+972 Magazine » Mairav Zonszein http://972mag.com Independent commentary and news from Israel & Palestine Wed, 25 May 2016 20:03:27 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8 Border Police assault Arab supermarket employee in central Tel Aviv http://972mag.com/plainclothes-border-policemen-beat-arab-worker-in-central-tel-aviv/119492/ http://972mag.com/plainclothes-border-policemen-beat-arab-worker-in-central-tel-aviv/119492/#comments Sun, 22 May 2016 16:22:21 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=119492 Eyewitnesses say Border Police officers attacked an Arab worker in central Tel Aviv after he allegedly refused to show them his identity card. Police: The suspect refused to identify himself and attacked the police officers, biting one of them.

Screen shot of Border Police allegedly beating Arab worker outside central Tel Aviv supermarket.

Screen shot of Border Police allegedly beating Arab worker outside central Tel Aviv supermarket.

An Arab employee of a supermarket located on the main thoroughfare of Ibn Gvirol Street, opposite Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square, was reportedly beaten by plainclothes Border Police officers on Sunday afternoon. According to several eyewitnesses, the motive behind the beating was the employee’s ethnicity.

While it is still unclear what exactly happened, we do have several eyewitnesses who posted statuses on Facebook, one of whom spoke to +972, as well as a report published by Israeli news sites, among them Walla! . According to these sources,  an employee of Yuda Market, a mini-market, went out to dispose of some garbage, when he was approached by a plainclothes officer who, without identifying himself, demanded to see the man’s identity card. When the employee said his I.D. card was inside the store and asked the Border Police officer to identify himself, he and a friend began beating him. More officers and other citizens quickly joined in. The video published by Walla! shows there were numerous people involved in the assault.

This is an excerpt from the Facebook status of Erez Krispin, one of the eyewitnesses:

[It was] the kind of beating you never see in real life. Teeth are flying, the Arab is beaten to a pulp. An elderly woman asks them what they are doing and they yell at her to fuck off before they finish her off as well (while witnesses are standing around), the police arrive and join in on the beating. Everything, including cursing at the elderly woman, takes place while bystanders are watching. I have no idea if the Arab man is alive. They pushed whatever was left of him into the police car, not an ambulance, and disappeared. Later on it emerged that the two men were Border Police officers (who never identified themselves, of course).

“His only sin was that he’s not a Jew,” said Kobi Cohen, the owner of the supermarket, to a reporter from Walla! News. +972 has tried to contact Cohen for comment but he has not yet responded.

Israel Police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld told +972:

“Due to the wave of terror, and in general as part of internal security activities, Israeli police are working tirelessly to find and expel Palestinians who don’t have work permits, for the security of the public. Based on an initial investigation, it seems that Border Police officer recognized a young man who aroused their suspicion, and they asked him to identify himself. The suspect refused to identify himself and attacked the police officers, even biting one of them. In order to arrest him, the policemen had to use force while the suspect continued attacking them.”

“As a result of the intensity of the violence against them, the two police officers sought medical assistance at Ichilov Hospital, after suffering bruises and bite marks. In coordination with police protocol, and as is acceptable in situations in which police must use force in order to do their job, all relevant materials will be sent to the Department of Internal Investigations. Israeli police will continue to act decisively against anyone who threatens Israeli lives.”

The police response does not confirm or deny the fact that the man is, according to his employer, an Israeli citizen, a Bedouin from a Negev town. This would counter the claim that he was a Palestinian without a work permit Given the number of people seen in the video beating this one man, it is not surprising that some of the policemen were bruised in the fracas.

According to a local Palestinian media outlet, his name is Maysam Abu-Alqi’an. He was reportedly treated at Ichilov hospital, Sunday evening.

Joint List Chairman Ayman Odeh responded to the incident, saying that ”Instead of serving and protecting Arab citizens, the police presents a genuine danger to their safety.”

MK Dov Khenin, also of the Joint List, said he has turned to the Minister of Public Security with an urgent request to clarify what happened. Khenin said, “from the looks of it, this appears to be a lynch in broad daylight, an assault on an innocent citizen by police, just because he is Arab.” He went on to say this is part of a broad trend: “A direct line links Prime Minister Netanyahu’s incitement on election day about the ‘Arabs moving in droves,’ and phenomena like the murdering soldier in Hebron or the ugly attack that happened today in Tel Aviv.”

This is a developing story. 

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WATCH: Israel Prize winner on why he’s giving prize money to Ta’ayush http://972mag.com/watch-israel-prize-winner-on-why-hes-giving-prize-money-to-taayush/119292/ http://972mag.com/watch-israel-prize-winner-on-why-hes-giving-prize-money-to-taayush/119292/#comments Fri, 13 May 2016 15:15:28 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=119292 Prof. David Shulman won Israel’s most prestigious prize. He’s giving the prize money to one of Israel’s most dedicated — and persecuted — activist groups. Here’s why.

Dozens of Ta’ayush activists bring water to isolated, impoverished Palestinian villages in the South Hebron Hills, September 26, 2009. Soon after this photo was taken, soldiers attempted to stop the water convoy and the activists continued on foot. (Keren Manor/Activestills.org)

Dozens of Ta’ayush activists bring water to isolated, impoverished Palestinian villages in the South Hebron Hills, September 26, 2009. Soon after this photo was taken, soldiers attempted to stop the water convoy and the activists continued on foot. (Keren Manor/Activestills.org)

I often get comments, specifically from family members, that I never write anything positive about Israel. So here is something positive.

