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Druze youth likely headed to prison for conscientious objection

Omar Sa’ad reports to Israeli army induction base and announces his refusal to enlist. He is expected to be sentenced to prison. Sa’ad has declared his refusal to be ‘both nationally and conscientiously motivated.’

Omar Sa’ad enters the Tiberias induction base where he is likely to be sentenced to prison (Oren Ziv / Activestills)

“I was raised first and foremost as a human being, and as such I feel that I cannot possibly aim an assault weapon at any other human being, be it Arab, Jewish or whomever, and so it has always been clear to me that I will not be able to join the army,” says Omar Sa’ad, a young Druze viola player from the village of Maghar.

Sa’ad is now expected to be sentenced in a disciplinary proceeding to a period of up to one month in military prison for refusing conscription after reporting to an Israeli induction base Wednesday morning. [Update, 6.12: Sa'ad has been sentenced to a first period of 20 days in prison]

While Muslim and Christian Arabs with Israeli citizenship are exempt from military service, Druze men are required to serve for three years.(Druze women, however, are exempt, as are religious Jewish women.)

Sa’ad was accompanied to the Tiberias induction base, where he was ordered to report, by activists from the Communist party (Hadash), of which he is a member, including MK Mohammad Barakeh. He was also joined by activists from New Profile and Yesh Gvul, along with other young conscientious objectors. Supporters held a small vigil and concert at the gates of the induction center. One person was detained at the end of the vigil.

Sa'ad, friends and supporters at a vigil and concert outside induction base. Sa'ad on the viola (Oren Ziv / Activestills)

Sa’ad, friends and supporters at a vigil and concert outside induction base. Sa’ad on the viola (Oren Ziv / Activestills)

As is the case with most conscientious objectors, Sa’ad is likely to be sentenced, imprisoned and then called...

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Anti-Prawer 'day of rage': Chronicle of a violent confrontation foretold

Heavy clashes at anti-Prawer protests were anything but unforeseeable. Unfortunately, the way the media and politicians are responding is only likely to make things worse.

The Hura demonstration before the violence. Not the pictures you saw in the mainstream media. (Photo: Haggai Matar)

HURA — “Can you please explain what it is you’re so angry about?” That was the question an Israeli reporter with a camera crew posed to several Bedouin at the Hura anti-Prawer “day of rage” demonstration Saturday evening. The dark desert evening in the picturesque background of the television news spot was illuminated by burning tire barricades on the roads and police flares and stun grenades. Clashes between local youth and police had been going on for several hours and over a dozen were arrested here and at similar protests in Haifa, Jerusalem and Ramallah in what was undoubtedly the fiercest day of protest and violence against the Prawer Plan.

Watching the scene and noticing in particular the many journalists who were trying to make heads or tails of what the protest was all about (or worse: not even trying but simply ignoring it in their reports, focusing solely and without any context on the clashes taking place), I wanted to help the TV reporter and suggest that one of the reasons for the protestors’ anger might be the question itself.

It’s been several months now that local residents, supporters and activists have been struggling against plans to uproot tens of thousands of citizens from their homes, all in the name of the “Judaization” of the Negev. Vigil after vigil, one “day of rage” after another in towns, villages, roadsides and cities have gone by without any considerable media coverage, let alone a public debate about the extreme implications of the Prawer Plan.

At the third “day of rage” on Saturday things also began quite calmly. Children were holding toy birds symbolizing freedom, drummers were playing, demonstrators were singing songs and chanting – but none of this made it to the media. As usual when it comes to Arabs protesting, as far as the Israeli media is concerned, it was only when stones were thrown at police that the story was finally...

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Police threaten activists, bus companies as anti-Prawer protest intensifies

As the third ‘Day of Rage’ against the Prawer Plan to displace the Bedouin of the Negev nears, police have started to harass activists and bus companies involved in the protest planned for Saturday. The past two weeks have seen a rise in anti-Prawer protests.

