+972 Magazine » Analysis http://972mag.com Independent commentary and news from Israel & Palestine Wed, 25 Nov 2015 20:00:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8 Why aren’t Israelis talking about extrajudicial killings? http://972mag.com/why-arent-israelis-talking-about-extrajudicial-killings/114209/ http://972mag.com/why-arent-israelis-talking-about-extrajudicial-killings/114209/#comments Wed, 25 Nov 2015 17:08:59 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=114209 Two Palestinian teenage girls were shot at point-blank range after attempting to stab passersby with scissors. Who said there is no death penalty in Israel?

By Rhona Burns

On Tuesday two Palestinian teenagers left their homes and went out to attack Jewish Israelis in Jerusalem with a pair of scissors.

Unsurprisingly, the girls, 14 and 16 years old, were unsuccessful. After all, they were armed with a pair of scissors. They managed to lightly wound an elderly Palestinian man, and were immediately attacked back by other witnesses, at least two of whom were armed with guns.


When it was all over, one of the girls was shot to death, the other was seriously wounded by gunfire.

Not enough has been said about this incident, not enough has been written, despite the fact that this event included what appears to be a most serious detail. This detail is the fact that the shooting of one of the girls seems to be happening while she is already lying on the ground, after someone had hit her with a chair.

The fact is that these incidents have become commonplace. The ends justify the means. “They are attacking us, they must know that there will be consequences.” And what of Israeli society? What are the consequences of what has been taking place here for the past two months for Israelis? What is the price of blood that seems to flow so cheaply here? What is the price of suffering? Of unnecessary death? What about the right to a fair trial?

Who said there is no death penalty in Israel?

When I see what appears to be a man shooting a teenage girl as she lays on the ground on a main street in Jerusalem from point-blank range, I ask myself whether I am witnessing an attempted murder. Whether I am witnessing an extrajudicial killing, without even the facade of a kangaroo court.

This was the case with the shooting death of Fadi Alloun. This was the case, despite the different circumstances, of the tragic death of Habtom Zerhum.

We must cry out against the images captured by the security cameras at the Mahane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem. Meanwhile, as many of us are crying out, the injustices continue, the violence undermines the fundamentals of democracy and a free society, violence wins out.

Rhona Burns is a critic and author based in Jerusalem. This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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More guns will not make Israelis any safer http://972mag.com/more-guns-will-not-make-israelis-any-safer/114206/ http://972mag.com/more-guns-will-not-make-israelis-any-safer/114206/#comments Wed, 25 Nov 2015 13:54:27 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=114206 The immediate solution to every threat or conflict in Israel is to give more weapons to civilians, which often end up killing innocents ad disproportionately affects women.

By Tanya Rubinstein

Israeli shows a tear gas gun he just bought at a gun shop in Jerusalem on October 15, 2015. Arms shop's owners report a rise in demand for wepons and other self deface gear as violance continues around Jerusalem. (photo: Yotam Ronen)

Israeli shows a tear gas gun he just bought at a gun shop in Jerusalem on October 15, 2015. Arms shop’s owners report a rise in demand for wepons and other self deface gear as violance continues around Jerusalem. (photo: Yotam Ronen)

These days, and actually most of the time, violence in the streets is making headlines on a near-daily basis. The dangers of citizens arming themselves, of the growing militarization of our society, and the way these two intersect to create more violence — especially toward women — can hardly be found in our newspapers.


Israeli society’s sense of security greatly stems from both developing our weapons industry and the massive arming of the IDF. This is our answer to every threat, whether real or imagined. This is a society in which the army plays a significant role in our daily lives: in the education system, on the street, vis-a-vis almost everyone we know. This is a society in which weapons — both the private and public sphere — are completely normal. Specifically in the public sphere, weapons are viewed as something that protects us.

A significant portion of the Israeli economy is based on its security industry, whether development or importing and exporting arms and security technology. The government actively supports these industries, promoting a feeling that they are necessary in order to keep us safe.

The last few months have not only seen the streamlining of the process of procuring permits for firearms, but the active encouragement of civilians to arm themselves and to use their weapons as a response to the feeling of helplessness on the streets.

But is the proliferation of weapons truly the right answer to violence?

Israelis attend a shooting practice in a gun shop in Jerusalem on October 15, 2015. Arms shop's owners report a rise in demand for weapons and other self defence gear as violence continues around Jerusalem. (Activestills.org)

Israelis attend a shooting practice in a gun shop in Jerusalem on October 15, 2015. Arms shop’s owners report a rise in demand for weapons and other self defence gear as violence continues around Jerusalem. (Activestills.org)

The fact is that there are many people who feel threatened by the sight of a weapon. Guns are a threat even for the average person on the street: only recently have we witnessed a number of cases in which security forces and civilians have used their weapons disproportionately, not to mention instances in which innocents have been accidentally wounded or killed in shooting incidents.

Violence, of course, is not solely relegated to the public sphere. A large part of violence against women takes place at home. The “Gun Free Kitchen Tables” has successfully forced the authorities to enforce instructions by the Defense Ministry published in 2013, which order security companies to collect guns handed out to their employees at the end of the day. The orders came in the wake of many cases of domestic murders using guns belonging to security guards. From the moment these orders went into effect, not a single woman or family member was murdered by security guards.

But this decision was annulled by then-Minister of Public Security Yitzhak Aharonovitch in November 2014, allowing security guards to carry weapons outside their places of work. Aharonovitch explained his decision as stemming from the “need to strengthen the feeling of security among the population,” following a wave of terror attacks.

The ease with which civilians can obtain gun licenses — as well as the panic and feeling of danger in the streets — leaves us vulnerable to physical harm. We must openly oppose a culture in which weapons are the solution to every danger or conflict, against a culture of violence and arming, against a culture in which women suffer from violence that grows more extreme as the tension in the streets grows — a culture that inevitably permeates the home.

This militaristic worldview, which relies on more murderous weapons in the streets and our homes, must be replaced with a worldview that protects the life of women and the population at large. A worldview that strives to reduce the violence in our lives.

Tanya Rubinstein is the head of the “Hamushim” project, as part of the Coalition of Women for Peace. This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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Don’t equate Paris attacks with those in Tel Aviv http://972mag.com/dont-equate-paris-attacks-with-those-in-tel-aviv/114199/ http://972mag.com/dont-equate-paris-attacks-with-those-in-tel-aviv/114199/#comments Tue, 24 Nov 2015 19:04:31 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=114199 Suggestions that terrorism in Paris springs from the same well as terrorism in Israel are misleading and dangerous. Erasing complexity may be a comfort in difficult days like these, but conflating the varying causes of violence won’t help us end it.

