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Risking jobs, Palestinian workers in West Bank settlement unionize

When the Palestinian workers at a West Bank aluminum factory tried to unionize, the management responded with a resounding no.

Nearly half of the 65 workers at the MS Aluminum Ltd. factory, located in the Israeli-run Mishor Adumim industrial zone in the West Bank, unionized last week after joining the Workers Advice Center (WAC-MAAN). According to Israeli law, at least one-third of all workers in the factory must join the union in order to be considered their representative organization. WAC-MAAN told the factory management last week that they had passed the necessary threshold  - 31 workers – and are expecting to begin negotiations for a collective bargaining agreement.

The workers claim that the management imposes arbitrary fines, illegally deducts hours from their pay stubs, doesn’t properly compensate them for transportation and owes workers large sums of money in pension contributions. Some of the more skilled workers have been at the factory for many years, yet they claim that most make just above minimum wage, and are demanding a wage increase to match that of the most senior workers in the factory.

Attorney Yaron Eliran, who represents MS Aluminum’s management, rejected WAC-MAAN’s status as representative of the factory workers, adding that the workers will receive an official, detailed letter when the management returns from a trip abroad. The company told +972 that the issue is currently being dealt with legally, and that they have no intention of publicly discussing the matter.

MS Aluminum’s employees are not the first Palestinian workers in the Mishor Adumim industrial zone, located in the Ma’ale Adumim settlement, to unionize. Last year, WAC-MAAN organized workers at the Y. Tzarfati garage, protesting against their low wages and other problems in their employment. In response, the management fired the nascent union’s chairman, Hatem Abu Zeida. WAC-MAAN appealed the decision, and the case is currently being heard in the National Labor Court.

Palestinian workers employed in the settlements and industrial zones frequently suffer from poor working conditions. Furthermore, striking or unionizing runs the risk of having their work permits rescinded by the army.

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

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Report details IDF 'double tap' bombings that hit first responders in Gaza

Using human shields, attacking medical teams and hospitals, shooting at civilians waving white flags. A new report by Physicians for Human Rights authored by a team of international medical experts documents shocking testimonies of victims and presents new evidence from Operation Protective Edge in Gaza.

The thing that shocked me most in a new report on Gaza by international experts was the IDF’s “double tap” attacks. Other findings in the report have already been written about, some of them during the war, “Operation Protective Edge,” here on +972. We reported about the shooting at civilians in the Khuza’a neighborhood, the use of human shields, destroying hospitals, how Gazans felt they had no safe place to run to, the dozens of families that were simply eliminated, and more. But the “double taps” — that is entirely new.

The team of medical experts that authored the report visited Gaza three times as a delegation of Physicians for Human Rights (PHR). They collected testimonies from dozens of wounded and from medical teams, documented the army’s terrifying actions during the war. At least 15 people testified about and described incidents in which the army bombed a target, and then — after a short pause or immediately after — bombed it again. The result was especially deadly: family members, neighbors, passersby and/or medical and emergency teams that arrived to help the wounded and extract bodies from the rubble, were bombed themselves, were killed or wounded.

Read the full report here

“This is a separate phenomenon from that of the so- called ‘roof-tap[s],” explain the authors of the report, which in a separate section addresses the “roof tap” warning strikes — which are small bombs that aren’t supposed to fell buildings. The “double tap” is something else. For Israelis it is reminiscent of our own traumas, like the Beit Lid double suicide bombing and other terror attacks that used the same tactic. According to the team of experts, that is how the Israeli army operated in Gaza.

The Red Crescent described the “double tap” practice as one of the central factors behind the deaths and injuries of their medical teams. A total of 23 medical personnel, 16 of them on duty, were killed during the war; another 83 were wounded. According to the team of experts, 45 ambulances were damaged by army attacks, including an ambulance station, 17 hospitals and 56 clinics that...

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Israel's broken promises to curb administrative detention

In response to Palestinian hunger strikes, Israel has made — and subsequently broken — all sorts of promises, both in individual cases and regarding the practice of administrative detention itself.

Palestinian administrative detainee Khader Adnan announced last week that he would begin a week-long hunger strike to protest the renewal of his administrative detention. Adnan made headlines in 2012 when he went on a hunger strike over his administrative detention. He was released after his health greatly deteriorated. Adnan was arrested once again last July during the IDF’s “Operation Brother’s Keeper,” which came in the wake of the kidnapping of three Israeli yeshiva students. He has been in administrative detention ever since.

