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PHOTO: Settlers build Star of David on Palestinian land

Settlers built a Star of David made out of rocks on private Palestinian lands in the village of Shweika in the South Hebron Hills on Saturday. The settlers, who live in the illegal outpost Eshtamoa near the village, built the Star of David in order to obstruct Palestinian residents’ sheep from grazing, and as a crude way of marking territory.

The army prohibits Israelis from entering the valley below the outpost since it is recognized as private Palestinian land. Therefore, the fact that they were able to build this giant Star of David indicates that the IDF is clearly not enforcing the order.

Last year, settlers from this outpost badly assaulted a Israeli Ta’ayush activist in this same spot.

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Stop giving Netanyahu publicity

The best way to object to Netanyahu, his Congress speech and his policies, is to ignore him.

Since the Netanyahu Congress speech episode began last month, the press, and specifically foreign press, has been flooded with items on the Israeli prime minister. Not a day has gone by without a headline about Netanyahu’s lavish spending, incompetence regarding the housing crisis, his assault on media and academics, and of course his incitement against centrist political rivals.

Netanyahu has redefined the phrase, “bad publicity is good publicity,” since none of this appears to be hurting Netanyahu in the least at home. As Gershom Gorenberg previously wrote,”I’ve come to realize that the focus on him is a strategic success for the prime minister’s election campaign. It distracts voters’ attention from minor questions such as the Palestinians, peace, housing prices, and poverty.” Attacking Netanyahu hasn’t helped either, which Herzog and Livni’s Zionist Camp has learned. And this is why, for example, Israeli news site Ynet (whose owner, Noni Mozes, is anti-Netanyahu) has decided to make the high cost of living and labor disputes the top headline every day for the past few weeks — rather than explicitly attack the prime minister.

It also has yet to be seen how this position hurts him vis-a-vis diplomacy with the U.S. Sure, Democrats have condemned the planned speech, while others have gone as far as to boycott it, and yes, it will be great to see the room half empty when he gives his speech. But I am talking about real consequences, such as economic pressure that could force the Israeli leader to change his policies. Until that happens, Netanyahu will continue to act with impunity, going so far as to turn down a closed-door meeting with Democrats, which he called “partisan. Remember, this is coming from the prime minister who is blatantly identified with the Republican Party, and who openly supported Mitt Romney in the last U.S. presidential election.

J Street, the DC-based liberal Zionist lobby group that supports postponing the speech until after the elections, published a large ad Thursday morning in the New York Times condemning the planned speech. The ad, along with their “Bibi doesn’t speak for me” petition, both included a large photo of the the prime minister. Why give the man more publicity? Why make it about him when we should be talking about the issues? This...

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Netanyahu is not Ben-Gurion, and 2015 is not 1948

The Israeli prime minister is not using his Congress speech to gain votes in this election, rather, he is using his election campaign to gain favor for the Congress speech and serve his megalomaniac vision of being the savior of Jews worldwide.

Netanyahu’s recent campaign video, released Saturday night, has nothing to do with the Israeli election and certainly does not target the Israeli voter. It is intended for U.S. President Barack Obama, the White House, American Jews and more broadly, U.S. Democrats.

The video compares David Ben-Gurion’s decision to declare independence in 1948 over the objections of then U.S. Secretary of State George Marshall, with Netanyahu’s decision to address Congress, behind the backs of Obama and Kerry amid the deeper rift with the White House and State Department.

“Would we be here today if Ben-Gurion hadn’t done the right thing?” the video asks, implying that if the first prime minister of Israel hadn’t stood up to the U.S. there would be no Jewish state. This perfectly serves Netanyahu’s message that any deal with Iran is an existential threat to Israel — on par with the very establishment of the country.

Netanyahu posted the video on his Facebook page along with the message: “Congress is the only place where a bad deal can be stopped. It is the right and essential thing to do to safeguard Israel’s security and existence.”

However, most Israelis don’t really care about the speech in Washington, and it most likely won’t affect Netanyahu’s votes. Likud voters aren’t going to turn away from the party and I’d even wager that most rightists admire Netanyahu for standing up to Obama. On the other hand, the Israelis who are concerned about the deepening conflict with the U.S. already disagree with Netanyahu’s approach to diplomacy, which has increasingly isolated Israel.

