+972 Magazine » Mairav Zonszein http://972mag.com Independent commentary and news from Israel & Palestine Sat, 20 Dec 2014 17:34:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8 Hundreds rally against racist group ‘Lehava’ in Jerusalem http://972mag.com/hundreds-rally-against-racist-group-lehava-in-jerusalem/99947/ http://972mag.com/hundreds-rally-against-racist-group-lehava-in-jerusalem/99947/#comments Sat, 13 Dec 2014 21:44:43 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=99947 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 rally against racist group ‘Lehava’ at Zion Square in central Jerusalem, December 13, 2014. (Photo by Activestills.org)

Hundreds of people rally against racist group ‘Lehava’ at Zion Square in central Jerusalem, December 13, 2014. (Photo by Activestills.org)

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.”

Hundreds of people rally against racist group ‘Lehava’ at Zion Square in central Jerusalem, December 13, 2014. (Photo by Activestills.org)

Hundreds of people rally against racist group ‘Lehava’ at Zion Square in central Jerusalem, December 13, 2014. (Photo by Activestills.org)

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.”

+972 blogger Orly Noy speaks at a rally against racist group ‘Lehava’ at Zion Square in central Jerusalem, December 13, 2014. (Photo by Activestills.org)

+972 blogger Orly Noy speaks at a rally against racist group ‘Lehava’ at Zion Square in central Jerusalem, December 13, 2014. (Photo by Activestills.org)

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.

A burned first-grade classroom at Jerusalem’s bilingual school after it was the target of an arson attack, November 30, 2014. (Photo by Activestills.org)

A burned first-grade classroom at Jerusalem’s bilingual school after it was the target of an arson attack, November 30, 2014. (Photo by Activestills.org)

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 in 1994. Kach is considered a terrorist organization by the United States.

Read also: Facing  right-wing violence, Israeli leftists learn to fight back

Since the summer, groups of Lehava activists have become a regular staple in downtown Jerusalem, where they go around making racist remarks against Palestinian pedestrians and taxi drivers, sometimes physically attacking them. And although the group claims to be strictly committed to advocating against Jewish assimilation and intermarriage in Israel, its activities are rife with incitement to violence and racism. Just last month they urged Israeli soldiers to shoot Palestinians in the head.

This is not the first time Lehava has been directly tied to acts of violence. In September, two Palestinians from East Jerusalem, Amir Shwiki and Samer Mahfouz, were beaten badly by a group of Jewish Israelis, several of them identified as activists with Lehava.

Jerusalem mixed school set on fire in arson attack
Palestinian-Jewish couple hires wedding security for fear of anti-miscegenation group
We will overcome: Arson and mourning at Jerusalem’s bilingual school

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High Court rules against Zoabi, upholds Knesset suspension http://972mag.com/high-court-rules-against-zoabi-upholds-knesset-suspension/99916/ http://972mag.com/high-court-rules-against-zoabi-upholds-knesset-suspension/99916/#comments Wed, 10 Dec 2014 15:30:54 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=99916 ‘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:

I was elected to the Knesset by popular vote, not out of charity. In the name of the Basic Laws and in the name of justice, the High Court should have defended my right to express my political opinions, which are outside the consensus, and to protect a minority’s representative from the tyranny of an aggressive majority. Unfortunately, the discussion was political and sensational and the High Court capitulated to political pressures instead of representing the law and protecting freedom of speech and the right of all citizens to equal representation.

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:

This is a dangerous precedent. For the first time ever, the court has decided that the majority can judge the minority solely on the basis of its political expressions – and impose radical sanctions ... In effect, from this day forward, Arab Knesset members will be subject to the political judgements of the Jewish majority.” 

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:

This was particularly the case with regard to criticism of the military operation: police arrested some 1,500 demonstrators; city mayors attempted to prevent public protests; violent groups of nationalist thugs beat protesters; universities limited the freedom of speech of students and teachers; Arab employees were fired as a result of statements made about the conflict; and social media users attempted to “police” online discourse and sanction those whose comments deviated from the national consensus.

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

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The Knesset v. Zoabi: Israeli Arab MK’s politics put on trial http://972mag.com/trial-over-zoabi-suspension-turns-political/99770/ http://972mag.com/trial-over-zoabi-suspension-turns-political/99770/#comments Tue, 09 Dec 2014 18:44:39 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=99770 The High Court spent most of Tuesday’s hearing questioning Zoabi’s politics rather than deliberating whether the Knesset had the right to suspend her in the first place.

