+972 Magazine » All Posts http://972mag.com Independent commentary and news from Israel & Palestine Fri, 24 Jun 2016 17:32:52 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8 The roots of Israel’s most racist law http://972mag.com/the-roots-of-israels-most-racist-law/120215/ http://972mag.com/the-roots-of-israels-most-racist-law/120215/#comments Fri, 24 Jun 2016 16:36:15 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=120215 Israel’s most draconian laws may have been passed by the current right-wing government, but the stage was set long ago by the Israeli Left.

Reem Bedran, mother of three, married since 2002, Zimar. (Shiraz Grinbaum/Activestills.org)

Reem Bedran, mother of three, married since 2002, Zimar. (Shiraz Grinbaum/Activestills.org)

With a majority of 65 votes, the Knesset approved last week the extension of an order to prevent family reunification in Israel. Of Palestinian families, of course. Jews are welcome to continue and reunify as much as they please.

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As always, the pretext for approving this draconian law, which deprives Palestinian citizens who fell in love with a Palestinian from the occupied territories (not to mention a Syrian, Lebanese, or Iranian citizen) from living with their loved one in their country, is security-based. According to Wikipedia, the law was written “following suicide attacks in Israel by Palestinian terrorists from 2000 during the Second Intifada, which targeted Israelis, in which many Israelis were murdered or wounded.” However the racist component of the law is so invisible that it was passed as a temporary order, and therefore the Knesset must extend it every year.

Thus we are forced every year to watch the farce foretold in which our elected officials discuss and heavily weigh the advantages of the law, as opposed to the harm it may cause, and reach the same surprising conclusion each time, according to which there is no choice but to extend the law. Or as Zionist Union MK Merav Michaeli put it during a committee hearing to discuss the extension of the measure: “This committee was established with the real purpose — even by those who see this law as a necessary evil — so that it is not extended every year without showing how we can improve it and make it more efficient. It is clear from what we have heard here that there is a need for humanitarian amendments, for everyone’s sake.” In light of the support by Zionist Union MKs for the law, I am tempted to chalk up Michaeli’s remarks to self-irony. Unfortunately today, even that is too much to expect of her.

Racist legislation with cosmetic and “humanitarian” amendment may be the most precise way to characterize the oxymoron of “Jewish and democratic.” Zionist Union, which voted in support of extending the law, exempted itself from this dilemma long ago: now that they refuse to be defined as a left-wing party, these misgivings no longer bother them. But in fact what needs to be explained is Meretz’s objection, along with that of the Joint List, to the law — rather than the support for the law by Zionist parties.

When democracy is dependent on the majority

As a rule, the different strands of Zionism have always made clear that it will choose the “Jewish” over the “democratic.” And because this tension is built in, the decision in favor of a Jewish character is expressed day in and day out in various ways, whether nationally — while denying the national rights of the Palestinian minority in the country — and when it comes to the rights of private individuals, when it violates their rights as Israeli citizens.

As a Zionist party, Meretz fundamentally lends credence to the first component of this project: exclusivist Jewish nationalism necessarily means negating the national rights of Palestinians in Israel. Otherwise, Meretz would find itself supporting a Balad-style binationalism. Thus it is obvious why Meretz spends much of its resources on the struggle for individual rights. On paper, there is no reason for the Jewish and democratic state not to grant equal rights to Arab citizens, including the possibility of living with their partners in their country.

Hadash chairman Ayman Odeh (left) and Meretz chairwoman Zehava Galon speak at the left-wing protest in Tel Aviv, May 28, 2016. (Oren Ziv/Activestils.org)

Hadash chairman Ayman Odeh (left) and Meretz chairwoman Zehava Galon speak at the left-wing protest in Tel Aviv, May 28, 2016. (Oren Ziv/Activestils.org)

Herein lies the failure with which the Zionist Left refuses to contend: the pretense of maintaining Israel’s Jewish and democratic character is at its core a demographic struggle. In order for the Jewish state to be able to allow itself to be democratic — at least when it comes to individual rights (as opposed to national rights) — vis-à-vis its Arab citizens, it needs a significant demographic advantage. Only then will it be able to tell itself stories about democracy when it comes to a national minority without endangering the Jewish character it is so intent on maintaining. This is precisely why since its founding the state has refrained from establishing a new Arab city, despite population growth and a housing crisis in Arab society. This is why the state needs the Jewish National Fund to continue and “Judaize” land. This is why the state needs legislation that unabashedly restricts the growth of the minority. All under the guise of different security-based explanations.

The racist element and the demographic motivations behind the law banning Palestinian family reunification were clear to Meretz’s members. Party leader Zehava Galon responded to the law’s extension: “There were many interior ministers who over the years explained that this law was necessary because there is a demographic danger, because Arab residents of Israel are bringing in women from the territories. After that it turned into a security danger. The truth is that we have a right-wing government that hates Arabs, which excludes them and uses terrorist attacks as an excuse for its disgraceful actions.” Galon accurately recognizes the demographic rationale behind the law, but instead of bravely looking at its roots, she rushes to pin the blame on the “right-wing government that hates Arabs.”

