+972 Magazine » All Posts http://972mag.com Independent commentary and news from Israel & Palestine Fri, 09 Oct 2015 19:57:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8 When people can’t believe their eyes, it’s usually ideology http://972mag.com/when-people-cant-believe-their-eyes-its-usually-ideology/112519/ http://972mag.com/when-people-cant-believe-their-eyes-its-usually-ideology/112519/#comments Fri, 09 Oct 2015 19:56:10 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=112519 +972 published video of undercover Israeli soldiers restraining a Palestinian stone thrower and shooting him point blank in the leg. An astonishing number of people looked the evidence and refused to believe what they saw.

Yesterday I published a post about a video that showed Israeli plainclothes undercover soldiers restraining a Palestinian youth at a West Bank demonstration and shooting him in the leg at point blank range. The youth was clutching a small stone, but was otherwise unarmed.

These undercover agents are called ”mistarevim” in Hebrew (meaning disguised as an Arab) and “mustarabeen” in Arabic. According to reports from several sources, including the AFP,  journalists witnessed a group of mistarevim infiltrating a demonstration in the West Bank and then suddenly producing handguns, which they shot directly at the Palestinian protestors.

At one point two of the undercover troops grab one of the Palestinian young men and restrain him, while a third presses the barrel of his handgun to his thigh and pulls the trigger. The ‘pop’ of the weapon is audible. Uniformed soldiers punch and kick the wounded youth and then drag him away.

A still image taken at the scene by Activestills photojournalist Muhannad Saleem shows the youth being carried away on a stretcher by soldiers wearing the latex gloves used by medics. There is a tourniquet tied around his thigh above a bleeding wound, and he is wearing an oxygen mask.

Israeli army medics carry away a young Palestinian stone thrower who was shot in the leg by undercover Israeli troops on the outskirts of Ramallah. A tourniquet can be seen on his leg where he was shot, October 7, 2015. (Muhannad Saleem/Activestills.org)

Israeli army medics carry away a young Palestinian stone thrower who was shot in the leg by undercover Israeli troops on the outskirts of Ramallah. A tourniquet can be seen on his leg where he was shot, October 7, 2015. (Muhannad Saleem/Activestills.org)

An astonishing number of people looked at all this evidence and refused to believe what they saw. And they were upset with the messenger, too. Yesterday +972 editor Michael Schaeffer Omer-Man and I were inundated with testy emails and social media messages from people who demanded additional evidence proving the undercover agent had really pulled the trigger and shot the boy.

The multiple witnesses, the videos and the photographs were not enough. Some claimed they did not hear the gun being discharged. Others claimed they saw the Palestinian youth walking after he’d supposedly been shot, which proved that the undercover officer had not really pulled the trigger. On Facebook, there were long threads of comments claiming the video was fabricated, a “Pallywood” production.

But then the army spokesperson responded to our query and confirmed nonchalantly that yes, the shooting had occurred as witnessed and documented. “It was an accurate shot that disabled the central suspect who fought back even after the soldiers attempted to arrest him,” said the spokesperson, in a statement that we appended to the original post. No apology, no attempt to dispute.

The army apparently believes it’s acceptable to restrain an unarmed protestor and “disable” him by shooting him at point blank range in the leg.

These undercover units have existed for years, and so has the practice of having agents — sometimes police, sometimes army — infiltrate demonstrations and violently detain protestors. So, too, has the practice of assaulting, and even shooting, unarmed civilians when they are physically restrained and unable to defend themselves. Former undercover officers have spoken about their experiences in interviews for Israeli documentary films, and Breaking the Silence has documented these practices in interviews with former soldiers.

The tactics of the undercover units are actually well known. But this is the first time we’ve seen such vivid, indisputable video evidence. And now we have the army’s acknowledgement that not only do they know about these practices, but they sanction them.

So now I have Jewish friends asking me nervously what they should think. They want to believe these practices are rare and committed by outliers who act in contravention of accepted procedure. But that is not the case, and that is what I tell them. It’s not easy for them, because most Jews cherish the idea that Israel is somehow better, or that Jews wouldn’t do things like that. Too many American Jews have outsourced their identity to Israel, and now they are not sure what to do with the creeping existential crisis.

The thing is, I’ve never seen anyone question or demand more evidence in cases where the media reported that a Palestinian had carried out a violent attack. None of my Jewish friends or journalist colleagues seem to dispute that Fadi Alloun, the Palestinian youth who was shot by police four days ago after stabbing a Jewish teenager in Jerusalem, actually carried out the stabbing.

I’ve seen plenty of people dispute whether or not Jews actually carried out the “price tag” arson attack on the Dawabshe family, too, despite the Hebrew graffiti at the scene and the security forces’ certitude that the crime was committed by Jewish settlers who lived nearby (although they still haven’t managed to charge anybody with the crime). Meanwhile, the Jewish teenager who attacked Arab citizens in Dimona with a knife has been handed over for psychiatric assessment rather than arrested and charged with attempted murder.

There’s something quite racist in the implicit assumption that when Palestinians commit random acts of political violence they’re motivated by senseless hatred, while a Jew who does the same to an Arab just needs a psychiatrist. The same goes for this unwillingness to believe that an Israeli undercover officer would actually shoot a Palestinian in the leg —  then kick him in the abdomen and head and drag him several meters along a rock strewn road, as though he were an animal carcass or a sack of potatoes — despite all the evidence.

Perhaps the muted expressions of disquiet over these images are a sign that caring people with liberal values are starting to wake up to a fact that should be self evident: you can’t maintain military rule over an unwilling population without engaging in acts of cruel violence.

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The heavy price of segregation and occupation http://972mag.com/the-heavy-price-of-segregation-and-occupation/112541/ http://972mag.com/the-heavy-price-of-segregation-and-occupation/112541/#comments Fri, 09 Oct 2015 19:14:03 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=112541 Israeli police forces at a checkpoint restrict Palestinians from entering Jerusalem's Old City, October 6, 2015. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Israeli police forces at a checkpoint restrict Palestinians from entering Jerusalem’s Old City, October 6, 2015. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

In Jerusalem nowadays, Palestinians stay on the east side, Israelis on the west, and Netanyahu’s right-wing government is smack in the middle racking up political points.

Much of the violence taking place at the moment begs the question: who actually benefits from the occupation? We know it’s not the Palestinians, and it’s definitely not the Israelis.

Watching the video clip of young Israelis rooting for the killing of a 19-year-old Palestinian by Israeli police (see below), and listening their cheerful applause once he is gunned down, I am reminded how Israelis fail to see the tragic moral consequences the occupation has on the occupier.

How can Israelis not be affected when racial discrimination is practiced systematically but written almost nowhere explicitly, thus forcing nobody to be accountable for it?


Israelis won’t find that racism in their history books that deny the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in 1948. They won’t find it in the media. It is not explicitly stated in the boycott law, the Nakba law, the force-feeding law, administrative detention, and countless other policies that ooze of racism, but only if you know how to read between the lines.

One has to follow the bloodshed to find answers. One must look behind the stacks of law books and peer into the excuses used to indemnify Israelis — police, soldiers or settlers — who kill unarmed Palestinians, or even those “armed” with stones.

