+972 Magazine » All Posts http://972mag.com Independent commentary and news from Israel & Palestine Thu, 24 Jul 2014 15:42:11 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8 AP: UN shelter shelled; more than 140,000 displaced http://972mag.com/ap-un-shelter-shelled-more-than-140000-displaced/94265/ http://972mag.com/ap-un-shelter-shelled-more-than-140000-displaced/94265/#comments Thu, 24 Jul 2014 15:25:49 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=94265 The United Nations today confirmed “multiple dead and injured” at its shelter in Beit Hanoun, where Gazan families had sought refuge from non-stop Israeli shelling that has killed more than 700 Palestinians, most of them civilians.

Chris Gunness, a spokesperson for the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestine refugees, said via Twitter that the agency had earlier today passed the shelter’s “precise coordinates” to the Israeli military. Fearing an attack, UNRWA had “tried to coordinate with the Israeli army a window for civilians to leave,” but “it was never granted,” said Gunness.

As reported by AP, the attack comes just hours after UNRWA announced more than 140,000 Palestinians had sought shelter at its facilities from the ongoing Israeli bombardment. That number, based on headcounts at 83 UNRWA facilities, does not include Palestinians forced to seek shelter elsewhere, including on the grounds of Gaza’s Al-Shifa Hospital. UNRWA also reports that one Palestinian child has been killed in Gaza every hour for the past two days.

With the percentage of displaced likely approaching 10 percent of Gaza’s population – this in a territory where refugees are already the majority – humanitarian workers are calling the impact of “Operation Protective Edge” unprecedented. Raji Sourani, director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, told +972 that Israel’s “Operation Cast Lead,” which was launched in December 2008 and caused the deaths of more than 1,400 Palestinians, was “a joke compared to this,” referring to the now 18-day Israeli assault by air, sea, and land.

A Palestinian girl from the Al-Tom family draws on a chalk board at UNRWA's Remal Elementary School in Gaza City which is used as a temporary shelter for Palestinians fleeing the northern Gaza Strip,  July 13, 2014. (photo: ActiveStills)

A Palestinian girl from the Al-Tom family draws on a chalk board at UNRWA’s Remal Elementary School in Gaza City which is used as a temporary shelter for Palestinians fleeing the northern Gaza Strip, July 13, 2014. (photo: ActiveStills)

As news of the Beit Hanoun attack broke, Israel showed no sign of scaling back its ground invasion or airstrikes. Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said yesterday that Israeli troops are “preparing for the next stages of battle once the tunnels have been taken care of.”

As the Palestinian death toll continues to rise, calls for a ceasefire are mounting, with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry signaling this morning that “some progress” toward the goal had been made. Meanwhile, the U.S. yesterday was the only member of the UN’s Human Rights Council to vote against a war crimes inquiry into Israel’s actions in Gaza, which council head Navi Pillay said indicate a “strong possibility” that Israel has fallen afoul of international humanitarian law. Pillay cited attacks on civilian homes and hospitals, which have so far killed dozens of children.

Although the identities of the dead in Beit Hanoun have yet to be confirmed, with more than 40 percent of Gaza’s population under the age of 15, thousands of children are hunkered down in the UN shelters.

Today’s attack comes as Israel’s outgoing president, Shimon Peres, formally hands over his post to Reuven Rivlin. Peres oversaw Israel’s “Operation Grapes of Wrath,” the 1996 military campaign over Lebanon, which included the bombing of a UN civilian shelter in Qana. The Qana Massacre, as it came to be known, left 106 dead and prompted UN investigators to conclude that it was “unlikely” Israel had acted in error.

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The bread of adversity and the water of affliction http://972mag.com/the-bread-of-adversity-and-the-water-of-affliction/94215/ http://972mag.com/the-bread-of-adversity-and-the-water-of-affliction/94215/#comments Thu, 24 Jul 2014 14:24:08 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=94215 At the end of a day of fasting, SodaStream factory workers were provided with meager and unsuitable food. When they dared to complain, they were fired immediately.

By Niv Hachlili / Ha-Makom

Wednesday, July 2, was especially tense. The funerals for the three murdered Israeli teenagers, Gilad Shaar, Naftali Fraenkel and Eyal Yifrach had taken place the day before. Gangs of rioters were already roaming the streets of Jerusalem, and Ramadan was entering its third day. It was 8 p.m. and the night shift workers at the SodaStream factory in Mishor Adumim (the industrial zone of the Israeli settlement of Ma’ale Adumim) headed to the dining room for their first meal after 16 hours of fasting.

Ahmed Nasar Al-Adin, a worker in the metal quality assurance department at the factory recounts that “on the first and second day of Ramadan the food was entirely fine,” but that on that night, when the approximately 40 shift workers arrived tired and hungry, they discovered that instead of the five trays of food that were supposed to be in the cafeteria, there were only “two trays, one with a little bit of schnitzel and the other with chicken that was both appalling and insufficient for all the workers.”

They decided to contact the supervisor of the cafeteria, who was absent that night, contrary to the previous days. “We spoke to him and he said that this is what there is. Whoever wants to, will eat; whoever doesn’t, won’t eat. This is what there is.” The workers also turned to the shift supervisor in the factory, who gave them the same answer.

SodaStream is a successful company that is working toward obtaining a significant portion of the global drink market and is trying to brand itself as an ethical and “green” company. At the beginning of the year SodaStream became embroiled in a public scandal when it hired the actress Scarlett Johansson to advertise its brand worldwide, a move that led to criticism against the actress since the company’s factory is located across the Green Line in the West Bank. In response to this criticism, the company repeatedly emphasized that its factory provides jobs for hundreds of Palestinian workers and serves as a locus of coexistence between the two peoples.

The meal meant for 40 workers to break their Ramadan fast while on shift at the SodaStream factory. (photo: SodaStream workers)

The meal meant for 40 workers to break their Ramadan fast while on shift at the SodaStream factory. (photo: SodaStream workers)

Due to Kosher restrictions, the hundreds of Palestinian workers are forbidden from bringing in food from the outside and are therefore reliant on the food the factory provides. “This was not the first time this has happened on the night shift,” says Al-Adin. “We have discussed this with the management before, but there was no improvement. There were instances of insufficient bread and vegetables, and instances of not enough to drink.”

This time, however, the situation was different, since during Ramadan the workers fast all day and the management is aware of that. A few days before the holiday the management posted a message promising that there would be appropriate food and that workers would be provided with a room to rest in should there be need for it.

The workers tried to reason with the shift supervisor for over an hour. The solution suggested to them was that the workers would eat the packaged meal they get at 3 a.m., an hour before their return to the fast, which includes a box of hummus, sour cream, tuna, and sliced cheese. “I explained to him that we have been fasting for 16 hours and it is unreasonable to expect us to only eat this packaged meal. It’s not enough food for someone who stands and works for 12 hours,” says Al-Adin. At this point it seems that the management lost patience. “The shift and transportation supervisors told us that there is nothing to do at this point and that the shift has been canceled.”

The next morning the workers on that shift received phone calls from the management that notified them of the decision to terminate their contracts because they refused to return to work that evening. “They also claimed we were violent. The factory has cameras documenting every corner. Lets see the tape. What violence are they talking about?” asks Al-Adin.

It seems as if the spirit of coexistence on which the SodaStream factory prides itself was absent among the top management of the company, which entirely ignored its workers. “No one has addressed the workers to this point. Don’t they think we should be heard too?” asks A., who was fired overnight.

A notice to the workers contains claims Al-Adin is referring to. “They hung a notice on the message board,” recounts A., another factory worker. “The night shift workers who came to eat were disappointed by the variety of food served…  and decided on their own that they are unwilling to return to work until other food was served to them,” claimed the notice. “Despite attempts to explain to them that the food is of sufficient quality… the workers decided they are unwilling to return to work and they wish to go home immediately…  it is worth noting that the atmosphere around this entire event was heated and contained hints of violence.”

The letter from SodaStream management sent to the employees who were fired overnight (photo: SodaStream workers)

The letter from SodaStream management sent to the employees who were fired overnight (photo: SodaStream workers)

“On the contrary, we told them we do not want to go home,” says Al-Adin, “that in fact we want to return to work. But they sent us home. They told us that the managers would meet tomorrow and would solve this, and that we should sign out and go.”