Prof. David Shulman, Renee Lang Professor of Humanistic Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who just received the Israel Prize in Religious Studies for his work on Indian languages and culture, decided to donate his prize money (NIS 75,000, or about $20,000) to Ta’ayush, the group of Israeli activists who engage in non-violent direct actions to assist and protect the livelihood of Palestinian residents of the South Hebron Hills against the various hazards of occupation. (Full disclosure: I have been active with Ta’ayush since 2008, know David, and am all also a fan of his writing on Israel/Palestine, for example see here.)

Shulman, who has been active with Ta’ayush for the last 15 years, explains in this video what exactly the group, which was founded at the start of the Second Intifada and has been the target of right-wing incitement in recent months, does.

I think it’s interesting to note that most of the Israeli media outlets who covered the story characterized Ta’ayush  as a “left-wing organization,” (Haaretz in Hebrew), “anti-Israel” (Arutz Sheva) and Haaretz English originally called it “pro-Palestinian” but then changed it to “Israeli group that helps Palestinians.”

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I haven’t seen a single outlet call it what it is: an activist group doing humanitarian work in the  West Bank. (Ta’ayush has just opened a new “front” of activism in the Jordan Valley.)

Ta’ayush, as David notes in the video, is not an organization, but a loose-knit group of people who dedicate their Saturdays to activism that affects the reality on the ground for Palestinians who live in Area C and have no representation or rights. You could call it “left-wing” inasmuch as it champions human rights and dignity and opposes Israel’s military occupation.

It is not anti-Israel, unless you think that being pro-Israel means supporting systematic violence and harassment of Palestinian civilians, depriving them of infrastructure and water, of security and schooling, and of the right to a basic livelihood. As for “pro-Palestinian,” this has a zero-sum connotation that it could be “anti-Israel” or somehow against Israeli interests, which is absurd. I assume that is why Haaretz English decided to change it.

Shulman’s donation to Ta’ayush will help pay for the group’s two primary expenses: legal fees for the activists who are constantly being arrested, the cases they build against the state, and the gas it requires to drive activists from Jerusalem to the South Hebron Hills every week.

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Standing up to the monopoly on mourning in Israel http://972mag.com/how-i-stood-up-to-the-monopoly-on-mourning-in-israel/119231/ http://972mag.com/how-i-stood-up-to-the-monopoly-on-mourning-in-israel/119231/#comments Wed, 11 May 2016 13:12:37 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=119231 For those of us who confront the realities of what goes on here every day, especially those of us who cannot escape it, or who make it part of our profession, every day is a form of Memorial Day and Independence Day. That is what we are trying to change.

Israelis standing at attention on the side of the road during the Memorial Day siren. (ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock.com)

Israelis standing at attention on the side of the road during the Memorial Day siren. (ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock.com)

I went to one of my regular 6:45 p.m. yoga classes Tuesday night, knowing that at 8 p.m., just 15 minutes before the class ended, a siren for fallen soldiers and terror victims would sound. It was Israel’s Memorial Day. I wondered what I would do. I didn’t want to stop and stand in silence, but I also didn’t want to be the asshole that didn’t stand.

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We had gotten to a shoulder stand position, usually the last pose before shavasana (the restorative “corpse” pose). The teacher wasn’t sure whether to stop the class or not, so she sort of deferred to us. Those who wanted to got out of their pose and stood. I stayed in the shoulder stand, remaining as erect and still as possible in the position, which is also known as the candle pose, which is fitting considering people light candles for the fallen on Memorial Day.

Being upside down for the Memorial Day siren made perfect sense to me, a metaphor for the tragic backwardness of this place. It enabled me to at once challenge the state’s rites while still respecting those who are gone and those who continue to suffer. After many years, I inadvertently found the way that suited me best.

The 'candle pose' (Shutterstock.com)

The ‘candle pose’ (Shutterstock.com)

For me and many other leftists in Israel — those who question what the state is and does, criticize it and engage in actions that challenge it out of a commitment to equality and human rights — Memorial Day and Independence Day are problematic and frustrating. Seeing the flags everywhere and silently following the herd in the state’s rituals doesn’t feel right. There is no self-reflection or humility or questioning — the qualities most needed in 2016 Israel. (Just this morning, Naftali Bennett repeated a statement that has become a government mantra: the IDF pays a heavy price for being the most moral army in the world and no one, no one has the right to preach to this nation on morality and values.)

But not wanting to participate in these rituals because you don’t subscribe to the mainstream narrative makes you an outsider, somehow unethical and, of course, unpatriotic; or worse — a traitor. In that sense, for a leftist, these holidays are a tiny taste of what many Palestinians probably feel like every day living in a place whose symbols, values and collective culture don’t correspond to their personal or national experience.

Standing to commemorate only the people in one group who have been killed doesn’t address the reality here and it cannot be reconciled with basic respect for all human life, regardless of ethno-national association. It also entrenches the simplistic, belligerent notion that we are divided into heroes and villains. And as for celebrating Israeli independence, while I do not deny Israel’s right to exist or wish to undo its founding, I do question the way it exists: how does a country genuinely celebrate independence when it has a quasi-permanent military regime that controls another people who have no rights? How can a country with no internationally recognized borders and a disputed capital city claim to be independent? How can a country reliant on foreign aid, weapons and a mandatory draft claim to be independent? I mean independence, in the very literal sense, of freedom.