Netanyahu knows this. This latest clip isn’t an election campaign video. It is a foreign policy stunt aimed at softening the backlash from Washington, American Jews and Democrats alike. It is an attempt to regain bipartisanship on the Iran issue by reminding people that Israel is an unstable country that has to go it alone against all odds. Presumably, Netanyahu hopes he can score some points among liberal Americans who associate Ben-Gurion with the Israel they knew and love — the Israel that was respectful of its allies.

It is also worth noting that the comparison...

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Joint Arab List launches Hebrew campaign: 'My answer to racism'

Jewish Israelis who value equality and want a ‘sane’ country should support the Arab-dominated list, says member Masud Ganaim at Tel Aviv launch event.

The Arab Joint List launched its Hebrew-language campaign in central Tel Aviv Wednesday evening and unveiled its slogan: “My answer to racism.” Displayed behind the chairmen of the four parties on the list, the phrase was set against a photo of graffiti reading, “Arabs out,” the scene of one of many anti-Arab hate crimes that have become commonplace in recent years.

Ayman Odeh, chairman of the Arab-Jewish Hadash party and the head of the joint slate, comprised of three Arab parties and Hadash party, spoke along with Masud Ganaim of Ra’am, Jamal Zahalka of Balad and Ahmed Tibi of Ta’al.

Odeh presented the Joint List’s platform as one advancing equality, social justice and national justice, but said that main element of the platform is national rights for Arabs.

“We deserve civil and national equality,” Odeh said. “We have heard a lot about social justice. We have been fighting for it for decades.”

The newly elected Hadash chairman said that even though not every Israeli will vote for them, the list represents everyone and is reaching out to the weak sectors of society, including Mizrahi Jews and Ethiopians. Narrowing the gaps between Arabs and Jews and encouraging the employment of Arab women is a top priority, he added.

Odeh also addressed the wider political landscape, lamenting that in Israeli society that those who support the Jewish nation state bill are considered the mainstream, while people who are pro-Democracy are considered radical. “One state for all Jews is considered centrist, while one state for all citizens is considered radical.”

Ganaim said they the Joint List is being portrayed as anti-Jewish and anti-Israel, but that any Jewish citizen who values equality and pluralism and who wants a “sane” country should support them. “We want the Hebrew public to hear us. We want to give a calming message.”

Tibi explicitly said that an end to the occupation is one of the party’s main issues.

All four men expressed confidence that the party will garner 15 mandates, noting that if voter turnout in the Arab sector is at least as high as Jewish turnout (67 percent in the last election), then they are guaranteed 15 Knesset seats. Most polls have the List at 12 or 13 seats currently.

MK Haneen Zoabi, who is a...

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Why Democrats must stand up to Netanyahu

With more and more people on both sides of the aisle pushing back against Netanyahu’s planned speech, the Obama administration — through congressional Democrats — has an opportunity to reinforce its Iran policy without any pushback from the Israel Lobby.

The pushback against Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s scheduled address to a joint session of Congress on March 3 just keeps snowballing. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden confirmed Friday that he will not be attending. That is a big deal considering his historically strong support for Israel and that since 2009 he has only missed one joint session of Congress. In addition, three senior Democratic congresspeople have announced they will be absent, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has indicated that other Democrats may not attend. Pelosi herself reportedly said that she “hope[s] the event will not take place.

Within the American Jewish community, Anti-Defamation League head Abe Foxman on Friday explicitly called on Netanyahu to cancel his speech. Foxman’s statement is noteworthy because it goes even farther than the position of more progressive J Street, which has only called for Netanyahu to postpone the speech until after Israeli elections two weeks later. (AIPAC, expectedly, is encouraging everyone in Congress to attend the speech.)

Considering all the backlash, which has also come from many conservatives, some are now speculating as to whether Netanyahu might find some excuse to cancel the contentious appearance in Washington. The prime minister and Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer have certainly not made any indications in that direction, although Deputy Foreign Minister Tzachi Hanegbi on Friday did tell the press that Netanyahu was apparently misled by Boehner into thinking the invitation had bipartisan support.