“We see this incident as very grave… something we cannot allow to become routine and, therefore, all the workers involved have been fired immediately without the usual severance payment,” the management wrote in its notice to the workers. Al-Adin confirms the statement: “The manager who called the fired workers said that the management decided not to have a hearing because of the severity of their act.” What is the basis for the company’s claim that the workers did not want to return to work? “It’s what the night managers said.”

One might guess that even if the actual implementation of “coexistence” is not truly at the top of the list of priorities at SodaStream, their advertising themselves as such is likely not bad for business. In May the company published its forecast for the rest of the year, predicting a 15% increase for 2014, compared with income of $562.7 million in 2013; and a forecast of a 3% increase in profit in 2014, compared with profit of $42 million in 2013.

The factory in Ma’ale Adumim employs about 1,100 people. It seems that there are good reasons why more than 800 of them, the majority of the production line in the different departments, are Palestinian. Whoever wants to work at the factory, which functions 24 hours a day, seven days a week, is required to work 12-hour shifts, including Friday and Saturday. The average worker labors 220-250 hours per month. An assembly line worker averages 23 shekels an hour. Al-Adin, who worked as a quality control technician in the metal department, has a degree in materials science. His wage was 27 shekels an hour.

Several of the workers were relatively new, having been employed for about 10 months. “I worked at the factory for two years and two months but there are also those who worked for 4-5 years and we were fired just like that, with a phone call. They told us not to return, and that we could pick up our termination notice on Sunday,” says Al-Adin.

SodaStream employees who were fired overnight wait outside the premises to collect their letters of dismissal and personal belongings.

SodaStream employees who were fired overnight wait outside the premises to collect their letters of dismissal and personal belongings. (photo: SodaStream workers)

But the humiliation did not stop there. “When we came to take the termination notices they blocked us from entering the factory, and whoever did get in, finally, was accompanied by guards. We, the ones who did not enter, they broke into our lockers, without any one of us around. This is our privacy here, and they brought our stuff outside.”

In a truly bizarre coincidence, on Friday, two days after these aggressive terminations, the Israeli news website NRG published a special column (Hebrew) entitled “Coexistence: This is How to Make Peace.” The author, who spent time in the company’s “special” cafeteria was impressed that “… one of the only places in Israel in which coexistence, tolerance, and hope, even in these times, is preserved, is in SodaStream’s factory in Ma’ale Adumim.” The company’s profits, its treatment of its workers, and its aggressive terminations somehow went unmentioned.

The Workers Advice Center WAC-MAAN, which represents the fired workers, stated that “If SodaStream does not comply with our demand to return the workers to the factory immediately, MAAN will act in the legal and public arenas to guarantee their rights.”

SodaStream has responded: “The entire termination process was done legally, there was a hearing, and the workers were not deprived of compensation payments. SodaStream treats all its workers with respect, and therefore a special hot meal to break the fast was provided for its Muslim workers. Nevertheless, the workers chose – without relation to the quality of the food or to the quantity of the food – to not enter the cafeteria at all, and afterwards they stopped work on the assembly lines. SodaStream cannot accept a situation in which workers who don’t think the food is appropriate stop work on the assembly lines and manifestly ignore the orders of supervisors.”

The original post was published in Hebrew on the independent news site, The Hottest Place in Hell (Ha-makom)

Related:
5 things I learned from the Scarlett Johansson/SodaStream affair
Scarlett Johansson chooses SodaStream over Oxfam
The cynical use of Palestinians in the SodaStream controversy

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Israel during wartime: Loving our soldiers to death http://972mag.com/israel-during-wartime-loving-our-soldiers-to-death/94251/ http://972mag.com/israel-during-wartime-loving-our-soldiers-to-death/94251/#comments Thu, 24 Jul 2014 13:11:59 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=94251 War brings out the best in Israel, and the worst. But it’s the worst qualities that allowed this war to happen in the first place, and that are preparing the ground for the next one.

I’ve always thought, and still think, that if I were in real trouble somewhere, if I were being mugged in Miami, say, and I could choose the nationality of the nearest bystander, I would choose Israeli. They are brave, and they don’t hesitate to help someone in danger, even at risk to themselves. It’s a worn-out cliché, and I’ve found it to be very true.

And the war going on now, from an Israeli Jewish vantage point, is sort of that quality played out on a national scale. First of all, of course, there are the ground troops going into Gaza. As wrong as this war is, the young combat soldiers going in to fight are risking their lives, and some of them are dying or getting very badly wounded. They are brave. And they are ready to die to save their fellow soldiers. (And I don’t blame them for this war; they were born and bred for it.) I don’t think there can be many Israeli Jews today, no matter their political opinions, who, if they think about these soldiers, can help being moved by them and caring for them.

Funeral of Israeli soldier Banaya Rubel, Holon, Israel.  Rubel was killed during clashes in Gaza. (photo: Activestills.org)

Funeral of Israeli soldier Banaya Rubel, Holon, Israel. Rubel was killed during clashes in Gaza. (photo: Activestills.org)

And Israelis’ instinctive readiness to help in a time of need is coming out abundantly across the home front, across Israeli society at large. One tiny example: This morning I went to the neighborhood grocery store and they’ve got a box for people to donate sanitary wipes, underwear and other items for the soldiers stuck for days and nights in the field. They have another box to donate nuts and cookies and stuff for the shiva, the seven-day Jewish mourning period, for a soldier in Modi’in who was just killed.

This is a very emotional experience. Most Israeli Jews have family members or friends in Gaza; I do, too. But even for those who don’t, everyone is just surrounded by this story of young guys going in to risk their lives, and not a few of them dying, and seemingly the whole country truly, to one degree or another, everyone in his or her own rhythm, worrying for the living and mourning for the dead. You see 30,000 people going to each of the funerals of these two “lone soldiers” from America who had no family in this country, Max Steinberg and Sean Carmeli – it is stunning. This society is glowing with tears. Hearts are bursting.

And this is sort of the problem: It’s like the agony of love – it’s the worst but it’s also the best. This is Israel at its best – brave, sacrificing, caring, loving. The tears. It’s so warm. We are a great big family. We are.

And when do we know it best? In war. And because we have so many wars, we have so many of these great national lovefests, these tragic/heroic communal sagas. We’re good at it, very good, great. And it’s not a show – the media may kitsch it up, but they don’t have to – this is real. The soldiers are real, the deaths are real, the reactions of people are real. For an Israeli Jew, it’s extremely hard to resist being part of it. And at the emotional level, why should one try?

But there are at least a couple of conditions attached to this communal experience: One, there can be no reminders of what we are doing to the people in Gaza. The media have to give it a little bit of time or space, tucked away, for appearance’s sake; they seem clearly apologetic about this. Nobody, but nobody, in the communal embrace wants to see or hear about the Palestinians in Gaza.

Soldiers and relatives mourn at the grave of Israeli Sergeant Banaya Rubel during his funeral on July 20, 2014 in Holon, Israel. Sergeant Rubel was killed along with another Israeli army soldier on the twelfth day of operation 'Protective Edge,' when Hamas militants infiltrated Israel from a tunnel dug from Gaza and engaged Israeli soldiers. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Soldiers and relatives mourn at the grave of Israeli Sergeant Banaya Rubel during his funeral on July 20, 2014 in Holon, Israel. Sergeant Rubel was killed along with another Israeli army soldier on the 12th day of operation ‘Protective Edge,’ when Hamas militants infiltrated Israel from a tunnel dug from Gaza and engaged Israeli soldiers. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

The other condition is that no one may ask whether the cause these soldiers are fighting for – this war – is right or not. Whether we, Israel, could have prevented the deaths. Whether we, especially we parents, are even just partly responsible for getting more than a few of our soldiers killed.

Nobody can ask that question, not in public; he will be shouted down angrily. He will be silenced.

And so this display of what’s best in Israel goes hand-in-hand with the demonstration of what’s worst in it: The conformism, the robotic thinking, the blind obedience, this fucking lemming-like quality. You hear people repeating it in the media like an oath – we believe in our soldiers, we believe in the mission, we believe in our leaders.

We believe in the mission. We believe in our leaders.

War brings out the best in Israel, and the worst. But it’s the worst qualities that allowed this war to happen in the first place, and that are preparing the ground for the next one. Wouldn’t it be nice if Israelis could devote a little of their courage to the contemplation of breaking ranks, and give a little of their compassion to the Palestinians? Maybe then they could find a better arena for their awesome bravery and generosity than one war after another after another.