The army recently extended Adnan’s detention by six months, along with dozens of other detainees who were arrested in the beginning of July. The army claims that Adnan is the spokesperson for Islamic Jihad, but hasn’t provided any evidence to support that claim, nor has it charged him with a crime. Adnan was previously convicted of belonging to a terrorist organization, served his time, and was released.

Administrative detention: Months or years without due process

The administrative detention of another Palestinian man, Ayman Tabish, was also extended once again. Tabish’s hunger strike led to his hospitalization, at which point the state promised not to extend his detention if he ended his strike. (Administrative detention orders can be issued for no more than six months at a time, after which they must either be renewed, the detainee must released or charged with a crime.) The military court of appeals did not extend his detention, and ruled that the state must uphold its promise barring new, incriminating intelligence. Should new evidence come to light, the state would be able to extend his detention.

Tabish launched a hunger strike again in 2014 for a period of three months. Once more he was hospitalized while handcuffed to his hospital bed, and once more ended his strike in exchange for an additional promise: that his detention would not last be extended past January 2015. Two weeks ago, the state reneged on its promise and extended his detention for three months. His appeal will be heard on January 21. In response, the IDF Spokesperson stated that Tabish is a member of Islamic Jihad and that his detention is necessary for maintaining the security of the region. No evidence...

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The storm that only affects Jews

The Israeli media’s storm coverage is a constant reminder of the reality in the occupied territories: two peoples sharing the same land – but only one is worth talking about.

If you’ve been paying attention to the Israeli media over the past few days, you may have noticed its superb coverage of the damage caused by the recent storm. Newspapers, nightly news broadcasts and radio stations haven’t missed a beat - from roads being shut down due to ice, to the thousands of homes currently without electricity to students who are forced to stay home from school. Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, the Dead Sea, Haifa, Gush Etzion, Yitzhar. The media has it covered. That is, unless you are a Palestinian in the occupied territories.

This isn’t the first time the coverage looks like this. During last year’s harsh storm, every media outlet reported on the storm’s effect on West Bank settlements. Everyone talked about the outposts that were stuck without electricity, and how the army helped save the residents there. No one asked what was happening in the nearby villages, which were also stuck with no electricity and are under the rule of the same army. No one thought that they, too, might need help.

This storm is no different. Not a single media outlet has reported on the fate of the Ka’abna family, who lived in a tent in the Jordan Valley until New Year’s Day, when the army came destroyed their tent in its attempts to ethnically cleanse the Valley. Today they are entirely homeless, living in freezing temperatures under nylons and stitched pieces of cloth donated by friends and the Red Cross. And that’s just one example.

The focus on the storm is an excellent example that reflects how the media perpetuates Israeli society’s split consciousness vis-a-vis the occupation. As opposed to other stories in the West Bank, the storm is not seen as “security issue,” but rather one related to citizenship, blue ID cards and elections that only Jews in the West Bank can participate in. This is one storm: the same clouds, the same rain, the same snow falling on the same ground, the same electricity lines, the same floods in the same low areas. And yet the media separates the populations that share this land on the basis of ethnicity and nationality.

I cannot forget how even the left-leaning Haaretz, which dedicated a short article on page...

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Desperation and hope in the eviction of Givat Amal

The first-hand story of eviction in one of Tel Aviv’s poorest neighborhoods. ‘They are trying to frighten us,’ someone said, and everyone crowded together and held each other even tighter. Then a sledgehammer punched a hole in the drywall. We didn’t expect them to enter that way, the way soldiers did in Jenin during Operation Protective Shield.

First there were the noises. “They’re coming!” and “Police!” Those who holed themselves up in the Hakak family home, where I was also waiting, raced to close and lock the steel security door. And then silence. “Don’t stand near the door,” warned one woman. Everyone moved back and pointed their cameras toward the entrance. The tense silence was broken by faraway explosions, which we knew were coming from the burning barricades around the neighborhood, which painted Givat Amal in orange in the pre-dawn hours.

Choking from the smell of smoke that lingered on our clothing after a sleepless night around a fire, we held our breath. And then, yelling, knocking, and more yelling. No one knew from where. “They are trying to frighten us,” someone said, and everyone crowded together and held each other or their cameras even tighter. Then a sledgehammer punched a hole in the drywall. It only took two more swings before the wall collapsed. We didn’t expect them to enter that way, the way soldiers did in Jenin during Operation Protective Shield. It was by luck that the sledgehammer didn’t hurt any of those who stood by the wall.

