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Why Israelis are asking the UN to end the siege on Gaza

After countless pleas to the Israeli government went unanswered, a group of Israelis who live along the Gaza border ask Ban Ki-moon to intervene and end the siege on their neighbors.

A group of Israelis who live in the Gaza border region sent a letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last week imploring him “to use the power of your office to pressure the Israeli government into adoption of a humanitarian and moral plan that will give hope to peoples on both sides of the border.”

Activists from the group Other Voice, which penned the letter to Ban, say they have sent countless letters and petitions to the Israeli government asking it to change its policy vis-à-vis Gaza for the betterment of both peoples, but say their pleas have gone unanswered. Therefore, they write, because the blockade is “a ticking bomb for all of us – Israelis and Palestinians – who live in the region,” they had no choice but to seek outside help.

“[The blockade] keeps nearly 1.8 million people locked up in a small piece of land,” the Israeli residents of the Gaza border region wrote to Ban. “This governmental policy has left the Palestinians in Gaza with little to no opportunities to meet their most basic needs, and of course, constitutes a gross violation of their human rights, as set forth by the UN Declaration of Human Rights, to which Israel is a signatory.”

“Since 2008, our area has known three wars,” the letter continued. “Each one of these wars has scarred Israeli society… The physical and psychological harm that these wars have caused Israelis is debilitating, but the physical and psychological destruction that this has caused the civilian population in Gaza is horrendous.”

The residents of southern Israel also mentioned in their letter reports of humanitarian issues in Gaza like dangerously diminishing drinking water reserves, 16-hour daily power outages, and the fact that 80 percent of the population is dependent on international aid. They further noted that senior Israeli security officials have warned recently that the situation in Gaza endangers Israel and necessitates immediate steps toward easing the humanitarian and economic crises in the Strip.

One might add to that the fact that the UN itself has determined that the Gaza Strip is in danger of becoming uninhabitable within four years, and that abject poverty and unemployment is pushing Gazans to...

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WATCH: Palestinians, Israelis march to mark Int'l Women's Day

Hundreds mark International Women’s Day with a joint Israeli-Palestinian protest outside the ‘tunnels checkpoint’ in the West Bank. ‘Our children pay the price of the conflict, and we want to protect them.’

Photos and video by Oren Ziv / Activestills.org

Over 500 Israelis and Palestinians took part in march to mark International Women’s Day and to call for an end to the occupation and violence last Friday.

The march began at the Husan junction on Route 60 — the southern West Bank’s main north-south artery that connects Jerusalem, Beit Jala, the Gush Etzion settlements, and Hebron — and ended the “tunnels checkpoint,” where a small demonstration was held.

The demonstrators chanted slogans against gender violence in Israel and Palestine, as well as against home demolitions and for a two-state solutions. At one point they released hundreds of balloons over the separation wall.

This was the fourth — and largest — joint demonstration at the tunnel’s checkpoint in the last few months, organized by “Standing Together,” which includes anti-occupation groups such as “Combatants for Peace” and others. As opposed to previous demonstrations, Israeli police and soldiers accompanied the marchers and no arrests were made.

“We keep growing from time to time, and soon we will need to use a new PA system so that everyone can hear us,” joked Yael Admi, Chairperson of the the Parents Circle Families Forum.

A week after Israel’s defense minister and police commissioner described Palestinian bereavement as fundamentally different from — and inferior to — Israeli bereavement, members of the Parents Circle Families Forum asked to emphasize the similarities between the two, and the desire to prevent more deaths.

Among the speakers at the demonstration were Basma al-Afendi from Dheisha refugee camp, a nurse and member of the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions, who drew a connection between workers’ struggles, women’s struggles and an end to the occupation. “Women are made to stand at checkpoints for three hours every day on their way to work in Jerusalem — this is a heavy price to pay for one’s income,” she said. “But now I see you here, and I remember the good days of the ‘peace camp,’ and I hope that through similar protests we will see change.”

“Women in Palestine are the leaders of the struggle for equality and independence,” added Huda Abuarquob, Regional Director of the...

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Israeli conscientious objector sentenced to third stint in jail

Tair Kaminer sentenced to 30 days in military prison. She has served a total of 45 days after refusing to enlist in the IDF due to her opposition to the occupation.