Related:
‘Finish the job’
This was a war of choice. Netanyahu’s choice
How can you possibly oppose this war?

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Photos of the week: No end to the violence http://972mag.com/photos-of-the-week-no-end-to-the-violence/94216/ http://972mag.com/photos-of-the-week-no-end-to-the-violence/94216/#comments Thu, 24 Jul 2014 11:29:19 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=94216 As Israel’s Operation Protective Edge enters its 17th day, violence continues as a ceasefire remains elusive. Thirty-five Israelis have been killed, including 32 soldiers, with the Palestinian death toll reaching 734, mainly civilians.

Photos by: Anne Paq, Basel Yazouri, Oren Ziv, Fiaz abu-Ramele, Yotam Ronen, Tess Scheflan, Keren Manor, Mustafa Bader / 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. Reports indicate that 18 of the 24 killed were children of Abu Jame'  family. Israeli attacks have killed 550 Palestinians in the current offensive, most of them civilians. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

Funeral for the 26 members of the Abu Jame’ family, who were killed the previous day during an Israeli attack on the Bani Suhaila neighborhood of Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, July 21, 2014. Reports indicate that 18 of the 24 killed were children of Abu Jame’ family. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

Mother (left) of Jihad Issam Shuhaibar (8), and Wasim Issam Shuhaibar (7), two of the children killed in an Israeli airstrike on in the Sabra neighborhood of Gaza City, is comforted by a relative in al-Shifa hospital, July 17, 2014. The third victim of the airstrike that hit children while they were playing on the roof of their house, was their cousin 10-year-old Afnan Tariq Shuhaibar. The airstrikes came immediately after a temporary five-hour humanitarian ceasefire between Hamas and Israel ended. As of July 17th, 237 Palestinians have been killed since the beginning of the Israeli military operation against the Gaza Strip, including 48 children, and more than 1,700 have been injured. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Mother (left) of Jihad Issam Shuhaibar (8), and Wasim Issam Shuhaibar (7), two of the children killed in an Israeli airstrike on the Sabra neighborhood of Gaza City, is comforted by a relative at al-Shifa hospital, July 17, 2014. The third victim of the airstrike that hit the children while they were playing on the roof of their house, was their cousin, 10-year-old Afnan Tariq Shuhaibar. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

A relative kisses the body of a family member from the Gaza City neighborhood of Shejaiya at Al Shifa Hospital, July 20, 2014. Spokesman of the Palestinian ministry of health Ashraf al-Qidra said rescue teams evacuated more than 80 dead bodies from destroyed houses in Shejaiya including 17 children, 14 women and 4 elderly people. More than 200 injured people were taken to al-Shifa Hospital. Death toll in the Gaza Strip accedes 392 with over 2650 wounded since the beginning of the Israeli offensive. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

A relative kisses the body of a family member from the Gaza City neighborhood of Shejaiya at Al Shifa Hospital, July 20, 2014. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Palestinians from Shejaiya area take refuge in al-Shifa hospital following a large-scale Israeli attack on their neighborhood, Gaza City, July 20, 2014. Spokesman of the Palestinian ministry of health Ashraf al-Qidra said rescue teams evacuated more than 80 dead bodies from destroyed houses in Shejaiya including 17 children, 14 women and 4 elderly people. More than 200 injured people were taken to al-Shifa Hospital. Death toll in the Gaza Strip accedes 392 with over 2650 wounded since the beginning of the Israeli offensive. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Palestinians from Shejaiya area take refuge in al-Shifa hospital following a large-scale Israeli attack on their neighborhood, Gaza City, July 20, 2014. Spokesman of the Palestinian ministry of health Ashraf al-Qidra said rescue teams evacuated more than 100 dead bodies from destroyed houses in Shejaiya, including 17 children, 14 women and four elderly people. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Relatives and family members of the Israeli solider Bayhesain Kshaun mourn during his funeral in Netivot city, Israel, on July 22, 2014. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Relatives and family members of Israeli solider Bayhesain Kshaun mourn during his funeral in Netivot city, Israel, July 22, 2014. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Soldiers and relatives mourn at the grave of Israeli Sergeant Banaya Rubel during his funeral on July 20, 2014 in Holon, Israel. Sergeant Rubel was killed along with another Israeli army soldier on the twelfth day of operation 'Protective Edge,' when Hamas militants infiltrated Israel from a tunnel dug from Gaza and engaged Israeli soldiers. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Soldiers and relatives mourn at the grave of Israeli Sergeant Banaya Rubel during his funeral on July 20, 2014 in Holon, Israel. Sergeant Rubel was killed along with another Israeli army soldier on the 12th day of the attack. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Local residents hug near a house that was hit directly by a rocket lunched from Gaza, In the city of Yahud, July 22, 2014. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Local residents hug near a house that was hit directly by a rocket lunched from Gaza, in the city of Yahud, July 22, 2014. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

An Israeli artillery unit fire towards the Gaza Strip from their position on Israel-Gaza border, on July 21, 2014.<span class="s1"> Israeli attacks have killed 550 Palestinians in the current offensive, most of them civilians. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

An Israeli artillery unit fire towards the Gaza Strip from their position on Israel-Gaza border, on July 21, 2014. Israeli attacks have killed 550 Palestinians in the current offensive, most of them civilians. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Israeli left wing activists protest against the Israeli attack on Gaza, in center Tel Aviv, July 17, 2014. The sign reads: "There is enough guilt for everyone". Police arrested three right wing protesters who tried to hurt left wing activists, as hundreds were protesting against the attack. Right wing activists held a counter demo, calling to kill Arabs and to use more force in Gaza. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Israeli left wing activists protest against the Israeli attack on Gaza, in central Tel Aviv, July 17, 2014. The sign reads: “There is enough guilt for everyone”. Police arrested three right-wing protesters who tried to hurt left-wing activists, as hundreds were protesting against the attack. Right-wing activists held a counter demo, calling for the killing of Arabs and for more use of force in Gaza. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Israeli right wing demonstrators (left) protest in front of left wing activists, as the take part in a protest against Israeli attack on Gaza, in center Tel Aviv, July 19, 2014. Right wing activists tried to attack left wing activists during the protest, police arrested at least five right wing protesters. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Israeli right-wing demonstrators (left) protest in front of left-wing activists, as they take part in a protest against Israel’s attack on Gaza, in central Tel Aviv, July 19, 2014. Right-wing activists tried to attack left wing activists during the protest, police arrested at least five right-wing protesters. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Palestinians living in Israel march during a protest against the Israeli attack on Gaza, in the northern city of Nazareth, July 21, 2014. Police used tear gas and a water canon to disperse the protest, arresting at least ten youth. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Palestinians living in Israel march during a protest against the Israeli attack on Gaza, in the northern city of Nazareth, July 21, 2014. Police used tear gas and a water canon to disperse the protest, arresting at least 10 youths. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Israeli policemen push back protesters as Palestinians living in Israel and left wing activists protest against the Israeli attack on Gaza in down town Haifa, July 18, 2014. Israeli police arrested 28 activists, as protesters took the streets and blocked roads calling to put an end to the attack. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

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

Palestinians living in Israel participate in a demonstration in Jaffa, organized by the Islamic movement against the Israeli attack on Gaza, July 21, 2014. (Keren Manor/Activestills.o)rg

Palestinians living in Israel participate in a demonstration in Jaffa organized by the Islamic Movement, against the Israeli attack on Gaza, July 21, 2014. (Keren Manor/Activestills.org)

Palestinians living in Israel and left wing activists protest against the Israeli attack on Gaza in down town Haifa, July 18, 2014. Israeli police arrested 28 activists, as protesters took the streets and blocked roads calling to put an end to the attack. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

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

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

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

Palestinian journalists and photographers protest the killing of Palestinian cameraman Khaled Hamad, outside the offices of the Red Cross in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Shiekh Jarrah, July 21, 2014. A Palestinian news cameraman, Khaled Hamad, was killed in Gaza during the Israeli artillery shelling of the city's Shujaya residential district on July 20th, 2014. (Fiaz abu-Ramele/Activestills.org)