From there everything sped up. Armed riot police entered the room through what was once a wall; they searched all the rooms and gathered the family members, who refused to leave by choice. The police dragged them on the ground. “You won’t take me out of my own home!” yelled some of the women of the family. After removing the family members, police removed Meretz MK Ilan Gilon. Then came the photographers’ turn. And then the residents and activists who chained themselves to the wall.

The pushing, beatings and swearing continued outside. Two women collapsed just outside the house. Fires raged across the rest of the neighborhood; the scenes repeated themselves in every home. Police. Women collapsing on the floor, either from crying or from beatings. Activists being dragged away by police. Cameras. Someone attempted to call an ambulance to treat those who either collapsed or were injured. Police refused to...

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On heels of small victory, tragedy strikes in overcrowded checkpoint

Concessions in response to workers protest of overcrowding were short-lived, Palestinians say. A 38-year-old Palestinian laborer dies in Israel’s Sha’ar Ephraim checkpoint in the West Bank.

A Palestinian man died at the Sha’ar Ephraim checkpoint Wednesday, just a week after Palestinian laborers there staged a strike to protest overcrowding and poor treatment from guards.

Ahmad Samih Abdir, 38, from the Tulkarem area of the West Bank, collapsed inside a turnstile in the checkpoint, according to his brother. Medics at the checkpoint declared him dead shortly thereafter. Abdir didn’t have any medical problems, according to his brother, and he leaves behind a wife and five children.

A week ago, thousands of Palestinian laborers refused to pass through the checkpoint in protest of the conditions there. They demanded that more inspection checkpoints be staffed and that the guards, employed by private security contractor “White Snow,” treat them better.

When I spoke to the Palestinians who use the checkpoint last week, a day after their strike, they explained that people often faint, are injured and trampled there, sometimes resulting in death.

Read more on conditions at the Sha’ar Ephraim checkpoint

The security company that runs the checkpoint on contract from the Defense Ministry responded to the strike by promising to improve conditions. Indeed, when we visited the following day, more inspection points were open.

The Palestinian laborers were satisfied with their achievements last week, but they all expressed that the improvements wouldn’t last long. According to a report from the Worker’s Hotline NGO and laborers with whom we spoke, overcrowding returned within a matter of days.

Between 6,000 and 9,000 people, all of whom have Israeli work permits, pass through the checkpoint every day in the pre-dawn hours in order to make it to their workplaces in the center of the country.

Abdir was one of those workers, waking up at 3 a.m each day in order to make it to his construction job in the center of Israel.

His body was taken by a Palestinian ambulance to the West Bank pathological center in Abu Dis, near Jerusalem. His funeral was expected to take place on Thursday.

Worker’s Hotline executive director Ala Khatib responded that, “Abdir’s death must be a red flag reminding policy makers of their obligation to protect the lives and security of tens of thousands of Palestinian laborers on their way to work in Israel each morning.”

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At West Bank checkpoint, a fleeting victory for Palestinian laborers

Thousands of Palestinian laborers refused to pass through a West Bank checkpoint in protest of overcrowding and bad treatment from Israeli guards. A day later, their demands were met at the privatized checkpoint, but many believe the improvements won’t last long.

The Palestinian laborers passing through the “Sha’ar Ephraim” checkpoint in the early morning are a strange sight by any standard. Those passing through before dawn mostly look stressed, busy, tired and retreated into themselves. “The hour or two spent inside the checkpoint are more difficult than an entire work day,” one of the workers told me Monday morning. But that wasn’t the case on Monday.

Following a strike that took place a day earlier, in which thousands of workers from the Tulkarm, Nablus and Jenin areas decided not to cross into Israel in protest of their treatment at the checkpoint, they walked around with smiles and a sense of victory showing on their faces. They said it was as if a magic wand had been waved; their treatment inside the checkpoint suddenly improved. Inspection points were suddenly operating efficiently, and the guards were treating the elderly and women with respect — exactly as they demanded in their strike the day before.

The workers crowded outside the checkpoint — who were waiting for their employers to pick them up or for vans to take them to Tel Aviv and central Israel — were calm and appeared satisfied. “This is all because of the strike,” said one man with whom I spoke. But nobody was rushing to celebrate: “Two weeks, a month, two months — everything will go back to the way it was. Until the next strike,” said A., a resident of Jenin. Others we spoke to expressed similar sentiments.

