+972 Magazine » Mairav Zonszein http://972mag.com Independent commentary and news from Israel & Palestine Sat, 23 May 2015 09:52:36 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8 Why is Matti Friedman so mad at Breaking the Silence? http://972mag.com/why-is-matti-friedman-so-mad-at-breaking-the-silence/106771/ http://972mag.com/why-is-matti-friedman-so-mad-at-breaking-the-silence/106771/#comments Sat, 16 May 2015 21:12:39 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=106771 A former AP reporter who crusades against the international media’s alleged anti-Israel bias takes aim at the Israeli NGO of veteran soldiers in an article that is long on … well, length. But short on substance. 

By Mairav Zonszein and Lisa Goldman

An IDF post inside a Palestinian home (photo: breaking the silence)

An IDF post inside a Palestinian home (Photo: Breaking the Silence)

Earlier this month, the Israeli NGO Breaking the Silence released a report about the army’s 50-day incursion into Gaza last summer. Titled “This is How We Fought in Gaza 2014,” it is comprised of more than 60 oral testimonies collected from soldiers and officers. The overriding theme of the eyewitness accounts is that soldiers going into Gaza were given unprecedentedly loose rules of engagement. Many of the soldiers say those orders contradicted the rules and code of ethics they were taught in training, which mandate doing everything possible to avoid harming civilians or their property.

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In Israel, the response to the soldiers’ testimonies has ranged from indifference to ambivalence to outright slander. The higher political and military echelons didn’t even acknowledge the report, while the Hebrew media was largely ambivalent. For example, even Haaretz military analyst Amos Harel writes (Hebrew) that despite the organization’s agenda, which he defines vaguely as “leftist,” its claims should not be ignored.

The slander has come from people who, rather than respond to the report itself, try to delegitimize Breaking the Silence by discrediting the soldiers who gave testimonies and questioning their integrity and motives.

A journalist turned attack dog

Matti Friedman, a Canadian-Israeli who was once a reporter for the AP bureau in Jerusalem, now falls on the slandering side of the spectrum. Friedman recently launched his own one-man crusade against what he seems to think is an international conspiracy to churn out gratuitously critical reporting on Israel. He has written several long articles to this effect, and been invited to speak on the topic at events hosted by Jewish organizations in England and the United States.

Friedman’s analysis of the Breaking the Silence report, published in Mosaic Magazine on Thursday, can be boiled down to three main points:

1.    The BtS report is propaganda, not journalism;

2.    The testimonies not only fail to show loose rules of engagement, but in fact support the army’s claim that it did everything possible to avoid civilian injuries;

3.    BtS is dishonest about its political agenda, which Friedman suggests is nefarious.

None of these claims is supported by evidence.

Friedman’s working assumption, embodied in the title of the piece, “The latest Breaking the Silence report is propaganda, not journalism,” is strange, considering that Friedman himself writes, “[t]he activists from Breaking the Silence aren’t journalists.” Indeed, they are not journalists, nor have they ever claimed to be. They are activists. Breaking the Silence is an organization founded by normative, patriotic Israelis, many of them from religious backgrounds, who served in combat units during their mandatory army service. Uncomfortable with acts they committed under orders, they founded the organization after completing their military service, to expose what they had experienced.

Who is the one parroting a narrative?

Friedman bashes the international press for unquestioningly quoting from Breaking the Silence’s report, but then he himself repeats the army’s talking points, giving the impression that he did not really read the testimonies — or, at least, not with much attention. For example, one soldier mentions in passing that his unit entered a certain area of Gaza after the army had dropped leaflets that warned of an imminent attack. According to Friedman, the leaflets are evidence that the army took measures to avoid injuring civilians. But in fact, the soldier giving this testimony is talking about having used heavy, imprecise weaponry in high-density civilian areas. More importantly, we know from the testimonies of Palestinians and NGO workers in Gaza that the leaflets and SMS messages warning of an imminent attack were often of no use to them — because they had nowhere to go, because members of their family were physically incapacitated, or because they had no transportation.

Take Friedman’s former colleague Ibrahim Barzak, AP’s veteran bureau chief in Gaza and a former Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. Barzak fled his family home with his wife and two small children after it was hit by a shell or missile. But then the house they took refuge in, in another part of Gaza, was also hit. And so was his car. After that, even if he had had somewhere to run to, he had no way to get there. This was the case for tens of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza during last summer’s war. There was simply no safe place. And with all the borders sealed, there was no escape.

