+972 Magazine » All Posts http://972mag.com Independent commentary and news from Israel & Palestine Thu, 26 Nov 2015 16:03:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8 Democracy, the High Court and punitive home demolitions http://972mag.com/democracy-the-high-court-and-punitive-home-demolitions/114223/ http://972mag.com/democracy-the-high-court-and-punitive-home-demolitions/114223/#comments Thu, 26 Nov 2015 16:02:50 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=114223 Israeli politicians endlessly chastise the Supreme Court for doubting the use of punitive home demolitions. So what do the politicians do? Blame the judges for defending terrorists.

By Frances Raday

Palestinians from the Abu Jaber family sit on the ruins of their home that was demolished by Israeli authorities, East Jerusalem, October 6, 2015. The house belonged to the family of Ghassan Abu Jaber, who killed four worshippers in an attack on a synagogue last year. (photo: Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Palestinians from the Abu Jaber family sit on the ruins of their home that was demolished by Israeli authorities, East Jerusalem, October 6, 2015. The house belonged to the family of Ghassan Abu Jaber, who killed four worshippers in an attack on a synagogue last year. (photo: Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

The spate of stabbing and vehicular attacks by Palestinian youths over the past couple of months has brought along with it a spate of punitive home demolitions targeting the attackers’ family members. Both political leaders and Israeli Supreme Court justices have had something to say about the practice. The justices have expressed some doubt about the practice, and in some cases even issued injunctions delaying the demolitions. In response, politicians have blamed the judges for defending terrorists.


The trail of “politicians’ blaming” and “judges’ claims” regarding home demolitions merits an English style lampoon and quiz.

The politicians and ministers in our government cry out: we must unite against our judges for delaying home demolitions of terrorists — they are siding with the enemy. It’s not a matter of human rights, they say, these teenagers’ parents must be punished for their sons’ or daughters’ offenses, here and now. Forcing the state to wait until it can present evidence to the court proves that the judges are completely detached from reality. The politicians seem to wish the judges would behave like the Red Queen, and order “off with their heads,” instead of “only by due process will we remove the roof from over their heads.”

Quiz 1: If this is not a matter of human rights, as Israeli politicians claim, then what is? Is the demolition of a home not a criminal penalty? As such, does it not require a fair trial of the accused and conviction of all who are to be punished, including each parent and all siblings? Are Arab parents more responsible for the murderous misbehavior of their offspring than Jewish parents? Has anyone considered punishing Yigal Amir‘s mother or Baruch Goldstein’s parents as a deterrent for the growing phenomenon of Jewish terrorism? Are our politicians unaware that their very own Defense Ministry concluded that efficacy of house demolitions as a counter-terrorism tool is questionable and hence should not be employed?

Our judges responded timorously: the politicians’ attacks on the judges are in such bad taste, they said. Such attacks pander to the public mood and are “are unworthy of our government.” One wily and wise judge asked: Who delayed the demolitions? Is the High Court really the cause of the delay when half of the disputed demolitions were not carried out even months after the court permitted them? And the champion of the judges, Justice Elyakim Rubinstein, took a stronger stand, saying the court had acted correctly in delaying the demolition until petitions against them were heard; if not, “We would be like Sodom and Gomorrah – destroying first and asking questions after!” He explained: “The court is part of the nation and the state, it is not the United Nations but it fights for the character of the state as a state of law, human rights and human obligations.”

Quiz 2: Are these attacks by our politicians really “unworthy of our government”? Are they not quite reflective of our present government whose ministers manifestly show little respect for human rights and the rule of law?

Quiz 3: What did our dear justice mean when he said the court is “not the United Nations?” In aiming to convince the public that the court is not alien to Israeli society did he not, perhaps inadvertently, pander to the public phobia about the international human rights regime, reinforcing a perception of meddling foreigners, along with isolation and victimization by the United Nations, which those very politicians who attack the court actually nurture? Did the learned judge miss out on that part of Jewish history in which it was the United Nations that gave birth to the State of Israel, which introduced international Holocaust Remembrance Day, which fights human rights violations affecting minorities, women, children, the disabled and the poor globally? Does our Supreme Court justice not fully acknowledge that the court itself is bound by the international human rights regime that prohibits punishment without due process or discrimination on grounds of race, religion or nationality?

We are indeed not cognizant of the UN. And we are worse off for that.

Frances Raday is the President of the Concord Research Center for Integration of International Law in Israel and a Professor of Law at Hebrew University.

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Israeli journalists slam Netanyahu over closure of Arabic media outlets http://972mag.com/israeli-journalists-slam-netanyahu-over-closure-of-arabic-media-outlets/114221/ http://972mag.com/israeli-journalists-slam-netanyahu-over-closure-of-arabic-media-outlets/114221/#comments Thu, 26 Nov 2015 13:26:23 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=114221 The government shut down two Arabic-language outlets last week, leaving nearly 30 journalists jobless. The Union of Israeli Journalists: ‘Shutting down media outlets is nearly unheard of in democratic regimes.’

The Union of Journalists in Israel sent a letter to Prime Minister and Communications Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Thursday, protesting the shutting down of two Arabic-language media outlet last week.