I am not interested in predicting whether Netanyahu will change his plans. But if the Democrats are unable to rally together behind an unequivocal demand for at least delaying the speech, if not canceling it, then this story will go down in the history of U.S.-Israel relations as unusually illustrative of the problematically dominant role Israel plays in the formulation of U.S. foreign policy.

What is unique about this incident is the circumstantial ease with which Democrats could come out against the speech without being smeared as anti-Israel. Netanyahu’s plan is in many ways unprecedented.

James Fallow writes in The Atlantic:

Many people may not be surprised because they have become...

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Devoid of issues, elections devolve into clash of personalities

Instead of discussing increasing violence against civilians, border skirmishes and the assassination of an Iranian general, Israeli politicians are busy putting out tasteless and tactless campaign videos attacking each other with name-calling.

It’s not just the occupation and Israel’s violation of basic rights that are missing from this election season, but any reference at all to the daily violence that has become such a routine feature in the country.

In the last 10 days alone, two Israeli citizens from the Bedouin city of Rahat were killed by police, 77 Palestinians from East Jerusalem and the West Bank – many of them children –  were made homeless due to Israeli home demolitions, a nine-year old Palestinian from East Jerusalem was arrested by undercover Israeli police, and 12 Israelis were stabbed on a public bus in central Tel Aviv.

And this doesn’t even include the latest news from Tuesday, when two rockets fired from Syria exploded in the Golan Heights, nine days after an Israeli helicopter strike on the Syrian city of Quneitra killed five, including a Hezbollah commander and an Iranian general.

That is a lot of violence, and these are just the more prominent incidents of recent days.

You wouldn’t know that any of this was happening by watching Israel’s election campaign, now in full swing. Most of the Jewish, Zionist parties vying for Knesset seats have not mentioned these incidents at all, and for those that have, it hasn’t become part of their campaign in any way. Sure, words like “security” and “strength” are thrown around, but they are entirely devoid of content. Everyone wants security; the question is how it can be achieved. The only mention of some of the recent violence came from Israeli Arab politicians, who said that the situation in Rahat was another determining factor in the push to create a joint list of Arab parties.

Instead of discussing the violence and offering concrete proposals for coping with it, Israeli politicians are busy putting out shoddy, tasteless and tactless campaign videos, like the one below released yesterday by the Labor party. The content of the video is based solely on the fact that Isaac Herzog’s nickname, “Buji,” sounds like the word boogie from the 1977 popular song, “Yes Sir, I Can Boogie.” That’s the only reason it was made. In the video, Herzog is called a “mega-nerd” devoid of “muscles,” but is also described...

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IDF commander dismisses Unit 8200 refuseniks

‘These operations, and not our letter, are what make military service political.’ The 43 reservist soldiers who refused to serve in the IDF respond to their dismissal. 

The commander of the IDF’s highly prestigious 8200 intelligence unit dismissed all 43 reservist soldiers who previously declared their refusal to serve in a letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu last September. The letter, which caused a great deal of controversy, cited Israel’s military rule over the Palestinian people in the occupied territories as a policy of choice, rather than of self-defense, which violates basic human rights.

In a letter addressed to the reservists, the commander wrote that their choice to refuse was “a mistake.” “You crossed a fine line that distinguishes between politics and military service, a separation line that allows us in the unit to continue providing quality intelligence for all the IDF’s needs and various security organization and the Israeli government,” Walla! quoted the letter as saying.

The reservists published a statement Monday afternoon responding to their dismissal:

We discovered that we were dismissed from our unit a few hours ago after reading about it in the news. None of us have received any notice from the unit or IDF. Unfortunately, the unit is choosing to cope with the claims we have raised by throwing us out of the unit, as if the harsh reality will disappear together with us. The testimonies that were published are not rumors, but our testimonies, first hand testimonies about our actions that were part of the routine of our service, from soldiers who served and believed in the unit…

The commander of the unit and the IDF Spokesperson do not deny that the needs of the military regime’s intelligence in the territories include gathering information about innocents without any restrictions, as well as blackmailing uninvolved individuals on the basis of medical information and their sexual tendencies. Indeed, as the unit commander says, there is a fine line that distinguishes between politics and the military: but these operations, and not our letter, are what make military service political.