Let this be a reminder: this is not the product of the Right’s hatred toward Arabs, but a genetic component of Zionism itself. As long as the social contract between citizens and their state is anchored in a framework that grants one national group privileges at the expense of the other, all while seeking to maintain democratic pretentious, demography will continue to be the name of the game.

If after 70 years the Zionist Left is still unable to admit to this simple truth and continues to insist on the oxymoron of “Jewish and democratic,” it must, at the very least, be fair enough not to place the responsibility for the consequences on the Right alone.

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

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In first, Israel grants refugee status to Sudanese asylum seeker http://972mag.com/in-first-israel-grants-refugee-status-to-sudanese-asylum-seeker/120209/ http://972mag.com/in-first-israel-grants-refugee-status-to-sudanese-asylum-seeker/120209/#comments Fri, 24 Jun 2016 10:41:33 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=120209 Six years after he fled Darfur for Israel, Mutasim Ali, one of the leaders of the asylum seekers’ struggle in Israel, has been granted refugee status. Ali: ‘Now I can live a normal life with dignity.’ 

By Yael Marom

African asylum seeker protest leader Mutasim Ali is driven to Holot detention center. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

African asylum seeker protest leader Mutasim Ali is driven to Holot detention center. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Mutasim Ali was in the middle of his law school class when he learned that he would become the first Sudanese asylum seeker to be granted refugee status in Israel. According to the announcement, which was sent by fax to Attorney Asaf Weitzen, who represents Ali on behalf of the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, Interior Minister Aryeh Deri had decided to grant Ali refugee status.

Israel has yet to respond to nearly 1,000 asylum requests lodged by Darfuris who fled their country to Israel. These join a long list of over 10,000 of requests by asylum seekers — the vast majority of whom are Eritrean and Sudanese, which are still waiting for a response from the state. Many of these asylum have been in Israel since 2005.

“This is huge, I’m still in shock. I didn’t believe this would happen,” Ali told +972′s Hebrew sister-site, Local Call. “I thank the State of Israel for letting me stay here for all these years, and that it made a decision to grant me refugee status. I hope this is the first step in a positive direction, and that direction should be to grant refugee status to all those who are eligible, regardless of where they come from. Even if our stories are different, they are also very similar, and I am sure that many of us are eligible — all the state needs to do is check.”

“This will be a fundamental change in my life,” says Ali, “Now I can begin to think like a normal person. I won’t worry about what may happen tomorrow. I can live a normal life, with dignity — it’s an incredible thing.”

“The status will give me the space to do bigger things, and specifically to work toward change in my home country — because in the end I will go back there. Meanwhile I believe that I will be able to contribute more to Israeli society.”

African asylum seeker protest leader Mutasim Ali speaks at his support event in Levinsky Park. (photo: Oren ZIv/Activestills.org)

African asylum seeker protest leader Mutasim Ali speaks at his support event in Levinsky Park. (photo: Oren ZIv/Activestills.org)

Now that he has been granted status, Ali will need to make an appointment with the Interior Ministry, where he will receive a certificate acknowledging his new status. From there he will go to the National Insurance Institute, and will need to count six months until he is eligible for national health insurance.

The path of a refugee

Ali left his village in Darfur in 2003 to study at Omdurman Islamic University, where he became a political activist. In 2005, while he was still in university, pro-government militias burned his village to the ground, forcing his parents to flee to a refugee camp in northern Darfur, where they live today.

During his studies Ali became an activist to raise awareness about what was happening in Darfur. He organized and took part in nonviolent protests, and called on the international community to intervene in the conflict. He was arrested multiple times, was put in solitary confinement, and tortured. He was never put on trial. After his last arrest, he was forced to flee the country.

Ali came to Israel in May 2009 and was jailed for several months. After his release he attempted to file an asylum request, yet the Interior Ministry prevented him from doing so multiple times. In 2012 Ali submitted a request according to the ministry’s procedures — he was never summoned for an interview.

Over the past few years Ali has become one of the most prominent leaders and spokespeople of the asylum seeker community in Israel. In May 2014 he was sent along with thousands of other asylum seekers to Holot detention center in the Negev Desert. Shortly thereafter the asylum seekers launched a massive protest movement across the country, which Ali helped lead. He was released after 14 months in Holot, but only after the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants filed three administrative appeals and three appeals to the Supreme Court.

In response to the Interior Ministry’s decision, Attorney Asaf Weitzen told Local Call: “I commend the decision and the fact that further legal proceedings are unnecessary for Mutasim Ali to be recognized as a refugee. It is very moving that after all the difficulties and such a long period of uncertainty, imprisonment, and endless legal proceedings, Mutasim finally received the status he is eligible for. I hope that this is a sign of things to come.”

Yael Marom is Just Vision’s public engagement manager in Israel and a co-editor of Local Call, where this article was originally published in Hebrew. 