As reported on the media watchdog site The Seventh Eye, police and Shin Bet agents raided and shut down the newsroom of veteran newspaper, Sawt al-Haq wa Al-Hurriya, as well as the news website PLS48, while confiscating computers and other equipment. The raids were conducted due to the fact their publishers belong to a corporation owned by the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement, which was made illegal last week. Approximately 30 journalists lost their job in one fell swoop.

The letter, which was signed by union chairman Yair Tarchitsky and was approved by the secretariat, stated that “The shutting down of media outlets by security forces is a drastic step that is nearly unheard of in democratic regimes, specifically in Israel. We see this move as a direct threat to both freedom of speech and freedom of the press in Israel — two cornerstones of democracy — which must only be carried out in the most extreme cases.”

The letter further quotes the head of the Government Press Office (GPO), Nitzan Chen, who spoke last Monday at a Knesset hearing about his discomfort with the decision to close down the outlets.

According to Chen, the GPO — which is under the auspices of the Prime Minister’s Office and works directly with the Shin Bet intelligence services — actively tracks Sawat al-Haq and PLS48, adding that years ago the two outlets were found to have included inciting messages in their articles (after which journalists from both organizations were denied government-issued press cards). However, the organizations have since changed their ways, paving the way for employees to, once again, obtain press cards.

“In our view, even if a text is published that contains incitement, the proper way to deal with it is to punish the inciters through the criminal justice system, rather than by closing down entire news outlets, firing dozens of journalists who did absolutely nothing wrong, and silencing public discourse,” continued the letter, which was also sent to the public security minister, the interior minister (who is in charge of issuing licenses to newspapers), the head of the GPO, and others.

The letter clarifies that the organization does not call into question the government’s decision to outlaw the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement, but rather the closing down of associated media outlets, an act that harms both journalists and freedom of speech. The letter ends by calling on Netanyahu to clarify the factors that led to the shutting down of the outlets.

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

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Court shuts down left-wing lecture following threats of violence http://972mag.com/court-shuts-down-left-wing-lecture-following-threats-of-violence/114216/ http://972mag.com/court-shuts-down-left-wing-lecture-following-threats-of-violence/114216/#comments Wed, 25 Nov 2015 19:26:29 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=114216 ‘Breaking the Silence’ planned to hold a speaking event at a local pub in Be’er Sheva. The police shut it down after it could not ensure the safety of the participants.

By John Brown*

Yahuda Shaul of Breaking the Silence leading a tour in Hebron (photo: Activestills.org)

Illustrative photo of Yehuda Shaul of Breaking the Silence leading a tour in Hebron. (photo: Activestills.org)

A Be’er Sheva court barred a local pub from hosting an event put on by “Breaking the Silence” following threats by right-wing activists.

The Be’er Sheva Magistrate’s Court issued the order barring the event, which was supposed to take place Tuesday night at the Ashan Hazman pub, following a request by the police, which arrested a resident of the city on suspicion of threatening the pub owner earlier this week.


Breaking the Silence is an Israeli NGO comprised of former combat soldiers who try to expose the Israeli public to the realities of the occupation through discussions of their military service as well as tours to the West Bank.

In court, the police prosecutor argued that “according to our intelligence, extreme rightists called on other right wingers to come to the pub and torpedo the event. Our intelligence included remarks that were grave bordering on dangerous.” The judge accepted the appeal and barred the event from taking place at the pub. According to the judge, “the intelligence shows that there are those who wish to disrupt the gathering… and that they are willing to use violence to do so.”

According to the state representative, the request for a restraining order came too late — only four hours before the event was scheduled to take place — and that they only heard of the event the day before the hearing. This is a strange claim, when considering that the police arrested a right-wing activist suspected of threatening the event organizer two days on Sunday.

The request for a restraining order also came after the organization complied with a police request to compile and hand over a list of attendees. According to Breaking the Silence, the police also requested the owner take responsibility over what happens in the area surrounding the pub during the event, meaning he is responsible for protecting patrons from right-wing violence. The owner refused this request, leading the police to appeal to the court.

It is worth noting that the pub is not a publicly-funded institution, and that the Breaking the Silence event was cancelled because the police were unable to protect attendees.

Breaking the Silence responded to the court’s decision:

Be’er Sheva Police has awarded right-wing terror a prize instead of doing its job and maintaining public order. It’s capitulation to right-wing terror does not happen in a vacuum, this is the spirit of the law that comes from above — from the prime minister, education minister, justice minister and their friends — who constantly incite against social activists and human rights activists. Neither their campaign of hatred and incitement nor will right-wing terror stop us — we will continue to meet today and in the future, with everyone who cares about the future of the state and Israeli society. They will not silence us.

Breaking the Silence eventually held the event in a number of private apartments in Be’er Sheva.

*John Brown is the pseudonym of an Israeli academic and a blogger. This story first appeared in Hebrew on Local Call, where he is a blogger. Read it here.

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Why aren’t Israelis talking about extrajudicial killings? http://972mag.com/why-arent-israelis-talking-about-extrajudicial-killings/114209/ http://972mag.com/why-arent-israelis-talking-about-extrajudicial-killings/114209/#comments Wed, 25 Nov 2015 17:08:59 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=114209 Two Palestinian teenage girls were shot at point-blank range after attempting to stab passersby with scissors. Who said there is no death penalty in Israel?

