+972 Magazine » All Posts http://972mag.com Independent commentary and news from Israel & Palestine Fri, 03 Jul 2015 16:09:36 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8 Netanyahu and Obama find a shared interest — screwing the Israeli people http://972mag.com/netanyahu-and-obama-find-a-shared-interest-screwing-the-israeli-people/108491/ http://972mag.com/netanyahu-and-obama-find-a-shared-interest-screwing-the-israeli-people/108491/#comments Fri, 03 Jul 2015 16:09:36 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=108491 Despite the years of endless clashes of both personality and policy, this dramatic political saga really won’t surprise you one bit.

Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Obama in the Oval Office, March 2012 (photo: The White House / Flickr)

Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Obama in the Oval Office, March 2012 (White House photo)

The rather lousy relationship between Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and U.S. President Obama has been the subject of much discussion in recent weeks as former Ambassador Michael Oren brought already ridiculous levels of behind-the-scenes speculation to new lows. Years of public clashes over settlement construction, peace talks, negotiations with Iran, and more, have provided endless fodder fueling public clashes between the two leaders.

There is one area, however, where President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu have suddenly, and perhaps surprisingly to outsiders, found their interests aligned.

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American Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro attempted to use his influence to determine the outcome of a fateful vote in the Israeli Knesset this week. It is a rather bizarre political story with surprising actors being asked to play even more surprising roles. It is a story of foreign intervention into questions of domestic Israeli policy in ways that upend the narrative regularly spun by right-wing Israelis. It is a story that shouldn’t surprise anybody, and yet surprised nearly everybody.

The story starts with two of the most common ingredients found in nearly all Middle Eastern dramas: fossil fuels and American economic interests. You see, about six years ago a surprising discovery was made off of Israel’s coast— the largest natural gas reserves in the Mediterranean. Almost immediately, people started talking about the discovery as a game-changer, both geopolitically in the region, but also for Israel’s economy. The gas was supposed to be enough to domestic supply in Israel for decades.

The Tamar natural gas platform (Photo: Noble Energy)

A natural gas platform over the Tamar natural gas field off of Israel’s coast, one of two major gas discoveries made in Israeli waters in recent years by a consortium of companies led by Texas-based Nobel Energy. (Photo: Noble Energy)

Unfortunately for most Israelis, the contracts to search for said fossil fuels were negotiated decades earlier, at a time when nobody took seriously the prospects of actually finding any gas. Thus, as economic incentive dictates, the increased economic risk for the energy companies was contractually offset by massive profit margins in the unlikely situation that gas was discovered. So what did Israel do when gas was discovered? It unilaterally “renegotiated” the contracts to give itself a significantly greater portion of future profits. The energy companies were not happy but they ultimately agreed to the new terms.

In the five years that have passed, all but a few thousand Israelis forgot about the game-changing importance of the gas discovery. People assumed that they, the citizens, were getting ripped off in the whole affair, because, well, that’s the default Israeli position — to assume you’re being ripped off somehow. Yet those concerns consistently took a back seat to more tangible and immediate issues like the price of housing and food, and, you know, wars and boycotts and the ayatollahs.

But let’s fast-forward to today. With surprising attentiveness to at least part of some of the interests of the Israeli people, the Netanyahu government renegotiated a new financial and economic framework for the gas, its distribution, sale, pricing, ownership stakes and competitive guarantees. Except, there was a problem with that last one; Israel’s anti-trust commissioner refused to sign off on the deal. Then, this month, the only man who could overrule the anti-trust commissioner, Shas Chairman Aryeh Deri, refused to do so. So Benjamin Netanyahu did what any good Middle Eastern politician — or rather, any politician at all — would do in such a bind: he declared the natural gas deal a matter of national security, allowing him to overrule the anti-trust commissioner himself and put his plan to a vote.

However, despite a massive haul of 30 mandates in recent elections, Netanyahu only managed to cobble together a razor-thin coalition of 61 out of 120 Knesset seats. Even worse for the fourth-term prime minister, three of his ministers announced that they were recusing themselves from the entire matter because of close personal relationships to stakeholders in the deal. So Netanyahu was short a majority to move his plan along.

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

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

This is where it gets interesting. One of the two majority stakeholders in the natural gas deal, along with Israeli firm Delek, is Texas-based Nobel Energy. Now, as we know from then-historian Michael Oren’s fascinating book, Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East: 1776 to the Present, American interests in the Middle East have always been a little bit about religious obsession and a-lot-a-bit about American economic interest. Washington’s relationship with Israel has historically fallen along the religious/ideological end of that spectrum, but that is not to say that economic interests are in any way marginal.

But let’s get back to the Knesset.

Netanyahu was short three votes and the opposition was coalescing around its energetic determination to stop the prime minister’s plan. The only votes in play, it seemed, might be the Joint List, the combined slate of Arab parties. The Joint List, however, is adamantly opposed to everything Netanyahu. Since Election Day, the latter has gone after their and their constituents’ very right to participate in the democratic system. Most recently, the prime minister said nothing when one of his deputy ministers suggested they surrender their citizenship.

Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh stands in front of ultra-Orthodox MKs in the Knesset. (Knesset photo)

Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh stands in front of ultra-Orthodox MKs, Economy Minister Aryeh Deri (bottom-left), and freshman MK Michael Oren (top-left) in the Knesset. (Knesset website)

The thing is, the Joint List doesn’t have any love for Opposition Leader Yitzhak Herzog either. Herzog attempted to disqualify a Joint List candidate from even running in the elections, and just this past week, instructed his entire ‘Zionist Camp’ to abstain from voting on a law that forbids “family unification” for Palestinian citizens of Israel.

So the American ambassador attempted to tip the scales in Netanyahu’s favor by enlisting the one political group that hates him most. Stopping short of confirming the affair, a U.S. embassy statement released to Haaretz emphasized that Washington, “hope[s] that Israel will reach an arrangement that will allow the development of its natural gas resources.”

“We are proud of the contributions that American companies are making to bring cleaner and more efficient energy resources the Israel,” the statement read. “The specifics of any arrangement are, of course, a matter for the Israeli government and people to decide, but we have always been open with our Israeli friends about the economic, security, and commercial benefits…”

On the night of the vote, which was ultimately postponed once Netanyahu realized he had no majority, a spokesperson for the Joint List reassured that, “of course the Joint List will vote against Netanyahu’s policies on [natural] gas.” The slate is “independent and not swayed by pressure from tycoons like the Netanyahu government,” he added.

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A Month in Photos: Global Pride, Ramadan and refugees http://972mag.com/a-month-in-photos-global-pride-ramadan-and-refugees/108471/ http://972mag.com/a-month-in-photos-global-pride-ramadan-and-refugees/108471/#comments Fri, 03 Jul 2015 12:55:42 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=108471 LGBTQ people and allies celebrate pride while others protest ‘pinkwashing’; tens of thousands of Palestinians from the West Bank head into Jerusalem for prayers during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, some climbing over walls to do so; African asylum seekers bring the theater to their detention center; migrants and refugees commemorate their dead in Europe; Israelis protest racism and the privatization of natural resources.

Photo by: Oren Ziv, Anne Paq, Ahmad Al-Bazz, Yotam Ronen, Faiz Abu Rmeleh
Photo editing: Anka Mirkin, Keren Manor

Israelis take part in the annual pride parade in Tel Aviv, June 12, 2015. (Activestills.org)

Israelis take part in the annual pride parade in Tel Aviv, June 12, 2015. (Activestills.org)

Activists display banners next to Israeli supporters at Christopher Street Day (CSD) parade in Berlin, as part of an action against pinkwashing, Germany, June 27, 2016. The protesters accuse Israel of using LGBTQI rights issues to mask what protesters claim is the "ethnic cleansing and genocide in Palestine." In their call for protest, they write: "Pinkwashing is used extensively by the Israeli government. Israel claims they support LGBTQI rights, in order to divert attention away from their human rights cromes against Palestinians..›e will not allow the Israeli war machine to use LGBTQI rights as a justification for its oppression of others". Every year, Israel has a prominent place in the CSD parade, distrubuting Israeli flags coloured with the rainbow colours. Activists display banners next to Israeli supporters at Christopher Street Day (CSD) parade in Berlin, as part of an action against pinkwashing, Germany, June 27, 2016. The protesters accuse Israel of using LGBTQI rights issues to mask what protesters claim is the "ethnic cleansing and genocide in Palestine." In their call for protest, they write: "Pinkwashing is used extensively by the Israeli government. Israel claims they support LGBTQI rights, in order to divert attention away from their human rights cromes against Palestinians..›e will not allow the Israeli war machine to use LGBTQI rights as a justification for its oppression of others". Every year, Israel has a prominent place in the CSD parade, distrubuting Israeli flags coloured with the rainbow colours. (Activestills.org)

Activists display banners next to Israeli supporters at Christopher Street Day (CSD) parade in Berlin, as part of an action against ‘pinkwashing,’ Germany, June 27, 2015. The protesters accuse Israel of using LGBTQI rights issues to mask what they describe as “ethnic cleansing and genocide in Palestine.” In their call for protest, they write: “Pinkwashing is used extensively by the Israeli government. Israel claims they support LGBTQI rights, in order to divert attention away from their human rights crimes against Palestinians… We will not allow the Israeli war machine to use LGBTQI rights as a justification for its oppression of others.” Every year, Israel has a prominent place in the CSD parade, distributing Israeli flags colored with the rainbow colors. (Activestills.org)

Palestinian youth evacuated by his fellow protesters after suffocating from tear gas, during a protest against settlement expansion, Qaryut village, West Bank, June 6, 2015. The closing of the main road, over a year ago, has forced the villagers to take a longer route, adding 20 kilometres to their journey. According to residents, the road has been closed many times in recent years. (Activestills.org)

