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

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Israel to start force-feeding Palestinian hunger strikers http://972mag.com/israel-to-start-force-feeding-palestinian-hunger-strikers/109427/ http://972mag.com/israel-to-start-force-feeding-palestinian-hunger-strikers/109427/#comments Thu, 30 Jul 2015 12:25:54 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=109427 One month after administrative detainee Khader Adnan’s successful hunger strike, the Knesset passes a law to allow for the force-feeding of Palestinian prisoners.

Illustrative photo of Palestinian prisoners in an Israeli military prison (By ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock.com)

Illustrative photo of Palestinian prisoners in an Israeli military prison (By ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock.com)

The Knesset passed a law early Thursday morning that sanctions the force-feeding of hunger-striking prisoners in Israeli jails. The law passed by a small margin, with 46 lawmakers in favor and 40 opposed.

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The so-called “hunger-strike law,” considered more “gentle” than the original bill proposed last June, allows a judge to sanction the force-feeding or administration of medical treatment if there is a threat to the inmate’s life. This applies even if the prisoner refuses.

The bill comes in the wake of a successful 50-plus-day hunger strike by Palestinian administrative detainee Khader Adnan last month. This was Adnan’s second extended hunger strike against his administrative detention; in 2012, Adnan won his release in a similar deal that ended a hunger strike. Most of the most high-profile hunger-strikes have been by Palestinian administrative detainees, which are held without sentence or trial.

The Israeli Medical Organization (IMA) has long announced that its doctors will refuse to carry out the procedure. In the past, Israel Medical Association Chairman Dr. Leonid Edelman said that the IMA will not protect doctors who will be tried at the International Criminal Court. The IMA’s position is praiseworthy, even if it stems from potential sanctions by the World Medical Association.

Force-feeding is considered a form of torture according to the World Health Organization. Not a single prisoner has died of hunger strike in the history of Israel, due to the wise conduct of both the prisoners themselves and the state, the latter of which often came to diplomatic solutions. On the other hand, five prisoners have died as a result of force-feeding before the practice was stopped by the Israel Prison Service (IPS). The Knesset is now bringing us back to the days of serious injuries, torture and death threats against prisoners.

Khader Adnan plays with his daughters in the West Bank village of Araba, near Jenin on his first day of freedom from incarceration in an Israeli prison, April 18, 2012. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Khader Adnan plays with his daughters in the West Bank village of Araba, near Jenin on his first day after being freed from incarceration in an Israeli prison, April 18, 2012. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

The IMA must begin circulation a mass petition among Israeli doctors who refuse to carry out the procedure. It must enact special training, especially for doctors who work at hospitals that treat hunger strikers, as well as IPS doctors, in order to explain to them why they must not take part in force-feeding, which dangers they will be exposed to should they breach medical ethics, and what kind of support they will receive if and when they refuse to take part.

Furthermore, it must be made clear that hunger-striking prisoners do not threaten the state of Israel. Rather, the danger is the slippery slope that starts with a 50-year-old military regime in the occupied territories, through the suppression of all forms of resistance — both violent and nonviolent — and through the attempt to put down the last and only form of protest available to prisoners.

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

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Court denies equal rights to Palestinian workers in Israeli industrial zone http://972mag.com/court-denies-equal-rights-to-palestinian-workers-in-israeli-industrial-zone/109225/ http://972mag.com/court-denies-equal-rights-to-palestinian-workers-in-israeli-industrial-zone/109225/#comments Thu, 23 Jul 2015 18:48:15 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=109225 National Labor Court rules that unlike their fellow Israeli workers, Palestinians in a no-man’s land industrial zone will remain subject to the Jordanian labor laws of 1967.

Nitzanei Shalom Industrial Zone. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Nitzanei Shalom Industrial Zone. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org

Israel’s National Labor Court rejected an appeal by Palestinian workers from the Nitzanei Shalom Industrial Zone this past Sunday, ruling that they will continue to be subject to the Jordanian labor laws of 1967, rather than Israeli laws.