The Palestinian laborers probably know what they’re talking about. Four or five years ago they struck for a day and refused to return. Thousands of workers lost a day’s worth of low wages in central Israel because they refused to accept the daily humiliation they were forced to endure at the checkpoint. When I spoke with them at the time they thought the improvements would be more permanent. A few years later, the laborers feel that without a strike every once in a while the situation will deteriorate all over again. To the best of my knowledge, it is the only checkpoint at which laborers organized such a strike —...

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Judges aren't cogs in the occupation, they're the oil keeping it going

A new report maps out the two separate legal systems in the occupied territories — one for Jews and one for Arabs. At a launch event for the report, senior jurists showed up and argued it’s not their fault whatsoever. Former Supreme Court Justice Dalia Dorner asked: What can we do? The answer: A lot.

(Translated from Hebrew by Ofer Neiman)

There was something mesmerizing about listening to representatives of the legal establishment speak at a conference held by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) last week. Mesmerizing and terrifying. The hardest thing was hearing Dalia Dorner — one of the most important judges in Israel, a recent candidate for the Israeli presidency, the president of the Israeli Press Council and an icon of sorts among the liberal camp — explaining that the Israeli Supreme Court actually has no influence on the reality of the occupation. In fact, she simply shirked all responsibility for the decisive role played by the judicial system in the establishment and consolidation of the military regime in the occupied territories.

But let’s start from the beginning. The conference, which took place last week at Tel Aviv University’s law school, was dedicated to ACRI’s new report, “One Rule, Two Legal Systems: Israel’s Regime of Laws in the West Bank.” The report systematically maps out what has become one of the main factors behind the reality in the occupied territories: the application of legislation on a national-ethnic basis. Jews reside in the West Bank as Israeli citizens, and Israeli civil law applies to them by virtue of a military order. Palestinians, on the other hand, are subjected to a full military regime, tried by military courts for any offense and denied the right to vote in the institutions that shape their lives.

Click to read the full report

The report provides a detailed account of this structural discrimination, which has become a pillar of the political and legal reality in Israel. The report also explains the significance of said discrimination on the lives of the Palestinian residents of the occupied territories — from the penal code, through planning and construction permits, down to traffic laws. Did you know, for example, that a police officer is authorized to rescind a Palestinian driver’s license or confiscate his or her vehicle upon issuing a traffic citation if they discover he or she has not paid...

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IDF soldiers fire tear gas at West Bank school

Dozens of students suffer from tear gas inhalation; army claims stone-throwing youth fled into the school.

Israeli soldiers fired large quantities of tear gas into the yard of a high school in the Palestinian village of Burin, near Nablus on Monday. According to Rabbis for Human Rights, the incident took place during the morning roll call, and a number of students suffered from tear gas inhalation.

According to Ma’an, soldiers also fired bullets into the air.

An Israeli military spokesperson told Ma’an that stones and empty bottlers were thrown toward settlers’ cars in the area Monday morning, and the youths who threw the stones fled into the school.

It’s worth noting that if it were a Jewish school, it’s highly doubtful that dozens of children would be forced to suffer from tear gas inhalation at school based solely on soldiers’ or police claims that they saw a few youths suspected of some crime entering the premises.

The IDF Spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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

While you were sleeping: The systematic terrorization of Burin
WATCH: Police fire tear gas on Bedouin children; Israeli media is absent
WATCH: Police spray putrid water on Palestinian homes, schools

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Palestinian minister dies after reportedly struck by Israeli troops

PA settlement minister was reportedly struck by Israeli security forces at a protest agains the illegal settlement outpost of Adei Ad in the northern West Bank. Abbas calls the killing a ‘barbaric act’; Balad MK calls for immediate commission of inquiry.

By Haggai Matar and Michael Schaeffer Omer-Man

Palestinian Authority Settlement Minister Ziad Abu Ein died following clashes with Israeli security forces near the illegal West Bank outpost of Adei Ad Wednesday. The demonstration was against the illegal outpost and corresponded with a petition filed against it in Israeli court and with International Human Rights Day.

Abu Ein was standing face to face with Israeli Border Police and soldiers during a protest against the illegal outpost, according to witnesses on the ground. An Israeli soldier or Border Police officer reportedly struck Abu Ein after which he collapsed on the ground. Israeli troops were using stun grenades and tear gas, although the tear gas was not being shot in the immediate vicinity of Abu Ein at the time he was struck, a witness said.

Video from Sky News Arabia shows appears to show part of the incident, in which an Israeli Border Police officer has his hands around Abu Ein’s neck. A crowd then appears to carry him away.