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Why won’t Israel’s military gov’t translate its policies into Arabic? http://972mag.com/why-wont-israels-military-govt-translate-its-policies-into-arabic/120197/ http://972mag.com/why-wont-israels-military-govt-translate-its-policies-into-arabic/120197/#comments Thu, 23 Jun 2016 16:32:00 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=120197 The inaccessibility of Israel’s military procedures means Palestinians are often forced to navigate the labyrinthine bureaucracy of the occupation in the dark.

A Palestinian man crosses Qalandiya checkpoint, a main crossing point between Jerusalem and the West Bank city of Ramallah, as they head to Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque for the first Friday prayer of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, June 10, 2016. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

A Palestinian man crosses Qalandiya checkpoint, a main crossing point between Jerusalem and the West Bank city of Ramallah, as they head to Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque for the first Friday prayer of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, June 10, 2016. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

The Civil Administration, the arm of Israel’s military government that rules over 2.8 million Palestinians in the West Bank, has once again broken its own commitment to publish all its policies and procedures in Arabic.

After being slapped with a near-unprecedented rebuke by a Jerusalem District Court judge in May over its continuing failure to make these procedures available, the Civil Administration was ordered to finish translating and publish all of its regulations within six weeks of the court’s ruling, which was issued on May 3.

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With the deadline having passed, Israeli human rights NGO Gisha — which has been petitioning the Civil Administration since December 2014 to publish all of its policies and procedures in Arabic, as per its obligations under the Freedom of Information Act — requested on June 21 that the state be held in contempt of court. The judge has given the government until July 10 to respond.

The documents in question dictate fundamental, day-to-day processes for Palestinians in the West Bank, such as obtaining travel and work visas, getting entry permits into Israel and dealing with medical requests. Palestinians’ ability to go abroad, attend weddings, visit sick relatives and live in one place or another are all subject to these procedures.

Access to this information in Arabic is therefore critical for Palestinians subject to Israel’s military regime, in order for them to know what their rights are and how they can claim them. The inaccessibility of this information means that in many cases, Palestinians are forced to try and navigate the labyrinthine bureaucracy of the occupation in the dark.

An Israeli soldier stands watch at a checkpoint near the West Bank city of Nablus. (IDF Spokesperson)

An Israeli soldier stands watch at a checkpoint near the West Bank city of Nablus. (IDF Spokesperson)

Moreover, says Gisha’s Legal Director Dr. Nomi Heger, the Civil Administration didn’t even honor its own commitments to the court. “The legal proceedings ended with an unequivocal, explicit verdict, after the Civil Administration committed yet again to publish all the remaining procedures but it failed to do so in Hebrew or Arabic,” Heger told +972.

Having now broken its own commitments six times in the past 18 months, the Civil Administration’s “contempt for the court and contempt for the public’s right to know are glaring,” she added.

In addition, many of the Arabic procedures have, according to Gisha, been poorly translated, making them difficult to understand. A number of them date back to 2012, meaning they have potentially been superseded by new regulations that are unavailable.

Meanwhile, the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories — the body that oversees the Civil Administration, as well as Israel’s policies vis-à-vis the Gaza Strip — continues to trundle towards its self-appointed deadline of launching a fully-functioning website by August 2016, to replace the one that went down in June 2015. This website is the subject of a separate legal petition by Gisha, currently moving through the Tel Aviv District Court.

Throughout the entire period that their website has been down, however, COGAT has continued to maintain a Facebook page with limited and decontextualized statistics intended to demonstrate how Palestinians are benefitting from the occupation.

One might very well question why, when the tasks at hand are seemingly so straightforward, the Civil Administration and COGAT have apparently chosen the path of drawn-out, costly and at times embarrassing court procedures. There is probably no one definitive answer, but like all bureaucracies, Israel’s military government — the bureaucratic arm of the occupation — has its own internal logic.

As a government entity that is steeped in the arts of dispossession and control, the Civil Administration has a very clear purpose: to dictate the lives of Palestinians, whether by withholding land, freedom of movement or information. The Civil Administration follows the workings of all bureaucracies, which is to be self-fulfilling and self-perpetuating. And perhaps that’s the scariest thing about the occupation — it is engineered to sustain itself.

COGAT’s response: “The Civil Administration has published all the procedures in Hebrew as it obligated in accordance with the ruled date by the court. In the next days, all the procedures in Arabic will be publicized as well.”

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Asylum seekers call on Europe to try Eritrean leader for crimes against humanity http://972mag.com/asylum-seekers-call-on-europe-to-try-eritrean-president-for-war-crimes/120191/ http://972mag.com/asylum-seekers-call-on-europe-to-try-eritrean-president-for-war-crimes/120191/#comments Thu, 23 Jun 2016 15:32:41 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=120191 Thousands of Eritrean asylum seekers demonstrate in front of the European Union Embassy in support of a UN Commission of Inquiry to examine human rights abuses by the Eritrean dictatorship.