Palestinian journalists and photographers protest the killing of Palestinian cameraman Khaled Hamad outside the offices of the Red Cross in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Shiekh Jarrah, July 21, 2014. Hamad was killed in Gaza during the Israeli artillery shelling of the city’s Shujaya residential district on July 20th, 2014. (Fiaz abu-Ramele/Activestills.org)

Clashes between Palestinian youths and Israeli soldiers following the killing of Mahmud al-Hamamra, 33, shot to death by Israeli soldiers, July 22, 2014. Mahmud was shot during a protest against the Israeli attack on the Gaza strip in the West Bank village of Husan, near Bethlehem. (Mustafa Bader/Activestills.org)

Clashes between Palestinian youths and Israeli soldiers following the killing of Mahmud al-Hamamra, 33, shot to death by Israeli soldiers, July 22, 2014. Mahmud was shot during a protest against the Israeli attack on the Gaza strip in the West Bank village of Husan, near Bethlehem. (Mustafa Bader/Activestills.org)

Residents of the unrecognized village of Al Arakib takes care of his horses, July 20, 2014. Israeli court ordered the resident on Sunday to leave the village during the following week. The village was demolished by the Israeli authorities over 70 times, and the local residents are sleeping in the open air inside the graveyard of the village. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

A resident of the unrecognized village of Al Arakib takes care of his horses, July 20, 2014. An Israeli court ordered the residents on Sunday to leave the village the following week. The village has been demolished by the Israeli authorities over 70 times, and the local residents are sleeping in the open air inside the graveyard of the village. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Related:
‘Cast Lead was a joke compared to this’
Mourning death wherever it strikes
Photos: Another day of destruction, death and displacement

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Anti-Semitism has no place in Palestine advocacy http://972mag.com/anti-semitism-has-no-place-in-palestine-advocacy/94201/ http://972mag.com/anti-semitism-has-no-place-in-palestine-advocacy/94201/#comments Wed, 23 Jul 2014 15:29:06 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=94201 Anyone who claims to speak for Palestine while condoning acts of bigotry against our Semitic brothers and sisters should not be speaking on our behalf at all, let alone for those suffering in Gaza. 

By Yasmeen Serhan

Amidst heart-wrenching death tolls and news accounts of the recent escalation in Israel’s ongoing bombardment of Gaza, reports of violence in a Parisian protest against the Israeli military operation began to shower my newsfeed. Articles detailed how hundreds of participants in a pro-Palestinian demonstration allegedly took to the streets of Sarcelles – home to one of France’s largest Jewish communities – and wreaked havoc on the surrounding community.

Accounts described how protestors allegedly threw Molotov cocktails near a synagogue and set fire to local businesses and vehicles. Such actions came at the heels of Paris’ recent citywide ban on all pro-Palestine activity, including demonstrations. The protests, according to these accounts, were supposedly in the name of Palestinian “advocacy.”

A protest condemning the Israeli assault on the Gaza strip, held outside the Israeli consulate in downtown Chicago, IL on July 16, 2014.

A protest condemning the Israeli assault on the Gaza strip, held outside the Israeli consulate in downtown Chicago, IL on July 16, 2014. (photo: Activestills)

Though it is still unclear as to exactly what transpired in Paris and who was responsible for the acts, what remains clear is that what occurred in there did not mirror the actions of pro-Palestinian activists elsewhere. In countries like Australia, Chile, Spain, and countless others, thousands of people stood up in solidarity with the people of Gaza and against the Israeli military’s escalating operation, which has thus far claimed the lives of more than 655 Palestinians – mostly civilians – and 31 Israelis, 29 of them soldiers. In London, 15,000 demonstrators took to the streets to demand Israel end its attacks on Gaza. In Chicago, 10,000 protestors marched for 10 blocks in protest of the Israeli assault. Yet, unlike Paris, such large protests did not succumb to violence.

The reason is simple: Such acts of violence simply have no place in Palestinian advocacy.

Pro-Palestinian advocates must continue to ardently oppose the siege in Gaza, as well as the brutal military occupation of the Palestinian people. However, we, as supporters of the Palestinian people, too must actively push back against any form of bigotry or violence against Jewish communities. This type of behavior, as exemplified in the events in Paris, is antithetical to what Palestinian advocacy stands for – a movement of freedom, equality and human rights. Such actions only perpetuate the misguided paradigm that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is based on religious bigotry, and only provides fodder to those who use such incidents to depict all Palestinian supporters – many of whom Jews – as anti-Semites. Ultimately, such violent actions are no better than the right-wing extremist “Death to Arabs” protests taking place throughout Israel. It is a mockery of Palestinian advocacy, and something that should never be tolerated.

Five activists were arrested during a direct action at Boeing International Headquarters in Downtown Chicago on July 16, 2014. The activists wore red stained shirts and protested Boeing's involvement in the deaths of Palestinians during the recent Israeli offensive in Gaza. (Tess Shcaflan/Activestills.org)

Five activists were arrested during a direct action at Boeing International Headquarters in Downtown Chicago on July 16, 2014. The activists wore red stained shirts and protested Boeing’s involvement in the deaths of Palestinians during the recent Israeli offensive in Gaza. (Tess Shcaflan/Activestills.org)

Just as some within the Jewish community condemn Israel’s violent operation in Gaza by decrying “Not in my name,” we too must speak out against the unthinkable acts of violence that threaten to take place in ours. Anyone who claims to speak for Palestine while condoning acts of bigotry against our Semitic brothers and sisters should not be speaking on our behalf at all, let alone for those suffering in Gaza. Palestinians know firsthand what it’s like to be oppressed on the basis of identity; the last thing we should allow is for our peers and allies to hypocritically do the same.

In famed Palestinian singer Mohammed Assaf’s latest tribute to Gaza, he sang, “Raise your head high, it is your weapon.” In the spirit of Assaf’s words, we too must continue to raise our heads high. It is a far more powerful weapon than any Molotov cocktail will ever be.

Yasmeen Serhan is a Palestinian-American student studying international relations at the University of Southern California. She currently lives in Los Angeles.

Related:
An open letter to the family of Mohammed Abu Khdeir
WATCH: A voice of peace on the Gaza border
The night it became dangerous to protest in Tel Aviv

 

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Contemplating Jehad http://972mag.com/contemplating-jehad/94177/ http://972mag.com/contemplating-jehad/94177/#comments Wed, 23 Jul 2014 08:38:23 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=94177 “Thank you for asking about us,” he says. “It seems the rest of the world only cares when the bombs are falling.”

His name means “struggle.” From his apartment window in Gaza City, Jehad films the flames consuming flesh. As we speak, concussive boom-after-boom carries his voice to a shrill, and we are both short of breath.

I try to change the subject. “Remember the orange trees, Jehad?” But this, too, is on-topic. The trees came from Shejaiya, the neighborhood now framed by Jehad’s lens. He is live streaming, and the news can’t catch up with the scene – five minutes since the medic was hit, seven minutes since the family died together. Yesterday, 60 people felled by the shelling.

Gazans flee the Shejaiya area after Israeli tanks invaded the area, bombarding it heavily, causing over 60 casualties and hundreds wounded, July 20, 2014.  (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Gazans flee the Shejaiya area after Israeli tanks invaded the area, bombarding it heavily, causing over 60 casualties and hundreds wounded, July 20, 2014. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Together, we remember: There, where the slate plumes swirl, Jehad and his friends once planted saplings.

It was January, seven months before the horror now reeling. They met – 300 of them – at the traffic circle in the heart of Shejaiya. From there, they marched east towards the turrets, to where Odeh was killed.

In search of something – anything – to sell, Odeh wandered on fallow farmland, collecting scrap metal with his brother. One day he wandered too far into the “buffer zone” and an Israeli sniper killed him.

When they went there in protest, the 300 went unarmed, carrying orange trees – and mirrors. The mirrors they held up to the soldiers so they might see themselves through their scopes; so they might think twice before shooting.

They didn’t.

A group of Palestinians from Beit Hanoun, together with internationals demonstrated against the buffer zone in Beit Hanoun, Gaza Strip. (photo: Activestills)

A group of Palestinians from Beit Hanoun, together with internationals demonstrated against the buffer zone in Beit Hanoun, Gaza Strip. (photo: Activestills)

Jehad filmed that day, too, as he had before in Israel’s “death zone.” And each time he did, we sent the footage to journalists, inviting them to “meet Gaza’s non-violent resistance.” We pled with them to cover the story, to expose the killing before the murders turned to massacres.