Israelis attend a solidarity vigil for the victims of the terror attacks in Paris, Rabin Square, Tel Aviv, November 14, 2015. (Yotam Ronen/Activestill.org)

Israelis attend a solidarity vigil for the victims of the terror attacks in Paris, Rabin Square, Tel Aviv, November 14, 2015. (Yotam Ronen/Activestill.org)

There are troubled currents flowing from unlikely sources these days. Terror attacks have continued to mar Iraq, Lebanon, Nigeria, Yemen, Mali and others over the past two weeks, but the global chatter surrounding such events increased disproportionately with the attacks in France. Suddenly, two of Europe’s major capitals – Paris and Brussels – started receiving the kind of attention usually reserved for genuine conflict zones.


As someone who was born in Brussels to a French mother and who now lives in Israel-Palestine, it has been a particularly complex fortnight. For my country of residence has, too, been witnessing a spike in violence – albeit of a very different nature to that which has again turned up at Europe’s door.

So it has been with anguish that I have followed the current events and with troubled curiosity that I have watched commentators try to draw connections between the tensions in my countries of birth, residence and heritage. Under the guise of attempting to arrange the current wave of global violence into some kind of cohesive narrative, and with the debate on terrorism at saturation point, many observers of the Israel-Palestine conflict have seized on the opportunity to situate the bloodshed here as springing from the vaguely-defined, amorphous phenomenon of “global jihad” or “militant Islam.”

This line of reasoning posits Islamic State, Hamas and lone-wolf attackers on the streets of Israel-Palestine within the same nexus of expansionist religious fanaticism and has been adopted enthusiastically in Israel, from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu downward.

A prominent example of this unfortunate trend occurred last Thursday, when five people were killed in Tel Aviv and the West Bank in two separate attacks perpetrated by Palestinians. The killings took place exactly a week after the Paris attacks and marked the latest and, for Israelis, bloodiest day in a six-week stretch of heightened violence on both sides of the Green Line.

Palestinians take part in a solidarity vigil following the terror attacks in Beirut and Paris that killed 43 and 130 respectively, Bethlehem, West Bank, 14 November, 2015. (Mustafa Bader/Activestills)

Palestinians take part in a solidarity vigil following the terror attacks in Beirut and Paris that killed 43 and 130 respectively, Bethlehem, West Bank, 14 November, 2015. (Mustafa Bader/Activestills)

As is customary, people took to social media to voice their reactions, with countless Israelis and Jews in the diaspora – politicians and the general public alike – positioning the terror attack in Tel Aviv within the same framework as those in France. Ignoring the national-political dimensions of the violence in Israel-Palestine, many simply attributed the killings to Islamist extremism.

Absent from these assertions was any suggestion that the unique contours of the situation here – i.e. occupation, acute oppression and dispossession of Palestinians and a uniformly brutalized society – may be fertile ground for political violence. This attitude is perfectly embodied in the statements Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely made on Sunday, in which she claimed that “the settlement enterprise is the front line in the fight against global jihad.”

Domestically this approach is worrying, because it whitewashes the occupation and seeks to obviate the need for Israelis – and particularly the Israeli government – to look inwards. Without condoning or justifying the violence, there is nonetheless an urgent need for Israel to come to terms with the role that successive governments have played in cultivating the conditions for unrest.

But the implications of reassigning the roots of Israel-Palestine’s problems reach beyond our own borders. Firstly, it contributes to the broad trend of stigmatizing Muslims and treating Islam as inherently problematic, instead of trying to understand the exogenous causes of radicalization.

Secondly, it ignores the impact of the West’s frequently ruinous military adventurism in the Middle East and the fundamental role this has played in giving rise to violent groups with international designs. Islamic State, the latest and most gratuitously perverse of the lot, arose in large part due to a vacuum created by geopolitical developments that have little to do with Israel and Palestine.

Bunching terror attacks on the streets of Israel-Palestine with those in Europe also glosses over socio-political dynamics specific to Belgium and France, whose respective issues resemble each other far more closely.

Belgium, in spite of its reputation as a weekend-break haven, is a deeply divided country with a police force that seems to harbor a well-embedded tendency to overlook criminal activity going on under its nose. The country has long been a home for shady arms deals. A sustained period of terror attacks against civilians by a neo-Nazi gang and systematic police failings in the case of a serial child abductor and murderer were issues that marred Belgium when I was living there in the mid-1980s and again in the early 1990s. Additionally, Belgium’s dysfunctionality as a state has pushed much of its immigrant populace to the margins.

A woman lays flowers at an impromptu memorial a day after the Paris terror attacks, Le Petit Cambodge / Carillon, November 14, 2015. (Maya-Anaïs Yataghène/CC)

A woman lays flowers at an impromptu memorial a day after the Paris terror attacks, Le Petit Cambodge / Carillon, November 14, 2015. (Maya-Anaïs Yataghène/CC)

France, meanwhile, has been threatening to explode for more than a decade. The insistence on placing “Frenchness” above all else, and consequently failing to adequately integrate its immigrant populations – particularly those from its former colonies – has fostered resentment, crime and deep societal divisions. As in Belgium, the marginalization of the country’s Muslim communities has made their youngsters soft targets for radicalization.

The context in which attacks in Israel-Palestine take place, then, is wildly different from that in France, and any attempt to cast them as springing from the same well is facile, disingenuous and deeply misleading. It is also callous to try and appropriate the suffering of anyone affected by violence – in any measure – in order to gain political capital or prove a point. It is difficult to ignore the backhanded overtones in the social media memes announcing that Paris’s 13/11 is Israel’s 24/7.

And yet the impulse to conflate the causes behind these attacks is, on a human level, understandable. While it sows fear to inflate the perceived threat of “global jihad” by attributing every terror attack everywhere to its malign influence, it is nonetheless oddly comforting to paint using broad brushstrokes. Doing so erases complexity, and complexity is the last thing anyone wants to deal with when they are frightened. It raises more questions, when all we want is answers.

But we should be striving to maintain complexity. There are no straightforward answers at a time like this, and resorting to the Procrustean bed of grand narratives will only blind us to the real causes of the very diverse problems that we face. The fact that these problems are interconnected, as my colleague Amjad Iraqi so cogently argued after Paris, does not mean that they are alike. To suggest that they are only fosters the kind of short-sightedness that has led us into this mess in the first place.

In his recent essay on Islamic State, Adam Shatz wrote that “the theatre of conflict has no clear borders.” That is certainly true, and it is a profoundly discomfiting thought. It is complex, almost incomprehensibly so. But the fact that we cannot see where the conflicts end does not mean we shouldn’t try and understand where they begin.