Bedouins who live in the Negev desert and local activists demonstrate in central Tel Aviv against the Prawer-Begin plan, August 31, 2013. According to the plan, which the government failed to consult the Bedouin community on when drafting, nearly all residents in the “unrecognized” Negev villages will be evicted and forcibly relocated to planned communities. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Bedouin activists in the Negev were urgently summoned local police stations on Thursday, where they were warned that they must be granted a permit to hold the third “Day of Rage” against the Prawer Plan, scheduled to take place in the Negev/Naqab on Saturday. However, under the law, demonstrations of this sort do not require such permits. Furthermore, the bus companies hired for the purpose of transporting demonstrators from all over the country received similar phone calls from police and were told that anyone assisting the “illegal demonstration” in any way would be considered an accomplice to the offense. Activists are currently trying to work out a solution out with the police, but are warning against the dangerous path the police are taking by repressing voices of dissent.

Resistance to the plan has been on the rise ever since the plan, which could lead to the uprooting of between 30 and 70 thousand Bedouin from their homes, was approved by the Knesset in the summer. Last Wednesday, Bedouin and Jewish Israeli activists demonstrated outside the Knesset as it was debating the plan. The activists also protested outside the Supreme Court, which was discussing plans for the demolition of the Bedouin village Umm al-Hiran to make room for a new Jewish settlement by the name of Hiran.

Click here for 972′s full coverage of the Prawer Plan

At exactly the same time, Israeli authorities took advantage of the fact that most of the residents of the Bedouin village Al-Araqib were busy protesting in Jerusalem and demolished the village for the 62nd time. Village head Sheikh Sayakh was one of the few residents...

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Haaretz's financial paper doesn't hide its anti-union agenda

TheMarker journalists toy with statistics to reverse the correlation between cause and effect, portraying unions, once again, as protectors of the privileged.

TheMarker, Haaretz’s economic supplement (which over the last several years has gained a life of its own), is at it again. A report and corresponding article (only the latter of which made it online in Hebrew) published Tuesday take a look at a recent survey by the Central Bureau of Statistics on organized labor in Israel. The survey shows that the more stability workers enjoy at the work place, the higher their wages and the more collective bargaining agreements they have protecting them, the likelier they are to be represented by a union. Workers with lower pay and worse working conditions (those who more easily be made redundant) are less likely to have a union taking care of them. And what does TheMarker make of this? That unions are only there for the strongest of workers, while neglecting the rest.

Indeed, a marvelous piece of trickery if I’ve ever seen one. It probably didn’t occur to the economic correspondents and commentators in the liberal newspaper that the act of organizing, unionizing and signing collective bargaining agreements bring about those better working conditions. “Hardly one in ten of the working poor enjoy union representation,” protests columnist Tali Heruti-Sover, who blames the unions for assisting only those who are already well off. Might not these figures indicate the opposite? That once workers organize it is the role of the union to make sure that they do not remain poor?

Pri Galil workers clash with police as their factory is lkely to close down, 2009 (Oren Ziv / Activestills)

The Marker journalists toy with statistics to reverse correlation between cause and effect, portraying unions once again as protectors of privilege (Activestills)

Outrageous though it may be, TheMarker’s position should not come as any surprise. Time after time after time, the paper – probably the single most successful in Israel – has taken a stand against the ongoing struggle of unions in Israel (which have grown more powerful in the past two years) to protect workers rights in an age of privatization. Unions in...

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Can animal rights take precedence over human rights?

Animal rights movements in Israel have grown in size and power in recent years. At the same time, a growing number of people are questioning the relationship between animal rights and the ongoing violation of Palestinian human rights. Vegan guru Gary Yourofsky, who is scheduled to speak in the West Bank settlement of Ariel, has some shocking things to say about the latter.

