+972 Magazine » All Posts http://972mag.com Independent commentary and news from Israel & Palestine Tue, 02 Sep 2014 19:58:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8 One- or two-state solution? The answer is both (or neither) http://972mag.com/one-or-two-state-solution-the-answer-is-both-or-neither/96263/ http://972mag.com/one-or-two-state-solution-the-answer-is-both-or-neither/96263/#comments Tue, 02 Sep 2014 19:58:42 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=96263 The two-state solution is not a progressive cause and neither is a single-state solution — they are just possible means to an end. The only possible goal for progressive politics in Israel/Palestine can be full human, civil and political rights for everyone living on this land. 

[Illustrative photo by Shutterstock.com]

[Illustrative photo by Shutterstock.com]

Every now and then a comment on this blog attributes a position to me — one I thought I had been very careful to avoid taking. A misunderstood writer should blame only himself and not the readers. However, there is a specific point I always have trouble getting across, maybe because of the way it diverges from the way people tend to frame the political debate — and not just in Israel.

The issue at hand is a so-called final-status agreement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I often get comments that assume I am preaching for an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and for the evacuation of settlements. Other comments take for granted that I am calling on Israel to annex the West Bank and give citizenship to all of the Palestinians.

The truth is that I am not a follower of either of these ideas – or if you prefer, I accept both of them under certain circumstances.

My principle political position is opposition to the occupation. By “occupation” I don’t mean the legal status of the land administrated by Israel. I am referring to the existence of a regime that separates the two populations on ethnic lines and grants them different rights, and to all the policies that are part and parcel of that regime: the military court system, the extra juridical assassinations of people living under Israeli sovereignty, the lack of freedom of movement, the limits on freedom of speech, and many more such measures.

I support equal rights for all people living in this land, between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River. Theoretically this can happen as part of a two-state solution, a single-state solution and in various hybrids of the two. All these solutions could just the same preserve a situation where there are no equal rights and Jews continue to rule over the Palestinians but through different measures, much like what happened in Gaza following the withdrawal of IDF forces and 9,000 settlers in 2005. A person can state that he or she is in favor of the two-state solution or that he or she supports applying Israeli civilian law – instead of a military regime – in the West Bank, but such making such statements guarantees nothing.

Even when such final status plans are presented in their ideal form they all have considerable flaws. The game in which progressives bring up ideas for resolving the conflict and the Right finds holes in them is a lost cause. In fact, the entire debate on solutions might be intellectually intriguing but its only importance is as counterweight to the claim that the conflict is some type of given state of affairs or a natural disaster that cannot be solved. One needs to put alternatives on the table, but they shouldn’t be turned into a cult.

One of the major problems in Israel is that the two-state solution was transformed from a means — to ending the occupation and its evils — into a goal. This is a disastrous development. There is no “peace camp” in Israel and no major political force seeking justice; there is only a “two-state camp,” which is something completely different. If a peace camp is having trouble implementing the two-state solution, it looks for just alternatives which will end the occupation and diminish its evils. But when a two-state camp has trouble implementing a two-state solution, it stops looking for any sort of solution and instead becomes a supporter of the status quo with all its inherent policies, such as the need to kill 2,000 people in Gaza in order to maintain the current state of affairs.

This is why progressives need to go back to opposing the occupation, and they need to do it actively — not just through lip service about “a diplomatic process” or two states or peace and all the newspeak Shimon Peres trademarked.

One must be very wary not to delve too deeply into the debate about solutions. More often than not, this conversation is a waste of time and political capital. Solutions are not the result of debate clubs but of political interests at a given moment in time. In other words, once Israeli society decides to end the occupation irrespective of the political circumstances, the power relations and various interests will determine the nature of the arrangements on the ground.

That is the moment in time where we, Israelis, will need to conduct an honest conversation about the kind of arrangement we would rather negotiate (Palestinians would do the same probably). Such a debate cannot exist now because the one thing we can all agree on is prolonging the status quo. This is what happens every day in the Israeli political system: Naftali Bennett, Avigdor Liberman, Yair Lapid and Tzipi Livni (or Labor’s Yitzhak Herzog, for that matter) can be part of the same coalition despite their contradictory options because they can live with the status quo. That is the common denominator that defines the entire system.

One final note: even when the final status agreement presents itself, it will be neither final nor static and we will need to continue working so that relations between Jews and Palestinians are conducted within an egalitarian and accountable political system and not through though exploitation or military force. There are no endgames in politics, certainly not here.

Who gets to vote in Israel’s democracy?
War is the new system of governance (and five other Gaza takeaways)
This is Netanyahu’s final status solution

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Post-Gaza war poll: Hamas, Haniyeh and rockets popularity at all-time high http://972mag.com/post-gaza-war-poll-hamas-haniyeh-and-rockets-popularity-at-all-time-high/96243/ http://972mag.com/post-gaza-war-poll-hamas-haniyeh-and-rockets-popularity-at-all-time-high/96243/#comments Tue, 02 Sep 2014 11:35:58 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=96243 More than two-thirds of Palestinians favor bringing Hamas’ armed resistance model to the West Bank, although majorities in Gaza prefer that the PA take over key aspects of security and governance of Gaza.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli military leaders may have boasted of victory over Hamas last week following 50 days of warfare in Gaza, but a new poll shows Hamas with its highest-ever approval ratings among Palestinians since it took control of Gaza in 2006. In contrast, Netanyahu’s approval ratings have plummeted: 50 percent of Israelis said they are dissatisfied with his conduct, compared with an 82-percent approval rating at the beginning of the ground operation in mid-July, according to a Channel 2 poll.

If presidential elections were held today, Hamas leader and former PA prime minister Ismail Haniyeh would defeat Fatah leader and current PA President Mahmoud Abbas by a large margin (61 percent to 32 percent), according to the poll. In addition, for the first time in eight years, Haniyeh would also come in slightly ahead of imprisoned Fatah veteran Marwan Barghouti (49:45), who is serving two life sentences in Israeli prison.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, May 29, 2014 (Screenshot from Palestinian Interior Ministry YouTube)

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, May 29, 2014 (Screenshot from Palestinian Interior Ministry YouTube)

The poll, conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PCPSR) among a sample of 1,270 adults in person in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip between August 26-30, 2014, indicates that 79 percent of Palestinians believe Hamas won the war, 94 percent are satisfied with its military performance against Israel and a majority — 53 percent – believes that armed confrontation is the most effective means for establishing a Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel.

Eighty-six percent of Palestinians support launching of rockets from Gaza if the siege and blockade are not ended, according to the poll. Half of those polled believe that launching rockets from populated areas is unjustified, but that number increases to 59 percent among Gazans; only 38 percent of those polled in the West Bank believe it is unjustified.

When broken down geographically, Abbas’ approval rating rises in the Gaza Strip to 49 percent but drops to 33 percent in the West Bank. By contrast, Khaled Meshaal’s approval rating drops in the Gaza Strip to 70 percent but rises to 83 percent in the West Bank. (Each is slightly more popular in the territory which they do not actually rule.)

A majority of those polled said they supported the June 2014 kidnapping of the three Israelis in the West Bank at the time (67 percent in Gaza and only 45 percent in the West Bank). A majority of those from the West Bank, however, opposed the killing of the kidnapped Israelis.

Palestinians in the West Bank city of Nablus demonstrate their support for Hamas resistance in Gaza Strip three days after a deal signed by Israel and Hamas ended a 50-day Israeli attack, August 29, 2014. (Photo: Ahmad Al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

Palestinians in the West Bank city of Nablus demonstrate their support for Hamas resistance in Gaza Strip three days after a deal signed by Israel and Hamas ended a 50-day Israeli attack, August 29, 2014. (Photo: Ahmad Al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

Overall, more than two thirds of those polled in both the West Bank and Gaza favor the transfer of Hamas’ armed resistance approach to the West Bank, although 61 percent believe that massive popular demonstrations could also contribute to ending the Israeli occupation.