Memorial Day and Independence Day are saturated with the glorification of the dead and a total disregard for the many deaths Israel is responsible for. How can I silently stand to commemorate Jewish victims without thinking about the Palestinian siblings shot and killed by Israeli security guards when they posed no threat to anyone just two weeks ago?  How can you celebrate independence when millions of people living under your government’s authority have no basic rights? And why do people want to celebrate the existence of a country in which there is no will and no plan to avoid the further deaths of its citizens and of Palestinians? “We will forever live by the sword” is the only rhetoric we hear.

That is precisely why it is so important to find ways to challenge the official narrative, specifically on these days, to not accept as a given its monopoly on mourning, heroism, nationalism, and identity. It is what Deputy Chief of Staff Yair Golan tried to do on Holocaust Day, but he ultimately retracted and retreated. This is what the annual Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day Ceremony hosted by the Parents’ Circle and Combatants for Peace every year tries to do. How sad, though, that it has become the Israeli “peace movement’s” largest event.

For those of us who confront the realities of what goes on here every day, especially those who cannot escape it, and those who make it part of our profession, every day is a form of Memorial Day and Independence Day. That is what we are trying to change.

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For most Israelis, Palestinian lives don’t matter http://972mag.com/for-most-israelis-palestinian-lives-simply-dont-matter/118945/ http://972mag.com/for-most-israelis-palestinian-lives-simply-dont-matter/118945/#comments Sat, 30 Apr 2016 11:31:57 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=118945 A 24-year-old Palestinian and her teenage brother were shot and killed by Israeli troops after allegedly trying to stab Border Police officers. The police’s version of the events doesn’t add up, but nobody in Israel, including the media, feels the need to ask questions. 

Qalandia checkpoint, where X and her 16-year-old brother Y were killed on Wednesday. (Activestills)

Qalandia checkpoint, where Maram Salih Hassan Abu Ismail and her 16-year-old brother Ibrahim Salah Taha were killed on Wednesday. (Activestills)

The facts are still unclear, in fact very unclear: the exact number of knives found, the number of bullets shot, the number of meters distance, why exactly they were there. But even if we accept Israel Police’s highly terse account of the events, we are still left with a bottom line: Two Palestinians, Maram Salih Hassan Abu Ismail, 24, and her younger brother Ibrahim Salah Taha, 16, were shot and killed on the spot by Israeli forces at the Qalandiya checkpoint on Wednesday, while posing no immediate threat to anyone. Even if we accept the police version that the woman attempted to stab them, there is still no justification for shooting the teenager, who the police themselves claim was not brandishing a weapon or close enough to present a threat.

We also know that Israeli mainstream media barely covered the story, didn’t send any reporters to gather eyewitness testimonies and didn’t speak to any Palestinians. A Haaretz report mentions that Palestinians claim that “Israeli forces fired numerous bullets at the two and prevented medics from treating them.” Of course, whether and when medics were able to treat the victims shouldn’t be a matter of Palestinian claims. There are plenty of cameras at what is the busiest checkpoint in the West Bank, there is video footage, probably from several angles. The footage should clarify this, and other aspects that are not a matter of opinion. But Israel Police has not yet released any footage. According to a report in Local Call, police have in the past been quick to release video footage – when it corroborates their version of the events.

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According to Israel Police spokesperson Luba al-Samri, two suspects – a woman and a youth – approached the vehicular path (instead of the pedestrian path) leading through the military checkpoint and walked towards Border Police officers stationed there, the woman with her hand in her bag and the youth with his hands behind his back. Officers ordered them to halt several times and they began to turn back before the woman threw a knife at an officer. Police and security guards then shot the two, killing them both. The police didn’t specify this but most reports cite that the siblings were 20 meters away from the forces, and they were positioned inside a cement sentry box.

These events didn’t even make it into the evening news in Israel Wednesday night. Except for Joint List MK Dov Khenin, no Israeli politician has expressed dismay or called on the police to release the footage or open an investigation. There hasn’t been any questioning of what the hell happened there. Rather, there has been deafening silence. It’s almost as if it didn’t happen.

There have been numerous similar incidents over the last half a year where Israel has justified the shooting of Palestinian assailants or alleged assailants and Palestinians have insisted it was murder in cold blood.

But this incident, whose factual information still needs to be exposed and reported, strikes me as unique due particularly to the way it was (not) covered in Israeli media and the fact that it was such a brief story that just disappeared.

It’s no surprise that most Israelis generally take the authorities’ version of events at face value, but this time the version of the events isn’t even convincing. And yet no one feels the need to ask questions. No one cares that a 16-year-old kid was shot dead without cause. In the Israeli narrative, the facts don’t seem to make a difference anymore (maybe they never did).

As the incident of IDF soldier Elor Azaria executing Abdel Fattah al-Sharif in Hebron demonstrated, even when there is clear documentation of a crime – in that case an execution in broad daylight – there is still a groundswell of Israeli support for the army and state authorities that finds a way around the facts. As Orly Noy pointed out at the time

The number of people who are willing to justify the murder without batting an eyelash is stunning. Our collective moral compass has become so fundamentally twisted that even the most decent of people, those who are not considered extremists, believe that there is nothing wrong with shooting a man as he lies dying on the ground, while finding any way to excuse the act — including claiming that the Palestinian may have been armed with a suicide belt.

In that case, the facts were played around with a little to justify the soldier’s actions, but in the case in Qalandiya on Wednesday, there doesn’t even seem to be a bending of the facts. There is no need to try and justify anything. It doesn’t even matter anymore what exactly happened. In the permanent situation of occupier and occupied, oppressor and resistant, it’s just par for the course.