Awareness of animal rights has grown dramatically in Israel in recent years, entering both the political and public discourse. In a recent post, I surveyed the growing number of Israelis turning to veganism and the restaurants that have opened (mainly) in Tel Aviv to cater to vegans, the new Israeli “269″ movement which inspired an international campaign, the support from local celebrities for animal rights and the immense success of the Hebrew-subtitled version of Gary Yourofsky’s “Best speech you will ever hear” video. Just last month, even Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a surprising statement about how he became aware and more sensitive to animal suffering, and on Monday according to Haaretz correspondent Barak Ravid Netanyahu said how he and his wife Sara have greatly reduced their intake of meat, due in part to several books by Israeli authors on the issue of veganism and animal rights.

But the movement’s growing power hasn’t made it immune to criticism. While criticism of carnivores is to be expected, the Israeli movement is seeing a more targeted criticism coming from the anti-occupation Israeli radical left, including from sworn vegans. One of its focal points revolves around several vegan and organic products (consumed by the same like-minded crowds), many of which originate in heavily state-subsidized agriculture sector in West Bank settlements.

The internal friction within the movement may be facing an interesting turn as Yourofsky arrives in Israel for a second, highly-anticipated visit. As part of the tour, Yourofsky is scheduled to give a talk at Ariel University (in the West Bank settlement by the same name), which was founded by military decree. The entire Israel tour was coordinated by a new, high-profile NGO named “Vegan Friendly,” and is being co-sponsored by three of the oldest and most established animal rights groups in Israel as well as several vegan restaurant chains.

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The rise of Israel's animal rights movement

The last week has been action packed for Israeli animal rights activists, offering further proof of the movement’s growing influence over Israeli society.

Read part 2: Can animal rights take precedence over human rights?

Activists at a Tel Aviv supermarket blocking the Fresh Meat section (Oren Ziv / Activestills)

Activists at a Tel Aviv supermarket blocking the Fresh Meat section (Oren Ziv / Activestills)

It started last Friday, when members of an animal rights group stood silently in the center of Tel Aviv. Each member held a dead chicken in his or her hands, wearing t-shirts that read “Their lives are in your hands.” On Tuesday, about 20 activists from several different groups showed up at the Soglowek slaughter house in Shlomi (a small development town near the Lebanese border), chained themselves to the gates of the factory and the approaching bird-carrying trucks. Three were arrested.

On Thursday, another animal rights group held a protest inside a major supermarket in Tel Aviv. The activists poured fake blood all over the poultry section and called upon shoppers to take responsibility for what they buy and eat. One was arrested and held over night in detention before being released the next day. Another quiet vigil took place in the city of Ramle on Friday, where three activists were detained for handing out leaflets which included information on animal rights.

Arrests of an activist in the supermarket (Oren Ziv / Activestills)

Arrests of an activist in the supermarket (Oren Ziv / Activestills)

The actions come in the wake of an investigative story aired on the primetime Channel 2 show Kolbotek. The story included a film recorded by activists, which showed the brutal conditions under which chickens are held and slaughtered in the Soglowek Shlomi factory. The show also recently aired a similar story about Tnuva’s cattle slaughter house.

Soglowek slaughter house entrance blocked by activists. Three were arrested (Hila Oz)
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Bil'in revisited: The small changes in life under occupation

Joining Bil’in’s weekly demonstration against the wall after not attending for a while exposes the little differences in the routine of occupation and resistance.

It’s been a couple of months since my last visit to Bil’in. Not too long, but long enough to suddenly notice those small changes that occur in every living environment, the changes that people can sometimes miss if you’re watching from within.

It started on the way from Tel Aviv. Passing by the settlement of Hashmonaim I was surprised to suddenly realize that there was one less fence in sight – and this in a region where fences and walls tend to multiply, not disappear. The fence in question used to separate olive groves belonging to the nearby village of Ni’ilin from the main highway that serves mostly settlers. After several years of construction, the separation wall in Ni’ilin has been completed and these groves are now unreachable for most villagers; someone must have realized that the fence was no longer needed to protect the highway. The view, naturally, is much nicer when not seen through a metal net, but realizing that the rational behind its removal was linking Palestinian land to settler roads and continuing its detachment from the village made things a bit grimmer.