By Rhona Burns

On Tuesday two Palestinian teenagers left their homes and went out to attack Jewish Israelis in Jerusalem with a pair of scissors.

Unsurprisingly, the girls, 14 and 16 years old, were unsuccessful. After all, they were armed with a pair of scissors. They managed to lightly wound an elderly Palestinian man, and were immediately attacked back by other witnesses, at least two of whom were armed with guns.


When it was all over, one of the girls was shot to death, the other was seriously wounded by gunfire.

Not enough has been said about this incident, not enough has been written, despite the fact that this event included what appears to be a most serious detail. This detail is the fact that the shooting of one of the girls seems to be happening while she is already lying on the ground, after someone had hit her with a chair.

The fact is that these incidents have become commonplace. The ends justify the means. “They are attacking us, they must know that there will be consequences.” And what of Israeli society? What are the consequences of what has been taking place here for the past two months for Israelis? What is the price of blood that seems to flow so cheaply here? What is the price of suffering? Of unnecessary death? What about the right to a fair trial?

Who said there is no death penalty in Israel?

When I see what appears to be a man shooting a teenage girl as she lays on the ground on a main street in Jerusalem from point-blank range, I ask myself whether I am witnessing an attempted murder. Whether I am witnessing an extrajudicial killing, without even the facade of a kangaroo court.

This was the case with the shooting death of Fadi Alloun. This was the case, despite the different circumstances, of the tragic death of Habtom Zerhum.

We must cry out against the images captured by the security cameras at the Mahane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem. Meanwhile, as many of us are crying out, the injustices continue, the violence undermines the fundamentals of democracy and a free society, violence wins out.

Rhona Burns is a critic and author based in Jerusalem. This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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More guns will not make Israelis any safer http://972mag.com/more-guns-will-not-make-israelis-any-safer/114206/ http://972mag.com/more-guns-will-not-make-israelis-any-safer/114206/#comments Wed, 25 Nov 2015 13:54:27 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=114206 The immediate solution to every threat or conflict in Israel is to give more weapons to civilians, which often end up killing innocents ad disproportionately affects women.

By Tanya Rubinstein

Israeli shows a tear gas gun he just bought at a gun shop in Jerusalem on October 15, 2015. Arms shop's owners report a rise in demand for wepons and other self deface gear as violance continues around Jerusalem. (photo: Yotam Ronen)

Israeli shows a tear gas gun he just bought at a gun shop in Jerusalem on October 15, 2015. Arms shop’s owners report a rise in demand for wepons and other self deface gear as violance continues around Jerusalem. (photo: Yotam Ronen)

These days, and actually most of the time, violence in the streets is making headlines on a near-daily basis. The dangers of citizens arming themselves, of the growing militarization of our society, and the way these two intersect to create more violence — especially toward women — can hardly be found in our newspapers.


Israeli society’s sense of security greatly stems from both developing our weapons industry and the massive arming of the IDF. This is our answer to every threat, whether real or imagined. This is a society in which the army plays a significant role in our daily lives: in the education system, on the street, vis-a-vis almost everyone we know. This is a society in which weapons — both the private and public sphere — are completely normal. Specifically in the public sphere, weapons are viewed as something that protects us.

A significant portion of the Israeli economy is based on its security industry, whether development or importing and exporting arms and security technology. The government actively supports these industries, promoting a feeling that they are necessary in order to keep us safe.

The last few months have not only seen the streamlining of the process of procuring permits for firearms, but the active encouragement of civilians to arm themselves and to use their weapons as a response to the feeling of helplessness on the streets.

But is the proliferation of weapons truly the right answer to violence?

Israelis attend a shooting practice in a gun shop in Jerusalem on October 15, 2015. Arms shop's owners report a rise in demand for weapons and other self defence gear as violence continues around Jerusalem. (Activestills.org)

Israelis attend a shooting practice in a gun shop in Jerusalem on October 15, 2015. Arms shop’s owners report a rise in demand for weapons and other self defence gear as violence continues around Jerusalem. (Activestills.org)

The fact is that there are many people who feel threatened by the sight of a weapon. Guns are a threat even for the average person on the street: only recently have we witnessed a number of cases in which security forces and civilians have used their weapons disproportionately, not to mention instances in which innocents have been accidentally wounded or killed in shooting incidents.

Violence, of course, is not solely relegated to the public sphere. A large part of violence against women takes place at home. The “Gun Free Kitchen Tables” has successfully forced the authorities to enforce instructions by the Defense Ministry published in 2013, which order security companies to collect guns handed out to their employees at the end of the day. The orders came in the wake of many cases of domestic murders using guns belonging to security guards. From the moment these orders went into effect, not a single woman or family member was murdered by security guards.

But this decision was annulled by then-Minister of Public Security Yitzhak Aharonovitch in November 2014, allowing security guards to carry weapons outside their places of work. Aharonovitch explained his decision as stemming from the “need to strengthen the feeling of security among the population,” following a wave of terror attacks.

The ease with which civilians can obtain gun licenses — as well as the panic and feeling of danger in the streets — leaves us vulnerable to physical harm. We must openly oppose a culture in which weapons are the solution to every danger or conflict, against a culture of violence and arming, against a culture in which women suffer from violence that grows more extreme as the tension in the streets grows — a culture that inevitably permeates the home.