Israeli conscientious objector Tair Kaminer was sentenced on Monday to another 30 days in military prison for refusing to enlist in the IDF. This is Kaminer’s third sentence; she has sat a total of 45 days in jail.

In early January, she informed the army that she would refuse to serve because of her opposition to the occupation, and was sentenced to 20 days in the women’s military prison.

After being released, Kaminer will be made to the induction base where she will be required to enlist once again. Should she refuse, she will be sentenced to another stint in jail. This process repeats itself ad nauseam until the army decides to officially discharge her. Over the past few years, a number of conscientious objectors have been sentenced up to 10 times in this way.

Kaminer, 19, recently finished a year of national service with the Israeli Scouts (“Tzofim”) in the southern development town of Sderot. There she volunteered with children who suffer from trauma due to multiple wars in Gaza and continual rocket fire on the city. “The children I worked with grew up in the heart of the conflict and have had extremely difficult experiences from a young age, experiences that caused them to feel hatred, which can be understood, especially when it comes from young children,” Kaminer wrote in a statement several days ago.

“Like them, many children who grow up in Gaza or in the West Bank, in an even more difficult environment, learn to hate the other side,” she continues. “They, too, cannot be blamed. When I look at all of these children, and the next generation on both sides and the reality in which they grow up, I see only more trauma and pain. And I say enough! That is why I refuse: so that I do not take an active part in the occupation of the Palestinian territories and the injustices that the Palestinian people face under occupation, so that I do not take part in this circle of hate in Gaza and Sderot.”

Kaminer also writes that she aspires to peace, equality, democracy, and security for all people who live in Israel/Palestine, emphasizing the...

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Court orders dismissed Palestinian union organizer be returned to work

The management at a West Bank auto repair shop tried to paint Hatem Abu Ziadeh as a ‘security threat’ for organizing workers. After seven months of stalling, an Israeli court finally orders he be compensated and brought back to work.

Jerusalem’s Labor Court ordered a Palestinian union leader who had been dismissed from his job be returned to work on Wednesday, after he was fired for organizing workers at a West Bank automobile shop.

The ruling by Labor Court President, Judge Eyal Avrahami, was handed down a year and a half Hatem Abu Ziadeh was fired from the Tzarfati automobile repair shop, seven months after the case summaries were handed over to the court, and one day after I published an article on the court’s stalling.

Abu Ziadeh, a 45-year-old Palestinian from the Nablus area, worked for the auto repair shop, located in a West Bank industrial zone, for 17 years. In 2013 he led the unionization of workers at the shop alongside with the help of Ma’an Workers Advice Center (WAC). In the summer of 2014, during the last war in Gaza, Abu Ziadeh was fired for numerous reasons, the most alarming was that he was a “security threat” who sabotaged a military vehicle that was being fixed in the shop, such that he was putting soldiers’ lives in danger. The police found that the claims were baseless, yet Abu Ziadeh could not return to his job.

WAC turned to the Jerusalem Labor Court and asked to rescind the dismissal. On Thursday, after a year and a half in which Abu Ziadeh sat at home with no real source of income, the court ruled that he must be permanently reinstated.

In his ruling, Judge Avrahami harshly condemned the shop’s management, blaming it for falsely accusing Abu Ziadeh of committing a security offense. “This issue makes one question the real basis for his dismissal,” wrote Avrahami.

According to the ruling, the managers of Tzarfati “accused” Abu Ziadeh of handing out Palestinian flags and maps of Palestine to his fellow workers, although this was never proven, “and even if proven, their significance would be unclear. It seems that raising them before us was intended solely to tarnish Hatem’s image and deny him legitimacy,” wrote Avrahami, adding that his pre-dismissal hearing was done unlawfully.

Avrahami also notes the importance of returning Hatem to work, as well as compensating him for...

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Employer turns Palestinian union organizer into a 'security threat'

Hatem Abu Ziadeh spent almost 20 years working at an auto repair shop in a West Bank industrial zone. But once he began organizing workers for better conditions, he was fired for ‘security-based reasons.’

In many respects, this is a painfully simple and well-known story: a veteran factory worker decides to unionize his fellow workers in order to protect their rights. All of a sudden, after many years of work, the employer remembers that the veteran is actually a poor worker who must be fired immediately.