Tear gas descending (Haggai Matar)

Tear gas descending (Haggai Matar)

Next we got to the Ni’ilin checkpoint, or I should say, the place formally known as Ni’ilin checkpoint. Apparently, the entire army base that comprised the checkpoint was recently privatized and is now run by a security company (the name of which was nowhere to be found) and its name changed to the much easier-on-the-ear, “Hashmonaim Crossing.” Not a border crossing, mind you, as it isn’t located on the internationally recognized border and there are still settlers and the army on the other side of it. It’s just a “crossing.”

Activists retreating as tear gas is fired into the demonstration (Haggai Matar)

Activists retreating as tear gas is fired into the demonstration (Haggai Matar)

And then on to Bil’in. This week’s protest was dedicated to Yasser Arafat, following findings earlier in...

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Jordan Valley fence would finalize the West Bank's complete enclosure

In what might be a shot to the heart of current peace negotiations, Netanyahu is reviving plans to build a ‘security fence’ in the Jordan Valley. If the fence follows the original route it will enclose any future Palestinian state, cement impossible Bantustan borders and give birth to a new map of Israel’s borders.

Demolished houses in Khirbet Makhoul, Jordan Valley (Activestills)

Demolished houses in Khirbet Makhoul, Jordan Valley (Activestills)

Ten years after international pressure led Israel to scrap construction plans for the Jordan Valley section of the security/separation fence, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is on track to revive them. Two Ma’arivMakor Rishon correspondents on Sunday reported that several government ministries are already making preparations for the project and that Netanyahu himself will order the commencement of construction once the Egyptian border fence is completed. According to Ma’ariv, the official excuse for constructing the new segment is the fear that Syrian refugees now staying in Jordan might infiltrate — although there are no known reports of Syrians trying to make it to the West Bank from the Hashemite Kingdom — and “closing the Israeli border.”

However, the correspondents also mention the un-coincidental timing in which Netanyahu made his plans known: just as negotiations with Palestinians seem to be hitting a dead end, with the question of sovereignty in the Jordan Valley reportedly being one of the central obstacles. Just last week Netanyahu made clear at a Likud conference that he considers Israeli control of the Jordan Valley a key strategic issue and a red line for all future agreements.

It is still unclear where exactly Netanyahu plans to build his fence. When West Bank separation barrier maps were originally drawn about 11 years ago, however, they included plans for a fence that would separate most of mountain area, where the vast majority of Palestinians live, from the vast expenses of the Jordan Valley. American objections to that route led to its cancelation as early as 2003, as well as to the halt of construction of whole segments of the fence/wall east of Jerusalem and in the south Bethlehem/Gush Etzion areas, leaving large gaps in the planned route of the barrier to this day.

Considering the implications of political annexation in the existing fence and Netanyahu’s desire to ensure...

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West Bank village marks 7 years of popular resistance

The markedly stone-free protests in al Ma’asara are nevertheless violently suppressed by the Israeli army. ”We see the soldiers here with their guns, their boots, their shields and their helmets protecting the wall – but we know the real problem is the wall that is in their minds,” protest leader says.

Palestinians, accompanied by international and Israeli solidarity activists, march to commemorate seven years of popular resistance in the West Bank village of Al Ma’sara, October 25, 2013. The weekly demonstration protests the construction of the Israeli separation wall on village land, which would cut off access to agricultural areas. (Photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

About 200 Palestinian, Israeli and international activists attended this week’s Friday demonstration against the wall and settlements in the village of al-Ma’asara, south of Bethlehem. The larger-than-usual crowd gathered at noon in the village center to commemorate seven years of popular struggle in the village – seven years of weekly marches toward the land where the separation barrier is planned to run.