The three appellants — Abdel Hamid Yahiye, Ahmed Shayib and Mujhad Harsha — sued their former employers in Tel Aviv’s Regional Labor Court in 2010 after they were fired for demanding retroactive payment from their employer. The regional court rejected the suit, and the three — with the help of Attorney Ehud Shiloni and the workers’ rights group, WAC-MAAN — appealed to the National Labor Court.

In a two-page ruling, the judges of the National Labor Court established that the industrial zone, which borders Tulkarem, is not part of an Israeli settlement, but rather is located in “no-man’s land” and was established to promote “economic cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians, and the employment of Palestinians.”

The ruling allows the state to discriminate against Palestinians in three ways: first vis-a-vis their peers and superiors at the factory; once vis-a-vis the Palestinian workers in nearby Tulkarem, who are subject to Palestinian labor laws; and once vis-a-vis workers in Jordan, whose labor laws are far more progressive than the ones established in 1967. The only workers who will continue to be subject to the old, draconian Jordanian laws are the Palestinian workers of the industrial zone.

According to the judges, the workers’ contracts clearly state that they will be subject to the Jordanian law, and that Israeli workers in the factory work in maintenance and security — positions that “cannot be compared to those of the appellants.”

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The old Jordanian laws do not require employers to pay pensions, nor does they force employers to compensate workers for sick leave after the third day of absence, while providing only minimal vacation days and low severance packages.

In 2007 Israel’s High Court ruled, after 40 years of military rule in the occupied territories, that Israel’s labor laws will apply to Palestinians who work in the settlements. In the “Givat Ze’ev” ruling, the nine justices decided unanimously that because the employers and the workers never formally agreed which labor laws they will follow; and because the settlements constitute “legal enclaves” of Israeli law; and because the labor laws were written in Hebrew, taxes are paid to Israel, the currency is Israeli and Israeli laborers work alongside Palestinian ones under Israeli law — Palestinians can no longer be employed under Jordanian law. According to the National Labor Court’s ruling, however, the situation in Nitzanei Shalom is inherently different than that of Givat Ze’ev’s.

What is ‘consent,’ after all?

The National Labor Court’s ruling is nothing less than infuriating. The judges speak of “cooperation” that resembles nothing of the sort. Like Idan Landau wrote in an article on Nitzanei Shalom last year [Hebrew], only Israelis are allowed to open factories there, while Palestinians fill the role of the laborers.

The judges further noted that “the sides consented to the validity of Jordanian law.” As if Palestinian workers, who cannot find work in Tulkarem or obtain work permits in Israel or the settlements, are in a position in which they can negotiate and “consent” to something different than what the Israeli employer dictates.

Palestinian workers pray after crossing the Eyal checkpoint, between the West Bank city of Qalqilya and Israel, January 4, 2015. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Palestinian workers pray after crossing the Eyal checkpoint, between the West Bank city of Qalqilya and Israel, January 4, 2015. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

After all, the entire idea underlying labor laws is to enshrine the basic rights to which every worker is entitled, without his or her ability to negotiate or consent.

These conditions are not up for discussion. A worker cannot consent to work for below minimum wage or give up on sick days — these are the protections the state affords him/her. But in Nitzanei Shalom (“Buds of Peace” in Hebrew), the judges allow the workers to “choose” one law — worse than any other law — which does not apply anywhere else.

All this despite the fact that Nitzanei Shalom is guarded by the Israeli army, pays taxes to Israel, and abides by the Israeli fire code. If the Palestinian workers there commit a crime, they are tried according to Israeli law in an Israeli court.

“The decision of the court leaves the Palestinian workers in the Nitzanei Shalom Industrial Zone in a legal limbo,” said WAC-MAAN head Assaf Adiv of the decision. “The Israeli labor courts do not provide them with any assistance, and there are no courts that will rule according to Jordanian law.”

