+972 Magazine » Lisa Goldman http://972mag.com Independent commentary and news from Israel & Palestine Sat, 28 Nov 2015 07:48:24 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8 Prominent Israeli journalist tweets opportunism at Paris’s pain http://972mag.com/prominent-israeli-journalist-tweets-opportunism-at-pariss-pain/113899/ http://972mag.com/prominent-israeli-journalist-tweets-opportunism-at-pariss-pain/113899/#comments Sat, 14 Nov 2015 21:36:45 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=113899 There is a tendency on the Israeli right to express Schadenfreude when Europe is targeted by terrorists — especially when the perpetrators are jihadis. The subtext is that Israel is unfairly judged for its policies toward the Palestinians.

Israeli men stand with a French flag at the Tel Aviv memorial for victims of the Paris terror attacks, November 14, 2015. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Israeli men stand with a French flag at the Tel Aviv memorial for victims of the Paris terror attacks, November 14, 2015. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

As social media reporting from Paris increased in pace and volume on Friday, a well-worn pattern emerged. Bursts of incoherent information were followed by news flashes from the wire services and the 24-hour satellite news channels. Rapid sharing of video clips filmed by eyewitnesses with smart phones and quickly uploaded to video sharing platforms like YouTube. As the reports start to repeat themselves, people start to get a bit bored. That’s when the commentary, recriminations, arguing and flat out tasteless tweets start to flow.


Yesterday on Twitter, the well-established pattern continued. As soon as it became obvious that the confused reports were repeating themselves and it would take awhile for the news organizations to frame the story in a more organized fashion, people started turning on one another. There were the “blame” tweets: attacks on people who had inadvertently shared unverified or incorrect information; sanctimonious comments about moral relativism given the outpouring of emotion and saturation coverage of the Paris attacks versus the relative silence over the Beirut bombings the previous day; and, of course, the left and the right attacked one another over gun control and the refugee issue.

There is a tendency on the Israeli right to express Schadenfreude when Europe is targeted by terrorists — especially when the perpetrators are jihadis trained by the so-called Islamic State (ISIS). The subtext is that Israel is unfairly judged for its policies toward the Palestinians. Netanyahu preaches to this crowd when he conflates Hamas with jihadis, name-checking them with ISIS, Boko Haram, Al Qaeda and so on.

Yesterday Dan Margalit, a veteran and well known Israeli journalist, wrote a tweet that gained him a shellacking of scorn from people who responded to him in Hebrew. In light of the EU’s decision to label products from Israeli settlements, and while the bodies in Paris were still being counted, Margalit wrote:

In order to save lives we should send medical aid and food from the settlements for the victims of Arab terror in Paris. And we should provide them with shelter and rehabilitation services in Ariel.

Ariel is a large West Bank settlement with a population of about 19,000.

What is one to make of the extreme narcissism, provincialism and mean spiritedness in Margalit’s tweet? The French don’t need Israel’s help. There is no rehabilitation facility in Ariel.

Margalit has been a journalist for decades. He was once widely considered — and perhaps by many still is — a respected political analyst. But he seems to have drunk the paranoid, self righteous, “Fortress Israel” Kool-Aid that Netanyahu pours so liberally in all of his public statements.

In his follow up tweet, Margalit wrote: “Jews of France, the Land of Israel is calling you.”


These horrific Paris attacks were not directed at Jews. Nor were they about Jews. But for Margalit, it’s always about him and his tribe.

http://972mag.com/prominent-israeli-journalist-tweets-opportunism-at-pariss-pain/113899/feed/ 17
Film review: ‘We are Palestine, we’re here and we are queer’ http://972mag.com/film-review-we-are-palestine-were-here-and-we-are-queer/113716/ http://972mag.com/film-review-we-are-palestine-were-here-and-we-are-queer/113716/#comments Sat, 07 Nov 2015 22:54:13 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=113716 Unlike previous films made about gay Palestinians in Israel, ‘Oriented’ is not about Jewish saviors trying to protect Palestinians from political or social repercussions. 

Three men in their mid-twenties are gathered at a Tel Aviv apartment, preparing to go out to a dance party at a popular Jaffa bar called Anna Loulou. Speaking in Arabic laced with Hebrew expressions and the occasional English phrase, they warm up with vodka and grapefruit juice as they sprawl on the couches, talking and listening to music . Will there be Jews at the party? asks one of the young men. Yes, answers another. There will be some. But they’re leftists. They support us. They’re not coming to sing “Viva la Occupation.” The third says, with heavy irony, “Right, they’re coming to save us.” All three men laugh. “Our saviors,” they say.

“Oriented,” a documentary film directed by Jake Witzenfeld, follows the lives of Khader Abu Seif and his friends Fadi and Naim. All three are gay Palestinian citizens of Israel who live and work in Tel Aviv. They are politically active and assertive about their right to define their own complex identity —  and they’re not at all interested in conforming to the expectations of others.

This is probably the first film about gay Palestinians that is blissfully free of cliches. Over a period of about 18 months, the film travels from Tel Aviv to Galilee villages, to Berlin and to Amman. It is a time period that coincides with the 2014 war in Gaza and the immolation of Mohamed Abu Khdeir in East Jerusalem. As the three men cook meals, dance at parties, lie on the beach and make political statements via choreographed videos they upload to Youtube, they and their friends  successfully challenge the received wisdom about homosexual life in the Arab Middle East — particularly the politically loaded templates that are imposed on gay Palestinians by Jewish Israeli society. As Khader, the charismatic protagonist of the film, puts it to a Jewish audience at Tel Aviv’s Open Center for LGBTQ, he is a member of a new generation of Palestinians — one that most people are not familiar with.

Khader, who was born and raised in Jaffa, lives in Tel Aviv with his Jewish partner, who immigrated to Israel as a child from Armenia. His parents, he emphasizes, know he’s gay and accept him. But while the two have been together for three years, Khader is at his most animated when hanging out with Fadi, Naim — and Nagham, a woman who studied nursing with Fadi and has become the fourth member of their tightly-knit group.

All of them have found a degree of freedom in Tel Aviv that is not available in their conservative hometowns. But in scenes that take place at the family homes of Fadi and Naim, “the village” is not necessarily a place that is hostile only to gays. It’s just a conservative small town that can be stifling, like most conservative small towns.

Naim, who early in the film describes himself as “Palestinian, vegetarian, atheist and feminist,” has so far not come out to his parents, which is an ongoing issue that he finally tackles bravely. But Fadi, a melancholy type who describes himself as “very political,” has loving parents who know he’s gay and accept him completely. When he takes his friends to the family home in the village of Ibillin, his parents put whiskey and beer on the table and his mother jokes that the village is so conservative and stifling that sometimes she goes to visit friends in Ramallah just so that she can “let loose” as she puts it — go out dancing, drinking and smoking nargileh in public. The implication: in the cities of the occupied Palestinian territories, social mores among Arabs are more liberal than they are inside Israel.