At the time of its publishing, Prime Minister Netanyahu called the refusal latter “baseless slander,” while opposition leader, Labor Party chairman and now head of the “Zionist Camp” Isaac Herzog – himself a former 8200 unit soldier – condemned the move as a “call for subordination.”

8200 is considered an elite unit within the intelligence corps of...

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Arab parties announce joint slate for upcoming election

In a bid to remain relevant with an increased electoral threshold, the three Arab parties and Communist party Hadash are to run on one list in the March 17 elections.

In an unprecedented, historic move, Israel’s Arab parties Hadash, Balad, Ta’al and Ra’am announced late Thursday night that they will run on a joint slate named “The Joint List” in the upcoming March 17 election.

The list will be headed by the Arab-Jewish Hadash party’s Ayman Odeh, who was elected party chairman last week, followed by Masud Ghnaim of the Islamist Ra’am and Balad’s Jamal Zahalka in third place. Ahmed Tibi (Ta’al) will take the fourth place, followed by Aida Touma-Sliman from Hadash, the first woman on the list.

Abdel Hakim Haj Yahia (Ra’am) will take the sixth place, and Hanin Zoabi (Balad, and the second woman on list) will be placed number seven. Eighth place will go to Hadash’s Dov Khenin, the only Jewish member of the slate who is likely to be elected, followed by Ra’am’s Taleb Abu Arar.

Yousef Jabareen of Hadash will take the tenth place, followed by Bassel Ghattas (Balad). Ra’am and Ta’al agreed to a rotation for spot 12 and 15, while Balad’s Jum’a Azbarga and Abdullah Abu-Ma’arouf (Hadash) will rotate between spots 13 and 14.  

While the different Arab parties have historically run separately, a law spearheaded last year by Avigdor Liberman and Yair Lapid raised the election threshold to 3.25 percent (four seats), and effectively forced the parties to join forces in order to remain relevant. The new threshold has sparked a fierce debate about the possibility of giving an equal voice to all sectors of the Arab population, as well as the inclusion of Hadash’s Jewish members.

The parties began negotiations over the past dew days, after both Balad and Hadash elected their individual slates. The violent events in the Bedouin city Rahat, where two residents were killed by police, and the protests that came in their wake had an effect on the negotiations.

Following the announcement, MK Haneen Zoabi tweeted: “This is an historic achievement that will bolster the Arab public’s trust in their power and in the political game. [This is] the only democratic list in Israel: 100% for equality, 100% against occupation.” (My translation).

Most of the surveys have the list projected to receive 11 Knesset seats. According to a recent +972 poll, nearly 70 percent of Arabs citizens said...

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Palestinians in East Jerusalem go 10 months without water

Israel refuses to connect four neighborhoods in its self-declared capital to running water.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians in East Jerusalem have been cut off from a regular supply of running water for nearly a year due to to their location beyond Israel’s separation barrier.

Despite their location within the boundaries of Israel’s self-declared capital, the neighborhoods of Ras Shehada, Ras Khamis, Dahyat A’salam and the Shuafat Refugee Camp have been suffering from a severe water crisis since last March, when residents went three weeks without any water supply. They have been forced to buy water bottles at a high cost, and must limit their consumption by using electric pumps and industrial containers.

The High Court of Justice will hold a hearing tomorrow (Monday) to discuss the appeal filed last year by the residents and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI).

The Water Authority and the Ministry of Infrastructure have said that they do not intend to connect the houses in these neighborhoods to the water supply, but rather will expand the flow to the central pipelines. This, despite admitting themselves that it will not solve the problem for the roughly 80,000 residents living in these areas.

“Since the construction of the wall and the collapse of local infrastructure, the authorities have attempted time and time again to impose upon us the responsibility of providing residents with basic services in an area that forms part of Jerusalem, and whose residents are Jerusalemites,” says Jamil Sanduka, Chairman of the Ras Khamis Neighborhood Committee. ”We have already begun repairing the roads and building schools at our own expense, since the lack of support from the municipality has left us feeling desperate. But we have no way of providing ourselves with water. What do they expect of us? That we haul buckets of water on donkeys?”