This militaristic worldview, which relies on more murderous weapons in the streets and our homes, must be replaced with a worldview that protects the life of women and the population at large. A worldview that strives to reduce the violence in our lives.

Tanya Rubinstein is the head of the “Hamushim” project, as part of the Coalition of Women for Peace. This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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Don’t equate Paris attacks with those in Tel Aviv http://972mag.com/dont-equate-paris-attacks-with-those-in-tel-aviv/114199/ http://972mag.com/dont-equate-paris-attacks-with-those-in-tel-aviv/114199/#comments Tue, 24 Nov 2015 19:04:31 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=114199 Suggestions that terrorism in Paris springs from the same well as terrorism in Israel are misleading and dangerous. Erasing complexity may be a comfort in difficult days like these, but conflating the varying causes of violence won’t help us end it.

Israelis attend a solidarity vigil for the victims of the terror attacks in Paris, Rabin Square, Tel Aviv, November 14, 2015. (Yotam Ronen/Activestill.org)

Israelis attend a solidarity vigil for the victims of the terror attacks in Paris, Rabin Square, Tel Aviv, November 14, 2015. (Yotam Ronen/Activestill.org)

There are troubled currents flowing from unlikely sources these days. Terror attacks have continued to mar Iraq, Lebanon, Nigeria, Yemen, Mali and others over the past two weeks, but the global chatter surrounding such events increased disproportionately with the attacks in France. Suddenly, two of Europe’s major capitals – Paris and Brussels – started receiving the kind of attention usually reserved for genuine conflict zones.


As someone who was born in Brussels to a French mother and who now lives in Israel-Palestine, it has been a particularly complex fortnight. For my country of residence has, too, been witnessing a spike in violence – albeit of a very different nature to that which has again turned up at Europe’s door.

So it has been with anguish that I have followed the current events and with troubled curiosity that I have watched commentators try to draw connections between the tensions in my countries of birth, residence and heritage. Under the guise of attempting to arrange the current wave of global violence into some kind of cohesive narrative, and with the debate on terrorism at saturation point, many observers of the Israel-Palestine conflict have seized on the opportunity to situate the bloodshed here as springing from the vaguely-defined, amorphous phenomenon of “global jihad” or “militant Islam.”

This line of reasoning posits Islamic State, Hamas and lone-wolf attackers on the streets of Israel-Palestine within the same nexus of expansionist religious fanaticism and has been adopted enthusiastically in Israel, from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu downward.

A prominent example of this unfortunate trend occurred last Thursday, when five people were killed in Tel Aviv and the West Bank in two separate attacks perpetrated by Palestinians. The killings took place exactly a week after the Paris attacks and marked the latest and, for Israelis, bloodiest day in a six-week stretch of heightened violence on both sides of the Green Line.

Palestinians take part in a solidarity vigil following the terror attacks in Beirut and Paris that killed 43 and 130 respectively, Bethlehem, West Bank, 14 November, 2015. (Mustafa Bader/Activestills)

Palestinians take part in a solidarity vigil following the terror attacks in Beirut and Paris that killed 43 and 130 respectively, Bethlehem, West Bank, 14 November, 2015. (Mustafa Bader/Activestills)

As is customary, people took to social media to voice their reactions, with countless Israelis and Jews in the diaspora – politicians and the general public alike – positioning the terror attack in Tel Aviv within the same framework as those in France. Ignoring the national-political dimensions of the violence in Israel-Palestine, many simply attributed the killings to Islamist extremism.

Absent from these assertions was any suggestion that the unique contours of the situation here – i.e. occupation, acute oppression and dispossession of Palestinians and a uniformly brutalized society – may be fertile ground for political violence. This attitude is perfectly embodied in the statements Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely made on Sunday, in which she claimed that “the settlement enterprise is the front line in the fight against global jihad.”

Domestically this approach is worrying, because it whitewashes the occupation and seeks to obviate the need for Israelis – and particularly the Israeli government – to look inwards. Without condoning or justifying the violence, there is nonetheless an urgent need for Israel to come to terms with the role that successive governments have played in cultivating the conditions for unrest.

But the implications of reassigning the roots of Israel-Palestine’s problems reach beyond our own borders. Firstly, it contributes to the broad trend of stigmatizing Muslims and treating Islam as inherently problematic, instead of trying to understand the exogenous causes of radicalization.

Secondly, it ignores the impact of the West’s frequently ruinous military adventurism in the Middle East and the fundamental role this has played in giving rise to violent groups with international designs. Islamic State, the latest and most gratuitously perverse of the lot, arose in large part due to a vacuum created by geopolitical developments that have little to do with Israel and Palestine.

Bunching terror attacks on the streets of Israel-Palestine with those in Europe also glosses over socio-political dynamics specific to Belgium and France, whose respective issues resemble each other far more closely.

Belgium, in spite of its reputation as a weekend-break haven, is a deeply divided country with a police force that seems to harbor a well-embedded tendency to overlook criminal activity going on under its nose. The country has long been a home for shady arms deals. A sustained period of terror attacks against civilians by a neo-Nazi gang and systematic police failings in the case of a serial child abductor and murderer were issues that marred Belgium when I was living there in the mid-1980s and again in the early 1990s. Additionally, Belgium’s dysfunctionality as a state has pushed much of its immigrant populace to the margins.