Furthermore, given that over 500 children were killed and given that, even by conservative Israeli estimates, half the dead were non-combatants, it’s not credible to claim that soldiers adhered to the army’s code of ethics, which calls upon them to “…maintain their humanity even during combat [and] do all in their power to avoid causing harm to [civilian] lives, bodies, dignity and property.”

But surely the ugliest and most dishonest claim in Friedman’s piece is that there is no silence to break:

“The idea that there has been “silence” about Israel’s actions in its conflict with the Palestinians cannot be taken seriously; over the past two decades, probably no international story has been covered more than this one.”

In fact, the Hebrew media rarely reports about Gaza unless there are Israeli soldiers in the territory or rockets coming out of it. Otherwise, the only sound you hear about the Hamas-ruled coastal territory in the Hebrew media is a deafening, roaring silence. Israelis who receive their information from the Hebrew media rarely see reports about the humanitarian crisis there — the hundreds of amputees, the thousands of homeless, the hundreds of thousands of children suffering from debilitating PTSD. As for what actually went on during Operation Protective Edge last summer, most Israelis will not give credence to Palestinian testimonies, the international media or UNRWA reports, so BtS testimonies are in fact the only firsthand, Israeli source that is not the IDF spokesperson — but is from within the IDF.

Friedman casts doubt on the credibility of soldiers who give testimonies because many of them redact their identities. Friedman has lived in Israel long enough to know that there is a huge taboo against criticizing the army, the country’s most sacred institution. Those who speak out are marginalized, even within their own families, and sometimes threatened with physical harm, as Breaking the Silence’s members can attest. Who can blame a soldier for wanting to speak the truth without risking bodily harm or his place in his community?

They didn’t know what they were doing

Friedman also suggests that the soldiers who approached BtS somehow did not know what they were getting into: “I am willing to guess,” he writes, “that in many or most cases the answer is no: these soldiers did not fully understand whom they were talking to, or what they were participating in.” How patronizing.

BtS has been around for over a decade. It has published many testimonies, most of which can be read or viewed on its bilingual website, along with an explanation of its mission and dozens of testimonies. And not all of them are anonymous. According to BtS, in many cases soldiers took the initiative and offered to give testimonies.

It’s a global anti-Israel conspiracy

And, of course, there is the tired old accusation that BtS is colluding with European donors to discredit the Israeli army. Friedman surely knows that all Israeli NGOs, regardless of mandate or political affiliation, are largely funded by money raised abroad from foundations and individuals. There is almost no culture of philanthropy in Israel.

We have to wonder what it is about these testimonies that frightens Friedman so much that he cannot even address their substance. Breaking the Silence is trying to show what military rule over another people for so long does to an army, and what acts are committed when soldiers are given loose rules of engagement. In a democracy, the guiding assumption is that one has the right to criticize government policy. One has the right to dissent. A good citizen (and a good journalist for that matter) should engage with that criticism — not silence it. For all his preaching about journalistic integrity, Friedman appears to be a man with an obvious agenda who disingenuously presents himself as a detached journalist.

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IDF maps village of Susya as forced displacement looms http://972mag.com/idf-maps-village-of-susya-as-forced-displacement-looms/106584/ http://972mag.com/idf-maps-village-of-susya-as-forced-displacement-looms/106584/#comments Sun, 10 May 2015 14:45:54 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=106584 The IDF’s Civil Administration prepares for the evacuation of the West Bank village in the wake of a High Court decision to uphold the rejection a zoning plan.

A Civil Administration inspector accompanied by soldiers arrived Sunday morning in Susya to take photos and measurements of village structures, further stoking fears among its Palestinian residents that they will be expelled from their homes at any moment.

Nasser Nawajeh, a resident, longtime activist and volunteer with B’Tselem, took the following photo of the official, who goes by the name Carlos.

Civil Administration inspector in Susya ahead  of feared demolition (photo: Nasser Nawaj'a, B'Tselem)

Civil Administration inspector in Susya ahead of prospective demolition (photo: Nasser Nawaj’a, B’Tselem)

Israel’s High Court of Justice on Tuesday gave the army a green light to demolish the Palestinian village and forcibly transfer its residents out of Area C of the West Bank. The court refused to issue an injunction that would freeze any demolitions in the south Hebron Hills village before the village’s case is even heard and ruled on by the highest court of the land.