By Inbal Ben Yehuda

Eritreans rally outside the European Union Embassy in Ramat Gan, Israel. (photo: Iasso Buletch)

Eritreans rally outside the European Union Embassy in Ramat Gan, Israel. (photo: Taj Haroun)

Over 2,000 Eritrean asylum seekers demonstrated in front of the European Union Embassy in Ramat Gan on Tuesday in support a United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) Commission of Inquiry examining human rights violations in their home country.

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The protesters marched from Levinsky Park in south Tel Aviv toward the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange in Ramat Gan, where the EU building is located. The organizers brought 22 buses full of asylum seekers from Holot detention center, where thousands of Eritrean asylum seekers are currently detained by Israel. Sudanese asylum seekers and Israeli activists also attended the demonstration to show their solidarity.

The protests were organized following the publishing of the second half of the UNHRC’s report on June 8, which was presented on Tuesday to the council in Geneva.

The demonstrators chanted slogans in both English and Tigrinya against the Eritrean regime, specifically against President Isaias Afwerki, such as: “Isaias must go” and “Isaias to the ICC.”

Bluts Iyassu, who has been living in Israel for six years and was sent to Holot 10 months ago, and who came to the demonstration to show support explained: “The UN committee established that the Eritrean authorities are committing crimes against humanity. The asylum seekers from Holot are joining the rest of the Eritrean community with the goal of demanding justice for our country.”

Iyassu expects the UN to act to bring Afwerki to the International Criminal Court in the Hague, and that they take seriously the situation of Eritrean asylum seekers across the world. He expressed a similar expectation from both the Israeli government and society: “We ask the State of Israel to do everything it can to help us turn our country into a place worth living in, based on justice and respect for human rights. We hope they examine our asylum claims instead of calling us “infiltrators” and “migrant workers.”

“There is no pride in being refugees,” he added, “we are all longing to return to our home.”

The two-part UN report accuses the Eritrean government, President Afwerki, and other high-level officials in the ruling People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ) of violation of human rights and crimes against humanity, including torture, rape, and murder of a civilian population.

Both sides of the aisle

Over the past several weeks Eritreans from across Europe have been traveling to Geneva, where a fierce ideological battle is taking place between the political camps in the Eritrean diaspora, including in Israel. On the one hand are opponents of Afwerki’s dictatorial regime who are set to demonstrate in support of the Commission of Inquiry on Thursday. On the other hand are regime supporters who will march in Geneva on Thursday against what they see as a “sickening report” that does not reflect the reality in the country and was written by people who have never stepped foot in Eritrea.

Eritreans demonstrate in support of a UN Commission of Inquiry examining human rights abuses by the Eritrean dictatorship, Geneva, July 23, 2016. (photo: Selam Kidane)

Eritreans demonstrate in support of a UN Commission of Inquiry examining human rights abuses by the Eritrean dictatorship, Geneva, July 23, 2016. (photo: Selam Kidane)

Iyassu believes that despite what propaganda websites hope to show to regime loyalists around the world, the rally in support of Afwerki will not be a large one. Aside from several members of the ruling party, the demo will likely be attended by older refugees and immigrants who have been living in Europe for 40 years, and who have no idea what has been taking place in Eritrea over the past few decades since the country gained its independence in 1991.

“We also love our country,” says Iyassu, “but the dictatorship that runs it is killing people.”

Inbal Ben Yehuda is a graduate student of African Studies. She blogs for African, Local Call, and the Forum for Regional Thinking. This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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Ya’alon is only the latest Israeli security official to back Iran deal http://972mag.com/yaalon-is-only-the-latest-israeli-security-official-to-back-the-iran-deal/120184/ http://972mag.com/yaalon-is-only-the-latest-israeli-security-official-to-back-the-iran-deal/120184/#comments Wed, 22 Jun 2016 15:02:25 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=120184 In declaring that there are no existential threats to Israel, the former defense minister joins a litany of current and former security officials who have spoken out in favor of the Iran nuclear deal.

By Ali Gharib

Moshe Ya’alon announces his resignation as Israel’s defense minister at IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv, May 20, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Moshe Ya’alon announces his resignation as Israel’s defense minister at IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv, May 20, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

When world powers led by the United States signed a nuclear deal with Iran, American neoconservatives and other pro-Israel hawks were positively apoplectic. Mark Kirk, the Republican senator from Illinois who enjoys a consistent windfall of pro-Israel campaign cash, said that the deal was worse than the Munich agreement with Nazi Germany. The Wall Street Journal opinion page’s Bret Stephens actually used that as a headline: “Worse than Munich.”

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In fairness, these hawks were just taking their cues from Israel itself. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has long regarded Iran as a second coming of the Nazis. He stated this unequivocally when the world was on the cusp of a nuclear deal—and defended the line of argument when it was criticized. That this notion would echo through rank-and-file right-wing Israel supporters in America should be no surprise: they have long been clear in their affinity for Netanyahu and his bankrupt worldview.