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In Israel, BDS is winning http://972mag.com/in-israel-bds-is-winning/118198/ http://972mag.com/in-israel-bds-is-winning/118198/#comments Mon, 28 Mar 2016 20:47:49 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=118198 The first ever anti-BDS conference in Israel brought together politicians of all stripes to show their commitment to the fight against boycotts. In doing so, however, they showed just how effective the boycott movement really is.

President Reuven Rivlin is interviewed during Yedioth Ahronoth's Stop BDS conference, March 28, 2016. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

President Reuven Rivlin is interviewed during Yedioth Ahronoth’s Stop BDS conference, Jerusalem, March 28, 2016. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Israel’s best selling newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, and its online platform Ynet, hosted a conference Monday in Jerusalem’s Convention Center dedicated entirely to combatting the BDS movement. The very existence of the spectacle — the first national conference of its kind co-sponsored by StandWithUs and attended by over a thousand people — gave BDS (short for boycott, divestment, and sanctions) more attention in Israel than it could have ever hoped for.

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It was a tell-tale sign that the global movement to boycott Israel has become significant enough to warrant such an event, whose speakers included President Reuven Rivlin, senior Knesset ministers, members of the opposition, World Jewish Congress head Ron Lauder and comedian Roseanne Barr. (There were, of course, no speakers at the conference who represent or support BDS).

The cognitive dissonance became clear the moment the conference began. Yedioth Ahronoth Editor-in-Chief Ron Yaron told the crowd that the power of BDS cannot be underestimated, and that Israel does not want to find itself in the position Apartheid South Africa was in 5 t0 10 years’ time. Yaron immediately caveated that there is no connection between Israel and South Africa. Public Security and Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan, who oversees government efforts at combating BDS, opened by saying that people should not “overemphasize” BDS.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett speaks at Yedioth Ahronoth's Stop BDS conference, March 28, 2016. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Education Minister Naftali Bennett speaks at Yedioth Ahronoth’s Stop BDS conference, Jerusalem, March 28, 2016. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Speaker after speaker stepped up to the podium and said, in the same breath, that although BDS is succeeding, it is not a success; that it is not a threat but must be taken as a serious threat; that it has not negatively impacted Israel’s economy but that Israel must allocate more of its budget to fighting it. Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz said (Heb) that Israel should engage in “targeted civil eliminations” of BDS leaders with the help of Israeli intelligence, intentionally using language that plays on the Hebrew term for “targeted assassinations.” Tzipi Livni, meanwhile, said that it is really trendy these days to “be vegan and hate on Israel.” At one point, World Jewish Congress head Ron Lauder compared efforts at implementing economic boycotts of Israel to the Nuremberg Laws, while Roseanne Barr, the keynote speaker of the conference, called the BDS movement “fake-left” and “fascist.”

While the BDS movement and its most dominant spokesperson, Omar Barghouti, were the main target of the conference (Barghouti came up several times when speakers described the Israeli government’s recent efforts to revoke his permanent residency status), speakers also went after Israeli human rights groups for allegedly aiding BDS efforts.

Anti-BDS posters adorn the walls of the Jerusalem Convention Center during the first ever conference to combat BDS in Israel, March 28, 2016. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Anti-BDS posters adorn the walls of the Jerusalem Convention Center during the first ever conference to combat BDS in Israel, March 28, 2016. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Within the first hour of the conference, President Reuven Rivlin was asked whether Breaking the Silence is a legitimate organization, since it takes “anonymous testimonies” given by Israeli soldiers and presents them abroad. Rivlin replied that it is important to distinguish between “legitimate criticism” and “incitement,” adding that criticism must remain internal. Yedioth columnist Ben Dror Yemini boasted about how proud he is to live in a democratic country where free speech is so sanctified that it even makes room for those who support BDS (he failed to mention that there is now a law on the book that penalizes Israelis who call for boycotts).

The word occupation wasn’t mentioned once at the conference — although many speakers stridently defended Israeli democracy against claims that Israel is an undemocratic or apartheid state. The fact that the question of Israel’s democratic character is brought up at all is a sign of the inculcation of the language of BDS into Israeli discourse.

Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni is interviewed during Yedioth Ahronoth's Stop BDS conference, March 28, 2016. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni is interviewed during Yedioth Ahronoth’s Stop BDS conference, Jerusalem, March 28, 2016. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

BDS, as a multi-pronged movement with many activists and groups claiming to speak on its behalf, is of course not above criticism. As recently pointed out here, the movement could do far better when it comes to distinguishing between legitimate and illegitimate acts of boycott, and specifically distancing itself from anti-Semitism, as distinct from anti- or non-Zionism.

No matter how much the speakers tried to downplay its importance, the fact is that Monday’s conference was a clear admission that Israeli politicians, journalists, security experts, businesspeople, and lay leaders feel compelled to do something about the damage — to Israel’s economy and image — that the BDS movement is creating.

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VIDEO: Israeli soldier executes unarmed, wounded Palestinian attacker http://972mag.com/video-israeli-soldier-executes-wounded-palestinian-in-hebron/118093/ http://972mag.com/video-israeli-soldier-executes-wounded-palestinian-in-hebron/118093/#comments Thu, 24 Mar 2016 14:43:43 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=118093 Maybe even worse than the murder itself is the fact that no one in the vicinity seems at all moved by it.

WARNING: This post contains a highly graphic video and images.