They didn’t.

Now it’s too late. As one journalist wrote recently, Gaza is not counting the dead anymore. It is counting the massacres. But it didn’t have to be this way.

Had they bothered to see for themselves, American journalists would have noticed: Gaza’s earth was parched long before Israel took a match to it. They would have noticed that well before the current “war,” nearly half of Gaza’s arable land was off-limits to Palestinians, consumed by Israel’s unilaterally imposed buffer zone. Or that Palestinians were being shot a kilometer and a half from their border by Israeli snipers. That’s about a mile, in a place that, at its girth, is seven miles wide.
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Today, the buffer zone is getting wider. More than 100,000 Palestinians, many of them already refugees from Israel’s creation, have been forced from its margins, seeking shelter where there is none. The bombs fall everywhere. And Jehad just felt one. I hear it, and we change the subject again.

I met Jehad after the November 2012 war, when he and his then-fiancée were planning their wedding. I ask if they’re contemplating children. He sounds puzzled. “Why would we want to bring children into this?”

“This” hovers over everything in Gaza. Over Jehad’s voice, I hear the low hum of a drone.“This war will leave fewer orphans,” writes a Palestinian doctor near Shejaiya. Because “this war takes whole families.”

As he watches the carnage from his window, Jehad – whose name means “struggle” – bids me farewell. “Thank you for asking about us,” he says. “It seems the rest of the world only cares when the bombs are falling.”

Related:
Why do Palestinians continues to support Hamas despite such devastating losses?
Gaza war diary: ‘A second of silence then the bombs go off’
Gaza ground invasion: Shedding the pretense of ‘precision’

 

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PHOTOS: Another day of destruction, death and displacement in Gaza http://972mag.com/photos-another-day-of-destruction-death-and-displacement-in-gaza/94155/ http://972mag.com/photos-another-day-of-destruction-death-and-displacement-in-gaza/94155/#comments Wed, 23 Jul 2014 06:58:38 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=94155 The number of dead has reached at least 620 mostly civilian Palestinians and 31 Israelis, 29 of them soldiers. Another day in Gaza between bombed houses, destruction and displaced people.

Photos by: Anne Paq and Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org
Text by: Keren Manor

A child of Diab Bakr is seen amidst the rubble of his home which was destroyed last night by Israeli missiles, in As-Shati refugee camp, Gaza city, July 22, 2014. Another home from the extended Bakr family was also destroyed and another one damaged. Hassan Khader Bakr, was killed during the attack in the street. Their cousins, Bakr family who live in the same area, lost four children, Ahed (10), Zacharia (10), Mohamed (9) after they were targeted by two Israeli missiles while playing at the beach on 16 July, 2014. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

A child of Diab Bakr is seen amidst the rubble of her home, which was destroyed the previous night by Israeli missiles, in As-Shati refugee camp, Gaza City, July 22, 2014. Another home of the extended Bakr family was also destroyed and one other damaged. Another member of the family, Hassan Khader Bakr, was killed in an attack in the street. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

 

Members from the Bakr extended family stand outside their destroyed houses in As-Shati refugee camp, Gaza city, July 22, 2014.  Their cousins, Bakr family who live in the same area, lost four children, Ahed  (10), Zacharia (10), Mohamed (9) after they were targeted by two Israeli missiles while playing at the beach on 16 July, 2014. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Members from the extended Bakr family stand outside their destroyed houses in As-Shati refugee camp, Gaza City, July 22, 2014. Their cousins, who live in the same area, lost four children, Ahed (10), Zacharia (10) and Mohamed (9) when they were targeted by Israeli attacks while playing on the beach on July 16, 2014. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

 

Palestinians inspect the rubble of the Al Aqsa Martyrs mosque in Gaza City, destroyed by an overnight Israeli strike, July 22, 2014. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Palestinians inspect the rubble of the Al Aqsa Martyrs mosque in Gaza City, destroyed by an overnight Israeli strike, July 22, 2014. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

 

Residents of Hashem building are evacuating their apartments after the building was heavily damaged because of an Israeli airstrike over AL-Sabbra neighborhood. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

Residents of the Hashem building evacuate their apartments after the building was heavily damaged by an Israeli air strike over Al-Sabbra neighborhood. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

 

Residents of Hashem building are evacuating their apartments after the building was heavily damaged because of an Israeli airstrike over AL-Sabbra neighborhood. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

Residents of the Hashem building evacuate their apartments after the building was heavily damaged by of an Israeli air strike over Al-Sabbra neighborhood. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

 

Palestinians sit inside central Gaza City's Church of St. Porphyrius where they find refuge, July 22, 2014. He was injured in the head by an Israeli attack the night before on the adjacent cemetery. UNRWA indicates that they shelter more than 110,000 displaced Palestinians in UNRWA school but the total number is much higher. Israeli attacks have killed 620 Palestinians and injured more than 3,700  in the current offensive, most of them civilians. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Palestinians sit inside central Gaza City’s Church of St. Porphyrius, where they find refuge, July 22, 2014. UNRWA states that they are sheltering more than 110,000 displaced Palestinians in UNRWA schools, but the total number is much higher. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

 

Majed Qasem Al-Jammal, 22 years, was injured when an Israeli F16 targeted the cemetery of St.Porphyrius church. The church has opened it's doors for the people who were forced to evacuate their houses because of the Israeli attacks over their neighborhood. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

Majed Qasem Al-Jammal, 22 years old, was injured when an Israeli F16 targeted the cemetery of St. Porphyrius Church. The church has opened its doors for  people who were forced to evacuate their houses because of the Israeli attacks over their neighborhood. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

 

A view on the damages caused by an Israeli attack on the  cemetery next to Gaza City's Church of St. Porphyrius where scores of Palestinians find refuge, July 22, 2014. UNRWA indicates that they shelter more than 110,000 displaced Palestinians in UNRWA school but the total number is much higher. Israeli attacks have killed 620 Palestinians and injured more than 3,700  in the current offensive, most of them civilians. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

A view on the damages caused by an Israeli attack on the cemetery next to Gaza City’s Church of St. Porphyrius where scores of Palestinians have taken refuge, July 22, 2014. Israeli attacks have killed 620 Palestinians and injured more than 3,700 in the current offensive, most of them civilians. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Related:
Why do Palestinians continues to support Hamas despite such devastating losses?
‘Finish the job’
Palestinian human rights leader: ‘Cast Lead was a joke compared to this’

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Following wave of protests, Israel arrests scores of Arab activists, minors http://972mag.com/following-wave-of-protests-israel-arrests-scores-of-arab-activists-minors/94131/ http://972mag.com/following-wave-of-protests-israel-arrests-scores-of-arab-activists-minors/94131/#comments Tue, 22 Jul 2014 21:26:26 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=94131 Hundreds of Arab citizens of Israel have been detained in recent weeks, including dozens of minors. Abusive interrogations and preemptive arrests suggest that many of the tactics of occupation have crossed the Green Line.

By Hagar Sheizaf (Translated by Ofer Neiman)

The murder of Muhammed Abu Khdeir and the military onslaught in Gaza have brought about a wave of protest among Arab citizens of Israel. Reports on that wave should be supplemented by unprecedented data: more than 410 Arab citizens of Israel have been arrested on various grounds related to their participation in demonstrations since July 5, according to data provided by human rights NGO Adalah.

Protests in Arara following the murder of Muhammad Abu Khdeir in East Jerusalem earlier in the week. At least two people were arrested. July 5, 2014. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Protests in Arara following the murder of Muhammad Abu Khdeir in East Jerusalem. At least two people were arrested. July 5, 2014. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Moreover, police statistics reveal that a significant portion of the detainees in the past week are minors.  Fifty-four minors are reported to have been arrested in the past two weeks in Israel’s northern district alone, comprising one-third of all detainees in that district.

Policemen outside the door

“I have been active for 14 years and I have never seen such a wave of arrests of minors,” says Ward Yassin, 34, from Jdeideh el-Makr. “The feeling is that the police have no red lines.” Yassin himself was arrested on Monday, July 7, the day after a demo that took place in his town, attended by around 200 people who were protesting the murder of Abu Khdeir, as well as the assault on Gaza.