Oddly, however, Netanyahu’s tack seems to have always engendered more detractors in Israel itself — and not just lily-livered peaceniks. One hawkish figure, Netanyahu’s last defense minister Moshe Ya’alon, didn’t ever directly repudiate the comparisons of Iran to the Nazis but never made them himself. An eight-year member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, Ya’alon recently parted ways acrimoniously with the government. At a speech to this year’s Herzliya Conference (the “neocon Woodstock“), he delivered a blistering attack on Netanyahu and his rhetoric. Here’s The Washington Post‘s translation:

At this time and in the foreseeable future, there is not an existential threat to Israel. Israel is the strongest state in the region and there is an enormous gap between it and every country and organization around it. Therefore, it is appropriate for the leadership in Israel to stop scaring the citizens and to stop telling them that we are on the verge of a second Holocaust.

But Ya’alon didn’t stop there. He went on to more-or-less endorse the Iran nuclear deal. The Islamic Republic’s nuclear program, said Ya’alon, “has been frozen in light of the deal signed by the world powers and does not constitute an immediate, existential threat for Israel.” It’s hard to see how this latest statement could possibly stand in opposition to Secretary of State John Kerry’s defense that “the people of Israel will be safer with this deal.”

Ya’alon’s turn-around has been nothing short of stunning. Though eschewing comparisons to the Nazis, he was a vociferous critic of diplomacy with Iran. As Netanyahu pointed out in his rebuttal to Ya’alon, the then-defense minister called Iran an “existential threat” to Israel just four months ago. “One cannot express full confidence in the leadership when one is part of it and then say the complete opposite when you are outside,” Netanyahu said in response to Ya’alon’s latest remarks, according to the Post. “Therefore, no importance should be ascribed to such political attacks.”

But actually one can expect exactly that. When one is in government, one is responsible to higher authorities. A government official must toe the line — it is literally part of their job — or resign and speak out. In this case, Ya’alon followed orders until his relationship with the government ended. Only then did he give voice to his criticisms. Ya’alon’s announcement that he had his own political ambitions was an additional complication — see: the “political attacks” that Netanyahu referred to — but it does not obviate what he is saying.

After all, Ya’alon is not merely casting himself as an outsider of Israeli politics. Rather, he is joining a litany of current and former security officials who have spoken out in favor of the Iran nuclear deal. Dissent from Netanyahu’s anti-Iran belligerence can be found at the top echelons of the military and among other nodes of the security establishment. The list is not limited to individuals, either. Israel’s nuclear commission, a bureaucratic body of experts created to advise the government, has also endorsed the deal. And yet in the U.S., hawks ignore the mounting accumulation of these countervailing opinions.

It’s a remarkable show of intellectual dishonesty. Some neocons bristle at being called Likudniks — they think it smacks of dual-loyalty accusations — but until now it seemed apt. With even a Likud man like Ya’alon breaking with Netanyahu’s party, however, it might be said that, today, neocons are hardly even Likudniks; they’re pure Netanyahuists. There is nothing that can make them so much as even acknowledge criticisms of the Israeli prime minister, let alone accept those criticisms. They are showing, once again, that their neoconservative ideology is just as bankrupt as their idol Netanyahu.

Ali Gharib is a New York-based journalist on U.S. foreign policy with a focus on the Middle East and Central Asia. This article was first published on Lobelog.com. It is reproduced here with permission.

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Israelis who live along Gaza border: Stop the next war http://972mag.com/israelis-who-live-along-gaza-border-stop-the-next-war/120181/ http://972mag.com/israelis-who-live-along-gaza-border-stop-the-next-war/120181/#comments Wed, 22 Jun 2016 14:04:31 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=120181 Israelis who live along Gaza border suffer more than anybody in Israel whenever war breaks out. A group of local residents recently marched on the Erez military crossing into the Strip, demanding that leaders from Israel, Hamas, and the world, find a solution to the violence and hope for a normal life.

Read more:
Palestinian groups present ‘war crimes’ evidence to the ICC
The casualties of the next Gaza war

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Settlers crowd-fund construction of illegal outpost on Palestinian land http://972mag.com/settlers-crowd-fund-construction-of-illegal-outpost-on-palestinian-land/120173/ http://972mag.com/settlers-crowd-fund-construction-of-illegal-outpost-on-palestinian-land/120173/#comments Tue, 21 Jun 2016 15:35:53 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=120173 After Israeli security forces demolished two structures in an illegal settlement outpost near Hebron, settlers are raising money to rebuild on an Israeli crowd-funding website.

By Noam Rotem and John Brown*

Illustrative photo of Israeli settlers rebuilding an illegal structure demolished by Israeli security forces. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Illustrative photo of Israeli settlers rebuilding an illegal structure demolished by Israeli security forces. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

The Israeli military demolished several structures in a settlement outpost called “Givat Gal,” built illegally on private Palestinian land near Hebron earlier this month. During the demolition, settlers attacked soldiers and police officers with stones, for which two of them have since been indicted.