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Illegal settlements aren’t rogue, they’re government policy http://972mag.com/illegal-settlements-arent-rogue-theyre-government-policy/114182/ http://972mag.com/illegal-settlements-arent-rogue-theyre-government-policy/114182/#comments Tue, 24 Nov 2015 13:57:55 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=114182 Consecutive Israeli governments have fabricated a sophisticated system designed to lend a guise of legality to the seizure of land in the West Bank.

By Adam Aloni

Israeli soldiers stand in front of the West Bank settlement of Beitar Illit, which was partially built on expropriated land belonging to the Palestinian village of Wadi Fukin, West Bank, September 26, 2014. (Ahmad al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

Israeli soldiers stand in front of the West Bank settlement of Beitar Illit, which was partially built on expropriated land belonging to the Palestinian village of Wadi Fukin, West Bank, September 26, 2014. (Ahmad al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

A month ago, with nearly no public debate, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu retroactively approved an urban building plan (UBP) for the West Bank settlement of Itamar. A week later, on October 29, Netanyahu retroactively approved UBPs for another three settlements: Shvut Rachel, Sansana and Yaqir. Once again Israeli authorities “laundered” construction in the West Bank that even they deemed illegal for years. Contrary to attempts in the media to represent this move as a Netanyahu capitulation to settler leaders, this was nothing more than the implementation of a long-standing Israeli policy of extensive unauthorized construction followed by retroactive approval. This allows the state to maintain a semblance of the rule of law while violating it on a daily basis.


In many settlements, the government itself has been responsible for illegal construction, primarily through the Housing and Construction Ministry. An analysis of Defense Ministry data shows that in the overwhelming majority (approximately 75 percent) of West Bank settlements, construction – sometimes extensive construction – was carried out without the necessary permits or in breach of the permits that were granted.

In 2005, the director general of the Settlement Division of the World Zionist Organization, which serves as the Israeli government’s branch for establishing and reinforcing rural settlements, testified that the Settlement Division expressly advocates violating planning and building laws in the West Bank. He said that the modus operandi is first to establish Israeli communities, then reinforce them, and only several years later to approve plans for the construction – “This is the mode of operation”.

The establishment of settlements – with or without building permits – violates international humanitarian law and the human rights of the Palestinian residents of the West Bank. Over the years, Israeli governments have all disregarded this prohibition and fabricated a sophisticated legal system designed to lend a guise of legality to the seizure of land in the West Bank.

Construction in the Israeli settlement of Gilo is seen over the West Bank separation barrier. (Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Construction in the Israeli settlement of Gilo is seen over the West Bank separation barrier. (Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

While Israel employs the same planning and legal language to describe Israeli and Palestinian construction in the West Bank, in practice these procedures and regulations are implemented completely differently in Jewish-Israeli settlements and in Palestinian communities. In the case of settlements, Israeli authorities provide assistance, turn a blind eye to violations, and retroactively approve unauthorized construction, all as part of a long-standing policy to facilitate the de facto annexation of West Bank land to the sovereign territory of the State of Israel. Palestinian communities on the other hand, face an exacting, by-the-book, bureaucratic approach, a freeze on planning, and extensively implemented demolition orders, all as part of an ongoing policy to prevent Palestinian development and dispossess Palestinians of their land.

Israeli government policy regarding planning and construction for Palestinians in the West Bank is the very reverse of the modus operandi described above. With regard to Palestinian construction in Area C, the Israeli government cynically explained to the UN that in order “to facilitate proper planning procedures, illegal construction is not tolerated. Such illegal construction harms the local population, given the fact that it does not take into consideration planning policies that will ensure a reasonable quality of life, and public needs.”

However, in practice the government has no such planning policy, nor will it have any such policy. In approximately 70 percent of Area C, Palestinian construction is completely prohibited, while stringent restrictions are imposed on another 29 percent of the area. In the remaining one percent of Area C – some 1,824.3 hectares – there are approved outline plans that enable Palestinian development. However, most of this area is already built up.

In recent years, the Palestinian Authority has prepared outline plans for 116 communities, and 67 plans have already been submitted to the planning bodies in the Israeli army’s Civil Administration for approval. However, these efforts have been to no avail. Only three plans have been approved, and they cover a total area of a mere 57 hectares (equal to 0.02 percent of Area C). This outcome is hardly surprising, given that Palestinians are completely excluded from the decision-making process with regard to planning in Area C.

Israel has surrounded the Palestinian residents of the West Bank in a planning stranglehold, while at the same time approving outline plans for settlements that already cover a total area of 28,217.4 hectares, equal to 8.5 percent of Area C. In addition, Israel has allocated extensive areas to the municipal authorities of the settlements, thereby blocking any Palestinian use of the land and ensuring that it remains available as a reserve for settlement expansion. Given the relative size of the two populations, the planned area for each settler is at least 13 times greater than that for each Palestinian. And that is how Israel expropriates West Bank land for itself at the expense of local Palestinian residents.

Adam Aloni works as a researcher at B’Tselem – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories. A version of this article first appeared in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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WATCH: How the far-right glorifies killing of Palestinians http://972mag.com/watch-how-the-far-right-glorifies-killing-of-palestinians/114163/ http://972mag.com/watch-how-the-far-right-glorifies-killing-of-palestinians/114163/#comments Tue, 24 Nov 2015 12:32:38 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=114163 The leader of a popular Jewish supremacist group circulates a new video that puts CCTV footage of stabbing attack to bouncy electronic music and violent, disturbing lyrics.

Benzi Gopstein, the head of Lehava, posted a video on his Facebook page Monday glorifying the killing of Palestinians. Lehava is a popular Jewish supremacist group dedicated to preventing Arab-Jewish relations, which is also accused of regular incitement and racism against Palestinians — both online and on the streets of Jerusalem.

(Click here for the original posting on Facebook)

The video itself is CCTV footage of an incident in Jerusalem on Monday in which two Palestinian girls, 14 and 16, stabbed an elderly Palestinian man with scissors (presumably mistaking him for a Jewish Israeli) before they were shot several times, and even after they lay still on the ground. One was killed, the other is in critical condition.

Crappy electronic music was added to the CCTV footage with synthesized lyrics: “She just wants to stab, put a bullet in her head.” Gopstein shared it on Facebook and wrote: “The new video, if you enjoy it share it!”


Using the video to glorify, celebrate and make light of the shooting of two Palestinian teenage girls, even though they attacked an innocent man with scissors, is almost as disturbing as the attack itself.

It is not just that the video glorifies and fetishizes the killing of Palestinians. It’s not just that it could be construed as incitement against all Palestinians, encouraging people to shoot to kill. In a certain tragic sense, it is an accurate snapshot of what life feels like in Israel these days.