In another scene, the group goes to Amman to attend a rock concert. Amman, says Fadi, is their gateway to the Arab world. The place they feel really free. Tel Aviv, for all its openness, is a place that divides Arabs and Jews into us and them. It forces its Arab residents to conform, to speak the language of the majority. But in Amman, they can “live in Arabic” and meet Arabs from all over the Middle East.

At the concert, an exuberant Khader notes that Israeli Jews are always telling gay Palestinians that if they don’t like it in Israel, they should move to an Arab country and see how well they get along there. The implication being that Israel offers more freedom to gay Arabs than they could find in the Arab Middle East. Khader gestures at the rocking crowd, as the camera pans over straights and gays dancing and basically behaving as audiences at rock concerts tend to behave the world overr. Khader says, “Look at me! I’m in the middle of Amman, at a really hipster looking party, and I’m having a blast. What do you say to that?”

“Oriented” is an important, insightful and moving film. Unlike previous films made about gay Palestinians in Israel, it’s not about Jewish saviors trying to protect Palestinians from political or social repercussions. It’s about assertive young people who insist on their right to define their identity any way they want — and on the right to be confused, too. Tel Aviv is not doing them any favors by providing a more open environment to explore their sexual, social and political identities. It’s their country too.

“Oriented” will be screened at the Manhattan JCC on November 11 (Wednesday) at 6.30 pm

http://972mag.com/film-review-we-are-palestine-were-here-and-we-are-queer/113716/feed/ 2
‘Centrist’ politician’s plan for total separation from Palestinians http://972mag.com/centrist-politicians-plan-for-total-separation-from-palestinians/113659/ http://972mag.com/centrist-politicians-plan-for-total-separation-from-palestinians/113659/#comments Thu, 05 Nov 2015 22:04:26 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=113659 Yair Lapid isn’t sure which Palestinians he wants to separate from or even how many of them there are, but he knows he needs a bigger wall to do it.

Then Finance Minister Yair Lapid in the Knesset, July 29, 2013 (Photo: Tali Mayer/ Activestills.org)

Yair Lapid in the Knesset, July 29, 2013 (Photo: Tali Mayer/ Activestills.org)

Now is the time to get the Palestinians completely out of the lives of Israelis, according to Yair Lapid, head of the Yesh Atid (“There is a Future”) party. The self-declared “centrist” politician called for a bigger, stronger wall to separate Palestinians from Israelis — urgently.

Lapid made his remarks during an October 3 video interview he gave to Ynet, Israel’s most popular online news site. A generous +972 reader volunteered to subtitle the clip, which is embedded below.


In remarks that strongly echoed those made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his notorious race-baiting election day video (“hordes of Palestinians are coming out to the ballot box”), Lapid says in the interview, “The next stage of the current conflict is not the knife but the ballot box.” He adds, “If 300,000 East Jerusalem Palestinians go cast their ballots in the next municipal elections…we’ll have a Palestinian mayor who will decide on the prayer times at both the Western Wall and on the Temple Mount.”

East Jerusalem Palestinians have the legal right to vote in Jerusalem municipal elections, but most choose not to because it amounts to a de facto recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the part of the city that was captured in 1967. Israel’s position is that it has annexed East Jerusalem, a move that is not recognized internationally. For Palestinians, East Jerusalem is meant to be the capital of their future state.

It’s not clear who Lapid is referring to with the term “the Palestinians.” Does he mean all the Palestinians, including those who comprise 20 percent of citizens of the state of Israel? Or perhaps he just doesn’t know how to count. He mentions 3.5 million, but there are actually about 5 million Palestinians currently living in territory that is completely controlled by Israel — roughly 2.5 million in the West Bank, 250,000 in East Jerusalem and about 2 million who are citizens of Israel. There are another nearly 2 million in Gaza, which is remotely controlled by Israel. So, altogether, we are talking about almost 7 million Palestinians living under Israeli jurisdiction. If Lapid is referring only to those who live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, he is still off by about 750,000.

But no, he insists in the interview, he’s not afraid of demographics. Nor is he afraid of “Hamastan” — which, he adds parenthetically, frightens the Palestinian Authority even more than it does the Israelis. No, says Lapid, he just doesn’t want Palestinians with knives running around the streets of Israel.

He ignores the fact that some of the stabbing incidents that occurred over the past month were committed by citizens of Israel, and glosses over the reality that separating East and West Jerusalem with a wall is practically impossible, due to the locations of the settlements — not to mention absurd. Is he suggesting that we go back to pre-1967 days, perhaps re-build the Mandelbaum Gate and have international forces monitor it?

It’s difficult to take Lapid seriously, but the interviewer, Attila Somfalvi, maintains a poker face. Ron Ben Yishai, a veteran Israeli journalist, leans across the table and asks politely what Lapid’s plan is for separating from the Palestinians. Is he suggesting unilateral action?

Oh no, says Lapid. He’s suggesting a plan that would be executed multilaterally, by a P5+1-type group that would include Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt. And, of course, even after the separation plan was carried out, Israel would maintain its military presence in the West Bank to protect Israeli security. He says nothing about the 500,000 Israeli Jewish residents of the West Bank.

Illustrative photo: An activist puts a Palestinan flag on the Separation Wall facing the Modi'in Illit settlement (Photo: Anne Paq/ Activestills.org)

A Palestinian woman leaves a flag on the barbed wire near the separation wall which separates the Israeli settlement of Modi’in Illit from the Palestinian village of Bil’in. (Photo: Anne Paq/ Activestills.org)

Ben Yishai clears his throat delicately before pointing out to Lapid that most experts agree there’s no chance of regional cooperation between Arab states and Israel regarding the Palestinians, and that the Saudis in particular would never get involved in such an undertaking.

Lapid just shakes his head at Ben Yishai and says that he’s already talked to “the Saudis.” And who would “the Saudis” be? It turns out that Lapid is referring to Prince Turki al-Faisal, the retired former Saudi diplomat. But Prince Turki has absolutely no influence with the current Saudi king and is no longer a member of the inner circle.

Bruce Riedel, a Brookings fellow who was a senior advisor on the Middle East to the last four U.S. presidents, explained via email, “Today Turki has [no influence]. He is respected in the Kingdom for his past service but he has no role in decision making. He does not speak for the King. Both he and his late brother Prince Saud were closer to King Abdallah which does not carry positive weight with King Salman.”

This is something that Ben Yishai apparently knows. But the Yesh Atid leader thinks he knows better.

“Ron,” Lapid says, with a patronizing shake of his head to the journalist who has covered Israeli security issues for about 40 years, “I just want to remind you that not only am I a former cabinet minister but I have also served on a security committee. I deal with these things on a daily basis.”

So, to sum up. Lapid wants to build a bigger wall where a wall that is more than twice as high as the Berlin wall already exists. He wants to separate from the Palestinians but keep the army in the West Bank, and he has no plan for the settlers. In other words, he is describing the status quo.