An IDF soldier is seen seconds before shooting a wounded Palestinian man in the head. (Screenshot/B’Tselem)

An IDF soldier is seen seconds before shooting a wounded Palestinian man in the head. (Screenshot/B’Tselem)

An IDF soldier was filmed shooting a Palestinian in the head at close range in the Tel Rumeida neighborhood of occupied Hebron Thursday, after he and another Palestinian reportedly stabbed a different soldier, lightly wounding him.

Most Israeli media outlets initially went with the usual headline, “Soldier stabbed, assailants killed.” A few hours later, however, video of the incident was released showing that the Palestinian man was already shot and lying on the ground wounded, presenting absolutely no threat to anyone at the time he was shot in the head, murdered.

The video was captured by local Palestinian resident Emad abu-Shamsiyah and distributed by B’Tselem.

Minutes earlier, before the start of the video, the two young Palestinian men, Abed al Fatah a-Sharif and Ramzi al-Qasrawi, reportedly stabbed a soldier in the Hebron neighborhood. They were shot in the aftermath of the stabbing.

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In the video, which begins only after the stabbing already took place, an Israeli soldier can be seen shooting the injured Sharif in the head as he lies on the ground. The soldier is facing the camera with Sharif in between.

In a separate video we have deemed too graphic to upload, a prominent settler from Hebron can be heard telling soldiers, “this dog is still alive.”

No one in the vicinity seems bothered or surprised at all by the shooting — neither the soldiers nor a couple of police officers present nor the medical teams seen treating the wounded soldier. They completely ignore the two wounded Palestinians (al-Qasrawi is lying several feet behind a-Sharif, and can be seen at the end of the video). This total apathy reflects not only the regularity of such incidents of stabbings and responsive shootings, but also the culture of impunity in which IDF soldiers feel free to shoot and kill Palestinians against the IDF’s own rules of engagement.

The Israeli military immediately sought to distance itself from the murder. Israeli security forces have been accused by Palestinians and others of unnecessarily killing Palestinian stabbing suspects since the latest wave of violence began. Israel has consistently denied the practice, although senior ministers have in recent years given what many interpreted as a green light to killing suspected terrorists.

In October 2015, video footage show Fadi Alloun, a young Palestinian man from East Jerusalem, being shot and killed by police officers despite not appearing to pose an immediate threat. In November, two Palestinian girls were shot after stabbing an elderly man with scissors. In response to that incident, IDF Chief of General Staff Gadi Eizencot said he doesn’t want Israeli soldiers to “empty a [rifle] magazine into a girl with scissors.”

The IDF Spokesperson issued the following statement: ”An initial investigation shows that this is a severe incident that contradicts the IDF’s ethical code and what is expected from the IDF’s soldiers and commanders. A military police investigation has been opened following the findings of the initial investigation that was carried out by the commanders. The soldier has been suspended from his position until the culmination of the investigation.”

Update: Military police arrested the soldier, and high ranking officers ordered that all other soldiers who were in the vicinity at the time of the shooting should also be investigated.

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American Jews should protest AIPAC, not Trump http://972mag.com/american-jews-should-protest-aipac-not-trump/117948/ http://972mag.com/american-jews-should-protest-aipac-not-trump/117948/#comments Fri, 18 Mar 2016 13:47:53 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=117948 AIPAC has never cared about Israel’s disregard for civil and human rights. So why should it care about Trump’s?

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at a campaign event in Las Vegas. (Photo by Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com)

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at a campaign event in Las Vegas. (Photo by Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com)

Republican Presidential hopeful Donald Trump has been making headlines for weeks as he wins primary after primary across the U.S.

But over the past few days he has also been making headlines in the Jewish-American press for a different reason: the mounting opposition to his scheduled address to AIPAC’s annual conference this Monday. (Hilary Clinton and Joe Biden will also be speaking there, Cruz and Kasich have also reportedly confirmed their presence and Bernie Sanders was invited, but it is unclear whether he will attend.)

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Two East Coast rabbis created an ad hoc group, Come Together Against Hate, that is organizing a silent walkout of Trump’s speech. Another group calling itself Jews Against Trump has launched an online petition calling on AIPAC to rescind its invitation, according to a report in Think Progress.

The Reform Movement, meanwhile, has criticized Trump for his “hate speech” and implied in a press release that it would oppose his presence at AIPAC, but did not make clear how.

On its Facebook page, “Come Together Against Hate,” which at the time of writing had nearly 1,000 members, states: “We support AIPAC and the importance of continuing to build a strong U.S.-Israel partnership and we denounce hatred.” The group goes on to state: “We are committed to saying that Donald Trump does not speak for us or represent us, and his values are not AIPAC’s values.”

On the site JewSchool, Sarah Brummer-Shlay writes: “By allowing Donald Trump to speak at a major Jewish event, we have turned our backs on marginalized communities. It is that simple. We are not neutral, we are complicit.”

What all these groups and individuals rallying together against Trump have in common is the visceral confidence that Republican frontrunner defies their Jewish values and does not represent the larger American Jewish community. That his incendiary speech and anti-immigrant rhetoric is a red line. That even if he is currently the Republican presidential favorite, he doesn’t deserve a podium at an American Jewish event, much less the largest and most high profile one in the community.

But what exactly are AIPAC’s values? Its mission statement is devoid of values. It does not talk about equal rights or freedoms. Rather, it is “to strengthen, protect and promote the U.S.-Israel relationship in ways that enhance the security of the United States and Israel.”