These are the same racist excuses the state mutters when it fails — or refuses —  to indict the terrorists who burned to death an entire family in Duma.

Palestinian blood is simply cheaper than Israeli blood. Only a fool would argue differently. And Palestinians citizens of Israel are no exception. The families of the 12 young men killed 15 years ago during October 2000 watched helplessly as the Israeli police officers who killed their sons walked free.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the United Nations General Assembly, October 1, 2015. (Avi Ohayon/GPO)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the United Nations General Assembly, October 1, 2015. (Avi Ohayon/GPO)

So why does the UN so “obsessively” pass resolutions against Israel and not Syria, as Benjamin Netanyahu lamented in his UNGA speech last week?

Despite Netanyahu’s apparent intelligence he somehow remains blind to see that he is overseeing a segregation regime. It shouldn’t be that difficult to see. Surely he understands that a regime based on ethnic superiority reminds the world of history’s ugliest and most painful lessons.

What kind of regime does Israel think the world sees when it segregates streets in the West Bank along ethnic lines? When it builds shameful walls of apartheid? When it keeps one of the world’s most densely populated strips of land under siege? When it builds illegal, segregated settlements on stolen land?

Israel’s undemocratic state practices and policies will eventually undermine its international legitimacy. Meanwhile, the Palestinians may soon face yet another righteous-sounding military operation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, costing more innocent people their lives.

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Israel still holds all the cards http://972mag.com/israel-still-holds-all-the-cards/112510/ http://972mag.com/israel-still-holds-all-the-cards/112510/#comments Fri, 09 Oct 2015 16:03:32 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=112510 The relative quiet on the ground in recent years, enforced by the Palestinian Authority on Israel’s behalf, led Israelis to believe they can enjoy peace and prosperity without ending the occupation.

Palestinian youths hold Molotov cocktails on as they sit not he sidelines of clashes taking place in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya, October 4, 2015. (Faiz Abu Rmeleh/Activestills.org)

Palestinian youths hold Molotov cocktails on as they sit not he sidelines of clashes taking place in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya, October 4, 2015. (Faiz Abu Rmeleh/Activestills.org)

Thirteen years passed between the First Intifada, which broke out in December 1987, and the start of the second in October 2000. Both intifadas lasted for roughly five years. It has been 15 years since the start of the Second Intifada, and 10 years since it ended.


If history and experience teach us anything, the timeframe is exactly right for the arrival of a new generation of young Palestinians who are willing to confront Israel — like their big brothers did, and before them, their parents. That theory also holds if you look at the profile of those carrying out the stabbing attacks and those taking part in demonstrations in recent days — mostly people under the age of 20.

The events of the past few weeks are not an intifada. Attacks and demonstrations against Israeli symbols and targets, civilian and military alike, have taken place since the 1970s with varying frequency. The intifadas, on the other hand, were characterized by an uprising that saw an almost across-the-board mobilization of the whole of Palestinian society and its institutions (although the Second Intifada quickly became an armed struggle carried out by a relatively small number of militants).

The current situation is different. Even Netanyahu has been forced to admit that the Palestinian Authority is not taking part in the current unrest. Things are centered in East Jerusalem, which is under direct Israeli control, and not in the West Bank. That also demonstrates why Israel will do everything it can to prevent the collapse of the PA, thereby preventing a return to the pre-Oslo situation, something for which a number of demagogues on the Israeli Right are calling. The PA, as Israel’s security contractor, is far more efficient at maintaining the peace than the Shin Bet or IDF ever were. Israel will only dispose of it only when it completely stops performing its role.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds a press conference about the wave of violence across Israel, East Jerusalem and the West Bank, October 8, 2015. Sitting with him are (from left to right): IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisencot, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, Acting Police Commissioner Benzi Sau. (GPO/Amos Ben-Gershom)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds a press conference about the wave of violence across Israel, East Jerusalem and the West Bank, October 8, 2015. Sitting with him are (from left to right): IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisencot, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, Acting Police Commissioner Benzi Sau. (GPO/Amos Ben-Gershom)

The PLO’s international strategy has collapsed

The PA is an unusual institution. A massive part of its budget — 25 percent, it is said — is dedicated to security. Not securing Palestinians but rather securing Israelis. Palestinian police officers are forbidden from protecting Palestinian villagers against settler attacks. They need to call the Israeli police for that.

Over the past decade the Palestinian Authority took upon itself the role of Israel’s operations contractor of the occupation, with an understanding that quiet in the West Bank would create the requisite conditions for progress in peace talks with Israel. That’s what the Palestinians have always been promised, at least — if the violence stops, we’ll talk and you’ll get your state.

But it’s now clear that the dynamic is the exact opposite. The calm on the ground made Israelis believe that they can enjoy peace and prosperity without ending the occupation. The tragic paradox is that it was the intifadas that led to Israeli concessions (Oslo, the Gaza Disengagement), while the peaceful years resulted in more hardline Israeli positions and the expansion of settlements. In weeks like this one, it is sad to recall the commotion Netanyahu raised with his demands that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a “Jewish state,” and not just as “The State of Israel,” as if Israel needs Abbas to define its identity. Be sure that if Abbas had recognized Israel as a Jewish state, Netanyahu would have invented something new to demand. Anything in order to not reach an agreement.

When the PLO leadership understood that it wasn’t going to get anywhere with Israel, it took a gamble by seeking international pressure — first from the United states and then from Europe. The thing is, Washington will never seriously pressure Israel. If one compares America’s commitment to the Iran deal to its flaccid approach to the Palestinian issue, things come into focus rather quickly. The Iran deal was a matter of American interests for the Obama administration. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict was little more than an irritation.

Dramatic developments in the Arab world, particularly in Syria, are the final nails in the coffin of Palestine’s international strategy. Syria has gone from an Iranian-Turkish-Saudi proxy war to an American-Russian one, with massive consequences for the entire region and beyond — and as if weren’t enough, the Americans are now worried about the stability of Jordan. Under these conditions, Israel’s strategy of strengthening and maintaining the status quo in the occupied territories suddenly seams reasonable to the United States. Hillary Clinton, who is still considered the Democratic frontrunner, said last week that Israeli-Palestinian conflict will probably have to wait, and it’s clear that no Republican candidate would even ponder putting pressure on Israel to end the occupation. The PLO’s international strategy completely collapsed this year, and Abbas never had a plan B.

An Israeli soldier checks a Palestinian man’s documents at a checkpoint outside the West Bank city of Hebron on June 17, 2014, as the hunt for three Israeli teenagers believed kidnapped by militants entered its fifth day. (Photo: Tess Scheflan/Activestills.org)

An Israeli soldier checks a Palestinian man’s documents at a checkpoint outside the West Bank city of Hebron on June 17, 2014. (Photo: Tess Scheflan/Activestills.org)

A one-party conflict

I don’t know how much the Palestinian youngsters protesting in the West Bank and East Jerusalem think or care about broad geo-political considerations. What’s absolutely clear is that over the past couple of years diplomatic developments have evoked nothing but utter despondency in the occupied territories. That is something I’ve heard from every single Palestinian with whom I’ve spoken — an inability to even imagine what theoretic chain of events might one day bring about the end of the occupation. Under these circumstances, some hold to their daily lives in Ramallah or Jenin, which recovered a bit in the past decade, while others are willing to take desperate measures.