A few days after the demolition, settlers from Givat Gal launched a crowd-funding campaign to raise money to illegally re-building the demolished homes. The campaign, which was hosted on Israeli website “Headstart,” had raised nearly NIS 20,000 ($5,000) of its NIS 60,000 ($15,500) goal at the time of this report.

The 'Headstart' crowd-funding page to illegally build in an Israeli settlement. (Screenshot)

The ‘Headstart’ crowd-funding page to illegally build in an Israeli settlement. (Screenshot)

The illegal outpost of Givat Gal was established 12 years ago as an extension of the settlement of Kiryat Arba, on land the Israeli army’s Civil Administration admits is privately owned by Palestinians. The structures demolished last week were a residential structure and a wooden pergola erected in the name of an Israeli civilian murdered while hiking in the area and an army commander killed during the 2014 Gaza war. It was the first demolition of Israeli settler homes carried out under Israel’s new defense minister, Avigdor Liberman.

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According to the indictment filed in a Jerusalem court Monday, a number of settlers attacked IDF and police forces during the course of the demolition, some of whom were injured, and caused damage to state property. One Israeli settler was indicted for throwing a stone at an IDF Civil Administration bulldozer. According to the indictment, a policeman approached the accused and asked him to stop, but despite the officer’s protestations, the man threw another stone, broke the bulldozer’s windshield, and wounded the driver on his head.

Another settler, the indictment continued, goaded and incited the crowd of rioters to attack the police officers, and then proceeded to run toward a human chain of officers, attacked them, and wounded one officer.

Asked about its decision to host the crowd-funding campaign to build an illegal settlement on private Palestinian land, a spokesperson for Headstart told +972’s Hebrew-language sister site, Local Call: “We don’t take a political/religious/ideological stand when it comes to approving projects on the site. The matter was sent to the project’s initiator and we are waiting to receive from him materials clarifying the legality of the fundraising.”

The spokesperson declined to respond whether the company would host a crowd-funding campaign to trespass on privately owned land in the Tel Aviv suburb of Herzliya.

Update [June 22]:
Following the publication of this article, Headstart has removed the campaign from its website.

*John Brown is the pseudonym of an Israeli academic and a blogger. Noam Rotem is an Israeli activist, high-tech executive and blogger at Local Call, where a longer version of this article was first published in Hebrew. Read it here.

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What are settlers doing at the ‘March for Equality?’ http://972mag.com/what-are-settlers-doing-at-the-march-for-equality/120166/ http://972mag.com/what-are-settlers-doing-at-the-march-for-equality/120166/#comments Mon, 20 Jun 2016 20:18:45 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=120166 Israeli settlements enjoy preferential, subsidized budgets, and play an integral role in a system of segregation and dispossession. Who let them join the ‘March for Equality’ with Israel’s most underserved and disadvantaged communities? 

Members of Knesset Stav Shafir, Oren Hassan and others participate in the March for Equality, June 20, 2016. (Photo: Histadrut spokesperson)

Members of Knesset Stav Shafir, Oren Hassan and others participate in the March for Equality, June 20, 2016. (Photo: Histadrut spokesperson)

Israeli social activists and local government leaders began a march on Jerusalem this week, the March for Equality, demanding equality in state funding for social and educational services in their underserved communities in Israel’s economic and geographic peripheries. As the marchers progressed along their way from the Negev desert to Jerusalem, they were joined by members of Knesset, the head of the country’s largest labor union, and others.

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The struggle over education and welfare budgets for Israel’s disadvantaged communities is important and just. The idea of an inclusive march, which fosters unity among residents of dispersed peripheral communities is also great. Such a struggle is worthy of all of our support.

There is only one problem: the participation of settlers. Among the initiative’s participants, which include the mayors of two of Israel’s most impoverished towns, Rahat and Netivot (a Bedouin municipality and a majority Mizrahi town, respectively), were local government leaders from the Binyamin, Gush Etzion, and the South Hebron Hills settlements in the West Bank. The settler leaders did not come to express solidarity with Israel’s weakest communities, but rather to try and find room for themselves under the banner erected by neglected, downtrodden towns in the Israeli periphery.

Their participation raises three troubling questions: firstly, what budgetary discrimination do West Bank settlements suffer? (I’m speaking about non-Orthodox settlements. Ultra-Orthodox settlements do indeed suffer from serious budget shortfalls.) Just yesterday the government approved the transfer of an extra NIS 82 million to West Bank settlements, in addition to the NIS 340 million that was promised as part of coalition agreements.

And those are supplements to the settlements’ regular budgets. The Molad think tank pointed out this week that pre-schools in the Hebron hills settlements receive thousands of shekels more per child than those in Ashkelon and Ashdod, cities inside the Green Line considered to be in the periphery. Government grants for development, nutrition, and agriculture are larger in the settlements, Molad notes, and generally speaking the government invests 28 percent more per West Bank settler than per resident of the Galilee. (And that’s excluding the added costs of security spent on settlements in the West Bank.)