 Justice Noam Solberg rejected the injunction requested by the residents of Khirbet Susya, who are represented by Rabbis for Human Rights. The case is a petition against the IDF’s Civil Administration’s decision to reject a master plan submitted by the village, and against the Israeli army’s plans to demolish the village and forcibly relocate its residents out of Area C. The Israeli army can now destroy the village at any moment, even though the case has yet to be heard by the High Court; a date for hearing has not even been set.

The Israeli army has issued repeated demolition orders in the village on the basis of illegal construction and zoning. The only reason Palestinians in the south Hebron Hills build illegally, however, is because Israeli authorities have never granted them building permits or any planning rights. The Israeli army rejects 90 percent of Palestinian planning requests in Area C, and most villages in the area face almost identical restrictions and demolition threats. Settlements for Jewish Israelis, however, continuously pop up in the area, including an adjacent settlement that also named itself Susya.

The 340 residents of Khirbet Susya have for years been fighting in court for the right to stay on their land. Susya is located in the south Hebron Hills, in Area C of the West Bank, which according to the Oslo Accords is under full Israeli control. Its residents were first expelled from their lands in 1986 after the Jewish settlement of Susya was established and an archaeological site built on its former location. The Palestinian villagers then moved the village to their adjacent agricultural lands and have been fighting to subsist there ever since.

In the petition, Susya’s residents argue that the army is obliged to legalize their village because it confiscated their land and their caves in 1986, leaving them without any housing solution and forcing them to move to their adjacent agricultural lands.susya's women's photograph project (photo: Activestills)As evidence to the life in the village prior to the expropriation, various testimonials and photographs of life in caves were presented to the judge. Among other things, there were documented photos of a visit by U.S. consular officials to the village in early 1986, proving that the Palestinians lived there before the Israeli army declared it an archeological site. Other photos and evidence proved that the Susya is an old village that predates Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, Rabbis for Human Rights said. Several years ago, Nawajeh wrote in +972:

 

They call my village an illegal Palestinian outpost. But these have been our lands since before the establishment of the State of Israel. My father is older than your state and I am not legal on my own land? I ask you: where is the justice in that? 

“Behind the Israeli authorities’ behavior is the aspiration, declared by Israeli officials at various times, to control these areas in order to facilitate circumstances that would allow their annexation in a peace agreement, and until then, de facto annexation,” B’Tselem wrote in a response to the court ruling.

“The Israeli authorities’ policy contradicts its obligation to meet the needs of the residents of the occupied territories and constitutes a grave violation of international humanitarian law, which prohibits their forced transfer,” the B’Tselem statement added.

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Palestinian village of Susya faces imminent demolition http://972mag.com/palestinian-village-of-susya-faces-imminent-demolition-threat/106501/ http://972mag.com/palestinian-village-of-susya-faces-imminent-demolition-threat/106501/#comments Thu, 07 May 2015 12:26:09 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=106501 Since the Israeli army evicted residents of Susya from their village in order to establish an archeological site in its place, the Israeli military has refused to issue the Palestinians any building permits. Now, the High Court has given the army a green light to demolish the village and forcefully transfer its residents.

Susya, West Bank, Palestinian village under threat of destruction (Activestills)

A Palestinian family stands outside their tent home in the south Hebron Hills village of Susya. (Activestills)

Israel’s High Court of Justice on Tuesday gave the army a green light to demolish the Palestinian village of Susya and forcibly transfer its residents out of Area C of the West Bank. The court refused to issue an injunction that would freeze any demolitions in the south Heron Hills village before the village’s case is even heard and ruled on by the highest court of the land.

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Justice Noam Solberg rejected the injunction requested by the residents of Khirbet Susya, who are represented by Rabbis for Human Rights. The case is a petition against the IDF’s Civil Administration’s decision to reject a master plan submitted by the village, and against the Israeli army’s plans to demolish the village and forcibly relocate its residents out of Area C. The Israeli army can now destroy the village at any moment, even though the case has yet to be heard by the High Court; a date for hearing has not even be set.

The Israeli army has issued repeated demolition orders in the village on the basis of illegal construction and zoning. The only reason Palestinians in the south Hebron Hills build illegally, however, is because Israeli authorities have never granted them building permits or any planning rights. The Israeli army rejects 90 percent of Palestinian planning requests in Area C, and most villages in the area face almost identical restrictions and demolition threats. Settlements for Jewish Israelis, however, continuously pop up in the area, including an adjacent settlement that also named itself Susya.