Despite Hamas’ overall gains in popularity, in the Gaza Strip alone, the majority want to place the Rafah crossing and the security sector to come under the control of the Palestinian Authority reconciliation government; only a quarter of Gazans want them to remain under Hamas control. These statistics seem to point to overwhelming approval for Hamas as a military force in times of war with Israel, but not when it comes to governance and actual day-to-day rule.

It is important to keep in mind that polls taken during or directly after armed conflict tend to exhibit more extreme results with spikes in various directions, and the pollsters at PCPSR specifically warn that the latest statistics may revert in short time to what they were before the latest confrontation.

The victors of the Gaza war were also the losers
Five Gaza war takeaways
What if Hamas fired rockets at Britain?

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When Israel grabs land, the U.S. grabs a thesaurus [satire] http://972mag.com/when-israel-grabs-land-the-u-s-grabs-a-thesaurus-satire/96233/ http://972mag.com/when-israel-grabs-land-the-u-s-grabs-a-thesaurus-satire/96233/#comments Mon, 01 Sep 2014 21:13:41 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=96233 The U.S. State Department spokesperson and her deputy are finding it difficult to  continue condemning Israeli plans to build more settlements in the West Bank.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry with Deputy Chief of Staff Jon Finer, Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland, and State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki. (State Dept. Photo)

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry with Deputy Chief of Staff Jon Finer, Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland, and State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki. (State Dept. Photo)

Marie Harf, Deputy State Department Spokesperson: Hi Jen.

Jen Psaki, State Department Spokesperson: Hi Marie, sup?

Harf: Not much. Hey, did you see Obama’s suit?

Psaki: I know, right?? What’s UP with THAT?

Harf: I literally spilled my vente pumpkin spice latte.

Psaki: I know, right?? Anyway, sup?

Harf: So, the Israelis announced they’re gonna do this huge land appropriation.

Psaki: Fuck. Not again.

Harf: I know, right??

Psaki: So listen, type me up something along the lines of “We condemn in the strongest terms, the –”

Harf: — sorry, we can’t use “condemn”.

Psaki: Why not?

Harf: Used it before.

Psaki: Oh. OK. So, let’s do “decry”.

Harf: Nope.

Psaki: We did “decry”?

Harf: Yup. Just before the Biden visit, remember?

Psaki: OK, OK. How about “denounce”?

Harf: Nope.

Psaki: “Deplore”?

Harf: Sorry.

Psaki: Wait, how many times have they done this?

Harf: Do you really want me to answer that?

Psaki: No, no… I don’t. OK, “bemoan”?

Harf: Nah.

Psaki: We’ve used “bemoan”? What kind of press secretary would use that? Jesus.

Harf: I know, right??

Psaki: “Lament”?

Harf: Not sure, but I just shiver at the thought of what Matt Lee might say about that.

Psaki: Yuck.

Harf: I know. Yuck. Matt Lee. Blechhh…

Psaki: “Disapprove”?

Harf: Nope.

Psaki: “Regret”?

Harf: Ha, you’re funny.

Psaki: “Oppose”.

Harf: Nah, don’t forget AIPAC.

Psaki: Fuck!

Harf: I know, ri–

Psaki: –Shut up, Marie!

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‘Suspects in brutal beating of two Palestinians tied to anti-miscegenation group’ http://972mag.com/suspects-in-brutal-beating-of-two-palestinians-tied-to-anti-miscegenation-group/96209/ http://972mag.com/suspects-in-brutal-beating-of-two-palestinians-tied-to-anti-miscegenation-group/96209/#comments Mon, 01 Sep 2014 16:39:37 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=96209 Ten Jewish Israelis are suspected of severely beating two Palestinian men from Jerusalem in a wartime hate crime. Police believe some of the suspects are tied to right-wing anti-Arab group Lehava, Walla reports.

Several Jewish Israeli suspects in the brutal attack of two Palestinians from East Jerusalem on July 25th are connected to anti-miscegenation, anti-Arab group Lehava, according to a report by Walla! News on Monday.

In what Walla! describes as a “near lynch,” a group of about 10 Jewish Israelis from the East Jerusalem settlement of Neve Yaakov assaulted Amir Shwiki and Samer Mahfouz of Beit Hanina with bats and iron rods on a Friday evening during the height of the summer’s Gaza war (known in Israel as Operation Protective Edge). Both men were beaten unconscious and hospitalized in critical condition, only only recently improving to stable condition.

According to the report, the suspects had just left a shiva (Jewish ritual of seven days of mourning) for fallen IDF soldier Staff-Sgt. Moshe Malko, who was killed during an operation in Shujaiyeh in Gaza a few days earlier. From the investigation, it appears they set out looking to take revenge for Malko’s death. One of the suspects admitted in his interrogation that the motive for the assault was hatred of Arabs, according to Walla!. He added that he hates Arabs “just because. They are the enemy.” The investigation also allegedly revealed that several Jewish women who witnessed the beating did not call police, instead encouraging the attackers by screaming “death to Arabs.”

Neve Yaakov is a settlement in East Jerusalem adjacent to Beit Hanina, and the two communities have had violent confrontations in the past, especially since the murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir on July 2 and the subsequent Gaza war.

Nine of the 10 suspects are not cooperating with police but one of them, a 14 year old, did talk. He reportedly told police that his brother, who was also allegedly involved in the attack, is an active member of anti-miscegenation group “Lehava.” According to the Walla! report, police believe many of those involved in the attack are active members of Lehava, an organization whose stated mission is to combat Jewish intermarriage but in practice engages in rampant and blatant anti-Arab incitement and racism.

Police also reportedly found that two of the suspects had been arrested in the past (more than once) for assaulting Palestinians (neither of them ever served time in jail) and several of the suspects were caught trying to hide evidence and coordinate their stories and alibis. For those who read Hebrew, the Walla! report publishes excerpts from the police’s surveillance and wiretaps of the suspects’ WhatsApp messages and phone conversations.

Severe beatings of Palestinians by Jewish youth, called by some Israeli media outlets as “near lynches,” are unfortunately not a new occurrence. In August 2012, 17-year old Jamal Julani was beaten unconscious in the middle of Zion Square by a group of Jewish youth while dozens of onlookers screamed “death to Arabs.”

Lehava leader Benzi Gupstein – a former Kach member and sworn Kahanist – told Walla! in a comment that Lehava “follows the law.” Police told the news outlet that they are aware of dozens of the organization’s members who are involved in “serious incitement.”

Last month Lehava organized a large protest against the marriage of a Palestinian Muslim from Jaffa to a Jewish convert to Islam. Several years ago, an expose in Haaretz revealed that Lehava was indirectly funded by the government.

Palestinian-Jewish couple hires wedding security for fear of anti-miscegenation group
Why Palestinian citizens of Israel are no longer safe

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‘Despite reforms, IDF still mistreating Palestinian children’ http://972mag.com/despite-reforms-idf-still-mistreating-palestinian-children/96206/ http://972mag.com/despite-reforms-idf-still-mistreating-palestinian-children/96206/#comments Mon, 01 Sep 2014 14:16:58 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=96206 Nearly two years after Israel said it would work to improve its treatment of the Palestinian children it detains, there have been a few small positive developments. But ill-treatment of Palestinian minors still appears to be ‘widespread, systematic and institutionalized,’ a report by Military Court Watch says.

By Gerard Horton

Soldiers arresting youths in Nabi Saleh, 2013 (Yotam Ronen / Activestills)

Israeli soldiers arresting Palestinian youths in Nabi Saleh, 2013 (Yotam Ronen / Activestills)

In September 2011, a delegation of nine lawyers from the UK, including a former attorney general and Court of Appeal judge, visited Israel-Palestine to investigate the treatment of children in Israel’s military judicial system. The resulting report – Children in Military Custody – published in June 2012, found that Israel’s military detention of children violated at least six articles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and two articles of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Eight months later, UNICEF came out with its own report – Children in Israeli Military Detention – which concluded that “the ill-treatment of children who come in contact with the military detention system appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalized.” In response to these findings, Israel’s Foreign Ministry announced that it would “study the conclusions and work to implement them through on-going cooperation with UNICEF.”