Also, he is not sure which Palestinians he wants to separate from (or how). He’s not worried about the demographic threat but he does not want Palestinians in East Jerusalem to vote because that might interfere with Israel’s ability to maintain a Jewish majority. And he also thinks that Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia would become involved in a multilateral plan headed by Israel to help make the lives of Palestinians even more unbearable than they are now. And he knows this because he talked to one retired Saudi diplomat.

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is the leader of the political party that is often described as the “de facto” opposition to the Netanyahu government.

Newsletter banner

http://972mag.com/centrist-politicians-plan-for-total-separation-from-palestinians/113659/feed/ 1
WATCH: Israeli Border Police assault, pepper spray Palestinian journalists http://972mag.com/photos-israeli-border-police-assault-pepper-spray-palestinian-journalists/113402/ http://972mag.com/photos-israeli-border-police-assault-pepper-spray-palestinian-journalists/113402/#comments Fri, 30 Oct 2015 16:29:28 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=113402 A Border Police officer pepper sprays Palestinian journalists covering a West Bank protest. The police claims it is ‘looking into the incident.’

An Israeli Border Police officer assaulted medics and journalists at a well known junction in the West Bank Friday, according to photojournalist Fadi Arouri.

The incident took place near the Al-Bireh checkpoint, which abuts the Israeli settlement of Beit El— a spot known for frequent clashes between Palestinian youth and Israeli security forces. But Arouri says that journalists and medics were at a significant distances from the protestors when the incident he photographed (below), took place.

A member of Israel's Border Police assaults journalists and medics assembled October 30 near Al Bireh, West Bank (credit: Fadi Arouri)

A member of Israel’s Border Police assaults journalists and medics assembled October 30, 2015, near Al Bireh, West Bank. (photo: Fadi Arouri)

“He [the officer in the photo - LG) was chasing photographers, even struggling with some of us. He took the gas masks off some journalists to spray them directly in the face," recounted Arouri. "He did it to two of them right in front of me." Arouri added that he saw the officer "dragging a journalist and beating him."

Arouri, who posted the photos on his professional Facebook page, noted that this particular member of Border Police — known as Magav — was well known to journalists who have been covering West Bank demonstrations over the past few years. He has been "among the worst" of security forces at Qalandiya, Bil'in, and Nabi Saleh — all places that are scenes of frequent Palestinian demonstrations. There have been many reported incidents of Israeli security forces using excessive or inappropriate force to stop demonstrations, many of which have been reported by +972 Magazine.

Medics and journalists succumb to pepper spray assault by a member of Israel's Border Police (credit: Fadi Arouri)

Medics and journalists succumb to pepper spray assault by a member of Israel’s Border Police, Al Bireh checkpoint, October 30, 2015. (photo: Fadi Arouri)

Arouri also took some video of the scene, where we can see clearly that the border police is just casually ejecting pepper spray at journalists who pose absolutely no threat, followed by disturbing scenes of a journalist wearing a flak jacket marked “press” is kicked, slapped and dragged by paramilitary forces. There are no protestors in sight, although the sound of tear gas being fired nearby is audible. The exchanges are a familiar mixture of Arabic, Hebrew and English, with the Palestinian press shouting that they are journalists and asking why they are being assaulted. Border Policemen are heard yelling “get back” and “move,” although there is no visible reason to harass journalists.

A second video provides context and even more shocking footage, with border police deliberately running over a Palestinian youth. One officer descends from the vehicle and steps on the boy he just ran over, then kicks him and beats him. When medics approach to help the injured youth, the border police officer pepper sprays them.

As far as violent incidents in the West Bank go, this one is not the worst. Recently, for example, +972 published images of undercover Israeli forces restraining an unarmed Palestinian youth and shooting him at point blank range in the thigh. On another occasion there was a widely reported incident of a soldier placing a 12-year-old boy with a broken arm in a choke hold. There are dozens of disturbing images and photos online. In more than 90 percent of these cases, there is no reporting in the mainstream media and no investigation by the Israeli authorities.


The images in this post are perhaps less dramatic, but they are just as disturbing. They illustrate that Israeli security forces in the West Bank operate with complete impunity. They also speak to a banality of violence on the part of Israeli forces that is completely out of control. Note that in the second photo there are several border police just a few meters away — but they don’t even look at their pepper spraying colleague, let alone try to stop him.

In the West Bank, soldiers treat Palestinians medics and journalists with the same violent, dismissive contempt as they do every other civilian. There is no way any police officer would get away with assaulting a journalist or a medical professional inside the Green Line, just a few minutes drive away. But in the West Bank, this is considered normal. Assault a journalist, incapacitate a medic, attack and try to arrest a 12 year-old boy, shoot a teenager in the leg while his arms are restrained — it’s pretty pedestrian stuff under occupation.

The police spokesperson told +972 that they are looking into the incident.

Newsletter banner

http://972mag.com/photos-israeli-border-police-assault-pepper-spray-palestinian-journalists/113402/feed/ 1
An unwilling symbol of Israel’s identity complex http://972mag.com/an-unwilling-symbol-of-israels-identity-complex/112743/ http://972mag.com/an-unwilling-symbol-of-israels-identity-complex/112743/#comments Sat, 17 Oct 2015 12:36:59 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=112743 A Palestinian resident of the Tel Aviv city-state publishes a nasty racist letter from an anonymous neighbor, and becomes a local celebrity.

Ziad “Zizo” Abul Hawa was thrust into the local media spotlight this week when he discovered that one of his neighbors wanted to get him evicted from his Tel Aviv apartment because she didn’t think it was safe to have an Arab in the building. The neighbor, who still has not been identified, left an unsigned note pinned to the notice board in the lobby of his building.

To the Tenants of 51 Bar Kochba Street,

Due to the security situation I don’t think we can allow ourselves to be indifferent and do nothing about the fact that there is an Arab residing in our building. His name is Ziad Abul Hawa and he lives in Apartment 4. This is something that I have long sought to discuss with the Tenants’ Association, even before the current situation.

Now is the opportunity.

I invite you all to a meeting in the bomb shelter on the first floor, this coming Thursday October 15, to discuss the situation and decide what can be done.

I’m not rejecting him outright, but I do think we should talk to him and check him out.

We have the right to be concerned about our safety and the safety of our families and to feel secure in the building we live in.

The Apartment Tenants

Zizo Abul Hawa and the tenant's notice (courtesy, Zizo Abul Hawa)

Zizo Abul Hawa and the tenant’s notice (courtesy, Zizo Abul Hawa)

Ziad, who has gone by the nickname Zizo since he was a child, took  a selfie that shows him making a wry duck face, with the note behind him, and posted it on Facebook with the humorous Hebrew caption, “Ya! I’m coming with mulukhiya muffins.”

The photo went viral almost immediately, with so many people tagging him when they shared it on Facebook that Zizo’s original status was soon buried, along with comments that combined expressions of disgust for the anonymous neighbor and support for Zizo, almost all written in Hebrew. Some other neighbors in the building tore the notice down and replaced it with a satirical one that mocked the anonymous original; others sought him out to apologize. By the following day he had been interviewed for nearly all of the major Israeli media outlets, speaking in flawless idiomatic Hebrew, and had turned down an invitation to be a guest on a popular morning magazine program. Meanwhile, there was growing momentum in the comments on his wall for a protest demonstration outside his building on Thursday, to coincide with the meeting of the tenants’ association.