The water crisis is just one example of the neglect suffered by Palestinian residents of Jerusalem living east of the separation barrier, who are not provided with basic services such as waste collection and ambulance services.

Even though Israel is responsible for surrounding these areas with the wall, its government has not taken responsibility for the welfare of its residents, who are part of the “eternal undivided capital” of Israel.

Related:
PHOTOS: 13 days without water in East Jerusalem
East Jerusalem Palestinians demand running water be restored

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Putting the Charlie Hebdo attack in context

The news from Paris hit like a punch to the stomach and to the heart. Ten employees of the satirical French magazine, Charlie Hebdo, were shot in cold blood for practicing freedom of expression. Two policemen were killed for trying to protect them. Eleven more were wounded. The killers screamed out Allahu Akbar. The thought that cartoonists and journalists can become anyone’s enemy, no matter how provocative and even racist their content, is outrageous.

The reactions and classifications were of course quick to pour in. Writing in The New YorkerAmy Davidson called it an attack on journalism everywhere:

On Twitter, Jeffrey Goldberg called it “possibly the most direct attack by Islamists on Western ideals to date” and penned an article called “Europe is Under Siege.“ The New York Times‘ Roger Cohen unleashed a rather visceral tweet:

 

To which Palestinian American writer and analyst Yousef Munayyer replied:

But there were also efforts on social media to contextualize the killings. For example, American novelist and LGBT activist Sarah Schulman wrote the following on her Facebook page:

In Israel, Channel 2 news analyst Arad Nir called it “France’s 9/11.” Prime Minister Netanyahu said of the attack that the “same extremist forces attacking Europe are attacking Israel. Israel stands by Europe – Europe should stand by Israel.” Netanyahu was clearly implying criticism of various European parliaments’ move to recognize Palestine in recent months. Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman used the incident to lump together the Islamic Movement in Israel, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, al-Qaeda and the Islamic State as all being exactly the same.

One reaction that caught my eye and I thought was an interesting perspective worth sharing was a Facebook status by a Palestinian citizen of Israel and Arabic teacher, Hanin Majadli. She wrote (my translation):

On the Charlie Hebdo attack:

I thought to open this post by condemning (as a Muslim) the terror attack that took place yesterday in France against a satirical newspaper that I...

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WATCH: Rightists campaign on hate, incitement and arrogance

Two different election campaign videos released by major right-wing candidates have one major thing in common: they are very clear about what and who they are against, yet indicate next to nothing about what they stand for.

In a highly incendiary video, Likud Knesset member Danny Danon, who was fired from his position as deputy defense minister for publicly slamming Netanyahu’s “restraint” during this past summer’s assault on Gaza, has released a campaign video in which he brands himself as “the real Likud.”

 

In the video Danon fashions himself as a no-nonsense sheriff in the Wild Wild West (Bank), whose first order of duty is to kick Haneen Zoabi out of the Knesset (which he has been gunning for since she took part in the Gaza flotilla in 2010). Zoabi is demonized as an Arab terrorist and murderer, seen in a room with posters of Hamas’ Ismail Haniyeh and former Balad leader Azmi Bishara (Bishara fled Israel after being accused of providing aid to Hezbollah in the 2006 Lebanon War). Even the song, a take on the American classic “Oh! Susanna,” is replaced by the words “Oh! Zoabi.” His entire video is based on his vendetta against a fellow Knesset member, which he manages to liken to the entire Palestinian people – who are all enemy terrorists. His message is one of hate, vengeance and intolerance.

“There are limits for any traitor,” he sings, and then presents himself as the “real Likud,” with former Prime Minister Menachem Begin (the one who signed a peace accord with Egypt) and Ze’ev Jabotinsky, the father of revisionist Zionism and the Likud’s spiritual leader, giving a thumbs up in the background.

Proving how patriotic he is, Danon then indicates that the “infiltrators” – referring to African refugees – will be kicked out, Israel will build many more settlements and he will take care of the Hamas tunnels “at any price.” And if some people don’t agree with his approach, well that’s too bad.  

Naftali Bennett, the chairman of the Jewish Home party, also released a video this week. In it he is mockingly dressed as a hipster in central Tel Aviv,...