Two years on, Military Court Watch (MCW) has published a report that reviews progress made in implementing the UK report’s 40 recommendations and finds that just 5 percent have been substantially implemented. While there have been a number of noteworthy developments during the past two years, including: a reduction in the time in which children must be brought before a military court judge for the first time; and the introduction of a pilot scheme to issue summonses in lieu of night-time arrests; children continue to report being ill-treated and denied basic legal rights. Following a review of developments and an analysis of 105 testimonies, MCW’s findings include:

1. More children than last year report being tied and blindfolded upon arrest;

2. More children than last year report being transported on the metal floor of vehicles; and

3. More children than last year report being subjected to physical violence.

While there has been a slight decrease in the number of children arrested at night following the introduction of the pilot scheme to issue summonses, 67 percent of these summonses were served in the middle of the night by the military. And while it is the case that slightly more children are now being informed of their rights, 78 percent of children are not told of their right to remain silent and 90 percent are prevented from consulting with a lawyer prior to questioning. At the conclusion of the interrogation stage, more children than ever before are being shown, or made to sign, documentation written in Hebrew and taken before military courts that still boast an overall conviction rate above 99 percent.

Read +972′s full coverage of children under occupation

Based on the evidence, and the cumulative impact of the treatment on children, MCW is unable to provide an alternative assessment to the conclusion reached by UNICEF in March 2013, that: “the ill-treatment of children who come in contact with the military detention system appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalized throughout the process, from the moment of arrest until the child’s prosecution and eventual conviction and sentencing.”

Since officials at the Foreign Ministry announced that they would be looking at ways to implement the recommendations contained in both the UK and UNICEF reports, the task of doing so has been delegated to the chief military prosecutor in the West Bank, himself a resident of a West Bank settlement built in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention – the same Convention that establishes the jurisdiction of the military courts. This fact alone raises a question mark over how genuine the civilian and military authorities are about implementing real and lasting change in accordance with international law.

Gerard Horton is a lawyer and co-founder of Military Court Watch. Gerard has worked on the issue of children prosecuted in the Israeli military courts for the past seven years and is the author of a number of leading reports on the subject.

More on children under occupation:
Palestinian kids detail abusive interrogations, arrests
WATCH: Where kids are arrested for not having a mailbox
Testimonies: Systematic abuse, beatings and threats against Palestinian children

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Why Israel must help the Kurds in Iraq http://972mag.com/why-israel-must-help-the-kurds-in-iraq/96190/ http://972mag.com/why-israel-must-help-the-kurds-in-iraq/96190/#comments Mon, 01 Sep 2014 12:54:09 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=96190 The Yezidis are presented in mainstream accounts as mere props in a play entitled, ‘Militant Islam and its horrors in the Middle East.’ But the story of the Kurdish people is much more than just a scene — or cannon fodder — in an IS exhibition of horror. A Kurdish Jew in Israel calls on his government to save his brethren. 

By Idan Pink-Avidani

Kurds have no friends but the mountains..

Dear friends and whoever is reading this. Please stop posting negative news and instead pray for #Peshmarga and have faith in God. We Kurds never harmed any nation and never asked for something which was not our right. We only struggle for our own rights, we only fought to protect our children and women. We never had support from anyone. Not any nation. Let’s all pray and ask God to protect us and our Peshmarga. Let’s stop acting like we know what’s going on coz we simply don’t. Let’s stop acting like politicians and analyze and post things on Facebook. Instead let’s stay humans and pray. Let’s stay humans and help our families in Shangal who fled away from their home. Let’s simply look up there to the sky and ask HIM for peace. He never rejects a request.

We are a peaceful nation, who opened it’s arms to protect those who never made a small effort to support us, because KURDS are humans. Let’s stay humans.

You are not helping by making people terrified.

#pray #for #peshmarga”

The text above is what my friend Huda from Irbil-Hawler, the capital of the autonomous Kurdistan region, wrote on her Facebook page a few weeks ago following another deadly attack by Islamic State (IS) forces. The attack caused hundreds of thousands of Yezidis to flee to the mountains where many of them died of hunger and thirst while praying to be rescued.

To me, this moving text represents the essence of the Kurdish people and their struggle for independence: solidarity in a shared destiny that transcends internal political disputes, a strong desire for faith and utter distrust in anyone but themselves.

Since IS entered our consciousness and lives in the Middle East, most people found themselves following and viewing the atrocities this horrific organization is committing through the eyes and explanations of professional media commentators who analyze the situation in Iraq from a distant security perspective. In this analysis the Kurds are presented as props in a play entitled “Militant Islamic violence and its horrors in the Middle East”; however, most of us don’t really understand what is going on or know that the story of the Kurdish people is much more than just part of a scene — or cannon fodder — in an IS exhibition of horror. It is also much more relevant to us Israelis – people of the Jewish nation living with certain independence in Zion.

The phrase “Kurds have no friends but the mountains” was coined by Mullah Mustafa Barzani, the great and undisputed leader of the Kurdish people who fought all his life for Kurdish independence, and who was the first leader of the Kurdish autonomous region. His son, Massoud Barzani, is the current president of Iraqi Kurdistan. Other family members hold key positions in the government.

Mustafa Barzani

Mustafa Barzani

Kurdistan is a mountainous region, fertile and beautiful. Due to the terrain, the Kurdish people lived in relative detachment from the rest of the Middle East for many years and managed to preserve ancient cultures that had disappeared from the world. The Yazidi minority we hear about in the news is not the only Kurdish minority. The Jews of Kurdistan, for example, maintained the traditions of ancient Judaism from the days of the Babylonian exile and the First Temple: they carried on the tradition of teaching the Oral Torah, and Aramaic remained the principal tongue of some in the Jewish Kurdish community since the Talmudic period. They preserved the legacy of the last prophets — whose grave markers constituted a significant part of community life — including the tomb of the prophet Jonah in Mosul, the prophet Nahum in Elkosh and the prophet Daniel in Kirkuk. When the vast majority of Kurdish Jews immigrated to Israel and adopted Hebrew as their first language, Aramaic ceased to exist as a living, spoken language. Although our grandparents’ generation still speaks it, along with a few Christian communities in Kurdistan, Aramaic has been declared a dead language by the academic world.

It seems as if the Kurds have always been persecuted by other nations and lived under foreign occupation. Despite urbanization, the mountains were — and remain — a safe zone for the Kurdish people. The Kurdish resistance movement grew out of the mountains and its fighters are still the only ones who can survive and fight in the tough terrain. In the last century the Kurds of northern Iraq lived under Iraqi-Arab occupation. During Saddam Hussein’s rule, thousands of Kurds were slaughtered and entire towns and villages were razed to the ground. I remember my grandparents following the news in Kurdistan at the time with great concern, all while the eyes of the world were focused on Baghdad, oil and imperialism.

The Jewish Kurdish community has always been close-knit, and like other ethnic communities that were thrown into the Zionist melting pot, previous cultural relations with its neighbors were cut off. As a second-generation Israeli born to Kurdish immigrants, when I started to initiate contact with fellow Kurds in Kurdistan I was surprised to discover how similar we were. I had expected a certain degree of disapproval over the mere fact that I was Jewish, out of solidarity with their Muslim brothers in Palestine, but I found that for the Kurdish people national identity is a thousand times more important than religious affiliation. Although most of the Kurds in the world are Sunni Muslims, for them I was first and foremost Kurdish; being Muslim, Christian, Jewish or Yazidi came second.