Protesters evacuate a Palestinian youth suffering from tear gas inhalation during a protest against settlement expansion, Qaryut village, West Bank, June 6, 2015. The closing of their main access road, over a year ago, has forced the villagers to take a longer route, adding 20 kilometers to their journey. According to residents, the road has been closed many times in recent years. (Activestills.org)

View on Qaryut village, West Bank, June 6, 2015. (Activestills.org)

A view of the Palestinian village of Qaryut, West Bank, June 6, 2015. (Activestills.org)

New housing units at the Israeli settlement of Shilo, Qaryut village, West Bank, June 6, 2015. (Activestills.org)

New housing units at the Israeli settlement of Shilo, Qaryut village, West Bank, June 6, 2015. (Activestills.org)

Palestinians cross the Qalandiya checkpoint between the West Bank city of Ramallah and Jerusalem on their way to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, on the second Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, June 26, 2015. (Activestills.org)

Palestinians cross the Qalandiya checkpoint between the West Bank city of Ramallah and Jerusalem on their way to pray at the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, on the second Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, June 26, 2015. (Activestills.org)

Palestinian farmers await the opening of an agricultural gate in the separation fence in Falamya village (Gate number 914), West Bank, June 14, 2015. (Activestills.org)

Palestinian farmers await the opening of an agricultural gate in the separation fence in Falamya village (Gate number 914), West Bank, June 14, 2015. The farmers land, although inside the West Bank, is on the Israeli side of the separation barrier. The Israeli army allows them to access their land but only during specific hours when soldiers arrive to open special gates they must apply for permits to use. (Activestills.org)

Activists gather in a cemetery to bury an unidentified migrant from Syria who died in the sea on his way to Europe, Berlin, June 19, 2015. The funeral was held by an Imam as part of a political campaign called “The Dead are Coming,” which is organized by the Center for Political Beauty, a Berlin-based art activist group. The reburial is one of several awareness actions organized by the group. (Activestills.org)

Activists gather in a cemetery to bury an unidentified migrant from Syria who died in the sea on his way to Europe, Berlin, June 19, 2015. The funeral was held by an Imam as part of a political campaign called “The Dead are Coming,” which is organized by the Center for Political Beauty, a Berlin-based art activist group. The reburial is one of several awareness actions organized by the group. (Activestills.org)

African asylum seekers jailed in Holot alongside Israelis preform during a theatre show outside the Holot detention centre in the Negev desert, June 13, 2015. (Activestills.org)

African asylum seekers detained in the Holot detention facility perform alongside Israelis preform during a theater production outside the detention centre in the Negev desert, June 13, 2015. (Activestills.org)

Israeli artists wear a tape over their mouths as they take part in a protest against Minister of Sports and Culture Miri Regev (unseen) upon her arrival to a theatre awards ceremony in Tel Aviv,  June 19, 2015. The protest was held after Regev threatened to cut funding for a children's theatre in Jaffa, after it's director, which is also an actor in Haifa theatre, said he will refuse to preform in the West Bank settlement. (Activestills.org)

Israeli artists wear tape over their mouths to protest against Minister of Sports and Culture Miri Regev (unseen) upon her arrival to a theater awards ceremony in Tel Aviv, June 19, 2015. Regev threatened to cut funding for a children’s theater in Jaffa after it’s director, who is also a professional theater actor, said he would refuse to preform in West Bank settlements. (Activestills.org)

Activist Barak Cohen is seen in the Tel Aviv court, as Rakefet Russak Aminoach, President of bank Leumi, appeals to ban activist Barak Cohen from  protesting near her and her family, June 18, 2015. (Activestills.org)

Activist Atty. Barak Cohen is seen in Tel Aviv court, as Rakefet Russak Aminoach, President of Bank Leumi, appeals to ban Cohen from protesting near her and her family, June 18, 2015. (Activestills.org)

Police arrest a protester during a protest against natural gas privatisation in Tel Aviv, June 27, 2015. Around 4000 people marched in protest of the government's policies regarding the privatisation of natural gas found in the Mediterranean sea. (Activestills.org)

Police arrest a protester during a demonstration against the privatization of natural gas Israel, Tel Aviv, June 27, 2015. Around 4,000 people marched in protest of the government’s policies regarding natural gas reserves found in Israeli-controlled waters in the Mediterranean Sea. (Activestills.org)

Activists protest against the march of far-right Bärgida supporters, in Berlin, June 15, 2015. Bärgida is a xenophobic and Islamobic group, which has gained importance, notably in the West of Germany. The group managed only to gather around 100 persons, among them some neo-nazis, while the activists against their march were around 1000. (Activestills.org)

Activists protest against a march by supporters of far-right group Bärgida in Berlin, June 15, 2015. Bärgida is a xenophobic and Islamobic group, which has gained notoriety, notably in the West of Germany. The group managed only to gather around 100 persons, among them some neo-Nazis, while the activists against their march were around 1,000. (Activestills.org)

Sign reads: "No coexistence with cancer", as right-wingers protest following a stabbing incident in Damascus gate, outside Jerusalem's old city, June 21, 2015. Earlier today, a Palestinian youth stabbed and injured an Israeli border policeman. (Activestills.org)

Rght-wing Israeli activists protest after a stabbing incident near Damascus Gate, outside Jerusalem’s Old City, June 21, 2015. The sign reads: ‘No coexistence with cancer.’ Earlier in the day, a Palestinian youth stabbed and injured an Israeli border policeman. (Activestills.org)

Palestinians mourn during the funeral of Izz Al-Din Bani Gharra, 21, in Jenin refugee camp, West Bank, June 10, 2015. Bani Gharra was shot and killed overnight during an Israeli arrest raid. According to the UN, he is the twelfth Palestinian killed by Israeli forces in East Jerusalem, West Bank and Gaza the beginning of 2015, with over 900 injured. (Activestills.org)

Palestinians mourners at the funeral of Izz Al-Din Bani Gharra, 21, in Jenin refugee camp, West Bank, June 10, 2015. Bani Gharra was shot and killed overnight during an Israeli arrest raid. According to the UN, he was the 12th Palestinian killed by Israeli forces in East Jerusalem, West Bank and Gaza the beginning of 2015, with over 900 injured. More Palestinians and Israelis have been killed since. (Activestills.org)

Childran cross an open sewage in the Shu'fat Refugee Camp, East Jerusalem, June 2, 2015. (Activestills.org)

Childran cross an flowing, open sewers in the Shu’fat Refugee Camp, East Jerusalem, June 2, 2015. (Activestills.org)

An audience after African asylum seekers jailed in Holot alongside Israelis preformed during a theatre show outside the Holot detention centre in the Negev desert, June 13, 2015. (Activestills.org)

Audience members after African asylum seekers jailed in Holot performed alongside Israelis in a theater show outside the Holot detention center in the Negev desert, June 13, 2015. (Activestills.org)

Protesters block a main road in Tel Aviv during an Israeli Ethiopian protest against police brutality and racism, June 3, 2015. (Activestills.org)

Ethiopian-Israelis block a main road in Tel Aviv during a protest against police brutality and racism, June 3, 2015. (Activestills.org)

Israeli Ethiopians and activists protest against police violence and racism in centre Tel Aviv, June 22, 2015. Protesters blocked roads near Rabin square. Police violently arrested at least 15 activists. (Activestills.org)

Israeli Ethiopians and activists protest against police violence and racism in central Tel Aviv, June 22, 2015. Protesters blocked roads near Rabin Square. Police arrested at least 15 activists. (Activestills.org)

Activists dig mock graves in front of the Reichstag during a march and action in solidarity with migrants and refugees, Berlin, Germany, June 21, 2015. Thousands protested against European restrictive migration policies under the slogan "Refugees are welcomed here". Activists stormed the fences around the Reichstag field and dug dozens of symbolic graves to commemorate thousands of migrants who died on their way to Europe. This action was part of a campaign "die toten kommen" (the dead are coming) organized by the Center for Political Beauty, a Berlin-based art activist group. (Activestills.org)

Activists dig mock graves in front of the Reichstag during a march and action in solidarity with migrants and refugees, Berlin, Germany, June 21, 2015. Thousands protested against what they termed Europe’s restrictive migration policies under the slogan: ‘Refugees are welcomed here.’ Activists stormed the fences around the Reichstag field and dug dozens of symbolic graves to commemorate thousands of migrants who died on their way to Europe. This action was part of a campaign “die toten kommen” (the dead are coming) organized by the Center for Political Beauty, a Berlin-based art activist group. (Activestills.org)

Palestinians climb over the Israeli Wall to attend the Friday prayer in Al-Aqsa Mosque, in the town of Al-Ram, near the Qalandiya checkpoint between the West Bank city of Ramallah and Jerusalem, on the second Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, June 26, 2015. (Activestills.org)

Palestinians climb over the Israeli separation barrier to attend Friday prayers in Al-Aqsa Mosque, in the town of Al-Ram, near the Qalandiya checkpoint between the West Bank city of Ramallah and Jerusalem, on the second Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, June 26, 2015. (Activestills.org) Israel loosens restrictions on entry permits during Ramadan to allow Palestinians to pray at Al-Aqsa, but men under 40 are not eligible.