Like in innumerable cases, the employer provides a variety of reasons for the dismissal. The union turns to the labor court, but the wheels of justice turn slowly: more than half a year passes since the end of the hearings, and yet we see no ruling. The worker — whose job was his entire life — sits at home for the past year and a half without being able to make a decent living.

But the case of Hatem Abu Ziadeh is especially complex and dramatic because of its unique context: Abu Ziadeh is a Palestinian worker in a settlement industrial zone. Palestinian workers organizations refuse, on principle, to represent Palestinians who work in settlements, while Israel’s Histadrut labor federation does not unionize Palestinian workers in the occupied territories, turning the industrial zones a kind of “no man’s land” where violations of workers’ rights are commonplace. And this despite the fact that Israeli labor laws apply to these industrial zones (aside from one, where employers can legally discriminate against Palestinian workers).

The union led by Abu Ziadeh, which was organized with the help of Ma’an Workers Advice Center (WAC), is an unprecedented first of its kind attempt to unionize workers who work in this no man’s land — what Ma’an terms “the twilight zone of labor law.” That is exactly why the continued silence of Israel’s Labor Court is so frustrating.

A threat to state security?

Let’s start at the beginning. Hatem Abu Ziadeh, a 45-year-old mechanic and father of six, is a Palestinian subject of Israel’s military regime in the occupied territories. He lives in a village near Nablus, and has driven to the Zarfati Garage in the Mishor Adumim Industrial Zone — a drive of at least two hours a day — where he has worked every day for the past 17 years. Not a single complaint has been...

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Did police downplay threats against Ayman Odeh?

When Joint List head Ayman Odeh received a death threat and police arrested a young settler, police strangely issued a press release about threats against Avigdor Liberman — from a month earlier.

Something very strange has been happening here over the past few days. On Thursday at 1:56 p.m., the Jewish-Arab Hadash party published a report on its Arabic Facebook page, in which it claimed that a settler had been arrested for threatening Hadash Chairman and head of the Joint List, Ayman Odeh.

The police spokesperson, which releases numbous press releases every day and keeps the public appraised of its work via social media, did not publish a word on the incident. Several journalists, including myself, asked the spokesperson for details on the suspect’s arrest. We all received the same answer: “Response to follow.”

And then the strangest thing happened: within two hours of Hadash’s post, the police spokesperson sent a message to reporters (some of which also appeared on the Israeli Police Twitter account) announcing that a Palestinian who threatened Avigdor Liberman had been indicted.

A look at the message revealed that the threats against Liberman were over a month old, that they had already been covered by the press, that the suspect had been arrested three weeks ago, and that he was indicted last week.

None of that prevented the same media outlets from publishing the threats against Liberman for a second time.

Only on Friday, and after I asked time and again, did the spokesperson send the following statement:

This message was sent to me personally and was not published by the spokesperson, nor did it appear on its Twitter. Interesting.

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

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Israel revokes entry permits for dozens of Palestinian peace activists

Dozens of Palestinians active in joint peace groups will no longer be able to cross into Israel to give workshops on reconciliation and dialogue.

The Israeli army’s Civil Administration, formerly known as the military government, recently informed dozens of joint Israeli-Palestinian peace organizations that it would retroactively revoke entry permits for Palestinian peace activists from the West Bank into Israel.

The change will affect veteran Palestinian activists, many of whom work or even manage peace organizations alongside their Israeli counterparts, and who have led workshops on peace, reconciliation, and dialogue in Israel for many years.

In early January, Lt.-Col. Eyal Ze’evi of the Civil Administration updated the Peace NGOs Forum, which includes dozens of Israeli peace organizations, on the change in policy. Up until that point, Palestinian activists belonging to these groups would use three-month entry permits, which they would renew four times a year.

The Civil Administration — which despite its name is the military arm that manages many aspects of the day-to-day life of Palestinians living in the occupied territories — is charged with issuing entry permits. As part of the change in policy, entry to Palestinians will be limited to 180 days per year, they will not be able to enter the country during the first week following the month in which they entered, and will not be able to appeal a permit request that was rejected for security-related reasons.