“I told them thanks, but I don’t want to be involved,” said Zizo in a phone conversation with +972. “I don’t want to be a symbol. I’m grateful for the support but I’m not in a position to be a symbol for any political cause.”


Now just a few days shy of his 28th birthday, Zizo moved to Tel Aviv about nine years ago from East Jerusalem, where his parents live and where he attended high school. But he was born and raised in Barcelona, where his Palestinian father met and married his mother — a Syrian from Damascus.

“I only learned Hebrew seven or eight years ago,” he explained in fluent, unaccented English. “In an ulpan,” he added, referring to the intensive Hebrew language courses offered to new immigrants. After he moved to Tel Aviv, where he works for an insurance company, he applied for and was granted Israeli citizenship. “I did it because it makes my life easier,” he said (although he is still subjected to the humiliating “special treatment” for Arabs when he flies on Israeli airlines or out of Ben Gurion Airport, as he describes in an article for the Jerusalem Post).

Israel’s citizenship laws regarding Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem are a bit murky and seem to be applied capriciously. The government says Palestinians who became residents of the country’s “eternally united” capital city when Israel occupied the territory in 1967 can apply if they wish, but many refuse to do so for reasons of Palestinian nationalism. The truth is, of course, far more complex. It’s true that few apply, but some Palestinian acquaintances told me they have submitted applications that were refused.

“I applied in Tel Aviv,” responded Zizo, explaining that applying at Ministry of Interior offices outside of the capital made the process much easier.

“I did it because it made my life easier. I don’t hate Israel anyway,” he added. “I’m mostly happy living in Tel Aviv. I have a great job and amazing friends who are like family to me. On a day-to-day basis there are some incidents, but that could happen anywhere.” Sounding like a European transplant to New York speaking about the United States beyond Manhattan or Brooklyn, he said, “If I am going to live in Israel then only in Tel Aviv.”

He is not apolitical. ”Politically I have fought with almost all my friends,” he said. “Arabs think I am too pro-Israel and love Jews too much and my Jewish friends think I am anti-Zionist and pro-Palestinian.” Yes, he does suffer comments like, “you don’t look like an Arab” (“people don’t even understand how insulting that is”). On the other hand, he says he knows “lots of people who generalized about hating Arabs and stuff but then they told me that after they met me they changed their point of view.”

The walls of the famous Tel Aviv bubble are not as impermeable as many would like to believe. Last week, for example, a young woman from Haifa, a student at Tel Aviv University, was assaulted and narrowly avoided a serious beating at the hands of a mob after her taxi driver, hearing her Arabic-accented Hebrew, accused her of being a terrorist and threw her out of his vehicle in a working class area in the south of the city.

But Zizo has carved out a place for himself in a bubble within the bubble. Last week he married his long-time boyfriend, a Jewish man named Yossi from the Haifa suburbs. There were 200 guests at their wedding ceremony in Jaffa (“which is a small wedding by Israeli standards”), but parents could not be present. Since they live in East Jerusalem, they felt it was too dangerous to travel given the security situation in their city. But his brother, a Barcelona resident who had to struggle to get a visa for Israel because he has only a Jordanian passport, did attend the celebration.

Today, Zizo published another letter from a neighbor on his Facebook wall. But it’s quite different from the one that started this whole story. He appended the following caption (in Hebrew): “The best letter I’ve ever received. Someone just put it in my mailbox.” In English, he adds, “Faith in humanity restored.” The envelope, decorated with a little heart, says, “Something that might make you smile (it’s not anthrax).”

Ziad. Hi. I don’t really know what to write. I threw away my first draft, because it wasn’t meant to be a political manifesto. But I also didn’t want to send you some empty co-existence message that would make me feel better but leave you feeling pretty much the same as before.

I’m getting off track again. Anyway, I just wanted to show some solidarity with you, and felt the idea of writing a letter with actual pen and paper was sort of magical in this age of the indifferent Internet. Besides, I figured that after your mailbox was recently the receptacle for a toxic missive, it’d be nice to have some good karma coming out of it.

Anyway. The point is, I really don’t know where things are going in this country, or if we can count on us humans to do some good. But I can tell you that about two years ago I decided that I might as well die trying — so to speak. Just to do everything possible to make a difference, to make things better.

I hope that one day we’ll all live here as equals, in one political entity. That we’ll all know Arabic and Hebrew, and that we’ll recognize all the historical narratives and that we’ll learn a lesson about racism and hatred from them. And the refugees will return to their homes, and we’ll be able to live with an authentic, holistic identity that is not based on repression and lies.

Until then — I send you a hug that lasts 30 seconds (that’s supposed to be a really good way to transmit positive energy). And I hope, I really hope that your neighbors will bring you muffins, and will come to apologize, and get to know you for who you are. And that if they hate you it’ll be because you didn’t clean the stairwell after your garbage bags leaked or something like that!

Shelly, your sort-of neighbor

Letter to Zizo, from his neighbor Shelly (courtesy of Zizo Abul Hawa)

Letter to Zizo, from his neighbor Shelly (courtesy of Zizo Abul Hawa)

And this mini drama is going on while the mainstream news cycle is all about people getting stabbed on the streets of Israel in one bloody internecine attack after another. These are the complexities of life in Israel, the place that Netanyahu relentlessly emphasizes is a “Jewish” state. He and his followers might be insisting a bit too much on ethnic particularism, given the reality of a de facto multi-cultural entity — albeit one that has not quite settled on its identity. After all, there are gay Arab Palestinian men getting married to Jewish men in the Jewish state that has no civil straight or same-sex marriage —  and living openly in Tel Aviv. And they are Israeli.

http://972mag.com/an-unwilling-symbol-of-israels-identity-complex/112743/feed/ 1
When people can’t believe their eyes, it’s usually ideology http://972mag.com/when-people-cant-believe-their-eyes-its-usually-ideology/112519/ http://972mag.com/when-people-cant-believe-their-eyes-its-usually-ideology/112519/#comments Fri, 09 Oct 2015 19:56:10 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=112519 +972 published video of undercover Israeli soldiers restraining a Palestinian stone thrower and shooting him point blank in the leg. An astonishing number of people looked at the evidence and refused to believe what they saw.

Yesterday I published a post about a video that showed Israeli plainclothes undercover soldiers restraining a Palestinian youth at a West Bank demonstration and shooting him in the leg at point blank range. The youth was clutching a small stone, but was otherwise unarmed.

These undercover agents are called ”mistarevim” in Hebrew (meaning disguised as an Arab) and “mustarabeen” in Arabic. According to reports from several sources, including the AFP,  journalists witnessed a group of mistarevim infiltrating a demonstration in the West Bank and then suddenly producing handguns, which they shot directly at the Palestinian protestors.