Anyone familiar with the Israel lobby’s policies and conduct over the last few decades knows that it long ago turned its back on marginalized communities by continuing to embolden a state that systematically denies rights to millions of people under its control.

AIPAC’s active fortification of Israel’s near 50-year occupation is the single most obvious reason why it doesn’t represent most American Jews’ stated values. If we look at other major issues that divide Israel and U.S. Jews in recent years, AIPAC has continuously gone against the general zeitgeist of American Jewish society.

While most American Jews polled supported the Iran deal, AIPAC waged an aggressive, well-funded mass lobbying and public relations campaign against it. It went full throttle with the Netanyahu doctrine, disregarding American Jewish public opinion, not to mention the interests of American national security.

On the issue of the establishment of a viable Palestinian state alongside Israel, AIPAC has continuously lobbied against. When the Palestinians announced they would petition the UN for statehood in 2011, AIPAC helped persuade 446 members of Congress to co-sponsor resolutions opposing the idea.

When mounting civilian casualties led many progressive American Jews to question Israel’s deadly war on Gaza in 2014, AIPAC doubled down with its unquestioning support and lobbying for the war.

So knowing AIPAC’s declared mission and record, knowing that it has consistently guaranteed that Israel has carte blanche to continue doing as it pleases militarily, regardless of the rationale or the outcome, and its continued enabling of the denial of basic civil and human rights to millions of Palestinians, Trump’s appearance isn’t really that shocking or anomalous.

It is not Trump who doesn’t represent American Jewish values. First and foremost, that role is filled by AIPAC. American Jews should not be surprised or dismayed by the organization’s invitation to Trump, not just because it is customary policy to host leading presidential candidates. American Jews should be dismayed by the fact that AIPAC isn’t an organization about values — certainly not their values.

AIPAC is an organization whose sole purpose is to ensure Israel has the political and financial wherewithal to maintain its position as the supreme military power in the Middle East — no matter what. It has never cared about Israel’s disregard for human and civil rights. So why should it care about Trump’s?

The protests and organizers shouldn’t focus on Trump, but rather on AIPAC itself. For these American Jews, AIPAC has never represented their values anyway, so the heat should be on the lobby, not on the candidate with the big mouth.

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Israelis can only ignore Gaza for so long http://972mag.com/israelis-can-only-ignore-gaza-for-so-long/117362/ http://972mag.com/israelis-can-only-ignore-gaza-for-so-long/117362/#comments Wed, 24 Feb 2016 16:30:52 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=117362 Try as it may, the Israeli government will never be able to detach Palestinian human rights from its own security situation.

A Palestinian child stands in front of his destroyed home in the Tuffah neighboorhood of Gaza city, Gaza Strip, February 9, 2015. Six months after the Israeli military offensive, tens of thousands of Palestinians are still displaced. (photo: Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

A Palestinian child stands in front of his destroyed home in the Tuffah neighboorhood of Gaza city, Gaza Strip, February 9, 2015. Six months after the Israeli military offensive, tens of thousands of Palestinians are still displaced. (photo: Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

This week marks exactly one and a half years since the last Gaza war, although most of the time the tiny strip of land barely exists in the Israeli public consciousness. Now that the possibility of another round of fighting has emerged, Gaza is back in the headlines.

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Recent weeks have seen multiple reports by the Israeli military on Hamas’s attempts to re-build its tunnel infrastructure, with some tunnels already projected to have been dug into Israeli territory. Israeli satirical comedy show Eretz Nehederet recently poked fun at the situation with a sketch featuring an Israeli resident of a Gaza border town who complains about the insufferable noise caused by the drilling below her kitchen. A Hamas militant then pokes his head up from under the dirt, asking the Israeli why she hasn’t yet offered him a cup of coffee. Business as usual.

As if the tunnels weren’t enough to remind us that the 2014 Gaza offensive failed to provide Israelis with security — and that’s without even getting into its lasting effect on the Palestinians — the head of Israeli Military Intelligence, Herzl Halevi, told a closed-door meeting by the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday that Gaza is on the brink of economic collapse. Despite Hamas’s genuine efforts to restrain violence, Halevi said, the situation in Gaza is so bad that it could lead to more violence. In other words: Israel’s blockade policy is not working.

Various Israeli proposals to build a seaport in Gaza, a Hamas demand during ceasefire negotiations, are now resurfacing as a way to try and avoid another conflict. The idea is to provide some form of life raft to stave off the Strip’s total collapse. The IDF and several Knesset members openly support such measures, claiming it will provide jobs and incentives for Hamas to maintain “quiet.” Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ya’alon are firmly against the construction of a port due to “security concerns.” Any outsourcing of security, they claim, still runs the risk of weapons smuggling.

Fadi Ibrahim Abu Khusa (4) holds the photo of his two killed siblings, Shahed (9) and Mohammed (2), in their home in Zawaida village, central Gaza Strip, February 24, 2015.  The two children were killed with their parents, Ibrahim and Sabreen, and 4 other members of their family by an Israeli attack on their home which occured on July, 30, 2014. Ibrahim and Sabreen went to the home of Sabreen's father one week before the attack thinking they would be safer. (Anne Paq / Activestills.org)

Fadi Ibrahim Abu Khusa (4) holds the photo of his two killed siblings, Shahed (9) and Mohammed (2), in their home in Zawaida village, central Gaza Strip, February 24, 2015. The two children were killed with their parents, Ibrahim and Sabreen, and 4 other members of their family by an Israeli attack on their home which occured on July, 30, 2014. Ibrahim and Sabreen went to the home of Sabreen’s father one week before the attack thinking they would be safer. (Anne Paq / Activestills.org)

However, it is clear that  Gaza appears in Israeli public discourse solely when there is a fear of violence. For mainstream Israel, Palestinian suffering exists only when it is attached to some kind of threat. Israelis generally don’t care about the humanitarian situation in Gaza unless it affects them. That same logic applies to the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Palestinian citizens of Israel. This is the crux of the issue: the Israeli government will never be able to detach Palestinian human rights from its own security situation.