Rubber-stamping the occupation

People will often claim that there is no “occupation,” and that this land is ours because we inherited it from our forefathers, or because we won the war, etc. But stories like this one remind us that, above all, that the occupation is about human beings.

Human beings who live under a military regime and who are subject to one set of rules, while the Chosen People living across the street are subject to a different set of laws. Human beings who cannot vote for the bodies and authorities that rule them, cannot take part in planning and building their own villages or towns, people who are tried in courts that do not represent them. The occupation is also an economic enterprise that has prevented Palestinian economic development for nearly 50 years, and which produces workers who can be exploited in horrible conditions, whether in the settlements, Israel proper or in twilight zones such as Nitzanei Shalom.

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

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Casting Jewish-American boycott activists as hypocrites http://972mag.com/casting-jewish-american-boycott-activists-as-hypocrites/109045/ http://972mag.com/casting-jewish-american-boycott-activists-as-hypocrites/109045/#comments Sun, 19 Jul 2015 14:07:46 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=109045 Israel’s top weekend news show forgets about journalistic integrity when painting American Jewish supporters of the BDS movement as hypocritical, ungrateful and misinformed. 

JVP Boston activists protest the Veolia transportation company for operating bus lines serving settlements in the West Bank. November 14, 2012. (Tess Scheflan/ Activestills.org)

Jewish Voice for Peace activists protest the Veolia transportation company for operating bus lines serving settlements in the West Bank, Boston, November 14, 2012. (Tess Scheflan/ Activestills.org)

Last Friday, Channel 2′s popular weekend news show, “Ulpan Shishi,” ran a report by senior anchor Danny Kushmaro, who traveled to the United States to interview the Jews behind the boycott Israel movement [Hebrew]. Why Jews, specifically? Because Kushmaro believes Jews must have a special connection to Israel.

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In fact, the report also included interviews with Israel-loving Jews, as well as a reminder to the viewers that prominent American Jews donate money to NYU, which, of course, is a reason why the university should support Israel. He also speaks nostalgically about the Rothschild family, which was known for its “Jewish philanthropy and investment in Israel.”

But when American Jews’ “special relationship” to Israel turns into a platform for criticism, Kushmaro draws the line. When Alice Rothschild, a Jewish activist against the occupation who lives in Boston, says she does not want to donate to Israel like other members of her family and that she boycotts and criticizes the country, Kushmaro accuses her of hypocrisy for singling out Israel.

When Rothschild says that she cares about Israel and is worried about the direction it is going, Kushmaro interrupts: “You will tell us what the right way is? You, living in the comfort of Boston, will tell us what the right way is?!” It turns out that only a multi-billionaire from the comfort of Las Vegas who funds the prime minister — along with the most widely-read newspaper in Israel and a number of other American politicians — can tell us what the right way is. It turns out that only members of AIPAC, who live in the comfort of Washington D.C. and try to ensure continued U.S. support of Israel can tell Israelis what the right way is.

Why us?

Kushmaro attacks Rothschild and reminds viewers of American support for other countries. Channel 2 even went so far as to create an infographic showing a map of several countries that receive aid from the U.S. Afghanistan tops the list with $13 billion, $1.5 billion goes to Egypt, while half a billion dollars go to South Sudan and the Palestinian Authority, respectively.

But there is something strange about this map: Israel is not mentioned. Why? Doesn’t Kushmaro wants to compare Israel to these other countries, to show that we are all given equal support, which means we should all be criticized equally.

Participants in the Open Hillel Conference, Harvard University. (photo: Gili Getz)

Participants in the Open Hillel Conference, Harvard University. (photo: Gili Getz)

But that’s just the thing. For years Israel has received more aid from the U.S. than any other country, and according to Congressional statistics, it received 55 percent of all U.S. foreign aid (it is unclear which years the statistics refer to, although it is undeniable that Israel has received over $100 billion of aid from the Americans). Today, only Afghanistan receives more aid from the U.S.

