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What are settlers doing at the 'March for Equality?'

Israeli settlements enjoy preferential, subsidized budgets, and play an integral role in a system of segregation and dispossession. Who let them join the ‘March for Equality’ with Israel’s most underserved and disadvantaged communities? 

Israeli social activists and local government leaders began a march on Jerusalem this week, the March for Equality, demanding equality in state funding for social and educational services in their underserved communities in Israel’s economic and geographic peripheries. As the marchers progressed along their way from the Negev desert to Jerusalem, they were joined by members of Knesset, the head of the country’s largest labor union, and others.

The struggle over education and welfare budgets for Israel’s disadvantaged communities is important and just. The idea of an inclusive march, which fosters unity among residents of dispersed peripheral communities is also great. Such a struggle is worthy of all of our support.

There is only one problem: the participation of settlers. Among the initiative’s participants, which include the mayors of two of Israel’s most impoverished towns, Rahat and Netivot (a Bedouin municipality and a majority Mizrahi town, respectively), were local government leaders from the Binyamin, Gush Etzion, and the South Hebron Hills settlements in the West Bank. The settler leaders did not come to express solidarity with Israel’s weakest communities, but rather to try and find room for themselves under the banner erected by neglected, downtrodden towns in the Israeli periphery.

Their participation raises three troubling questions: firstly, what budgetary discrimination do West Bank settlements suffer? (I’m speaking about non-Orthodox settlements. Ultra-Orthodox settlements do indeed suffer from serious budget shortfalls.) Just yesterday the government approved the transfer of an extra NIS 82 million to West Bank settlements, in addition to the NIS 340 million that was promised as part of coalition agreements.

And those are supplements to the settlements’ regular budgets. The Molad think tank pointed out this week that pre-schools in the Hebron hills settlements receive thousands of shekels more per child than those in Ashkelon and Ashdod, cities inside the Green Line considered to be in the periphery. Government grants for development, nutrition, and agriculture are larger in the settlements, Molad notes, and generally speaking the government invests 28 percent more per West Bank settler than per resident of the Galilee. (And that’s excluding the added costs of security spent on settlements in the West Bank.)

Another example: the Adva Center found that in...

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IDF: Secret intel shows Hamas lawmaker is ... a member of Hamas

The army issues an administrative detention order again a Palestinian parliamentarian using secret evidence to ‘prove’ some very un-secret allegations. Israel is currently holding over 600 Palestinians without charge or trial.

The Israeli army this week submitted secret evidence to a military court in order support an administrative detention order it issued against Hamas legislator Abed al-Jaber Fuqaha.

According to the army, the secret evidence proves that al-Jaber Fuqaha is … a member of Hamas, information which can hardly be considered secret considering he was publicly elected on the political party/terrorist organization’s slate.

“Information was received, according to which [al-Jaber Fuqaha] is a member of the Hamas terrorist organization and endangers the security of the region,” the IDF Spokesperson said. (The full statement can be found below.)

It is important to note that legally and politically speaking Israel, and the Israeli army, does not differentiate between the militant and political branches of Hamas, the latter of which democratically won the last Palestinian parliamentary elections to have been held, in 2006.

Administrative detention is a practice Israel uses to imprison primarily Palestinians without charge or trial. Administrative detention orders are limited to six months but there is no limit on the number of times they can be renewed, making them indefinite.

Fuqaha was released from a previous round of administrative detention just a year ago, and has spent a total of seven years in Israeli prisons. In 2014 he joined a mass Palestinian hunger strike to protest against prolonged detention without charges or trial.

As previously reported here by Noam Rotem, Fuqaha is the seventh Palestinian legislator in Israeli custody, along with Ahmad Sa’adat, the secretary-general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) who is serving a 30-year sentence; Marwan Barghouti, who is serving four consecutive life sentences; Hatem Hafisha and Hassan Yousef who are being held in administrative detention, Jerusalem resident Muhammad Mahmoud Abu Tir, and PFLP lawmaker and feminist activist Khalida Jarrar.

Jarrar was sentenced to 15 months in prison last December after spending eight months in prison, some of which were spent in administrative detention.