Israel’s High Court of Justice held a discussion Tuesday morning over Knesset member Haneen Zoabi’s (Balad) petition to overrule a decision to suspend her from parliamentary debates for six months. The decision was put into effect by the Knesset Ethics Committee on July 29 and is due to expire at the end of January 2015. Tuesday’s session ended without a decision, but justices said one would be made in the coming days.

MK Haneen Zoabi speaks to a crowd at the Rogatka bar in Tel Aviv. (photo: Activestills.org)

MK Haneen Zoabi speaks to a crowd at the Rogatka bar in Tel Aviv. (photo: Activestills.org)

The suspension was implemented based on statements Zoabi made during a radio interview in June about the abduction of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank (before their fate was known). Here is what she said:

Is it really strange that the people who live under occupation and who do not live a normal life but live in a reality in which Israel kidnaps detainees on a daily basis; is it strange that these people commit a kidnapping? They are not terrorists, even if I do not agree with their actions, these people do not have any escape, any escape….These people do not see a possibility to change this reality, and so they are forced to use these means until Israel behaves a little, until Israel’s society and Israeli citizens behave a little, until they look at the suffering and feel the suffering of others.

Despite stating she does not support the abduction, and in principle opposes any acts of harm against civilians, her refusal to call the kidnappers “terrorists” led Israeli politicians to claim that she violated the Knesset’s code of conduct and therefore can be suspended (the code normally relates to statements made inside the Knesset). At the time, Zoabi tried to explain in the Hebrew media that she refuses to use the word “terrorists,” as it reflects a unilateral Israeli point of view that portrays Israelis as the sole victims.

The petition, filed on Zoabi’s behalf by Adalah, an NGO dedicated to the rights of Israel’s Palestinian citizens, and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), argues that that the suspension violates her right to freedom of speech. The petition further claimed that it is not within the Ethics Committee’s jurisdiction to limit an MK’s activities.

According to Adalah, this is the harshest penalty ever imposed by the committee in the history of the Knesset concerning a single statement. It is also the first time that the committee has imposed a punishment for a statement that did not include any threats, incitement, contempt, slander or defamation:

The harshest punishment imposed by the committee against a member of Knesset based on political statements was the suspension of MK Aryeh Eldad from all Knesset meetings for only one day, because of his statement against the Sharon-Olmert government, saying: ‘Whoever relinquishes an area under Israeli sovereignty must be killed.’

According to some present in the courtroom, the judges spent most of the time interpreting Zoabi’s statement and politics rather than deliberating whether the committee had the right to make such a decision.

Read: The Israeli media’s hit job on MK Haneen Zoabi

Haaretz reporter Revital Hovel, who was in the courtroom, tweeted one of the justices remarks: “I don’t understand how a person who proclaims to be an advocate for non-violence can say about someone who kidnaps children that they are not terrorists.”

Responding to the nature of the court’s discussion Tuesday, Zoabi told the press:

What I do is the right of any Knesset member and I believe and hope that the judges will discuss the matter at hand, since they are the last gatekeeper of human rights, democracy and equality. I will continue my fight. The fascist right wingers are the ones who should be in court.

Adalah Attorney Hassan Jabarin said that if the justices do not decide to rescind the decision to suspend Zoabi, it could pave the way for other Jewish Knesset members to “punish” representatives of the Arab minority for their political opinions.

Balad party chairman Jamal Zahalka said “there is no parliament in the world in which the freedom of speech of one of its members is more restricted than that of a citizen.”

MK Jamal Zahalka (Balad) marches along with thousands of people march through Jerusalem in support and solidarity with the Max Rayne “Hand in Hand” bilingual school, which was the target of a racist arson attack a week earlier, Jerusalem, December 5, 2014. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

MK Jamal Zahalka (Balad) marches along with thousands of people march through Jerusalem in support and solidarity with the Max Rayne “Hand in Hand” bilingual school, which was the target of a racist arson attack a week earlier, Jerusalem, December 5, 2014. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Once the discussion ended, Itamar Ben Gvir, a well-known far-right activist and attorney (who is currently representing the suspects in the arson attack on the bilingual school in Jerusalem) and other rightists accosted Zoabi in the hallway of the Supreme Court. In this video some of them are heard calling Zoabi a “terrorist” as she walks out of court.