In the current reality it feels like everyone is a potential target, and everything a potential weapon. Murder is not a means to an end, it has become the end. And all of the above is mediated through images and videos that people can watch, manipulate and share as they wish. This of course is done by both Israelis and Palestinians. But let’s not forget who has the army, the right to carry weapons, and the monopoly on the use of force.

Violence itself has gained currency here, in the literal sense of the word: “the quality or state of being used or accepted by many people.” Violence against Palestinians long ago became an accepted part of daily life in Israel. Now, violence against Israelis has once again become normal, too, with Israelis being attacked daily and the majority of people remaining silent about it — as if it is par for the course.

How many more people need to be killed before we realize things need to change, drastically?

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Palestinian groups present ‘war crimes’ evidence to the ICC http://972mag.com/palestinian-groups-present-war-crimes-evidence-to-the-icc/114152/ http://972mag.com/palestinian-groups-present-war-crimes-evidence-to-the-icc/114152/#comments Mon, 23 Nov 2015 18:48:34 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=114152 The International Criminal Court prosecutor is conducting a ‘preliminary examination’ into the 2014 Gaza war. But are Israeli officials at higher risk of prosecution for illegally building settlements in the West Bank?

Al-Haq director Shawan Jabarin hands the confidential communication to ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda in the Hague, November 23, 2015. (Photo courtesy of Al-Haq)

Al-Haq director Shawan Jabarin hands the confidential communication, complied by four Palestinian human rights organizations, to ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda in the Hague, November 23, 2015. (Photo courtesy of Al-Haq)

Four Palestinian human rights organizations submitted research, testimonies and documentation to International Criminal Court prosecutor Fatou Bensouda on Monday, which they said contain evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Israelis during the 2014 Gaza war.

The four Palestinian human rights organizations, Al-Haq, Al-Mezan, Aldameer and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), said the information they handed over to Bensouda on Monday detailed “illustrative instances” of murder, torture, intentional attacks on civilians and and civilian targets, and extensive destruction that had no military necessity.


“We have provided the Office of the Prosecutor with enough information for it to determine that there is a reasonable basis to believe that senior Israeli military and civilian officials committed crimes against humanity and war crimes during the offensive against Gaza,” Al-Haq director Shawan Jabarin said after hand-delivering the materials to Bensouda in The Hague on Monday.

In accordance with the process laid out in the Rome Statute, the treaty that established the International Criminal Court, Bensouda opened a preliminary investigation into the situation in Palestine on January 16, 2015, 15 days after Palestine joined the court.

Following the preliminary examination, the ICC prosecutor will decide whether or not to open a full-fledged investigation, which can result in criminal indictments of individuals suspected of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity.

In the current phase, the ICC prosecutor is gathering information from publicly available sources, as well as from individuals or groups, states, international organizations and from NGOs like human rights organizations. She then “take[s] steps to analyze and verify the seriousness of information received, including through a rigorous and independent source evaluation process.”

In a progress report published prior to the submission from the Palestinian rights organizations, Bensouda’s office said that it had thus far received 66 such communications containing information about alleged crimes committed since the start of the 2014 Gaza war, submitted by both individuals and other organizations.

‘Israel is unwilling to hold its soldiers accountable, Palestine is unable’

Relatives walk amidst the rubble of the home of Zaki Wahdan in the city of Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza City, November 10, 2014. Eight members of the Wahdan family, mostly women and children were killed. (Photo by Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Relatives walk amidst the rubble of the home of Zaki Wahdan in the city of Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza City, November 10, 2014. Eight members of the Wahdan family, mostly women and children were killed. (Photo by Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

One criterion the prosecutor must take into account, the principle of complementarity, will be particularly important when deciding whether to open a full-fledged investigation into alleged war crimes committed by Israel.

Complementarity means that if Israel investigates its own soldiers for suspected war crimes, and if it does so in good faith, then the ICC has no jurisdiction. But if the ICC determines that Israel is unwilling or incapable of investigating itself, then it may indeed have jurisdiction over war crimes committed by Israeli citizens, ranging from individual soldiers to generals and politicians.

Israel has not codified war crimes into its penal code, with the exception of genocide and crimes related to the Holocaust. Thus far, the only indictments that have been served against Israeli soldiers for crimes committed during the 2014 Gaza war are related to small-scale looting.

Based on experience seeking justice for Palestinian victims through Israeli courts, the Palestinian human rights organizations said they do not believe complementarity will pose a significant hurdle to an ICC investigation in this case. “Israel is unwilling and Palestine is unable to domestically hold to account Israeli perpetrators of international crimes,” PCHR director Raji Sourani said.

In addition to Israeli crimes in Gaza during the 2014 war, however, the ICC preliminary examination is also focusing on alleged Palestinian crimes, particularly the indiscriminate firing of rockets toward Israeli civilians, using civilian buildings and areas for military purposes, and the summary execution of 20 Palestinians accused of collaborating with Israel.

Settlements as a war crime

Settlement construction in Gilo, January 21, 2010. (Photo: Activestills.org)

Construction in the West Bank settlement Gilo, January 21, 2010. (Photo: Activestills.org)

Another area that few people are discussing publicly is the possibility that the ICC will open an investigation into Israeli settlement activities in the West Bank. Under the Rome Statue, an occupying power is prohibited from transferring, directly or indirectly, parts of its own population into the occupied territory.

An estimated 500,000 Israelis live in settlements beyond the Green Line, including in East Jerusalem.

The ICC prosecutor is currently examining the “carefully conceived network of policies, laws, and physical measures” that support the creation and expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, according to an ICC report on the prosecutor’s activities. The prosecutor is also examining an alleged “scheme of subsidies and incentives to encourage migration to the settlements and to boost their economic development.”

Israeli officials may ultimately be far more exposed to the risk of ICC prosecution for settlement activities than suspected war crimes in Gaza. Whereas Israel can attempt a complementarity defense with regards to war crimes in Gaza by pointing to domestic investigations of its soldiers, Israel’s High Court of Justice has never even agreed to hear a single argument on the legality of settlements.

“Israel’s main problem is indeed with settlements since this is a topic that has no complementarity issue at all,” human rights lawyer Michael Sfard explained to +972. “All the evidence and policies are known and accessible.” The magnitude of the crime and the number of people and communities who have been affected by it over nearly 50 years, Sfard added, “makes it the perfect case for a world criminal court.”