The arrest of political activists like Yassin represents the second prominent group in the recent wave of arrests, of protest organizers and well-known activists in Arab towns. Dozens of demonstrations have taken place, receiving little media coverage, if any. Some of them escalated into confrontations with the police, which including stone-throwing.

“The day after the protest my wife called me, saying there were 30 policemen outside the house as well as a few inside, and they’re turning the place upside-down and searching,” Yassin recounts. A few minutes later, the police arrived in Acre, where he was at the time, and took him in for an interrogation, at the end of which he was told he was under arrest, along with seven young men from the village. All of them are minors.

“The police asked whether I had organized the protest and told me I was accused of stone-throwing,” Yassin says. “I knew the police took footage during the protest, so I told them to get the photos so that they would see I hadn’t done anything.” Yassin was released to house arrest the following day, after the court rejected the police’s request to extend his arrest. After his release, he continued to receive threatening phone calls from the police, saying that he would be arrested again if he continued organizing in the village. “I think they were surprised by the protest, and they wanted to deter us,” he adds. “Most of the participants were young, therefore young men became the target for the police.”

Confessions in Hebrew

During a series of protests held last week in Nazareth, minors were once more the main target of police arrests. According to reports, 11 minors between the ages of 13 and 18 were arrested immediately after the protest held in the city last Saturday. Most of the detainees were released after midnight, and according to testimonies, a significant number of them had not participated and were arrested for being present on the main road where it was held.

“Egregious violations of rights were committed, especially against minors; they treated them in a manner resembling a military regime rather than the arrest of citizens,” says Attorney Suheir Asa’d, who represented some of the detainees. “Minors were interrogated late at night, did not meet a lawyer, and their parents were not present during the interrogation.”

Israeli policemen arrest a Palestinian protestor during clashes in Arara, in Israel's north, in the wake of the murder of 16-year-old Muhammad Abu Khdeir. (photo: Activestills.org)

Israeli policemen arrest a Palestinian protestor during clashes in Arara, in Israel’s north, in the wake of the murder of 16-year-old Muhammad Abu Khdeir. (photo: Activestills.org)

Minors are supposed to be protected by special laws, which prohibit interrogations later than 10 p.m. and require that the minor’s parents be notified. “The officer authorized interrogations without parental presence, seemingly out of fear of obstructing interrogation procedures,” explains Asa’d, “However, one must realize that in most cases this is authorized only in order to protect the minors, in case parental knowledge puts them at risk. In these recent cases, one can assume that the authorization was guided by the protection of police interests rather than that of the minors.”

The following day, another protest was held in Nazareth in the early afternoon. After it ended, 30 people were arrested, including 13 minors. Five lawyers waited outside the police station from the afternoon, trying to reach the detainees, but their entrance was not approved until 10 p.m. By then, all the minors, except for one, had already been interrogated. According to Asa’d, “[The police managed to] convince them that a meeting with a lawyer would harm them.”

When the lawyers entered the police station, they found out that the minors had to sign documents and confessions in Hebrew, despite the fact that most of them do not have sufficient Hebrew knowledge to understand their contents. Some of the minors remained in custody for several days after the protest, and were released under restrictive conditions, including restraining orders and long-term house arrests.

“The policemen took off the keffiyeh and peed on it”

“We have testimonies about police brutality during arrests and interrogations following the Nazareth demo. Detainees told us they were slapped, kicked and cursed at,” says attorney Maisa Arshid, who was present at the police station that night. “One of the detainees I represented, a 19-year-old, was bleeding after he had been beaten by the police; he was not taken to the hospital until 3 a.m. Another youth who was arrested on Sunday recounted that after he was taken into the police station, the [policemen] took off his keffiyeh, peed on it and then wrapped it around his neck.”

The lawyers reported that minors had been arrested despite suffering from various medical conditions – from asthma to mental retardation. “Almost none of the Nazareth detainees are well-known political activists,” adds attorney Arshid. “Some of them were just passing by; one of them was holding a grocery shopping list in front of the supermarket when he was arrested. The offenses and allegations ascribed to the detainees are not necessarily connected to what really happened.”

Police arrest an Arab protester during a demonstration in Nazareth against the Gaza war. (photo: Activestills.org)

Police arrest an Arab protester during a demonstration in Nazareth against the Gaza war. (photo: Activestills.org)

Many of the allegations on which the police based its requests for extended detention are questionable, due to their wide scope and their being based on partial or missing information. For example, the detention of a 19-year-old who was arrested at the demo in Nazareth, and suspected of participating in an illegal gathering and of stone-throwing, was based on his presence at the scene – not on an allegation that he himself took part in the act.

It follows that the detainee’s arrest was extended on the basis of a serious offense that was not ascribed to him personally, but rather on the basis of the police’s perception of the detainees and those present at the scene in general. Furthermore, the lawyer in charge of the case says that during his interrogation, the detainee was asked about his political views on the issue of Arab youths refusing the draft, which is completely irrelevant to the cause of his arrest.

From Facebook to the police station

The political issue comes up again and again in the testimonies of the detainees. The fear that arrests and interrogations are a tool for suppressing the demonstration gets only more substantiated after hearing the story of Rafat Awaisha, 20, from Laqiyeh in the Negev. “I was arrested after I shared a post inviting people to a protest that had been scheduled for the very same day in Laqiyeh,” says Awaisha. “They called me half an hour later from the Be’er Sheva police station and came to take me from the [Ben-Gurion] university dorms.”

Awaisha was interrogated and released after an hour. Later that day, his parents called him from their home in Laqiyeh, and told him that the house had been searched. A short time later, he was held for another interrogation, at the end of which he was told he was under arrest. “During the interrogation, they asked me again and again about the post I had published on Facebook, claiming it amounted to incitement,” he says. “I asked them what an invitation to a protest had to do with incitement. But I received no response, only another barrage of questions regarding my profile picture.” Awaisha had changed his profile picture to a photo of Abu Khdeir. The following morning, following a few more hours of interrogation during which he suffered verbal abuse, was pushed and shoved, received no food and did not meet a lawyer, Awaisha was released. The protest in Laqiyeh, which he had promoted on his Facebook account, had already ended by that time.

Riot police run during a demonstration in Arara against the murder of Muhammad Abu Khdeir. (photo: Activestills.org)

Riot police run during a demonstration in Arara against the murder of Muhammad Abu Khdeir. (photo: Activestills.org)

On the same day, demonstrations were held in other Negev towns, including Ara’ra, Hura, Tel Sheva and Segev Shalom, to protest the murder of Abu Khdeir and the outburst of violence and racism towards Arabs. Mufid Abu Swilab, 30, from Segev Shalom, was arrested along with his brother two days after the demonstration was held in his town.

“My brother and I did not even attend the protest about which we were interrogated. However, the police claimed that we threw stones and incited the participants,” says Abu Swilab. “My entire police dossier was based off of intelligence information, and I wasn’t even at the scene.”

During the interrogation, Abu Swilab experienced humiliating treatment, with a few policemen addressing him as a ”terrorist.” According to his testimony, he met 30 minors from Ara’ra, Segev Shalom, Um Batin, Laqiyeh and Rahat during his detention, all of whom had all been arrested on charges of stone-throwing and incitement. Some of them are still under arrest, even though they also claim they were not at the demonstrations. Abu Swilab’s arrest was extended by five days, during which he was interrogated at length about his Facebook account. He was released two hours before his trial.

“They know that I am a social and political activist in my town and they just wanted to scare me, so they took me for a few days,” says Abu Swilab. “Last Friday there was a protest planned in Segev Shalom while I was detained. They brought me to an interrogation on Friday morning, and asked whether I was the one who planned it.” On the same day, the police published an announcement on a local website, which called on the residents of Segev Shalom not to attend the protest.

Like in the West Bank

The list of 83 detainees in the Negev over the past two weeks was supplemented last Wednesday by the arrest of Rateb Abu Krinat, the field coordinator for the Negev Coexistence Forum. He was released 24 hours later without any hearing. In another case, nine people were arrested in the town of Tel Sheva while sitting in cafe located two kilometers from a protest. The extension of their arrest was based, inter alia, on an offense based on the military law of the West Bank, and is not valid inside Israel.