Palestinians cross the Qalandiya checkpoint between the West Bank city of Ramallah and Jerusalem on their way to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, on the second Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, June 26, 2015. (Activestills.org)

Palestinians cross the Qalandiya checkpoint between the West Bank city of Ramallah and Jerusalem on their way to pray at the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, on the second Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, June 26, 2015. (Activestills.org)

Palestinian worshippers pray inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem during the first Friday of the holy month of Ramadan, June 19, 2015. (Activestills.org)

Palestinian worshippers pray inside Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem during the first Friday of the holy month of Ramadan, June 19, 2015. (Activestills.org)

Family of Palestinian hunger striker, Khader Adnan, await in an Israeli hospital following a deterioration in his condition, June 28, 2015. Khader has been on a strict hunger-strike for 54 days, following which his body collapsed. He has broke a deal with the Israeli authorities according to which he will be released on July 12, 2015. After deal was signed he started to receive life-saving medical treatment.  Family and supporter react as Palestinian hunger striker, Khader Adnan, is announced to have broke a release-deal with Israel, June 28, 2015. Khader has been on a strict hunger-strike for 54 days, following which his body collapsed. He has broke a deal with the Israeli authorities according to which he will be released on July 12, 2015. After deal was signed he started to receive life-saving medical treatment. (Activestills.org)

The family of Palestinian hunger striker, Khader Adnan, waits in an Israeli hospital after a deterioration in his condition, June 28, 2015. Khader had been on a strict hunger-strike for 54 days before reaching a deal with the Israeli authorities according to which he will be released on July 12, 2015. After deal was signed he started to receive life-saving medical treatment. (Activestills.org) Adnan is being held under administrative detention, a practice Israel uses to imprison Palestinians without ever charging them with a crime or giving them a chance to defend themselves.

Protester illustrating government weakens regarding energy companies during a protest against natural gas privatisation in Tel Aviv, June 27, 2015. Around 4000 people marched in protest of the government's policies regarding the privatisation of natural gas found in the Mediterranean sea. (Activestills.org)

Protesters attempt to illustrate the Israeli government’s weakness vis-a-vis energy companies during a protest against the privatization of natural gas in Tel Aviv, June 27, 2015. Around 4,000 people marched in protest of the government’s policies regarding the natural gas fields discovered off the Israeli coast. (Activestills.org)

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Call for action: Street campaign remembers Gaza’s ‘obliterated families’ http://972mag.com/call-for-action-street-campaign-remembers-gazas-obliterated-families/108432/ http://972mag.com/call-for-action-street-campaign-remembers-gazas-obliterated-families/108432/#comments Fri, 03 Jul 2015 12:12:10 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=108432 There were 142 so-called ‘obliterated families’ in Gaza last summer — families that lost three or more members in Israeli attacks during the military offensive. Marking one year since the war, the Activestills photography collective wants your help to launch an international street exhibition to bring their faces and names to public spaces in cities around the world.

Activestills street exhibition #ObliteratedFamilies, on Gaza, Marseille, France, May 8, 2015.

Activestills street exhibition #ObliteratedFamilies, on Gaza, Marseille, France, May 8, 2015.

One year on, the Activestills photography collective is launching an international street campaign to the Israeli offensive in Gaza last summer. Activestills is calling on activists — with a downloadable street exhibition kit — to bring the faces and names of Gaza families killed last summer to the streets around the world.

The exhibition, #ObliteratedFamilies, features family photos of those killed and portraits of survivors. Activestills photographer Anne Paq visited more than 50 families in Gaza when putting together the project, which aims to shed light on these families and calls upon people of conscience to demand justice for the victims.

Read also: One year since Gaza: Why there’s no such thing as a ‘precision strike’

More than 2,200 Palestinians were killed in Gaza last summer by Israeli attacks, most of them civilians; more than 500 children were killed. According to the United Nations, 142 families lost three members or more. Some families were wiped out entirely. Some families lost loved ones from three generations — grandparents, parents, and grandchildren.

Siyam family, attacked by 2 missiles launched by drones, Rafah, Gaza Strip, 21.07.2014. 13 members killed. In the photo- Nabil (33), whose arm was amputated following his injuries, stands with his only child who survived, Bader, also seriously injured in the attack. Nabil lost his wife, and 4 of her 5 children. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

The Siyam family, attacked by two missiles launched from drones, Rafah, Gaza Strip, July 21, 2014. 13 members killed.
Pictured: Nabil, 33, whose arm was amputated following his injuries, stands with his only child who survived, Bader, also seriously injured in the attack. Nabil lost his wife, and 4 of her 5 children. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Al Louh Family , attacked by airstrike with bomb, Deir Al Balah, Gaza Strip, 20.08.2014. 8 members killed. In the photo- 7 of the 8 members killed. Photo taken in the room of Iman (17) ( left side on the photo) who was killed by a small block of concrete which flew through the window. Her house is located about 100 meters from the attack site. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Al Louh Family , attacked by airstrike with bomb, Deir Al Balah, Gaza Strip, August 20, 2014. Eight members killed.
Pictured: Seven of the eight family members killed. Photo taken in the room of Iman (17) ( left side on the photo) who was killed by a small block of concrete which flew through the window. Her house is located about 100 meters from the attack site. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Activestills has been staging street exhibitions for the past 10 years as part of its attempts to raise public awareness of issues ignored or distorted by the mainstream media. By using city walls as a platform to exhibit our work, we try to reach wider audiences in independent, unfiltered, and direct ways. We believe that the streets should be reclaimed for political discussion.

Read also: Street exhibition confronts Israelis on Palestinian Prisoners’ Day

The Activestills collective calls upon activists to spread these photos in their communities. A digital street exhibition kit is available online, accompanied by full instructions and ready-to-print photographs.

The collective asks participating activists to upload photos of the street exhibits to Twitter and Facebook, with their location and the hashtag #ObliteratedFamilies, or to send photos by email. Thanks for joining this global campaign to demand justice for these families, to call for end to the blockade on Gaza, and the dismantling of the military occupation and colonization of Palestine.

Al Ghoul Family, attacked by missile,  Rafah, Gaza Strip, 03.08.2014. 9 members killed, including 3 children and 3 women. Photo: Amal Mohammed Al Ghoul, 37, showing the photo of her daughter Malak. Amal lost three children and her husband, killed in the attack. She was injured and had to be treated in Turkey, and now has to take care of her three surviving children. One of them, 7-month-old Ibrahim still has shrapnel in his body and needs further medical treatment. (Anne Paq/Activestills)

Al Ghoul Family, attacked by missile, Rafah, Gaza Strip, August 3, 2014.
Nine family members killed, including three children and three women.
Pictured: Amal Mohammed Al Ghoul, 37, showing a photo of her daughter Malak. Amal lost three children and her husband, who were all killed in the attack. She was injured and had to be treated in Turkey. She now has to take care of her three surviving children. One of them, seventh-month-old Ibrahim still has shrapnel in his body and needs further medical treatment. (Anne Paq/Activestills)

Abu Zeid family, killed by Israeli missiles, Rafah, Gaza Strip, 29 July 2014.  9 members killed, including 3 children. In the photo- Survivor Nidal (3) in his destroyed home. Nidal, whose mother and twin brother were killed during the attack, was only found the next day under the rubble. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Abu Zeid family, killed by Israeli missiles, Rafah, Gaza Strip, 29 July 2014.
Nine family members killed, including three children.
Pictured: Survivor Nidal, 3, in his destroyed home. Nidal, whose mother and twin brother were killed during the attack, was only found the next day under the rubble. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Activestills street exhibition #ObliteratedFamilies, on Gaza, Marseille, France, May 8, 2015. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Activestills street exhibition #ObliteratedFamilies, on Gaza, Marseille, France, May 8, 2015. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

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‘We don’t need a constitution—we have the Bible’ http://972mag.com/we-dont-need-a-constitution-we-have-the-bible/108411/ http://972mag.com/we-dont-need-a-constitution-we-have-the-bible/108411/#comments Thu, 02 Jul 2015 19:06:30 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=108411 Chairman of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee says every piece of legislation should be ‘compatible with Jewish law.’

Israel's Supreme Court sits as the High Court of Justice, April 1, 2014. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills)

Israel’s Supreme Court sits as the High Court of Justice, April 1, 2014. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills)

From the moment Israel’s founding fathers declared the independence of their state, Israeli politicians have been unable to agree on a formal constitution. Although the Declaration of Independence stipulated that a constitution be written by October 1, 1948, the 1948 war—as well as the inability of different groups in Israeli society to agree on the purpose and identity of the state—prevented that from happening.

Every so often the idea of a formal constitution is floated by politicians and civil society, but has never come to fruition. Now, it seems, the idea of preparing a constitution is being rendered redundant by the chairman of the Knesset committee charged with, among other things, determining the constitutionality of proposed Knesset bills.

[tmwinpost]

In an interview with the Israel Hayom daily this week, Nissan Slomiansky, the chairman of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, stated that drafting a constitution is unnecessary, since “Israel already has a constitution, the Bible.”

According to Slomiansky (Jewish Home), Knesset legislation should be “compatible with Jewish law,” adding that “there is no reason why this should not be the case.”

Like the United Kingdom, Israel doesn’t have a written constitution, but rather relies on a set of “basic laws” that were built piecemeal since its founding. These laws deal with the formation and role of state’s institutions; the relations between the different state authorities and branches; and they protect civil rights. Basic laws were given constitutional status in a 1992 landmark decision by the Chief Justice of Israel’s Supreme Court at the time, Aharon Barak. Since then, the Supreme Court has asserted its authority to invalidate provisions of Knesset laws it has found to be inconsistent with a basic law—a reality that Slomiansky’s party is working hard to change.