But remember, these are statistics from 2014, the year the U.S. (officially) ended its war in Afghanistan, which was also the longest war the U.S. has ever fought. It is not surprising that huge sums of money were spent there. Kushmaro, however, prefers not to mention this.

What does anti-Semitism have to do with it?

Kushmaro’s report is one of many in the Israeli media whose headlines almost always read: “The Jews/Israelis who are behind the boycott.”

These reports all take part in the Israeli media’s original sin: blindness toward Palestinians. Because no matter how sexy and dramatic it sounds, Israelis and American Jews aren’t the ones “behind the boycott.” Behind the boycott stand Palestinians. The same people who live under a military regime in the West Bank, under Israeli and Egyptian siege in Gaza, in refugee camps across the Arab world or as second-class citizens inside Israel. The boycott is a political tool to resist this situation; Danny Kushmaro chooses to ignore this fact throughout the entire report.

Like BDS leader Omar Barghouti recently told +972, the boycott movement is a Palestinian one, but it has an increasing amount of Jewish supporters. And that’s just the thing: they are supporters.

Those same supporters from Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) who appear in Kushmaro’s report, openly state that their Jewish identity and values push them to support justice, equality and peace. These people certainly do not “hate themselves” — they are proud of themselves.

Illustrative photo of BDS Movement co-founder Omar Barghouti in Brussels, April 30, 2015. (Photo by intal.be / CC 2.0)

Illustrative photo of BDS Movement co-founder Omar Barghouti in Brussels, April 30, 2015. (Photo by intal.be / CC 2.0)

So why does Kushmaro tie them to rising anti-Semitism? At one point, Kushmaro interviews a professor of Jewish studies who explains that there is an increase in anti-Semitism in the U.S., and that Jewish students are forbidden from sitting on student councils in different schools across the country.

Anti-Semitism certainly exists in the United States, and there are anti-Semites who criticize Israel and support the call for boycott. The BDS movement, like nearly any movement, includes racist and ignorant people who hold a shallow, uncritical view of the world. Anti-Semitism must be denounced wherever it is found, and the anti-occupation movement must do all it can to eradicate it. There is no doubt about that.

But what does anti-Semitism have to do with educated, articulate, and knowledgable American Jews (some of whom even lived in Israel) who support the boycott? Are they the ones preventing Jewish students from sitting on student councils? Of course not.

Hasbara disguised as journalism

In one of the report’s more dramatic moments, Rothschild tells Kushmaro about her visit to Gaza after the war, and how she was shocked by the utter devastation she witnessed. Journalistically speaking, this was a special moment. How often does a leading news anchor in Israel get to meet people who were in Gaza? How many opportunities does he have to hear about what happened during the war from the point of view of someone who saw the Strip from the inside?

Channel 2 itself barely showed what was happening inside Gaza during Operation Protective Edge, so much so that the Prime Minister’s Office even called the station and begged it to show more images of destruction, so that Israelis would know that the military was doing its job.

But Kushmaro does not ask Rothschild about her experiences. He does not try to find out how those experiences affected her. He immediately goes on the attack, making sure she understands that “we” never wanted the war, and — like the best of Israel’s spokespeople — does not even stop to think about how we could have prevented it, not to mention minimized casualties. In fact, while Rothschild speaks about the destruction she witnessed, the screen shows Qassam rockets being launched, as if this is the only illustrative photo that befits last summer’s war.

When Rothschild says that parts of Hamas have expressed support for an agreement with Israel based on ’67 borders, Kushmaro makes a face that cannot be described as anything but scornful — as if Rothschild just landed from the moon, while acting as if he himself has never heard about similar proposals by Hamas.