Israeli soldiers watch as Palestinian protesters pray in Ma’asara in the first year the village held protests, 2006. (Photo: Haggai Matar)

Construction of the fence in this area was in fact halted about four years ago, leaving behind only a patrol road that scars the landscape and a massive gap in the separation barrier. But protests against the yet un-canceled plans and ongoing land grabs by nearby settlements continue. Demonstrations in al-Ma’asara are marked by the almost complete lack of stone throwing but have still been consistently oppressed by the army, which always tries to stop activists from reaching their land and sometimes also uses tear gas, stun grenades and arrests to deter villagers from showing their dissent.

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Court slams MKs for incitement leading to attacks on African migrants

Tel Aviv District Court convicts man in failed fire bombing of apartment housing African migrants in south Tel Aviv. Judge lays some blame on politicians for inciting against African migrants.

The Hatikva house attacked and undamaged by Gadban (Oren Ziv / Activestills)

The Hatikva house attacked and undamaged by Gadban (Oren Ziv / Activestills)

The Tel Aviv District Court sentenced Elad Gadban to 27 months in prison for throwing Molotov cocktails at the home of African migrants home on Sunday. The judge said some of the blame lies with politicians who have been inciting against asylum seekers.

Gadban, 26, confessed to throwing three Molotov cocktail at an apartment in Hatikva neighborhood in south Tel Aviv, which housed Nigerian migrant workers, along with an underage accomplice in May 2012 . The bottles did not explode and no serious damage was caused to the house.

Gadban testified that he was influenced by statements made by politicians such as then-Interior Minister Eli Yishai (Shas) and MK Miri Regev (Likud) who said Africans were “carrying diseases” or were themselves “cancerous cells.” Gadban also said he acted following the rise in housing prices, affiliated with growing presence of migrant workers and asylum seekers, and also following a complaint by a female friend who said and African had sexually harassed her.

District Court Judge Yehudit Amsterdam sentenced the man to 27 months in prison for attempting to commit racially motivated arson and for illegal production of weapons. While putting most of the blame on the perpetrator himself, Judge Amsterdam also wrote in her sentence that “the incitement [by politicians, H.M] against foreigners has an effect on the public and might lead extremists to burst into action.”

The burnt kindergarten (Yotam Ronen / Activestills)

A burnt kindergarten from the previous Shapira attack (Yotam Ronen / Activestills)

The attack in Hatikva took place about a week after a similar and larger fire bombing took place in the nearby Shapira neighborhood. Four houses and one kindergarten were attacked in the earlier incident, the first of its kind, causing more damage than the Tikva attack. However, as police failed to...

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Documenting life and struggle from within: Bil'in photographer publishes first book

Seeing his cousin being shot and killed by soldiers while protesting non-violently drove Hamde Abu-Rahma to photojournalism. Four years later his first book, ‘Roots Run Deep’, documenting life in Bil’in and occupied Palestine, has been published. The picture outside his window still looks grim but Abu-Rahma insists on smiling.

"Wall". A small family's hut in Qalqilia where the wall goes through (Hamde Abu Rahma, from the book)

“Wall”. A small family’s hut in Qalqilia through which the wall passes. (Hamde Abu Rahma, from the book)

Hamde Abu-Rahma, 26, is probably the most cheerful person in Bil’in. Not just now, celebrating his new book, but always. Anyone visiting this tiny village, which after eight and a half years of ongoing resistance long ago become a symbol for the popular struggle against the wall and settlements, is bound to run into Abu-Rahma, who seems bound to have a regular smile on his face just as he is sure to be carrying his camera around. Like many in the village, Abu-Rahma has been involved in protests against the occupation from a very young age, but it was not until soldiers shot dead his cousin Bassem Abu-Rahma at a demonstration that he decided to also take up the role of photojournalist.