Indeed, the issue of gravity and the ICC’s willingness to investigate alleged Israeli crimes has been a hot topic in the ICC in recent weeks. Earlier this month an ICC appeals court essentially rejected a decision by Bensouda not to investigate Israel’s killing of 10 Turkish nationals aboard the Mavi Marmara in 2010. Bensouda had decided not to investigate based on her assessment that the alleged crime was not of “sufficient gravity” to warrant intervention by the ICC.

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I have a special ID card, Mr. Trump, and it is hell http://972mag.com/i-have-a-special-id-card-mr-trump-and-it-is-hell/114148/ http://972mag.com/i-have-a-special-id-card-mr-trump-and-it-is-hell/114148/#comments Mon, 23 Nov 2015 15:13:19 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=114148 The Republican presidential candidate wants Muslims to carry special ID cards. A West Bank Palestinian uses her personal experience to explain what that really means.

By Nadia Naser-Najjab

American presidential candidate Donald Trump at an event in New York City, September 3, 2015 (cropped). (A. Katz/Shutterstock.com)

American presidential candidate Donald Trump at an event in New York City, September 3, 2015 (cropped). (A. Katz/Shutterstock.com)

Donald Trump recently suggested that Muslims in the United States should be registered in a database and forced to carry special ID cards. This, he would have us believe, will help to make American citizens safer from the consequences of the wars successive U.S. administrations have waged around the world.


As a Palestinian who has studied and lived in the U.S., Trump’s disgusting bigotry offends me on a very personal level. However, the proposals also had an impact on me in another sense: as a Palestinian resident of the occupied West Bank I have to carry an ID card that I am required to produce whenever a representative of the Israeli state demands it of me. In my own country, I am the ones without rights; I am the one who has to justify my own presence to an occupying power.

Upon producing my ID, I am always aware of the fact that to the official glancing at the card I am little more than a few words and a photograph: I am, in effect, an accessory to this piece of plastic. And yet, in another sense, this document has no relation to me: it is part of an apparatus of control which reduces me to a unit of analysis that can be subtracted, divided and multiplied.

The card does not guarantee me rights nor does it enable me to make demands. Quite the contrary, it enables me only to respond to the demands of others, to present myself on terms that might satisfy the rude, abrupt and disinterested official who has deigned to take a few moments to bark questions at me. In producing this card for Israeli troops or officials I do not convey who I am, only what I am not. If I produce it I am not a threat, I am not a terrorist, and I am not guilty of an offense against his or her government or the laws the occupying authority has no right to pass or administer in the first place.

An Israeli soldier checks a Palestinian man’s identity card. Israel controls the Palestinian population database and issues green ID cards to Palestinians whereas Israelis receive blue cards. (Photo by Activestills.org)

An Israeli soldier checks a Palestinian man’s identity card. Israel controls the Palestinian population database and issues green ID cards to Palestinians whereas Israelis receive blue cards. (Photo by Activestills.org)

This card has become inseparable from the occupation itself, from the various ways it imposes itself upon everyday existence. In this aspect the occupation appears in its immediacy: the fences, the checkpoints, the armed soldiers. However, the occupation also exerts control through more subtle psychological means; that is, through a sense of uncertainty and unpredictability. Both aspects – the material embodiment of occupation and the more elusive sense of arbitrariness and powerlessness – are embodied within this piece of plastic.

To even obtain the ID card in the first place is to make a concession to a hated occupation whose only authority is derived from the violence and brutality it exercises to control your life. Every minutiae of your existence is subject to its unyielding gaze. Nothing else is to be expected or demanded: with the security of the state as its overarching justification, the bureaucracy need recognize no limitation or constraint. Once Palestinians have been defined as a threat they can be subject to any impediment, any control and any petty restriction. It is for this reason that I did not graduate from Birzeit University on time. The university was closed several times by an Israeli military order in the early 80s. In early 90s the closure of Jerusalem forced me to resign from my job because I was unable to enter the city.

Reflecting upon these features of the occupation, I often find it is the small details that are as telling as the larger ones. To take one example, in the pre-Oslo era, even a driver’s license were regulated and issued by Israeli military authorities – the color of your license plate indicated the area of the occupied territories in which the car had been registered. In reflecting upon this, I would suggest that it is not in the grand and imposing structures of the occupation – the walls, the prisons, the roadblocks – where one can find its essence, but rather in these small details, which correspond to a desire to control each and every aspect of Palestinian life. In registering the tenacity and pervasiveness of this desire, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that it knows no limitation or constraint and will only stop at the point where it meets active resistance.

On closer reflection, I found that the response of those subject to these petty restrictions is equally telling. Before the Oslo Accords, upon attaining a driver’s license, successful Palestinian applicants frequently celebrated by sharing kanafe (the Palestinian dessert) with relatives and friends. For Americans this would of course be inconceivable – could the likes of Donald Trump ever envisage celebrating the mundane occurrence of being granted the most basic of rights? Could he ever acknowledge how it feels to live in a society where every right is not enshrined in law but is subject to the benevolence of a bureaucrat? And, finally, could he ever acknowledge that an ID card is more than a piece of plastic — that it is the material embodiment of a system that dehumanizes both those who control it and those who are subject to it? If he cannot, then let us at least hope that ordinary Americans will do so on his behalf.

Dr. Nadia Naser-Najjab has a PhD in Middle East Studies and is an Associate Research Fellow at the European Center of Palestine Studies-Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies at the University of Exeter.

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The story behind Israel’s shady military exports http://972mag.com/who-will-stop-the-flow-of-israeli-arms-to-dictatorships/114080/ http://972mag.com/who-will-stop-the-flow-of-israeli-arms-to-dictatorships/114080/#comments Sun, 22 Nov 2015 18:23:25 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=114080 Why doesn’t the Foreign Ministry care whether Israeli weapons end up in the hands of serial human rights violators such as South Sudan?

South Sudanese Soldiers. (Steve Evans/CC BY-SA 2.0)

South Sudanese Soldiers. Israel has been arming the government of South Sudan, which has been committing human rights violations since civil war erupted in the country. (Steve Evans/CC BY-SA 2.0)

Israel’s greatest champions pride themselves on supporting a flourishing country based on start-up ingenuity that respects democracy and human rights. But do those who call Israel the “start-up nation” and the “only democracy in the Middle East” know just how embroiled the Jewish state is in selling arms to serial human rights violators?

Israel’s shadowy relationship with tyrannical regimes the world over reared its head Sunday morning when the Foreign Ministry announced its objection to a new amendment to a law that would restrict sales of Israeli arms to countries involved in human rights violations.


The Law For Oversight of Defense Exports, passed in 2007, forces the Defense Ministry to consult with the Foreign Ministry prior to selling arms to a foreign country. According to the amendment — sponsored by Meretz’s Zehava Galon and Tamar Zandberg — the Foreign Ministry would have near-total veto power over weapons sales — with only the security cabinet maintaining the sole authority to override the ministry’s objection.