Zoabi became a target for the Israeli right following her participation in the first Gaza flotilla in 2010. Despite the fact that no charges were brought against her, Zoabi was stripped of some of her parliamentary privileges at the time and was attacked in the Knesset by some right-wing members. In 2012 the Supreme Court reversed the Central Election Committee’s decision to prevent Zoabi from running in the election. Right-wing MKs, chief among them the Likud’s Miri Regev and Danny Danon, have vowed that they will continue their efforts to disqualify Zoabi and her party from participating in Israeli elections.

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

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‘Anyone but Bibi’ isn’t the point: Pre-election postulations http://972mag.com/anyone-but-bibi-isnt-the-point-pre-election-postulations/99676/ http://972mag.com/anyone-but-bibi-isnt-the-point-pre-election-postulations/99676/#comments Sun, 07 Dec 2014 14:14:39 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=99676 It is naive for the Israeli peace camp to think that deposing Netanyahu will bring about peace or even get us closer.

Now that early elections are almost certainly going to be held on March 17, rumors have begun spreading like wildfire about the myriad possibilities of parties teaming up and the various frontrunners who will be vying to dethrone Prime Minister Netanyahu. There are many pieces in the puzzle, and it is hard to keep up or know how things will actually pan out. But one thing is already clear: the most popular theme of this election is the “Anyone but Bibi” slogan.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (photo: Activestills.org)

Will anyone be able to dethrone Netanyahu? (photo: Activestills.org)

Over the weekend, Tzipi Livni (Hatnua) and opposition leader Isaac “Buji” Herzog (Labor) held talks about forming a united “center-left” list in which Herzog will be number 1 and Livni number 2. There are rumors that former Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz from Kadima may also join. Internal polls show that such a list could garner 24 Knesset seats, beating Likud’s projected 22. Their only vision for the country at this point appears to be “Just not Bibi.”

Herzog and Livni both declared in recent days that they are ripe to be Israel’s next prime minister. Speaking at the Saban Forum in Washington, D.C., Herzog explicitly promised to head the next Israeli government, and announced he would be willing to form a coalition of parties spanning “Liberman to Meretz.”

With those three words, Herzog excluded the possibility of governing in cooperation with any Arab parties and revealed he has no political vision, since as far as Jewish parties go, Yisrael Beiteinu and Meretz represent opposite ends of the spectrum.

And Livni, the same Livni who has consistently marketed herself as the “peace” candidate (or more accurately the “peace process” candidate) even as she sat in successive governments that led the country into murderous, destructive and ineffective wars, and who nevertheless chose to sit in the current coalition with Netanyahu – this Livni is now trying to run as an alternative to Netanyahu?

Isaac 'Buji' Herzog. (photo: Activestills.org)

Isaac ‘Buji’ Herzog will likely join forces with Tzipi Livni to form a center-left bloc in the upcoming elections. (photo: Activestills.org)

Meanwhile Naftali Bennett, who heads the Jewish Home party, has his heart set on being the next defense minister, so he is strengthening his ties to Netanyahu and placing his bets on another Netanyahu-led Likud win. Liberman has been strangely quiet. Gideon Sa’ar, the former interior minister who resigned from political life in mid-September is now reportedly trying to defeat Netanyahu in Likud primaries scheduled for next month. There’s a man whose word you can trust.

Moreover there are still rumors that Netanyahu is securing a partnership with the ultra-Orthodox parties and may even try to avoid elections at the last minute – which would mean by Monday, when the final vote on dissolving the Knesset takes place.

Former Likud minister Moshe Kahlon is the wild card in this election who may be the surprise big winner with the new, yet-unnamed party he is now forming. As communications minister in the previous Netanyahu government, he introduced competition into the cellular phone market and is now known and liked for having reduced every Israeli citizen’s monthly phone bills. Although he is a firm right-winger (he got his start in politics working for Uzi Landau, one of the more hawkish Likud members who is now with Yisrael Beiteinu), it is not clear whether he will team up with parties to the right or to the left of him. Either way, he will be pushing himself as the anti-monopoly candidate who cares about the interests of the working class.