By simply familiarizing myself with non-Jewish Kurds I found that I could better understand the culture of my ancestors. I also realized the heavy price that each of us had paid over the last 60 years on different sides of the Middle East: we, the Kurdish Jews, managed to gain a certain level of security and independence while realizing the fundamental right of self-determination. But it came at a high price: giving up a culture that we had managed to maintain for thousands of years. Three-thousand-year-old traditions were lost in the Israeli melting pot and in the creation of a new Israeli identity. Of the 200,000 Jewish Kurds that live in Israel today, the vast majority do not speak Aramaic or Karmanji. In some of the synagogues prayers are sung in a Kurdish style; at some Kurdish weddings people dance with the dohulh and zurna instruments; and many still eat kubea on Fridays. But this magnificent culture is now largely framed as history or folklore.

Jewish-Kurdish singer Ilana Eliya on stage with her band. (photo: Orrling/CC BY-SA 3.0)

Jewish-Kurdish singer Ilana Eliya on stage with her band. (photo: Orrling/CC BY-SA 3.0)

In contrast, the Kurds in Kurdistan have preserved their culture but paid a heavy price in the form of years of suffering, genocide and atrocities that we (thankfully) never had to experience. They told me of the great escape to the mountains in the 1990s, the total destruction of towns and villages, the fear of Saddam Hussein’s chemical weapons and the humanitarian aid parachuted to them from planes so they could survive. I particularly remember the description of aid packages with flour that fell apart before landing on the ground, and anxious Kurds stared at the white powder, sure that it was a chemical weapon about to destroy them, like the chemicals that had already killed so many Kurds.

Even after all these horrors the world is not yet convinced that the Kurds deserve independence. We are already familiar with the hypocrisy of the Western world, but why is there no one in the Middle East who comes to the Kurds’ defense? The simple answer is that they are not Arabs. The more complex answer is based on geo-political interests. When we talk about Kurdistan we generally refer to southern Turkey, northeast Syria, northern Iraq and western Iran. None of these countries is willing to give up their territory for the sake of Kurdish independence, especially considering that in some cases the land in question consist of major reserves of oil and other valuable natural resources.

While the world remains silent in face of the horrors occurring in Kurdistan today, just as it kept silent during the genocide perpetrated by Saddam Hussein, my Facebook feed is full of photos of vigils and support protests organized by Kurds living outside of Kurdistan.

While the Arab League is committed (at least on paper) to Palestinian independence, it continues to oppose Kurdish independence. Kurdistan’s strongest ally is the U.S. It was the U.S. that helped establish Kurdish autonomy after the fall of Saddam Hussein and is now offering limited assistance – mainly in the form of humanitarian aid and limited air strikes against IS military targets.

A soldier in the Kurdish military or peshmerga attempts to direct crowds of internally displaced people waiting outside the Khazer Checkpoint between Nineveh and Erbil Provinces in Iraqi Kurdistan, July 9, 2014. (Photo by Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

A soldier in the Kurdish military or peshmerga attempts to direct crowds of internally displaced people waiting outside the Khazer Checkpoint between Nineveh and Erbil Provinces in Iraqi Kurdistan, July 9, 2014. (Photo by Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

But with all due respect to the desire not get involved in yet another foreign policy mess and war that is not their own, the U.S. cannot disregard its direct responsibility for the disaster that is transpiring in the region. It was the U.S. that armed the Iraqi army, which later abandoned its positions and allowed IS to get their hands on more advanced weaponry than that of the Kurdish Peshmerga, who were forbidden from arming themselves. The “leader of the free world” went to war without hesitation hundreds of thousands of miles from home in order to protect oil interests over a decade ago, and now that this decision is resulting in genocide it is cautious and ready to defend only American consular institutions in Irbil. There is no end to hypocrisy.

But we are not citizens of the U.S. We are citizens of Israel and members of the Jewish people. We must not avert our eyes away from a persecuted minority that is undergoing genocide; we must not forget that, as Jews, we survived genocide very recently. Since the establishment of the State of Israel, the Kurds remain the largest minority in the world without a state of their own. Kurdistan is not on the other side of the world; it’s a two-hour flight from Tel Aviv – much closer than the Far East, where we did not hesitate to help victims of the tsunami disaster. It is far closer than Haiti, Kenya and other places where Israel has invested great resources to help people there. The State of Israel, which is careful not to interfere in Syria for fear of diplomatic entanglement must not fear getting caught up in Kurdistan. There is no concern of agitating the Arab League, as it doesn’t support Kurdish independence. There is no fear of getting into trouble with Turkey, since our relations have never been worse. And there is clearly no worry that we’ll annoy the U.S.

The common Israeli ignorance about what is happening in the Middle East, and the general sentiment that “the whole world, especially the Middle East, is against us,” causes us all to miss the similarities between the Jewish and Kurdish peoples. For Kurds living in Israel it is very clear: for years they lived under Iraqi occupation, and if you ask them they will tell you that the mass immigration in 1951-52 was not spurred by Muslim Kurds, but by the Iraqis.

[Destruction of the Prophet Jonah's tomb in Mosul]

Many do not know that the Kurdish community in Israel, just like other Kurdish communities in exile, is still in touch with Kurdistan. When Mullah Mustafa Barzani led the persistent Kurdish struggle for independence, the whole world saw the fighters as an illegitimate guerrilla organization. The enlightened Western world viewed Kurdish independence as a threat to its political and economic interests in the Middle East.

The late Haviv Shimoni, who founded the National Association of Kurdish Jews in Israel, held a close personal relationship with Barzani and made sure that Israel helped the Kurds in their struggle for independence. Today his nephew, Yehuda Ben-Yosef, is the chairman of the organization and continues working to promote solidarity with the Kurds.

Israelis of Kurdish origin demonstrate in solidarity with the Yazidi community in front of the American Embassy in Tel Aviv, August 13, 2014. The Yazidi community in northern Iraq has recently been attacked by extremists of Islamic State. The protesters called for U.S intervention. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Israelis of Kurdish origin demonstrate in solidarity with the Yazidi community in front of the American Embassy in Tel Aviv, August 13, 2014. The Yazidi community in northern Iraq has recently been attacked by extremists of Islamic State. The protesters called for U.S intervention. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Like other Kurds in exile, we recently held a vigil in front of the American embassy in Tel Aviv. We demanded that the U.S. do more than offer targeted humanitarian assistance. With today’s forms of social media the horrific videos of executions by extremist groups are delivered to us almost live. With them we also witness our cultural heritage being erased. I watched the destruction of the tomb of the Prophet Jonah in Mosul in horror, and slowly the understanding dawned that we are dealing with people who have lost their humanity and are out to destroy an entire people and their culture.

Now it is our time to turn to the Israeli government. As ordinary citizens we raised a voice, but it’s not enough. I call on our prime minister, foreign minister and defense minister: this is not the time for diplomatic discussion but for action. It’s time to take control and immediately respond to IS and the threat to Kurdistan, which is a threat to us, our cultural heritage and the non-Arab minority in the Middle East. We never forgave the world for its hesitation when it chose not to bomb the gas chambers of Auschwitz. Now it’s our turn; we must not hesitate. We have the means, we have the ability and we have a moral obligation not to stand idly by.

This post was first published in Hebrew on Haokets. Idan Pink-Avidani is an Israeli educational tour guide and social activist.

Longing for Zion, dreaming of Kurdistan

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How freedom of speech was crushed during Protective Edge http://972mag.com/how-freedom-of-speech-was-crushed-during-protective-edge/96179/ http://972mag.com/how-freedom-of-speech-was-crushed-during-protective-edge/96179/#comments Sun, 31 Aug 2014 19:19:11 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=96179 One of the side effects of Operation Protective Edge has been a dramatic narrowing of the political conversation in Israel. The author aggregates all the major incidents during the Gaza War in which freedom of speech in Israel was curtailed, often violently.

By Orli Santo

An entire spectrum of formerly acceptable left-leaning opinions and sentiments – from defending Palestinians’ human rights to merely empathizing with their suffering – has become taboo. In the past two months people who publicly expressed such opinions were beaten on the streets, derogated in the media, threatened, boycotted, and fired from their jobs. Lawmakers who sided with the Palestinian cause were removed from the podium or suspended from the plenum, while the laws defending their democratic right to do so are now being redrawn to prevent and punish such actions in the future.