Israelis love to talk about “incitement” in the occupied territories. It provides a comforting explanation for the violence that breaks out now and again. Israel’s sense of righteousness is only reinforced by the feeling that Palestinians support violence, and that the Israeli side only wants peace and quiet — a little bit of normalcy, commerce, removing a few checkpoints here and there as signs of goodwill, etc.

But the situation, of course, is entirely different. The Palestinians are always subject to the violence of the occupation, which is daily as it is arbitrary, while Israelis primarily enjoy quiet and prosperity. The “Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” most of the time, exists for one side and one side only.

The Palestinians are prisoners in their own land. They cannot move around freely, they cannot enter and exit their country. Receiving visitors is dependent on the goodwill of the Israeli military regime. The same goes for keeping roads open and building new neighborhoods and even individual homes. They are entirely dependent on the goodwill of Israel for protection against attacks by Jews, and the Israeli army has never viewed protecting the Palestinian population as part of its mission in controlling the Palestinian territories. They are judged in Israeli military courts, they can be imprisoned without charge or trial, and on and on. And of course, they have no political rights like voting or political representation.

Politics has always been a substitute for violence in managing relations between various populations, and those who have no right to participate in politics quickly reach the conclusion that they have nothing but violence at their disposal. Even if every last social media post against Israel, the Jews or the Zionists was deleted from the Internet, the violence would still continue. Likewise, even completely dismantling every single organ and network of Hamas would not stop the organization from sprouting right back up, time and again.

We have to remind ourselves over and over and over again: the occupation is the ultimate terrorist infrastructure. One must be especially blind to think that extreme inequality and more than half a century of oppression could bring about any other result. We also needn’t delude ourselves about the reverse: ending the occupation may not bring peace, certainly not in the short term, but continuing it will definitely lead to a civil war, of which we’ve gotten a small taste this week. True, it’s not Syria or Yugoslavia. Not even close. But even Syria and Yugoslavia weren’t Syria and Yugoslavia until they were, either. The situation in Israel — two mixed populations that have zero-sum outlooks, and in which one side has all the power and the rights and the other has only crumbs — is the fundamental problem.

In that context, the most worrying phenomenon this week has been the spontaneous violence by regular citizens on both sides. Part of the reason for that is that both sides are exposed only to the terror wrought by the other. Jews saw the video of Adelle Bennett screaming for help and receiving only ridicule from shopkeepers in East Jerusalem. Arabs saw the mob chasing Fadi Alloun — one of the alleged Jerusalem stabbers — until police executed him in cold blood. Maybe that’s another explanation for the young age of the stabbers: they are the ones who are most exposed to social media, where all of the videos and reports are circulating.

Quiet comes with a price

The bad news is two-fold. Firstly, it is much more difficult to reach political solutions in the absence of central power structures. Secondly, in previous rounds it took four to five years of reciprocal bloodletting — during which Israel paid a heavy price, and the Palestinians several times that — until there formed an Israeli consensus that was willing to consider real concessions (Oslo and the Gaza Disengagement). There is no prospect for a temporary or permanent solution at the moment. There is no public support and there are no politicians to lead us in that direction.

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog this week demanded that the government put the entire occupied territories under siege. Collective punishment that would not bring us a meter closer to any solution, military or diplomatic. Minister Naftali Bennett proposed establishing new West Bank settlements. Former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman called on the public to take revenge on Arabs. Yair Lapid proposed activating a “lawnmower” policy (god only knows what that means), and expressed support for Jewish settlers living in Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem. Netanyahu looks like the most rational and cool-headed among all those who want to dethrone him, but it’s clear that he’s not going to be the one who leads us to a major breakthrough.

And yet, there is no way to justify for the feeling of helplessness and victimhood with which the streets of Israel are lined at the moment. Our current situation is not a “tragedy,” but rather a reality that elected Israel’s political leadership, with the backing of the vast majority of Jewish voters, marched directly into with eyes wide open.

The cards are still in Israel’s hands, and they hold great power. Israel can initiate new peace talks with a few simple gestures. It can even decide with whom: Fatah or a Palestinian unity government. It can rally an international coalition to support it — from the Arab states to Turkey, Russia, the United States and the European Union. Ours is one of the few issues in the world on which all of those states would happily cooperate. It could unilaterally end its military regime in the West Bank. In a nutshell, Israel has a full set of tools at its disposal that, in the medium- to long-term, could fundamentally alter relations between Jews and Arabs in this land. But doing so carries a price: putting an end to settlement building, releasing prisoners, and all of the rest of the steps that not only the political leadership, but also the majority of the Jewish public, rejects out of hand at the moment.

A version of this article first appeared in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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Station to Station 1: The fenced failure http://972mag.com/station-to-station-1-the-fenced-failure/112288/ http://972mag.com/station-to-station-1-the-fenced-failure/112288/#comments Thu, 08 Oct 2015 16:31:06 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=112288 A journey to the Holy Land’s disused railway stations begins with a sonnet of concrete. Digital and disposable camera photography by Elisha Baskin.

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There is an old railway station in south Tel Aviv. It isn’t really so old by local standards, being 80 years younger than the city’s first train depot. A concrete edifice of the 1970s, it would hardly delight all eyes. “Tel Aviv south” is no Milano Centrale, oh, and it hasn’t served any lines since 1993. It’s useless.

Nevertheless, not only do I take off a hot September day to head there, but I have company. Elisha is a history adventurer: an archive detective who finagles rare film footage, photos and sound bites related to this country’s past. I told her I plan to explore the country’s disused train stations, and she sent me a strange array of ancient photos related to transport in the Holy Land. They were stunningly random. Here was spectacular company for a random historical journey.

“And the first station is just down the street from your hood,” I mentioned.


“Just past the Kibbutz Galuyot highway bridge.”

“There’s a station there?”

Behold how the past evades even its greatest lovers. Then again, South Tel Aviv Station was invisible from its beginnings. That is what sealed its fate.

I would build on the moon

Here is the brief chronicle of a civil engineering folly: the city’s first train station was opened in Jaffa in 1892, when only Jaffa existed. At one time you could board a train there and travel north to Damascus and as far south as the Sudan.

Following the war of 1948, that station became disused. The young State of Israel sought to decentralize Jaffa, allowing the adjacent Hebrew city to inherit it. The final mile of rails was undone, and trains now only ran as far as a station in central Tel Aviv.

The 50s and 60s saw society and leadership both turn automobile-crazed. City politicians expressed concern over traffic jams and blamed the trains that rolled into downtown. Eventually a new station was planned at a peripheral location, and an architect was chosen: Nahum Zolotov.

Zolotov himself felt uncomfortable with the initiative and proposed a more central location. He was defeated but took the job anyway. “I’m an architect,” he later explained in an interview, “I would build on the moon if that was the demand.”

South Tel Aviv station could have just as well been located on the moon. It lacked a link to any other transport terminal, and could not be reached by foot from the city center. Following its inauguration, travel by train fell dramatically out of fashion. It took 23 years for a fourth central station to be built, repairing some of the damage. This one was placed in the city’s affluent north, favoring its burgeoning bourgeois class, reflecting yet another shift of priorities.

