+972 Magazine » Mairav Zonszein http://972mag.com Independent commentary and news from Israel & Palestine Sun, 30 Aug 2015 17:37:53 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8 Hunger striker proves only way to challenge Israeli policy is to starve http://972mag.com/hunger-striker-proves-only-way-to-challenge-israeli-police-it-to-starve/110702/ http://972mag.com/hunger-striker-proves-only-way-to-challenge-israeli-police-it-to-starve/110702/#comments Wed, 19 Aug 2015 20:00:53 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=110702 By freezing Muhammed Allan’s administrative detention, Israel proves that the only way for Palestinians to successfully challenge its unlawful detention policy is to starve themselves to brain damage.

Israeli police bar a Palestinian protester at a demonstration for the release of hunger striker Mohammad Allan, outside of Barzilai hospital in Ashkelon, Israel. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Israeli police bar a Palestinian protester at a demonstration for the release of hunger striker Mohammad Allan, outside of Barzilai hospital in Ashkelon, Israel, August 16, 2015. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

In its decision to suspend Muhammed Allan’s administrative detention Wednesday night, Israel’s High Court has sent a clear message: if you are of sound mind and body, you will remain imprisoned without question. But if you slip into a coma, we’ll consider lifting your administrative detention, at least temporarily.

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To put it more bluntly, as long as you are essentially a vegetable, you’re free to go. However, if we see that your situation improves, you will remain incarcerated. In his judgment, Justice Rubinstein actually wrote: “[Allan] does not pose a danger because of his medical condition, so the administrative order is not active now.”

The decision is appalling from a humanitarian perspective, with the state watching on as Allan’s condition rapidly deteriorated since he fell into a coma last Friday; his body both figuratively and literally being employed as a bargaining chip in the debate over Israeli administrative detention.

The decision also demonstrates the power of hunger strike as a form of nonviolent resistance to imprisonment without charge. Israel is incapable of ignoring or circumventing this tool. By letting Allan get to this point, it has made clear that the only way to successfully challenge its draconian policy of administrative detention is to starve yourself into brain damage — essentially, to kill yourself.

The story of Muhammad Allan is so powerful because it embodies the  story of Palestinian resistance to Israeli occupation. Israel has historically made concessions as a response to Palestinian force; many point to the First and Second Intifadas as the reasons why Israel ultimately withdrew from parts of the territories it occupied.

The only way to challenge Israel’s monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force, of violence, is to upend it with one’s own body through a physical, forceful act. This is why a Palestinian prisoner on hunger strike is the ultimate symbol of resistance, and one of the most effective ways to expose and dispute Israeli mechanisms of control.

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Political death notices mourn Palestinian baby, Israeli teen http://972mag.com/political-death-notices-mourn-palestinian-baby-israeli-teen/109831/ http://972mag.com/political-death-notices-mourn-palestinian-baby-israeli-teen/109831/#comments Fri, 07 Aug 2015 09:44:54 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=109831 Mourning notices for Ali Dawabshe and Shira Banki are plastered across Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, calling on Israeli Jews to to take collective, moral responsibility for the murders.

It has been a week since Palestinian infant Ali Dawabshe was burned alive when his West Bank home was set on fire by Jewish Israelis, and five days since 16-year old Israeli Shira Banki — who was stabbed at the Jerusalem Pride Parade — died of her wounds.

Dawabshe’s parents are still in critical condition in an Israeli hospital, while their house is still in ashes. The Banki family is still sitting shiva (the Jewish seven-day mourning period), while the news cycle has already moved on to Netanyahu’s broken record on the Iran deal, the current heatwave and the GOP debate. But on the streets of West Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, death notices in Hebrew and English have been plastered in recent days to mark the two murders.

Death notices for Ali Dawabshe and Shira Banki  (Photo by Ilana Sichel)

Death notices for Ali Dawabshe and Shira Banki (Photo by Sara Holcman)

Mourning notices are a common practice in Israel to notify of a death in the community. But these notices, initiated, composed and hung by writer Ilana Sichel and artist Romy Achituv, not only mourn the deaths of these two minors — they also call on Jews in Israel to assume a collective, moral responsibility for them.

Ali’s notice reads:

An innocent child, one and a half years old, burned by our own sons in an act of flagrant hatred. We mourn the policies of occupation, which incite violence and racism and our belonging to a society that values land over people, a society that implicates all of us in this crime.

A quote from Lamentations 1:8 is printed the top of both notices: “Jerusalem has grievously sinned and so has become uncleaned.”