The peace groups were surprised not only by the change in policy, but by the decision to retroactively implement the 180-day restriction, which effectively prevents Palestinian activists from receiving new entry permits in one fell swoop. The decision has led these groups to cancel dozens of workshops, speaking events, and dialogue groups scheduled for January and February.

Staff meetings, which generally take place in either Israel or the West Bank, can now only take place in the latter. It is worth mentioning that Israelis can enter Palestinian cities, and that peace and dialogue workshops for people of all ages are continuing on the Palestinian side.

“The whole point of these meetings, in pre-military academy programs and schools, for instance, is that they are joint meetings, which is precisely why this decision makes our activities difficult,” says Uri Ben Assa, from Combatants for Peace. “Our meetings include an Israeli and a Palestinian who tell their personal stories. The Palestinian describes how he used to be part...

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Jerusalem court slams police over arrests of left-wing activists

Jerusalem Magistate’s Court frees Israeli left-wing activists Ezra Nawi and Guy Butavia from house arrest, chastises police for not substantiating their suspicions against the pair.

The Jerusalem Magistate’s Court freed Israeli left-wing activists Ezra Nawi and Guy Butavia from house arrest on Thursday, with Judge David Shaul Gabai Richter chastising police for not substantiating their suspicions against the pair.

Nawi and Butavia, activists with anti-occupation direct-action group Ta’ayush, were arrested following the broadcast of a right-wing hidden camera “sting,” on suspicion of making contact with a foreign agent (Palestinian security services) and accessory to manslaughter (a Palestinian man who died, presumably of natural causes, after he was exposed selling land to Israeli settlers).

On Thursday morning Gabai Richter rejected a police request to bar Nawi and Butavia from entering the West Bank or making contact with others connected to the case. The police appealed the decision on Friday.

Nawi and Butavia were released from house arrest earlier this week after the court found that police — which had been investigating the two over their alleged involvement in the death of a Palestinian man — could not even establish what the cause of the man’s death was, not to mention what connection the two activists had.

In his decision, Judge Gabai Richter said the following:

As to the reasonable suspicion necessary to hand down such a decision — I did not find anything to substantiate the central suspicions against the respondents. As a result … this nullifies the cause for arrest and release [to house arrest and conditional release].

The media spotlight on this case, and the fact that the case originated with an investigative news report, shows that there was no fear of obstruction in this case, and that there was fertile ground for obstruction of the investigation from the beginning, whether through the Internet, the media, or other means beyond our control…

It is known that this case was at the heart of a political controversy, and is being used by one side to attack the other. There was a concerted effort to refrain from doing so throughout the lengthy hearings, although the two sides made an effort to emphasize these aspects of the story, which were not necessarily relevant.

Moreover, I regret that the behavior of the two sides during the hearings was not friendly and at times even hurtful. The spirit of debate is...

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Israel bans Palestinian prisoners from bringing in books

The ban is a response to smuggling attempts using hollowed-out books, prison officials say. No such sweeping punishments are imposed on Israeli prisoners, attorney says.

The Israel Prison Service (IPS) has been changing its policy about what it allows Palestinian security prisoners to receive inside its prisons, and has now banned them from bringing in books, +972 has learned.

The book ban was imposed “after attempts to smuggle cellular phones inside books,” an IPS spokesperson told +972’s Hebrew sister site Local Call on Tuesday, adding that the ban is indefinite for the time being.

The book ban affects only Palestinian security prisons, as opposed to Israeli criminal prisoners.

“Unsurprisingly, the IPS chose the easy way of collective punishment and sweeping bans,” said Attorney Abir Baker, who represents Palestinians in Israeli courts. “Attempts to smuggle forbidden items into prisons is a known phenomenon all over and for all types of prisoners. That is why prisons have meticulous inspection mechanisms.”

Whereas the IPS treats offenses by family members of Palestinian prisoners with sweeping responses, the prison service treats similar smuggling attempts by criminal prisoners on a case-by-case basis, Baker said.

“A sweeping ban like this won’t stand up to judicial scrutiny,” she added. “The Supreme Court has already ruled a number of times about prisoners’ rights, including political rights, freedom of expression, and personal autonomy which is primarily expressed through the ability to study and read in prison.”