A woman lays flowers at an impromptu memorial a day after the Paris terror attacks, Le Petit Cambodge / Carillon, November 14, 2015. (Maya-Anaïs Yataghène/CC)

A woman lays flowers at an impromptu memorial a day after the Paris terror attacks, Le Petit Cambodge / Carillon, November 14, 2015. (Maya-Anaïs Yataghène/CC)

France, meanwhile, has been threatening to explode for more than a decade. The insistence on placing “Frenchness” above all else, and consequently failing to adequately integrate its immigrant populations – particularly those from its former colonies – has fostered resentment, crime and deep societal divisions. As in Belgium, the marginalization of the country’s Muslim communities has made their youngsters soft targets for radicalization.

The context in which attacks in Israel-Palestine take place, then, is wildly different from that in France, and any attempt to cast them as springing from the same well is facile, disingenuous and deeply misleading. It is also callous to try and appropriate the suffering of anyone affected by violence – in any measure – in order to gain political capital or prove a point. It is difficult to ignore the backhanded overtones in the social media memes announcing that Paris’s 13/11 is Israel’s 24/7.

And yet the impulse to conflate the causes behind these attacks is, on a human level, understandable. While it sows fear to inflate the perceived threat of “global jihad” by attributing every terror attack everywhere to its malign influence, it is nonetheless oddly comforting to paint using broad brushstrokes. Doing so erases complexity, and complexity is the last thing anyone wants to deal with when they are frightened. It raises more questions, when all we want is answers.

But we should be striving to maintain complexity. There are no straightforward answers at a time like this, and resorting to the Procrustean bed of grand narratives will only blind us to the real causes of the very diverse problems that we face. The fact that these problems are interconnected, as my colleague Amjad Iraqi so cogently argued after Paris, does not mean that they are alike. To suggest that they are only fosters the kind of short-sightedness that has led us into this mess in the first place.

In his recent essay on Islamic State, Adam Shatz wrote that “the theatre of conflict has no clear borders.” That is certainly true, and it is a profoundly discomfiting thought. It is complex, almost incomprehensibly so. But the fact that we cannot see where the conflicts end does not mean we shouldn’t try and understand where they begin.

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Illegal settlements aren’t rogue, they’re government policy http://972mag.com/illegal-settlements-arent-rogue-theyre-government-policy/114182/ http://972mag.com/illegal-settlements-arent-rogue-theyre-government-policy/114182/#comments Tue, 24 Nov 2015 13:57:55 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=114182 Consecutive Israeli governments have fabricated a sophisticated system designed to lend a guise of legality to the seizure of land in the West Bank.

By Adam Aloni

Israeli soldiers stand in front of the West Bank settlement of Beitar Illit, which was partially built on expropriated land belonging to the Palestinian village of Wadi Fukin, West Bank, September 26, 2014. (Ahmad al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

Israeli soldiers stand in front of the West Bank settlement of Beitar Illit, which was partially built on expropriated land belonging to the Palestinian village of Wadi Fukin, West Bank, September 26, 2014. (Ahmad al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

A month ago, with nearly no public debate, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu retroactively approved an urban building plan (UBP) for the West Bank settlement of Itamar. A week later, on October 29, Netanyahu retroactively approved UBPs for another three settlements: Shvut Rachel, Sansana and Yaqir. Once again Israeli authorities “laundered” construction in the West Bank that even they deemed illegal for years. Contrary to attempts in the media to represent this move as a Netanyahu capitulation to settler leaders, this was nothing more than the implementation of a long-standing Israeli policy of extensive unauthorized construction followed by retroactive approval. This allows the state to maintain a semblance of the rule of law while violating it on a daily basis.


In many settlements, the government itself has been responsible for illegal construction, primarily through the Housing and Construction Ministry. An analysis of Defense Ministry data shows that in the overwhelming majority (approximately 75 percent) of West Bank settlements, construction – sometimes extensive construction – was carried out without the necessary permits or in breach of the permits that were granted.

In 2005, the director general of the Settlement Division of the World Zionist Organization, which serves as the Israeli government’s branch for establishing and reinforcing rural settlements, testified that the Settlement Division expressly advocates violating planning and building laws in the West Bank. He said that the modus operandi is first to establish Israeli communities, then reinforce them, and only several years later to approve plans for the construction – “This is the mode of operation”.

The establishment of settlements – with or without building permits – violates international humanitarian law and the human rights of the Palestinian residents of the West Bank. Over the years, Israeli governments have all disregarded this prohibition and fabricated a sophisticated legal system designed to lend a guise of legality to the seizure of land in the West Bank.

Construction in the Israeli settlement of Gilo is seen over the West Bank separation barrier. (Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Construction in the Israeli settlement of Gilo is seen over the West Bank separation barrier. (Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

While Israel employs the same planning and legal language to describe Israeli and Palestinian construction in the West Bank, in practice these procedures and regulations are implemented completely differently in Jewish-Israeli settlements and in Palestinian communities. In the case of settlements, Israeli authorities provide assistance, turn a blind eye to violations, and retroactively approve unauthorized construction, all as part of a long-standing policy to facilitate the de facto annexation of West Bank land to the sovereign territory of the State of Israel. Palestinian communities on the other hand, face an exacting, by-the-book, bureaucratic approach, a freeze on planning, and extensively implemented demolition orders, all as part of an ongoing policy to prevent Palestinian development and dispossess Palestinians of their land.