According to the ministry’s legal opinion, the monitoring of human rights violations by foreign security forces is “important and deserves continual attention by the Foreign Ministry and all the bodies participating in the oversight,” but it is not important enough to set in law.

So why the opposition from the Foreign Ministry? The goal of the original law was to allow the ministry to act as a check on arms dealers who likely prefer to turn a blind eye to the implications of the very deals they strike. At a time when Israel’s name isn’t exactly synonymous with the great defenders of human rights, one would expect its government to do the bear minimum — even if for the sake of outside appearance — to make a painstaking effort and ensure that Israeli weapons do not end up in the wrong hands.

It’s not only Israel’s current standing in the world that should affect such a decision — the state has and continues to supply weapons to some of the worst human rights violators imaginable. In a recent interview with Haaretz’s Ayelett Shani, Chilean-born Lily Traubman described her efforts to demand the disclosure of Israel’s security and foreign relations with the brutal regime of Augusto Pinochet, responsible for the kidnapping, murder and tortured of tens of thousands of citizens — including that of her father.

All the weapons of the Chilean police and army were Israeli. In Chile I went around with a photograph of my brother in uniform. At checkpoints and in searches I would take out the picture and tell them that this was my brother, who was an officer in the IDF – even though he was a regular soldier – and that did the trick. The Chilean army greatly admired the Israeli army. When Pinochet wanted to visit Israel, he threatened that if he were not received here he would cancel a large arms deal. No dictator in the world, however bad he may be, can exist without international support. The dictatorship in Chile lasted as long as it did because there were countries that supported it, and Israel was one of them.

…It’s clear that there is documentation of arms sales, and also obviously of the training provided to Chilean intelligence. There is information about the fate of the missing Jews in Chile. Maybe there is even information about my father. The people who tortured him, who killed him – who are they? Maybe they were here, in Israel? Maybe they received training from the Shin Bet [security service] here? When the documents are uncovered, we will be able to understand how the infrastructure of the dictatorship worked and how deeply involved Israel was.

Israel also sold weapons to the government of South Africa during apartheid; it sold arms to El Salvador during the civil war, where systemic and widespread human rights violations by the Salvadoran military were commonplace; and there is evidence that it sold weapons to the Hutu government as it was carrying out genocide against the Tutsi population of Rwanda (A Tel Aviv court rejected a petition to reveal documentation of arms exports to the Hutus).

Nyamata Memorial Site, Nyamata, Rwanda. (photo:  I, Inisheer)

Nyamata Memorial Site, Nyamata, Rwanda. (photo: I, Inisheer)

Most recently, however, the spotlight has been on South Sudan, where Israel has continuously sent weapons and trained government forces since the country declared its independence in 2011. Itay Mack, an attorney and expert on the Israeli arms industry, appealed to the Defense Ministry to stop military exports to the country. His appeal was rejected.

In fact, in 2014 alone, Israeli arms companies registered a 40 percent increase in exports to African countries alone, raising further concerns that weapons may end up in the hands of either repressive governments or militants. The Israeli government does not publish details of all its weapons deals.

In a recent interview with Haaretz, Mack described how Israel is now filling in the gap that the United States and Europe left behind:

We know Israel is selling arms to Azerbaijan, South Sudan and Rwanda. Israel is training units guarding presidential regimes in African states. According to reports, this is happening in Cameroon, Togo and Equatorial Guinea – nondemocratic states, some of them dictatorships, that kill, plunder and oppress their citizens.

Israel’s competitive advantage in the arms trade is that it can sell combat-tested weapons, and military know-how, due to the fact that it has been holding a civilian population under military rule for almost 50 years. Or as Mack puts it: “The generals in Guatemala grasped that their confrontation with the [local] Indian population is very similar to the situation in Israel.”

Will that demand continue to outweigh the world’s growing impatience with the source of Israel’s expertise, the occupation, which Israel assures us is a temporary state of affairs? What will happen to Israel if its defense exports market is limited to rogue, dictatorial regimes?

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The lives of Arab women are simply worth less in this country http://972mag.com/the-lives-of-arab-women-are-simply-worth-less-in-this-country/114083/ http://972mag.com/the-lives-of-arab-women-are-simply-worth-less-in-this-country/114083/#comments Sun, 22 Nov 2015 17:52:52 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=114083 The lives of two more women, a mother and a daughter, were taken in a shooting last week. What must Arab women do to rid our streets of criminals?

Arab politicians and activists protest the murder of Suha Mansour, Tira, northern Israel, November 7, 2015. (photo courtesy of the Joint List)

Arab politicians and activists protest the murder of Suha Mansour, Tira, northern Israel, November 7, 2015. (photo courtesy of the Joint List)

I know, dear readers, that you must be having a hard time disconnecting from what is happening in France and Mali and across the world, or from the stabbing attacks on both sides of the Green Line.

While I was busy trying to do whatever I could for the women in my society, I found myself in a different world this past week. I tried to escape it as best as I could, but to no avail. My feet dragged me to a backyard in Ramle, where I disappeared among a crowd of hundreds of mourning Arab women following the murder of a 50-year-old woman and her 30-year-old daughter.


I hugged and kissed women I did not know; I wanted to be with them, to be strengthened by them. I cried with my friends who have lived and worked in Ramle since I came to this city as a social worker specializing in teenagers and women 15 years ago.

We waited for hours until the bodies of the mother, Nariman, and her daughter, Sundus, made their way from Abu Kabir Forensic Institute to the family home. When the tears stopped temporarily, the women spoke with one another about the crisis of Arab women in this country. The mother has another daughter who studies in Jordan, she is on her way. She was told that her mother was in the hospital, although she ended up finding out the awful truth through Facebook. I thought about this teenage girl, traveling alone with this storyline playing in her head: “Your mother and sister were murdered, the man you rejected as a husband is the primary suspect.”

Our lives are worth less

An elderly woman said, “Everyone is going crazy. Everything is murder. Murder. Human life is worthless these days.” Another woman in her forties said, “Don’t let the damn police tell you stories. They know who the murderer is and who has weapons, they are only good at catching little kids with knives, leaving us with the criminals and their pistols.” Another woman called out, “If only we were Jews, imagine what they would do. A Jewish woman and her daughter murdered by gunfire? Half the country would go crazy.”

A teacher from the city described how the police sent photos of some of the schoolchildren who took part in a recent protest to the principal. “How professional! These bored kids are the terrorists — and the criminals who keep murdering us, what about them? After all, this family filed complaints with the police and the suspect was detained and then released. So what else must we do? You said complain and not be afraid. And then there is a double murder, and we are expected to believe the police?”