Below is a list of the significant violations ­– committed by populist movements, by employees, by government entities and by the Israeli parliament itself – against left-leaning individuals’ and organizations’ freedom of speech. Grouping theses incidents shows the alarming scope of this phenomenon. While it is impossible to gauge the lasting effects it will have on Israel’s integrity as a democracy, it’s safe to presume that it will be felt in the future.

Anti-war protesters

Violence in Tel Aviv

On July 12, four days into Israel’s military offensive in Gaza, Israeli anti-war demonstrators in Tel Aviv were beaten by violent nationalist counter-demonstrators.

+972 reported that a large peace rally in Tel Aviv was countered by a smaller pro-war protest, shouting “Death to Arabs” and “Death to Leftists.” Police forces initially separated the two groups, but a missile siren caused most policemen to desert the scene, leaving the pacifists to fend for themselves.

“One man had a chair broken over his head and was evacuated to the hospital, along with a man who was punched in the head and another punched in the eye. One had his video camera taken. Dozens were beaten, shoved to the ground or pelted with eggs. Some testified that they were sprayed with tear gas,” wrote +972’s Haggai Matar, who narrowly escaped the attack himself.

Israel right-wing protesters attack left-wing activists after they protested in central Tel Aviv against the Israeli attack on Gaza, July 12, 2014. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Israel right-wing protesters attack left-wing activists after they protested in central Tel Aviv against the Israeli attack on Gaza, July 12, 2014. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Violence in Haifa

On July 17, anti-war protestors in the ethnically mixed city of Haifa were beaten by nationalist counter-demonstrators who burned a Palestinian flag and shouted “Death to Arabs.”

Among the dozens of leftists injured that day were the Arab deputy mayor of Haifa, Dr. Suhail Assad, and his son, who was reportedly attacked for looking like an Arab. While trying to shield his son, the deputy mayor was struck on his head, and fell to the ground. They were saved by the intervention of two Israeli women, and taken to the hospital for medical attention. “Luckily he [the son] didn’t fall down; otherwise they would have finished him off,” Assad told Haaretz.

The following day in Haifa violent clashes erupted between hundreds of Palestinian citizens of Israel and the police; thirty protestors were arrested. MK Haneen Zoabi of the Balad party was briefly handcuffed. According to the police, she attacked an officer.

At the same time, Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem clashed with the police, causing further violent escalation.

In the wake of these events, Minister of Internal Security Yitzhak Aharonovich told Army Radio that he intended to seek legal measures to prohibit any further protests against the war. “There is no left and right here – we need to unite as a country and support the IDF soldiers who are fighting,” he declared.

Violence in Tel Aviv, again

A particularly large Israeli anti-war protest took place in Tel Aviv on the evening of July 26, where 4,000-5,000 left-leaning demonstrators gathered in Kikar Rabin and were met by several hundred right-wing demonstrators. Police forces kept the two groups apart for the duration of the event. Afterwards, though, while leaving the square, several demonstrators were chased down and attacked. Right-wingers used metal batons, rods and pepper spray to attack anti-war demonstrators. At least eight people were beaten and needed medical attention, while eight nationalist protesters were detained by the police.

“I don’t blame the police alone,” one of injured protestors, who was hit on the head with a metal rod, told Sicha Mekomit. “The political system here takes it in stride that there are thousands of people in the streets, shouting ‘Death to Arabs’ and ‘Death to the Leftists’… Things that were not legitimate in the past have now become legitimate.”

Israeli policemen arrest protesters as Palestinians living in Israel and left-wing activists protest against the Israeli attack on Gaza in downtown Haifa, July 18, 2014. Israeli police arrested 28 activists, as protesters took to the streets and blocked roads calling for an end to the attack. (Fiaz abu-Ramele/Activestills.org)

Israeli policemen arrest protesters as Palestinians living in Israel and left-wing activists protest against the Israeli attack on Gaza in downtown Haifa, July 18, 2014. Israeli police arrested 28 activists, as protesters took to the streets and blocked roads calling for an end to the attack. (Fiaz abu-Ramele/Activestills.org)

Public figures

Threatened for showing empathy

On July 9, day 2 of Operation Protective Edge, Gila Almagor, one of Israel’s most widely revered movie and theater actresses, received a death threat.

Almagor was profiled earlier that week in a Yedioth Ahronoth article disastrously titled ”I am Ashamed to be an Israeli.”

“I never said that I was ashamed to be an Israeli,” she later told Israeli Channel 2 news, explaining that the paper misquoted her comment regarding the murder of Palestinian teen Mohammed Abu Khdeir. “But once the article was published, an ambush started on my phone,” she explained. The following day Habima theater received a message warning that if Almagor performed that night, she would be murdered as she came off stage. She stayed at home.

That same week, in an interview with Israeli Channel 10, comedian-actress Orna Banai said she felt bad about the already-high death toll of the war. “Bibi should hold it,” she said. “We all are suffering from this situation. Us and the Palestinians. On their side women and children were killed today, and it makes me feel terrible.”

The interview ended with her talking about her dog: “I’m this trippy lefty, who likes dogs and Arabs,” she joked. Her comments evoked such public outrage that Banai was fired from her position as the spokesperson for cruise ship operator Mano Maritime. To deal with the threats and insults pouring in, she had to close down her social media accounts.

Threatened for being a Leftist

Yonit Levi, an anchor for Channel 2 news, received numerous death threats on social media for her perceived leftist stance. She did not speak against the operation.

Amnon Abramovitch, a Channel 2 news commentator, had to be rescued after at least 100 right-wing rioters wrapped in Israeli flags surrounded the Channel 2 studio and shouted at him “Traitor,” “Terrorist,” and “It’s a shame you didn’t die in the war.”

Abramovitch, a decorated war hero who was severely maimed in the Yom Kippur War while operating a burning tank, had to be escorted from the studios by a police force. Ironically, Abramovitch had spoken in support of the operation.

Threatened for no reason

Beram Kayal, a Palestinian-Israeli soccer player on Israel’s national team, posted a picture of himself on Instagram. It was a picture from Israel’s game against Scotland, and behind Kayal, in the blurred background, one could make out members of the crowd waiving Palestinian flags. The fact that the flags had nothing to do with him did little to assuage public outrage. “Many [fans] expressed outrage over his connection to Israel’s team, and called to disqualify him from representing the state,” an Israeli sports channel reported [Hebrew].

A few days later singer Rona Kenan canceled her scheduled performance in Haifa after receiving a series of death threats. Her antagonists alleged that back in 2012 she had asked for a moment of silence in the memory of Palestinian terrorists. Kenan says no such thing happened. “I find myself exposed to harsh verbal attacks and threats on my life, just because of false accusations,” she told Haaretz.

Threatened for speaking their minds

Public figures who actually did speak out against the war fared much worse. Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy published an op-ed criticizing Israeli combat pilots for killing innocents, and praising soldiers who refused such orders. In the following days, the mainstream media denounced him as a traitor, legal organizations called to sue him for incitement, and he received so many death threats that Haaretz had to hire a bodyguard for him.

Gideon Levy (photo: Yossi Gurvitz)

Gideon Levy (photo: Yossi Gurvitz)

MK Yariv Levin, chairman of the governing coalition, called to try Levy for treason. “When someone who lives among you turns himself into an enemy mouthpiece, while spreading lies, out of the hope that this will undermine your ability to wage war – this is called, in simple Hebrew, ‘treason,’” the chairman explained on Channel 2 news.

“The reason I no longer write in the papers is that I’m afraid that someone will grab me on the street and beat me,” Natan Zach, one of Israel’s best-known poets, told the Hebrew website Walla in an interview.

Social media

Punishing employees for Facebook posts

Operation Protective Edge reportedly heralded a new phenomenon on social media: Facebook groups that track down outspoken leftists and “out” them to their employers. Members of these groups then flood an employer with angry calls and emails, demanding the culprit’s dismissal.

From the start of the operation dozens of Palestinian citizens of Israel were fired or suspended from their jobs over statements they made on Facebook.