Shira Banki’s notice reads:

A spirited young woman, 16 years old, stabbed by our own son in an act of flagrant hatred, abandoned by leaders who profess equality but fail to act, betrayed by authorities, whose negligence kills innocents. We mourn belonging to a society that values some lives over others, a society that implicates all of us in this crime.

Sichel and Achituv have printed and hung nearly 250 of these notices while documented their work in photographs, which they have been spreading on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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“When the brutal arson attack and murder of 18-month old Ali Saad Dawabshe became public, I wanted to tether the ripples of shock and horror that went through through the Israeli public for longer than the two-day news and outrage cycle by bringing this attack into the public, visible sphere,” Sichel told +972.

“While we can all agree that burning a baby alive is a bad thing, there’s enormous disagreement about the political basis of the crime. We wanted to appeal to fellow Jews and Israelis and point toward our collective responsibility for, and implications in this heinous act, which is inseparable from the occupation, and from the growing trend of religious fundamentalism.”

Death notices for Ali Dawabshe in Jerusalem (Photo by Ilana Sichel).

Death notices for Ali Dawabshe in Jerusalem (Photo by Ilana Sichel).

While leaders across the political spectrum in government expressed shock and condemned both the acts, their words rang mostly hollow when considering their policies. In the wake of Ali’s death, the Israeli media quickly moved from showing photos of the infant to images of Palestinians throwing stones, coupled with reports of the expected Palestinian reprisals. Only several thousand Israelis went out into the streets to express their opposition to the violence. Perhaps it was the combination of apathy and extreme heat that kept them at home.

Religious Jewish youth looking at death notice for Ali Dawabshe in Jerusalem (Photo by Ilana Sichel)

Religious Jewish youth looking at death notice for Ali Dawabshe in Jerusalem (Photo by Ilana Sichel)

“Though the specific political contexts of Shira Banki’s murder and Ali Saad Dawabshe’s murder differ from each other, they have some deeply distressing commonalities: they are both child victims of the impunity enjoyed by messianic, militant Jewish extremists, and they are both murders which proper law enforcement and sentencing should have prevented,” says Sichel.

I find the notices so powerful and moving because the act of making and publicizing them puts a mirror up to Israelis, and creates a “vista of grief” through public symbols Israelis are accustomed to, but with self-critical messages they don’t normally need to or necessarily want to face.

Ali Dawabshe death notice torn in Jerusalem (Photo by Ilana Sichel).

Ali Dawabshe death notice torn in Jerusalem (Photo by Ilana Sichel).

Some of the notices have already been torn down or vandalized — primarily those mourning Ali. Shira’s have mostly stayed in tact. Which just goes to show how much work there is to be done.

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Killing of three Palestinians in a week shouldn’t be business as usual http://972mag.com/killing-of-three-palestinians-in-a-week-shouldnt-be-business-as-usual/109372/ http://972mag.com/killing-of-three-palestinians-in-a-week-shouldnt-be-business-as-usual/109372/#comments Tue, 28 Jul 2015 11:21:46 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=109372 If it had been Palestinians who killed three Israelis, we would be having a very different conversation about a ‘worrying escalation’ or ‘wave of violence.’

An aunt of Muhammad Abu Latifa cries at his funeral in Qalandia Refugee Camp in between Ramallah and Jerusalem, July 27, 2015. Abu Latifa was killed while fleeing Israeli special police commandos during an arrest raid on his home early that morning. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

An aunt of Muhammad Abu Latifa cries at his funeral in Qalandia Refugee Camp in between Ramallah and Jerusalem, July 27, 2015. Abu Latifa was killed while fleeing Israeli special police commandos during an arrest raid on his home early that morning. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Israeli military forces shot and killed three Palestinians in the last week. All three killings took place during raids in the middle of the night to detain suspects in crimes we know nothing about, sometimes crimes the suspects know nothing about. Although it appears there was some level of resistance in the three attempted arrests, there is no evidence at all that any of the three were armed or posed a mortal threat when they were killed.

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In the early hours of Monday morning, soldiers and police commandos entered the Qalandiya Refugee Camp looking for 18-year-old Muhammad Abu Latifa on suspicion of weapons trafficking, though some reports say simply, “terror activities.” According to the IDF, Latifa was shot in the leg while trying to escape to a nearby roof, from which he fell to his death. His family claims he was simply shot to death, and a report published on +972 on Monday shows evidence that challenges the IDF account.