I hear more and more stories that lead to a single conclusion: the life of Arab women is worth less, and the police do not really seem to care. At a certain point we began speaking about education and the need to change what our children are taught in the classroom, in order to rid the streets of violence and the culture of power and control. We must do something, khalas, we are tired of these murders. Every month another woman, every month orphans, every month a funeral. “We are planning a protest,” I told them, “what do you suggest?”

One woman answered that she thinks we need a gang to get rid all of the criminals once and for all by collecting weapons. “Us mothers will clean the city. Enough is enough, we must remove the thorns ourselves.”

“We’ll go on strike. We’ll stand in front of the police until they find the killers, every single day, until someone confesses. Too bad there is no death penalty in Israel, the people behind the murders deserve it.” I told them that we are organizing something for next week’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, asking if they would come. “If it’s only just a few women, we’ll afraid to be identified,” one woman answered, “but if we are a thousand, what are they going to do?”

At the conversations died down, the woman began to move, crying and lamenting. The ambulance arrived, and a group of men cleared the way for the bodies to be brought to the yard. Teary eyes everywhere, hands pressed to cheeks, crying out “There is no God by Allah, there is nothing greater and we put our trust in Him.”

The funeral procession left after the family members said goodbye to the victims. Twenty-two year old Bar’a, Nariman’s other daughter, whom I first met when she was 16, asked everyone to calm down, not to yell or act unruly. Where does she get her strength from? From where does this girl summon all that power to calm down the mourners?

The coffins of the two bodies disappeared. The last of the men closed the big, black gate behind him. Then the aunt, Ahlam, locked it, leaving hundreds of women to face the darkness.

This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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How Israel erases Arabic from the public landscape http://972mag.com/how-israel-is-erasing-arabic-from-its-public-landscape/114067/ http://972mag.com/how-israel-is-erasing-arabic-from-its-public-landscape/114067/#comments Sun, 22 Nov 2015 14:16:53 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=114067 The Israeli government has begun omitting the Arabic name for Jerusalem from its street signs, erasing not only the language from the Israeli consciousness, but Palestinian identity itself.

By Umar Al-Ghubari

Driving towards Jerusalem on Highway 1, you may notice a relatively new phenomenon taking place on the road signs directing you to the city. Readers of Arabic will see that the name of Jerusalem in Arabic has undergone a change: the word in brackets, القدس, Al-Quds, which appeared there until very recently, no longer exists on the new signs that have recently been put up by the roadsides in those sections where highway’s recent expansion been completed.

The name of Jerusalem in modern Arabic is Al-Quds, which means “The Holy.” The root q-d-s [in Arabic] is similar to the root q-d-sh in Hebrew, and the name is derived from the city’s name “Beit El-Maqdis” which was in use even in the 7th century together with the Roman name Aelia [Capitolina]. The name Urshalīm appears in the Arabic version of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. Partial translations of the New Testament into Arabic were begun as early as the 7th century. The first translation of the Hebrew Bible into Arabic was probably completed early in the 9th century by a Muslim cleric, but the most regarded and important translation is that of the Jewish philosopher Sayeed Alfayumi, better known by his Hebrew name, R. Saadia Gaon (882–942). Both Urshalīm and the Hebrew name Yerushalayīm most probably stem from the town’s Canaanite name, Rushalimom, or its Jebusite name Urusalima, from the third and second millennia before the common era.

An Israeli roadsign that omits Jerusalem's Arabic name ('Al-Quds'), instead using the Hebracized Urshalim.

An Israeli roadsign that omits Jerusalem’s Arabic name (‘Al-Quds’), instead using the Hebracized Urshalim.

The State of Israel, and the Zionist movement before that, have acted, and are still acting, to erase the Arabic names from the land and to replace them with Jewish–Hebrew names. The work of renaming was assigned to the government’s naming committee, established in 1950 as a successor of the “JNF Committee for Names of Settlements,” which was formed in 1925. The committee’s tasks include giving names to new towns, intersections and bypasses, parks, springs, streams, etc. Since its establishment the committee has determined thousands of new names. Although there are more methods than one for determining the names, the purpose is one: the Judaization of the land and the erasure of Arab identity from it and from the mind.


At times the committee has based its decision on names from historical Jewish sources — which it has revived — as in the case of Yerushalayīm [Jerusalem], Modi’in, Gezer, etc. It has also replaced Arabic names with names mentioned in the Jewish sources even if the difference between them is minor, as in Akko [Acre] instead of Akka, Yafo [Jaffa] instead of Yafa, and Tzora instead of the Arab village Sora’a (by the way, these names are not necessarily Jewish or Hebrew, they existed before the Israelites arrived in Canaan).

At times the committee translated the Arabic name into Hebrew, as in the case of Ayelet Hashaḥar, which is a literal translation of the Arabic name Najmat al-Subh. At other times the committee distorted Arabic names and replaced them with Hebrew names that were similar in form or sound, as in the case of Agur, named after the destroyed Palestinian village of Ajur, or Ein Limor instead of Eyn Al’amor.

On rare occasion, new Jewish towns, particularly those that were founded before the establishment of the State next to or on top of Arab villages, retained the Arabic name, as in Ja’ara, Sejera, Karkur, etc. At times names were invented following topical events, such as Kfar Daniel, named after the president of the Zionist Organization of America, Daniel Frisch – a name similar to that of the Arab village Daniyal, which existed in that place until it was captured in 1948.

An ultra-orthodox Jewish man walks in the depopulated Palestinian village of Lifta, located on the edge of West Jerusalem, Israel, March 4, 2014. During the Nakba, the residents of Lifta fled attacks by Zionist militias beginning in December 1947, resulting in the complete evacuation of the village by February 1948. (Photo by Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

An ultra-orthodox Jewish man walks in the depopulated Palestinian village of Lifta, located on the edge of West Jerusalem, Israel, March 4, 2014. During the Nakba, the residents of Lifta fled attacks by Zionist militias beginning in December 1947, resulting in the complete evacuation of the village by February 1948. (Photo by Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

The work of Judaizing and Hebraizing place names is still in full force. This is not about giving Hebrew names to new Jewish locales, but rater about erasing existing Arabic names and replacing them with Hebrew ones. Only a few years ago was Ablun junction turned into Avlayim junction. Another method that was invented was giving two names, one in Hebrew and one in Arabic, to the same place: Shaqib Alsalam/Segev Shalom, Tal’at ‘Aara/Ma’aleh ‘Eiron and Waḥat Alsalam/Neve Shalom.