Agricultural stuff

“Oh that!” says Elisha, as we hit the bridge and glimpse the long concrete parasol, shading the platforms. “So that’s what this is.”

We are both fairly taken with the structure’s aesthetics. Most Israeli concrete architecture of the period is Brutalist. This happens to be elegant. The terminal is roofed with variations of the same leitmotif that makes up the parasol: a stubby, overturned pyramid balancing on a single column.

On the façade is a sign. This, so it seems, is Israel’s “School for Train Professions.” It appears to be operative yet out of session. We are not alone, however, and soon two security guards engage us. One of them demands we delete what photos we already took and briefly confiscates Elisha’s ID.

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“Photography is prohibited in any of the premises,” he warns, “nor may you approach the station from any direction. Over there,” he points, “is the freeway, and the other way is agricultural stuff. They run patrols there all the time, and trespassing is a criminal offense.”

He’s actually quite courteous, but hardly helpful. When we ask for a contact who could give us permission to shoot, he suggests we talk to “the train itself.” We ask him for a phone number. “I’m employed by an outsourced contractor,” he explains, “I don’t have any phone numbers.” As we thank him and head on, I can’t help but muse over the symbolism. Here is a hermetically fenced failure, guarded by underpaid men who can’t contact anyone in authority. Such an allegory for our homeland.

Descent into thorns

Here is where this journey truly begins: in a descent into thorns. We pick the side of the “agricultural stuff” and find a breach in the fence. As soon as we do, I sense how unlike my other journeys this one was going to be. Where are we headed? Not to an actual historical relic nor to a thing of the present, nor to anything that offers a sense of future. We are climbing over trash into a ditch, a dreadfully dusty and thorny ditch. What possesses us?

We are sure to find that out. For now it was all about the station and getting a better view. The ditch is deep. It separates the station’s parking lot from a plowed field encircled by yet another fence. Having reached its bottom we follow it towards the station. It leads to an underground passage that goes directly beneath it.

We step underneath our holy grail into a dark concrete tunnel, like a doomsday shelter from some 1980s political thriller. We have made it and haven’t, like two Ethiopian migrants who crossed deserts to reach the land of milk and honey, and ended up in a Rehovot housing project. We go all the way down the tunnel, then back, then step back out and look around.

Paints and parrots

There is a lot out there besides the train station. Over the tunnel entrance is a massive mural, the work of some anonymous street artist. In it, black-furred mammals of some sort torment the sleep of a multiple-eyed man. In the actual sky above the painting flies a flock of green parrots, a foreign breed that was somehow introduced to this land and has been known to cause much damage to its ornithological balance.

Following the ditch it feels as though we are in the middle of nowhere, but this is not nowhere. It is a corner of the metropolis’s south neither of us has ever visited, and like every point in this country it’s wild. Across the parking lot is a high school affiliated with Israel’s air force. In its front yard sit two defunct helicopters and a real-life jumbo sized military drone. The highway has a tale to tell, as does the closely watched field, and the adjacent neighborhoods, the city’s poorest and most diverse, buzz with millions of tales. Our random destination offers us a new angle from which to recognize all these.

Down the ditch and up at the top of the slope, we find a gate in the field’s fence. It is open, a gaping loophole. It allows us to come closer to the station and shoot its platforms from a two-yard range. But they matter less now. One thing we already know of this journey: it isn’t about platforms.

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Why is it so hard for leftists to speak out amid terror attacks? http://972mag.com/why-is-it-so-hard-for-leftists-to-speak-out-amid-terror-attacks/112497/ http://972mag.com/why-is-it-so-hard-for-leftists-to-speak-out-amid-terror-attacks/112497/#comments Thu, 08 Oct 2015 15:02:44 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=112497 Because we are shocked by the terrifying violence. Because we don’t want to play into the interests of the Right. Because we don’t want to appear disconnected from our society. But mainly because we tend to forget that, unlike the right wing, we have a solution for the conflict, and it benefits both Jews and Palestinians — not one or the other.

Palestinian shops are shuttered in the Old City of Jerusalem after Israel restricted entry of Palestinians following a series of stabbing attacks, October 5, 2015. (Faiz Abu Rmeleh/Activestills.org)

Palestinian shops are shuttered in the Old City of Jerusalem after Israel restricted entry of Palestinians following a series of stabbing attacks, October 5, 2015. (Faiz Abu Rmeleh/Activestills.org)

Each morning it seems, or at least I wake up hoping, that this round of violence is over. That there won’t be any more attacks, that “neither side has any interest in an escalation,” as they like to say on television, and any moment now the clouds will cool things down, the rain will wash away all the tears and there will be just a little less bloodletting and pain.

But for now, until that happens, I feel like I have nothing to say. Nothing. Depression and speechlessness. Mostly after the murder of the two parents in front of their children. Mostly-mostly after the deadly stabbing in the Old City, and bewilderment at those people who refused to help the wounded woman. I simply have no words.

And that’s a pretty bad thing for a leftist journalist and blogger, for whom words form an integral part of life, who doesn’t have anything to say. And it seems that it’s not only me. I look around at other writers on Local Call and +972 Magazine and I realize I’m not alone. I refresh my Facebook feed and find the same silence. And what better cure for silence is there than writing about silence itself?

Why is it so hard for us leftists? Among other things, it seems that sometimes we forget, just a little, why and what we are struggling for. I’ll try and describe it through the things I thought about writing. First, I was certain that I would not play the apologetic condemnation game of the Right. I didn’t do anything wrong and our entire struggle — every day and on every front — is for peace, equality, social justice, and as a basic rule we are clearly fighting for life and oppose the murder of civilians. So no, we really don’t need to “condemn” anything.

I also thought of writing something about the shock, the pain, maybe about the fear. Maybe something along the lines of what Mijal Simonet Corech wrote, about a politics first and foremost of love for all people. That’s important, and it’s beautiful, and it truly is the basis for everything. But I don’t know how to write like Mijal, and I’m always worried that it’s not enough, that I need to be more direct and clear and concrete about what we must do now.

And then I thought that it’s necessary to write about the occupation. Perhaps to mention the Palestinian children who Israel murdered, the hundreds in Gaza, and the baby and his parents in Duma. Not to mention, like Amira Hass wrote about, that this war we are waging is being waged every day – every day, all the time, and not only when Jews are murdered and the Israeli media is reminded that a war is going on.

But then there is the fear that if I make a direct connection between the murder of Jews and the occupation that it will sound like a competition of suffering, as if it’s zero sum, as if it’s necessary to decide and prove whose suffering is greater. As if I’m saying that it’s not so awful, the creation of four new orphans or not helping a wounded victim in Jerusalem. As if I could be apathetic when things are so messed up.

That fear of mentioning Palestinian suffering, that readers might think that it’s justifying the murders, which simply cannot be justified, even if we understand where they are coming from. (And it’s pretty stupid, I must say, all that talk of “justification.” As if some Palestinian guy, who has been moderate and quiet while living his whole life lived under a foreign, violent and discriminatory regime, is waiting for some leftist from the occupying population to “justify” his actions.)