Moshe Kahlon is likely to be a front-runner in the upcoming elections. (Activestills.org)

Moshe Kahlon, the wild card in the upcoming election, will likely push a working-class agenda. (Activestills.org)

One of the interesting and promising developments of this election cycle is the possibility of a united Arab list. The various Arab parties met last week to discuss forming a united bloc for the election, primarily because the new election threshold of 3.25 percent (100,000 votes) will be nearly impossible to reach if they each go it alone. Hadash, the Jewish-Arab party that is consistently popular among the non-Zionist Israeli left has already said it would not join such a list since it is not strictly an Arab party.

Two polls conducted in the last week shows that 65 percent of Israelis do not want Netanyahu to be prime minister again, while 30 percent still maintain they do. Either way, many on the center and the center-left are waving the “anyone but Netanyahu” flag. Peace Now Director Yariv Oppenheimer, for example, said as much on his Facebook page.

But that very mantra could just as easily lead to a government that is more explicitly to the right of Netanyahu, or centrist parties whose policies are essentially not that different from those of Netanyahu. They may push less settlement construction and less friction with the U.S. and EU, but would continue the status quo of occupation, hyper-capitalism and exclusion of Arabs. A Labor-Livni style coalition is likely even worse than an explicitly right-wing one, as it would be a center-right government in center-left clothing.

As my colleague Orly Noy wrote on her Facebook page the other day, after Meretz Party leader Zehava Gal-On made it clear the party would never sit in a coalition with Netanyahu (paraphrasing): “That’s great and all, but I prefer to vote for a party whose leader doesn’t feel the need to make such proclamations, since sitting in a coalition with Bibi shouldn’t even be a consideration to begin with.” This sums up the problem with the “Anyone but Bibi” campaign.

Besides, it gives Netanyahu way too much credit. For most of the last five years, Netanyahu’s rule has been characterized by doing nothing except keeping the wheels of the status quo in motion. It is naive for the Israeli peace camp to think that deposing Netanyahu will bring about peace or even get us closer.

This whole election cycle creates an illusion of optimism – a chance for a real transformation – while ignoring all the issues that require serious changes: human rights, equal rights, freedom of speech and protest, and Arab-Jewish partnership. None of these, of course, can be properly addressed without ending the infrastructure of occupation.

More on the upcoming elections:
Israel’s elections: A referendum on Netanyahu
Can Kahlon be the next prime minister of Israel?

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Like school arsonists, Netanyahu rejects Arab-Jewish coexistence http://972mag.com/like-school-arsonists-netanyahu-rejects-arab-jewish-coexistence/99488/ http://972mag.com/like-school-arsonists-netanyahu-rejects-arab-jewish-coexistence/99488/#comments Mon, 01 Dec 2014 13:59:26 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=99488 The prime minister’s reaction — or lack thereof — to the arson attack against Jerusalem’s bilingual school reflects what can only be understood as contempt for Palestinian-Israeli partnership. 

The arsonists who set fire to the Arab-Jewish bilingual school in Jerusalem Saturday night decided to pile up the first graders’ books and burn them in the middle of the classroom. Jews burned books. Belonging to six years olds. In Israel’s capital.

All Israeli citizens should feel they were targeted. A premeditated, intentional act aimed at instilling horror and fear into a small minority of Palestinians and Israelis whose only crime is an attempt at living in partnership and equality. An act of terror. It is reflective of nothing less than a national crisis.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not see fit to issue a special statement, nor did he find it necessary to visit the school. He sufficed with this condemnation at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday:

We are making great efforts to restore calm and tranquility to Jerusalem. Of course, we will not tolerate attacks from any quarter and we will not tolerate setting fire to a bilingual school as we saw last night. We condemn any such attempt and we will act as vigorously – and with as much unity – as possible to restore quiet and law and order in all parts of the city.

He couched his statement in the larger context of unrest in Jerusalem. Netanyahu does not see the burning of schoolchildren’s books and a first-grade classroom as a stand-alone incident worthy of independent mention. It is on the same level as Palestinians throwing stones at soldiers who control their movement from behind shields and walls and armored vehicles. Jewish citizens in the Jewish state burned Jewish books. He can’t blame this one on Mahmoud Abbas – so I guess he has nothing to say.