Israeli government policy regarding planning and construction for Palestinians in the West Bank is the very reverse of the modus operandi described above. With regard to Palestinian construction in Area C, the Israeli government cynically explained to the UN that in order “to facilitate proper planning procedures, illegal construction is not tolerated. Such illegal construction harms the local population, given the fact that it does not take into consideration planning policies that will ensure a reasonable quality of life, and public needs.”

However, in practice the government has no such planning policy, nor will it have any such policy. In approximately 70 percent of Area C, Palestinian construction is completely prohibited, while stringent restrictions are imposed on another 29 percent of the area. In the remaining one percent of Area C – some 1,824.3 hectares – there are approved outline plans that enable Palestinian development. However, most of this area is already built up.

In recent years, the Palestinian Authority has prepared outline plans for 116 communities, and 67 plans have already been submitted to the planning bodies in the Israeli army’s Civil Administration for approval. However, these efforts have been to no avail. Only three plans have been approved, and they cover a total area of a mere 57 hectares (equal to 0.02 percent of Area C). This outcome is hardly surprising, given that Palestinians are completely excluded from the decision-making process with regard to planning in Area C.

Israel has surrounded the Palestinian residents of the West Bank in a planning stranglehold, while at the same time approving outline plans for settlements that already cover a total area of 28,217.4 hectares, equal to 8.5 percent of Area C. In addition, Israel has allocated extensive areas to the municipal authorities of the settlements, thereby blocking any Palestinian use of the land and ensuring that it remains available as a reserve for settlement expansion. Given the relative size of the two populations, the planned area for each settler is at least 13 times greater than that for each Palestinian. And that is how Israel expropriates West Bank land for itself at the expense of local Palestinian residents.

Adam Aloni works as a researcher at B’Tselem – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories. A version of this article first appeared in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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WATCH: How the far-right glorifies killing of Palestinians http://972mag.com/watch-how-the-far-right-glorifies-killing-of-palestinians/114163/ http://972mag.com/watch-how-the-far-right-glorifies-killing-of-palestinians/114163/#comments Tue, 24 Nov 2015 12:32:38 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=114163 The leader of a popular Jewish supremacist group circulates a new video that puts CCTV footage of stabbing attack to bouncy electronic music and violent, disturbing lyrics.

Benzi Gopstein, the head of Lehava, posted a video on his Facebook page Monday glorifying the killing of Palestinians. Lehava is a popular Jewish supremacist group dedicated to preventing Arab-Jewish relations, which is also accused of regular incitement and racism against Palestinians — both online and on the streets of Jerusalem.

(Click here for the original posting on Facebook)

The video itself is CCTV footage of an incident in Jerusalem on Monday in which two Palestinian girls, 14 and 16, stabbed an elderly Palestinian man with scissors (presumably mistaking him for a Jewish Israeli) before they were shot several times, and even after they lay still on the ground. One was killed, the other is in critical condition.

Crappy electronic music was added to the CCTV footage with synthesized lyrics: “She just wants to stab, put a bullet in her head.” Gopstein shared it on Facebook and wrote: “The new video, if you enjoy it share it!”


Using the video to glorify, celebrate and make light of the shooting of two Palestinian teenage girls, even though they attacked an innocent man with scissors, is almost as disturbing as the attack itself.

It is not just that the video glorifies and fetishizes the killing of Palestinians. It’s not just that it could be construed as incitement against all Palestinians, encouraging people to shoot to kill. In a certain tragic sense, it is an accurate snapshot of what life feels like in Israel these days.

In the current reality it feels like everyone is a potential target, and everything a potential weapon. Murder is not a means to an end, it has become the end. And all of the above is mediated through images and videos that people can watch, manipulate and share as they wish. This of course is done by both Israelis and Palestinians. But let’s not forget who has the army, the right to carry weapons, and the monopoly on the use of force.

Violence itself has gained currency here, in the literal sense of the word: “the quality or state of being used or accepted by many people.” Violence against Palestinians long ago became an accepted part of daily life in Israel. Now, violence against Israelis has once again become normal, too, with Israelis being attacked daily and the majority of people remaining silent about it — as if it is par for the course.

How many more people need to be killed before we realize things need to change, drastically?

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Palestinian groups present ‘war crimes’ evidence to the ICC http://972mag.com/palestinian-groups-present-war-crimes-evidence-to-the-icc/114152/ http://972mag.com/palestinian-groups-present-war-crimes-evidence-to-the-icc/114152/#comments Mon, 23 Nov 2015 18:48:34 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=114152 The International Criminal Court prosecutor is conducting a ‘preliminary examination’ into the 2014 Gaza war. But are Israeli officials at higher risk of prosecution for illegally building settlements in the West Bank?