Some reports in Israeli outlets, like Haaretz, didn’t even bother to speak to anyone from the family and only provided the IDF account. Ynet’s English site reported the story with an appalling headline that left many dumbfounded: “Parkour in Palestine: Fleeing suspect falls to his death,” playing on the acrobatic sport that has become popular among young Palestinians, who use their bodies to jump on and between buildings and urban obstacles. It was the top story on their homepage for several hours before being changed. Ynet declined to comment when I approached them asking them what they were thinking.

Ynetnews.com homepage screengrab

Ynetnews.com homepage screenshot, July 27, 2015

The previous Thursday, Falah Abu Maria, 52, died after being shot twice in the chest by Israeli soldiers who tried to enter his family home in the West Bank village of Beit Omar, near Hebron, at 3:30 a.m. Again, Israeli media primarily adopted the IDF version that the fully armed combat soldiers “encountered resistance,” which was enough to justify his death, at least as far as Israeli mainstream media goes.

A report in The Telegraph, which consisted primarily of an interview with family members who witnessed the shooting, contradicts IDF Spokesperson’s claims that the forces were confronted by a “violent mob” throwing stones at them. According to Abu Maria’s daughter-in-law, not a single stone was thrown, but Abu Maria did throw a plastic potted plant at the soldiers after watching soldiers shoot his son Mohammed, 24, in both of his legs at point black range. According to the family, Abu Maria thought his son had been killed, and in the rage of the moment threw a small plant at the soldiers, for which he got two bullets straight in the chest.

In the third incident, just 24 hours earlier, 21-year-old Muhammad Ahmad Alawneh was shot and killed by IDF soldiers in the West Bank village of Burkin near Jenin. The IDF and Border Police claimed firebombs were hurled at them, though there are no reports that Alauna threw one. In some reports, he threw a stone.

Illustrative photo of Israeli soldiers raiding a Palestinian home and making an arrest in 2012 (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

File photo of Israeli soldiers raiding a Palestinian home and making an arrest. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Three unarmed Palestinians killed in one week is alarming. If it were three Israelis, the news of the “escalation” or “wave of violence” would surely be much more widespread in both local and international media. But it is not only the frequency of these events; it is the fact that they are accepted as routine — and legitimate — operations in Israel.

Israeli soldiers force their way into a home in the dead of night, fully armed, masked and protected. They don’t need a warrant, and the suspects don’t have any rights. Israeli army claims that soldiers’ lives were at risk is what justifies the killing of unarmed Palestinians. Sound familiar? That is because it has happened over and over again for nearly 50 years.

The very nature of the relationship between occupier and occupied, between the soldier and the enemy, to which Israelis have become so accustomed and desensitized, somehow makes the killing of three Palestinians into a non-event that mainstream Israeli journalists don’t bother to question.

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Deputy defense minister: Embattled Palestinian village doesn’t exist http://972mag.com/deputy-defense-minister-embattled-palestinian-village-doesnt-even-exist/109133/ http://972mag.com/deputy-defense-minister-embattled-palestinian-village-doesnt-even-exist/109133/#comments Wed, 22 Jul 2015 13:38:41 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=109133 The man charged with managing the day-to-day life of Palestinians in the West Bank calls Susya, a village facing imminent demolition, a ‘ploy by leftist organizations to take over Area C of the West Bank.’

Rabbi Eli Ben Dahan (Photo: Natisabu/CC)

Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben Dahan. (Photo: Natisabu/CC)

Deputy Defense Minister and new head of Israel’s Civil Administration Eli Ben Dahan openly denied the existence of Susya, a West Bank village under threat of demolition, while speaking to the Knesset on Wednesday.

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“There has never been an Arab village called Susya,” Ben Dahan said, calling the village “a ploy by leftist organizations to take over Area C [of the West Bank].”

Ben Dahan, a Rabbi from the Jewish Home party — who previously said that Palestinians are sub-human and that even homosexual Jews are superior to non-Jews — was responding to a formal query lodged by Joint List Member Dov Khenin, who inquired as whether it is true that the Civil Administration plans to demolish half of the village’s structures.

Khenin, who was visibly enraged by Ben Dahan’s remarks (you can view a video of the exchange here, in Hebrew), responded: “I have not heard such a response so detached from reality in a long time.” He then went on to quote Plia Albeck, a pro-settler former government official who oversaw legal decisions regarding West Bank land, and who herself admitted in 1982 that the old synagogue in what is now the Jewish settlement of Susya is “surrounded by an Arab village,” and that the land is registered in the Israel Lands Authority as being privately owned by Arabs.