So I find myself not wanting to talk about Jewish suffering, because it serves the right wing, and I don’t want to talk about Palestinian suffering, because then I would be ignoring Jewish suffering (or justifying the violence), and I don’t want to say that everyone is just horrible, because on a human level there is room for comparisons, on a political level there are differences between the occupier and the occupied, between a country that murders thousands with advanced weapons as part of its attempts to preserve its control and Jewish supremacy, and between individuals or organizations that murder as part of a struggle for independence. And now I’ll shut up.

Silence as acquiescence

But at the end of the day it all comes back to the fact that we are in danger of forgetting what we’re fighting for, and what is the nature of that political struggle. The struggle against the occupation — which is first and foremost a struggle against displacement and disenfranchisement, against racism, against a military regime, against separate legal systems based on ethnicity or nationality, against war crimes committed by our country — it is a struggle for our future. Yes, it’s primarily a struggle in support of the Palestinians, the primary victims of this regime, but not entirely. It is a struggle for the viability of a better future, a sustainable peace, for everyone who lives in this land.

That is something we need not apologize for. This is where we need to be absolutely clear. Because now, more than any time in the past, it is clear that the right wing has no other solution. The Right has been in power, nearly continuously, for almost 40 years. Benjamin Netanyahu is prime minister for the fourth time, the third continuous term. The government is a right-wing government.

And with all of the right wing’s harsh criticisms, from within and outside of the government, they really don’t have a single clue what to do. They know that they can’t ignore the Palestinians. They know that they’re not planning on giving the Palestinians either a state or equal rights. And they know (even if they deny it) that the Palestinians won’t stop resisting — whether through non-violent means or through violent attacks — regardless of how high the oppression is turned up. At most they can suffocate the resistance for a while, but never win. And that is the only vision, a depressing and frightening vision, that the Right has to offer us.

By contrast to that vision lies the Left’s solution, which requires true concessions on all the benefits Jews enjoy from the occupation (exclusive control of resources: the economy, land, politics, immigration, the monopoly on power, etc.). But the latter is the only long-term solution. It will not be easy, and it demands that we, the Jews, let go of the idea that our fate in this land can be entrusted only to ourselves. Because it’s not. It requires us to work toward building one state or two states on the basis of peace, equality and democracy. Only neighbors who feel equal to each other can truly live side by side without fear.

We have to remember that there is a way of getting there. That there are Palestinian activists who have been waging an unarmed struggle against the occupation for years with protests, marches, creative direct actions, boycotts, diplomatic and legal tools, and an endless list of methods that do not include murdering civilians. And our job is to join them in the struggle to build a new, joint path — together.

It’s been a very long time already since there was a large protest in Israel that called for an end to the occupation. There will be one such demonstration this Friday in Tel Aviv, and as there are every week, there will be joint struggle demonstrations across the West Bank. Let’s go together. Let’s remember that silence speaks volumes, that silence is acquiescence and capitulation. Let’s not be silent any longer.

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

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WATCH: Israeli undercover agents shoot unarmed youth at point blank range http://972mag.com/watch-israeli-undercover-agents-shoot-unarmed-boy-at-point-blank-range/112474/ http://972mag.com/watch-israeli-undercover-agents-shoot-unarmed-boy-at-point-blank-range/112474/#comments Wed, 07 Oct 2015 22:31:57 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=112474 (Updated below with a response from the Israeli military spokesperson’s office.)

A video released Wednesday onto several social media accounts and published by several news outlets shows Israeli plainclothes undercover officers apparently shooting an unarmed Palestinian youth in the leg at point blank range, while other undercover officers hold him down.

The shooting and beating took place during clashes in between Ramallah and the Beit El settlement, which abuts the de facto Palestinian capital and hosts the army’s regional headquarters base.

Several videos of the same event emerged on Wednesday, showing the Israeli plainclothes troops wearing keffiyehs wrapped around their faces, infiltrating the West Bank demonstration and then either shooting toward demonstrators at close range with handguns, or assaulting them and dragging them away to military vehicles.

Israeli army medics carry away a young Palestinian stone thrower who was shot in the leg by undercover Israeli troops on the outskirts of Ramallah. A tourniquet can be seen on his leg where he was shot, October 7, 2015. (Muhannad Saleem/Activestills.org)

Israeli army medics carry away a young Palestinian stone thrower who was shot in the leg by undercover Israeli troops on the outskirts of Ramallah. A tourniquet can be seen on his leg where he was shot, October 7, 2015. (Muhannad Saleem/Activestills.org)

Reuters bureau chief Luke Baker confirmed via a tweet that he had viewed footage of Israeli undercover officers throwing stones at soldiers and encouraging the Palestinian youth around them to do the same.


AFP filmed a clip of the incident shown above from a different angle. (AFP footage cannot be embedded but you can watch the clip on YouTube, the shooting takes place at at around the 0:36 second mark.) This clip looks entirely unedited (the first version zooms in to show the gun and shot) and appears to corroborate the first video.

In 2012 Haaretz newspaper reported (Hebrew link) that the commanding officer of an undercover unit confirmed it was their practice to have plainclothes agents infiltrate Palestinian demonstrations and throw stones in the direction of soldiers while encouraging the Palestinian youth to follow suit, and then arrest them for throwing stones.

Roughly 100 Palestinians were wounded across the West Bank on Wednesday, according to Palestinian news agency Ma’an, including 10 wounded by live ammunition and 89 by rubber-coated steel bullets.

Clashes have taken place on a daily basis in East Jerusalem and across the West Bank for nearly a week following tensions surrounding Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and an increasingly frequent and ongoing series of attacks by Palestinian individuals against Israeli civilians, leaving four Israelis dead. There were five such attacks on Wednesday, leaving a number of Israelis wounded.

Protests have spread from East Jerusalem and the West Bank to Palestinian-majority and mixed Jewish-Arab cities inside Israel proper in recent days, with stone throwing and heavy handed and often violent responses from police.

In a separate incident caught on video by CCTV, Israeli police chased an unarmed boy into a grocery store in East Jerusalem, wrecking part of the store and assaulting the owner in the process. The final frames of the clip show the owner limping from his injuries just after the Israeli security forces leave his store, dragging the boy they were chasing.


#القدس | قبل قليل – جنود الإحتلال إقتحموا دكان “العمدة” في حي الثوري جنوب المسجد #الأقصى، واعتدوا على كل المتواجدين في المحل شباب وأطفال.

Posted by Sawt El Ghad on Wednesday, October 7, 2015


Update (October 8, 5 p.m.):

The Israeli army spokesperson’s office sent the following response to our request that it explain the soldiers’ actions:

In events of this type, in which soldiers operate in life threatening situations and in which a Palestinian mob is inflamed, special methods of operation are used. In this incident a violent confrontation broke out between the undercover troops and the central inciter, during which a bullet was fired into his leg. The [Israeli army] force was attacked with a barrage of stones that endangered it and was therefore forced to evacuate the area as quickly as possible. It was an accurate shot that disabled the central suspect who fought back even after the soldiers attempted to arrest him. The suspect was lightly wounded and was treated by soldiers.

The spokesperson did not respond to our inquiry regarding whether or not the soldiers shown in the video would face criminal charges.