Israel is currently holding over 600 Palestinians in administrative detention, according to Palestinian prisoners’ rights group Addameer and Israeli human rights group B’Tselem. In total, more than 6,000 Palestinians are currently being held as “security prisoners,” as opposed to criminal prisoners, in Israeli...

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WATCH: Thousands of Israelis demand opposition to right-wing gov't

Left-wing Jewish and Arab parties come together to protest the rightward shift of Israel’s already far-right government. ‘We’re first and foremost against the government but there are also certain people in the opposition who forgot what their role is,’ Zandberg says.

Two thousand Jews and Arabs protesting Israel’s increasingly right-wing government marched through central Tel Aviv Saturday night under the banner, “building resistance, building an opposition, building another path for Israel.”

Marching and delivering speeches together for the first time since elections last year were Joint List Chairman Ayman Odeh and Meretz Chairwoman Zehava Galon. Both of their speeches emphasized the need for a joint Jewish-Arab response to the radical right-wing politics dominant in Israel today. Odeh went as far as saying that “there is a nationalist camp, there is a Zionist camp, and we need to create a democratic camp.”

Speaking with +972’s Hebrew-language sister site, Local Call, Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg explained, “we’re building an opposition, first and foremost against the government but we also oppose certain actors in the opposition who have forgotten what their role is.”

Members of Knesset Yousef Jabareen, Michal Rozin, Dov Khenin, Ilan Gil-On, and Abdullah Abu Ma’aruf also participated in the rally.

The following is a live video feed I broadcasted from the protest:

The makeup of the political parties represented and the rhetoric used Saturday night sparked speculation that the protest could signal the start to broader cooperation between Meretz and Hadash, the latter of which is one of several parties that comprise the Joint List.

In one such analysis, put forward by Local Call co-editor Yael Marom, the two parties might be laying the foundations for a united front ahead of the next elections. During the previous election cycle, Hadash MK Dov Khenin spoke about building “a broad democratic camp.”

A source in Hadash, who asked not to be named, later said that in response to the growing racism and far-right politics in Israel that it was decided to strengthen Arab-Jewish cooperation between Meretz and the Joint List. The intention, the party source added, is to strengthen the collaborative work in the Knesset and to step up activities on the street, like the protest in Tel Aviv and monthly anti-occupation marches in the West Bank. However, the...

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Israeli tribunal upholds ban on British human rights activist

Human rights activist Gary Spedding was refused entry to the country in 2014 over suspicions that he would ‘incite a riot.’ Jerusalem tribunal shortens ban from 10 to 5 years.

An Israeli tribunal rejected last week an appeal filed by a British human rights activist who was banned from entering the country for 10 years. The tribunal based its decision on secret evidence handed over by the Interior Ministry.

Gary Spedding, a 26-year-old human rights and pacifist based in Northern Ireland, was refused entry and banned from Israel in January 2014 due to his social media activity. Spedding, who is active in reconciliation efforts in Northern Ireland as well as Israel/Palestine, had planned on visiting Israel for a round of meetings, including with several members of Knesset.

Despite previous visits to the country without any problems, Spedding was denied entrance at Ben Gurion Airport, where he was told that his activity on social media raises suspicions that he may incite riots in Israel and the occupied territories. He was held at the airport, where he was informed that the Interior Ministry refused his entry and banned him for 10 years. He was promptly sent back to the U.K.

Refusing entry and deportation of political activists who are critical of Israel’s occupation has become a common occurrence in the past few years. However, unlike most activists, Spedding decided to appeal the Interior Ministry’s decision. Attorney Gaby Lasky appealed the Interior Ministry’s decision to the Entry to Israel Law Review Tribunal, where she argued that the decision to refuse him entry stemmed from his political opinions, and that the ban harms not only Spedding, but the Knesset members and Israeli citizens who are interested in meeting with him.

Although the appeal was filed in October 2014, the tribunal only came to a decision last Wednesday. Judge Sarah Ben Shaul Weiss’ decision is laconic and does not truly get to the heart of the matter or respond to the arguments made in the appeal. “According to the law, the interior minister has broad-ranging powers derived from the Entry to Israel Law,” Weiss writes. “The appellant has no right… to enter Israel, even if he previously entered the country and was not accused of disturbing the peace during his previous entries.”