Another example: the Adva Center found that in 2014, local government spending per capita in non-Orthodox West Bank settlements was more than what is spent in the 15 municipalities considered economic giants inside the Green Line.

As Dani Gutwein has pointed out time after time, including in his video series “The Silver Platter,” the settlements are an alternative to the welfare state that Israel has created outside of its own borders. In the settlements housing is cheaper, state investment in construction and development is several times higher, and basic services like public transportation are subsidized at significantly higher rates. State services that are disappearing inside Israel are plentiful on the other side of the Green Line.

Equality under a military regime

On the most basic level, if approached without any context, we should be rejoicing that the government is still investing in characteristics of a welfare state, but that leads us to the second question: what place does the leadership of a privileged class in a racially segregated military regime have in a march for equality? By joining the march, the settlement leaders are trying to normalize their position in Israeli society, to present themselves as just another local government of Israeli communities, which just happen to lie outside of the state’s borders and is illegal under international law. They are trying to wash away the fact that their very existence plays an active role in the day-to-day dispossession of Palestinians and the perpetuation of dual legal systems — one for Jews and one for Arabs. (Read more on that here.)

While the mayors of Jewish towns in the Negev might be willing to march alongside the mayors of neighboring Arab towns Hura and Rahat, you won’t see the head of the South Hebron Hills settler council marching alongside Palestinian villagers from Susya, subjects of Israel’s military regime, and in whose they play an active role. By the virtue of their participation, settler officials have snuck a small asterisk onto the march’s banner equality, a footnote that says: “Equality, just not for Palestinians in the occupied territories.”

Head of the regional Shomron settlement council Yossi Dagan laid out that discriminatory approach quite clearly in an oped in Ynet Monday (Hebrew): “A child is a child, and he deserves equal opportunity whether he was born in Tel Aviv, Karnei Shomron, or Taibe.” (Karnei Shomron is a settlement in the West Bank and Taibe is an Arab town inside Israel.) Yes, there should be equality for children from Tel Aviv, Karnei Shomron, and Taibe, as far as Dagan is concerned; just not for children from Burkin, Nablus or Deir Istiya, Palestinian cities and villages that suffer on a daily basis as a result of the very existence of the settlement he heads — for some reason they don’t make the cut. That’s where Dagan draws the line, and takes the entire march for equality along with him.

So what exactly are settlers doing at at the march? They trying to buy some legitimacy for themselves. They are carving out alliances with social activists and mayors of actually underserved and discriminated-against communities, injecting themselves into a social struggle in an attempt to blur the lines between themselves and the actual economic and social periphery in Israel.

Which brings us to our third question: why let them join? Why is the mayor of Sakhnin, a major Arab city in Israel, willing to go along with it? Why is the mayor of Yerucham, a peacenik from the Labor party, okay with it? Why is the “periphery movement” marching with them, hand in hand?

I wish nothing but success to the March for Equality — just do it without the settlers.

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

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Will Israel be in a ‘state of emergency’ forever? http://972mag.com/how-administrative-detention-could-keep-israel-in-a-state-of-emergency-forever/120159/ http://972mag.com/how-administrative-detention-could-keep-israel-in-a-state-of-emergency-forever/120159/#comments Mon, 20 Jun 2016 16:20:20 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=120159 The anti-terror law passed through Israel’s Knesset last week without one of its scariest pieces, the normalization of administrative detention, which remains dependent on the country’s 67-year-old self-declared state of emergency. That could have a bizarre consequence.

Illustrative photo of Israeli soldiers arresting a Palestinian man in the Dheisheh Refugee Camp near the West Bank city of Bethlehem. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Illustrative photo of Israeli soldiers arresting a Palestinian man in the Dheisheh Refugee Camp near the West Bank city of Bethlehem. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

A new anti-terrorism bill passed by Israel’s Knesset last week may have actually perpetuated the single, looming problem its writers set out to solve — ending Israel’s 67-year state of emergency.

The bill is one of many pushed through the Knesset in recent years as part of an effort to eventually revoke the country’s declared state of emergency, initially declared by the British Mandate government in the 1940s and renewed every year since by Israel’s legislative body.

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The emergency regulations have been abused by Israeli state bodies to draw authorities outside the framework of the law for years, from the regulation of taxi meters to health care procedures to administrative detention, the practice of imprisoning somebody — indefinitely — without charge or trial.

In order to eventually end the permanent “state of emergency,” legislators intended to codify the regulations and authorities that were vested in temporary “emergency laws,” and those British Mandate Laws, like administrative detention, which are only valid as long as Israel is in a state of emergency.

To that end, earlier versions of the anti-terror bill that passed last week included a change that would have removed the “only valid in a state of emergency” clause from the law that authorizes administrative detention. The line that would have allowed administrative detention in peacetime, however, was removed in committee, and the final law does not include any normalization of the practice.