“As far as I’m concerned I’m still more of an activist than a journalist, if you can at all put a line between the two,” Abu-Rahma says while getting his camera, helmet, “PRESS”-labeled bullet proof vest and the rest of his gear together at home, facing another Friday demonstration. “Anyway, it’s not like the soldiers really care. They shoot towards people who are clearly marked as journalists as well. Just two weeks ago I was standing alone with another photographer and they simply started firing tear gas at us. We yelled at them to stop but it didn’t work.”

"Night Raid", from the times when soldiers would go on nightly invasion to Bil'in to arrest activists (Hamde Abu Rahma, from the book)
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Demonstrators march in Tel Aviv against plan to uproot Bedouins

Some 1,000 people march through the streets of Tel Aviv Saturday evening in protest of the Prawer-Begin Plan, which will see the demolition of several dozen ‘unrecognized’ Bedouin villages in the Negev and the uprooting of at least 30,000 residents of those villages.

A Hadash party sign in Arabic and Hebrew: Equality (Oren Ziv / Activestills)

A Hadash party sign in Arabic and Hebrew: Equality (Oren Ziv / Activestills)

Alongside Tel Aviv residents, demonstrators were bused in from Arab villages and cities in the Galilee and the Negev to gather in Habima Square at sundown Saturday. The square was packed with local parents and their young children, who regularly play in the garden and who were drawn to the drums and the action of the protest. Many of the demonstrators were affiliated with Hadash, a few with Meretz and many more were politically unaligned. At 8 p.m. the procession started moving through some of central Tel Aviv’s main streets heading toward Likud’s headquarters on King George St. At one point eggs were thrown at protestors from a rooftop while other bystanders seemed supportive of the march.

March passing by Dizingof shopping mall in the heart of Tel Aviv (Oren Ziv / Activestills)

March passing by Dizengoff shopping mall in the heart of Tel Aviv (Oren Ziv / Activestills)

Speakers at the event said the state is planning a mass deportation of Bedouins from their homes while promoting the establishment of new Jewish villages and towns on the same land. They called upon the government to scratch the Prawer Plan and find a solution to problems in the Negev in a joint effort with and for the benefit of all its residents. The Prawer Plan bill is expected to be brought before the Knesset for a second of three votes in late October. Saturday’s demonstration was not covered by any of the main Israeli news sites and papers.

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WATCH: Bil'in activists protest rising military oppression

 About 250 people joined the weekly popular demonstration in Bil’in against the wall and settlements, which was dedicated to resisting army oppression towards political activists. In the past few weeks soldiers have been crossing over the wall and chasing Bil’in demonstrators with more violence than has been witnessed there in the last couple of years. In addition, two residents have been arrested in relation to the protests and earlier this week three youths in Qalandia were shot dead by a border police raiding party.

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Villagers in Bil’in were joined by representatives of the Ni’ilin and Ma’asara popular committees, Member of the Palestinian Parliament for the Mubadara (Initiative) party Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, Israeli and international activists and a boy scouts’ marching band. Demonstrators reached the wall and were met by soldiers who instantly started firing tear gas canisters at the march. Local youth responded by throwing some canisters back at the soldiers, adding stones as well and were answered in turn by rubber coated bullets.

The march from the village goes over the old route of the wall (Oren Ziv / Activestills)

The march from the village goes over the old route of the wall (Oren Ziv / Activestills)

After about 15 minutes the gate in the wall opened and soldiers started passing through. At first the “skunk” water canon came into use and then the “venom” tear gas canon. Soldiers started chasing demonstrators back towards the village while continuing the exchange of tear gas and stones as retreating activists piled rocks into small barricades to slow the soldiers’ progress down. Soldiers also forced photographers to retreat, arresting one Israeli activist on the way.

Local youth sent soldiers back their tear gas canisters (Oren Ziv / Activestills)

Local youth sent soldiers back their tear gas canisters (Oren Ziv / Activestills)

After about two and a half hours of protest and confrontations, after the soldiers progressed all the way to the old route of where the wall once...

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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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