The 340 residents of Khirbet Susya have for years been fighting in court for the right to stay on their land. Susya is located in the south Hebron Hills, in Area C of the West Bank, which according to the Oslo Accords is under full Israeli control. Its residents were first expelled from their lands in 1986 after the Jewish settlement of Susya was established and an archaeological site built on its former location. The Palestinian villagers then moved the village to their adjacent agricultural lands and have been fighting to subsist there ever since.

A Palestinian family outside their tent home in the south Hebron Hills village of Susya (Photo: Activestills.org)

A Palestinian family outside their tent home in the south Hebron Hills village of Susya (Photo: Activestills.org)

In the petition, Susya’s residents argue that the army is obliged to legalize their village because it confiscated their land and their caves in 1986, leaving them without any housing solution and forcing them to move to their adjacent agricultural lands.

As evidence to the life in the village prior to the expropriation, various testimonials and photographs of life in caves were presented to the judge. Among other things, there were documented photos of a visit by U.S. consular officials to the village in early 1986, proving that the Palestinians lived there before the Israeli army declared it an archeological site. Other photos and evidence proved that the Susya is an old village that predates Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, Rabbis for Human Rights said.

Several years ago, Susya resident Nasr Nawajeh wrote in +972:

They call my village an illegal Palestinian outpost. But these have been our lands since before the establishment of the State of Israel. My father is older than your state and I am not legal on my own land? I ask you: where is the justice in that? 

“Behind the Israeli authorities’ behavior is the aspiration, declared by Israeli officials at various times, to control these areas in order to facilitate circumstances that would allow their annexation in a peace agreement, and until then, de facto annexation,” B’Tselem wrote in a response to the court ruling.

“The Israeli authorities’ policy contradicts its obligation to meet the needs of the residents of the occupied territories and constitutes and grave violation of international humanitarian law, which prohibits their forced transfer,” the B’Tselem statement added.

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Israelis’ surrogate mothers in Nepal are no laughing matter http://972mag.com/israelis-surrogate-mothers-in-nepal-are-no-laughing-matter/106114/ http://972mag.com/israelis-surrogate-mothers-in-nepal-are-no-laughing-matter/106114/#comments Thu, 30 Apr 2015 10:36:17 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=106114 The precarious situation of surrogate mothers in Nepal carrying babies for Israelis, as well as the ethical questions surrounding surrogacy in the developing world, should be treated with the utmost seriousness. But what does Israel’s interior minister do? He laughs at them. 

A baby is delivered at the Israeli army’s field hospital in Nepal, April 29, 2015. (Photo by IDF Spokesperson)

A baby is delivered at the Israeli army’s field hospital in Nepal, April 29, 2015. (Photo by IDF Spokesperson)

Saturday’s horrific earthquake in Nepal has dominated the news here in Israel, not only because Nepal is a popular travel destination and around 2,000 Israeli backpackers were airlifted out of the area in recent days, but primarily because of the 100 or so surrogate mothers carrying babies for Israeli gay couples and single parents.

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Only heterosexual couples can legally turn to surrogacy in Israel, so homosexual couples look to other countries – and generally look eastward to India and now Nepal, since it is much cheaper than the West.

Israel announced Sunday it had decided to airlift 26 newborn babies born to surrogate mothers (they all arrived by Tuesday), but it is not so clear what will happen to the women there who are still pregnant with surrogate babies, living in the aftermath of the quake.

According to a report in TIME, there are around 100 Indian women in Nepal who are surrogates for Israelis. The Justice Ministry decided to authorize the airlift of only a handful of these women, those past their 35th week of pregnancy. It is unclear how many are expected to arrive, but some reports say four women. The Interior Ministry spokesperson was asked for details and comment, but responded that “the matter is still being worked out so no information is being provided at this time.”

The story has turned the spotlight in the Israeli media on the need to improve the legal ability for surrogacy in Israel and the ethics of seeking surrogacy abroad, since most if not all the surrogate women are poor and acting out of desperation. (An informative article on the matter in Haaretz by Aeyal Gross can be found here).

It raises difficult questions about what it means for an underprivileged woman to rent out her womb. The images of babies being flown into Israel with their relieved dads, while the women who carried and birthed them are left behind, have been especially cruel.