Why did legislators remove the administrative detention clause of the anti-terrorism law? Somebody smart (a Knesset committee legal advisor) probably warned them that permanently revoking habeas corpus (authorizing indefinite detention without charge or trial) for reasons not related to war-time and/or a state of emergency would make the country look very bad.

It was probably also feared that Israel’s own High Court of Justice might not uphold the law if it were removed from the framework of a temporary, emergency situation.

Domestic Israeli legal norms, like those in international law, hold that these types of draconian measures are supposed to be used in extraordinary cases in extraordinary times. They are supposed to be an exception to the rule, not the rule itself.

So if the Knesset were to have added the practice of administrative detention to the regular criminal law books, it would have been saying this is the new normal, as opposed to a 67-year state of emergency, is technically still an exception even though we’ve never known anything different

Lawyers, and legal advisors to executive branches of government have a special knack for convincing themselves of the legality of practices any layman can easily understands violate the most basic precepts of rule of law and constitutionality. For instance, that is how George Bush’s lawyers convinced themselves through legal word-play that torture and unlimited surveillance were legal, and it is how Obama’s lawyers convinced themselves that a U.S. president could order the execution of American citizens as long as the missile was fired from a pilot-less plane in some far-off land.

It is the same way that for 67 years Israel’s government legal advisors, and its Supreme Court justices, have convinced themselves that as long the Knesset votes to declare a state of emergency, then habeas corpus and most other civil rights can be “temporarily” thrown out the window.

The ironic thing is that this terror law, which is problematic for far more reasons than I could possibly list here, was supposed to be a part of the process of ending Israel’s state of emergency. But as the most draconian security measures are kept out of it, the government is all but ensuring that the state of emergency remains. If it were to end it now, the security services would lose their favorite tools.

Then again, nothing ever happens that easily. The clause that authorizes administrative detention is expected to be brought back to committee for further discussion in the coming weeks, which means it could very well become law after all. I’ll update here if anything changes.

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Palestinian man serves full prison sentence — Israel refuses to release him http://972mag.com/palestinian-man-serves-full-prison-sentence-israel-refuses-to-release-him/120146/ http://972mag.com/palestinian-man-serves-full-prison-sentence-israel-refuses-to-release-him/120146/#comments Sun, 19 Jun 2016 17:45:21 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=120146 Bilal Kayed was supposed to leave Israeli prison on June 13, after serving nearly 15 years behind bars. But on the day of his release, Israel decided to put him in administrative detention.

By Ahmad Al-Bazz / Activestills.org

The mother of Palestinian prisoner Bilal Kayed takes part in a protest in solidarity with her son, in the village of Asira Ash Shamaliya, Nablus district, West Bank, June 18, 2016. (photo: Ahmad al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

The mother of Palestinian prisoner Bilal Kayed takes part in a protest in solidarity with her son, in the village of Asira Ash Shamaliya, Nablus district, West Bank, June 18, 2016. (photo: Ahmad al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

Palestinian prisoner Bilal Kayed should have been out of prison by now. But on the day of his release and despite serving close to 15 years behind bars, Israel’s military authorities decided to put him in administrative detention for a period of six months.

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On Saturday dozens of Palestinians took part in a solidarity march with Kayed in the West Bank town of Asira ash-Shamaliya, near Nablus. Kayed was supposed to be released from Israeli prison on June 13th.

Administrative detention is a procedure that Israel uses to imprison detainees based on secret evidence, without charging them or allowing them to defend themselves at trial. Administrative detention orders may be renewed indefinitely.

The demonstrators gathered at the center of town and marched to Kayed’s family’s home while holding up his photo, as well as Palestinian and Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine flags (PFLP).

Palestinians take part in a protest in solidarity with the Palestinian prisoner Bilal Khaled, in the village of Asira Ash Shamaliya, Nablus district, West Bank, June 18, 2016.

Palestinians take part in a protest in solidarity with the Palestinian prisoner Bilal Khaled, in the village of Asira Ash Shamaliya, Nablus district, West Bank, June 18, 2016.

Outside the family home, PFLP activists read a press release written by party leaders, calling for massive protests across the country in support of Kayed.

“June 21 and 22 will be days of hunger strike in all Israeli prisons” said the statement, which described the step as an “initial one that could be followed with an open hunger strike among all PFLP prisoners if they bring about no Israeli response.” The statement also condemned Israel’s punishment of PFLP prisoners by preventing family visits.

Palestinian Legislative Council member Hosni Burini of Hamas, who took part in the demonstration, denounced Kayed’s detention. “It is not only us who do not respect Israeli courts and rulings, Israel doesn’t respect them either. What do they want from a prisoner who served more than 14 years sentence in their prisons?”

According to Burini the decision aims to punish the prisoner and his family, since it was issued at the last moment while his family was awaiting his release.

Kayed, 34, has been imprisoned by since December 2001 on charges of membership in the PFLP, as well as participation in activities against the State of Israel. He was 19 years old at the time of his arrest. Kayed is now among 750 Palestinians held in administrative detention without charge or trial.

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