At one point two of the undercover troops grab one of the Palestinian young men and restrain him, while a third presses the barrel of his handgun to his thigh and pulls the trigger. The ‘pop’ of the weapon is audible. Uniformed soldiers punch and kick the wounded youth and then drag him away.

A still image taken at the scene by Activestills photojournalist Muhannad Saleem shows the youth being carried away on a stretcher by soldiers wearing the latex gloves used by medics. There is a tourniquet tied around his thigh above a bleeding wound, and he is wearing an oxygen mask.

Israeli army medics carry away a young Palestinian stone thrower who was shot in the leg by undercover Israeli troops on the outskirts of Ramallah. A tourniquet can be seen on his leg where he was shot, October 7, 2015. (Muhannad Saleem/Activestills.org)

Israeli army medics carry away a young Palestinian stone thrower who was shot in the leg by undercover Israeli troops on the outskirts of Ramallah. A tourniquet can be seen on his leg where he was shot, October 7, 2015. (Muhannad Saleem/Activestills.org)

An astonishing number of people looked at all this evidence and refused to believe what they saw. And they were upset with the messenger, too. Yesterday +972 editor Michael Schaeffer Omer-Man and I were inundated with testy emails and social media messages from people who demanded additional evidence proving the undercover agent had really pulled the trigger and shot the boy.

The multiple witnesses, the videos and the photographs were not enough. Some claimed they did not hear the gun being discharged. Others claimed they saw the Palestinian youth walking after he’d supposedly been shot, which proved that the undercover officer had not really pulled the trigger. On Facebook, there were long threads of comments claiming the video was fabricated, a “Pallywood” production.

But then the army spokesperson responded to our query and confirmed nonchalantly that yes, the shooting had occurred as witnessed and documented. “It was an accurate shot that disabled the central suspect who fought back even after the soldiers attempted to arrest him,” said the spokesperson, in a statement that we appended to the original post. No apology, no attempt to dispute.

The army apparently believes it’s acceptable to restrain an unarmed protestor and “disable” him by shooting him at point blank range in the leg.

These undercover units have existed for years, and so has the practice of having agents — sometimes police, sometimes army — infiltrate demonstrations and violently detain protestors. So, too, has the practice of assaulting, and even shooting, unarmed civilians when they are physically restrained and unable to defend themselves. Former undercover officers have spoken about their experiences in interviews for Israeli documentary films, and Breaking the Silence has documented these practices in interviews with former soldiers.

The tactics of the undercover units are actually well known. But this is the first time we’ve seen such vivid, indisputable video evidence. And now we have the army’s acknowledgement that not only do they know about these practices, but they sanction them.

So now I have Jewish friends asking me nervously what they should think. They want to believe these practices are rare and committed by outliers who act in contravention of accepted procedure. But that is not the case, and that is what I tell them. It’s not easy for them, because most Jews cherish the idea that Israel is somehow better, or that Jews wouldn’t do things like that. Too many American Jews have outsourced their identity to Israel, and now they are not sure what to do with the creeping existential crisis.

The thing is, I’ve never seen anyone question or demand more evidence in cases where the media reported that a Palestinian had carried out a violent attack. None of my Jewish friends or journalist colleagues seem to dispute that Fadi Alloun, the Palestinian youth who was shot by police four days ago after stabbing a Jewish teenager in Jerusalem, actually carried out the stabbing.

I’ve seen plenty of people dispute whether or not Jews actually carried out the “price tag” arson attack on the Dawabshe family, too, despite the Hebrew graffiti at the scene and the security forces’ certitude that the crime was committed by Jewish settlers who lived nearby (although they still haven’t managed to charge anybody with the crime). Meanwhile, the Jewish teenager who attacked Arab citizens in Dimona with a knife has been handed over for psychiatric assessment rather than arrested and charged with attempted murder.

There’s something quite racist in the implicit assumption that when Palestinians commit random acts of political violence they’re motivated by senseless hatred, while a Jew who does the same to an Arab just needs a psychiatrist. The same goes for this unwillingness to believe that an Israeli undercover officer would actually shoot a Palestinian in the leg —  then kick him in the abdomen and head and drag him several meters along a rock strewn road, as though he were an animal carcass or a sack of potatoes — despite all the evidence.

Perhaps the muted expressions of disquiet over these images are a sign that caring people with liberal values are starting to wake up to a fact that should be self evident: you can’t maintain military rule over an unwilling population without engaging in acts of cruel violence.

http://972mag.com/when-people-cant-believe-their-eyes-its-usually-ideology/112519/feed/ 4
WATCH: Israeli undercover agents shoot unarmed youth at point blank range http://972mag.com/watch-israeli-undercover-agents-shoot-unarmed-boy-at-point-blank-range/112474/ http://972mag.com/watch-israeli-undercover-agents-shoot-unarmed-boy-at-point-blank-range/112474/#comments Wed, 07 Oct 2015 22:31:57 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=112474 (Updated below with a response from the Israeli military spokesperson’s office.)

A video released Wednesday onto several social media accounts and published by several news outlets shows Israeli plainclothes undercover officers apparently shooting an unarmed Palestinian youth in the leg at point blank range, while other undercover officers hold him down.

The shooting and beating took place during clashes in between Ramallah and the Beit El settlement, which abuts the de facto Palestinian capital and hosts the army’s regional headquarters base.

Several videos of the same event emerged on Wednesday, showing the Israeli plainclothes troops wearing keffiyehs wrapped around their faces, infiltrating the West Bank demonstration and then either shooting toward demonstrators at close range with handguns, or assaulting them and dragging them away to military vehicles.

Israeli army medics carry away a young Palestinian stone thrower who was shot in the leg by undercover Israeli troops on the outskirts of Ramallah. A tourniquet can be seen on his leg where he was shot, October 7, 2015. (Muhannad Saleem/Activestills.org)

Israeli army medics carry away a young Palestinian stone thrower who was shot in the leg by undercover Israeli troops on the outskirts of Ramallah. A tourniquet can be seen on his leg where he was shot, October 7, 2015. (Muhannad Saleem/Activestills.org)

Reuters bureau chief Luke Baker confirmed via a tweet that he had viewed footage of Israeli undercover officers throwing stones at soldiers and encouraging the Palestinian youth around them to do the same.


AFP filmed a clip of the incident shown above from a different angle. (AFP footage cannot be embedded but you can watch the clip on YouTube, the shooting takes place at at around the 0:36 second mark.) This clip looks entirely unedited (the first version zooms in to show the gun and shot) and appears to corroborate the first video.

In 2012 Haaretz newspaper reported (Hebrew link) that the commanding officer of an undercover unit confirmed it was their practice to have plainclothes agents infiltrate Palestinian demonstrations and throw stones in the direction of soldiers while encouraging the Palestinian youth to follow suit, and then arrest them for throwing stones.

Roughly 100 Palestinians were wounded across the West Bank on Wednesday, according to Palestinian news agency Ma’an, including 10 wounded by live ammunition and 89 by rubber-coated steel bullets.