Read also: ‘We will overcome’: A parent’s response to the school arson

What is most striking about Netanyahu’s statement is that he doesn’t even make an attempt at expressing empathy. He does not directly address the children, whose safety and confidence have been shaken, or the parents and school staff, who must at once cope with their fears of a next time while assuring the kids that their way of life is a secure and acceptable.

How does the leader of a country not find it fitting to visit these kids? Or to at least address them directly? Maybe because such an act serves his own agenda of keeping Palestinians and Israelis as hateful and segregated as possible. Maybe because showing empathy for Palestinian-Israeli partnership challenges his sole achievement as prime minister over the past five years: preserving occupation, discrimination and violence.

In the current state of Israeli politics, the very existence of a community of Palestinians and Israelis in Jerusalem who seek to study, live and work together — rising above ethnic, religious and nationalist conflict — is the most subversive act imaginable. It undermines all the policies the government is pushing: most blatantly, the recent Jewish Nation-State bill, which seeks to codify the de facto reality of Jewish privilege over Palestinians.

Putting aside the attack on Arabs, the incident is an intra-Jewish national tragedy that reflects a real sickness in Israeli society. If, as Netanyahu recently said, it is critical to enshrine Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, isn’t it of utmost urgency that the people within that nation state learn to respect one another?

‘We will overcome’: Arson and mourning at Jerusalem’s bilingual school
Why is Jewish violence always a reaction to Palestinian violence?

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Jerusalem mixed school set on fire in apparent arson attack http://972mag.com/jerusalem-bilingual-school-set-on-fire-in-alleged-arson-attack/99391/ http://972mag.com/jerusalem-bilingual-school-set-on-fire-in-alleged-arson-attack/99391/#comments Sat, 29 Nov 2014 20:14:27 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=99391 The largest Arab-Jewish educational institution in Israel has been targeted several times in the past.

Firefighters in a classroom that was set on fire in the bilingual Hand In Hand school in Jerusalem, November 29, 2014. (Photo by Tali Mayer/Activestills.org)

Firefighters in a classroom that was set on fire in the bilingual Hand In Hand school in Jerusalem, November 29, 2014. (Photo by Tali Mayer/Activestills.org)

Jerusalem’s bilingual Arab-Jewish school was set on fire Saturday night, and hate speech was sprayed on its walls with the messages: “Kahane was right” and “There is no coexistence with cancer.” One classroom was totally consumed while another was partially burned, as well as a stack of books.

Read also: ‘We will overcome’: Arson and mourning at J’lem bilingual school

Most schools in Israel serve Jews or Arabs separately, in addition to separation between secular and religious students. Mixed schools are the exception and there are only a small number of them, most of which are private.

Graffiti sprayed on Jerusalem's bilingual school reads: "There is no coexistence with a cancer." (photo: Jerusalem Firefighters)

Graffiti sprayed on Jerusalem’s bilingual school reads: “There is no coexistence with a cancer.” (photo: Jerusalem Firefighters)

Graffiti sprayed on Jerusalem's bilingual school reads: "Kahane was right." (photo: Jerusalem Firefighters)

Graffiti sprayed on Jerusalem’s bilingual school reads: “Kahane was right.” (photo: Jerusalem Firefighters)

The Max Rayne Hand in Hand school, which serves 624 Palestinian and Jewish students from East and West Jerusalem, pre-kindergarten to 12th grade, is the largest Arab-Jewish cultural institution in Israel. It has been the target of several hate crimes in recent months, including during the summer’s Gaza War. Students responded at the time by writing “Partnership; Love; Fraternity” on their walls.

Parents of students at the school gathered there Saturday night to set up alternative spaces for the classrooms damaged and hung up signs like, “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies,” which will greet the kids when they arrive at school tomorrow morning. A rally in support of the kids and the staff will be held at 8 a.m. at the entrance to the school.

Shuli Dichter, director of Hand in Hand, which operates five such bilingual schools in Israel, said in a statement:

This is not the first act of aggression against the school and our commitment to civil partnership. Even if it succeed in dirtying our walls, it cannot destroy our enterprise. In addition to sharply condemning the act and showing support, we invite the public in Israel to join us in building civil partnership between Arabs and Jews in Israel.