Slomiansky, a founder of Gush Emunim (a Jewish messianic movement that promoted the settlement of Jews in the occupied territories) and former head of the Council of Judea and Samaria (Yesha Council), is one of the key forces pushing for a major overhaul of the court, an institution that he believes is “disconnected from the will of the people.” In essence, however, his goal is to replace its more liberal justices and allow the Knesset to override Supreme Court rulings that strike down anti-democratic legislation. Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, also from his Jewish Home party, has expressed support in the past for this line of thinking.

Slomiansky and his ilk are unlikely to singlehandedly overturn Israel’s judicial system overnight. But his comments are reflective of the direction Israeli society has taken over recent years. The Jewish Home party has been unapologetic about its desire to give ascendancy to “Jewish” rather than “democratic” character of the state, and its annexationist aspirations in the West Bank, attacks on human rights NGOsinculcation of religious-Zionist values in the nation’s youth, and its outright racism are all indications that Slomiansky’s pipe dream may be closer than we would like to think.

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One year since Gaza: Why there’s no such thing as a ‘precision strike’ http://972mag.com/one-year-since-gaza-why-theres-no-such-thing-as-a-precision-strike/108413/ http://972mag.com/one-year-since-gaza-why-theres-no-such-thing-as-a-precision-strike/108413/#comments Thu, 02 Jul 2015 14:04:22 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=108413 You often hear of an airstrike on Gaza being labeled a ‘precision strike.’ But how precise can a half- or one-ton bomb be when dropped on an area the size of Detroit?

Funeral for the 26 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. Basel Yazouri / Activestills.org

Funeral for the 26 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. Basel Yazouri / Activestills.org

“In Gaza, we use bombs that are extremely precise, and strike only Hamas targets – not civilians…” – Lt. Omer, Israeli Air Force Pilot

“None of us were fighting. We were not told that we would be attacked… [M]y sister, my mother and my children all died… We all died that day, even those who survived.” – Survivor of an airstrike in Khan Younis during Operation Protective Edge, interviewed for the UN report on Gaza

“A minute later […] the dust had settled and I saw my family all ripped to pieces. My family included my brothers, my wife and my children… The majority of those who fell were women and children.” – Survivor of an airstrike in Rafah during Operation Protective Edge, interviewed for the UN report on Gaza

When you read about an airstrike on Gaza by the Israeli Air Force, you invariably hear it being described as a “precision strike.” You might also occasionally read about “pinpoint” strikes, or hear references to the IAF’s ability to hit “pixel-sized” targets.

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If one doesn’t stop to think about it too much, these terms seem entirely neutral—rendered bland by their very descriptiveness. As a result, it is easy to accept the bundle package such phrases come with. “Precision” implies accuracy, a direct hit on a target, minimal collateral damage. It suggests that a military attack has done solely what it set out to do and nothing more.

But look a little closer next time you read about the IAF’s “precision strikes.” If you are reading one of the big newspapers, you will generally find the term in quotation marks. This is because it is a phrase culled straight from the euphemistic military patois that goes into much of the IDF Spokesperson’s press releases (note that this is far from a uniquely Israeli phenomenon—see “surgical strikes,” below).

The Israeli army and government are at great pains to stress at all times their commitment to safeguarding the lives of civilians (even “enemy civilians,” an invalid concept under international law, yet a normative concept for the Israeli army, to say nothing of Israeli society).

To this end, the term “precision strike” is an excellent way of fostering the belief that  civilians’ safety is a priority, before the question even comes up. With the surrounding talk of terrorists and their infrastructure, there is little room left for doubt over whom and what these airstrikes are hitting.

As a piece of terminology, Israel’s “precision strike” is a cousin of the U.S.’s “surgical strike.” This, too, implies that the collateral damage is minimal, as well as suggesting that the attack is “a form of violence that serves a greater good: hurting some parts of the body so as to restore the whole to health,” as journalist Steven Poole explains in his book “Unspeak.” Ultimately, he continues, this metaphor “usefully conflates precision with delicacy, the latter being a quality which few missiles possess.”

A Palestinian child, killed in an Israeli airstrike on Gaza beach, is carried away by paramedics, Gaza City, July 16, 2014. Four children were killed during the attack. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

A Palestinian child, killed in an Israeli airstrike on Gaza beach, is carried away by paramedics, Gaza City, July 16, 2014. Four children were killed during the attack. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

And this is where we get to the fundamental problem with the concept of “precision strikes.” These strikes involved the dropping of 500 lb., 1,000 lb. and 2,000 lb. JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition)-guided bombs on residential neighborhoods, the force of which not only destroyed buildings but also created meters-deep craters in the ground.

The intensity of such a blast creates thousands of pounds of air pressure, to the extent that someone standing hundreds of feet away can have their lungs ruptured, limbs torn off or sinus cavities burst. In these circumstances, to talk of a “precision strike” is inaccurate, misleading and appallingly cynical.

Moreover, to speak of—and believe in—“precision strikes” dampens down accountability and responsibility. Because if a strike really is pinpoint, then who is counting how many are conducted? The more the better, surely?

The Israeli army did, in fact, count how many airstrikes it carried during Operation Protective Edge last summer. They managed to squeeze in over 6,000 in 50 days, which is an awful lot of precision for a piece of land the size of Detroit. With quarter-, half- and one-ton payloads each time, even the most conservative estimate would come out with 3,000 tons of munitions dropped on the Gaza Strip during the war. The tens of thousands of artillery shells shot during Protective Edge—which, as “statistical” weapons do not even carry the pretense of precision—are another matter entirely.

So next time you read about a successful “precision strike,” think about the 142 families in Gaza who lost three or more relatives in a single airstrike. When the media, consciously or not, parrots the phrase without qualification, remember that in terms of the damage caused, there is no such thing as a “precision strike.” And when the next war comes, remember that “precision,” when referring to thousands of airstrikes on densely-populated areas, is a concept with diminishing returns.

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In natural gas debacle, the Joint List just can’t win http://972mag.com/in-natural-gas-debacle-the-joint-list-just-cant-win/108392/ http://972mag.com/in-natural-gas-debacle-the-joint-list-just-cant-win/108392/#comments Wed, 01 Jul 2015 17:58:30 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=108392 The slate of Palestinian parties in the Knesset, aligned with neither the coalition nor the opposition, is quickly — and at times clumsily — discovering its own power. Lessons from Israel’s natural gas debacle.

By Samah Salaime

Heads of the four parties comprising the Joint List (from left to right) Ayman Odeh of Hadash, Masud Ganaim of Ra’am, Jamal Zahalka of Balad and Ahmad Tibi of Ta’al, Tel Aviv, February 11, 2015. (Photo by Activestills.org)

Heads of the four parties comprising the Joint List (from left to right) Ayman Odeh of Hadash, Masud Ganaim of Ra’am, Jamal Zahalka of Balad and Ahmad Tibi of Ta’al, Tel Aviv, February 11, 2015. (Photo by Activestills.org)

There’s an old joke about a tyrannical lion who abuses a monkey in the jungle. Every time the lion sees the monkey he gives him a hard, loud slap, and asks him, “why aren’t you wearing a hat?” After a few good, hard slaps, the monkey decides to fight back against these unprovoked injustices. He starts to organize, enlists some animal rights organizations, demands equal rights and citizenship in the jungle, the right to wear whatever he wants, autonomy over his own body, and all that jazz.

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The lion’s legal advisor, the fox, of course, explains to the king of the jungle that certainly hitting the monkey is a matter of utmost strategic importance. The urge to hit him, he continues, is surely unavoidable and justified, but maybe he should do it in a way that won’t upset the international community. “So what should we do?” the lion asks. The fox suggests that the lion ask the monkey to start pulling his weight in the jungle: “ask him to bring you an apple, sir. If he brings you a green apple, hit him because you wanted a red apple. If he brings you a red apple, hit him because he didn’t bring you a green apple.”

So the lion summoned the monkey, let him know how things were going to work from then on out, and sent him off to carry out his mission. The poor monkey returned with a green apple and, with his hand shaking from fear, presented it to the lion. The lion was furious and yelled, “why green?” But before he could swing his arm around to deliver the slap his face, the monkey shouted, “I thought this might happen so I brought you a red apple, too.” It was then that an especially hard and loud slap reverberated throughout the entire jungle. “Why aren’t you wearing a hat?!” the lion yelled.

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That is how it appears members of Knesset from the Arab Joint List are being treated these days, both in the Israeli parliament and the media. No matter what they do and no matter where they go, it’s not good enough. The commotion surrounding the vote on regulating (or deregulating) Israel’s natural gas reserves this past week is the perfect example.

For six years the entire country dozed off about the entire natural gas story while we got involved with Texas-based Nobel Energy and signed away huge sums and a massive natural resource. But now Israel has been overtaken by a public awakening to a sense that the country is facing a looming new era of business, in which our natural resource are being robbed and pocketed by monopolies and cartels, and that we, the citizens, will be left scrounging for leftovers and crumbs for generations to come.

Protester illustrating government weakens regarding energy companies during a protest against natural gas privatisation in Tel Aviv, June 27, 2015. Sign reads: "The government ministers - the poodle of Tshuva?" (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Protesters wear masks of Israeli government ministers and leashes held by a man dressed as natural gas tycoon Yitzhak Tshuva. The sign reads: ‘Government ministers — Tshuva’s poodles?’ Tel Aviv, June 27, 2015. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

In the Israeli Knesset, where every voice supposedly has value, and which continued the tradition of disparaging Arab citizens this past week when the deputy interior minister demanded Arab MKs turn in their identity cards — suddenly, something strange happened.