An Arab municipal worker in the city of Lod was fired for writing on her Facebook wall “13 [IDF soldiers] dead, may they be more, Amen.” An Arab employee of the Safed municipality was suspended for posting that “Zionism is the enemy of humanity… We are all Palestine.” A doctor and a nurse, from two different hospitals, were suspended for denouncing the IDF as “murderers of children.” An Arab physiotherapist of the Bnei Yehuda soccer team was fired for relatively mild denunciations, such as “some people in this country are becoming worse than monsters.”

The list goes on. A franchisee of the Tiv Ta’am food company and an employee of the metalworking company Iscar were fired for expressing joy over the death of IDF soldiers. A Bank Hapoalim employee was fired for wishing for another holocaust. Two employees of the supermarket chain Supersal are facing pre-termination disciplinary hearings for making anti-Israel statements. For condemning Israel’s actions on Facebook, a Hadassah College student in Jerusalem was removed from the valedictorian list, and her scholarship was revoked.

A photo posted to the ‘The people of Israel demand revenge’ Facebook page, reading “Hating Arabs isn’t racism, it’s moral! Israel demands revenge’. (The faces were blurred by +972 because the girls appear to be minors.)

A photo posted to the ‘The people of Israel demand revenge’ Facebook page, reading “Hating Arabs isn’t racism, it’s moral! Israel demands revenge’. (The faces were blurred by +972 because the girls appear to be minors.)

“A saying by an employee, even if it’s extreme and defiant, can’t in itself become an automatic reason for his firing,” Steve Adler, former judge of Israel’s national labor court, told the The Marker. “If the employee was speaking only in his own name, with no relation to the company that employs him – say on his Facebook page – the conclusion is clear: Even if he said words of enmity that are hard to hear, he is allowed to say them… There is no legal basis to fire him.”

An Arab nurse suspended from the state-owned Sheba Medical Center for a Facebook post calling IDF soldiers war criminals, appealed to the Tel Aviv labor court. One day before the court hearing the hospital reinstated him, on condition that he remove the offensive post and apologize to the hospital’s administration.

An Arab accountant at Ernst & Young was also threatened with dismissal for calling Israeli broadcasters who interrupted an Arab interviewee “stupid Nazis.” She, too, was allowed to return to work once she removed the post and publicly apologized for it.

Unlike private companies, state bodies do have the right to fire employees for their public statement if they incite racial or nationalistic violence. While state bodies used this right liberally on Arab employees lashing out at Israel, no similar application was made for nationalistic, anti-Palestinian statements.

Mynet reported that a postal employee wrote on her Facebook page, “All lefties to the gas chambers now.” A complaint against her was answered with: “Israel is a democratic country, where every citizen is allowed to express his opinion.”

Complaints against a Carmiel municipal employee who wrote “Only a thousand… we should have killed them all, death to all Arabs,” were also shrugged off. “We have no control over what people say in the arena of Facebook, and we don’t follow employees’ private Facebook pages… [but] we will talk to him,” the municipality promised.

An Israeli professor at Bar-Ilan University sent his students an email rescheduling a test, and took the opportunity to express sympathy and concern for all victims of the fighting. He made no reference to the victims’ nationality, implicitly reminding the students that the majority of the victims were Gazans.

After receiving vociferous complaints about the professor’s message, the university issued an apology for the email and the professor was reprimanded.

Israeli parliament

Seeking new legal limitations

Last month right-leaning parliamentarians proposed an amendment to the Knesset rules that would narrow elected representatives’ freedom of speech. The new law would allow impeaching those MK’s whose expressions are deemed out of line.

The current law allows the Knesset’s Central Election Committee to prevent certain parties from participating in elections if it is able to prove that a party supported the armed struggle against Israel. The new amendment to this law proposes to also enforce it on representatives already elected, so that acting members of parliament who “published words of support of the armed struggle of an enemy state or a terrorist organization against Israel” may be voted out of the Knesset. The law implicitly targets Arab MKs, since those who determine exactly what constitutes “support of the armed struggle” would be no other than the rival MKs themselves.

Calling for boycotts

On July 21, Foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman called on his supporters to boycott Arab businesses that went on strike in solidarity with residents of the Gaza Strip. He also demanded that the Al Jazeera in Israel be shut down. “Al Jazeera has become an integral part of the terrorist organizations’ information campaign,” he said in a press conference.

Minister of Communications Gilad Erdan joined his call, asking the committee of cable and satellite broadcasts to stop broadcasting “the network’s incitement against Israel.”

Since the minister brought no examples of actual false or inaccurate reports by Al Jazeera, the cable committee dismissed the request. “The facts presented to the committee supply no reason to remove the channel,” was the response given.

Crushing dissent

MK Haneen Zoabi, an outspoken and controversial member of the Arab Balad party, was suspended from the Knesset for six months over comments that were deemed “incitement against the state.”

MK Hanin Zoabi (photo: Oren Ziv/ Activestills.org)

MK Hanin Zoabi (photo: Oren Ziv/ Activestills.org)

Over the past weeks, Zoabi has drawn public outrage for her controversial actions and expressions in defense of Palestinian. Before it was known that the three kidnapped Israeli teens had been murdered, Zoabi defended their kidnappers on Radio Tel Aviv. “They are not terrorists,” she explained, “they are people who see no way to change their reality, and are forced to use these means until Israel sobers up a little… sobers up and feels the suffering of the other.” She added that she did not approve of their actions.

For this and other remarks made by Zoabi, Speaker of the Knesset Yuli Edelstein filed a complaint with the Knesset’s Ethics Committee, accusing Zoabi of “comments that border incitement, encourage violence and support terror organizations.”

At the beginning of August the Ethics Committee voted to suspend Zoabi, removing her for six months from the plenum and the committees on which she serves, though still allowing her to vote (silently). The committee reasoned that Zoabi’s remarks were inconsistent with the good of the country.

“The Israeli public, like in any other state, expects that members of parliament, who have sworn allegiance to the state, would not encourage those who rise against it, and those who seek to kill its citizens and its soldiers,” the decision read.

“The committee, instead of protecting my freedom of speech… is vigorously acting to punish me for my positions, and punish the entire public that I represent,” Zoabi said in reply. She added that she would appeal the decision in the Supreme Court.

Ami Ayalon, former head of the Shin Bet and a former Labor MK, berated the Ethics Committee’s decision. “In the sea of inappropriate expressions [in the Knesset], some of which are racist and some of which are outright criminal, there’s a grave injustice in the persecution of Haneen Zoabi,” he wrote in a recent op-ed. “The committee’s decision damages freedom of speech, which is the heart and soul of democracy.”

Later on it was decided to also strip Zoabi of parliamentary immunity and open a criminal investigation against her, on the suspicion that she incited violence and insulted a police officer. The police recommended putting her on trial for incitement.

Even right-leaning MK’s expressed dismay over this. “The police investigation against MK Zoabi is a grave issue, one that all MK’s should be revolting against,” Moshe Feiglin, a veteran MK of the Likud party, wrote on his Facebook page. “Zoabi is representing her voters… Today she is being investigated over activities and comments that are part of her political duties and agenda. Today the police are investing her, tomorrow it will be Miri Regev [Likud].”

Orli Santo is a correspondent for the New York-based weeklies Yediot America and the Jewish Week. Her writing has also been published by the Times of Israel, Ynet, the JTA and other publications. 

What was different about this war?
Not just escalation: A frightening new era of Jewish-Arab relations in Israel
Why Palestinian citizens of Israel are no longer safe

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How Israeli media obscures Palestinian humanity http://972mag.com/how-israeli-media-obscures-palestinian-humanity/96173/ http://972mag.com/how-israeli-media-obscures-palestinian-humanity/96173/#comments Sun, 31 Aug 2014 10:58:29 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=96173 Israeli media insists on portraying the West Bank as the Wild West and its Palestinian inhabitants as savage stone-throwers, all the while masking the reality of armed settlers and a trigger-happy military.