Weiss did recognize that some of the reasons stated for refusing Spedding entry are invalid, cutting his ban down to...

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Famed feminist British historian refuses prestigious Israeli award

Catherine Hall withdraws from $330,000 prize due to Tel Aviv University’s complicity in the occupation.

Famed British feminist historian Catherine Hall announced she will withdraw her acceptance of a prestigious award presented by Tel Aviv University for political reasons. Hall was awarded $330,000 by the Dan David Foundation, and was supposed to accept the award at a university ceremony held Sunday. The BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) movement called on her and other recipients to refuse the prize due to Tel Aviv University’s complicity in the occupation.

Three months ago it was announced that Hall would be awarded the prize for her groundbreaking research on the history of gender, race, and slavery. Hall is a well-known feminist political activist. According to a statement published Friday by the British Committee for Universities of Palestine (BRICUP), which supports BDS, Hall withdrew from the prize “after many discussions with those who are deeply involved with the politics of Israel-Palestine.”

BRICUP’s statement included the BDS movement’s reasons for targeting Israeli academic institutions, which include dozens of joint projects between universities and the Israeli army, cooperation by Israeli academics in developing military strategy and planning the separation wall, etc.

The Dan David Prize, a joint initiative by the Dan David Foundation and Tel Aviv University, will be given to two other social historians, three leading economists on poverty and inequality, and three nano-technology researchers. The prize is considered one of the most prestigious in Israel, and is often presented by Israel’s president.

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

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For first time in years, Israeli academics pay solidarity visit to Palestinian university

An Israeli delegation of academics visits Kadoorie University in the West Bank city of Tulkarm to show support following a string of IDF raids on the campus.

For the first time in many years, a delegation of Israeli academics made an official visit to a Palestinian university. The first, small delegation arrived a month ago, and the second, last Saturday. The visits – meant to express support for Palestine Technical University — Kadoorie following a string of incidents by the IDF that are damaging its academic freedom – come after years in which no Palestinian university agreed to meet with any Israeli academics, out of concerns it would hurt BDS efforts and due to anti-normalization with Israel and the occupation. Kadoorie University appears to be the first in the Palestinian academic world to determine that meeting with Israelis who actively oppose the occupation does not violate the boycott or anti-normalization efforts.

The Israeli delegations were initiated and led by (full disclosure) my mother, Anat Matar, along with Hilla Dayan, both within the framework of “Academia for Equality.” Beyond solidarity, the point of the meetings is to start organizing an international conference for academic freedom, which will be held at the university in Tulkarm at the end of the year.

The connection with Kadoorie University was formed as a result of Amira Hass’ article last December in Haaretz, when she reported on the military’s harassment on the university and its students. It began in 2002, with the partial expropriation of the institute’s agricultural land – established as an agricultural school by an Iraqi Jew, Ellis Kadoorie, in the 1930s – that the army turned into a shooting range for soldiers. Bullets from the range sometimes hit the library building, which is nearby.

Since the latest wave of violence that began in October, Hass reported, youth would come to throw stones toward the soldiers in the shooting range and at a nearby checkpoint, and the soldiers would shoot tear gas, putrid skunk water, rubber bullets and even live bullets into the heart of the campus, sometimes even raiding it. According to data collected by the university, which was presented at the meeting on Saturday, over the course of 85 days the campus was attacked 130 times, 138 employees and students were injured by army gunfire, hundreds suffered from tear gas inhalation, several of the greenhouses were ruined, the library building was...

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Gag orders in Israel have tripled over last 15 years

As the Military Censor has become more liberal, authorities have turned to gag orders as a convenient alternative for controling the dissemination of information.

Over the past 15 years, the number of gag orders issued in Israel has more than tripled. But that is only a rough estimate because no state body actually monitors them.