Susya made headlines earlier this week after both the U.S. State Department and the EU warned Israel against any demolitions there. Israel’s Civil Administration notified residents of its intention to demolish half of the village’s structures following the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Mohammad Mousa Abu Ghanam passes in front of one of his animal shelters which was demolished earlier in the day by the Israeli army, in the village of Susiya, South Hebron Hills, August 28, 2012

Mohammad Mousa Abu Ghanam passes in front of one of his animal shelters ,which were demolished earlier in the day by the Israeli army, Susya, South Hebron Hills, August 28, 2012. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org

The story of Susya, however, did not begin last week. Israel first expelled Susya’s residents from their land in 1986 in order to build a Jewish settlement of the same name, and to establish an archaeological site on top of the Palestinian village. The displaced Palestinians moved the village to their adjacent agricultural lands and have been fighting to subsist there ever since.

The Israeli army, however, never gave Susya’s residents permission to build their homes on the current location. 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.

The reason Palestinians in the south Hebron Hills build illegally is because Israeli authorities systematically refuse to grant them building permits or recognize 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.

Last May, the High Court of Justice gave the state the green light to destroy the village at any moment by refusing to issue an injunction until an appeal is heard.

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U.S. warns Israel against evicting Palestinians from Susya http://972mag.com/u-s-warns-israel-against-evicting-palestinians-from-susya/108989/ http://972mag.com/u-s-warns-israel-against-evicting-palestinians-from-susya/108989/#comments Fri, 17 Jul 2015 22:50:16 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=108989 Although Susya has been under constant threat of destruction for years, the State Department is now warning Israel that any demolitions in this tiny village in the West Bank would be considered a provocation.

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

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

While the Iran nuclear deal captured most of the attention and highlighted continued tensions in the U.S.-Israeli relationship this week, the tiny rural Palestinian village of Susya also managed to get the U.S. State Department’s attention. Israel has indicated that it plans to demolish parts of the West Bank village after Ramadan, which officially ended Friday, or after the current Muslim holiday of Eid el-Fitr.

According to Susya resident Nasser Nawaj’ah, who is also a B’Tselem researcher, the Israeli army’s Civil Administration (the military government in the West Bank) notified residents of its intention to demolish about half of the village’s structures once the month of Ramadan is over: 10 residential homes, a clinic, eight animal shelters, 12 storerooms and outhouses. A High Court petition appealing the demolitions and a plan to expel Susya’s residents is only scheduled for August 3.

Asked about the situation, U.S. State Department spokesperson John Kirby said on Thursday:

We’re closely following developments in the village of Susya in the West Bank, and we strongly urge the Israeli authorities to refrain from carrying out any demolitions in the village. Demolition of this Palestinian village or of parts of it, and evictions of Palestinians from their homes would be harmful and provocative.

Such actions have an impact beyond those individuals and families who are evicted. We are concerned that the demolition of this village may worsen the atmosphere for a peaceful resolution and would set a damaging standard for displacement and land confiscation, particularly given settlement-related activity in the area.

We urge Israeli authorities to work with the residents of the village to finalize a plan for the village that addresses the residents’ humanitarian needs.

While it is significant that the State Department warned Israel against moving forward with demolition, Israel has already, many times over, “set a damaging standard for displacement and land confiscation,” and the Obama administration has done nothing about it. Al Araqib, an “unrecognized” Bedouin village inside Israel proper, whose residents are full Israeli citizens, has not to my knowledge received the same kind of attention from Washington.

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The only reason that Susya has is that its demolition would constitute another step in Israel’s de facto annexation of Area C (more than 60 percent of the West Bank) and forcible transfer of Palestinians, precluding the inclusion of Area C into what is supported to be part of a future Palestinian state.

Israeli activists have organized a constant presence in the village as of Friday in solidarity with the people of Susya and to document any actions by Israeli forces. There are also currently petitions circulating in Israel and among Jewish Voice for Peace supporters in the U.S. demanding Israel abort its plan.

Decades of struggle and a history of dispossession

Israel first expelled Susya’s residents from their land in 1986 in order to build a Jewish settlement of the same name, and to establish an archaeological site on top of the Palestinian village. The displaced Palestinians moved the village to their adjacent agricultural lands and have been fighting to subsist there ever since.

The Israeli army, however, never gave Susya’s residents permission to build their homes on the current location. 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.

The reason Palestinians in the south Hebron Hills build illegally is because Israeli authorities systematically refuse to grant them building permits or recognize 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.

Last May, the High Court of Justice gave the state the green light to destroy the village at any moment by refusing to issue an injunction until an appeal is heard.