Israeli army medics attempted to treat Abu Ein before Palestinian medics evacuated him to a hospital in Ramallah, where he was pronounced dead. He was reportedly having difficulty breathing when he was evacuated from the scene.

An autopsy was set to take place to determine cause of death.

“We tried to go and plant olive tree saplings today when the soldiers attacked us,” said Abdallah Abu-Rahme, of the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee (PSCC). “The soldiers pushed Abu Ein; he was injured and fell to the ground. He is an older man who had various health conditions, and he died as a result of the blows he sustained.”

Ziad Abu Ein was a symbol of the PA’s support for popular struggle, said Muhammad Zawara, an activist in the PSCC.

PSCC activists said that a large demonstration would take place surrounding Abu Eid’s funeral.

Four Palestinian villages and Israeli human rights group Yesh Din on Wednesday filed a petition to the High Court of Justice demanding that the army remove the illegal settlement outpost of Adei Ad, in the Shilo area of the West Bank.

The petition, which was filed on International...

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PHOTOS: West Bank village of Bil'in stands with Ferguson protesters

Protesters in the West Bank village of Bil’in carried signs at last Friday’s weekly demonstration with messages of solidarity and support for the ongoing struggle against deadly police violence in the United States.

The signs carried slogans used during protests following the police killings of Eric Garner and Michael Brown.

Bil’in has seen a number of its residents killed by the Israeli military in protests against the occupation and theft of its land. Bassem Abu Rahme was killed by a tear gas canister fired by Israeli troops and his cousin, Jawaher Abu Rahme, died from excessive tear gas inhalation.

“We decided to send this message out of solidarity, and because these crimes against humanity need to stop both there and here,” said Hamdi Abu-Rahme, a village resident who helped prepare the signs. “We are all human beings, and we deserve to live in peace.”

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

PHOTOS: Tear gas not the only thing connecting Ferguson and Palestine
Kafr Kanna isn’t Ferguson, it’s much worse
The difference between Israel’s violent, racist cops and America’s

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IDF medic reports modifications to procedures

An IDF medic was surprised to hear two new guidelines given by his superiors, which include shooting attackers as they flee. (Several corrections are amended below.)

D., a combat medic in the ground forces, was surprised to hear in training ahead of deployment in the occupied territories last week that at least two orders typically given to soldiers were ostensibly modified by his commander.

“During the refresher course the instructor, who works as a medic on the base, told us that the orders of the IDF are not to give mouth-to-mouth respiration to people we do not know. When asked about it he said that it basically means that we do not need to give mouth-to-mouth Palestinians,” says D., who took part in the course at the Lakhish base in southern Israel. D. has since then left for duty in the West Bank.

“It sounds strange but he repeated it twice, so I have no doubt that that was what he meant. I was very surprised by the order not to give mouth-to-mouth to anyone who needs it. Since then I have come to understand that Magen David Adom (Israel’s national emergency ambulance service) came up with the order regarding mouth-to-mouth respiration several years ago. The emphasis on the Palestinians was probably the instructor ‘thinking ahead.’ I assume that he goes these trainings all the time. That’s worrying.”

Magen David Adom (MDA) and its American branch, AFMDA, categorically rejected the accusation. “MDA and AFMDA unequivocally reject the inference that MDA would, in any way, prioritize its lifesaving efforts or standards based on people’s backgrounds, including (but no limited to) politics, religion, ethnicity, or gender. MDA does not play games with people’s lives and its practices are based purely on medical standards,” the organization wrote in a response to D.’s allegation.

“MDA has made extensive efforts to provide medical assistance to Palestinians with severe medical conditions, including sending a neo-natal ambulance several times a week to help bring seriously ill babies and older children to Israeli hospitals for treatment, even at times when rockets were being fired and when going to the Erez Crossing to meet the Palestinian ambulance at the border presented risks to MDA paramedics,” the statement added.

Furthermore over the course of the week, D. participated in a refresher on the rules of engagement, where he said he was given permission to kill people who no longer pose a threat....

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WATCH: Settlers assault, throw stones at Palestinian farmers

The villagers of Ash-Shuyukh have been trying to reach their lands for 10 years — each time they are attacked by settlers. When they arrived there on Saturday, Israeli activists had cameras ready.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More coverage of settler violence:
Settler violence comes with the territory
Israeli inaction enables settler violence against Palestinians
Settler violence: Think of...

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