Clashes have taken place on a daily basis in East Jerusalem and across the West Bank for nearly a week following tensions surrounding Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and an increasingly frequent and ongoing series of attacks by Palestinian individuals against Israeli civilians, leaving four Israelis dead. There were five such attacks on Wednesday, leaving a number of Israelis wounded.

Protests have spread from East Jerusalem and the West Bank to Palestinian-majority and mixed Jewish-Arab cities inside Israel proper in recent days, with stone throwing and heavy handed and often violent responses from police.

In a separate incident caught on video by CCTV, Israeli police chased an unarmed boy into a grocery store in East Jerusalem, wrecking part of the store and assaulting the owner in the process. The final frames of the clip show the owner limping from his injuries just after the Israeli security forces leave his store, dragging the boy they were chasing.


#القدس | قبل قليل – جنود الإحتلال إقتحموا دكان “العمدة” في حي الثوري جنوب المسجد #الأقصى، واعتدوا على كل المتواجدين في المحل شباب وأطفال.

Posted by Sawt El Ghad on Wednesday, October 7, 2015


Update (October 8, 5 p.m.):

The Israeli army spokesperson’s office sent the following response to our request that it explain the soldiers’ actions:

In events of this type, in which soldiers operate in life threatening situations and in which a Palestinian mob is inflamed, special methods of operation are used. In this incident a violent confrontation broke out between the undercover troops and the central inciter, during which a bullet was fired into his leg. The [Israeli army] force was attacked with a barrage of stones that endangered it and was therefore forced to evacuate the area as quickly as possible. It was an accurate shot that disabled the central suspect who fought back even after the soldiers attempted to arrest him. The suspect was lightly wounded and was treated by soldiers.

The spokesperson did not respond to our inquiry regarding whether or not the soldiers shown in the video would face criminal charges.

http://972mag.com/watch-israeli-undercover-agents-shoot-unarmed-boy-at-point-blank-range/112474/feed/ 3
Yom Kippur in popular culture: nostalgia and other musings http://972mag.com/yom-kippur-in-popular-culture-nostalgia-and-other-musings/111952/ http://972mag.com/yom-kippur-in-popular-culture-nostalgia-and-other-musings/111952/#comments Tue, 22 Sep 2015 19:04:53 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=111952 “It was different with Papa. He celebrated all the major holidays — Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah, Pesach — and he loved telling me Bible stories, but religion didn’t have a very important place in his life. Once, during Mama’s illness, I asked him if he believed in God. He gazed at me with that tender look, a look that spoke only of the powerlessness of love, and said, “You know, Sara, God doesn’t need us to believe in him. All he wants is for us to act as if he were there.”

— from Paths of Desire, a novel by Emmanuel Kattan

Yom Kippur is one of the two Jewish holidays that have become well-known tropes for the universal human experience in secular European and American art. Passover is the other one — specifically the seder meal, which includes so many symbols that can be interpreted ecumenically to talk about hunger, freedom, welcoming the stranger, telling the story of the Exodus to the children, justice and so on. But while the seder is about reaching out to include others (“all who are hungry, come and eat”), Yom Kippur is about introspection, repentance, forgiveness and redemption.

Parts of the liturgy are beautiful and have inspired some moving art, especially poetry and music. There’s Max Bruch’s gorgeous cello and orchestra composition of Kol Nidre, the Aramaic recitation that opens the evening service of Yom Kippur.  (My mother was a huge fan of Jacqueline Du Pre’s interpretation.) Bruch was a Protestant who died in the 1920s, but the Nazis banned all his music anyway, for his sin of having composed a work based on a Jewish theme.

In more recent popular music, songs based on the liturgy include greats like Leonard Cohen’s “Who By Fire,” referring to the part of the service where congregants sing the prayer derived from the tradition that on Yom Kippur it’s written in the Book of Life: Who will die this year and how — by fire, by sword, by water..?  Barbra Streisand’s Avinu Malkeinu (Our Father, Our King) is a straight rendition of one of the high points in the liturgy, rather than an interpretation like Cohen’s. In the clip below, Cohen explains in a 1979 interview how the Hebrew prayer inspired “Who By Fire.”

In the movies, Kol Nidre is a trope for redemption via the return of the prodigal son. In The Jazz Singer (1927), Hollywood’s first feature film with sound, Al Jolson plays Jakie Rabinowitz, the rebellious son of a cantor at a synagogue on New York’s Lower East Side, who runs away from home to become a Broadway singer, adopting the “goyisch” name of Jack Robins. But years after cutting himself off from his family, community and religion to pursue a career on stage, the wayward jazz singing son returns to the Lower East Side synagogue of his childhood to sing the Kol Nidre service in his bedridden father’s place. The moment of redemption comes when his mortally ill father hears his son singing from the synagogue next door, smiles beatifically and says to his wife, “We have our son back again!” before collapsing and dying.

The great Yiddish actor and cantor Moishe Oysher sings Kol Nidre in the 1939 Yiddish film, "Ode to Glory" (screenshot)

The great Yiddish actor and cantor Moishe Oysher sings Kol Nidre in the 1939 Yiddish film, “Ode to Glory” (screenshot)

Really my favorite film on the theme of the prodigal Jewish son redeeming himself on Yom Kippur is Ode to Glory. It’s a 1939 Yiddish film, produced in the United States, that stars Moishe Oysher — the superstar, Russian-born Yiddish actor, cantor and heart throb. Set in Vilna* (Vilnius), the film’s opening scene takes place at the Vilna Synagogue, where Oysher is leading services on Rosh Hashanah. Among the congregants are two fashionable men from Warsaw. Stunned by his talent, they lure him away from provincial Vilna to the big city, where he become a star of the Warsaw Opera. But the glittering metropolis chews him up and spits him out, sick and exhausted. In the final scene Oysher returns to Vilna on the eve of Yom Kippur and staggers along the narrow, cobblestoned street to the synagogue, where Kol Nidre has just begin. He enters and uses the last of his strength to sing what’s probably the most incredible rendition of Kol Nidre ever recorded — and then collapses and dies on the bimah (podium). The rabbi leans over Oysher’s body and tells him he can “sleep peacefully,” because “for generations and generations, people will remember that for them you sang; and for us you prayed.” Again, redemption and death. “Who shall live and who shall die.”

When I was little we attended a Conservative synagogue in Canada, which was a big family and community event. I think my parents fasted, but my grandparents did not. They’d take us kids for lunch at the White Spot, a popular Vancouver chain that served diner-style food. There we’d meet many other grandmothers from the Hadassah group, who’d brought their own grandchildren. I enjoyed the communal feeling and the rituals, but we never talked about God or faith in my family.