By Talal Jabari

If I were to describe a movie equivalent of the West Bank in words, it would be part way between a scene from John Carpenter’s Escape from LA, mixed with a little of your favorite Spaghetti Western, with strong hints of Heart of Darkness – the book, not the movie.

Well at least that’s the impression I get from some of the Israeli press, which then filters down into the psyche of the people, who get an image of a savage territory with pockets of light built by the settlers.

I won’t mention that most of these settlers have formal military training as part of their conscription, nor that they are often heavily armed. No, that wouldn’t be right. I won’t bring up the fact that there are a number of settlements around the West Bank from which the residents often go on rampages against the nearby Palestinian villages, destroying trees and other crops. I won’t even point out that over the years “civilian” settlers have killed dozens of Palestinians. I’m not going to mention any of those points because that would distort the image.

A Jewish settler from the illegal settlement of Mitzpe Yair chases the flock and threatens the shepherds of Gwawis. He is holding an M16 rifle, issued to him by the Israeli army, as part of his paid job as a security coordinator. The law states that he is not allowed to take any action outside the settlements' borders, September 18, 2012. (photo: Shiraz Grinbaum/Activestills.org)

A Jewish settler from the illegal settlement of Mitzpe Yair chases a flock of sheep and threatens their Palestinian shepherds from Gwawis. He is holding an M16 rifle, issued to him by the Israeli army, as part of his paid job as a security coordinator. The law states that he is not allowed to take any action outside the settlement’s borders, September 18, 2012. (photo: Shiraz Grinbaum/Activestills.org)

No, the image presented by Israeli politicians and, by extension, the press is one of settlers attempting to coexist with bloodthirsty Palestinian savages. As Israeli politician and settler David Rotem once told me, and I paraphrase here: “We even let the Palestinians harvest their grapes from their land that is now in the settlement security fence.”

See, they’re trying!

Where am I going with all this?

Well, on August 25 there was an incident reported in the Israeli media about a settler couple with an infant being stoned on their way home. The result of the stoning was that a rock hit the husband, who was driving, which led their car to overturn.

But there was a surprise element: According to the wife, the family was immediately aided by Palestinian bystanders (she could tell they weren’t terrorists. Her words not mine) and a Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance. And one got the feeling from reading the various articles that this humanitarian gesture was somehow odd.

On a side note, Arutz Sheva, the Israeli settler press, had a headline in their coverage of the incident saying, “Rocks Are as Dangerous as Rockets.” I’m fairly certain that if Israel had shelled Gaza with rocks rather than rockets for the past two months the outcome would have been a completely different story.

But I digress.

Israeli media always likes to look at one certain convenient event and quickly point the finger, and say, “They started it.” It isn’t constructive, and it doesn’t get down to the root cause of things: Why do Palestinians throw rocks?

Of course many Israelis are indoctrinated with the concept that Palestinians throw rocks to kill Israelis, and this is simply not true. Can rocks thrown at cars kill? Yes, and in the past they have. But most youth and children throw rocks because they are frustrated, they are at a rebellious age or, quite simply, because they are bored, and living under occupation limits the options for channeling that energy more constructively.

A Palestinian youth throws stones at an Israeli army bulldozer in Kufr Qaddum, December 28, 2012 (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

A Palestinian youth throws stones at an Israeli army bulldozer in Kufr Qaddum, December 28, 2012 (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

When they throw stones they aren’t thinking of killing or even maiming. Many of them probably just enjoy the sound of glass breaking (and for the record many, Arab cars have been stoned by mistake). But they are frustrated, and the root cause of their frustration is the occupation, and a symbol of that occupation just happens to be driving by at the time.

As for the surprise in the Israeli media about the Palestinians coming to the aid of this family, I have a first-hand example of my own. One afternoon not very long ago, while driving home from Hebron, we saw a settler car overturn in front of us (no rock throwing, just bad driving). Myself, along with almost two dozen other Palestinians who happened to be on the road at that time, stopped to rescue the lady and her daughter. They were settlers, but they were human beings first. We administered first aid. We called an ambulance. We gave them water. They were obviously in shock so we paused our journey to stay with them.

That is to say until another settler called in the army, which arrived with fingers on the triggers and ordered us out of the area like we were all a bunch of thugs about to lynch the mother and her daughter with bandages and rubbing alcohol.

The bottom line? Israeli settlers have been an instrumental element in the ongoing oppression of the Palestinians living in the West Bank. Their presence in settlements on Palestinian land is illegal. Their attacks, including “Price Tag” attacks, against Palestinian citizens is indiscriminate, but under what part of that equation should our humanity ever be called into question?

Talal Jabari is a Palestinian award-winning documentary filmmaker and journalist from East Jerusalem. He tweets from @TalalJabari.

WATCH: Israeli journalist discusses her article defending Palestinian stone-throwing
Beitunia killings and the media’s incredibly high bar for Palestinian stories
The ‘New York Times’ investigates a Palestinian hobby

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What if Hamas fired rockets at Britain? http://972mag.com/what-if-hamas-fired-rockets-at-britain/96169/ http://972mag.com/what-if-hamas-fired-rockets-at-britain/96169/#comments Sat, 30 Aug 2014 16:48:17 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=96169 When Israeli spokesmen defend the IDF’s actions in Gaza by asking what you would do if rockets rained down on your home, the example of Northern Ireland can serve as one response. 

By John Jackson

Over the last weeks Israeli government spokesmen have provided cover across international TV and radio airspace for their military onslaught in Gaza. They’ve tried their best to respond proportionately, even when a small minority of irritating journalists insists on asking questions about the massacre of children.

However, there have been times when these spokesmen had no other choice but to wheel out the big gun, set piece question against the threatening fire of journalistic inquiry: “What would you do if rockets were being fired at you?” The question hits the target almost every time.

It’s a killer blow question when no journalist is armed with an answer. So, in the interest of promoting even greater proportionality in this ongoing war of words, I would like to offer the few brave anchormen and women out there a possible response.

Israelis check the scene in which a mortar shot from the Gaza Strip has directly hit a house, southern Israel, August 21, 2014. (photo: Activestills)

Israelis check the scene in which a mortar shot from the Gaza Strip had a direct hit a house, southern Israel, August 21, 2014. (photo: Activestills)

During the ‘troubles’ in Northern Ireland, civilian deaths were caused by the British Army, the Loyalists and Republican paramilitaries. But for the purpose of answering the Israeli question it is useful to look at the major bombing campaigns by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) that took place across England. These campaigns were far more destructive than anything coming out of Gaza. There were approximately 10,000 bomb attacks during the conflict – about 16,000 if you include failed attempts. A significant proportion of them were on English soil.

A time bomb was detonated at Brighton’s Grand Hotel, where Margaret Thatcher and her cabinet were staying for the Conservative Party conference. Thatcher narrowly escaped death, five people were killed (including an MP) and 31 injured. The Queen’s cousin, Lord Louis Mountbatten, his grandson and three others were blown up while fishing off the coast of Ireland. In Manchester city center a 3,300-pound bomb caused £1.1 billion (today’s value) in damage and injured 212 people. The Bishopsgate bombing in the city of London cost £350 million to repair and injured 44 people. And, as those of us who lived through those times will remember, there were numerous bombs in pubs and shops, on high streets and shopping centers, in train stations and on the London underground. The thousands of rockets fired by Hamas over the last month have killed six civilians in Israel, along with 64 soldiers, while the IDF has killed 2,104 Palestinians, including at least 500 children.

Despite the effectiveness of the IRA campaign, it would have been politically inconceivable and morally unjustifiable for the Royal Air Force to bomb the streets and homes of the republican communities in North or West Belfast – the communities from which the IRA came and amongst which it lived. It would have been unacceptable in Britain and, indeed, to the U.S. government at the time. The British army and intelligence services did terrible things in Northern Ireland, but such a wholesale massacre of civilians would have been unconscionable. The answer to the question of what would you do? In Britain’s case at least, faced with a destructive bombing campaign, it did not respond by sending in warplanes to bomb schools, hospitals or terraced houses.