Conditions for Palestinian prisoners are far worse than Israeli prisoners (both are held in facilities run by the IPS). Palestinian prisoners are not allowed to study through university correspondence courses, are not allowed conjugal visits, regular visits are allowed only through barriers and without any physical contact. And unlike Israeli prisoners, Palestinians are not allowed furloughs, and have drastically lower chances of having their sentences reduced.

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

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Journalists protest for release of hunger striking Palestinian

Arab journalists and members of Knesset protest for the release of Palestinian journalist Muhammad al-Qiq, who has been on hunger strike for 62 days and is close to death.

Approximately 40 journalists, activists, and members of Knesset demonstrated outside the Haemek Medical Center in northern Israel on Wednesday afternoon, calling for the immediate release of Palestinian journalist Muhammad al-Qiq. Al-Qiq has been on hunger strike for 62 days to protest against his administrative detention. His health has deteriorated significantly over the past few days, and his life is currently in danger.

The demonstration, organized by I’lam — Arab Center for Media Freedom Development and Research, included a number of Arab journalists from Radio A-Shams, Al-Itihad and news websites Al-Arab and Bokra, respectively. Members of Knesset Haneen Zoabi, Yousef Jabarin, Bassel Ghattas and Abdel Hakim Haj Yehiye, all from the Joint List, were also present. The protesters held signs in Arabic, Hebrew, and English against al-Qiq’s detention and in support of freedom of the press.

“Muhammad al-Qiq has become a symbol for journalists, as well as an example of a person who manages to be free in his thinking even when he is in detention,” Jabarin told +972. “His only sin was defending his people in his writing. In his hunger strike al-Qiq said he is challenging the powers of occupation and administrative detention, and that he is demanding to be either released or charged with a crime.”

Jabarin and Zoabi both say that they have been trying to visit al-Qiq for several weeks, and that the fact that they are members of Knesset gives them the right to visit any prisoner, but that the Israel Prison Service (IPS) has forbidden them from visiting him. The IPS has yet to respond to these claims.

Al-Qiq, from the West Bank village of Dura near Hebron, works as a reporter for the Saudi news channel “Almajd.” He was arrested on the night of November 21, 2015 when Israeli soldiers blew up the front door of his house and took him in for interrogation at Israel’s Kishon (Jalame) detention center. He was not allowed to make contact with either his wife or his attorney for many days.

Al-Qiq began his hunger strike four days after the beginning of his interrogation, when the latter understood that his interrogation was politically motivated. Sources close to Al-Qiq state that he was interrogated for “journalistic incitement,” and...

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PHOTOS: Protest for conscientious objector outside IDF prison

Conscientious objector Tair Kaminer is being held in an Israel army women’s prison for refusing to take part in the occupation.

Text by Haggai Matar
Photos by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org

Roughly 80 left-wing activists protested in support of jailed conscientious objector Tair Kaminer outside the IDF’s Prison 400 on Saturday.

Two weeks ago Kaminer informed the army that she is refusing to serve because of the ongoing military occupation, and was sentenced to 20 days in the women’s military prison. Kaminer is expected to be released this coming weekend, after which she will once again likely refuse to serve and be sentenced to another period in prison.

Two other young Israeli refuseniks are expected to refuse to serve in the coming weeks, the first on January 31.

Outside Prison 400 on Saturday the activists sang, beat drums and used a PA system to ensure the prisoners heard them. They called for Kaminer’s release and all political prisoners, among them Ezra Nawi, Guy Batavia, and Nasser Nawaj’ah — who were arrested in relation to a right-wing hidden camera stunt, two of whom have since been released to house arrest — along with administrative detainees, with an emphasis on Palestinian journalist Muhammad al-Qiq, who has been on hunger strike for some 60 days.

The demonstrators also expressed hopes that everyone in the military prison be released to their homes and families soon. Guards were seen watching the protest from over the prison walls.

Activists from “Yesh Gvul” and “Refusers,” Kaminer’s family and others took part in the solidarity protest.

Kaminer, 19, recently finished a year of national service with the Israeli Scouts (“Tzofim”) in the southern development town of Sderot. There she volunteered with children who suffer from trauma due to multiple wars in Gaza and continual rocket fire on the city. “The children I worked with grew up in the heart of the conflict and have had extremely difficult experiences from a young age, experiences that caused them to feel hatred, which can be understood, especially when it comes from young children,” Kaminer wrote in a statement several days ago.