Noa Landau, the former news editor of Haaretz newspaper and currently a fellow at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford, has submitted a freedom of information request to the courts’ directorate and the answer she received consisted only of the number of requests for gag orders that have been submitted over the last five years. It did not specify how many of them have been upheld, fully or partially, what kind of information was gagged (the defendant’s name, the charges, the mere fact that an investigation was ongoing?), who submitted the requests, etc.

A similar freedom of information request was submitted to the Justice Ministry, which said in response that it is unable to provide relevant information. Israel Police and the Israel Defense Forces have yet to respond. Even if they do, the data will be incomplete, because private individuals are also entitled to request gag orders, as well as the Shin Bet domestic intelligence agency, which is not bound by the Freedom of Information Act. What’s more, the army has its own judicial system which is also authorized to issue gag orders (as it has done in the recent case of the Hebron shooter, Sgt. Elor Azaria).

Upward and onward

According to the figures revealed by Landau, 231 requests were submitted in 2015, as opposed to 186 in 2011 (more than a 20-percent increase). The proportion of the requests that have actually been upheld remains unknown, but the legal experts and journalists that she sampled were hard pressed to think of an instance where a request for a gag order has been rejected. Also, the number of gag orders that newspapers received roughly corresponds to the number of requests.

In 2004, the Seventh Eye media watchdog reported that in 2000-2001, the annual rate of gag orders stood at around 60, and climbed to 110 in 2003. These are based on data collected from the newspapers themselves, where the orders aren’t archived systematically. Be that as it may, in the space of a decade and a half, the number of...

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Palestinian journalist to spend four more months in Israeli detention

High-profile Palestinian journalist Omar Nazzal has been arrested on terror charges that Israel considers classified and therefore neither he nor his lawyer can see. The army issued an order to keep him in jail for another four months – without trial. 

The Israel Defense Forces issued on Monday a four-month order for the administrative detention of Omar Nazzal, a Palestinian journalist who was arrested last week at Allenby Crossing on his way to a meeting of the European Federation of Journalists in Sarajevo.

Initially the Shin Bet claimed that Nazzal, a freelance journalist and a member of the Palestinian Journalists’ Guild, was an active member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which Israel defines as a terror group. But Nazzal’s attorney has denied that his client is involved with the PFLP. The military prosecutor acknowledged on Wednesday, at a hearing held at Ofer Military Prison, that there was insufficient evidence to bring charges against Nazzal. Nevertheless, he claimed that there was enough classified material against him to justify administrative detention. The military court accepted this claim.

As a consequence of the administrative detention order issued against him today, Nazzal will be imprisoned with neither the right to know what he is accused of, nor the right to defend himself against charges. Administrative detention orders can be extended for up to six months at a time, with no limit on the number of renewals.

Nazzal’s attorney, Mahmoud Hassan, tried last week to convince the military court that his client was just a journalist, and that the state could not possibly regard him as an authentic security risk given that the army chose not to arrest him at home, but rather to wait until he arrived of his own free will at the Allenby border crossing in order to travel abroad.

The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said in response that “Nazzal was arrested for his involvement with the Popular Front that, based on top-secret intelligence submitted to the court, poses a clear and present danger to Israel’s national security. His administrative detention was declared lawfully and as a last resort after every other option to neutralize the danger had been ruled out.”


The detention of Omar Nazzal has elicited condemnations from journalists’ organizations around the world, while demonstrations in his support were held last week in various locations throughout the West Bank and Gaza.

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Lebanese mega-band wins battle against Jordanian conservatives

Jordan scraps a ban on Mashrou’ Leila, a progressive and incredibly popular Lebanese band, following an international uproar

Mashrou’ Leila, the immensely popular Lebanese will be allowed to perform in Jordan, the government announced after the cancellation of a concert scheduled for Friday sparked an enormous backlash.

Jordan is one of the few places where the band’s many Israeli and Palestinian fans are allowed to travel to see their concerts. But last Tuesday, they were told that the concert in Amman’s Roman Theater was cancelled because it violated the “authenticity” of the place.

It later emerged that Amman District Governor Khaled Abu Ziad, who issued the ban, succumbed to pressure from Christian and Muslim groups. The latter campaigned for banning the band, whose songs tackle homosexuality (the lead singer is openly gay), promote freedom of religion and criticize Middle Eastern politics.