Education Minister Shay Piron issued a statement condemning the attack:

This is a violent, heinous, criminal act aimed at damaging the foundations of Israeli democracy. The fact that this was an arson attack on an educational institution that raises the banner of coexistence constitutes a severe blow to the relationship between Arabs and Jews. It is especially grave considering they chose to hurt the underbelly of Israeli society: A nursery school where young, innocent kids study. I call on the Israel Police to act immediately to bring these criminals to justice.

Jerusalem posters call to ban Arab workers
Settler violence: It comes with the territory
Last Arab-Jewish public school in Israel may close its doors

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Jerusalem posters call to ban Arab workers http://972mag.com/jerusalem-posters-call-to-ban-arab-workers/99060/ http://972mag.com/jerusalem-posters-call-to-ban-arab-workers/99060/#comments Fri, 21 Nov 2014 22:35:59 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=99060 Posters reading “Jews only employ Jews” were spotted near the entrance to Jerusalem Friday, three days after two Palestinians killed five Israelis in an attack on a Jerusalem synagogue.

'Jews only employ Jews' poster in Jerusalem, Nov 21, 2014 (Photo: Guy Butavia)

‘Jews only employ Jews’ poster in Jerusalem, Nov 21, 2014 (Photo: Guy Butavia)

Above the slogan in smaller letters, at the top of the Israeli flag-shaped poster, it reads: “Biblical law determines” and at the bottom it reads: “Did you know?! The terrorists that committed the massacre in Har Nof – were employed in the synagogue and its surroundings.” One of the attackers indeed was reported to have worked in a grocery store next to the synagogue.

Whoever crafted the racist message grounded it in both religious scripture and practical empiricism.

Another poster found in the same area reads: “Employed an Arab? You endangered a Jew!”

"Did you employ an Arab? You endangered a Jew!' Poster in Jerusalem (Photo: Guy Butavia)

“Employed an Arab? You endangered a Jew!’ Poster in Jerusalem (Photo: Guy Butavia)

These messages echo the decision by the mayor of the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon a day earlier to ban Israeli Arab construction workers from jobs in and around schools in the name of security. The legality of his decision is in question and politicians from across the right-wing spectrum were quick to denounce the move as unacceptable. Prime Minister Netanyahu said discrimination won’t be tolerated, while Minister of the Economy Naftali Bennett said that 99.9 percent of Israeli Arab citizens are loyal (read: reliable cheap labor).

Reactions were so strong and across the board that it honestly felt at one point as if the mayor’s ban was a ploy to enable all these politicians the opportunity to resolutely declare to the Israeli public that the country is not anti-Arab – even as it prepares to push forward on Sunday the “Jewish nation state” bill in a version that does not guarantee equal rights for its non-Jewish citizens (the 20 percent of the population that is Palestinian).

However, a poll by Israel’s Channel 10 showed that 58 percent of Israelis supported the move (with 32 percent against), and several Ashkelon residents told TV reporters they are in favor. One young mother said she felt the move made her feel safer dropping her kids off at school, adding: “I have no problem with the Arab sector. Some of them are perfectly fine.” Another said, “I’d rather be racist than be a victim.”

UPDATE: I discovered a Facebook page called “Fighting for our country, for ourselves” which is filled with anti-Arab messaging, including this photo taken at a store (location unknown) with a sign reading: “Arabs not employed  here.” Many comments from Israelis on the photo express disgust and disdain, and while the photo has over 8,500 likes, the page itself only has around 600.

'We don't employ Arabs here,' photo of sign uploaded to Facebook page.

‘We don’t employ Arabs here,’ photo of sign uploaded to Facebook page.

Five killed in attack on Jerusalem synagogue
Welcome to Netanyahu’s ‘resolution’ to the conflict

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WATCH: Soldiers protect settlers attacking West Bank village http://972mag.com/watch-soldiers-protect-settlers-attacking-west-bank-village/99018/ http://972mag.com/watch-soldiers-protect-settlers-attacking-west-bank-village/99018/#comments Wed, 19 Nov 2014 16:54:35 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=99018 Following the horrific terror attack in Jerusalem, IDF soldiers escort masked settlers as they pelt the village of Urif with stones.

A group of about 50 — mostly masked — settlers from Yitzhar attacked Palestinians in the West Bank village Urif on Tuesday night under the protection and escort of IDF soldiers, Israeli human rights NGO Yesh Din reported.