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Police are also arresting activists shortly before planned demonstrations in their cities or towns, and releasing them only after they end. In Acre, three key political activists were arrested shortly before a protest, and were released the following day. Prominent activists in Shfar’am were also arrested a short while before the demonstration; they received a restraining order ordering them to stay away from the city for 15 days. A prominent activist from Majdal Krum was arrested before the demo in his town, and received a similar restraining order for 15 days.

“It looks like their main objective is to thwart future political activity,” says Majd Kayyal, who works for Adalah. Kayyal, a journalist and political activist who has recently become well known due to his trip to Beirut and subsequent arrest, was arrested once again last Monday after participating in a demo in Haifa against the killing of civilians in Gaza. “I, along with two other activists, were arrested after the demo ended,” says Kayyal. “It was evident that the police wanted to release us on conditions that would prevent us from attending the protest that was scheduled to take place in Haifa that Friday.”

Hanging on to their homes

There is no doubt that the wide scope of arrests of young Arab men and Arab political activists in Israel signifies a deterioration in police treatment. Reliance on confidential intelligence as grounds for arrests, as well as the harsh treatment of the detainees, reminds one to some extent of the policy of arrests applied to minors and Palestinian political activists in the West Bank (as stated by some of those interviewed for this report). But could it be that the massive arrests of minors also points to increased participation of a young crowd in these demonstrations?

“Protests with a significant number of young people, some of them schoolchildren, took place primarily in Arab towns and villages and not in the mixed cities,” explains Fida Shehade, a political activist from Lydd. “In these places, there are only a few organized political venues and the young people stepped in to fill this vacuum by protesting in an independent and spontaneous basis.”

Some of the young protesters said they regarded Palestinians living in Gaza as role models for the struggle of those who are unwilling to give up their homes. “There is a certain generational change, and this is obviously related to Facebook as well – there is a flow of lots of information and photos. The young know what’s going on in Shuafat [East Jerusalem] and Gaza – they are more connected,” adds Shehade.

A man sits in a destroyed building which was attacked last night by Israeli airstrike, in Al Tuffah neighborhood, July 16, 2014. As of July 16th, 196 Palestinians have been killed in the Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip, and more than 1,400 have been injured.

A man sits in a destroyed building which was attacked last night by Israeli airstrike, in Al Tuffah neighborhood, July 16, 2014. As of July 16th, 196 Palestinians have been killed in the Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip, and more than 1,400 have been injured.

The fact that the protests broke out during Ramadan has also changed the rules of the game: more young people are awake at night, after Iftar, and many demonstrations start accordingly, late in the evening, carrying on into the night. “One has to understand that young Arabs who grew up after 2000 are living with a great deal of police presence around them.” says Shehade. “The encounters of many of them with Jews have been through confrontations with the police or other racism-filled interactions, and we are witnessing the outburst now.”

The spokesman of the northern command of the Israeli police had this to say in response:

The police has respected the public will to express their protest and has allowed it within the scope of the law. Since some of the protesters did not respect the terms of the protests and the instructions given by the police force at the scene, a few resolute and uncompromising enforcement actions were taken, and they brought about the arrest of the suspects, and life was restored to normal.

Since the beginning of the events and during the past two weeks, 175 suspects have been arrested in the northern district (121 adults, 54 minors) on suspicion of various offenses, such as: illegal gathering, stone-throwing, causing damage to property, jeopardizing human life on a transportation route, assaulting police officers and more. So far, 42 people have been charged on the basis of 29 indictments. The investigation continues and additional indictments are expected. The Israel Police is a national police force which belongs to all citizens of Israel and during the events of previous weeks, the police exercised tolerance and sensitivity, without any discrimination towards individuals and groups of society, while maintaining order and the citizen’s personal security.

We would like to praise the local leadership, which has assisted the police in calming the protestors, and has chosen to take all measures to prevent any damage to the existing fabric of relations between all religions in the northern district. We reject allegations raised in your letter, according to which the northern district police has implemented a policy of preventive arrests, and we stress that the arrests of suspects took place on the basis of suspicion that criminal offenses had been committed, and in accordance with the grounds stipulated by the law. Regarding the claims made by protesters as presented in your letter, these may be referred to the appropriate authority so that they can be checked in detail.

From the spokeswoman of the Negev district:

The officers of the Negev region in the southern district have arrested 83 people suspected of being involved in the disturbance of peace and stone throwing towards passing vehicles and the security forces, two weeks ago in the Negev. So far, 25 indictments have been submitted and additional indictments are expected.

The police respects the public’s will to express its protest, and allows for protesting under conditions of abiding by the law, keeping the peace and public order, refraining from damaging the people’s property, as well as respecting the lives of drivers and passers by. During the past weeks, incidents in which public order was disturbed took place, as well as stone throwing towards passing vehicles and police forces. These incidents escalated, and following comprehensive and poignant treatment by the southern district police, these have come to an end.

Read this article in Hebrew on Local Call.

Hagar Shezaf is an Israeli blogger and history student. Her writing has been featured in Cafe Gibraltar and Local Call.

Related:
A frightening new era of Jewish-Arab relations in Israel
An open letter to the family of Mohammed Abu Khdeir
‘Our’ murderers – what would Arendt and Buber say?

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For Palestinians in Jerusalem, to strike or not to strike? http://972mag.com/for-palestinians-in-jerusalem-to-strike-or-not-to-strike/94104/ http://972mag.com/for-palestinians-in-jerusalem-to-strike-or-not-to-strike/94104/#comments Tue, 22 Jul 2014 15:42:45 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=94104 A call for a general strike on both sides of the Green Line, in solidarity with Gaza, prompts a range of responses and dilemmas among Palestinian workers in Jerusalem.

By Corey Sherman

Heeding calls from Palestinian leaders on both sides of the Green Line, Palestinians across Israel and the West Bank observed both a general strike and day of mourning Monday, in solidarity with residents of the Gaza Strip.

The strike, which is to last three days in the West Bank and the Old City of Jerusalem, ground business to a halt and brought to the streets a diverse group of protesters in Ramallah. In Nazareth, a protest drew some 20,000 participants from around the country. In East and West Jerusalem, however, many Palestinian businesses remained open, with many workers arriving for work.

Throughout the city, Palestinians who chose not participate in the strike expressed a range of emotions on the efficacy and feasibility of such protests. Abdullah, a cab driver from Silwan, explained his decision to work Monday as resulting from steadfastness in the face of political turmoil, “Even during the Second Intifada, Palestinian cabbies still worked,” he proudly proclaimed.

Palestinian-owned stores in Jerusalem's Old City are shuttered in honor of a three-day strike across Jerusalem and the West Bank. (photo: Bilha Calderon)

Palestinian-owned stores in Jerusalem’s Old City are shuttered in honor of a three-day strike across Jerusalem and the West Bank. (photo: Bilha Calderon)

Amir, a receptionist for an ear doctor in Bab Al-Zahra in East Jerusalem criticized this approach, attributing them to a lack of nationalism. “In Jerusalem everyone stays open,” Amir, who lives Ramallah, told me. “Go to Ramallah, go to Bethlehem—everyone is closed there.”

Others working near the Old City explained that grocery stores, bakeries, pharmacies and doctors’ offices have to stay open to allow people to run last minute errands during Ramadan, or to provide those fasting with medical attention. If he didn’t work in the medical profession, Amir told me, he’d have stayed in Ramallah and gone to the protests that took place there.

As we were talking, a friend of his who works at a shoe store on Salah ad-Din Street popped in to say good morning.

“Where are you off to?” Amir asked his friend, winking at me. “To open up,” his friend replied. “You see?”

Abdullah dismissed such accusations as baseless, citing instead the long-term risk of taking one day off in protest. “Are the Israelis going to give me anything if I don’t work today, if I lose my job?” he yelled, turning down his radio, as we snaked along a mostly empty Salah ad-Din street en route to French Hill just before noon on Monday. That the strike is occurring during Ramadan is an added stress, with families buying gifts and updating household wares and appliances. “Its just not possible for me right now.”

Read +972′s full coverage of the war in Gaza

At Café Malha in French Hill, employees and customers offered an entirely different take on the strike.

Abu Omar lives in the Old City and took the day off as part of the strike. An older man in a brown button-down shirt and neatly pressed slacks, he came to French Hill to play the lotto and catch up with some friends. A one-day strike, he told me, won’t affect the economy, and it won’t change Israeli leaders’ strategic calculation. The move, he explained, is largely symbolic.