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Netanyahu to Gaza flotilla: Did you mean to sail to Syria? http://972mag.com/netanyahu-to-gaza-flotilla-didnt-you-mean-to-sail-to-syria/108241/ http://972mag.com/netanyahu-to-gaza-flotilla-didnt-you-mean-to-sail-to-syria/108241/#comments Sun, 28 Jun 2015 19:51:29 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=108241 Netanyahu publishes letter to flotilla participants in which he states there is no blockade, while at the same time declaring that Israel will prevent them from reaching Gaza. 

Free Gaza Flotilla (freegaza.org/CC BY SA 2.0)

Activists hold a banner in front of the Gaza Flotilla. (photo: freegaza.org/CC BY SA 2.0)

UPDATE 7:27 A.M.: The IDF intercepted the Marianne ship early morning Monday and and began towing it to the Ashdod Port. No violence or injuries reported.

The “Freedom Flotilla III” is due to approach the Gaza coastline in a matter of hours, sometime overnight Sunday. Its declared mission is to non-violently challenge Israel’s nine-year blockade of the Strip by bringing in medical equipment and other humanitarian aid. It is not expected to actually reach Gaza, as Israel plans to stop the four boats, just as it has done in previous attempts in 2011 and the infamous Mavi Marmara in 2010, which ended with the killing of nine people on board.

Prime Minister Netanyahu published a letter Sunday night that he intends to present to all the participants, in which he sarcastically mocks those aboard (my translation):

It appears you made a wrong turn. Welcome to Israel. Maybe you intended to sail somewhere not too far from here: Syria, where the Assad regime is massacring his people daily, with the support of the lethal Iranian regime.

The letter goes on to detail all the merchandise Israel allows through into Gaza and then insists: “There is no blockade of Gaza. You are welcome to transfer humanitarian aid through Israel. We are not, however, willing to allow weapons to enter Gaza and reach terror groups, as has been done in the past via the sea.”

Netanyahu states that there is no blockade while at the same time declaring that Israel will prohibit the flotilla from reaching Gaza. It is the IDF’s naval blockade of the Strip – deemed legitimate by international law – that enables Israel to force the ships to revert to docking in the port in Ashdod. It is the blockade that allows Israel to shoot at Gaza fisherman on a regular basis. Also, what does the blockade of 1.8 million Palestinians have to do with Syria?

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The 2015 flotilla is comprised of four boats, which include 48 human rights activists, journalists, artists, and political figures representing 17 countries. Dr. Bassel Ghattas, a member of Knesset with the Joint List is on board, as is Dr. Moncef Marzouki, former President of Tunisia, who came to power after the 2011 popular uprising.

Ghattas sent a letter earlier Sunday addressed to Netanyahu, calling on him to allow the flotilla to reach Gaza. His participation caused an uproar in the Knesset earlier this week, with several MKs calling for his citizenship to be revoked, among them Culture Minister Miri Regev. The Knesset will discuss the matter on Tuesday.

MK Haneen Zoabi, Ghattas’ fellow Balad party member, was on board the Marmara in 2010. Despite attempts to bring criminal charges against her, Israel’s Supreme Court ruled that she violated no laws by being on board.

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IDF soldiers killed Palestinian teen who posed no danger, report finds http://972mag.com/idf-soldiers-killed-palestinian-teen-who-posed-no-danger-report-finds/107926/ http://972mag.com/idf-soldiers-killed-palestinian-teen-who-posed-no-danger-report-finds/107926/#comments Thu, 18 Jun 2015 14:15:21 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=107926 Israeli soldiers ambushed three Palestinian teenagers with live ammunition, killing one, despite the fact that they posed no immediate threat. Neither the soldiers nor their commanders will face any charges.

Illustrative photo of an IDF sharpshooter aiming his weapon (Photo by ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock.com)

Illustrative photo of an IDF sharpshooter aiming his weapon (Photo by ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock.com)

An IDF commander ordered soldiers to fire live ammunition directly at Palestinian teenagers who broke through part of the separation fence, resulting in the killing of 14-year-old Yousef a-Shawamreh last year. This, despite the fact they they posed no immediate danger, according to a B’Tselem report released Wednesday criticizing the military’s decision to close the investigation without indictment.

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On March 19, 2014, three Palestinians – an 18-year-old and two minors, one of them a-Shawamreh – walked up to the separation barrier in the area of the village of Deir al-‘Asal al-Foqa, southwest of Hebron. The IDF knows that certain parts of the barrier are often crossed by Palestinian youth who go to pick edible gundelia plants from their families’ land on the other side.

B’Tselem originally thought they crossed through an opening but later learned from military footage (video below) that they cut through the metal fence that the military sealed the previous day. This means that the IDF knew that whomever tried to cross that day would have to first sabotage the fence. That person would then be deemed “a fence saboteur” – and by definition suspected of committing an offense serious enough to warrant carrying out a suspect-apprehension procedure, including firing at below the knees.