“Like them, many children who grow up in Gaza or in the West Bank, in an even more difficult environment, learn to hate the other side,” she continues. “They, too, cannot be blamed. When I look at all of these children, and the next generation on both...

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Israeli police smuggle Palestinian suspect out of the country

The police took Nasser Nawaj’ah out of the West Bank and into Israel to face trial. When that didn’t work, they ignored a court order to release him and smuggled him back to the West Bank and into military custody.

What happened to a Palestinian man named Nasser Nawaj’ah on Thursday could fill an entire chapter of a textbook about the Israeli justice system, or rather, about its military occupation.

Nasser was arrested in the West Bank by Israeli soldiers on suspicion of filing a complaint to the Palestinian police about another Palestinian. The soldiers hand him over to Israeli police, who take him from the West Bank to Israel. There, a Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court judge rules that the court doesn’t have jurisdiction over Palestinians, and orders him released unconditionally. The police appeal the judge’s decision, but the Jerusalem District Court also rules that it doesn’t have jurisdiction, and once again orders the police to release the man unconditionally.

The Israeli police ignore the Israeli court’s decision, take the Palestinian man outside Israel’s sovereign borders and bring him to the Ofer Military Court in the occupied West Bank. There, Israeli authorities ask a military judge (who is actually a major in the army) to extend the Palestinian man’s remand. The man’s lawyer is not present this time. She is still back in Israel, in Jerusalem, busy filing an emergency petition to hold the police in contempt of court.

Nasser Nawaj’ah explains to the military court that all he did was to report to the Palestinian police a Palestinian man who he thought was trying to harm him, and that he doesn’t understand why that could possibly be illegal.

The military court judge says he feels “uncomfortable” with how this is all happening, and with the fact that Israeli authorities transferred a Palestinian man from a court “in Israel” to a court in “the region” (the West Bank). In other words: this is the opposite of the normal scenario, in which Palestinians are brought only to military courts in “the region.” Nevertheless, the military judge rules that Nawaj’ah be kept in custody until Sunday, using the charming logic that in military courts — as opposed to civilian courts — four days in jail isn’t anything to get worked up about.

WATCH: Anti-occupation activists brought to J’lem court

Meanwhile, the petition to hold...

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When every fire is a potential arson attack

As incitement against the Israeli Left grows, it is no surprise so many people believed right-wing arsonists were behind the fire at the offices of Israel’s oldest human rights organization.

Preliminary investigations by Israeli Police and Israel Fire and Rescue Services indicated that the fire that erupted Sunday night in the Jerusalem offices of Israeli human rights group B’Tselem was not the result of arson. The police and fire department published detailed explanations on their findings, according to which the fire was a result of a short circuit in the office’s acoustic ceiling. The fire reportedly burned the entire ceiling before engulfing the rest of office.

Furthermore, there were no signs of a break in, neither from the door or the windows. Additionally, there was no graffiti or other sign that this was a hate crime, and the security cameras did not capture any suspicious activity. Thus, as far as we can tell, there was no arson. B’Tselem’s staff believes this to be true as well.

And yet, Sunday’s fire raised everyone’s suspicions as the possibility of arson. I am not talking about a few human rights activists or members of Knesset. The Fire and Rescue Services were the first to presume it was an arson attack; nearly every single media outlet adopted the suspicion as truth, despite a lack of evidence. Much of the public also bought into the suspicions, which seemed so logical. With everything we know about the political climate in Israel today, it is not so far-fetched that such a thing would happen.

Perhaps one of the hardest things to deal with in the current atmosphere is the notion that it is logical that right wingers would set fire to B’Tselem’s office — or worse. The fact is that all of us, not just a few of the paranoid, can imagine this happening. Not only because of the specific details — such as the initial suggestions that the fire began in two separate areas, or the recent, widely-viewed investigative report that allegedly implicated human rights activists in some shady business — but because of everything that has been taking place. If it didn’t happen this time, it will happen next time. If not B’Tselem, then another organization. Not only does it seem so realistic, it feels that such actions would have significant public support, or at the very least would be met with understanding...

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+972 is an independent, blog-based web magazine. It was launched in August 2010, resulting from a merger of a number of popular English-language blogs dealing with life and politics in Israel and Palestine.

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