This sad and sensitive situation was exacerbated by Interior Minister Gilad Erdan, who gave an interview on the matter on Channel 10′s evening news show, “London and Kirschenbaum,” on Monday. I subtitled a short clip:

What I find so repugnant about this clip is that Erdan allowed himself to laugh at the joke — that anyone can chuckle about this on live TV. The host, Mordechai Kirschenbaum, was obviously being facetious and critical of Erdan, but what these women have to go through is no laughing matter, and what African refugees are going through should not be the butt of a joke either.

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Uganda denies agreement with Israel on asylum seekers http://972mag.com/uganda-denies-agreement-with-israel-on-asylum-seekers/106074/ http://972mag.com/uganda-denies-agreement-with-israel-on-asylum-seekers/106074/#comments Wed, 29 Apr 2015 11:29:29 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=106074 The Ugandan government officially denies claims it has signed an agreement with Israel, whereby it would absorb forcefully deported Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers. The Israeli government has resisted calls to divulge the details of the agreements it had allegedly signed with ‘third countries.’

African asylum seekers arrive at Israel’s Holot detention facility in the Negev desert, February 18, 2014. (Photo: Activestills.org) Israel’s High Court has twice struck down the law allowing the indefinite detention of asylum seekers.

African asylum seekers arrive at Israel’s Holot detention facility in the Negev desert, February 18, 2014. (Photo: Activestills.org) Israel’s High Court has twice struck down the law allowing the indefinite detention of asylum seekers.

Government officials in Uganda deny there is any agreement with Israel on the deportation of asylum seekers into the country, according to the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, citing Ugandan daily New Vision. In the report, published Tuesday, Uganda’s Permanent Secretary for Foreign Affairs James Mugume is quoted as saying: “Neither the minister [of internal affairs] nor myself has any idea about it. We do not have any arrangement for receiving refugees from Israel.”

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Nearly a month ago the Israeli government announced its intention to begin forcefully deporting Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers to “third countries” - which are assumed to be Rwanda and Uganda, although Israeli authorities have yet to reveal any information. Refugee organizations have continuously voiced concern that these third countries do not guarantee the safety of asylum seekers and have called on Israel to be divulge the details of these obscure agreements.

Last week, at least three Eritrean asylum seekers who lived in Israel and were deported to a third country were executed by Islamic State militants in Libya. And on Tuesday, Ali Rasta, another Eritrean asylum seeker who had been an inmate in Israel’s Holot detention center, was reportedly murdered in Khartoum. According to asylum seeker activist and Holot inmate Mutasim Ali, he was forced to leave Israel for a third country, and then ended up in Sudan.

“The Ugandan government’s sweeping denial is disconcerting, and it illustrates the gap between Israel’s promises and the reality on the ground,” the Hotline for Migrants and Refugees said in a statement. The organization said it has testimonies of asylum seekers who were forced to leave Israel for Uganda and then realized they had no legal status there – contrary to what Israel had informed them.

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Zoological terrorism? Israelis up in arms over ‘Palestine Gazelle’ http://972mag.com/zoological-terrorism-israelis-up-in-arms-over-palestine-gazelle/106009/ http://972mag.com/zoological-terrorism-israelis-up-in-arms-over-palestine-gazelle/106009/#comments Mon, 27 Apr 2015 20:10:03 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=106009 A Facebook post livid at the fact that the Palestine Gazelle at the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo is being listed as such has been making some waves on Israeli social media today. The status was posted by Israeli right-wing protofascist Yoav Eliassi, who goes by “The Shadow” (and was involved in violence against leftists protesting the Gaza war last summer in Tel Aviv).

The Shadow posted a photo of the sign at the zoo on his Facebook page and next to it the caption: ”At the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo!!!!!!”  (By the way it says “Israeli Gazelle” in Hebrew and just “Palestinian” in Arabic).

Screenshot from The Shadow's Facebook status (April 27, 2015)

Screenshot from The Shadow’s Facebook status (April 27, 2015)

The kicker? “Palestine Gazelle” is the animal’s scientifically accurate name.

The Jerusalem Biblical Zoo explained as much in a response on his Facebook page:

“That is the gazelle’s official scientific name, as accepted by the international community.” When we list the name of an animal we are obligated to list its name as it appears in the scientific literature. These are the accepted norms throughout the world, irrespective of politics. Let’s invest our positive energies in preserving Israel’s nature. That is where we can really have an impact!”

I don’t know what is sadder (or dumber): The fact that any human being would see a problem with this, or that the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo felt the need to respond to this idiocy.