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Palestinian citizens will always be enemies in a Jewish state http://972mag.com/palestinian-citizens-will-always-be-enemies-in-jewish-state/112450/ http://972mag.com/palestinian-citizens-will-always-be-enemies-in-jewish-state/112450/#comments Wed, 07 Oct 2015 16:24:31 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=112450 The Or Commission’s report on the October 2000 events was a symbolic indictment of Israel’s ‘enemy doctrine’ toward its Palestinian citizens. But Israel has not absorbed the lessons of the report, because demands for equality remain anathema to the states raison d’être.

Joint List head Ayman Odeh speaks at the List's Arabic launch event, Nazareth. (Photo courtesy of the Joint List)

Joint List head Ayman Odeh speaks at the List’s Arabic launch event, Nazareth. (Photo courtesy of the Joint List)

Twelve years ago, in its report on the events of October 2000, the Or Commission of Inquiry wrote a statement that was unprecedented in the history of Israel’s Palestinian minority. After extensively criticizing the police’s violent conduct, the commission concluded: “The police must instill among its officers the understanding that the Arab community as a whole is not their enemy, and that it should not be treated as an enemy.”


Though perhaps unintended, the commission’s statement amounted to a symbolic indictment of Israel’s longstanding “enemy doctrine” toward its Palestinian citizens. For the first time, an official Israeli body was acknowledging the systemic hostility behind the state’s policies since 1948, and determined that those attitudes had to change in order to resolve the roots of the people’s grievances.

Twelve years later, however, it is clear that Israel has not absorbed any lessons from the report. Far from revising its enemy doctrine, the state has intensified it. Government ministers in charge of law enforcement spew out racist speech to delegitimize the rights of Palestinian citizens. The Shin Bet routinely monitors and harasses Palestinian activists for attending demonstrations or writing social media posts against Israeli policies. Now police officers have permission to open fire on Palestinians who throw stones in Israel just as they do against Palestinians in the occupied territories.

Israeli Border Police officers aim assault rifles toward Arab demonstrators in northern Israel during October 2000. (Courtesy of Adalah)

Israeli Border Police officers aim assault rifles toward Arab demonstrators in northern Israel during October 2000. (Courtesy of Adalah)

These continuing trends reveal how the idea of the internal enemy remains a powerful force for Israeli policy. It rallies many among the Jewish public behind the government and marginalizes criticism of their methods, bonding the state and society with assumptions of the dangers posed by the “other” Israeli citizens. No one questions the police’s violent suppression of anti-war protests, just as no one blinks when Palestinians like Kheir Hamdan are unjustifiably shot by the police. Netanyahu did not even have to give details last month to justify the use of live gunfire against Arabs in the Naqab; all he had to do was say there were people throwing stones in the South, and the public understood him.

The enemy doctrine is not only intrinsic in Israel’s security apparatus, but permeates all aspects of social and political life. Palestinian citizens today find themselves targeted by laws that deny their right to live where they wish, that intimidate them from speaking about their grandparents’ losses in the 1948 war, and that ban them from marrying Palestinians from the occupied territories. Arab political parties wanting seats in the Knesset are faced with disqualification motions and vilifying campaigns against their platforms and representatives. Contrary to claims of a democratic spirit, Israel’s laws and policies show that it fears everything about its minority: their presence, their narrative, their votes, and even their children.

There is a flip side in that many, if not most, Palestinian citizens view the state with the same enemy mentality as the state shows to them. But the hostility of a discriminated population toward an oppressive state is not the same as an oppressive state’s hostility toward a discriminated population. It is not just the fact that Israel is a colonial state that brought itself upon a native society, but that it is a state that makes ethno-racial identity the building block of its regime – and expands it in even more severe forms through its military occupation. This system, which the Jewish majority sees as justified in order to protect the “Jewish state,” guarantees nothing for Palestinians except their permanent inequality.

Palestinian citizens of Israel march to commemorate the killing of 13 protesters by Israeli police in October 2000, Sakhnin, October 1, 2015. (Omar Sameer/Activestills.org)

Palestinian citizens of Israel march to commemorate the killing of 13 protesters by Israeli police in October 2000, Sakhnin, October 1, 2015. (Omar Sameer/Activestills.org)

For Israel, the solution to ending its enemy doctrine is for Palestinians in the state to accept the hierarchy of their citizenship. But for Palestinians this is unacceptable. Their citizenship is not supposed to be a malleable tool to be reshaped as the Jewish majority sees fit; it should be a guarantor of their rights to the land, which belongs to them just as much as it belongs to Jews.

The Palestinian citizens’ struggle for equality is therefore anathema to Israel’s raison d’être, and in turn makes them a permanent enemy to be watched and controlled. If that entails a continued struggle over the state’s identity and character, then the very same factors that drove the October 2000 protests remain no different in 2015. Palestinian citizens only hope that others will realize it is better to be an enemy of the racial inequality espoused by the state, than to be a proponent for it.

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A different type of terrorism http://972mag.com/a-different-type-of-terrorism/112451/ http://972mag.com/a-different-type-of-terrorism/112451/#comments Wed, 07 Oct 2015 16:10:46 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=112451 We’ve been trained to think that if there’s no blood then it’s not worth talking about, that it’s not ‘terrorism.’ But terror is also ridiculing the corpse of a religious woman, it is regular settler attacks against Palestinian villages, and it being attacked just for speaking Arabic.

Hadeel al-Hashlamon stands frozen at the ‘Shoter’ checkpoint as soldiers train their weapons on her in downtown Hebron. (Photo courtesy of Youth Against Settlements)

Hadeel al-Hashlamon stands frozen at the ‘Shoter’ checkpoint as soldiers train their weapons on her in downtown Hebron. (Photo courtesy of Youth Against Settlements)

As we are inundated by reports of deaths across the West Bank, Jerusalem and Hebron, I’ve starting compiling my own list of stories that will never make it to the headlines in the Israeli media — incidents in which not enough blood was spilled. The ISIS effect, according to which a story is only worth reporting once blood has been let, has officially reached the Israeli landscape.

Take for example the distribution of photos of Hadeel al-Hashlamon by right-wing Israeli activists. The corpse of a 19-year-old religious Palestinian woman has become the subject of ridicule and cruelty online. The young woman who insisted on modestly covering her body is stripped naked for all to see. Someone writes: “With such a hair body, it’s good thing she was murdered,” “I suggest all terrorists wear normal underwear before an attack because we photograph everything.”

The comment that really hurt me, as a woman, came from a women’s rights activist who tried to stop the flock of men picking at Hadeel’s dead body: “Jewish teenage women can also read your comments about the young woman’s hairy body. Think about what this does to their self-image!”

I must ask: aren’t these the same men who raped a young woman in a parking lot or took advantage of women on the Internet? Aren’t these the same strong, chauvinistic, violent Jewish men who filmed a young, drunk woman having sex on top of a bar in Tel Aviv?

When young Jewish women are exposed to men looking at the naked body of a dead woman (Arab or Jewish), it isn’t only their self-image that is affected. They lose their very humanity, their respect as women, and their conscience. Just imagine Palestinians distributing a naked photo of Na’ama Henkin with four Arab men standing above her.