Al-Haq director Shawan Jabarin hands the confidential communication to ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda in the Hague, November 23, 2015. (Photo courtesy of Al-Haq)

Al-Haq director Shawan Jabarin hands the confidential communication, complied by four Palestinian human rights organizations, to ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda in the Hague, November 23, 2015. (Photo courtesy of Al-Haq)

Four Palestinian human rights organizations submitted research, testimonies and documentation to International Criminal Court prosecutor Fatou Bensouda on Monday, which they said contain evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Israelis during the 2014 Gaza war.

The four Palestinian human rights organizations, Al-Haq, Al-Mezan, Aldameer and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), said the information they handed over to Bensouda on Monday detailed “illustrative instances” of murder, torture, intentional attacks on civilians and and civilian targets, and extensive destruction that had no military necessity.


“We have provided the Office of the Prosecutor with enough information for it to determine that there is a reasonable basis to believe that senior Israeli military and civilian officials committed crimes against humanity and war crimes during the offensive against Gaza,” Al-Haq director Shawan Jabarin said after hand-delivering the materials to Bensouda in The Hague on Monday.

In accordance with the process laid out in the Rome Statute, the treaty that established the International Criminal Court, Bensouda opened a preliminary investigation into the situation in Palestine on January 16, 2015, 15 days after Palestine joined the court.

Following the preliminary examination, the ICC prosecutor will decide whether or not to open a full-fledged investigation, which can result in criminal indictments of individuals suspected of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity.

In the current phase, the ICC prosecutor is gathering information from publicly available sources, as well as from individuals or groups, states, international organizations and from NGOs like human rights organizations. She then “take[s] steps to analyze and verify the seriousness of information received, including through a rigorous and independent source evaluation process.”

In a progress report published prior to the submission from the Palestinian rights organizations, Bensouda’s office said that it had thus far received 66 such communications containing information about alleged crimes committed since the start of the 2014 Gaza war, submitted by both individuals and other organizations.

‘Israel is unwilling to hold its soldiers accountable, Palestine is unable’

Relatives walk amidst the rubble of the home of Zaki Wahdan in the city of Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza City, November 10, 2014. Eight members of the Wahdan family, mostly women and children were killed. (Photo by Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Relatives walk amidst the rubble of the home of Zaki Wahdan in the city of Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza City, November 10, 2014. Eight members of the Wahdan family, mostly women and children were killed. (Photo by Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

One criterion the prosecutor must take into account, the principle of complementarity, will be particularly important when deciding whether to open a full-fledged investigation into alleged war crimes committed by Israel.

Complementarity means that if Israel investigates its own soldiers for suspected war crimes, and if it does so in good faith, then the ICC has no jurisdiction. But if the ICC determines that Israel is unwilling or incapable of investigating itself, then it may indeed have jurisdiction over war crimes committed by Israeli citizens, ranging from individual soldiers to generals and politicians.

Israel has not codified war crimes into its penal code, with the exception of genocide and crimes related to the Holocaust. Thus far, the only indictments that have been served against Israeli soldiers for crimes committed during the 2014 Gaza war are related to small-scale looting.

Based on experience seeking justice for Palestinian victims through Israeli courts, the Palestinian human rights organizations said they do not believe complementarity will pose a significant hurdle to an ICC investigation in this case. “Israel is unwilling and Palestine is unable to domestically hold to account Israeli perpetrators of international crimes,” PCHR director Raji Sourani said.

In addition to Israeli crimes in Gaza during the 2014 war, however, the ICC preliminary examination is also focusing on alleged Palestinian crimes, particularly the indiscriminate firing of rockets toward Israeli civilians, using civilian buildings and areas for military purposes, and the summary execution of 20 Palestinians accused of collaborating with Israel.

Settlements as a war crime

Settlement construction in Gilo, January 21, 2010. (Photo: Activestills.org)

Construction in the West Bank settlement Gilo, January 21, 2010. (Photo: Activestills.org)

Another area that few people are discussing publicly is the possibility that the ICC will open an investigation into Israeli settlement activities in the West Bank. Under the Rome Statue, an occupying power is prohibited from transferring, directly or indirectly, parts of its own population into the occupied territory.

An estimated 500,000 Israelis live in settlements beyond the Green Line, including in East Jerusalem.

The ICC prosecutor is currently examining the “carefully conceived network of policies, laws, and physical measures” that support the creation and expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, according to an ICC report on the prosecutor’s activities. The prosecutor is also examining an alleged “scheme of subsidies and incentives to encourage migration to the settlements and to boost their economic development.”

Israeli officials may ultimately be far more exposed to the risk of ICC prosecution for settlement activities than suspected war crimes in Gaza. Whereas Israel can attempt a complementarity defense with regards to war crimes in Gaza by pointing to domestic investigations of its soldiers, Israel’s High Court of Justice has never even agreed to hear a single argument on the legality of settlements.

“Israel’s main problem is indeed with settlements since this is a topic that has no complementarity issue at all,” human rights lawyer Michael Sfard explained to +972. “All the evidence and policies are known and accessible.” The magnitude of the crime and the number of people and communities who have been affected by it over nearly 50 years, Sfard added, “makes it the perfect case for a world criminal court.”

Indeed, the issue of gravity and the ICC’s willingness to investigate alleged Israeli crimes has been a hot topic in the ICC in recent weeks. Earlier this month an ICC appeals court essentially rejected a decision by Bensouda not to investigate Israel’s killing of 10 Turkish nationals aboard the Mavi Marmara in 2010. Bensouda had decided not to investigate based on her assessment that the alleged crime was not of “sufficient gravity” to warrant intervention by the ICC.