This is truly a low point in Israeli society. An Israeli nationalist so filled with animosity that he is picking a bone with science, with history, spreading not only hate but stupidity. And a national zoo so concerned with the idea that Israelis  may begin boycotting it for using the word “Palestine” that it feels the need to respond. (The Facebook page has a bunch of comments calling The Shadow out for being a moron, but also many agreeing with him).

In some ways, this Facebook status perfectly captures the atmosphere in Israel of 2015. Next thing you know The Shadow will organize a protest at the Jerusalem Post offices for once being called the Palestine Post.  Or maybe the next government will propose a bill to ban utterance of the word “Palestine.”

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Every day is Holocaust Day in Israel http://972mag.com/every-day-is-holocaust-day-in-israel/105623/ http://972mag.com/every-day-is-holocaust-day-in-israel/105623/#comments Thu, 16 Apr 2015 14:57:21 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=105623 Netanyahu talks about Iran every single day. Today was the one day he shouldn’t have. 

Prime Minister Netanyahu speaks at Yad Vashem during the Holocaust Memorial Day Ceremony, April 15, 2016. (photo: Haim Zach/GPO)

Prime Minister Netanyahu speaks at Yad Vashem during the Holocaust Memorial Day Ceremony, April 15, 2016. (photo: Haim Zach/GPO)

Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel. But if someone had landed here from another planet, they wouldn’t necessarily catch on. They might find it hard to  commemorate the Jewish lives taken in Europe during World War II, and instead be preoccupied with Iran’s nuclear program.

On Thursday night, as businesses closed throughout the country, Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke at Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust museum. Standing on the podium, among the few survivors that are still alive, he took the opportunity to talk about Iran, and why the deal being formulated with world powers to curb its nuclear program is a bad one:

“Just as the Nazis aspired to crush civilization and to establish a ‘master race’ to replace it in controlling the world while annihilating the Jewish people, so too does Iran strive to gain control over the region, from which it would spread further, with the explicit intent of obliterating the Jewish state.”

Never mind that this is an inaccurate and unconvincing comparison. Never mind that everyone on this planet already knows Netanyahu’s position on Iran and the agreement regarding its nuclear program. Never mind that Iran’s support for terrorist groups is bad enough without the need to compare it to Nazism. Netanyahu’s politicization of the Holocaust in an insult to all its victims and those affected by it. As if the genocide of Jews wasn’t a singular and horrible enough historical event that deserves its own place.

At the same event, President Rivlin subtly but explicitly countered Netanyahu’s fear mongering approach, trying to dissociate the Holocaust from the State of Israel and any of the state’s current politics.

“Some mistakenly believe the [establishment of] the State of Israel was compensation for the Holocaust. But there is no mistaken belief more terrible than this. The [establishment of] the State of Israel was not compensation for the Holocaust. It was established out of a love and longing for an ancient homeland by virtue of a dream that came true, a dream that became a reality, not out of fear of annihilation nor hatred for the other.”

Of all days, today should have been the one day in the entire year that Netanyahu took a break from his crusade against the Iran deal, and allowed the Holocaust its rightful place in the state’s collective memory.

As my colleague Orly Noy joked on her Facebook page, “Netanyahu managed to introduce a new holiday into the Israeli calendar: Memorial Day for Iran and Fallen Heroes.”

With Netanyahu, we don’t need Holocaust Day, because thanks to him every day here is Holocaust Day.

Related:
We can no longer deny the Holocaust of Libya’s Jews
Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel: Something’s missing
How Israel can stop a nuclear arms race in the Middle East

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Israel to indefinitely imprison asylum seekers who refuse deportation http://972mag.com/israel-to-indefinitely-imprison-asylum-seekers-who-refuse-deportation/105086/ http://972mag.com/israel-to-indefinitely-imprison-asylum-seekers-who-refuse-deportation/105086/#comments Tue, 31 Mar 2015 20:00:18 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=105086 In a move unprecedented in Western countries, Israel’s outgoing interior minister announces plan to compel asylum seekers to leave the country. Israel’s High Court has repeatedly struck down laws that authorized the indefinite detention of asylum seekers.

African asylum seekers arrive at Israel’s Holot detention facility in the Negev desert, February 18, 2014. (Photo: Activestills.org) Israel’s High Court has twice struck down the law allowing the indefinite detention of asylum seekers.

African asylum seekers arrive at Israel’s Holot detention facility in the Negev desert, February 18, 2014. (Photo: Activestills.org) Israel’s High Court has twice struck down the law allowing the indefinite detention of asylum seekers.