Monday night, at the start of a nerve-racking evening when the Knesset was supposed to vote on the controversial gas deal, Balad MKs Haneen Zoabi and Jamal Zahalka drove from Jerusalem to Ashkelon to meet their fellow party member and colleague in the Knesset, Basel Ghattas, who was arriving on the intercepted flotilla to Gaza. When word of their journey made its way to reporters, a group of journalists started asking whether the Joint List MKs had coordinated their plans for the night with opposition leader Isaac Herzog, of the Labor Party. Would they be back in time for the gas vote?

If they had, it could be perceived as a betrayal to their electorate. Just a week earlier, Herzog’s “Zionist Camp” walked out en masse from a vote to extend a ban on family reunification for Palestinian citizens of Israel and their spouses across the Green Line — after the deputy interior minister’s racist attack on Arab members of Knesset. If they had coordinated their strategy with the Zionist Camp opposition leader it would have been perceived as if they were abandoning their struggle and moral obligations to their disempowered constituency. Either way, there was no good option.

Read also: ‘The great gas robbery’: A chronicle of civil resistance

A bit later in the evening the joke that had been making its rounds over the past few days, about the Gulf states — allied with Israel in their opposition to Iran — trying to influence the Joint List parliamentarians, turned into an actual, yet comical accusation. Then, at around midnight, we were told that the honorable American ambassador to Tel Aviv was sending text messages to some Joint List MKs, urging them to support Netanyahu’s gas deal. The media had a field day speculating about who received the messages and who didn’t, and who leaked the story and who didn’t.

Think about it. The news stories claimed that the American pressure was coordinated with Netanyahu. Whether it was true or false, the Joint List MKs lose. Now they’re trying to turn the Arab MKs into American collaborators for Netanyahu? At least now we can really get worked about foreign governments intervening in internal Israeli affairs. Now, with American involvement, nobody in the Arab world will think they actually have clean hands in this whole mess.

I have a few takeaways from the natural gas story: the Joint List operates like a real political party, but still hasn’t discovered the strength of its size. The Joint List has no choice but to dirty its hands in the Israeli political game, and if it’s going to dip its feet, then it must go all-in. It’s time to understand that the Arabs in the Knesset are “real politicians,” and they can allow themselves to be a little devious, cunning — or in other words, to act like seasoned politicians.

As a political faction, the Joint List is still coming of age. But it needs to start taking advantage of the fact that it can have a meaningful impact now that it has gone from a number of smaller parties to the third-largest faction in the Knesset. I am sure that the American ambassador is regretting telling whatever he did to those Arabs who ran off to leak it in their moment of excitement, and to show off that they stood up to American pressure as a united bloc.

This time it gets a passing grade, but, the Joint List still needs to learn how to deal with the media. It needs to understand already that the way the Knesset works, with the number of votes it controls, and the way this government is behaving, has put the Joint List in the middle of the action. The power of its voting bloc on the natural gas issue proves as much.

I have no clue why everybody is trying to meddle and interfere in everything the Joint List does, and doing so from every direction. But it seems that as far as the headlines are concerned, the Arab MKs just can’t do anything right. Meanwhile, they’re getting smacked upside the head even for things they’re not doing — just because they’re not wearing a hat.

Samah Salaime is a social worker, a director of AWC (Arab Women in the Center) in Lod/Lyd and a graduate of the Mandel Leadership Institute in Jerusalem. This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call, where she is a blogger. Read it here.

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The oddity of finding hope while investigating war crimes http://972mag.com/the-oddity-of-finding-hope-while-investigating-war-crimes/108388/ http://972mag.com/the-oddity-of-finding-hope-while-investigating-war-crimes/108388/#comments Wed, 01 Jul 2015 17:06:23 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=108388 +972 speaks with Mary McGowan Davis and Doudou Diène, authors of the UNHRC report on potential war crimes in Gaza. The pair discuss possible consequences of the report, and why their investigation gave them hope.

By Dahlia Scheindlin and Natasha Roth

Mary McGowan Davis at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, March 23, 2015. (UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré)

Mary McGowan Davis at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, March 23, 2015. (UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré)

The main reaction in Israel to the findings of the United Nation’s commission of inquiry into last summer’s Gaza war was rejection. That response tops a process so fraught with politics, that it seemed unlikely the commission would be able to say anything meaningful at all.

Israel views the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), the body that commissioned the report, as hopelessly politicized. Indeed, the charge that it is “obsessed” with Israel carries some weight when considering that resolutions about Israel-Palestine  constitute almost half of the UNHRC’s country-specific resolutions.

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The Human Rights Council does have other commissions of inquiry investigating North KoreaSyriaEritrea and Sri Lanka. But with countries such as Congo, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia sitting in judgment of Israel’s human rights record, it is plausible that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is sometimes exploited to distract from egregious violations elsewhere. The latest UNHRC-commissioned post-mortem only compounded Israel’s lingering rage against the eponymous Goldstone report, anger so forceful that even its author later expressed qualifications.

Notwithstanding Israel’s knee-jerk defensiveness against any criticism, the UNHRC has in fact lost legitimacy in the eyes of many of the states whose behavior it wishes to change. That raises questions about how functional such a body can really be. In the current case, the Council faced tangible constraints: The original head of the commission of inquiry into Operation Protective Edge, William Schabas, recused himself during the process after relentless Israeli pressure and accusations of bias. He left on the technicality that he had not disclosed a past consulting job with the PLO.

What could the remaining authors, the American judge Mary McGowan Davis and Doudou Diène of Senegal do when starting with such a zero-sum, short-fuse keg of dynamite?

The answer is, quite a lot. Speaking by phone to +972 Magazine from Geneva, the authors of the report admitted that they felt the boot of the political delegitimization of the HRC; Israel not only refused to participate in the inquiry process, it did not even permit the commission members to physically enter Israel or the Gaza Strip.

Israel’s decision was a matter of political principle for Israel, says Diène.

“One could feel that we are a pariah, and it doesn’t make the process any easier,” McGowan Davis recalled.

Doudou Diène at UNHRC in Geneva, June 22, 2015. (UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré)

Doudou Diène at UNHRC in Geneva, June 22, 2015. (UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré)

Whether or not in response to this background, the final result was a report that is much harder for Israel to dismiss, despite its ongoing attempts to do so.

The authors began by interpreting their overall mandate to be more inclusive than the HRC resolution that initiated the investigation. That text spoke only of examining possible human rights and war crimes violations in Palestinian areas. Both McGowan Davis and Diène explained that the commission took a conscious decision to interpret this as including potential violations originating from Palestinian areas – violations by Palestinian forces against Israeli civilians, in addition to the reverse.

The report provides such exhaustive treatment of both sides that the commission has been relentlessly accused of misusing symmetry, either for false equation of strength (as Palestinians claim), or false equation of legitimacy between a state and a terror organization (as Israel has repeatedly claimed). Pro-Israel critics charge that the commission failed to give the context of Israel’s 2005 disengagement from Gaza; others say the political reality is an asymmetrical conflict between a sovereign state with an army, and a weaker, stateless people occupied for decades.

McGowan Davis rejected the accusation, explaining that the commision’s legal mandate was solely to examine conduct during the war – or jus in bello – not the question of going to war itself, which is a different legal category: ad bellum.

“That’s why we treated all sides the same,” McGowan Davis expanded. “Everyone is bound by the same rules: proportionality, precautions, and distinguishing civilians from combatants.” In other words, Hamas and Israel were investigated as, quite simply, the two sides fighting in a conflict.

Perhaps unwittingly, the report draws on numerous sources often accused of anti-Israel bias, in counterintuitive ways. Amnesty International, which supporters of Israel view as hostile, is cited for documenting Hamas weaponry used against Israeli civilians. The authors use UN figures showing the numbers of rockets fired at Israeli civilians, which they point out are even higher than official Israeli sources. Documentation of Palestinian groups firing rockets from populated areas is drawn from the international media, which Israel has taken to humiliating.

The more balanced approach, observed even by much of the Israeli media, should open minds to the significant critical findings. Many of those findings challenge Israeli talking points about the war — “hasbara” – head on.

One such criticism that runs headlong into hasbara involves proportionality. Israel repeatedly claimed that its civilian to combatant casualty ratio is better than other conflicts.

Asked whether that is a reasonable yardstick, however, McGowan Davis simply said “No.” She went on to explain, “It’s not the overall ratio, but attack by attack – a house where a bomb is dropped and 20-odd people are killed and maybe there’s a militant of some sort, but when you weigh that against 21 innocent lives, women and children, is that proportionate?”

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)

Yet she was quick to observe the complexity of assessing military targets, which makes it hard to judge proportionality. “That’s difficult. I’m not suggesting otherwise. But it’s not a matter of simply saying, we only killed 500 and someone else killed 5,000.”

Diène was unequivocal: “We concluded that the principle of proportionality was not respected.” He recalled writing to Israel asking for a justification of strikes on densely populated urban areas, in vain. “They did not respond. And as you know, our conclusion [about bombing densely-populated neighborhoods] is that it amounts to a war crime.”

Other tough findings for Israel include the determination that under international law Israel still “effectively controls” Gaza – something most Israelis fail to realize – or that the much-vaunted “warning system” to protect Palestinian civilians was insufficiently effective.

And still, they meticulously documented every possibility, even rumors, that there may have been a military target among civilian casualties. They examined claims of Hamas firing from civilian areas and infrastructure, and wrote of the execution of suspected collaborators. Those make it still harder to discredit the report.

Ignoring the report altogether may further damage Israel’s cause, Diène hinted. Both authors raised doubts that either side would genuinely investigate or change its own conduct in the future. They pointed to the International Criminal Court as a means to strengthen accountability. McGowan Davis hoped the U.S. would not hinder the ICC: “[In the U.S.] there is talk of punitive measures that might be taken towards the ICC, and that’s not what’s called supporting the process.”