According to B’Tselem, the investigators did not ask the commander why he had decided, by sealing the gaps in the fence, to incriminate anyone who crossed it as “suspected of a dangerous offense.”

According to the military, the soldiers in the field called out to the boys to stop, firing two warning shots in the air before firing at 14-year-old a-Shawamreh with a shot that should have been directed at his legs, but which they claim accidentally hit his waist. The Palestinian teens who were with a-Shawamreh testified that they didn’t realize there were any warning shots but rather were immediately fired upon.

B’Tselem slammed the Military Advocate General’s decision to close the investigation without serving any indictments. ”No apparent attempt was made to reconcile the contradicting versions given by the suspects and by witnesses, and the responsibility of the commanders who decided to mount an armed ambush at the spot was utterly ignored.”

Whether or not the open-fire regulations directed by the

commander on that day were indeed in line with the IDF’s protocol, the incident is highly suspect. Why would soldiers who knew the fence was sealed the day before stand by and watch the three youth as they broke through, only to approach them afterwards. It is almost as if they waited for them to do it (a form of entrapment) so they could then justify firing on them. The bottom line, however, is that a 14 year old was killed for picking plants on land that he can no longer freely access due to the route of the separation barrier. If the protocol allows for him to be shot for that, there is clearly something very wrong with the system at its core.

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Israel’s culture minister is turning artists into enemies http://972mag.com/israels-culture-minister-is-turning-artists-into-enemies/107841/ http://972mag.com/israels-culture-minister-is-turning-artists-into-enemies/107841/#comments Mon, 15 Jun 2015 14:58:17 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=107841 Miri Regev’s attempts to pull funding from artists who ‘delegitimize’ Israel expose the lengths to which this government will go to try and silence its critics.

MK Miri Regev points on a map of the city of Rahat, during a Negev tour by the Israeli Knesset Internal Affairs Committee regarding the Prawer plan, in the Bedouin city of Rahat, November 24, 2013. (Photo: Activestills.org)

MK Miri Regev points on a map of the city of Rahat, during a Negev tour by the Israeli Knesset Internal Affairs Committee regarding the Prawer plan, in the Bedouin city of Rahat, November 24, 2013. (Photo: Activestills.org)

Last week Israel’s new Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev threatened to pull state funding from a children’s theater in Jaffa after its manager, Norman Issa, an actor with the Haifa Theater, refused to perform in a West Bank settlement. She claimed that as opposed to her, Issa is not an advocate for coexistence.

After it provoked some backlash, she went on the defensive and stated that because her Likud party won 30 Knesset seats, and the “Left” (read: Labor/Zionist Camp) won only 20 seats, that she was at liberty to do as she pleases with state funds for the arts.

“I decide the criteria, I can decide which institutions get money, that all the money go only to the periphery and Judea and Samaria..The government doesn’t have to support culture. I can decide where the money goes. The artists will not dictate to me…We got 30 Knesset seats, you got a total of 20 seats.”

This kind of talk shows that Regev has a total lack of understanding of what it means to be an elected official, and speaks volumes of the current leadership’s understanding of how a democratically-elected public servant is supposed to act.

But here is the real kicker:

Institutions that delegitimize the State of Israel will not receive funding. We had a crisis with FIFA and with Orange, who apologized, because they realized that Jewish power is consumer power. We can’t apologize for our existence as the State of Israel. I am for pluralism that allows for views to be expressed – but not for tarnishing or for boycotts against Israel….As minister of culture it’s my job to ensure a diversity of voices in Israeli society, [but] currently we are in the midst of a diplomatic campaign and we must do everything possible to stop giving ammunition to our enemies. (emphasis mine – M.Z.)

Regev’s comments raise serious doubts about her ability to tolerate dissent and freedom of expression, but her use of the word “delegitimize” gave me pause and is worth elaborating on. The word has been used over and over again by Prime Minister Netanyahu in recent years when discussing the boycott movement. Actually, he used it most recently in relation to the Palestinian effort to suspend Israel from FIFA.

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It is worth noting that Regev — who previously referred to African asylum seekers as a “cancer” — chose to use this word during an internal Israeli discussion over state funding for cultural institutions. It is no coincidence. It is because she sees Israeli citizens whose artistic work or personal views challenge the status quo of Israel’s Jewish nationalist hegemony as “delegitimizers” — whether they are Palestinian or Jewish. That they pay taxes, follow the law and fulfill all their civic duties does not matter; if they are seen to be “delegitimizing” Israel, their work may be under threat of not being funded.