In Israel the 25 hours of car-free roads seemed like terrific fun at first. I marveled at the post-apocalyptic feeling of walking in the middle of a car-free four-lane highway, surrounded by strolling families and children on bicycles. But after a few years the novelty wore a bit thin. This was especially the case after I moved to a mixed Arab-Jewish part of Jaffa that was still working class and ungentrified. Everyone got along, but there was a little underlying tension that came out on certain holidays, like Yom Kippur. The Muslim neighbors expressed their resentment at having the enforced silence of a holy day not their own imposed on them by turning on their stereos and flinging their windows wide open. The Jewish neighbors would yell at them in outrage and pretty soon there’d be a screaming match that could be parsed as “whose country is this, anyhow?” A friend who biked over from silent, all-Jewish north Tel Aviv remarked on the tension in amazement. “It’s as though they’re saying ‘go to hell with your colonial holiday,’ isn’t it?” she said.

And neither of us forgot that the army put Gaza and the West Bank under total closure on Yom Kippur, meaning that all the checkpoints and crossings, including Allenby, were closed. So Palestinians could not enter or leave the West Bank or Gaza — even if they had, say, permits to leave and travel plans to go abroad on personal business via Amman Airport.

Anyway, all the politics and injustice sort of spoiled my Yom Kippur peace and introspection in Israel. I started to understand my friends who spent the holiday in Europe or on a beach in the Sinai. Now I’m in Brooklyn and have returned to my childhood habit of attending synagogue on the holiday. And I enjoy it. But I’m a bit of an outlier among friends who were raised in secular Israeli families. They don’t get the synagogue thing at all and can’t relate to the liturgy one bit.

*For more about pre-war Vilna, see Lucy Dawidowicz’s extraordinary memoir “From That Place and Time,” about what she saw and experienced while living there as an American student of the Yiddish language at YIVO from 1938-9.

http://972mag.com/yom-kippur-in-popular-culture-nostalgia-and-other-musings/111952/feed/ 0
Prime minister’s wife accused in court of abusing staff http://972mag.com/prime-ministers-wife-accused-in-court-of-abusing-staff/111888/ http://972mag.com/prime-ministers-wife-accused-in-court-of-abusing-staff/111888/#comments Mon, 21 Sep 2015 15:12:24 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=111888 Former employees of the prime minister’s residence are suing the Netanyahus for wife Sara’s allegedly abusive and inhumane treatment. On Sunday a former cook recounted some shocking incidents when she testified under subpoena.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with his wife, Sarah (Photo by Activestills.org)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with his wife, Sarah (Photo by Activestills.org)

Sara Netanyahu, the wife of the prime minister, is an alcoholic who drinks champagne from morning to night, terrorizes her employees with verbal and physical abuse and has her husband, the prime minister, so terrified of her rages that he does not dare utter a word that might appear to contradict her. This is according to testimony heard on Sunday in a Jerusalem court  from former employees at the prime minister’s residence. Guy Eliahu, a former maintenance man at the official residence, is suing the Netanyahus for what he says is Sara’s abusive, inappropriate and inhumane treatment.


According to a report published by Ynet, the Israeli digital media site, on Sunday a former cook, Etti Haim, who took the witness stand reluctantly after she was subpoenaed, described several shocking incidents.

In one case, testified Haim, Sara Netanyahu went ballistic upon discovering that the patio awning had been rolled up after the al fresco dinner table had been fully set for dinner, including an array of prepared salads. Just before Sara Netanyahu appeared for the meal, the prime minister had asked Guy Eliahu, the maintenance man, to roll up the awning over the table. Upon seeing this Mrs. Netanyahu berated Eliahu, insisting the dinner table was now contaminated by dust. Haim said the prime minister did not intervene but sat silently on a bench near the table, avoiding eye contact with Eliahu. Mrs. Netanyahu ordered that the table be entirely cleared of dishes and food and re-set. When her son Avner said that his food was fine and should not be cleared away, Sara Netanyahu angrily accused him of taking the side of the servants. The prime minister’s wife then trashed the dinner table. Haim testified:

“Guy and I stood there terrified. She jerked the cloth off the table so that all the dishes, salads and pickles landed on the floor. Then she said, ‘You have five minutes to re-set this table.’ And that’s exactly what we did.”

Haim recounted another incident when Sara Netanyahu refused to have an ambulance called to the official residence after the cook collapsed in the kitchen. Haim fainted while rushing to prepare a late-night meal the prime minister’s wife had just requested. According to Haim’s testimony, a paramedic said the problem was with Haim’s heart and that she must be evacuated to the hospital immediately. But rather than call the emergency medical services Netanyahu forced the cook to phone home and ask one of her sons to come take her to the hospital in his private car. “That was my last day at work,” said Haim. “She never called and never asked after me.”

At another point in her testimony, Haim said that she called the deputy director of the Prime Minister’s Office to complain after Netanyahu slapped her, claiming the cook had not washed her hands before removing wine glasses from the cupboard. Haim confirmed testimony given earlier by Guy Eliahu and Meni Naftali, another former employee, who said that Netanyahu was a heavy drinker who demanded champagne be brought to her at all hours from morning until very late at night.

Naftali has accused Netanyahu of inappropriate and abusive behavior like calling him at 3 a.m. to berate him for purchasing milk packaged in plastic bags rather than in carton. All three witnesses — Eliahu, Naftali and Haim — spoke of being forced to work up to 16 hours per day on a regular basis, of Sara Netanyahu addressing them in an abusive manner that included ethnic slurs, and of having to respond to inappropriate demands. They also describe an atmosphere of paralyzing fear that permeates the prime minister’s residence and bureau. Everyone, including the prime minister, is deeply afraid of Sara Netanyahu.

Sara Netanyahu’s insane behavior has been widely publicized in the Hebrew media for years, and is frequently the subject of jokes on political satire programs. But somehow neither his wife’s inappropriate behavior nor the prime minister’s inability to prevent her from abusing the staff affects the power of Netanyahu’s populist appeal. Witnesses have testified on many occasions that Netanyahu is terrified of his Sara and will do anything to placate her, even if it means throwing those most loyal to him under the bus.

The Netanyahus of course deny all the accusations and claim they run a harmonious household. The prime minister has claimed on several occasions that his wife is being targeted by his political opponents and that the “leftist” media has a vendetta against her. But according to many reports, Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (also Jewish Home) resigned from Netanyahu’s staff around 2008 because they could not deal with Sara Netanyahu’s abuse. It has been widely reported for years that the prime minister’s wife interferes directly in affairs run out of the Prime Minister’s Office — and, as mentioned above, the man who has been staring down the ayatollahs for the past decade is a terrified mouse where his wife is concerned. Or he just doesn’t care what she does.

http://972mag.com/prime-ministers-wife-accused-in-court-of-abusing-staff/111888/feed/ 5
How to neutralize stone throwers — without killing them http://972mag.com/how-to-neutralize-stone-throwers-without-killing-them/111855/ http://972mag.com/how-to-neutralize-stone-throwers-without-killing-them/111855/#comments Sun, 20 Sep 2015 21:10:45 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=111855 End the occupation, and extend full civil rights to Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem. It’s that simple.