A relative of a child killed earlier in a playground in al-Shati refugee camp mourns at a cemetery, Gaza City, July 28, 2014. Reports indicated that 10 people, mostly children, were killed and 40 injured during the attack which took place on the first day of the Muslim holiday of Eid. (Photo by Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

A relative of a child killed earlier in a playground in al-Shati refugee camp mourns at a cemetery, Gaza City, July 28, 2014. Reports indicated that 10 people, mostly children, were killed and 40 injured during the attack which took place on the first day of the Muslim holiday of Eid. (Photo by Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

In the course of the ICC’s ongoing preliminary examination into the situation, this report will be first formal document it draws on, explains Diène. Israel’s official position will be glaringly absent.

Their doubts about local capacity for self investigation were compounded by the Israeli Military Advocate General’s decision, just days before the report’s publication, to close its investigation into four Gazan children killed on the beach in an air strike. Both authors were disappointed.

“It was an incredible decision,” Diène says. “It was an emblematic case in which I thought Israel would try to strengthen the credibility of its accountability mechanism. What happened? Where is the reasoning?”

But what truly distinguishes the Human Rights Council report is its unapologetic emotional and humanizing style.

Despite the Israeli government’s non-cooperation McGowan Davis and Diène told +972 Magazine that many private Israeli citizens reached out to tell their stories. The judge felt that these people still had faith in the UN as a forum for justice. Together with Palestinian testimonies, each seem to have experienced both sides of the war very personally. The report treats all suffering extremely seriously, despite the asymmetry of death, lifelong wounds and physical destruction.

Yet the writers were simultaneously struck by the hope for peace and empathy witnesses on both sides expressed. “We spoke to one [Palestinian] man who lost eight members of his family,” McGowan Davis recalled. “What do you say in these situations? … It was hard to experience and take it in.” But she continued, “In the end [the people we spoke to] want peace. They say, ‘I’m concerned about my neighbor on the other side.’ They want peace and they want their leaders to achieve it. It’s extraordinarily humbling as an outsider to come in and hear these things.”

Diène said: “We have heard testimonies from people who have lost relatives, yet have expressed a very deep feeling for the suffering of the other side.” He went on: “The father of Mohammed Abu Khdeir told me that many Israelis came to his house to express their solidarity [after the murder of his son]. …On the other side, the [Israeli] mother of a 4-year-old child that was killed [by a Palestinian rocket] expressed very emotionally her deep thoughts for mothers on the Palestinian side. There was a human side to this war that was not really perceived by the outside world.”

They purposely chose the emotional tone throughout the report, hoping to recall the humanity of each side and generate some hope. It’s not something anyone has come to expect from the international investigations of all-too-regular wars.

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Major U.S. church backs divestment from Israeli occupation http://972mag.com/major-u-s-church-backs-divestment-from-israeli-occupation/108378/ http://972mag.com/major-u-s-church-backs-divestment-from-israeli-occupation/108378/#comments Wed, 01 Jul 2015 13:10:45 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=108378 In a landslide vote, the United Church of Christ passes a divestment and boycott resolution targeting ‘companies profiting from, or complicit in, human rights violations arising from the occupation.’

Text by: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org

With the Israeli settlement Gilo visible on a nearby hillside, Latin Patriarch Emeritus Michel Sabbah joins Palestinians in a prayer service as a nonviolent witness against the Israeli separation barrier in the West Bank town of Beit Jala, February 8, 2013. All Israeli settlements are illegal under international law. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

With the Israeli settlement Gilo visible on a nearby hillside, Latin Patriarch Emeritus Michel Sabbah joins Palestinians in a prayer service as a nonviolent witness against the Israeli separation barrier in the West Bank town of Beit Jala, February 8, 2013. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

The United Church of Christ voted by an overwhelming margin Tuesday to divest from companies complicit in the Israeli occupation. The resolution, which passed by a 508 to 124 vote, also calls for a boycott of settlement products, congressional accountability regarding U.S. foreign military aid to Israel, and ongoing commitment to interfaith dialogue.

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According to a UCC news report, the resolution, which had initially been limited to five companies for their involvement in occupation activities (Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard, Motorola, G4S and Veolia), was expanded to include, “any direct or substantive indirect holdings in companies profiting from, or complicit in, human rights violations arising from the occupation.”

“In approving this resolution, the UCC has demonstrated its commitment to justice and equality,” said Rev. Mitri Raheb in a press release from the UCC Palestine Israel Network (UCC PIN). Raheb, pastor of Christmas Lutheran Church in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, had addressed the assembly prior to the vote. “For Palestinians living under occupation or facing systematic discrimination as citizens of Israel, enduring the destruction of their homes and businesses, the theft of their land for settlements, and living under blockade and siege in Gaza, this action sends a strong signal that they are not alone, and that there are churches who still dare to speak truth to power and stand with the oppressed.”

A separate resolution declaring that Israeli policy meets the international legal definition of apartheid won a 312-295 majority but failed to meet the two-thirds majority needed to pass the general assembly.

The UCC joins the Presbyterian Church USA, United Methodist Church, several Quaker bodies, and Mennonite Central Committee among U.S. churches and organizations that are using various forms of economic leverage to protest Israeli policy and to ensure that their investments are not profiting from harm done to Palestinians.

Reaction from major Jewish organizations was swift and predictable, echoing similar denunciations of the PCUSA vote one year ago. According to a statement by Rabbi Noam Marans of the American Jewish Committee, the measure is “one-sided” and “singles out Israel.” The Israel Action Network (IAN) and Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) issued a joint statement calling it, “deeply skewed,” “divisive,” and supported only by a “sliver of the Jewish community.”

That “sliver” was most vocally represented by Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), whose Midwest Regional Organizer Ilana Rossoff urged supporters to thank the UCC: “Our opponents will say that divestment harms interfaith relationships—but we know that’s not true. Supporting each other to align our values and actions is the very heart of what interfaith relationships should be.”

JVP has grown to more than 60 chapters over the past year as the only nationwide Jewish organization supporting boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) as a means of pressuring Israel.

Other organizations present supporting church-based divestment include: the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, Palestinian Christian Alliance for Peace, U.S. Palestinian Community Network, Al-Awda Palestinian Right to Return Coalition, Council on American-Islamic Relations, Bir Zeit Cultural Society, Israel Palestine Mission Network of the PCUSA, Friends of Sabeel-North America, United Methodist Kairos Response, Kairos USA, Episcopal Peace Fellowship/Palestine Israel Network, Tree of Life Educational Fund, and Christian Peacemaker Teams.

The Episcopal Church and Mennonite Church USA are also meeting this week, with similar resolutions on their respective agendas. The Episcopal resolutions face more of an uphill battle with direct resistance from outgoing Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. The Mennonite resolution, however, enjoys broad support from key church leaders and agencies that helped to develop it.

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‘The great gas robbery’: A chronicle of civil resistance http://972mag.com/the-great-gas-robbery-a-chronicle-of-civil-resistance/108351/ http://972mag.com/the-great-gas-robbery-a-chronicle-of-civil-resistance/108351/#comments Tue, 30 Jun 2015 16:47:09 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=108351 A photo chronicle of the past few years of protest against the Israeli government’s handling of newly discovered offshore natural gas reserves. Social activists, and economists, believe that Israeli citizens — and the state — are getting an unfair deal from the private companies who own the drilling rights.

Photos by Activestills.org
Text by Michael Schaeffer Omer-Man

Protesters hold a sing of a check from the state of Israel to Yitzhak Tshuva with the estimated value of natural gas during demonstration against privatization of natural gas found in the Mediterranean sea. protesters marched to the house of energy minster silvan shalom on may 11, 2013. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Protesters hold an oversized check from the State of Israel to Yitzhak Tshuva with the estimated value of natural gas during a demonstration against the privatization of natural gas found in the Mediterranean Sea. Protesters marched to the house of then Energy Minster Silvan Shalom, May 11, 2013. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

For the past few years a dedicated group of Israeli social activists have been protesting what they, some economists and even a number of members of Knesset have termed “the great gas robbery.”

The protests came on the tail end of a wider social protest movement, the lasting and central message of which focused on anger toward the concentration of wealth among a small number of tycoons with close ties to the government and politicians.

Read also: Gas exports: Is the government with us, or against us?

Nobody ever really thought that one of the largest gas discoveries in recent history would benefit Israel. Since the country’s inception, Israelis have been mocking themselves for establishing a Jewish state on the one piece of the Middle East with no oil.

Police arrest protester participating in a demonstration against privatization of natural gas found in the Mediterranean sea. protesters marched to the house of energy minster silvan shalom on may 11, 2013. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Police arrest a protester participating in a demonstration against the privatization of natural gas found in the Mediterranean. Protesters marched to the home of then Energy Minster Silvan Shalom on May 11, 2013. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Police arrest protesters during a demonstration against the privatization of natural gas found in the Mediterranean sea. Protesters marched to the house of energy company owner Yitzhak Tshuva, Netanya, May 18, 2013. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Police arrest protesters during a demonstration against the the privatization of natural gas discovered in the Mediterranean. Protesters marched to the home of Delek Energy owner Yitzhak Tshuva, Netanya, May 18, 2013. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Then Leviathan happened. When the discovery of the Tamar and Leviathan offshore natural gas fields was made, countries throughout the neighborhood — Turkey, Greece, Cyprus, Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and Palestine — all started jockeying for a piece of the pie. Israelis did to.

When Israel granted the licenses to drill for gas, because nobody believed that there was any gas, the contracts were very favorable for the drilling companies — less so for the country. Ever since the discoveries were made, Israelis have been demanding that the flow of gas benefit, first and foremost, Israelis.