Video footage of the incident, which took place just hours after the horrific terror attack on a Jerusalem synagogue, clearly shows IDF soldiers not only doing nothing to stop the assault on Palestinians, but in fact guarding the settlers as they throw stones.

Some of the soldiers appear to fire crowd-dispersal weapons at young Palestinians who gathered on the edge of the village. A 13-year-old student from the village school was lightly wounded by a stone thrown at his head, according to Yesh Din.

In the video below, at minute 00:54, a masked Israeli settler can be seen hurling a stone in the direction of Palestinians, standing safely behind the soldiers, who look on.

Yesh Din, which has been monitoring the recently established Nationalistic Crimes Unit, an Israeli police unit meant to deal specifically with settler violence against Palestinians, found that in the two years since the unit’s establishment, the number of investigations that led to indictments has actually gone down. Since 2005, a mere 7.4 percent of investigation files led to indictments of Israeli civilians suspected of attacking Palestinians and their property.

According to the organization, Tuesday’s attack is just the latest example of the IDF’s failure to meet its obligation to protect Palestinian residents of the West Bank, which it is expected to do under international law as an occupying force.

“Once again we discover IDF soldiers failing to meet their obligation to protect Palestinians subjected to vicious attacks by settlers in their own backyards,” said attorney Emily Schaeffer Omer-Man, legal advisor to Yesh Din’s criminal accountability of Israeli security forces project.

“The disturbing video footage demands vigorous investigation and the immediate prosecution of the soldiers involved. An examination must also be carried out of whether the soldiers’ commanders bear liability for the conduct of their subordinates,” she added.

Read also:
WATCH: IDF soldiers escort settlers attacking Palestinian village
Settler violence: It comes with the territory
Just another day of settler violence, IDF acquiescence

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Conflicting reports on death of Palestinian found hanged http://972mag.com/conflicting-reports-on-cause-of-death-of-palestinian-found-hanged/98918/ http://972mag.com/conflicting-reports-on-cause-of-death-of-palestinian-found-hanged/98918/#comments Mon, 17 Nov 2014 21:14:45 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=98918 It is still unclear whether Yusuf Hassan al-Ramouni took his own life or had it taken from him. What is clear is that Palestinians have every reason to doubt the police’s credibility.

The minute news came out late Sunday night that a Palestinian man was found hanged at an Egged bus depot in Jerusalem, Twitter was awash with speculations as to whether it was suicide or murder. Israel Police quickly issued a statement that it did not suspect foul play. ”According to an initial investigation, it appears there is no suspicion of criminal activity, in other words a suicide,” police spokeswoman Luba Samri told the press.

But photos of the body of Yusuf Hassan al-Ramouni, 32, began circulating on Twitter showing bruises on his body indicating he was attacked before being hanged. The Palestinian Ma’an News Agency (Arabic) reported witnesses who claim six Israeli settlers attacked al-Ramouni, who worked as an Egged bus driver. Many Palestinians, including his family, insist this was not suicide but rather a lynch by Jews.

By around 5 p.m. on Monday, Israeli news sites reported that the autopsy – which was conducted at the Abu Kabir Forensic Institute, and included the participation of a Palestinian pathologist selected by al-Ramouni’s family – was completed and affirmed that there was no murder. Israel Police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld tweeted assuredly that “findings are-incident not criminal related whatsoever.”

However, a Palestinian medical expert told Ma’an that the findings of the autopsy indicate that al-Ramouni did not die by suicide, but was in fact the victim of an “organized crime,” since, for example, “there was no dislocation in the first cervical vertebrae, which is usually found in cases of suicide by hanging.” The Palestinian new site Arabs 48 also reported these findings in more detail. The medical expert told Ma’an that more lab work was necessary to reach conclusive findings, which could take several months.

While we cannot yet confirm what exactly the circumstances of al-Ramouni’s death were, one cannot help but think of Israeli reactions to Mohammed Abu Khdeir’s brutal murder by immolation in July by Jewish extremists: rumors immediately circulated that he was killed by fellow Palestinians for being gay. Because the police had put a strict gag order on the case, the rumors were not immediately denied until suspects were found and it became clear that he was murdered for being Palestinian.