Mashrou’ Leila was indirectly told that they would be permanently banned from the kingdom, even though they had given numerous concerts there.

On Thursday, following public expressions of solidarity by Jordanian, Arab and Western artists, Abu Ziad said that “the concert could go ahead,” but it was too short a notice.

The band posted a thank you note to their supporters, in which they said: “We take pride in playing music for an audience like ours… We take immense pride in being part of a conversation that has played a part in harnessing popular attention to the subject of artistic and intellectual censorship, and freedom in the arts.”

They added that they hoped that the government statement “will be the first step towards securing the possibility of us playing in Jordan again in the near future, perhaps under more just conditions, even though we have no reason to know for sure at this point that this will be possible, as the approval is for tomorrow’s impossible concert.”

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Charged with conspiracy — for renting a rope to climb over the wall

Despite admitting that the young man was only looking for work, police decide to charge him with conspiracy to commit a crime — renting a rope and ladder.

Israeli police prosecutors indicted a 26-year-old Palestinian man in the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court Wednesday morning for climbing over the separation wall in order to find work.

According to the indictment, last Friday Muntaner Ben-Mahmoud Barakat went to the West Bank village of a-Ram, which is separated from the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina by the concrete separation wall. He paid somebody NIS 50 ($13) to use a ladder and rope to climb over the wall (which the indictment calls a “fence” for some reason), climbed over the wall, and made his way toward Damascus Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem to find work. Police arrested him before he got too far.

The two charges on the indictment are “illegally entering Israel” and “conspiracy to commit a crime,” which carries a penalty of up to two years in prison. The conspiracy? Renting a rope to climb a wall to find work.

It is worth noting that the indictment was filed by a prosecution unit belonging to the police and not the State Attorney’s Office. In the past, police have been known to file overly ambitious and severe indictments in cases where the state prosecution would not, and have even been ordered by the attorney general to drop certain prosecutions, most notably in the case of Daphni Leef and other social justice protesters.

Professional and government committees have been recommending for decades that the police stop acting as a prosecutorial body. However, despite a government decision 15 years ago to absorb the police prosecution unit into the State Attorney’s Office, police continue to file the vast majority (87 percent) of indictments in Israel.

“The fact that the police prosecution is subordinate to the police makes it difficult for the prosecution to fulfill the very purpose for which it exists: to represent the public interest objectively or quasi-judicially,” the Israel Democracy Institute wrote in a 2014 position paper. “[B]ecause the police prosecution is subordinate to the Israel Police, which is a hierarchical security body, the prosecution has an overly zealous tendency to achieve convictions and, thus, to ignore the mistakes and possible biases of the investigating body, namely the police.”

Beyond the overly ambitious charge sheet against Barakat,...

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Israel arrests Palestinian journalist en route to int'l conference

Omar Nazzal, a well-known journalist in Ramallah, has been in custody since Saturday on terror charges, based on secret evidence. His lawyer says that his alleged contact with militants was an integral part of his job.

Israel arrested a Palestinian journalist on Saturday while he was trying to leave the West Bank en route to Sarajevo for a meeting of the European Federation of Journalists.

Omar Nazzal, a Ramallah-based independent journalist and a member of the board of the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate, was arrested before crossing Allenby Bridge into Jordan and has since been detained on “security charges,” Israel claimed.

He has yet to be questioned and be told what charges he is facing, even though his remand was extended on Monday.

Contacted by Local Call, Shin Bet Security Services said the suspect is a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which Israel sees as a terrorist organization

Nazzal is a former employee of the pro-Islamic Jihad radio station Falastin al-Youm (Palestine Today), whose offices were shut down by Israel last month. It should be noted that he left the job long before Israel started to crack down on the station.

For some time he has been banned from going abroad, a restriction he has been attempting to lift for more than a year.

“We have been in contact with the State Prosecution and the legal department of the IDF’s Judea and Samaria division, but they just deferred us from one functionary to the other and never gave a reason for the ban or said when it would expire,” Mahmoud Hassan, Nazzal’s lawyer, said. “When he tried to leave, he had no idea whether the ban was still in place, and in any event didn’t believe he was going to be arrested.”