Asylum seekers from Sudan and Eritrea will face deportation to third countries or face unlimited imprisonment in Israel under a new Interior Ministry policy set to be implemented in the coming days. Israel will provide asylum seekers 30 days notice, at the end of which, if one refuses to leave, they will face indefinite detention, according to a statement released by the ministry’s Population, Immigration and Border Authority on Tuesday.

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The two countries are said to be Rwanda and Uganda, though Israel has not divulged the information. Up until now, Israel has exerted pressure on asylum seekers to leave by holding them in the Holot detention facility and offering them cash to leave, either back to their home country or a third country. But it always required their written consent. The new policy would be entirely coercive: either they leave, or face indefinite imprisonment.

Six NGOs, among them the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, Amnesty International and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, slammed the move as illegal, dangerous and yet expected.

“The initiative of the Ministry of Interior exposes what we’ve all known [...] – there is no such thing as ‘voluntary departure.’ The decision of the minister of interior and attorney general removes the disguises the State employed before and makes it clear that Israel will work to deport asylum seekers in any way possible, including illegal ones,” the organizations said in a statement.

African asylum seekers at Israel’s Holot detention facility in the Negev desert, February 18, 2014. (Photo: Activestills.org) Israel’s High Court has twice struck down the law allowing the indefinite detention of asylum seekers.

African asylum seekers at Israel’s Holot detention facility in the Negev desert, February 18, 2014. (Photo: Activestills.org) Israel’s High Court has twice struck down the law allowing the indefinite detention of asylum seekers.

According to a report in Haaretz on Tuesday, there is no precedent in the Western world for this type of deportation of asylum seekers to third countries. Israel is a signatory of the UNHCR 1951 Refugee Convention, which forbids compelling asylum seekers to leave a country with the threat of imprisonment.

Outgoing Interior Minister Gilad Erdan said the move will “encourage infiltrators to leave the borders of the state of Israel in an honorable and safe way.” Human rights groups, however, say Rwanda and Uganda are not safe countries for asylum seekers leaving Israel, and that they have no legal status or protection once arriving, ultimately resulting in them leaving for yet another country.

It was not clear if the new measure would be implemented before Israel’s next interior minister, expected to be Shas chairman Arye Deri, is sworn in.

There are over 40,000 Eritrean and Sudanese nationals in Israel currently, of which around 2,000 are currently being held in the Holot detention facility. Fewer than 10 of them have been granted refugee status, with a refugee recognition rate of below one percent. Worldwide, Sudanese and Eritrean asylum seekers are granted refugee status at rates of 60, 70 and 80 percent.

Last September, Israel’s High Court ordered the Holot facility be shut down, striking down for the second time the law that authorized the indefinite detention of asylum seekers. Instead of shutting the facility down, however, as its last act before adjourning for new elections, the Knesset passed a new law that authorizes the detention of asylum seekers for up to 20 months.

It would appear to directly contradict the reasoning behind both of the court decisions that struck down previous laws authorizing the indefinite detention of asylum seekers.

The new policy is being described as a way for the State to expel those asylum seekers who might be released after a 20-month detention.

Those asylum seekers who are not imprisoned in Holot are denied many basic social and health services. Two days before the new policy was announced, a four-month-old baby died due to negligence in a south Tel Aviv day-care center for children of asylum seekers — the fifth to have died since February. The makeshift nurseries are overcrowded, understaffed and lacking government oversight and accountability.

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WATCH: Masked settlers throw stones at Israeli activists http://972mag.com/watch-masked-settlers-throw-stones-at-israeli-activists/105024/ http://972mag.com/watch-masked-settlers-throw-stones-at-israeli-activists/105024/#comments Sun, 29 Mar 2015 14:36:55 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=105024 Incident comes one week after six-year-old girl was wounded by stone-throwing in the exact same location.

Settlers from the illegal outpost Havat Maon in the southern West Bank hurled rocks at a group of Israeli activists on Saturday, just one week after a six-year old Palestinian girl was attacked and wounded in her head in the exact same place.

Three settlers, who appear to be quite young, used slingshots to hurl stones at the group of activists. No one was hurt in the incident.

In the video, you can hear Guy, a documentarian of the occupation and veteran activist from Ta’ayush, a Jewish-Palestinian activist group that hold weekly nonviolent activists in the occupied West Bank, calling the police to come quickly. They arrived within 10 minutes, he told +972, but didn’t make a genuine effort to find the assailants.