It is also important to note that Palestinian bus drivers who work for Egged have been assaulted several times in the past. According to a Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem I spoke to, several incidents took place during the Gaza War which were not reported on at all. Therefore when Palestinians heard al-Ramouni was found hanged at the bus terminal, it was not at all far-fetched for them to assume he was attacked by Jews. On Monday evening, Arab drivers for the Egged bus company in Jerusalem walked off the job in protest.

Furthermore, past experience proves there is no reason for Palestinians to trust the Israeli authorities. Quite the contrary. Both the police and the military often ignore complaints from Palestinians, and almost always fail to prosecute. According to Yesh Din, 92 percent of complaints filed by Palestinians in the West Bank against Israeli civilians are closed without indictment.

Most recently, police lied about the circumstances of the shooting of Palestinian citizen Khir Hamdan in Kafr Kanna, providing several versions of events until video footage proved he did not pose a threat when he was shot and no warning shots were fired.

Investigation of Abu Khdeir murder tainted by racism
Border cop arrested for Nakba Day killing, debunking IDF tales

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Border cop arrested for Nakba Day killing, debunking IDF tales http://972mag.com/border-cop-arrested-for-nakba-day-killing-debunking-idf-tales/98670/ http://972mag.com/border-cop-arrested-for-nakba-day-killing-debunking-idf-tales/98670/#comments Wed, 12 Nov 2014 11:34:48 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=98670 The arrest appears to prove what footage and family indicated from the start: Live bullets were fired at protestors, unlawfully, as the victims posed no immediate threat.

Screenshot of CNN footage showing what appears to be a Border Police officer shooting at demonstrators in Beitunia on Nakba Day, May 15, 2014. In the video, a puff of smoke and shell can be seen coming from the third-to-left officer’s weapon.

Screenshot of CNN footage showing what appears to be a Border Police officer shooting at demonstrators in Beitunia on Nakba Day, May 15, 2014. In the video, a puff of smoke and shell can be seen coming from the third-to-left officer’s weapon.

A Border Police officer was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of shooting Nadim Syam Nuwara (17) with live ammunition, one of two Palestinian teenagers killed during Nakba Day protests in the West Bank village of Beitunia last May. The border policeman is being charged with murder and his commander is also facing charges for not reporting the incident.

The shootings, which were caught on film by CCTV cameras, showed that the protesters posed no immediate threat to the soldiers at the time they were shot. It was unclear whether the policeman was also implicated in the killing of Mohammad Mahmoud Odeh, 16, who was killed under nearly identical circumstances in the same place on the same day. The investigation into the incident is being conducted by a unit with the police force.

At the time, the IDF insisted that no live bullets were fired, and that it only used crowd dispersal methods (which in the West Bank, includes rubber bullets). Israeli military investigators even claimed that the shots may have been fired by the Palestinian side, rather than by Israeli troops. Some top Israeli officials even went as far as suggesting the video was forged or tendentiously edited.

Although technically part of the Israel Police, the Border Police is often deployed under the command of the IDF in the West Bank. Many Border Police officers are army conscripts.

But the head of the Ramallah emergency room that treated the youths, Dr. Samir Saliba, stated in his medical report at the time that the internal damage and the exit wound could have only been caused by live fire. An autopsy on Nawara’s body, requested by his family, also indicated live fire was used and CNN provided footage that showed a Border Police officer shooting at the exact moment Nawara was shot.

In the CNN video below, a puff of smoke can be seen coming from the weapon of the border policeman third to the left, and a shell can be seen flying from his rifle at minute mark 1:53-1:52.

B’tselem’s initial findings at the time led to the “grave suspicion that forces willfully killed” the two and injured two others.

Responding to news of the arrest on Wednesday, B’Tselem spokesperson Sarit Michaeli told +972 that the authorities are now admitting they provided erroneous information at the time. “We demand an apology from all the politicians and reporters who slandered B’Tselem for providing information and sticking up for the truth from the start.”

The details of the investigation are still under gag order, but according to a report in Haaretz, all the soldiers and police officers investigated at the time denied using live fire.

What led to the arrest Tuesday was a bullet found in Nawara’s backpack, which led investigators to the gun it was fired from. It is unclear why it took six months to make the arrest, since the bullet was provided immediately after the shooting.

Beitunia killings and the media’s incredibly high bar for Palestinian stories
Truth, tapes and two dead Palestinians
Details of Palestinian deaths jeopardize a system of denial

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