Kushmaro speaks about Israeli policies as belonging to the collective “we.” “You are boycotting me,” he accuses Rothschild, despite the fact that she is doing the exact opposite by meeting with him. This isn’t a journalistic interview by any stretch of the imagination. This is an emissary of hasbara speaking on behalf of the state.

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Nuclear deal will usher in an era of Iranian diplomatic engagement http://972mag.com/nuclear-deal-will-usher-in-an-era-of-iranian-diplomatic-engagement/108851/ http://972mag.com/nuclear-deal-will-usher-in-an-era-of-iranian-diplomatic-engagement/108851/#comments Tue, 14 Jul 2015 13:10:24 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=108851 Put aside the details for a moment. The nuclear deal signed in Vienna today will force Iran to act through diplomacy, not violence. The other option? A nuclear Iran that acts recklessly and orders strikes on Western targets.

Secretary Kerry Poses for a Group Photo With E.U., P5+1, and Iranian Officials Before Final Plenary of Iran Nuclear Negotiations in Austria. (State Department photo)

Secretary Kerry Poses for a Group Photo With E.U., P5+1, and Iranian Officials Before Final Plenary of Iran Nuclear Negotiations in Austria. (State Department photo)

The decision to sign a nuclear agreement with Iran this morning was the right one. At the end of the day we can only take one of two paths: either we go the way of diplomacy, or we go to war. Either a path through which Iran becomes part of the international community, or it is pushed out using sanctions and isolation.

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We must, of course, discuss the details of the agreement: why will inspectors only be allowed arranged visits to Iran’s nuclear facilities? Does the agreement adequately prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear bomb in the future?

But even if Iran does obtain a nuclear weapon at some point, it is not insane enough to use it. Iran is not a suicidal country. Even Netanyahu’s closest associates say that Israel is not actually worried about nuclear annihilation. That isn’t the issue.

The issue is Iran’s position as a regional superpower, not to mention a global energy superpower. Israel’s worries stem, first and foremost, from the fact that the U.S.-Sunni alliance (led by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and Turkey, among others) is a comfortable one for Israel — one that does not threaten it and fights its enemies. Iran, on the other hand, leads the Shia axis, supports Hezbollah, Assad and the Houthi rebels in Yemen, and is increasingly influential in Iraq. As an accepted member of the international community, Iran’s power in the Middle East will only grow. That is what threatens Israel.

Iran’s legitimacy, however, will not grant it carte blanche to act recklessly. It has signed an agreement with six world powers, according to which problems will now have to be solved through diplomacy. The truth is that the more isolated Iran is, the more likely it will act however it wants, including by ordering Hezbollah strikes on Israel as a means of attacking the West (just as the U.S. and the Soviet Union manipulated Israel and the Arab states during the Cold War). An Iran that is integrated into the world economy and diplomatic system, on the other hand, is an Iran that knows its decisions carry a price. It is well aware that the sanctions regime, from which it has suffered, can return at any time.

.S. Secretary of State John Kerry sits across from Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on June 30, 2015, in Vienna, Austria, before a one-on-one meeting amid negotiations about the future of Iran's nuclear program. (State Department photo)

.S. Secretary of State John Kerry sits across from Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on June 30, 2015, in Vienna, Austria, before a one-on-one meeting amid negotiations about the future of Iran’s nuclear program. (State Department photo)

The nuclear agreement is itself a choice to engage in dialogue (even if it has been forced on Iran through years of sanctions), while leaving the door open for future discussions. These could potentially strengthen both the local and international alliances against ISIS, for instance.

A few more thoughts:

1. Israel/Palestine: We must wonder what kind of effect the agreement will have on the Palestinians. On the one hand, a stronger Iran-U.S. relationship may weaken Washington’s obligations to Israel and could potentially put more pressure on Israel to reach a peace agreement and end the occupation. Iran, by the way, was a supporter of the Saudi-led Arab Peace Initiative, which would include a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians that would result in normalized relations with the Arab and Muslim world. Although Iran had its own reservations regarding the plan, its tepid support should not be taken lightly.