Last September, I wrote an op-ed in the The New York Times about how Israel was silencing dissent. In it I described how after so many years of Israeli repression of Palestinians, “the transition to targeting ‘one of your own’ isn’t so difficult. Now it is the few Jewish Israelis who speak the language of human rights who are branded as enemies.”

With the new government in place, this silencing of dissent has become even more explicit in the halls of government. The “enemies” Regev talks about are not only the surrounding Arab countries, not only Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, not only Palestinian citizens of Israel, not only non-Israeli Jews who support boycott efforts, and not only Jewish Israeli artists who support boycott efforts, not only those who oppose settlements — but even those whose art  somehow “delegitimizes” Israel, whatever that means.

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BDS is being used to stifle dissent in Israel http://972mag.com/bds-is-being-used-to-stifle-dissent-in-israel/107554/ http://972mag.com/bds-is-being-used-to-stifle-dissent-in-israel/107554/#comments Mon, 08 Jun 2015 13:04:57 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=107554 Israeli members of Knesset, along with journalists, commentators and others are taking advantage of the boycott movement in order to delegitimize Israeli human rights groups at home.

Police watch from above as solidarity activists hold a banner reading "Boycott Israel" during a protest in front of the Norwegian Parliament building, Stortinget, Oslo, March 30, 2015. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Police watch from above as solidarity activists hold a banner reading “Boycott Israel” during a protest in front of the Norwegian Parliament building, Stortinget, Oslo, March 30, 2015. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

As all eyes in Israel obsessively turned their attention to BDS, a subplot emerged that has gone by the wayside — one that I believe is the real story regarding the boycott movement’s current role within Israeli society.

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Last week Israel’s Foreign Ministry called on Switzerland to pull its funding from an event put on by Israeli NGO Breaking the Silence, in an effort to force the organization to cancel its upcoming exhibit featuring soldiers’ testimonies of IDF human rights violations, which is supposed to open in Zurich this month. In response to the exhibit, newly-appointed Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) said: “The Foreign Ministry will continue its extensive actions against organizations that are acting against Israel, at home and abroad.” Gilad Erdan, the new minister for strategic affairs who has been tasked with combatting the Israel boycott, has called Breaking the Silence an organization that “leads the delegitimization campaign against Israeli soldiers.”

Also last week, in one of her first acts as new minister of culture and sport, Miri Regev pulled the ministry’s sponsorship from a solo dance show that incorporates footage taken by B’Tselem volunteers in the West Bank. Entitled “Archive,” Israeli artist and choreographer Arkadi Zaides mimics the physical expressions and movements of Israeli settlers and soldiers, projected onto a large screen behind him. The show highlights their violent and domineering body language, as seen from the perspective of Palestinians behind the camera. The show, which first launched in Europe and has already taken the stage in Israel, no longer bears the Culture Ministry logo. Now Regev is considering pulling its funding.

While the two incidents may seem minor and insignificant, they are a sharp indication of this government’s crackdown on dissent and independent art.

Likud MK Miri Regev (Photo by Activestills.org)

Minister of Culture and Sport Miri Regev. (Photo by Activestills.org)

It is, after all, no coincidence that this all happened on the same week as the eruption of the BDS debate here in Israel. This is the product of a concerted effort by the Right, which includes mainstream journalists and commentators, to conflate any boycott efforts — whether by FIFA, Orange, student unions or settlement product-labeling Europeans — with the work of Israeli human rights groups such as B’Tselem and Breaking the Silence (two organizations that have absolutely nothing to do with boycott of any kind).

The real victims of BDS

On Twitter, several Israeli journalists claimed that Breaking the Silence defames soldiers and spread lies about the IDF — and in doing so pour fuel on the BDS fire — and thus are one in the same. In a column on why BDS threatens Israel’s very existence, Yedioth Ahronoth columnist Ben-Dror Yemini wrote that “When a member of Breaking the Silence appears at events sponsored by BDS, that is not criticism. That is demonization. When Peter Beinart, one of the leaders of the Jewish left in the United States, who defines himself as a Zionist and Orthodox, claimed that on Lag BaOmer of 2014 Jews committed a pogrom against Palestinians, he was not working to criticize. He spread a blood libel.”

The lumping together of the various calls to boycott Israel with Israeli groups that criticize the country’s policies is yet another tactic used to shut down internal dissent. As Tomer Persico recently wrote on the site, the effect of rising international pressure in Israel leads to a situation in which “nationalism grows, internal dissent is silenced, and various democratic characteristics become weaker, or are weakened.”