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Hundreds rally against racist group 'Lehava' in Jerusalem

The rally comes after three members of the group were arrested as suspects in the arson attack against a mixed Jewish-Arab school.

Hundreds of people protested in West Jerusalem’s Zion Square Saturday night against racism and called to outlaw Lehava, a racist, anti-misegenation group . Three of its members were charged several days ago with an arson attack against a mixed Jewish-Arab school two weeks ago.

The protest was organized by a group of activists who identify as: “Jerusalem doesn’t stay silent in the face of racism.” Protesters held signs in Hebrew and Arabic that read “Stop the racism” and “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies.” They called out chants like “Lehava’s racism begins in the government” and “Jerusalem will not be silent; outlaw racism.”

Among the speakers at the protest was Murad Mana, whose child attends the bilingual Arab-Jewish school in the city which was burned exactly two weeks ago. He said, “We will not allow any bully to burn down our coexistence.”

+972 blogger Orly Noy, whose children also attend the bilingual school, also spoke at the rally. “This type of violence does not take place in a vacuum,” Noy told the crowd and wrote in a post later Saturday night (Hebrew). “It sprouts from a bed of growing deligitimization of the Palestinian population in Jerusalem, both inside Israel and in the occupied territories.”

Three Israelis arrested for the arson attack on the mixed Arab-Jewish school in Jerusalem two weeks ago are active members of Lehava, Israel’s Channel 2 reported Thursday, after a Shin Bet gag order was lifted on the case.

One of the suspects is from Jerusalem and the other two are brothers from the West Bank settlement Beitar Illit. The three reportedly admitted in their interrogation by the Shin Bet that they carried out the attack because they object to Arab-Jewish coexistence and that they hoped their act of arson would “raise public awareness” against the phenomenon.

In addition to the burning of a first grade classroom and its books, graffiti found on the school included: “death to Arabs,” “coexistence is a cancer,” “no to assimilation” and “Kahane was right.”

All these messages are explicitly identified with Lehava, whose leader, Benzi Gupstein, is a disciple of the late Meir Kahane. Kahane’s Kach party was disqualified from participating in Israeli elections in 1988 for inciting to racism, and was banned outright...

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High Court rules against Zoabi, upholds Knesset suspension

‘In effect, from this day forward, Arab Knesset members will be subject to the political judgements of the Jewish majority,’  MK Zoabi’s attorneys say.

The High Court of Justice on Wednesday rejected MK Haneen Zoabi’s appeal to overturn her six-month suspension from parliamentary discussions for a political opinion she expressed on the radio in June. As I reported yesterday, in deliberating her petition, the justices spent more time interpreting and judging Zoabi’s politics than whether the Knesset had the right to suspend her in the first place.

In its decision (Hebrew), the justices essentially chose “not to interfere” with the Knesset committee’s decision, and said they took into account that her suspension will end before the next election, it will not affect her ability to run.  The court agreed that Zoabi violated “rule 1a” of Knesset ethical conduct that a public trustee’s duty is to represent her electorate in a way that “promotes the good of the state.”

The justices wrote in their decision that while recognizing that her suspension is in fact extreme compared with past punishments, they are nonetheless ruling to uphold it ”in light of the petitioner’s harsh words and the timing in which she said them,” referring to the fact that Zoabi said in June that the Palestinian kidnappers of the three Israeli teenagers (before their fate was known) are “not terrorists.” (For her entire statement, read my previous report).

The justices ruled four in favor and one against, the latter being Israeli Arab Justice Salim Joubran.

Responding to the decision, Zoabi said:

Zoabi added that it is clear the Knesset Ethics Committee diverged from its authority in order to silence her, “and not just me but freedom of expression and freedom of protect of Palestinian citizens to protect inequality, oppression, racism and discrimination.”

Adalah and The Association for Civil Rights, who filed the petition on Zoabi’s behalf, said in a statement:

Unrelated to the ruling, ACRI published a report on Wednesday highlighting what it described as the violation of freedom of speech during Operation Protective Edge this past summer:

Related:
Why does the Israeli left oppose MK Haneen Zoabi?
The Israeli media’s hit job on MK Haneen Zoabi



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

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