Israel excels at putting Palestinians living under its control in intolerable conditions that perpetually verge on humanitarian catastrophe. As Ariella Azoulay and Adi Ophir wrote in their book “The One State Condition: Occupation and Democracy in Israel/Palestine” (originally published in Hebrew in 2008):

The ruling apparatus takes the liberty to enter and even sabotage the activity of these groups [welfare bodies, UN agencies, local charities and humanitarian groups] whenever it spots a threat to security, familiarly a sweeping consideration, while explicitly encouraging their activity whenever it fears an approaching humanitarian crisis….

…Abandoning the Palestinians to disaster conditions — especially in the Gaza Strip, where economic conditions had always been worse than in the West Bank and further deteriorate following the disengagement — is a result of the decision to control and dominate them without actually ruling them, and certainly without governing them. More accurately, abandoning the Gaza Strip and pushing its population to the brink of humanitarian catastrophe has become a mode of governance specifically designated for this region.

Every time the Strip reaches the brink, a group of military experts, former generals and Knesset members offer all kinds of diplomatic solutions for dealing with Gaza. But “dealing” only proves that Israel still controls Gaza — and that is a significant part of the obstacle to any solution.

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Knesset hearing on unflattering press coverage looks like ‘witch-hunt’ http://972mag.com/knesset-hearing-on-unflattering-press-coverage-looks-like-witch-hunt/116858/ http://972mag.com/knesset-hearing-on-unflattering-press-coverage-looks-like-witch-hunt/116858/#comments Tue, 09 Feb 2016 12:58:06 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=116858 Chairwoman Tzipi Livni asks government agencies to present examples of ‘biased reporting,’ suggestions for legal and diplomatic tools for countering unflattering news coverage. Foreign Press Association slams the very premise of the hearing.

Tzipi Livni (photo: Yotam Ronen / activestills)

Tzipi Livni (photo: Yotam Ronen / activestills)

The influential Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense subcommittee held an urgent hearing on Tuesday on “legal warfare with respect to foreign media coverage – coverage which in the long term erodes the legitimacy of [Israel's] fight against terrorism” (Emphasis mine).

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Subcommittee chairwoman Tzipi Livni asked representatives of various government agencies, among them the Government Press Office, Prime Minister’s Office, Defense Ministry, Border Police and IDF to bring specific examples of “biased, one sided reporting against soldiers and police following terror incidents” and to suggest diplomatic and legal steps to counter the phenomenon.

The Knesset committee requested that the Foreign Press Association — which represents some 400 journalists from a wide range of outlets including The New York Times, Reuters, Associated Press, and CBC and Financial Times — also attend the hearing. Ironically, the “invitation” also asked them to present examples of their own biased, errant reporting, in what can only be understood as an indictment of their work.

In response, the FPA drafted a letter that challenged the very idea of holding such a hearing and emphasizing the level of influence the government already has on reporters.

“May we state first that we disagree with the premise of the hearing – it presupposes two things: that the foreign media are biased and that that supposed bias undermines Israel’s ability to quell terrorist attacks. We do not agree that the foreign media are biased, and the legitimacy of Israel’s campaign against terrorism is entirely determined by how Israel conducts that campaign. It has nothing to do with the foreign media.”

The letter goes on to list the variety of recourses the Israeli government already has for filing legal and other complaints regarding foreign reporting and admits that there are isolated incidents in which inaccurate or poorly worded headlines are drafted — but by editors sitting in their offices abroad, and these are quickly corrected when necessary.

The letter closes by stating: “A free and open media is the bedrock of a democratic society. Parliamentary subcommittee hearings that start from the premise that the foreign media is biased tend to look like poorly conceived witch-hunts.”

The hearing was called following a CBS news headline from last week about the murder of Border Police officer Hadar Cohen by three Palestinian assailants. The headline read: “3 Palestinians killed as daily violence grinds on.”

In response, the head of the GPO Nitzan Chen threatened to revoke the credentials of reporters for inaccurate headlines. Following Israeli intervention, the CBS headline was changed to: “Palestinians kill Israeli officer, wound another before being killed.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists issued a statement Monday expressing concern over increasing pressure and interference by the Israeli government on foreign journalists.

Last week, the same Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee held a discussion on violent incidents between security forces and the press, in which Knesset members and the IDF accused journalists of orchestrating events in order to negatively portray Israel.

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How Im Tirtzu dominates Israel’s public debate http://972mag.com/how-im-tirzu-dominates-israels-public-debate/116498/ http://972mag.com/how-im-tirzu-dominates-israels-public-debate/116498/#comments Mon, 01 Feb 2016 16:31:38 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=116498 While its campaign of intimidation against supposed left-wing Israeli artists seems to have backfired, Im Tirtzu’s role in Israel’s current political climate cannot be overstated.