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I have a special ID card, Mr. Trump, and it is hell http://972mag.com/i-have-a-special-id-card-mr-trump-and-it-is-hell/114148/ http://972mag.com/i-have-a-special-id-card-mr-trump-and-it-is-hell/114148/#comments Mon, 23 Nov 2015 15:13:19 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=114148 The Republican presidential candidate wants Muslims to carry special ID cards. A West Bank Palestinian uses her personal experience to explain what that really means.

By Nadia Naser-Najjab

American presidential candidate Donald Trump at an event in New York City, September 3, 2015 (cropped). (A. Katz/Shutterstock.com)

American presidential candidate Donald Trump at an event in New York City, September 3, 2015 (cropped). (A. Katz/Shutterstock.com)

Donald Trump recently suggested that Muslims in the United States should be registered in a database and forced to carry special ID cards. This, he would have us believe, will help to make American citizens safer from the consequences of the wars successive U.S. administrations have waged around the world.


As a Palestinian who has studied and lived in the U.S., Trump’s disgusting bigotry offends me on a very personal level. However, the proposals also had an impact on me in another sense: as a Palestinian resident of the occupied West Bank I have to carry an ID card that I am required to produce whenever a representative of the Israeli state demands it of me. In my own country, I am the ones without rights; I am the one who has to justify my own presence to an occupying power.

Upon producing my ID, I am always aware of the fact that to the official glancing at the card I am little more than a few words and a photograph: I am, in effect, an accessory to this piece of plastic. And yet, in another sense, this document has no relation to me: it is part of an apparatus of control which reduces me to a unit of analysis that can be subtracted, divided and multiplied.

The card does not guarantee me rights nor does it enable me to make demands. Quite the contrary, it enables me only to respond to the demands of others, to present myself on terms that might satisfy the rude, abrupt and disinterested official who has deigned to take a few moments to bark questions at me. In producing this card for Israeli troops or officials I do not convey who I am, only what I am not. If I produce it I am not a threat, I am not a terrorist, and I am not guilty of an offense against his or her government or the laws the occupying authority has no right to pass or administer in the first place.

An Israeli soldier checks a Palestinian man’s identity card. Israel controls the Palestinian population database and issues green ID cards to Palestinians whereas Israelis receive blue cards. (Photo by Activestills.org)

An Israeli soldier checks a Palestinian man’s identity card. Israel controls the Palestinian population database and issues green ID cards to Palestinians whereas Israelis receive blue cards. (Photo by Activestills.org)

This card has become inseparable from the occupation itself, from the various ways it imposes itself upon everyday existence. In this aspect the occupation appears in its immediacy: the fences, the checkpoints, the armed soldiers. However, the occupation also exerts control through more subtle psychological means; that is, through a sense of uncertainty and unpredictability. Both aspects – the material embodiment of occupation and the more elusive sense of arbitrariness and powerlessness – are embodied within this piece of plastic.

To even obtain the ID card in the first place is to make a concession to a hated occupation whose only authority is derived from the violence and brutality it exercises to control your life. Every minutiae of your existence is subject to its unyielding gaze. Nothing else is to be expected or demanded: with the security of the state as its overarching justification, the bureaucracy need recognize no limitation or constraint. Once Palestinians have been defined as a threat they can be subject to any impediment, any control and any petty restriction. It is for this reason that I did not graduate from Birzeit University on time. The university was closed several times by an Israeli military order in the early 80s. In early 90s the closure of Jerusalem forced me to resign from my job because I was unable to enter the city.

Reflecting upon these features of the occupation, I often find it is the small details that are as telling as the larger ones. To take one example, in the pre-Oslo era, even a driver’s license were regulated and issued by Israeli military authorities – the color of your license plate indicated the area of the occupied territories in which the car had been registered. In reflecting upon this, I would suggest that it is not in the grand and imposing structures of the occupation – the walls, the prisons, the roadblocks – where one can find its essence, but rather in these small details, which correspond to a desire to control each and every aspect of Palestinian life. In registering the tenacity and pervasiveness of this desire, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that it knows no limitation or constraint and will only stop at the point where it meets active resistance.

On closer reflection, I found that the response of those subject to these petty restrictions is equally telling. Before the Oslo Accords, upon attaining a driver’s license, successful Palestinian applicants frequently celebrated by sharing kanafe (the Palestinian dessert) with relatives and friends. For Americans this would of course be inconceivable – could the likes of Donald Trump ever envisage celebrating the mundane occurrence of being granted the most basic of rights? Could he ever acknowledge how it feels to live in a society where every right is not enshrined in law but is subject to the benevolence of a bureaucrat? And, finally, could he ever acknowledge that an ID card is more than a piece of plastic — that it is the material embodiment of a system that dehumanizes both those who control it and those who are subject to it? If he cannot, then let us at least hope that ordinary Americans will do so on his behalf.

Dr. Nadia Naser-Najjab has a PhD in Middle East Studies and is an Associate Research Fellow at the European Center of Palestine Studies-Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies at the University of Exeter.

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