On the other hand, it could be that Iran’s integration into the international community will actually lessen its interest in Israel/Palestine, which in any case was mostly used for internal political needs and as a tool for international leverage.

2. Human rights: As Orly Noy wrote here yesterday, and as Iranian dissident Ahmad Rafat wrote last week, the agreement may open Iran to the world, but it does not necessarily bode well for the human rights situation inside Iran. Perhaps even the opposite is true. If the struggle for an agreement ended this morning, the struggle for human rights and democracy inside Iran may only be beginning.

Read: If deal fails, we can kiss Iran’s moderates goodbye

3. Hypocrisy: Every discussion of Iran includes a blind spot that must be discussed. We speak about whether or not Iran will be “allowed” to act a certain way, or whether or not it is “legitimate,” “trustworthy,” or “democratic” enough. There is a great deal of hypocrisy in taking this position.

The United States has and continues to support corrupt and murderous regimes across the world, and it is the only country that has ever dropped an atomic bomb on a civilian population. The European Union continues to enjoy the fruits of colonialism and the enslavement of countless nations, while also supporting tyrannical regimes in Africa and Asia. Israel has also historically supported dictatorial regimes, including the Shah in Iran, Apartheid South Africa, and the current Eritrean government.

Why are all these countries deemed moral authorities that can judge Iran from on high? Yes, Iran is a tyrannical country that flaunts human rights and supports terrorist organizations. So is Saudi Arabia, America’s closest ally in the Middle East. The global political field is ugly any way you look at it, and it is in need of fundamental, democratic reform.

4. We must all strive to create a Middle East (and world) free of nuclear weapons. Presently, according to foreign reports, only one country in the Middle East has nuclear weapons: Israel. According to those same reports, its facilities go un-inspected by the international community, and it is not a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. If we want a nuclear-free Middle East, we must start by looking at ourselves.

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

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Jailed Palestinian lawmaker pleads innocence http://972mag.com/jailed-palestinian-lawmaker-pleads-innocence/108106/ http://972mag.com/jailed-palestinian-lawmaker-pleads-innocence/108106/#comments Tue, 23 Jun 2015 15:41:26 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=108106 Khalida Jarrar, who was arrested for representing the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in the Palestinian legislature, rejects all charges against her as trial opens in West Bank military court.

Palestinian parliamentarian Khalida Jarrar in Ofer military court, June 22, 2015. (photo: Haggai Matar)

Palestinian parliamentarian Khalida Jarrar in Ofer military court, June 22, 2015. (photo: Haggai Matar)

Palestinian lawmaker Khalida Jarrar, who was arrested in March and has been imprisoned ever since, plead innocent Monday as her highly-publicized trial began in the Ofer military court in the West Bank. The trial was attended by Jarrar’s family members, a number of journalists, as well as a delegation of EU diplomats who expressed their concern over her detention.

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Jarrar, who serves in the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) on behalf of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) has been charged with 12 counts relating to her membership in the party, which is defined by Israel as an illegal organization. Nearly all the charges have to do with Jarrar’s participation in demonstrations, interviews, speeches and visits to solidarity tents for Palestinian prisoners. Only one charge relates to incitement to kidnap Israeli soldiers, despite the fact that the witness to this charge admit that he is not sure he heard Jarrar say anything to that extent.

Jarrar’s attorneys, Mahmoud Hassan and Sahar Francis from Addameer, a Palestinian NGO that works to support Palestinian prisoners, rejected all the charges and declared that she would plead innocence on all counts. The military prosecutor, Captain Almaz Ayso, stated that the prosecution would hand over classified material to the court, which the defense will not be able to see or challenge.

Jarrar’s attorneys asked that the computers that were confiscated from Jarrar’s home near Ramallah during an army raid in March — during which she was arrested — be returned to her should no incriminating evidence be found. Ayso said that they would receive in answer in the coming days.