Right-wing activists from ‘Im Tirzu’ protest at the entrance to the Tel Aviv University, November 20, 2014. (photo: Shiraz Grinbaum/Activestills.org)

Right-wing activists from ‘Im Tirzu’ protest at the entrance to the Tel Aviv University, November 20, 2014. (photo: Shiraz Grinbaum/Activestills.org)

The political climate in Israel has become so draconian and repressive lately that it was slightly surprising how quickly everyone rushed to denounce Im Tirtzu’s latest campaign against mainstream artists and celebrities who sit or have sat on the boards of human rights organizations. Leaders across the political spectrum condemned the campaign, including Netanyahu, who has previously sung Im Tirtzu’s praises on camera.  Following the backlash, the group told the Israeli press they had made a mistake and gone too far, with director Matan Peleg going as far as suspending himself.

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Some Israeli commentators have written about how the campaign was actually a gift to those on the Left, since it forced many centrist, mainstream artists to draw a clear political line in the sand between Im Tirtzu’s hyper-nationalism and their own values. It ostensibly forces them to step out of their comfort zones and choose sides.

But a look at the reactions by several of the artists who were targeted by Im Tirtzu reveals just how paralyzed and monopolized the Israeli mainstream discourse is; how it uses the very same language as the Right to try and defend itself.

For example, veteran actress Gila Almagor was invited to speak on Channel 2′s Friday night prime time news broadcast about the recent incitement against her. A horrible incendiary article was printed in an Israeli media outlet that literally called for her to prepare a will, since she should expect to be shot in the back three times in the near future (the article was later taken down). Almagor said that she believes the incitement comes from the leaders, before adding “I always represent this country honorably, I never take my criticism outside the country.”

Israeli actress Gila Almagor. (Right-wing activists from ‘Im Tirzu’ protest at the entrance to the Tel Aviv University, November 20, 2014. (photo: Amir Gilad/CC BY-SA 3.0)

Israeli actress Gila Almagor. (Right-wing activists from ‘Im Tirzu’ protest at the entrance to the Tel Aviv University, November 20, 2014. (photo: Amir Gilad/CC BY-SA 3.0)

The idea that it is somehow disloyal to criticize Israel outside the country is an old and very popular trope. It was not created by the Right, but by Israel’s founding prime minister David Ben-Gurion, to cover up for massacres against Palestinians that took place upon the state’s establishment. It has been made even more rigid and popular in recent years by the Right, in the form of the bill targeting NGOs that receive funding from foreign governments, as well as the witch hunt against anti-occupation groups such as Breaking the Silence, who take part in speaking tours abroad. To be a “good Israeli” according to this logic, is to keep quiet about Israel’s wrongs, which is exactly why Breaking the Silence has become persona non grata.

The significance of Almagor condemning incitement, while in the same breath assuring that she would never criticize Israel abroad, is a backhanded way of delegitimizing all the other organizations, including +972, that believe the Israeli system of occupation is not an internal Israeli debate but an international human rights issue. Her response was a way of proving her loyalty and patriotism to the state — along the lines Im Tirtzu and its ilk have delineated. After all, why shouldn’t Almagor speak freely against policies that she disagrees with anywhere she likes? Her response indicates she isn’t a genuine advocate of freedom of speech.

Another example came from Dean Oz Salzberger, the grandson of famed Israeli author Amos Oz, who was also on Im Tirtzu’s list. Salzberger used the same rhetoric against Im Tirtzu that Culture Minister Miri Regev once used to describe African asylum seekers: “a cancer in Israel’s society.” This is a form of incitement against Im Tirtzu, or at the least, an attack made in very poor taste.

Salzberger also uploaded to Facebook a photo of himself in IDF uniform with Oz, writing: ”Attached is a photo of my grandfather Amos (‘the foreign agent’) who is crying from excitement at my IDF officer’s graduation ceremony a few months ago.” From Salzberger’s photo we can understand that in order to defend your grandfather against a quasi-fascist group, it is important to prove you are pro-military, or in other words: a good Zionist.

Im Tirtzu first came into the spotlight back in 2010 with its first big campaign targeting the academic freedom of professors at Ben-Gurion University. At the time, all the deans of all the major universities condemned the group, but like Salzberger, also made a point to declare their loyalty to Zionism — a fact that should have no bearing on upholding academic freedom at a public institution. At the time I wrote an oped in Haaretz (Hebrew), warning that such responses created a dangerous precedent that strengthens the bogus connection between one’s own personal identity and affinity to Zionism on the one hand, and one’s commitment to freedom of speech and other universal values on the other.

Israel Prize winner and famed author Amos Oz. (photo: Michiel Hendryckx/CC BY 3.0)

Israel Prize winner and famed author Amos Oz. (photo: Michiel Hendryckx/CC BY 3.0)

Six years laters, Im Tirtzu has gone after the heart of Israel’s mainstream culture, and while the widespread condemnation of their attack is a relief, I would be hard pressed to say they have failed. The artists’ responses shed light on just how skewed Israeli discourse is. Even artists who support human rights work are incapable of stepping outside the boundaries of a debate that have been determined for them. That is where the real challenge lies.

One last note: while one artist, Rivka Michaeli, actually used the word “occupation” in her response to the incitement against her, no one else, as far as I know, has mentioned the people who are the actual victims of Israel’s human rights abuses. Furthermore, while everyone — even the most right-wing Israeli pundits — are busy condemning Im Tirtzu, no one in the media is talking about the fact that there is no security, no peace, no equality, no public housing, no stability, no hope, no justice, etc. In that sense, the ultimate victory of Im Tirtzu’s campaign and in general, that of the Right, is their monopoly over public debate, they are diverting it with unmatched success so as not to deal with the real issues.

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