A Palestinian runs to take cover from tear gas, during clashes with Israeli police at the Palestinian refugee camp of Shuafat in East Jerusalem, November 5, 2014. Clashes broke after a Palestinian man drove a car into a crowd, killing a policeman and injuring 13 people in Jerusalem. By: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org

A Palestinian youth runs to take cover from tear gas, during clashes with Israeli police at the Palestinian refugee camp of Shuafat in East Jerusalem, November 5, 2014. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Reports of violent clashes in Jerusalem are leading the Israeli news cycle these days, and receiving quite a bit of international coverage as well. Mako, a popular Israeli news site, refers to the actions of Palestinian teens confronting armed security forces wearing protective riot gear  as “rock and molotov cocktail terrorism.” The narrative set by Netanyahu’s government, whereby any type of Palestinian protest or violence is labeled terrorism, has seeped into the mainstream media.


Last week a 64-year-old Israeli man named Alexander Levlovich died in Jerusalem after his car was hit by an object that was probably a rock or a cinder block. Palestinian teens were throwing rocks at cars driving on the road at the time. It’s not terribly uncommon to see clusters of Palestinian kids throwing stones at cars driven by Israelis on East Jerusalem roads. Incidents of shocking violence are tragically common in Jerusalem, and strike Jews and Palestinians alike.

The discourse around these incidents is terribly depressing and demoralizing. In this it is a reflection of the entire discourse about the occupation and the future of Israel and Palestine. Netanyahu’s response to the tragic death of Alexander Levlovich was to exploit it to justify his call for loosening the rules of engagement so that security forces would be permitted to shoot Palestinian protestors, even when they present no physical threat. But this has been a de facto practice on the ground for years now, as illustrated by the dozens of video clips easily found online — of soldiers shooting unarmed Palestinians in the back, or from a roof,  in the face, or in the toe (while in custody, blindfolded and with wrists bound). In 99 percent of the cases, the soldiers receive either no punishment at all or a meaningless censure. There are no real consequences for soldiers who beat, shoot or kill unarmed Palestinians in the West Bank.

+972 investigates: License to Kill, the Case Files

The incidents mentioned here are just a few examples of a systemic problem for which there is only one resolution: end the military occupation. After nearly 50 years, we should be well past the point of claiming the Israeli army can be an enlightened, all-powerful military ruler of a disenfranchised population that is denied basic civil rights.

But apparently we’re not, which is why people in Israel twist themselves into knots trying to reconcile their need to believe in the essential morality of their army with the reality on the ground. They served in the army themselves and they send their children to serve. Those Israeli kids don’t want to tell their parents they did terrible things in the West Bank and the parents don’t want to believe that their apple-cheeked children did terrible things either. So they don’t talk about it. They pretend it didn’t happen, they convince themselves they didn’t really do it and they call Breaking the Silence a bunch of liars.

Israeli soldiers smile as they arrest a Palestinian man in Hebron. The army has put the city under closure while it searches for three kidnapped teenagers. (photo: Activestills.org)

Israeli soldiers smile as they arrest a Palestinian man in Hebron. (photo: Activestills.org)

Yet there are so many bleak, searing Israeli documentaries about what Israeli soldiers do in the West Bank that are available, subtitled in English, online. And they’ve been broadcast on Israeli mainstream television. People see them, but they don’t absorb the message, because it’s too difficult. [Here are a couple of the most powerful, by the way: Yaniv Berman's "Alpha Diaries" (with English subtitles) and Tamar Yarom's "To See if I'm Smiling" (no subtitles).] Despite all the evidence, smart people indulge in stupid arguments to justify the unjustifiable, the destructive and the unsustainable.It doesn’t help that news reports about “violent riots” are actually verbatim transcriptions of army spokesperson statements because not one single Israeli reporter was present at that West Bank demonstration.

And that is also why the spectacle of Palestinian kids throwing rocks at cars in East Jerusalem is more upsetting to the average Israeli than reports about Israeli soldiers shooting or assaulting unarmed Palestinians in the West Bank. Because Jerusalem is “here” and the West Bank is “there.” The West Bank is where crazy settlers and religious people live and it’s that place on the other side of the wall where the Palestinians that hardly anyone ever sees in real life live.

The vast majority of Israelis would never enter East Jerusalem neighborhoods like Silwan, Jabal Mukaber or Sur Bahir — because they are afraid of Arabs. (If you want to experience Mission Impossible, just try to convince a Jewish taxi driver in West Jerusalem to take you to Jabal Mukaber. It’s infinitely easier for an African American man to hail a cab on the Upper East Side of Manhattan). But while Israeli Jews might never visit East Jerusalem (unless it’s to eat knafe in the Old City or pray at the Western Wall), they hear the word “Jerusalem” and they think “our united capital city.” And the idea that there are parts of their city that might be dangerous due to the type of political violence they associate with the West Bank makes them feel vulnerable. Don’t forget, the proposal to divide Jerusalem is still anathema to most Israelis. It’s difficult for them to reconcile their fear and avoidance of the Palestinian East Jerusalem neighborhoods with their hardwired belief that the city should never be divided.

The separation wall surrounds a Palestinian neighborhood of East Jerusalem, May 15, 2015. (Activestills.org)

The separation wall surrounds a Palestinian neighborhood of East Jerusalem, May 15, 2015. (Activestills.org)

Kids who throw stones at cars should be arrested by civilian police and questioned at the police station in the presence of a guardian and an attorney. They should not be snatched by heavily armed riot police, tossed into military vehicles, driven to the police station at the Russian Compound, questioned with physical and verbal violence without the presence of a parent or a lawyer, and left in a filthy, freezing cell overnight without a blanket or proper food. But that is what happens to Palestinian kids as young as 13 years old in East Jerusalem. And when they throw stones at cars everyone frames this as a political act, branding them as either anti-occupation protestors or as terrorists. As stateless Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem they are not entitled to the same rights and due process as Jewish citizens. Do you think a 13-year-old Jewish boy who threw a rock at a Palestinian car would be snatched by riot police and violently interrogated by police without the presence of a parent and a lawyer? No way.

So, I have three final points to make. 1) If Palestinians in East Jerusalem had the same civil rights as Jews, we wouldn’t have any kids throwing stones at cars ostensibly as political protest; 2) If Palestinians in East Jerusalem had full civil rights, kids who did throw stones would be characterized by the media as juvenile delinquents and tried in civil court after being questioned by police in the presence of a guardian and a lawyer; 3) While these flareups of violence in East Jerusalem generate a lot of headlines in Israel and abroad (and lord please spare me the pundits who start talking about a third intifada because there isn’t going to be one; we are well past the age of intifadas) very few Palestinians are taking part in the protests. As journalist Roy Sharon notes in a Facebook status, Jabal Mukaber alone is home to 30,000 Palestinian residents, but only about 200 are participating in the ongoing clashes with police.

Basically, people just want to live their lives. If they explode in protest, it’s usually because they are denied this basic right due to circumstances beyond their control. Like the occupation.

Newsletter banner

http://972mag.com/how-to-neutralize-stone-throwers-without-killing-them/111855/feed/ 2