His remand was extended Monday based on secret evidence presented to the military court by police. A spokesperson for Israel Police declined to comment on the charges, saying that “it is a very sensitive case.”

Speaking for the defense, Hassan told the court that the fact that he wasn’t arrested in his home but only when he arrived at the border crossing means that he doesn’t pose a clear and present danger and should be released.


He added, despite being...

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Israel's state archivist opens up about censorship, digitization

Israel’s state archivist confirms that nearly half a million pages have been sent to the IDF Censor, which has redacted historical documents that already saw the light of day, and talks about why he didn’t foresee the storm that erupted over his decision to end access to paper documents.

Israel’s state archivist did not foresee the storm that erupted this week over his decision to end public access to the Israel State Archives’ physical documents as part of a otherwise welcomed digitization process.

Historians, academics and civil liberties groups are worried by the lack of public debate surrounding the changes, in addition to the IDF Censor’s role in the digitization and online publication historical documents.

In an article published here on Tuesday, two groups of historians and academics argued that in other countries national archives undergoing digitization are maintaining access to physical paper documents, and that for various reasons, losing access to the paper originals harms the ability to conduct historical research.

Several hours after the publication of the original article, I managed to finally speak with State Archivist Yaacov Lozowick about the changes he is making and the unexpected response it stirred up. (The State Archives had not responded to our request for comment prior to the publication of the original article.) In the interview Wednesday, it also became clear that the IDF Censor’s role in the State Archives is far more comprehensive than was previously stated or understood.

“I’m astounded by people, some of whom make a living from media outlets that are only digital, or who work in the digital world, who are attacking us for moving from paper to digital,” Lozowick said at the start of the telephone interview. “We have limited resources, and we cannot do it all. We needed to decide: either paper or online, and we decided to focus on online.”

“I hear and I read people explaining why moving to digital documentation severely — or even fatally — harms historical research. I never imagined that serious and educated people would make such arguments in 2016. It seemed like such a clear choice. Furthermore, we presented the process in various forums. There are cabinet decisions from 2012 and 2014, there were discussions on the Archives’ blog, and there were other articles on the matter.”

But the cabinet decisions and the other articles only dealt with the digitization process, not the accompanying...

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The end of history at Israel's state archives?

As part of a welcome digitization process, the Israel State Archives will soon revoke access to original paper documents, and the documents it puts online will be subject to military censorship. But academics and civil liberties groups are fighting back.

(Correction appended below)

Israel’s State Archives (ISA) will no longer give researchers and the public access to its historical materials and documents once it starts putting digitized documents online. Furthermore, and documents it does release will be subject to review by the country’s military censorship apparatus.

Currently, the military censor does not review every document given to researchers.

The changes at the State Archives will lead to a serious reduction in the availability and exposure of historical documents, the burying of documents that have already seen the light of day, and conducting historical research in Israel will become far more difficult than it is today, academics and legal experts are warning.

The new restrictions, which are scheduled to be implemented in the coming days, were formulated behind closed doors and are being presented as a benign digitization project.

The changes were revealed for the first time at the end of February, when letters began appearing in the State Archives’ viewing room in Jerusalem, announcing “ending the use of paper files.” The letters, signed by State Archivist Yaacov Lozowick, said that the State Archives plans to launch its new website in April and that it will include more than 10 million scanned pages (a mere 2.5 percent of the 400 million documents in the archive).

Lozowick wrote that the public will be able to request specific documents be scanned within two weeks (it currently takes two days to request a paper document). The letter also notes that “as part of the preparations we will have to cease providing original paper documents.” (The original Hebrew document can be read here.)

Quite ironically, the notice about revoking access to paper archive documents appeared only as a printed letter and not on the State Archives’ new website, which has since been launched.

When the changes were announced, a group of researchers asked for and held a meeting with Lozowick. “We’ve known about the multi-year digitization plan for a long time, but this was the first time they said that the provision of paper documents would cease, not to mention the matter of the censorship,” said Noam Hofstadter, a researcher at the Akevot Institute for...

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