“Efforts like these are aimed at achieving a unity in spirit for all Palestinians,” he explained as an employee looked on. “Striking is to remind us that while we aren’t being attacked the way they are in Gaza, we are still a part of the same struggle.”

At Q’s, a burger and wings restaurant located a floor above Café Malha, Ismail, the lone employee there that afternoon, criticized the strike as a subtle form of escalation – one that will be met with backlash from Israeli Jews. Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, for example, called for Israelis to boycott businesses that closed in solidarity with Gazans. “The strike is an error. Its like throwing stones,” Ismail argued waving to pedestrians from his empty, air-conditioned restaurant. “Do people think there won’t be an equal, or heavier response?”

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“The person under the lash is not the same as the one counting the lashes from a distance,” Abdullah opined to me, quoting Emile Habibi, a Palestinian poet and politician, in response to criticisms throughout the Arab world on his accepting the 1992 Israel Prize.

Who is under the lash, and who is counting from a distance, however, is not clear.

Just before 4 p.m., a group of construction workers in the Nahlaot neighborhood filled out time cards and called their families to tell them they were leaving work to return home. Some sat in the van they used to travel to and from work, others meandered around the construction site, cracking jokes.

“If we don’t work,” the foreman told me as he collected time cards from employees boarding a van to return them to East Jerusalem and the West Bank, “[Jewish employers] will find [other Palestinians] who will—that’s all there is to it.”

Ben Drusinsky contributed reporting to this story.

Corey Sherman is a student and journalist. Follow him on twitter at @shermancoreya and on Instagram @cs_herman.

Related:
PHOTOS: A Gaza funeral for 26 members of one family
Mourning death wherever it strikes
Why Palestinians continue to support Hamas

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‘Finish the job’ http://972mag.com/finish-the-job/94114/ http://972mag.com/finish-the-job/94114/#comments Tue, 22 Jul 2014 11:01:19 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=94114 This is the watchword in Israel today, no matter the price.

Late last night (Monday), I was driving home from work and listening to the talk show hosted by Jojo Abutbul, who is sort of an old-time folk hero in this country – a Mizrahi Jew with down-to-earth wisdom. An Israeli common man. He speaks mainly to an older, Likud-oriented Mizrahi crowd, which is still very reflective of Israeli mainstream views, and is disproportionately represented in Sderot and some of the other towns near the Gaza border that have taken the brunt of Hamas’ rockets. Jojo Abutbul and his callers are an important voice in Israeli public opinion, especially now, during the war. They’re thought to be on the right wing of the mainstream.

They were speaking after a day in which seven Israeli soldiers had been killed, and a family of 26 had been killed in Gaza. The first tragedy overhung everything they said; the second was not mentioned. And the phrase that kept being repeated was, “Finish the job.” Abutbul said, “It hurts me, the number of soldiers who have fallen. But I think I’ll be able to withstand any number if they finish the job. But if even one soldier meets his fate and they don’t finish the job, then I’m going to find this impossible to take.”

A mourner carries the body of a child among 24 members of the Abu Jamea family, who were killed the previous day during an Israeli attack over the Bani Suhaila neighborhood of Khan Younis, Gaza Strip.

A mourner carries the body of a child among 24 members of the Abu Jamea family, who were killed the previous day during an Israeli attack over the Bani Suhaila neighborhood of Khan Younis, Gaza Strip.

I thought, well, that’s an “authentic” Israeli voice today, but it’s not the only one, and it’s probably somewhere to the right of the center of gravity. I still believed there were a lot of Israelis who are saying “enough” – not just left-wingers but centrist Israelis who cannot take anymore Israeli soldiers getting killed and want the fighting to end now. This, after all, is supposed to be a basic truth about the Israeli political mentality – that they won’t stand for large numbers of casualties in war. And seven soldiers were killed yesterday, and 13 the day before, and now 27 Israelis have been killed all told. This morning the news is that a soldier is missing in action, which means a whole agonizing bargaining ordeal again.

All the things Israelis were warned about if the fighting went on too long – international outrage over the scenes of Palestinian civilians being slaughtered, large numbers of Israelis being killed, soldiers being captured – have now happened. I would expect that a lot of people, not just leftists, would be echoing the world by calling for a ceasefire right now.

Then this morning I picked up a copy of Yedioth Ahronoth, the “newspaper of the nation,” what I consider to be the clearest window there is into Israeli society. The front-page commentary is by Yuval Diskin, the former Shin Bet chief and conscience-ridden star of “The Gatekeepers,” the incessant critic of Netanyahu’s hardline policies – and the title of his commentary is “Don’t Stop Yet.”

We need to expand the ground operation because the operation must not end with the status quo. The home front is prepared to pay the price so that the problem of the rockets will be solved for the long term. The operation to destroy the tunnels is absolutely vital.”

Actually, the main price for the home front now is not the rockets, but the deaths of the soldiers. Are we prepared to pay that price? Evidently.

Funeral of Israeli soldier Banaya Rubel, Holon, Israel.  Rubel was killed during clashes in Gaza. (photo: Activestills.org)

Funeral of Israeli soldier Banaya Rubel, Holon, Israel. Rubel was killed during clashes in Gaza. (photo: Activestills.org)

But there was also a column inside by Shimon Shiffer, who wails away at Netanyahu’s rejectionism toward the Palestinians; his commentary was titled “The Next War.” Ah, he’s going to provide a little balance, he’s going to say the war is futile, that either we change our approach to the Palestinians or the next war is on the way.

Shiffer slammed Netanyahu alright – but for failing to be warrior enough, for bending to international pressure.

As has happened in past military campaigns, so it threatens to happen again: the operation against Hamas ends with a sense of missed opportunity, with the knowledge that the mission and objectives of Operation Protective Edge were not fully achieved. … It can be assumed, without cynicism, that Netanyahu will find a way to sell us the successes of Protective Edge.”

Well, he took it to Bibi, anyway, so he earned his paycheck from Yedioth.

The front-page headline, beneath the photos of 10 soldiers who were killed, reads “Model Commanders.” The tone of the paper is not tragic, it’s heroic. The message is that the deaths of the soldiers has only increased our will to fight to the end, to finish the job.

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It’s pretty much in line with what I’m hearing from the people in my “social circles.” They’re not mainly leftists, they’re mainly center-leftists – they’d like Labor leader Isaac Herzog or Tzipi Livni to be prime minister. They’d love to be rid of the settlements. They’re completely heartbroken over the soldiers’ deaths, and they’re sorry for the Palestinian civilians’ deaths, too. But as far as I can tell, they believe in the necessity of this war, they see it as a war of self-defense against Hamas. And if the army says it needs to finish the job and that now is not the time for a ceasefire, which is what the army is saying, they’re not going to disagree.

I wasn’t here in 1982, but it is said that 400,000 Israelis protested in Tel Aviv’s Malchei Israel (now Rabin) Square against the Lebanon War. What happened? I know what happened, but the contrast between then and the way things are now is still uncanny.

At the beginning of this war, when it was impossible to call it a war, when the “kill ratio” was 200 to 0, I was filled with loathing at this country, at the complacency in the face of what the air force was doing to people in Gaza. But now that Israeli soldiers are dying – mainly young soldiers, of course – I don’t think I have any anger left in me.

Sunday morning, after a day in which 13 soldiers were killed and 100 Palestinians were killed in Gaza, mainly in Shujaiyeh, I thought, That’s it. Israelis are not going to tolerate so many soldiers being killed, and the world is not going to tolerate so many Palestinian children getting killed. Putting aside the world reaction, I thought Israelis, as deadened as they are toward the evil we do to the Palestinians, would save the situation with their finest quality: their inability to withstand the deaths of their own, especially their young.

I was wrong. Evidently, if they believe that the war is serving a purpose, in this case to bring long-term security to Israel, at least from Gaza, then they will put up with the deaths of their soldiers.

They’re not callous – far, far from it. Israelis really do have good hearts, and they love their own, especially their young, as much as any people on earth. The problem is their minds, or rather their collective mind, the mind of this society – it is geared like a sports car engine to war.

Related:
PHOTOS: A Gaza funeral for 26 members of one family
Mourning death wherever it strikes
Why Palestinians continue to support Hamas

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