Demonstrators march in Habima Square in Tel Aviv, during a protest against the privatization of natural gas found in the Mediterranean sea, May 25, 2013.  (Oren Ziv/ Activestills.org)

Demonstrators march in Habima Square in Tel Aviv during a protest against the privatization of natural gas found in the Mediterranean sea, May 25, 2013. (Oren Ziv/ Activestills.org)

Activists block Ayalon high-way in Tel Aviv during a demonstration against privatization of natural gas found in the Mediterranean sea, June 15, 2013. The protesters demonstrated in front of the home of the finance minster, Yair Lapid and marched through his neighborhood, blocking several main roads. (Keren Manor/Activestills.org)

Activists block Ayalon highway in Tel Aviv during a demonstration against the privatization of natural gas found in the Mediterranean, June 15, 2013. The protesters demonstrated in front of the home of then Finance Minster Yair Lapid and marched through his neighborhood, blocking several main roads. (Keren Manor/Activestills.org)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, however, wanted to overrule the anti-trust commission. The only problem? He doesn’t have the authority to do so. The only government official endowed with the authority to over-ruled the anti-trust commissioner is Economy Minister Moshe Kahlon, who along with two other ministers, has recused himself from the entire affair due to personal ties with one of the small group of tycoons who control the Israeli side of the gas resources.

Netanyahu is being blackmailed by the energy companies who are threatening to indefinitely delay the flow of gas with litigation if the current arrangement is changed in a way that harms their interests. So the prime minister did what any good contemporary politician would — he declared natural gas to be a matter of national security.

The only problem? He has a razor-thin majority coalition and with the absence of the three ministers who recused themselves, he doesn’t have a majority in the Knesset to make the changes to the deal. Facing a certain loss, Netanyahu indefinitely delayed the vote Monday night.

Shadows of protesters and border policemen in front of the house of the finance minster, Yair Lapid, during a demonstration against privatization of natural gas found in the Mediterranean sea, Tel Aviv, June 15, 2013. The protesters demonstrated in front of the minister's house and marched through his neighborhood, blocking several main roads. (Keren Manor/Activestills.org)

Shadows of protesters and border policemen in front of the house of then Finance Minster Yair Lapid during a demonstration against the privatization of natural gas discovered in the Mediterranean sea, Tel Aviv, June 15, 2013. The protesters demonstrated in front of the minister’s home and marched through his neighborhood, blocking several main roads. (Keren Manor/Activestills.org)

Protestors block a road in Tel Aviv during a demonstration against privatization and exportation of natural gas. June 19,2013. Banner refare to the protests in Turkey happened at that time. (Keren Manor/ Activestills.org)

Protestors block a road in Tel Aviv during a demonstration against the privatization and exportation of natural gas. June 19,2013. The banner refers to the protests in Turkey that were happening at that time. (Keren Manor/ Activestills.org)

In recent days the deal has become an international affair, with the American government reportedly putting pressure not only on the Israeli government, but also on opposition MKs, to advance the deal. In addition to the fact that the largest stakeholder in the deal is an American company, Washington reportedly views the deal going through as advancing American geopolitical interests.

There has been debate over how much of the gas should be exported and how much should serve the domestic market, what the ownership stake division between the companies and the state should be, how and if the state should regulate the cost of the gas once it flows ashore, and whether or not to break up what is now described as a cartel controlling the vast majority of the gas.

All of that is coming to a head this week in Israel. A number of months ago Israel’s anti-trust commissioner declared that the two companies who own most of the gas, U.S.-based Nobel Energy and Israeli consortium Delek, comprise an effective monopoly and demanded that the sale of gas in Israel be divided among a handful of companies in order to create competition.

Protestors block Dizengoff Center junction in Tel Aviv during a demonstration against privatization and exportation of natural gas. June 19,2013. (Keren Manor/ Activestills.org)

Protestors block Dizengoff Center junction in Tel Aviv during a demonstration against the privatization and exportation of natural gas. June 19,2013. (Keren Manor/ Activestills.org)

A flotilla protesting against the privatization of natural gas found in the Mediterranean sea. The flotilla left Herzliya shore and sailed a few kilometers out to sea, June 15, 2013. (Keren Manor/Activestills.org)

A flotilla protesting against the privatization of natural gas found in the Mediterranean sea. The flotilla left Herzliya and sailed a few kilometers out to sea, June 15, 2013. (Keren Manor/Activestills.org)

Activists march in Herzliya marina, calling on passersby to not support the Israeli government in its bid to privatize the natural gas found in the Mediterranean sea. The march took place after a protest flotilla left Herzliya shore and sailed a few kilometers out to sea, escorted by other supporters on boats, June 15, 2013. (Keren Manor/Activestills.org)

Activists march in Herzliya marina, calling on passersby to not support the Israeli government in its bid to privatize the natural gas found in the Mediterranean sea. The march took place after a protest flotilla left Herzliya and sailed a few kilometers out to sea, escorted by other supporters on boats, June 15, 2013. (Keren Manor/Activestills.org)

Activists block roads in the center of West Jerusalem, protesting against the Israeli government's decision to privatize and export natural gas found in the Mediterranean sea, on June 22, 2013. Nine activists were arrested during the demonstration. (Tali Mayer/Activestills.org)

Activists block roads in the center of West Jerusalem, protesting against the Israeli government’s decision to privatize and export natural gas found in the Mediterranean sea, on June 22, 2013. Nine activists were arrested during the demonstration. (Tali Mayer/Activestills.org)

An activist arrested by an Israeli policeman, at a road blockset up in the center of West Jerusalem as part of a protest against the Israeli government's decision to privatize and export natural gas found in the Mediterranean sea,June 22, 2013. Nine activists were arrested during the demonstration. (Tali Mayer/Activestills.org)

An activist arrested by an Israeli policeman, at an impromptu road block setup in the center of West Jerusalem as part of a protest against the Israeli government’s decision to privatize and export natural gas found in the Mediterranean, June 22, 2013. Nine activists were arrested during the demonstration. (Tali Mayer/Activestills.org)

Protesters shout slogans during a protest against natural gas privatisation in Tel Aviv, May 30, 2015. Around 200 people marched in protest of the government's policies regarding the privatisation of natural gas found in the Mediterranean sea. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Protesters shout slogans against natural gas privatization in Tel Aviv, May 30, 2015. Around 200 people marched in protest of the government’s policies regarding the privatisation of natural gas found in the Mediterranean sea. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Protesters shout slogans during a protest against natural gas privatisation in Tel Aviv, June 27, 2015. Around 4000 people marched in protest of the government's policies regarding the privatisation of natural gas found in the Mediterranean sea. (Oren Ziv/ Activestills.org)

Protesters shout slogans during a protest against natural gas privatisation in Tel Aviv, June 27, 2015. Around 4,000 people took part in the demonstration. (Oren Ziv/ Activestills.org)

Police arrest a protester during a protest against natural gas privatisation in Tel Aviv, June 27, 2015. Four protestors were arrested during the demonstration. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Police arrest a protester during a protest against natural gas privatization in Tel Aviv, June 27, 2015. Four protestors were arrested during the demonstration. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Protester wearing a mask of business man Ytzhak Tshuva owner of an energy company  during a protest against natural gas privatisation in Tel Aviv, June 27, 2015. Around 4000 people marched in the demonstration. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Protester wearing a mask of business man Yitzhak Tshuva, owner of an energy company during a protest against natural gas privatization in Tel Aviv, June 27, 2015. Around 4,000 people marched in the demonstration. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Protesters shout slogans during a protest against natural gas privatisation in Tel Aviv, June 27, 2015. Around 4000 people marched in protest of the government's policies regarding the privatisation of natural gas found in the Mediterranean sea. Yotam Ronen / Activestills.org

Protesters shout slogans during a protest against natural gas privatisation in Tel Aviv, June 27, 2015. Around 4000 took part. Some of the signs read, “They’re stealing the future of the country,” and “Stop the robbery of our future.” Yotam Ronen / Activestills.org

Protester illustrating government weakens regarding energy companies during a protest against natural gas privatisation in Tel Aviv, June 27, 2015. Sign reads: "The government ministers - the poodle of Tshuva?" (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Protesters illustrating what they perceive to be the government’s weakness in negotiations with energy companies during a protest against natural gas privatization in Tel Aviv, June 27, 2015. Sign reads: “Government ministers – [Yitzhak] Tshuva’s poodles?” (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

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Interview: Church-based BDS and the Jewish voices beside it http://972mag.com/interview-church-based-bds-and-the-jewish-voices-beside-it/108313/ http://972mag.com/interview-church-based-bds-and-the-jewish-voices-beside-it/108313/#comments Tue, 30 Jun 2015 12:54:39 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=108313 As more U.S. churches vote on divestment, Jewish Voice for Peace aims to provide key support to a movement often accused of anti-Semitism. An interview with JVP’s advocacy director Sydney Levy.

By Ryan Rodrick Beiler / Activestills.org

This week, three more U.S. churches are voting on resolutions to divest from companies complicit in the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory. A United Church of Christ (UCC) committee unanimously approved a divestment resolution Sunday night with a final vote by the church’s general assembly expected Tuesday in Cleveland, Ohio.

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The Episcopal Church is debating no fewer than seven resolutions related to Israel and Palestine this week at their national gathering in Salt Lake City. However the head of the U.S. church, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, directly opposes divestment. A vote may come as early as Tuesday. The Mennonite Church USA’s national convention in Kansas City begins tomorrow, with broad institutional support for a resolution to withdraw “investments from corporations known to be profiting from the occupation and/or destruction of life and property in Israel-Palestine.”