This is actually a fraud, for in official state documents and in the list of settlements only the Hebrew name appears, and the Arabic version has no chance of surviving in in the shadow of the existing power relations between Hebrew and Arabic in the Jewish state. The Arabic names of these places will remain, at best, only in the minds and speech of the Arabs, and they will not be able to use them outside, in the Israeli sphere. They are meaningless on the official level, and in fact are completely unrecognized. Moreover, this entails humiliation and contempt for the Arabic language: it is marginal, it is disregarded, it is redundant, and it is also ineffective (Israel Post will not recognize these places unless their Hebrew name appears on the envelope).

In the case of Neve Shalom, it was the Arab and Jewish inhabitants of the village who chose the name. They chose a Hebrew name taken from a verse in the book of Isaiah: “And my people shall live in an abode of peace and in secure dwellings” (32.18), and translated it into Arabic. In this case the Hebrew is the original and the Arabic is secondary, despite the fact that this village, in contrast to the State of Israel, is bi-national and is meant to have full equality between its two peoples and their languages. When the inhabitants sought to officially register their village’s name, their request was rejected on the grounds that four words was too long and complicated, and they had to make do with two. Those submitting the request didn’t have the courage to insist on the full name, or, as an act of protest and reform, to make the two words Waḥat Alsalam, or to choose a new name. Here too the Judaizing instinct won out, and the name Neve Shalom — without the Arabic — has become the official and dominant name of the bi-lingual and bi-national village.

As for Jerusalem, the State of Israel determined that the Holy City’s name in Arabic would not remain solely Al-Quds, as Arabs call it, but that it would be preceded by the ancient name Urshalīm, which parallels the name Yerushalayīm. The word Al-Quds, however, would appear in parentheses. Thus the name in Israeli Arabic became (أورشليم (القدس – Urshalīm (Alquds). Official Israeli spokespeople who spoke to the Arab public or to the Arabic media remonstratively forced the Israeli invention on Arab ears and called the city Urshalīm-Alquds, in a single breath. The Israel Broadcasting Authority did this too: in each newscast in Arabic on the radio and the television the newsreaders made sure to remind Arab listeners and viewers that the broadcast was coming from “Urshalīm Al-Quds.”

An Israeli road sign that includes Jerusalem's Arabic name, Al-Quds, in parenthesis.

An Israeli road sign that includes Jerusalem’s Arabic name, Al-Quds, in parenthesis.

The trampling of the Arabic name of Al-Quds and its subordination to its new name is an aggressive act for the conquest of the public mind, complementing the physical conquest of the city and the dispossession it entails. The signs with the distorted or new name make the power relations clear. The signs aim to establish facts on the ground, in the language, and in the mind. We Palestinians pass impotently by the signs stuck in our country. The Jerusalem signs — and other signs throughout the country — stand remonstratively in our faces all the time. They are always there so as to embody and remind us of our defeat. They’re there to hurt. One can’t evade them. We’re attacked and besieged by these Judaized signs.

Zionism has succeeded in creating an environment hostile to Palestinians. In almost every place in the country they want us to feel foreign. This is not your country, this is the country of the Jews – the signs report to us. Our feeling is that we’re in a constant struggle for our consciousness. Our struggle, then, is not only against the rulers, but also against the signs. It is no coincidence that these two words in Hebrew developed from the same root [sh-l-t].

Because of all this, there exists Palestinian resistance — covert and overt, conscious and unconscious — against the signage. We don’t say, and we refuse to say “ana min Urshalīm” or “ana min Yafo.” In a normal situation it is normal for a Palestinian to say “ana min Al-Quds,” but in the Jewish state this is a part of our self defense, a part of resistance, a part of war. At any given moment we are in a national struggle. This specific struggle, however, does not manifest against the establishment, since the our chances are frail. Our struggle is to preserve our consciousness, our memory, our language and our names, at least within ourselves.

On this level there have been successes: the second and third generations of the Nakba come out against the attempts to annihilate their national identity; a spontaneous national refusal front is taking shape against the Hebrew namings. There is a popular awakening for revivification of the names of the villages that the State of Israel erased from the face of the earth and expelled their inhabitants 67 years ago. Today, in comparison the situation two decades ago, for example, more and more people know where al-Jauna, Mi’aar, Dayr al-Qasi, Amuas and Saḥmama are, even though these villages no longer exist and do not appear on the Israeli maps.

These particular successes may bring about momentary feelings of triumph and empowerment, but they can also heighten the frustration we feel because they do not find expression in the real world. We haven’t managed to change even one sign, and we won’t manage to receive even a single letter in the mail to the Arabic place-name that the state has eliminated. Here one could quote Ben-Gurion, who said, “It doesn’t matter what the Arabs say, what matters is what the Jews do.” But the daily reality that the State of Israel has created is bigger than us – it forces us to use the Hebrew names. A Palestinian from al-Jish in Upper Galilee will have to write on his university application that he is from Gush Ḥalav; a young woman from Kafr Musmus will not receive a parcel in the mail if she doesn’t write that she lives in Ma’aleh Eiron; Palestinians from Yafa, Akka, and Ḥeifa will be resigned to inform their refugee relatives in Beirut or Gaza that their home is now on Zionism Street or Etzel Street. In this way the state constrains us to take part in the erasure of our identity with our own hands.

This practice of erasure is enough to help one understand the sources of Palestinian anger and the underlying causes of the uprising. Unlike us, most Israelis are blind to the fact of systematic erasure of Palestinian identity from the public space; moreover, they’re even part of the system. Hebrew speakers won’t notice the distortion, will quickly adopt the Hebrew names and will identify with them, and thus become active players in the process of linguistic cleansing that complements the acts of ethnic cleansing. To a Palestinian this is painful, to an Israeli it’s simply identity. To a Palestinian it is continuation of the trauma, to an Israeli it has become a norm. This is how the State of Israel has created an ongoing Nakba, which includes a linguistic Nakba.

It seems that the Israeli “etchers of consciousness” are not satisfied with the results attained so far in the Judaization of the public space. So, as they are wont to do, they mobilize more forces, more escalation. A change in the status quo of Jerusalem has begun through the signage: the name Al-Quds (القدس) has been erased, and only Urshalīm (أورشليم) remains. This is a change that goes another step in severity in the policy of rule and erasure of memory, a step up in the erasure of the city’s Palestinian identity. If throughout the previous period the combined name gave the impression that perhaps there is still an Arab presence in the city, the new name aims to say that the city is Jewish only.

The author is a group counselor, a political educator and is documenting the Palestinian Nakba. This article was first published in Hebrew on Haokets. It was translated from Hebrew by Richard Flantz.

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