The short hearing ended after Hassan and Francis announced that they would file their pre-trial motions in the next few weeks, which will be followed by the presentation of evidence sometime in July. Jarrar will remain in prison during this time, after the military appeals court upheld a request to keep her in custody until the end of legal proceedings. In April she was placed in administrative detention, which means she was to be indefinitely detained without being sentenced or facing trial, but was later sentenced in the wake of a global campaign to release her.

Read: 12 Palestinian members of parliament are in Israeli prison

Before the hearing began, a prison service official allowed Jarrar to hug her two daughters, Yaffa and Suha, who came for a visit from Canada, where they are studying. Family members are generally forbidden to speak with Palestinian prisoners during the proceedings — and certainly not touch them — and are not allowed to sit in the front rows of the court room. Perhaps the presence of journalists and diplomats affected the behavior of the members of the prison service.

Palestinian lawmaker Khalida Jarrar hugs her daughter on the opening day of her trial, Ofer military court, June 22, 2015. (photo: Haggai Matar)

At the end of the hearing, Jarrar’s daughters thanked the crowd for their support, saying that they are leading an international campaign for her release, which has won the support of parliamentarians and diplomats across the world. Knesset Member Aida Touma-Suleiman has also called for Jarrar’s release.

Beyond her position as a member of the PLC, Jarrar has been a left-wing, feminist activist for many years, and has been active on issues of political prisoners in Israeli jails. Last year she was involved in the Palestinian Authority’s bid to the International Criminal Court over allegations of Israeli war crimes against Palestinians. Furthermore, Jarrar has not shied from criticizing the PA for its continued security cooperation with Israel.

Jarrar’s close friends believe that her criticism of the PA as well as the ICC bid are at the root of her expulsion order from Ramallah to Jericho last August, as well as her arrest in March, since several of the charges against her relate to events that occurred several years ago.

Jarrar is one of 12 members of the Palestinian Legislative Council who are currently being held in Israeli prisons. Several of them, including Hamas member Aziz Duwaik, are in administrative detention, which means they are being held indefinitely without being sentenced.

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

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Netanyahu threatens new TV station for Palestinian citizens of Israel http://972mag.com/netanyahu-threatens-new-tv-station-for-palestinian-citizens-of-israel/107971/ http://972mag.com/netanyahu-threatens-new-tv-station-for-palestinian-citizens-of-israel/107971/#comments Fri, 19 Jun 2015 11:23:45 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=107971 The new satellite station, ‘Palestine 48,’ aimed at Arab citizens of Israel, presents an opportunity to use the community as a bridge between Israel and Palestine, a member of its board says.

The ‘Palestine 48’ morning show, broadcast from Nazareth. (From ‘Palestine 48’ Facebook page)

The ‘Palestine 48’ morning show, broadcast from Nazareth. (From ‘Palestine 48’ Facebook page)

Israeli Communications Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday declared his intention to shut down a brand new television station, “Palestine 48.” A day later, its employees and management vowed that they would not fold so easily. The station began pilot broadcasts on Thursday morning from Nazareth, and for the time being, its launch schedule is proceeding as scheduled.

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Israeli authorities — and the Netanyahu government in particular — have been targeting Arab cultural institutions in recent weeks, cutting off funding for an Arabic-language theater in Haifa and threatening to do the same to a children’s theater in Jaffa operated by an Arab actor.

According to Sanaa Hammoud, a member of Palestine 48’s advisory board, the Netanyahu government is in the midst of a campaign to silence and exclude 20 percent of Israel’s citizens, ultimately de-legitimizing their citizenship itself.

But in addition to the principled issue, Hammoud warned, the government’s campaign endangers the constitutionally protected freedoms of occupation and expression. (While Israel does not have a constitution, it has “basic laws,” which have constitutional standing.)