The banality of terror

Screenshot of video showing Israeli settlers hurling burning tires at Palestinians in the West Bank village of Bur’in, October 3, 2015.

Israeli settlers hurling burning tires at Palestinians in the West Bank village of Bur’in, October 3, 2015. (Screenshot: Yesh Din)

The second story comes from a small village near Ramallah, and it is about a woman raising five boys who makes Palestinian embroidery to support herself. She describes how a group of armed settlers lie in the wait for Palestinian vehicles traveling between villages. One cannot do anything to stop them; they are fully armed and are always shooting, simply for the sake of scaring Palestinians.


Yesterday they fired at the woman’s brother-in-law who had been transporting goods, beat him, and fled. No one reports or speaks about it. The Palestinian villages live under a constant threat that a group of armed settlers will enter the village, destroy, pillage, and murder. There is no Palestinian or Israeli police presence, and the army has put most of the villages under closure. There is no redemption. She describes how her children sleep in the same room with her and are afraid of leaving the house.

According to the definitions I am aware of, this is terrorism. There is no other word such acts. Some of the villages have organized local initiatives to protect young Palestinians, including WhatsApp groups, without clashing with the army or the settlers — who have their own open-fire rules. The local initiatives in the villages coordinate with the Palestinian Authority, which brings up questions of who is truly the sovereign on the ground. I assume that it is only a matter of days until we hear about a young Palestinian “terrorist” who tries to stab a settler near the wall in Bil’in or Kafr Na’ama in western Ramallah, and is shot to death, of course.

In a different village, a woman describes another form of terror: cutting down olive trees in the village. Everyone is wary of the upcoming olive harvest season, with clashes likely to be crueler than ever. Palestinians are worried about the loss of their livelihood. No one is speaking about their livelihood. I am reminded of the thousands of Palestinians who leave home at 2 a.m. in order to search for work anywhere they can. They are humiliated, exhausted, and carry the burden of the occupation on their shoulders, not to mention the even greater responsibility of putting bread on the table.

What will happen in this right-wing government’s war to all the poor families who make their living from the land or as day laborers? Who will pay the price for the occupation this time?

Socks and chocolate

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) visits the West Bank with Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon (L) and IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizencot (center-right), October 6, 2015. (GPO/Amos Ben-Gershon)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) visits the West Bank with Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon (L) and IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizencot (center-right), October 6, 2015. (GPO/Amos Ben-Gershon)

And from there to another front in the current situation, Jerusalem. The social networks are being flooded with photos and images from both the Israeli and Palestinian sides, of clashes everywhere and and leadership nowhere. Netanyahu’s right-wing government is bloodthirsty, and the Abbas government is on its death bed, asking for international protection for holy sites and Palestinian lives.

After a few dozen people are killed Netanyahu and Abbas will begin courting each other once again, but too late of course. The Israeli voices that I hear on the street and read on social networks bring on a sense of déjà vu from last summer: “Let the IDF win”; “The nation of Israel will defeat our enemies”: “Let the IDF slaughter cut them down.”

Last summer there was a donation drive to give clean socks to Israeli soldiers fighting in Gaza. I just got an invitation on Facebook to donate socks to police protecting Jerusalem. It turns out that these heroes going god’s work have a shortage of chocolate bars and socks. Whoever organized the donation drive is planning an intense winter, so we better envelop the cops with love and warmth, and socks! It’s time, once again, for women to step into their traditional role of providing comfort and compassion in times of war.

What is there left to say? The word “pathetic” feels most appropriate in the current situation. Why does the Jewish nation need war in order to feel camaraderie? Why must there be a gentile enemy in order to feel that “we’re being persecuted together?”

An entire army of psychologists must be raised for the “let sanity reign” campaign. When will you all wake up and choose leaders who don’t believe you can subsist on persecution, fear and victimhood alone, and all in the name of the bible and god, who, by the way, is also sick and tired of this?

‘I’m an Arab, don’t you see?’

And finally, something personal and difficult. My son and some of his friends went to treat themselves to a celebratory meal at a restaurant in central Israel this week. Four young boys, aged 18-22, speaking Arabic around a table. The waiters and cooks were also Arab, of course. Five larger, slightly older Jewish men walked into the restaurant, noticed their “Arabness” and began teasing my son and his friends. When they were treated to the cold shoulder, they went straight to punches. Every one of the youngsters was hit, hard, and my son understood for the first time what it feels like to have a chair thrown at his head.

Beaten and humiliated, they left and went to a medical clinic. Thank god that it ended only with a few stitches on the forehead and a few bruises here and there. After we processed the bad news and I swallowed the bitter pill of my son’s trampled dignity, I tried to convince him to file a complaint with the police. “Surely everything was caught on camera and there are witnesses,” I told him. He responded: “Mom, when will you understand where it is that you live? Who’s going to nab them and put them on trial? I’m an Arab, get it?”

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

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Using deadly force — as a first resort http://972mag.com/using-deadly-force-against-palestinians-as-a-first-resort/112416/ http://972mag.com/using-deadly-force-against-palestinians-as-a-first-resort/112416/#comments Tue, 06 Oct 2015 18:46:24 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=112416 The ‘mistaken’ killing of a 13-year-old boy by the Israeli army is a reminder that all too often, Israeli security forces use deadly force against Palestinians as a first resort.

Israeli police are seen during clashes in Sh'uafat neighbourhood in Jerusalem October 5, 2015. Violence in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Jerusalem has intensified in the past few weeks. (photo: Faiz Abu Rmeleh/Activestills.org)

Israeli police are seen during clashes in Sh’uafat neighbourhood in Jerusalem October 5, 2015. Violence in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Jerusalem has intensified in the past few weeks. (photo: Faiz Abu Rmeleh/Activestills.org)

The Israeli army sharpshooter not only shot the wrong person, he or she also shot the wrong person in the wrong part of the body — his chest instead of his leg. That is the official explanation the Israeli army gave on Tuesday for mistakenly killing 13-year-old Abed al-Rahman Abdallah a day earlier during clashes in the Aida refugee camp near Bethlehem.


The use of .22 sharpshooter rifles in Aida camp is not a new occurrence, and Abdallah was not the first 13 year old to have been shot there in recent years — mistakenly or deliberately.

The “mistaken” shooting by the sharpshooter having an off day comes as Israeli authorities are publicly stating they will start using .22 rifles and sharpshooters within its borders, and not only in the West Bank as has been the case for the better part of 15 years.

Fifteen years ago, Israeli police killed 13 unarmed Arab protesters in northern Israel, many by using sharpshooters, in what came to be known as the events of October 2000. Israeli police had since stopped using live ammunition against protests inside the Green Line.

In the West Bank as well, Israeli military forces greatly restricted the use of .22 Ruger rifles in 2001 after an internal army report stated that the smaller caliber bullets must be used according to the same rules of engagement as all other types of live ammunition. They could not, as had previously been the case, be used as a form of crowd control. As a result of the internal report, use of the .22 Ruger rifles was suspended until 2008.

In response to a spate of stone-throwing incidents in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, Benjamin Netanyahu set into motion a process resulting in Israeli police preparing to use live ammunition — .22 Rugers —against stone throwers. The new regulations were expected to be implemented in East Jerusalem and in the Negev desert against Bedouin citizens of Israel.