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“This is especially troubling because of how often it has been occurring, over and over. The girl who was hurt here just last week — her father was stabbed here exactly four years ago. There have been dozens of violent incidents like this, all from Havat Maon,” says Guy. This time, he added, the police appear to be taking a more active role in investigating the incident, likely due to media coverage.

The Mount Hebron Regional Council told Israeli news site Walla! that they do not know the identity of the settlers and are against violence, but added that “Ta’ayush anarchists come every week with Palestinians to the area to stir provocations,” that they are “funded by foreign governments” and “intentionally edit videos to make the residents [settlers] look bad in the foreign press.”

Ta’ayush activists has been documenting violence from the Havat Maon outpost for over a decade.

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Israelis elected a non-democracy http://972mag.com/israelis-elected-a-non-democracy/104716/ http://972mag.com/israelis-elected-a-non-democracy/104716/#comments Sun, 22 Mar 2015 16:15:58 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=104716 Obama must understand that these elections were more than just a referendum on Netanyahu — they were a referendum on Israel’s character, and Israelis did not vote for democratic ideals.

Benjamin Netanyahu gives a victory speech on election night, March 18, 2015. (Photo: +972 Magazine)

Benjamin Netanyahu gives a victory speech on election night, March 18, 2015. (Photo: +972 Magazine)

Many on the center-left in Israel are still trying to wrap their head around Netanyahu’s victory. They simply cannot grasp that most Israelis really want another right-wing government led by Netanyahu. In Tel Aviv and Haifa, the only two of Israel’s 10 largest cities where the Zionist Union got more votes than the Likud, some people seem to be rationalizing the victory with the anti-Arab, fear-mongering campaign Bibi led in the final days of the campaign.

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The argument is that people were so perturbed by his apocalyptic warnings that lefties and Arabs would take over the Knesset that they decided to to vote for him at the last minute. Another version of the same rationale is that they were so angered by what Netanyahu called the foreign funded, left-wing backed hate campaign against him by the media and left-wing NGOs that some decided to vote for Netanyahu as — get this — a protest vote against the anti-Bibi propaganda.

I don’t buy either version. Those who voted for Netanyahu did so because they firmly believe in continuing the status quo that existed before him and that he has entrenched for the last six years. Whether or not they were vacillating between different parties on the Right, the bottom line is that the majority of Jewish Israelis chose to elect parties that share the vision of Greater Israel, religious nationalism, racism and intolerance of internal dissent.

To put it succinctly, Israelis chose to elect an undemocratic leadership, within a system that is democratically impaired to begin with. As MK Ahmed Tibi famously said, Israel is a democracy for Jews and Jewish for Arabs. In the aftermath of this election, it is clear that most Jewish Israelis are not only perfectly fine with that, but even within the confines of Jewish democracy, they do not mind state-sponsored incitement against other Jews (the “Left”) who don’t agree with the party line.

Palestinian citizens on the other hand, turned out in high numbers to vote for the Joint List, who ran on a platform of full democracy and equality, as well as the recognition of Palestinians as a national minority. However, only 7,000 Jews voted for them. In Israel of 2015, Palestinians largely voted for integration and equality, while Jews largely chose segregation and continued occupation.

Internally, the Israeli Left that was determined to change this place will have to now take a hard honest look at itself and try and rebuild its base — among both Zionists and non- or anti-Zionists. The Joint List and its focus on Arab-Jewish partnership is the beginnings of that.

Obama and the following administration must understand that these elections were more than just a referendum on Netanyahu — they were a referendum on Israel’s character, and Israelis did not vote for democratic ideals. Obama was right when he told the Huffington Post on Saturday that Netanyahu’s rhetoric “starts to erode the meaning of democracy in the country.” Except that democracy here has been eroded long ago.

Even if one believes that Israel is democratic, one cannot accept the decision to continue systematically violating the human rights of millions of Palestinians — both citizens and those who are stateless. As we all know, other societies have voted in leaders with highly undemocratic programs. You don’t need Netanyahu’s incendiary rhetoric to know that there is no consensus in Israel for ending the occupation or reaching a two-state solution. And you don’t need the Knesset to pass the “Jewish-Nation State Law” to know most Israelis want Jewish rights to take precedence over democratic ones.

While the U.S. cannot force Israelis to think differently, it can stop enabling Israeli policies, especially when it is clear that those policies reflect the consensus.

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