“If anybody is violating the law,” Hammoud added, “it is not us — it’s Netanyahu.”

A promotional advertisement for Palestine 48:

Palestine 48 is a niche television station aimed at Palestinian citizens of Israel (inside ’48 borders, hence its name), operated by the Palestinian Broadcast Authority. The station describes itself as a family station that covers news, society, culture, art and more, with an emphasis on happenings in Arab society in Israel.

Palestine 48 started broadcasting from Nazareth on Thursday. It has limited programming planned for he month of Ramadan, known for high ratings for television in the Arab world, after which it plans to expand its offerings.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday ordered the director-general of the Communications Ministry to examine all penal and administrative tools at his disposal in order to shut down the station’s broadcasts. Netanyahu, who is also the communications minister, took particular issue with the Palestinian Authority funding.

Palestine 48’s programming is being filmed in Nazareth and in other locations inside Israel, but not in fixed studios — only with mobile broadcast units. The programs are beamed directly to the Palestinian Authority’s broadcast authority’s studios in Ramallah, and from there, it is broadcast by satellite and Internet via Egypt’s “Nile-Sat.”

Because of the way it is designed and broadcasts, Palestine 48 claims, the station is not violating Israeli law. The only way to stop the broadcasts, technically speaking, would be if Israel raided and shut down the entire Palestinian Authority television apparatus in Ramallah.

The Israeli army does raid Palestinianand even foreign — media outlets in Ramallah from time to time. In East Jerusalem, Israeli authorities even raided a Palestinian television studio mid-broadcast, detaining two journalists and a producer.

Sanaa Hammoud (left), and Palestinian Communications Minister Riad Hassan (center) at a press conference for the launch of Palestine 48. (Courtesy photo)

Sanaa Hammoud (left), and Palestinian Communications Minister Riad Hassan (center) at a press conference for the launch of Palestine 48. (Courtesy photo)

“Netanyahu’s declaration harms 20 percent of the country’s citizens,” says Hammoud, who previously worked as commentator on Israel’s Channel 2, worked as a producer for CNN and Al Jazeera, as a reporter for Al Arabiya, and who still works as a media consultant.

“I think that the [Israeli] government should actually welcome this progress by Palestinian television, which fills a void created over seven decades in which Israeli governments haven’t done what was expected of them, failing to create a platform for internal discourse and dialogue,” she added.

“Until the day arrives when there is such a platform,” Hammoud continued, “they are trying to harm [us] as part of the campaign to silence the Arab public.”

Because there is no legal basis for shutting down the station, she argues, it is the Netanyahu government itself that will ultimately be harmed by going after Palestine 48.

“It will lead to increased isolation in the international arena — surely human rights advocates around the world will view the harassment of a legitimate television station in a negative light,” Hammoud said.

Asked whether it is legitimate for the Israeli government to view the station as an attempt by the Palestinian Authority to challenge Israel’s sovereignty over its citizens, Hammoud pointed to the constitutionally protected freedom of occupation.

“Basic Law: Freedom of Occupation permits us to work inside Israel with any international body, including the Palestinian Authority, as long as we are not inciting, inciting rebellion, defaming or harming state security,” Hammoud said. “We have no intention of doing any of those things.”

The Palestinian broadcast authorities gave Palestine 48 written assurances that there would be no editorial intervention of any sort, she said. Editorial independence with the freedom criticize and plan coverage was one of the advisory board’s demands, Hammoud added.

As a project run by Palestinian citizens of Israel, Hammoud believes Palestine 48 presents a rare opportunity, “one that wasn’t realized in the Oslo era, to view [Palestinian citizens of Israel] as a party that understands both cultures, both mentalities — to not just be part of the problem but to be an active part of the solution.”

The Prime Minister’s Office responded that the matter falls under the purview of the Communications Ministry. The Communications Ministry responded only by saying that, “the matter is under examination by the relevant authorities.”

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

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