Arab stone throwers, that is. In a number of Israeli settler attacks against Palestinian vehicles and farmers in recent days, often times in full sight of Israeli security forces, there have been no reports of soldiers or police using deadly force to stop them.

But back to 13-year-old Abed al-Rahman Abdallah. If a military sharpshooter hit the wrong person, and shot him in the wrong part of the body, there are some important lessons to be drawn. Firstly, that using deadly force kills people — sometimes the wrong people, like 13-year-old Abed. Secondly, it’s often not used as a last resort.

A disturbing video has been circulating the Israeli and Palestinian social networks in recent days showing Israeli police shooting dead a Palestinian man who police say had just stabbed a Jewish teenager in Jerusalem. In the video, which does not show the stabbing, the Palestinian man appears to be running away with no weapon in his hands and not close enough to anybody to pose an immediate threat to anybody’s life.

WATCH: Israeli police shoot dead Fadi Samir Alloun

Could he have been arrested without shooting? Could officers have shot him in the legs instead of the chest? Could police have used less-lethal means to subdue him, like a taser or pepper spray? The consensus on Palestinian social networks was that the Fadi Samir Alloun, himself a teenager, was executed in cold blood. And even a skeptic would ask himself, regardless of whether deadly force may or may not have ultimately been necessary, whether non-lethal means of stopping Alloun should have been tried before resorting to deadly force.

All too often we see cases where Israeli security forces use deadly force against Palestinians — on both sides of the Green Line — not as a last resort, but as a first resort. In fact, since Saturday nearly 50 Palestinian demonstrators have been shot with live ammunition. That is a huge problem, both because it seems to be killing only Arabs and not Jews, but also because police make mistakes. When that mistake involves a bullet to the heart, there is no fixing it.

B’Tselem, which has been one of the most vocal opponents of the use of .22 ammunition against demonstrators and stone throwers, put out a statement Tuesday regarding the killing of 13-year-old Abed:

“If the sniper’s version of yesterday’s events is indeed correct, namely – that despite being armed with a weapon with telescopic sights and firing in broad daylight, he missed the mark and inadvertently hit a 13-year-old boy, the incidents merely serves to underscore even further the danger this weapon poses,” the human rights organization wrote.

“The indisputable facts are that we are dealing with a lethal weapon, which the Israeli authorities falsely present as a reasonable tool to employ in dealing with demonstrations,” B’Tselem’s statement continued.

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They weren’t born to be martyrs, they were born to live http://972mag.com/they-werent-born-to-be-martyrs-they-were-born-to-live/112407/ http://972mag.com/they-werent-born-to-be-martyrs-they-were-born-to-live/112407/#comments Tue, 06 Oct 2015 17:22:11 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=112407 Fifteen years after Israeli police murdered 13 unarmed Palestinian citizens of Israel, the sister of one of those young men asks whether the dominant national symbolism of martyrdom must trump the humanitarian aims and face of Palestinian liberation.

By Siwar Hasan-Aslih

An Arab youth lies bloodied on the ground after being shot by Israeli Border Police. (photo courtesy of Adalah)

An Arab youth lies bloodied on the ground after being shot by Israeli Border Police. (photo courtesy of Adalah)

If you ask Palestinians who lived through the the events of October 2000 what exactly happened and why, you would probably hear a range of answers reflecting a number of worldviews. Some might point to the martyrdom of Muhammad al Dura, others to Ariel Sharon’s violation of the sanctity of Al-Aqsa Mosque.


The first reflects a human — or humanitarian — perspective while the other points to religious and spiritual factors. Whatever the reason, there is no doubt that the events of October 2000 carried diverse messages for Palestinian society and came in varied shapes, whether in the goals of the Palestinian resistance, or the symbolism of the struggle.

Sharon’s visit to Al-Aqsa Mosque — surrounded by hundreds of Israeli police officers — at the end of September 2000 national rage on the Palestinians street from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank, and also reached Palestinians inside Israel. That rage, of course, was rooted in the occupation, racial discrimination and the failure of Oslo peace process. Despite all those other factors, however, it was the call to protect holy sites that pushed the mass demonstrations to start.

As a result, it was named the “Jerusalem Ignition” and later assigned religious character. But it was not only religious, Al-Aqsa and Al-Quds (Jerusalem) also reflect symbols in the discourse of Palestinian resistance.

Palestinians, like most societies, use symbols to help one understand one’s meaning in relation to the world and the one’s attachment to his or her culture. Symbols also have functional roles. They are tools of communication and help create collective identity, enabling the formation of society.

The Palestinian national experience has many symbols that are drawn from our reality of occupation, symbols that enable Palestinians to express their feelings and values of resistance. One of the most dominant symbols of October 2000 was the martyr. In the Palestinian context, a martyr refers to somebody who dies or sacrifices his life for the cause of liberty and justice for the Palestinian people, including both those who are murdered by the occupation and those who die fighting it.

The societal rituals and mythology surrounding martyrdom create a certain psychological atmosphere. But how does that affect the way Palestinian discourse treats more humanitarian symbols? Symbols of life?

The Palestinian national discourse is greatly influenced by our experience of death, but also by our resilience and survival. The result is that in our internal, national discourse, the tragic nature of reality often times trumps our humanitarian face. In our march for liberation we have created a discourse whose aims are measured in self sacrifice. The symbols of resistance and freedom are then used to call for more sacrifices of martyrs while eliminating the true, human, cultural and mythological face of martyrdom.

Martyrs are not heroes because they died, but rather because their humanity is manifested in their dreams, their connection to the land, their resilience in holding on to life in the face of oppression and occupation. The martyrs were not born to take part in a project of martyrdom, they were born to take part in the project called life. They sanctify life by sacrificing themselves for it.

Today, 15 years after the events of October 2000, we still discuss our martyrs in numbers and not in their human message for life. We commemorate them and yet we still imbue the hearts and minds of our youth with the ideas the sacrificing oneself and heroic descriptions of martyrdom.

Nobody exemplifies that idea more than the martyrs of October 2000, when Israeli police murdered 13 unarmed Arab protesters in northern Israel. How many Palestinian youths know the human face, the actual life of Emad Ghnaym, who was killed at a demonstration in his hometown of Sakhnin. How many people are made aware of the kindness for which he was known to his family and friends, or that he was deeply invested in developing sports in his hometown?

How many Palestinian youths are taught about how Rami Ghara, of Jat, also murdered by police in October 2000, was “kind and delicate, never harming a person or an animal,” as his mother described him? How many of our youths are taught that Rami, the martyr, never dreamt that violence would determine his destiny and end his short life?

It is important to rethink these symbols and the way they are used in Palestinian discourse because they have become so significant in our collective consciousness and the meaning of our resistance. For the sake of our own human liberation, we must bring back the humanitarian messages that are absent from our speeches and discourse, and replant the values and the meaning of homeland and humanity.

Siwar Hasan-Aslih is a doctorate student of social psychology at University of Groningen, and is currently working in the research lab for psychology of intergroup conflict at the IDC in Herzliya. She is the sister of Asel, one of the 13 Palestinians killed in October 2000.

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