While certain elements among BDS supporters do challenge Israel’s right to exist as the exclusive nation-state of the Jewish people, there are also Jewish Israelis who happen to agree — whether because they do not believe Israel can be both Jewish and democratic, or simply because they don’t want to live in a Jewish state.

Should they be barred from expressing their alternative view, no matter how unpopular it is? Does it make them, as Netanyahu has deemed, anti-Semitic? Does it mean they condone ISIS? Of course not. But the tactic of stifling dissent works, especially because Israelis are astonishingly ignorant of the actual BDS mission statement, not to mention the various approaches of boycott. As such, Israeli members of Knesset, journalists, commentators and others are able to use BDS to delegitimize Israeli human rights groups at home who have nothing to do with the movement.

While Orange is not pulling its business out of Israel anytime soon, the real victim of BDS — or more accurately, of Israel’s portrayal and manipulation of BDS — is dissent here at home.

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Israel Supreme Court: Bedouin have no indigenous rights http://972mag.com/israel-supreme-court-bedouin-have-no-indigenous-rights/107171/ http://972mag.com/israel-supreme-court-bedouin-have-no-indigenous-rights/107171/#comments Fri, 29 May 2015 13:14:49 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=107171 A recent Supreme Court ruling refusing to recognize Bedouin land rights sets a legal precedent for the state to endlessly appropriate Palestinian lands. 

A Bedouin man confronts Israeli policemen during the destruction of the unrecognized village of Al-Araqib (photo: Activestills)

A Bedouin man confronts Israeli policemen during the destruction of the unrecognized village of Al-Araqib (photo: Activestills)

Israel’s Supreme Court made a significant ruling this week, setting a precedent for the state to approve the expropriation of Palestinian land in future cases, specifically inside Israel.

The court rejected a five-year old petition filed by the Al Uqbi family to recognize its ownership over a large plot of land in Israel’s Negev/Naqab Desert. The land also includes the unrecognized village Al Arakib, which is still in its own legal battle for recognition from the stae.

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According to Attorney Michael Sfard, who represented the Ul Uqbi family, no one is arguing with the fact that the family has been living in this area for centuries. However, the ruling does not recognize the family’s ownership of the land since it defines it as consisting of stone houses and written deeds as proof of ownership. Bedouin have traditionally lived in tent structures and their ownership was passed down orally, such that they do not fit that definition. As Sfard points out, the judgement uses “cultural bias to uphold Western notions of what a ‘human settlement’ is.”

The petition called for recognition of ownership over the family’s historical lands, from which they were expelled in the 1950s. The ruling, which went largely un-reported in the Israeli media, effectively means the state does not recognize Bedouin rights to the land, clearing the path for it to continue to legalize the expropriation of Palestinian lands, whether inside Israel or in the West Bank.

The decision not only fails to acknowledge the distinct historical and cultural heritage of this Bedouin community, it is also a major contradiction: while Bedouin property rights are not recognized, the Zionist purchase of land from Bedouin before the state was established is. If the court recognizes land deals made with the Bedouin, it necessarily implies that it recognizes their ownership. But according to Sfard, the court simply disregarded this fact. Israeli officials often claim that the country was established through the legitimate purchase of land from Arabs, not through forceful expropriation.

“The bottom line: hundreds of thousands of Bedouin have lived for centuries in the Negev, but as the court astonishingly said, the Bedouin way of life does not create any legal rights in the lands they lived on and cultivated for generations,” Michael Sfard says.

While the village of Al Arakib’s legal struggle with the Be’er Sheva court is still ongoing, the Supreme Court decision indicates it will be nearly impossible for the village to win any legal claims to their land. The court also dismissed all arguments based on international law as it relates to indigenous people, since these claims have yet to become binding under international law.

The land belonging to the unrecognized village of Al Arakib, like countless plots of land in the Negev, was expropriated under the Land Appropriation Law of 1953. The law allowed the state to easily expropriate land for purposes of “development, settlement and security,” with a few ludicrous stipulations: that the land was not in its owner’s possession on April 1, 1952, and that the state use the land for purposes of development, settlement or security, or at least that it needs the land for those purposes. In reality, the state dispossessed the village residents of their land, and has not once used their land for any purpose.

As part of the legal process that has become more and more common in the Negev over recent years, when Al Arakib’s residents filed a land ownership claim in the 1970s, the southern district prosecutor filed a counter-claim on the same plot of land, claiming it was actually state land. While the courts verified ownership, the village’s residents attempted to challenge the expropriation itself. This strategy has failed.

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