While final results in all three church decisions may not be known for several days, one can anticipate the response from major Jewish American organizations. If last year’s divestment vote by the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) is any indication, expect accusations that the resolutions are “one-sided,” “divisive,” and “demonizing.”

While these same organizations have withheld public comment as of this writing, you can expect more of the same. There is no indication that the collapse of the peace process, the bloodshed in Gaza, and the brazenness of the Netanyahu government have in any way affected their response to the broad movement of boycott divestment and sanctions (BDS) to pressure Israel.

But there are other voices — Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) in particular — who are part of the conversations taking place within and about these church-based efforts. Over the past year, JVP’s Facebook “likes” have grown to more than 212,000—compared to 109,000 for AIPAC and 29,000 for J Street, both of which oppose BDS.

I recently spoke with Sydney Levy, JVP’s advocacy director, who is currently in Cleveland supporting the UCC divestment resolution.

(l-r) Sydney Levy of Jewish Voice for Peace, Rev.  Emily West McNeill of the United Church of Christ Palestine Israel Network and Anna Baltzer of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. (photo: endtheoccupation.org)

(Left to right) Sydney Levy of Jewish Voice for Peace, Rev. Emily West McNeill of the United Church of Christ Palestine Israel Network and Anna Baltzer of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. (photo: endtheoccupation.org)

What do you see as JVP’s unique role in supporting these church divestment efforts?

We support divestment from companies that are connected to the oppression of Palestinians. We support those efforts whether they happen on campuses, whether they happen in churches or elsewhere.

The issue with churches that is particularly important for us is that from the Jewish side of the Israel lobby, there is an attempt to basically coopt interfaith relations between Jews and Christians to pretend that the only way to have a normal relationship is if Christians agree not to criticize the Israeli government.

When we go to these churches — and we have a long-standing relations with them — we remind them that in this issue, as with many other issues, Jews are divided. There’s a growing number of Jews who are coming to our side, so it is not fair or appropriate to put on hold all interfaith relations because of Israel. We are showing how you can have interfaith relations based on principle as opposed to conditions of convenience.

Churches have been relatively shy because of their concerns about relations with Jewish communities. Because of their understanding of the issue they have moved slowly. For churches in particular, my hope is that this is a wake-up call. What we are telling them is that now is the time to take action.

International Christian activists join Palestinians for a Catholic mass in a West Bank olive grove as a form of nonviolent resistance against the Israeli separation barrier that threatens to further divide land belonging to the town of Beit Jala, March 14, 2014.

International Christian activists join Palestinians for a Catholic mass in a West Bank olive grove as a form of nonviolent resistance against the Israeli separation barrier that threatens to further divide land belonging to the town of Beit Jala, March 14, 2014. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Last year a number of Jewish leaders predicted that the PCUSA’s divestment vote would have ‘devastating’ consequences for interfaith relations. Is there any indication that this has taken place?

When we were in Detroit last year, we were saying to the Presbyterians what I think is true: whatever decision they were going to take — for or against divestment — they were going to have a number of Jews upset at them. So their job is not to please the Jews. Their job is to follow their conscience and to do so based on principle.

The proof is in the pudding. Yes, some people have been upset. On the other hand, other Jews have been very grateful for the Presbyterian resolution, and at the end of the day, the sky has not fallen. That’s an important lesson for all of us to remember: that the backlash is not so great.

Interfaith relations are based on the concept of friendship among different faiths, on standing by each other as friends, understanding that people are acting according to their own ethical values. Whether you agree or disagree with the person, if you believe that the person is acting ethically, you are not stopping your friendship.

How would you advise church leaders or others respond to the accusations leveled at BDS: It’s ‘anti-Semitic,’ ‘one-sided,’ ‘unfairly singles out Israel’, etc.?

There is no church that we have worked with that has not taken these issues seriously; the issue of anti-Semitism weighs heavily on their minds. Both because of the historical tradition of the churches and because in the present, nobody wants to be accused of being bigoted.

What is important to remember is that all of these resolutions coming from churches address specific policies of the state of Israel. They do not target Jewishness or Judaism. They’re very careful because they’ve thought about these issues. I have worked with some of these church leaders and they’re extremely principled people. Painting them with a huge brush and saying all of this is anti-Semitic is so rude and offensive and untrue — I cannot express it in any other terms.

Now we have to explain to the churches that this is not a confusion that comes out of nowhere. When Netanyahu goes to Paris or to Washington, D.C., and he says that he is the prime minster of all the Jews, and that Israel represents all the Jews, that is wrong. That is not true. When he says that, he implies that if you criticize Netanyahu and his government, you are criticizing all the Jews.

I believe that the churches are doing really hard work on this, and that those who are committed not only for human rights for Palestinians and for peace for Israelis are also committed to the fight against anti-Semitism.

Unfortunately, Jewish groups that are part of the Israel lobby mischaracterize the resolutions. They characterize them as not being friendly to Jews when really the resolutions are not about Jews—they are about Israeli policies. The Israel lobby is actually making the fight against anti-Semitism less effective when they confuse the issue.

 

A Palestinian and a Jewish Israeli activist confront heavily armed Israeli soldiers during a weekly demonstration against the occupation and separation wall in the West Bank village of Al Ma'sara, April 5, 2013. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

A Palestinian and a Jewish Israeli activist confront heavily armed Israeli soldiers during a weekly demonstration against the occupation and separation wall in the West Bank village of Al Ma’sara, April 5, 2013. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Why do you see BDS as necessary as opposed to other less confrontational tactics?

Every tactic is important. The question is do they work? Dialogue, for example. Dialogue is important but at the end of the day, having Israelis and Palestinians meet together and dialogue — that is not going to bring peace in Israel and Palestine. That’s just not going to let you go very far unless you solve inherent conditions of inequality that are present. That’s the problem with dialogue—it’s important but it’s not enough.

Then there’s the peace process. The United States government has failed in trying to solve this issue. Every Israeli government since 1967 has been pushing for more settlements in the West Bank — this is part of Israeli policy from labor to Likud. But we are now in a particular government in Israel that is very vocal about it and is more right-wing than other governments, if that is even conceivable.

So under the circumstances, what people already knew becomes more obvious and more verbalized. It’s not just about Netanyahu saying that he did not support a two-state solution, it was him saying that too many Arabs were coming to the polls on election day. Racism in Israel is not new. These are things that we have been discussing for a long time. But now you have them verbalized from the prime minister.

So there is no political process at this moment. We know that the Obama Administration is not engaging in any peace process anymore. The United Nations has failed because of the U.S. vetoes. Governments have failed. The answer is with us.

How do you respond to BDS critics who insist that ‘positive investment’ in Palestine is a better approach?

One does not take the place of the other. When I hear about positive investment — which is investing in the Palestinian economy — that is an important thing to do. But you need to have a Palestinian economy to invest in. You need to have an economy where goods can go in and out, where there are customs, where the economy is not kidnapped by the Israeli economy — and that’s what we’re seeing now.

The churches have already invested money in the Palestinian economy. The Europeans have invested money in solar panels for Palestinian villages that should have had electricity and they don’t because Israel does not connect them to the grid. You know what happens to those solar panels? The Israeli army has destroyed them.

On the other hand, boycott and divestments work. We have seen them working. We have seen that because of the boycott of SodaStream the factory is moving away from the West Bank. We have seen Veolia is minimizing its interests in the Israeli-Palestinian economy in the parts that relate to Palestinian oppression. They got out of the business of segregated buses in the West Bank. They didn’t do it out of the kindness of their hearts. They did it because there were many people across the globe that kept on reminding them that it was shameful and that there were economic consequences for doing that.

Activists protesting Israel's attacks on Gaza stand in front of pro-Israel counter-protesters during a demonstration in front of the White House in Washington, DC, August 9, 2014.

Activists protesting Israel’s attacks on Gaza stand in front of pro-Israel counter-protesters during a demonstration in front of the White House in Washington, DC, August 9, 2014.

To what factors do you attribute increased support for BDS and JVP over the past year?

Particularly since last year, particularly since the attack on Gaza, what we are seeing in growth in JVP is a reflection of the failure of other Jewish institutions in the United States [that are] trying to sweep what is happening in Israel under the rug, trying to explain it — as if it’s explainable. It’s not working anymore. So you have more and more Jews who are looking for answers.

If other Jewish institutions are going to be using universal language, are going to be addressing Jews in a mature way about what is happening in Israel-Palestine, what is happening with the occupation, they will grow too. But if they keep on hiding this issue or using fear tactics — or in the worst cases, using Islamophobia — then yes, they may grow in some circles, but largely they are going to see JVP continue to grow. We are providing a home to the large number of Jews who are saying that what is happening is not okay.

We want the Jewish community at large to address this issue thinking about Israelis and Palestinians as human beings that are equally endowed with human rights, and not only as a conversation about what is good for the Jews what is good for Israel.

There is a challenge to every American Jew, every Israeli Jew who has questions about BDS, if you believe that Palestinians are being oppressed. If you don’t, then we should have another conversation. But we can go company by company. If we are talking about Caterpillar: there are 20,000 Palestinians in East Jerusalem that are under threat of home demolition. That means that at any moment, day or night, a bulldozer can come, they throw your stuff into the street and they bulldoze your house.

If you believe that that is unethical, then what are you doing about it? Dialogue? Are you dialoging with Palestinians about it? Are you waiting for the U.S. government to solve this issue?

Those are questions that the Jewish American community needs to ask itself. We have our answers. People can have other answers. But we cannot just ignore the questions.

Ryan Rodrick Beiler is a freelance journalist and member of the Activestills photography collective.

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