Mourners fill the mosque during the funeral for 24 members of the Abu Jame' family, who were killed the previous day during an Israeli attack over the Bani Suhaila neighborhood of Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, July 21, 2014. Reports indicate that 15 of the 24 killed were children of the Abu Jame' family.

Mourners fill the mosque during the funeral for 24 members of the Abu Jame’ family, who were killed the previous day during an Israeli attack over the Bani Suhaila neighborhood of Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, July 21, 2014. Reports indicate that 15 of the 24 killed were children of the Abu Jame’ family.

Why is it that Israel, the U.S. and the UK government don’t find the massacre of defenseless civilians, concentrated in a densely populated strip of land, by a hi-tech air force simply unacceptable? It could be that Catholics in Northern Ireland, despite a history of oppression, were not dehumanized in the late 20th century in the way Palestinians are today. They were integrated into the fabric of British society with significant communities in major cities and with a large proportion of British people claiming some Irish heritage. And U.S. governments, making domestic electoral calculations about the Irish-American vote, would have responded fiercely if such a slaughter took place. Similar calculations made by the Obama administration about the pro-Israeli vote and lobby result in a deafening silence on Gaza.

So, is the military onslaught really about the rockets from Gaza? The Palestinian West Bank suggests that it is not. Not a single rocket has been fired from that territory; yet, it is still subject to daily punishment from the Israeli military and settler communities. This includes encroachments on Palestinian land, mass detention without trial, the killing of children, the destruction of homes, the inability to move freely, the building of a wall that separates families, and the daily humiliation of an entire people. The message is clear to Palestinians when it comes to rockets: you’re damned if you do (use them) and you’re damned if you don’t. This, in effect, means that the choice offered to the people of Gaza is to remain docile in a suffocating ghetto or be destroyed.

When Israeli spokesmen like Mark Regev fly onto our TV and radio airspace and ask in Australian or American accents, “What would you do?” It is time to start answering them.

John Jackson is an author and commentator who has led major public campaigns on a range of international issues. He has a particular interest in strategic non-violent struggle, and co-authored Small Acts of Resistance, which explores the creative ways people have developed to challenge injustice. 

Read this article in Hebrew on Local Call.

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Israel needs a new strategy in Gaza http://972mag.com/israel-needs-a-new-strategy-in-gaza/96158/ http://972mag.com/israel-needs-a-new-strategy-in-gaza/96158/#comments Sat, 30 Aug 2014 13:56:53 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=96158 Ariel Sharon’s strategy in Gaza of “Divide and Rule” failed, and we are yet to see a successful military solution for the Strip. Is there anyone in the Israeli leadership with the courage and power to lead a political solution?

By Lev Grinberg

The Israeli government has drawn the IDF and the entire country into a deeply complex situation, one that the country has not experienced since the 2005 disengagement from Gaza. It is the result of a fundamental misunderstanding: The model of control in Gaza built by Ariel Sharon in 2004 has collapsed. That framework was based on land and sea blockades, and the closure of border crossings into the Strip, resulting in a network of smuggling tunnels. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi changed the rules of the game by shutting access to the tunnels as a part of his domestic struggle against the Muslim Brotherhood, pushing the Palestinians to politically realign in a national unity agreement between Hamas and Fatah. The question is how Israeli diplomacy will adapt to these new circumstances?

A soldier stands next to a Hamas-built tunnel outside Gaza. (photo: IDF Spokesperson/ CC BY-NC 2.0)

A soldier stands next to a Hamas-built tunnel outside Gaza. (photo: IDF Spokesperson/ CC BY-NC 2.0)

The model Sharon built led to relative stability between 2005-14, despite the heavy cost of rounds of violence every few years. The model was built on the colonial principle of “Divide and Rule.” It was a division between Gaza and the West Bank, and between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority (PA). Sharon understood that the IDF would neither be able to stop the mortars and rockets, nor discover the smuggling tunnels. Moreover, the IDF was suffering unnecessary physical losses as a result of daily clashes with Gazan militants, as well as losses in international public opinion as it took violent action against a civilian population. From this point of view, the unilateral withdrawal of 2005 was thus a successful tactic aimed at cutting down the number of Israeli losses, and granting legitimacy to the use of force against Palestinian citizens, claiming that violence was used in self-defense.

However, the withdrawal from Gaza actually had a long-term diplomatic goal: Prevent international pressure to establish a Palestinian state, as promised by former U.S. President Bush’s road map. Sharon’s adviser, Dov Weisglass, explained the logic behind the withdrawal to Haaretz back in 2004: “The significance of the disengagement plan is the freezing of the peace process…and when you freeze that process, you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state…this whole package called the Palestinian state, with all that it entails, has been removed indefinitely from our agenda…all this with authority and permission…with a presidential blessing and the ratification of both houses of Congress.”

In order to prevent a political process resulting in a Palestinian state it was necessary to withdraw unilaterally; otherwise there would have been a need to negotiate with the PA over basic issues such as security arrangements, opening of border crossings and bi-lateral economic agreements. The outcome of those negotiations would have been a reconnection between Gaza and the West Bank on all levels – economically, politically and socially, i.e. the opposite of the original intention to “divide and rule.”

The army was not pleased with the unilateral exit from Gaza, which it considered damaging to its power to deter Palestinian violence. In March 2004, objection to the unilateral withdrawal was publicly announced by then Chief of Staff Moshe “Boogie” Yaalon and Head of the Shin Bet Avi Dichter. They claimed that a unilateral withdrawal would strengthen terrorist infrastructure and consolidate Hamas against the PA. They were right, of course; yet Sharon didn’t hesitate in dismissing them and replacing them with Dan Halutz and Yuval Diskin, respectively.

Moshe "Boogie" Ya'alon (photo: Moshe Milner / Government Press Office)

Moshe “Boogie” Ya’alon (photo: Moshe Milner / Government Press Office)

Armies dislike unilateral withdrawals, unless they are tied to an agreement that can bring permanent stability. Since the 2005  Gaza withdrawal, the IDF has been in an undesirable position, to say the least. It has the legitimacy to use increasing power and enjoy international support, but it cannot defeat the enemy despite its power. It has repeatedly suffered damage to its image abroad due to the vast number of innocent Palestinian civilians killed, and it has lost standing among Israelis because of its inability to claim victory. Since Sharon fell ill no one has ever examined the motives and political logic of his strategy; there are only demands to investigate the military strategies after each round of fighting. However, the problem is, in fact, political, and stems from the collapse of the model of control that led things to snowball both diplomatically and militarily.

The collapse of Sharon’s model generated significant change. As a result of Sisi’s tunnel destruction, Hamas was forced to build a coalition with the PA, and by doing so it challenged Israel’s “Divide and Rule” strategy. In response, Netanyahu launched a battle to reinstate a broken model that had already collapsed. However, the connection between Hamas and the PA has only strengthened during Operation Protective Edge – socially among Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, politically among their leaders, and physically in the demand for lifting of the blockade and opening the border crossings. The collapse of Sharon’s strategy generated change because without the tunnels residents of Gaza need a new connection to the outside world. The political challenge in Israel now is how to build a new model of control in light of the Hamas-Fatah unity agreement.

The IDF elite won’t dare say today what was said by Chief of Staff Dan Shomron in 1987, when the 1967 model of control collapsed (at the start of the First Intifada). It won’t dare say publicly that there is no military solution to Palestinian resistance. The problem is that in the current deterioration of Israeli politics it is unclear who will have the power, authority and courage to lead the political process. As long as a new model of relations with the Palestinians isn’t designed, the current situation will continue to deteriorate, and Israeli society will increasingly lose faith in the ability of its military and political elite to shift the status quo and deal with reality. Israelis and Palestinians will need international help to compromise and step forward.

Lev Grinberg is  professor of political sociology at Ben Gurion University, author of Politics and Violence in Israel/Palestine: Democracy vs. Military Rule (Routledge, 2010)

This article was originally published in Hebrew on Ynet.

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